India After the Raj--Showcase of Democracy
AN ADDRESS BY
Dr. Robert B. McClure, M.B., F.R.C.S., F.I.C.S. MISSIONARY-SURGEON
The President, Graham M. Gore
On October 12, 1967, we were privileged to welcome the High Commissioner of India in Canada as our speaker. Those of you who were present on that occasion will recall listening with great interest as he spoke to us about his native land--that great sister nation within the Commonwealth.
In the introduction of the speaker on that day the following lines, written by India's Nobel Prize-winning poet, Rabindranath Tagore, seemed particularly suitable for the occasion:
"Now the door has opened to West
And gifts in hand they beckon and they come--They will give and take, meet and bring together, None shall be turned away
From the shore of this vast sea of humanity That is India."
The same quotation also serves as a fitting prelude to the remarks of our guest speaker today who will also tell us about India--offering a view of that "vast sea of humanity" through the eyes of a Canadian who has journeyed there to devote his skill to alleviating physical suffering. He is Dr. Robert Baird McClure, a medical. missionary of the United Church of Canada, who is Medical Superintendent of the Ratlan Christian Hospital of the Central India Mission.
Our speaker was educated in Toronto, graduating from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Medicine degree in 1922. In 1923 he was appointed a medical missionary to Honan, North China, and in 1931 he was named a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. He is also a Fellow of the International College of Surgeons.
Following his study of radiology in Europe in the summer of 1934, Dr. McClure was the only medical missionary in India and China able to provide radium treat ment for cancer. In 1937 he was on loan to the International Red Cross as Field Director for Central China during the Sino-Japanese conflict.
In 1938, he attended the International Missionary Council meeting at Madras as the only medical missionary among China's delegates. For over a year thereafter he supervised the transport of medical supplies into China from abroad, and subsequently served as Director of the Friends' Ambulance Unit in China.
With the closing of the China field, he took up medical work on the staff of the Church Missionary Society Hospital at Gaza, Palestine, and served there until 1954. He then proceeded to India to engage in hospital work with the Central India Mission. As Medical Superintendent of the Ratlan Christian Hospital, he has established a wide reputation as a surgeon and is also active in promoting public health measures such as T.B. surveys and mass innoculation campaigns.
Gentlemen--may I now present Dr. Robert Baird McClure, a skilled man of medicine and a dedicated humanitarian who will speak to us about India today. Dr. McClure.
Canada can well be described as "the land between". We are a relatively small, well-developed country associating in our culture and economies on the one hand with large and developed nations referred to as "the western world". But, as our national motto says we stretch "from sea to sea". On our west coast we face on Asia and those crowded, developing lands we might classify in modern terms as "where the action is"-The Far East. We are intimately involved with them in both politics and economics. One has only to pick up a newspaper to realize how great this involvement is. Both our headlines and the news remind us of this other part of the globe. As a Canadian with some Canadian viewpoint who has worked in India for the past 13 years, I should like to give you a brief sketch of what she looks like to a Canadian.
For all developing lands today there are offered two roads to improvement. These are illustrated and demonstrated by their two great examples. China with 800 mil lion follows the dictatorship pattern and India with 500 million following a democratic pattern of society. North America including Canada had her basic development at a time quite different from the atmosphere of today. It is wrong to think, therefore, that a developing state today would follow our pattern of progress. We surely do not need to remind ourselves that "times have changed". To the developing nations throughout the world today India is, in the words of our title, "The Showcase of Democracy".
One of the very good hypotheses for the Sino-Indian war of 1962 is that China as the showcase for the other pattern of development, wished to show up India's mili tary weakness and to impede her democratic development. The Indian army having been designed for internal security chiefly, was caught unawares so that if this was China's intention it was to a certain extent successful. It did force India to take much-needed funds from constructive development and put them into a military defence budget.
Generalizations are always dangerous and there are many exceptions to them but by and large most developing lands have the problems of rapid population expansion so that the very numbers involved in relation to the government facilities form a problem. There is also the economic problem of finding money for the increasing production of both consumer and capital goods. These are both well illustrated in India's case. India's progress is being watched by the western world with curiosity; in the case of Britain with a maternal interest; but by the developing lands it is being watched with a very involved fascination. One wishes and hopes that Canada's vision will always be tinged with a sympathy arising from our being a sister member of a Commonwealth--a Commonwealth which I firmly believe is not yet dead.
