A. H. Hanson’s book on India’s Five-Year-Plansfootnote1 is the work of a specialist in political and administrative problems. The greater part of it is therefore devoted to questions raised by the organization of the various institutions which participate in drawing up the plans and in carrying them out. Of the 538 pages which make up the body of the work (excluding the Appendixes), some 140 deal with the first three plans, the conditions in which they were prepared, their contents and their results. Socio-political problems of fundamental importance receive too little attention. Administrative problems and above all relations between the Central Government and the States are studied in greatest detail. Although, throughout the book, numerous judgments are made on the contents and on the economic effects of the plans, economic analysis, in the strict sense, occupies a secondary place.
Hanson loses no time in tackling the problem of the role of the State, of the plan and of public enterprise in efforts to accelerate economic development. Although he puts forward his own views cautiously and with qualifications, it is clear that his preferences are for gradual transformations and that he is relatively sceptical about the possibilities of public enterprise. His analytic tools are extremely formalisticfootnote2. Thus he rejects any analysis of social, economic and political problems in terms of classes, and divides ‘political systems’ into three formal categories: (a) the ‘mobilization’ system (b) the ‘reconciliation’ system (c) the ‘modernizing autocracy’ system. Each of these systems, in Hanson’s definition, are made up of different combinations of goals, costs, coercion and information. But the formal character of these concepts, as the use made of them here demonstrates, gives one only the most superficial understanding of socio-political processes. Some of Hanson’s evaluations of Indian social structures are surprising too; most notably the statement that India has a ‘highly fluid’ class structure and that there
In practice, this type of analysis only rarely reveals the deeper meaning of real conflicts, and it frequently produces completely unrealistic judgments. For example, when Hanson contrasts the ‘mobilization’ system (which, according to his analysis, designates socialist planning in the proper sense of the term) to the ‘reconciliation’ system (which would be the Indian one) he affirms, following Apter, that ‘the costs of coercion result in diverting revenue hitherto available for investment into military and police activities and other punitive institutions’ (cited p. 16). This is a surprising assertion when one recalls that Indian expenditure on police and armaments has swollen to huge proportions. The proportion of expenditure on internal repression in India is much heavier that that to be found in, for example, a country like China.
The Indian countryside lies under a grid of police stations. Besides the events of late 1965 and early 1966 have shown that the Indian forces of repression are obliged to intervene more and more frequently to cope with the masses’ rising discontent at the deterioration of their economic situation and the aggravation of food shortages. In certain cases, Orissa for example, these shortages have produced situations of real famine. Despite the formalism of its analytic tools (impeding any evaluation of economic problems in terms of social dynamics—in particular of the social problems posed by the Indian plans) the book contains technical details most helpful for an understanding of the conditions in which the Indian planning institutions work. It also contains a number of sharp remarks which reveal the author’s familiarity with Indian problems. And it is this familiarity which allows him to escape from the narrow limits imposed on him by his formal categories. Thus, after an analysis of the results of the Third Five-Year Plan as they appeared in 1962–63, Hanson says that the problems of Indian planning may, after all, be insoluble in the framework of the existing social and political institutions. Even so, he goes on to say that it would be a tragedy if this example of ‘democratic planning’ should fail through a failure to reconsider its approaches and its methods. There is a contradiction here; if India’s problems are insoluble through obstacles created by social and political institutions, then it is difficult to see how these problems could be resolved by a change of approaches and methods. Nonetheless, the fact that he recognizes the existence of socio-political obstacles to the economic development of India shows that Hanson can transcend the limits of his own approach.
The passage just cited is, moreover, far from being the only one in which Hanson raises such problems. At another point he goes so far as to say that ‘It is possible, therefore, that quantitatively and qualitatively satisfactory growth presupposes a change-over to a “mobilization” system, attainable only through a political revolution. If this is so, the sooner it is recognized the better.’
The way in which Hanson examines the signs of the crisis towards which the Indian economy has been moving since the beginning of the
Hanson frequently suggest that, if the Planning Commission had prepared more ‘modest’ and more ‘realistic’ plans, progress would have been more rapid. He also suggests that the place occupied by basic industries and by the public sector has been too conspicuous and that more satisfactory results could have been achieved if a larger place had been given to consumer industries and to the private sector. This leads him to make particularly unjust criticisms of Professor P. C. Malahanobis who has played an important part in forging the most solid element of India’s industrialization: the construction of an iron and steel industry and of heavy mechanical and electrical industries. Naturally, history cannot be rewritten and nobody can really know how the Indian economy would have evolved if these ‘modest’ plans had been prepared, and a larger place left for consumer industries and for the private sector. Even so, although it is impossible to prove what would then have happened, there are a number of reasons which suggest that results would have been even less satisfactory. To start with, it is hard to deny that if the Plan had fixed lower targets for investment (in particular, for the mobilization of internal resources) then the actual mobilization would have been less. One of the great merits of the project of the Second Five-Year Plan prepared by Malahanobis is that it demonstrated some of the physical possibilities of the Indian economy and also stressed some of the social obstacles to a mobilization of this potential. Whether these obstacles were or were not eliminated obviously did not depend on Malahanobis.