Ashok Mehta

From bombaywiki
Jump to: navigation, search

An important member of the freedom struggle movement and an active participant on the city politics of Bombay and a Trade Unionist. Was one of the founder members of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (Congress Party’s TU wing). In the year 1932 he was jailed along with many others at the Nashik Jail for participating in the Civil Disobedience movement. Later on founded the Socialist Party that merged with Praja Socialist Party along with Jay Prakash Narayan. He was influenced by democratic socialism. In the year 1953 he wrote an article “Compulsions of a backward economy and areas of cooperation” in the Janata weekly after which he was accused of developing soft corner for the Congress Party under Jawahar lal Nehru upon which he resigned from the post of General Secretary of the party. He was pioneer of the theory of “Political Compulsions of a backward Economy”.

During the early 1940s he was very active in the trade union movement of textile, railway, engineering and post and telegraph workers in Bombay city and also a municipal corporator and one Mayor of municipal corporation. He also acted as a Trustee of the Bombay Port Trust, 1947-48 and founded, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha in the year 1949 and was its First General Secretary. Finally in the year 1964, June he joined the Congress Party. He was appointed Union Minister of Planning, January, 1966 and took over additional portfolio of the Department of Social Welfare, February, 1966 and was re-appointed as Union Minister of Planning, Petroleum & Chemicals and Social Welfare, March, 1967. He was a great exponent of democratic planning in the country.

During the decade of 50s he was actively involved in the Greater Bombay Tenants Association/Union along with G G Mehta. During the proceedings of the case filed during the Occupy Samudra Mahal he stood for the cause of the squatters who were evicted during the first post independence demolition drive in 1950s. He argued:

"The destruction of ramshackle huts at the Mahim Causeway at the direction of the Government of Bombay has robbed scores of families of a shelter. In the monsoon the destruction of huts merely adds to the misery of the people. The squatters approaced the highest authorities with the request to permit them to stay on for some months more, but the request was brushed aside. Their appeal for allotting them some vacant building was likewise ignored. The squatters are justified under these circumstances in occupying the Gwalior Palace. They have been forcibly ejected from there. May I appeal to the Maharaja of Gwalior to let some people find shelter in his vacant quarters? There is nothing unusual in people's demand for rationing of space. In Finland it has been done. If the Government will neither agree to rationing of space nor per­mit unauthorised structures to remain the tussle between them and the dis-housed squatters will continue. It would be wiser to allot the dis-housed persons a plot of land where they can through co-operative effort, construct their dwellings, may be of rammed earth. A wise Government should direct the energies of the people in constructive channels". 

For Further Details:

Socialist Thought in Modern India by R A Prasad(1974)