Exploring Dr. J. C. Kumarappa

Chandan Sukumar Sengupta*

[On the basis of the aspirations of Dr. J. C. Kumarappa]

Learning to be

      Learning is a continuous process of human beings and often guided periodically by masterly teachings one usually receive at various stages of life. Moving to high profile corporate society of London, joining the studious groups at the Columbia University[i] and again coming back to India by obeying the willingness of mother made Kumarappa more acquainted with the global scenario of the Economic as well as political practices people preferably follow throughout the world.[ii] He started thinking upon the miserable situation of poor people of India. He even started finding out the exact solution for making people aware of the healthy and prosperous economic practices. His study titled “Public finance and poverty”[1] led him toward exploring possible remedies for tackling the miserable situation of Indians. He wanted to meet Mahatma for publishing his works through publications and periodicals circulated under the active guidance of Mahatma. Along with peiriodical publication works Mahatma deputed the right person to a perfect job of assessing the situation of people at Matar Taluka[2] in Khera district, Gujarat.

      The survey was an eye opener for Kumarappa. Study of Financial oblications between India and Great Britain[3] was also a shocking one. That time British Government imposed additional burden upon India. Understanding of Kumarappa became more concretised when he met other leaders and expressed his observations in a practical way for encouraging cottage industries.

Fixing the goal

      Meeting with Mahatma, accepting all the duties assigned to him by Mahatma and delivering all the services gladly as per the masterly guidance perpetuated his achievable target through organizing Village Industries Associations and building the Capacities of participant artisans as well as village youths.[iii] He came to a conclusion that only decentralized economic practices through investing in the productive activities will revive the situation of people on a permanent basis[4]. It will be even a long lasting solution. Other associates also maintained adequate faith upon the great economist having sufficient understanding of coining the term “Gandhian Economics” and implementing the same through planned activities of All India Village Industries Association. Kumarappa wanted to link up economic activities with fundamental human values. He maintained his view regarding production of wealth that human beings have some other duties to perform. Merely production of wealth should not be the goal of a life.[iv]

      A greater mass of Village youths moved on to accept different Cottage Industries on the basis of locally available resources for setting up a live example of the process of economic revival.

Difference of Opinion

      Works of exploring good and fruitful economic practices, promoting and guiding industrial innovations, developing production strategies on the basis of locally available resources and preparing the Closed User Group having capabilities of working upon the developed economic practices moved on in a different way to make the effort a well decorated as well as compartmentalized initiatives under the government patronage. A great mission of economic revival became merely a routine practices. Kumarappa was not happy with the development that started taking place just after independence. He has also lost the masterly guidance during January 1948. In a gradual progression he started implementing his efforts the way he wanted it to happen.  Offer of Finance ministry and some other portfolio was rejected by the Gandhian Economist because of the advent of the difference of opinion regarding the means and motto of economic practices the government was trying to adopt. Kumarappa was not against the creation and maintenance of large industrial houses. Only the issue prevalent was regarding the role of the government in developing and maintaining such large enterprises for ensuring the fact that the benefit should reach the farthest corner of the nation.

      New government of independent nation was not even in any comfortable position to go through the planning and recommendations of the gandhian economist. Whatever the danger pointed out by Kumarappa was waiting for an entry at the doorstep of the country. The ecnomy of gregation and the economy of Service were unable to safeguard the economy of Enterprise. Postulates of Kumarappa became some beautiful and decorative words. During successive years there remained few of the admirers of economic development ever wanted to recollect the ideas of Kumarappa. It was not because of the complicated mechanism of the economic ideas of the gandhian economist, but the fact was regarding the manipulation of some capitalist frameworks under the free environment.

