Developmental Programs

P.R. Sarkar

(17 April 1988, Calcutta) – In ancient times bullion was used as the medium of political and commercial transactions. In most countries gold was the preferred bullion, but in some countries silver bullion was also used. Of the countries which used gold bullion, some recognized silver bullion and some did not. If a country which used gold bullion refused to recognize silver bullion, commercial bullion transactions between the countries were not possible because of the bullion differences. Such countries engaged in barter trade.

Kuranga badale lavanga nibo kumkum badale chuyá
Gáchphal badale jáiphal pábo baherar badale guyá.
“We shall accept cloves in exchange for stag. We shall accept
paste for pollen.
We will accept hot spices in exchange for fruit. We shall accept
medicinal fruit in exchange for nuts.”

In olden days Bengal used to conduct barter trade with countries such as Sri Lanka and Burma. Much of the commercial trade in rural Bengal was conducted through barter and only a negligible portion through the exchange of bullion. Farmers used to buy commodities from people of different vocations in exchange for their agricultural merchandise. Even 150 years ago there was hardly any exchange of bullion in the Birbhum district of Ráŕh. Peasants used to buy mangoes, lambs, lamps, dhotis and saris in exchange for rice. Carpenters used to buy cutters and knives in exchange for wooden articles or beaten rice. The village people of Bengal called this system “barter trade”. Where there was a difference in the standard of bullion, commodities were not sold through gold or silver bullion.

The rulers (monarchy was the system in those days) used to deposit gold or silver bullion in the public exchequer. Some portion was spent on the salaries of government employees and to meet the expenses of the government’s developmental programmes.

The place where the rulers produced bullion was called t́ankashálá – in English, “mint”. The words t́anká, tanká and tankha have come from the word t́anka. Even today in northern India, the word tankha is used in the sense of “salary” or “pension”. In the Shubhaunkarii [mathematical charts used for calculations], Shubhaunkara Dás, a káyastha from Bankura district in Ráŕh said, Mańprati yata tanká hoibek dar… That is, “For every mań [maund, thirty-seven kilos] the price in tanká will be…” The amount of money which the government releases for public use in the market is called gańatanka.

Though it is a slight digression, I would like to add the following. The clay modelling and temple construction industries have left many beautiful relics of subtle art which demonstrate the finer sensibilities of the human mind. In ancient India, especially in southern India and Orissa, many kings used to spend bullion on building temples instead of spending it on developmental programmes. It is said that not even a penny of the total revenue collected over four years in the ancient kingdom of Utkal was spent on developmental programmes. The entire amount was spent on building the Konarka temple. As a monument and an architectural achievement, the Konarka temple is unique. Nevertheless, I hope that the present educated generation of Orissa will deeply analyse the extent to which it was justifiable to build this temple at the cost of food for the impoverished masses of Orissa.

The more that government revenue is spent on developmental programmes – not including the salaries of government employees – the better it is for the country’s economy. This policy will render great service to the masses and lead to increasing socio-economic development. As a result of the constant circulation of capital, national wealth will increase. While the government must think about the bare necessities of government employees, increasing the salaries of government employees by reducing the amount of money spent on public services can never be supported. The more that money is invested in developmental programmes, the better it is.

This policy will also indirectly lead to an increased standard of living for government employees. If any government increases the salaries of government employees without investing money in public services, the market will go out of control. Consequently, government employees, even if they are paid higher salaries, will not be benefited. If the market price of a commodity is five rupees and if the salaries of the government employees are doubled with the intention of providing them greater amenities, will the purchasing capacity of the government employees also be doubled? If they go to market with more money in their pockets they will find that everything costs more. Such an approach is like adding fuel to fire. If the market price of commodities goes sky-high the country will be thrown into the clutches of high inflation.

So, increasing the expenses of a government department at the cost of developmental programmes amounts to committing economic suicide. If production is increased through investment in developmental programmes instead, the purchasing capacity of the people can be increased without increasing their salaries. When purchasing capacity is increased, both government and non-government employees will benefit.

In pure economic terms developmental programmes are those programmes which directly increase national wealth and indirectly support this increase. Programmes which only increase national wealth indirectly, not directly, cannot be regarded as developmental programmes until the minimum requirements of the people are guaranteed.

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012

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