BRIEF LIFE SKETCH OF J.C. KUMARAPPA (1892-1960)
Kumarappa was born in a devout Christian family on January
4, 1892 and named Joseph Chelladurai Cornelius. He was the
sixth child of Mr. Solomon Doraisamy, an officer in the
Public Works Department of Government of Madras and Mrs.
Easther Rajanayagam, a pious housewife, at Tanjore in Tamil
Nadu. Mrs. Easther hailed from an educated and well-known
family of poet Vedanayagam Sastriar.
Kumarappa had his basic education in Madras and left for
London in 1912 for Chartered Accountancy course (F.S.A.A.).
There he continued to work for London Banks and British
Auditors' firms. In 1919 he returned to India and worked in
Bombay with British Firms again and later set up his own
firm of auditors called `Cornelius & Davar`. Many of his
clients were European and Parsi firms. Besides, he was
Vice-Principal and part-time Professor of Davar's College of
Again, in 1928 he went to the United States and did his
B.Sc. in Business Administration at Syracuse and M.A. in
Economics at Columbia University under Prof. Dr. Seligman.
His thesis, "Public Finance and our (Indian) Poverty"
changed him from an European loyalist to a committed Indian
nationalist. He returned to India in 1929 to continue his
auditing work. In the meantime, he was looking for a chance
to publish the story of how the British were exploiting
India through their taxation policy. While negotiating with
a few publishers, one of his friends told him of Gandhiji
and that, he would be greatly interested in the subject. He
was urged to submit the manuscript to Gandhiji first. He
finally succeeded with the help of Mr. Pyarelal and an
appointment was fixed to meet Gandhiji at Sabarmathi Ashram
on May 9, 1929 at 2.30 p.m.
historical meeting took place and Gandhi ji told him that he
was interested in the essay and proposed to publish it in
the series of his journal, 'Young India'. Then Kumarappa was
requested to undertake a rural survey for Gandhi ji at a
village in Gujarat, as he found that the approach he had to
economics was almost similar to his. After a few hurdles, he
could do it admirably. The survey became a classic, under
the title, 'A Survey of Matar Taluka in Kheda District'.
was appointed as Professor of Gujarat Vidyapith, a National
University, at the recommendation of Gandhiji. In the
meantime, he gave up his plans of auditors firm and marriage
and remained a bachelor until the end his life.
Before Gandhiji started off Dandy March in 1931, he
encouraged Kumarappa to write regularly for Young India and
informed him that he would be its editor after his
imprisonment. Thus Kumarappa became editor of Young India
and his continual fiery writings gave him one and a half
years' of rigorous imprisonment in 1931 but fortunately he
was released after a couple of days, because of Gandhi -
Irwin Pact. The India National Congress in Karachi appointed
a Selection Committee to go into the details of the
financial obligations of Great Britain, based on Kumarappa's
thesis work and he was made the convener of the committee.
The repercussion of the report on the financial markets was
so great that it affected the London market adversely, at
the time of its publication.
Once again, Kumarappa was forced to take up the editorship
of Young India from Gandhiji in 1932. His vigorous articles
sent him to jail. He was released after two and a half years
in Nasik Prison, in 1934. Soon he was called by Gandhiji to
help one of the biggest relief operations after Bihar
earthquake. He was put in charge of accounts in helping Dr.
Rajendar Prasad for almost a year.
1935, the India National Congress formed the All India
Village Industries Association (AIVIA) for the development
of rural economy of the country with Gandhiji as President
and Kumarappa as Secretary and Organiser. Between 1935-39,
Kumarappa established the AIVIA headquarters at Maganwadi,
developed various experiments of rural technologies, and
helped others to reorganise village industries all over the
country. There he edited a monthly journal, ''Gram Udyog
Patrika" and wrote a book, '' Why the village movement?''
Besides, he undertook economic surveys of the states of
'C.P. and BERAR' and ' North-West Frontier Province', which
were greatly appreciated by economists. When the National
Planning Committee was formed in 1938 by Subhas Chandra
Bose, with Jawaharlal Nehru as Chairman, Kumarappa was
requested to serve as the member of the committee. Owing to
Gandhiji and Nehru's insistence, he served for 3 months and
resigned from the Committee, since the whole approach of the
Committee was very different from his approach, i.e.
decentralised participatory planning.
the outset of Word War II, the British imperialist rule was
at its highest. Provisional Congress ministries were
dismissed and poor agriculturists were heavily burdened.
