J. C. Kumarappa

J. C. Kumarappa
Born Joseph Chelladurai Cornelius Kumarappa
(1892-01-04)January 4, 1892
Thanjavur, Tamilnadu
Died January 30, 1960(1960-01-30) (aged 68)
Madurai, Tamilnadu
Occupation economist
Parent(s) Solomon Duraisamy,
Esther Rajanayagam

J. C. Kumarappa (born Joseph Chelladurai Cornelius) (4 January 1892 – 30 January 1960) was an Indian economist[1] and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. A pioneer of rural economic development theories, Kumarappa is credited for developing economic theories based on Gandhism – a school of economic thought he coined "Gandhian economics."[2][3]

Early life and studies

Joseph Chelladurai Kumarappa was born on 4 January 1892 in Tanjore, present-day Tamil Nadu, into a Christian family.[4] He was the sixth child of Solomon Doraisamy (a Public Works officer) and Esther Rajanayagam.[4] His younger brother, Bharatan Kumarappa (1896–1957), would also become associated with Gandhi and the sarvodaya movement. He changed his name following his return from studying economics and chartered accountancy in Britain in 1919. In 1928 he travelled to the United States to obtain degrees in economics and business administration at Syracuse University and Columbia University, studying under Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman.[5]

Gandhian economics

On his return to India Kumarappa published an article on the British tax policy and its exploitation of the Indian economy. He met Gandhi in 1929. 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.

Kumarappa worked to combine Christian and Gandhian values of "trusteeship", non-violence and a focus on human dignity and development in place of materialism as the basis of his economic theories. While rejecting socialism's emphasis on class war and force in implementation, he also rejected the emphasis on material development, competition and efficiency in free-market economics. Gandhi and Kumarappa envisioned an economy focused on satisfying human needs and challenges while rooting out socio-economic conflict, unemployment, poverty and deprivation. He was described by M. M. Thomas as one of the "Christians of the inner Gandhi circle" – which included non-Indians such as Charles Freer Andrews, Verrier Elwin and R. R. Keithahn, and Indians such as Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, S.K. George, Aryanayagam and B. Kumarappa, all of whom espoused the philosophy of non-violence.[6] J.C. Kumarappa responded positively to the Indian national renaissance, and he and S.K. George rejected the idea that British rule in India was ordained by divine providence[7]

Kumarappa worked as a professor of economics at the Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad, while serving as the editor of Young India during the Salt Satyagraha.[1] He helped found and organise the All India Village Industries Association in 1935; and was imprisoned for more than a year during the Quit India movement.[8] He wrote during his imprisonment, Economy of Permanence, The Practice and Precepts of Jesus (1945) and Christianity: Its Economy and Way of Life (1945).


Several of Gandhi's followers developed a theory of environmentalism. Kumarappa took the lead in a number of relevant books in the 1930s and 1940s. He and Mirabehn argued against large-scale dam-and-irrigation projects, saying that small projects were more efficacious, that organic manure was better and less dangerous than man-made chemicals, and that forests should be managed with the goal of water conservation rather than revenue maximisation. The British and the Nehru governments paid them little attention. Historian Ramachandra Guha calls Kumarappa, "The Green Gandhian," portraying him as the founder of modern environmentalism in India.[9]

Later life

After India's independence in 1947, Kumarappa worked for the Planning Commission of India and the Indian National Congress to develop national policies for agriculture and rural development. He also travelled to China, eastern Europe and Japan on diplomatic assignments and to study their rural economic systems. He spent some time in Sri Lanka, where he received Ayurvedic treatment.[10] He settled in Madurai at the M. K. Gandhi Niketan, where he continued his work in economics and writing.

He died on 30 January 1960. After his death the Kumarappa Institute of Gram Swaraj was founded in his honour. His younger brother Bharatan Kumarappa was also associated with Gandhi and the Sarvodaya movement.

Select works by J. C. Kumarappa


  1. 1 2 "Remembering Dandi". The Hindu. 6 March 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  2. The Hindu – Jan 2003
  3. Indian express – Jan 2010
  4. 1 2 Kumarappa Institute of Gram Samaj: www.kigs.org
  5. Down To Earth – Mar 1993
  6. M.M. Thomas, The Acknowledged Christ of the Indian Renaissance (1969), p.215
  7. M. M. Thomas, The Acknowledged Christ of the Indian Renaissance (1969), p.240, 243
  8. Building a Creative Freedom : J C Kumarappa & his Economic Philosophy
  9. Ramachndra Guha (2004). Anthropologist Among the Marxists: And Other Essays. Orient Blackswan. pp. 81–6.
  10. Victus, Solomon, Religion and Eco-Economics of J.C.Kumarappa,2003, pxxx

Further reading

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