ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From the Linear Model to Incremental Innovation Research and Industry in India

In the course of the first 45 years of India’s post-independence development, the focus of research activity was changed from research into methods of raw material survey and extraction, oblivious of any industrial imperative, to research into the process of material production, aimed at inducing technological awareness within industry. This change in focus was accompanied by policy hesitation, and faced reverses. The result was a diversified industrial base together with considerable, albeit highly uneven, levels of technological competence. The subsequent 25-year period is characterised by a reliance on the market mechanism as the channel directing research activity and industrial energy. Market fundamentalism is dismissive of the necessity of creative thought on the contemporary dialectics of the science and industry relationship. This, let alone providing the basis for further advance, has led to the degradation of achieved capabilities in comprehension of the changing dynamics of this relationship.

The Politics of Industry in Nehru's India

The paper argues that at the time of independence Indian managing agencies, controlling most industrial firms and their associated enterprises, were in themselves embodiments of pre-industrial forms of capital accumulated through trading and moneylending. This militated against technological dynamism within the industrial firms because the managing agencies applied a profit-maximising calculus across their various business activities, rather than in relationship to any individual firm. The group structure, in fact, facilitated the leakage of surpluses generated in industrial activity into the parallel speculative and moneylending interests of the managing agents. After independence, the government's attempts to reform the industrial sector met resistance from politically influential businessmen who had supported the anti-colonial movement. The British government also interceded here. The social engineering that these reforms entailed, embodied in legislation, was thwarted by the combined pressures exerted by affected businessmen, but this should not prevent an appreciation of what the government was attempting.

From the Phased Manufacturing Programme to Frugal Engineering

Although the structural reforms, initiated in 1991, did not lead to any appreciable increase in either the efficiency or the export orientation of Indian manufacturing firms, unexpectedly, there has been a visible improvement in manufacturing design capabilities in certain segments, for instance, in the motor vehicle sector. The paper suggests that the development of "frugal engineering"--an approach of "frugality" in resolving complex design problems--is a real advance. It suggests, further, that this approach developed from the experiences of the procedures laid down in the phased manufacturing programme of the 1950s, and first found expression in the successful forays into some specific export markets by Indian vehicle manufacturers in the late 1970s and 1980s. Although this design expertise cannot solve the problems of manufacturing efficiency, particularly across the wider industrial sphere, it indicates that Indian firms have the expertise to resolve problems related to the manufacturing sphere if strategic goals are appropriately set by managers.

Hazard Concerns

Oblivious to the anger and outrage expressed throughout the world after the methyl isocyanate leak in December 1984, the continued storage of MIC at the parent West Virginia plant until 2011, despite several accidents, indicates the limited effect of public safety concerns on corporate strategy. As in India, neither the US executive nor the judiciary seemed capable of withstanding pressures exerted by the chemical processing industry. This is an ongoing story of struggle. What gave Bhopal a fresh salience in the public mind was the Indian government's proposal to buy nuclear power reactors from the US, and to agree to legislation which would satisfy US manufacturers of the limits to their liability. Disconcertingly for the government, the Bhopal chief judicial magistrate's judgment in 2010 led to an explosion of public fury, forcing the government to introduce clauses in the nuclear liability legislation laying down responsibility on the technology supplier. If organic chemicals have awakened the world to the dangers of chemical substances, Bhopal brought home the fraught nature of industrial processes involving exothermic reactions.

Private Industry and the Second Five-Year Plan: The Mundhra Episode as Exemplar of Capitalist Myopia

The resignation of T T Krishnamachari from the finance ministership in early 1958 was the culmination of three developments evolving concurrently. The first was the M C Chagla Commission of Enquiry Report, which ultimately led to Jawaharlal Nehru accepting Krishnamachari's resignation. The second, the "Mundhra episode" was media managed with the encouragement of industrial interests who found that the controls established as part of the industrialisation drive accompanying the Second Five-Year Plan made serious and unacceptable inroads in private capitalist decision-making. The third development involved social engineering, a concerted effort to push the bearers of merchant and usurer capital towards industrial capitalist norms. This paper, based on contemporary records, argues that the more profound reasons for Krishnamachari's fall was the "Rama Rau affair" of late 1956. It holds that the institutional subordination of the Reserve Bank of India was intended to mould monetary policy to the requirements of industrial development. It concludes that Krishnamachari tripped in attempting to coerce street-smart businessmen in control of industry to behave like true industrialists.

Deeply Flawed

Recent events in Nandigram have led to varied reactions. One, which has become more marked recently, is the at­ tribution of commonalities of these events with the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.

Has the Bourgeoisie Truly Come of Age in India?

Flat-footed entry into globalisation and the terrible events in Gujarat have perhaps jolted the Indian bourgeoisie into a new phase in their quest for modernity.

Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Ravinder Kumar will be remembered for many things, some at the personal level by his friends, others at the institutional level by a much wider circle. Perhaps his biggest contribution will be, however, in having demonstrated that liberalism can create a space for itself in Indian institutional and academic life.

Technology and Dialectics

Technology and Dialectics Nasir Tyabji The industrial revolution was defined by the phenomenon of the application of systematically acquired knowledge (of thermodynamics) to the improvement of production methods (the steam engine). The implications of this lay, decisively, in opening the area of knowledge of production methods, in general, to human enquiry. This was given the (refurbished) name of technology, and accorded a central role in the dialectics of capitalism. Later, the 1931 International Conference on the History of Science and Technology formulated key ideas in the dialectics of technology. This groundwork laid the basis for substantial advances in the history of technology in the subsequent years.

Technological Slips between the Cup and the Lip-Unlearnt Lessons from Inter-War Colonial Madras

The establishment of the Government Industrial Institute in Madras in 1919 coincided with the development of chemical engineering as a distinct discipline at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It would thus be unhistorical to expect that readymade chemical engineering expertise would have been available to the Industrial Institute. However, other problems at diverse levels, raised by the history of the Institute remain unresolved to this day: the provision of venture capital, infant technology protection, and plain incomprehension of the issues involved The case of the Industrial Institute clearly forms the prehistory of more recent lunges at self-reliance.

Political Economy of Secularism-Rediscovery of India

Rediscovery of India Nasir Tyabji As it was in Europe, secularism in India is an intrinsic part of the process of the emergence of a modern identity of the people of a multi-language and multi-ethnic society, the necessity for which is being continuously generated by industrialisation and urbanisation: The emergence of this identity, however, has been hampered by the failure at the political level: the inability to evolve political units appropriate for the expression of regional aspirations, to entrench and extend the process of agrarian reforms, and to unify and modernise the systems of personal law, etc.

Plain Tales of This Raj

Plain Tales of This Raj Nasir Tyabji The Child and the State in India: Child Labour and Education Policy in Comparative Perspective by Myron Weiner; Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1991; pp xvi + 213, price not stated.


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