Therefore Kumarappa wrote, ''Stone for Bread" an article in
1942, for which he was under detention and trial for a year
and a half in both Bombay and Nagpur. Again, during the Quit
India Movement, he had a hand in the underground activities
in Bombay along with his Congress colleagues. These secret
sabotage activities led to his arrest. Finally, he was
sentenced to two and a half years of rigorous imprisonment
for three charges and sent to Jabalpur Central Jail until
wrote two books during his imprisonment, 'Economy of
Permanence' and Practice and Precepts of Jesus, which were
considered to be splendid, work in those days. Like Antonio
Gramsci's 'Prison Diary' Kumarappa's work had great
importance in universal value. Since Gandhiji found
universal value in those two books, in his capacity as the
Chancellor of the National University, he conferred on him
Doctor of Village Industries (DVI) and Doctor of Divinity
(DD) respectively. However, after his release from the
prison, his health completely broke down and he took rest at
the guesthouse of Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur.
joined the delegation nominated by Government of India, in
July 1947 to help India's economic interest in maritime
transport, at the meeting of shippers in London. He made use
of the opportunity to see the devastation of Europe after
the Word War II. A couple of weeks later, he continued to
crusade against the Indian policies, which were against the
interest of the rural economy, through his speeches and
writings throughout India. He was also a prominent figure in
Congress affairs. He was given a chance to be a member of
the All India Congress Working Committee in place of Jay
Prakash Narayan, early in 1947; he rejected the offer in
spite of Gandhiji's persuasion.
After the Independence, he was not interested in power
politics but made efforts to draw out a consensus plan of
action on the economic policy of the Congress among the
leftists and the rightists. Gandhiji himself appreciated the
plan report of Kumarappa when it was presented to him by
Nehru in Nov. 1947. However, all efforts of Kumarappa were
consciously buried by Nehru after the death of Gandhiji.
Towards the end of 1947, Agrarian Reform Committee was
formed by AICC with Kumarappa as chairperson and he
travelled all over the country for two years. The committee
gave the final report in July 1949 advocating very important
recommendations on management of land and agriculture.
continuation of his active participation in the War
Resisters' International meet at Shrewburgh, English, the
next Pacifists Conferences were held in India at both
Shantiniketan (1949) and Sewagram (1950) respectively. There
he took a major role in criticising Western Pacifist
movements. Then he was deputed to represent Sarva Sangh at
the Indian Planning Commission Advisory Body, where he had
strong arguments for people with power and decentralisation.
Later he was deputed by the Government of India to China as
a member of the goodwill delegation to attend its
Independence Day celebration in October 1951. Soon after
that trip, the Indian Government once again deputed him to
Japan to study the work being done in field of village
industries and reconstruction.
last, he decided to quit from AIVIA campus once for all in
1952, to experience living in a mud hut in one of the Dalit
villages of Gujarat, Seldoh. There he started Pannai
(agrarian) Ashram and lived till 1955. During this period,
he visited Eastern Europe and USSR four times and studied
their economics with a fresh outlook. He appreciated their
achievements very much but yet wanted a non-violent sort of
alternative in India, with different types of revolution.
to heavy strain on his body, hypertension developed and he
was medically advised to give up all responsibilities and
shift to a more calmer place and milder climate. In the
meantime, in November 1953, he went to Ceylon to undergo
Ayurvedic treatment and returned to India, shortly after
that he chose Gandhi Niketan Ashram at T.Kallupatti
(Madurai) to be his headquarters from May 1955. Vinoba,
Rajendra Prasad, Ariyanayagam, Bharatan Kumarappa and S.K.
Dey called on him in that ashram. He had done all writing
works along with ashram works. He turned the ashram into a
registered organisation and he became the first chairperson
of the ashram.
health slowly deteriorated and so he had to shuttle from
hospital to home many times. He was finally admitted to the
Government General Hospital in Madras. People of national
importance like Rajendra Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajaji,
Kamaraj and C. Subramanyan frequently visited him. He
breathed his last on the same Day, 30 January 1960-which his
guru had departed from the earth.
One day in 1929, a man came to meet Gandhi ji at the
Sabarmati Ashram. Could he show Gandhi his Ph. D
thesis! It contained a different idea of economics.
Gandhi read the thesis and was amazed. Here was a
man who thought exactly like him. Humans are not
merely wealth-producing animals. They were members
of society with political, social, moral and
spiritual responsibilities. Gandhi immediately asked
this man to join him in his efforts to develop a new
way of thinking and doing economics.
So Joseph Cornellius Kumarappa, who once was an
accountant running his own firm in Mumbai and had
just returned from the US, changed his suit for
Khadi. In 1934, after Gandhi moved to Wardha and set
up the All India Village Industries Association
(AIVIA), he found in Kumarappa a willing worker.