Unlike the pattern of development in older democratic nations development today in order to be rapid and efficient is done with much more government planning. There was a time when the Jeffersonian claim that "the best government is the least government" was widely held. Without entering into any political argument, I think, merely as an observer, one can say that this maxim is not widely applied today. It is also a feature of those areas that have been under British administration for any considerable period (India had 200 years of British rule) that one of the legacies bequeathed to them when they got their independence was a rather large government machinery and an almost inflated civil service to administer it. Even as we say this we can point with pride to the orderly devolution from colony to independence of the former British territories. Such orderly devolution is unsurpassed in world history. India could be held up to the world as an example of this legacy. It has meant that she had a large cadre of administrative personnel of great competence, though at times lacking in vision and imagination. No theory is valid in this practical world without the resources to implement it. Perhaps it was just because she had this personnel that India has delegated to government much in the field of development which in previous times in our land was left to private enterprise. Most of the electricity supply, the railways and many factories were set aside as being in the field for government activity. The field remaining for private enterprise and exploitation, if you like, is quite large yet even in this sector too there is much government-designed planning in evidence. There is also a considerable part of the field available for joint government and private co-operation. For solving this problem for developing countries India is both a most useful experiment and demonstration. Even in the field of the government's sector of development India has been quite practical rather than doctrinaire in using private contractors. To any observer the development of a country by plan does seem to be more efficient. Thus we do not see parallel railway lines being laid down nor are the national highways being built parallel to the railroads. We see a standardization of electric supply which will never involve them in converting from 25 cycle current! The whole of the sub-continent is on one current, 220 volts 3 phase 50 cycle, and already an extensive grid system is developing to make full use of this uniformity.
So often like passengers on a ship we notice the waves but forget about the unseen tides and currents that worry the captain. So the tourist in India and even the short term correspondent notice the superficial difficulties to the neglect of some great achievements. For instance what is seldom noticed by the transient is that there is a marvellously effective and honest judicial system. It is so honest that they do not even have jokes about it. This applies to both civil and criminal law. There is also a marvellously efficient administrative system implemented by an officer known as The Collector. This is something like the city-manager idea being expanded to cover administrative districts as big as a county. These men are highly trained and of excellent calibre indeed. They are appointed and not elected. Usually the District Superintendent of Police goes with the Collector and the pair may be teamed up for a lifetime of service. Thus we see that however inexperienced may be the elected officer of a city administration or however divided the city council may turn out to be, yet a good basic administration is able to carry on. This Collector acts, in many cases, much like an "ombudsman" to correct obvious injustices. In my experience and observation this gives a quality of administration which, allowing for the problems and vastness of the land, is second to none in the world. It works so well that you never hear about it.
In the industrial field India refines much of her own oil products, though she still has to import some 70-80% of her crude oil. She has four steel plants each of one million tons capacity and being rapidly expanded to more than double that capacity. One of these is private and three are government. Of the government plants one is from Russia, one from Germany and one from Britain. Today not only does India make all of her own steel rails and coaches for a rapidly expanding railway system but these are being exported on quite a competitive basis to the Middle East to earn foreign exchange. She manufactures her own motorcars of three different makes though not nearly enough to meet the demand of a rising standard of living. Up to last year the waiting list for a Fiat 1100 was 18 years but things have improved greatly since last year and now the waiting list is only 14 years with a deposit being required of Rs. 5,000/-to get your name on the waiting list. A doctor, high on the priority list can get an Indian-made Ambassador car after a wait of only some two years! Do not be surprised if India has not turned out any high-pressure motorcar salesmen. She manufactures scooters of some three different makes and in both scooters and cars 90% of the content is of indigenous manufacture. Her motor trucks are all diesels, are 98% Indian content, chiefly of two makes and there is no waiting list for these. She is already exporting some of these to neighbouring countries. She has a large machine tool industry that is very well run. Some quite sophisticated machine tools are being exported in quantity to West Germany. She has a large leather shoe industry and exports some two million pairs per year to Russia. Her cotton textiles are of the finest and meet all her own demands in the various price ranges. These, as you know, are having a hard time to cross the tariff barriers of her friends but lots are available for export. Less than two years ago she began to manufacture her own watches and I can assure you they are of excellent quality and these are being made at the rate of a quarter of a million per year.