Fatherhood of Mahatma

      During the last phase of life Kumarappa was not in a position to praise the activities of government throughout the span of 12 successive years.[v] He has even raised question about the fatherhood of Mahatma Gandhi. His eagerness to recover villagers from the miserable situation remained an unreached goal. But the beloved leader was not in a position to accept any of the logical sideline for replacing the gandhian economics that took birth through his concrete aspirations.[vi]  It is even impregnated with the practices of peace and non-violence for safeguarding and nurturing fundamental human values.[vii]

Everlasting Relevance

Situation changed considerably at the juncture of the Globalisation, Liberalisation, Free Market Economy and revolution in the field of Information Technology. Challenges that villagers face has increased considerably because of the easy access of large industrial houses to the farthest corner of villages. Still the opportunity prevails in the ground in the form of an opportunity of skill enhancement as well as innovation for artisans, farmers as well as for entrepreneurs leading them ultimately toward the standard of a healthy and nonviolent economic practices. Role of government and other organizational efforts of Service Economy as well as Economy of congregation will play a definitive role through planning efforts of Skill Enhancement and support services meant for the disadvantaged class of people. It can be considered as a continuous journey of the national economy from better to best through periodical refinement in the means and motto of all sorts of economic practices.


1 An Economic Survey of Matar Taluka; Gujarat Vidhyapeeth; 1952, pages: 155.
2 B. Zachariah, Developing India: an intellectual and social history, c.1930–1950 (2005), esp. chapter 3, ‘Towards a political philosophy of the village community’
3 B. Zachariah, ‘Interpreting Gandhi: J. C. Kumarappa, modernity and the East’, in Culture and democracy: papers from the cultural studies workshops, ed. T. Guhathakurta (1999. Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta)
4 Christianity: Its Economy and Way of Life; Navajivan, Ahmedabad; 1945, pages: 124.
5 Clive to Keynes; Navajivan, Ahmedabad; 1947, pages: 44.
6 Cow in Our Economy; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, Rajghat, Varanasi 221001, 1963, pages: 76
7 Economic and Political Weekly; v.40 no.52 (24 December 2005)
8 Economy of Permanence Part II; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1948, pages: 87.
9 Economy of Permanence; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, Rajghat, Varanasi 221001, 1984, pages: 208
10 Europe Through Gandhian Eyes; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1948, pages: 29
11 Gandhian Economic Thought; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, Rajghat, Varanasi 221001, 1962, pages: 94
12 Grinding of Cereals; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1947, pages: 15
13 J. . Kumarappa Birth Centenary Committee, Kumarappa Centenary Souvenir (1992)
14 Kumarappa, Joseph C.; Trad. Di Marinella Correggia (2011). Economia di condivisione. Come uscire dalla crisi mondiale (in Italian). Pisa: Centro Gandhi Edizioni. ISBN 978-88-7500-029-5.
15 Lessons from Europe; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, Wardha, 1954, pages: 49
16 Lindley, Mark (2007). J. C. Kumarappa Mahatma Gandhi’s Economist. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-7991-280-5.
17 M. Vinaik, J. C. Kumarappa and his quest for world peace (1956)
18 M. Vinaik, The Gandhian crusader – a biography of Dr. J. C. Kumarappa (1987)
19 Peace and Prosperity; Maganwadi, Wardha, 1948, pages: 37.
20 Present Economic Situation; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1949, pages: 151.
21 Public Finance and Our Poverty; Navajivan, Ahmedabad; 1930, pages: 110
22 Rajeswar, Rao P. (1991). Great Indian Patriots. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. ISBN 978-81-7099-288-2.
23 S. K. George and G. Ramachandran, The economics of peace: the cause and the man (1952)
24 Solomon Victus, Jesus and mother economy (2007. ISPCK, New Delhi) [ISBN 978-81-7214-977-2]
25 Solomon Victus, Religion and Eco-Economics of Dr J. C. Kumarappa – Gandhism redefined (2003. ISPCK, New Delhi) [ISBN 81-7214-711-2]
26 Stone Walls and Iron Bars; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1949, pages: 21.
27 Swadeshi; Sindhu Publication; 1992, pages: 32.
28 Swaraj for the Masses; Hind Kitab Ltd. Bombay; 1948, pages: 104
29 The Gandhian Economy and Other Essays; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1949, pages: 120
30 V. M. Govindhu and D. Malghan, ‘Building a creative freedom: J. C. Kumarappa and his economic philosophy’ (September 2005), to appear in the Economic and Political Weekly [and available at www.umiacs.umd.edu/users/venu/jck.pdf]
31 Village Industries; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1947, pages: 72.
32 Why the Village Movement; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, Rajghat, Varanasi 221001,1958, pages: 203.
33 Sengupta Chandan Sukumar, Nurturing Enterprise,(2016) pages 27