Here, in the 1940's Kumarappa worked as AIVIA
In a book called Economy of Permanence: A Quest for
Social Order Based on Non-Violence, Kumarappa sets
down his ideas on economics. In nature, creatures
co-exist in such a way that each fulfilled its
necessary role. "In this way, nature enlists the
co-operation of all its units, each working for
itself and in the process helping other units to get
along their own too. When this works out
harmoniously and violence does not break the chain,
we have an economy of permanence. "In an economy of
permanence, everybody helped each other out. In
contrast, there was the economy of transience, in
which everyone tried to do well only for
him/herself. An economy of transience was violent;
it chewed up nature. Kumarappa's favourite example
for this was the way pesticides and chemical
fertilisers were used to produce crops in ever
increasing amounts. Sure, the crops got produced,
but after a while the soil got spoilt: no more lush
green fields. An economy of permanence, on the other
hand, did not destroy nature.
Kumarappa died in 1960. For a long time, everyone
forgot him. But today, as we talk of sustainable
development, we realise that it means exactly what
Kumarappa had called an economy of permanence. Can
we learn, for our own good, from Kumarappa all over
Books written by Dr.
(Most of the following books are out of print, Photostat
copy/Xerox can be made available on request)
1. Economy of Permanence; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan,
Rajghat, Varanasi 221001, 1984, pages: 208
2. Why the Village Movement; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan,
Rajghat, Varanasi 221001,1958, pages: 203.
3. Cow in Our Economy; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan,
Rajghat, Varanasi 221001, 1963, pages: 76.
4. Gandhian Economic Thought; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan,
Rajghat, Varanasi 221001, 1962, pages: 94.
5. Swaraj for the Masses; Hind Kitab Ltd. Bombay; 1948,
6. Europe Through Gandhian Eyes; Maganwadi, Wardha;
1948, pages: 29.
7. Peace and Prosperity; Maganwadi, Wardha, 1948, pages:
8. Lessons from Europe; Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan,
Wardha, 1954, pages: 49.
9. An Economic Survey of Matar Taluka; Gujarat
Vidhyapeeth; 1952, pages: 155.
10. Present Economic Situation; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1949,
11. Public Finance and Our Poverty; Navajivan, Ahmedabad;
1930, pages: 110.
12. Swadeshi; Sindhu Publication; 1992, pages: 32.
13. Grinding of Cereals; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1947, pages:
14. Village Industries; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1947, pages:
15. Clive to Keynes; Navajivan, Ahmedabad; 1947, pages:
16. Christianity: Its Economy and Way of Life; Navajivan,
Ahmedabad; 1945, pages: 124.
17. Economy of Permanence Part II; Maganwadi, Wardha;
1948, pages: 87.
18. The Gandhian Economy and Other Essays; Maganwadi,
Wardha; 1949, pages: 120.
19. Stone Walls and Iron Bars; Maganwadi, Wardha; 1949,
Books on Dr. J.C.
1. The Gandhian Crusader - a Biography of Dr. J.C.
Kumarappa; M.Vinaik; Gandhi Gram Trust, Gandhigram - 624
302; 1987, pages: 214.
2. Kumarappa Meet - III; Maganwadi, Wardha, pages: 28.
3. The All India Village Industries Association Report;
Maganwadi, Wardha, 1950 pages: 81.
4. The Economic Backgound, J.C Kumarappa and others;
Oxford University Press, 1942 pages: 64.
5. Village Planning; All India Khadi and Village
Industries Board; 1954, pages: 41.
6. Paper Making; K.B. Joshi, Maganwadi, Wardha, 1947,
7. J.C Kumarappa: A Current Perspective; 1992, pages:
8. Kumarappa Centenary Souvenir; J.C. Kumarappa Birth
Centenary Committee, Karnataka; 1992, pages: 91.
9. Gandhi Marg - Articles on J.C. Kumarappa; Gandhi
Peace Foundation, New Delhi; September, 1992, pages:
10. The Economics of Peace - The Cause and the Man (J.C.
Kumarappa) by S.K George and G. Ramchandran; Maganwadi,
Wardha, 1952, pages: 378.
11. Religion and Eco-Economics of Dr. J.C. Kumarappa -
Gandhism Redefined; by Solomon Victus; Other India
Bookstore; Goa; 2003, pages: .
12. Capitalism, Socialism or Villagism?; Sarva Seva
Sangh Prakashan, Rajghat,Varanasi 221001, by Dr.
Bharatan Kumarappa; pages: 236.