India's greatest achievement to my mind and in my knowledge is in the health field. Smallpox and cholera formerly the scourge of India and a menace to the rest of the world are now well controlled. Malaria throughout most of the country has been eliminated as a medical diagnosis all in a period of less than 10 years. It is this death-control that has brought on her population explosion. Thus the children who would have died are living and in their turn having their children. Yet in dealing with her population control she is No. 1 in the world in the size of her programme while Canada is something like No. 48.
It is a great credit to India that in all this development she is practical and yet sensitive. She is sensitive to the religious feelings of her people and is perhaps by our standards advancing too slowly because of it. She is practical so that in 1965-66 when she had two successive rain-failures and two years of disastrous crop failure as a result she might have had famine and epidemic wiping out millions of lives in "the good old days". While quite wide-spread malnutrition was unavoidable and with such malnutrition the death rate always increases, yet actual deaths from starvation were few if any. Even very active newspaper reporters who were encouraged to go to the affected areas, were not able to find any authentic starvation deaths. By diverting money from construction and development projects to the buying of basic foods and by a great voluntary effort among her own people, as well as among her international friends, she succeeded in meeting a need on such a scale as probably has never been done before in recorded history. I like to think that this concentration of the national effort on the immediate relief of hunger was due partly at least to the compassionate outlook of a woman as prime minister. (This may or may not have any lesson for Canada at this time of selecting possible future prime ministers. I should not like by my suggestions to make Canadian politics more complicated than it already is!)
India has great achievements to her credit but she also has problems. As we said earlier her development and everyday life is that of a "planned economy". India is now on the fourth of her Five Year Plans. Her past plans have been somewhat thrown out of gear by three major events: (1) The Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. (2) The IndoPakistan conflict of 1965. (3) The rain failure of 196566. Yet the plans continue fairly well on schedule. The success of this planned schedule relies heavily upon massive financial aid from abroad. It is quite open to discussion how reliable and much depended upon is such aid. To woo this aid requires an expert tight-rope performance in the field of international diplomacy. High-wire performers are notoriously poor life-insurance risks.
Any planned development is only as good as the planners. In this age of technological development one might fault the Indian Government on the fact that much authority in the planning is in the hands of political people rather than being in the hands of technologists. Particularly one would like to see economists playing a greater part in the planning. Unfortunately Canada is not in too strong a position to advise in this matter.
One feels that in the middle and lower echelons of government officials there is a rigidity and lack of flexibility with a lack of imagination and initiative. In a con
servative culture with a legacy of British colonial administration this need not be surprising. What experience I have had in Canada does not reassure me that we could be of great assistance here either.
There seems to be a tremendous mass of red tape to be untangled or cut through by the enterprising businessman in India trying to do a good job of work. Perhaps this is a mistake as we see it but perhaps it is tolerable to India. It may even be necessary to curb the predatory instincts of businessmen exploiting new fields. In any case mistakes, if they are being made, are being made by their own people and they are learning from them.
One thing certain: I have seen two general elections in India. I have seen these at the grass-root level of one of the less developed states. It was thrilling to see the great effort that had been made and the universal response that was generated. Polling booths were set up sometimes in very inaccessible communities for people in the area who were, perhaps, 90% illiterate and yet universal sufferage was in action. In some of these primitive communities of universal sufferage there was 100% turn-out to vote. There was a higher percentage turn-out than could be expected in almost any constituency in Canada. There was no more "election irregularity" than would be expected in the highest developed nations. To me this was democracy in action.
The extent of the land mass and the very number of 500 million of people make the problems of government inevitably great. The high level of leadership in politics, education, business and professional circles is most reassuring. Much remains to be done and much help is required from outside of India. One hopes it will be extended generously--more generously by Canada.
In closing let me remind you that great as are the problems of poverty and under-development yet equally great are the responsibilities of affluence. Let us remind ourselves that 50% of the world's population will go to bed hungry tonight and 30% of all the people in the world will go from birth to death without once feeling the sensation of a full stomach. Yes, the responsibility of affluence is great indeed. Canada has, I am convinced, a duty and an opportunity to improve the display in India--Showcase of Democracy.
Thanks of the meeting were expressed by The Very Rev. E. M. Howse.