[1] Public Finance and Our Poverty; Navajivan, Ahmedabad; 1930, pages: 110

[2] At Gandhi’s request he prepared an economic survey of rural Gujarat, which he published as A Survey of Matar Taluka in the Kheda District (1931). He strongly supported Gandhi’s notion of village industries and promoted Village Industries Associations.

[An Economic Survey of Matar Taluka; Gujarat Vidhyapeeth; 1952, pages: 155.]

[3] In 1931 Dr Kumarappa was appointed convenor of a select committee to go into the details of the financial obligations between Great Britain and India up to that time. On the basis of the report the committee asked for an impartial enquiry into the subject as many of the financial claims on India certainly did not belong to her.

[4] The concept titled Economy of Permanence came into existence focusing a correlation between different economy of nature and of human society. Refer: Economy of Permanence; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, Rajghat, Varanasi 221001, 1984, pages: 208 and Economy of Permanence Part II; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1948, pages: 87.

[i] Dr. Kumarappa learned a lot from Dr. Davenport “I look upon Dr. Davenport as a great contributor to my way of thinking, as he drove me from complacently being a party to capitalistic and imperialistic organisations to thinking out the position and, taking nothing for granted, to reform my own economics. From that time onwards my yardstick became definite, and I measured whatever I came across from the new considerations that I had learned…”

[ii] Dr Kumarappa expressed his view regarding the need of developing Cultural Coordination amongst countymen, “Many of us who aped the Anglo-Indians isolated ourselves from the rest of our neighbours, who were Hindus and Muslims. We aped the British in their language, customs and shared their religion. We entered into the life of our countrymen but little. ……“

[iii]Excellence and competence of Dr J. C. Kumarappa explored perfectly by Mahatma. Kumarappa says,  “I lost interest in making money and wrote some essays, which brought me to the notice of Gandhiji, into whose snares I got caught later.”

[iv] Objectives of a life as being visualized by Dr. Kumarappa, “I was pretty clear in my mind that man is not merely a wealth producing agent, but essentially a member of a society with considerable responsibilities to all those around him. Perhaps this swung me over to the other end, in which material production was only a minor item in the life of man”

[v] In February 1948, the Congress appointed an Agrarian Reforms Committee, which was headed by Kumarappa. Its report submitted in July 1949 recommended land reforms, no private ownership of land and many other radical measures for restructuring land relations and land use. The recommendations of this Committee were pigeon-holed by the government, and Kumarappa went about setting up Pannai Ashram in Seldoh village near Wardha with the idea of undertaking a model implementation of the recommendations made in the Report.

[vi] How was the fatherhood of Mahatma ? Dr. Kumarappa said,“No government in our country has accepted Gandhiji’s ideals for the country. Indeed, Gandhi is either the father of a monster or a father without a child. There will be time enough to convey fatherhood on him when the country wholeheartedly adopts his programme based on the welfare of the masses.”

[vii] Prosperity of Villages visualized by Dr. Kumarappa in a perfect way and duly perpetuated toward his voice, “Today, the villages are dung heaps. Tomorrow they will be little tiny gardens of Eden where dwell highly intelligent folk whom no one can deceive or exploit…The villagers should develop such a high degree of skill that articles prepared by them should command a ready market outside.”