This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "J. C. Kumarappa" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
J. C. Kumarappa
Joseph Chelladurai Cornelius Kumarappa

(1892-01-04)4 January 1892
Died30 January 1960(1960-01-30) (aged 68)
RelativesBharatan Kumarappa (brother)

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 Cornelius, a Public Works officer, and Esther Rajanayagam.[4] S.D. Cornelius, being one of the great old boys of William Miller, the famous Principal of Madras Christian College, sent his illustrious sons JC Cornelius and Benjamin Cornelius to Doveton School and later on to Madras Christian College. After becoming the followers of Gandhi, both these brothers adopt their grand father's name—Kumarappa—and hailed as Kumarappa brothers. (For biographical details see The Gandhian Crusader: A Biography of Dr. J.C.Kumarappa, Gandhigram Trust, 1956 (rev.1987).J C Kumarappa later on studied 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]

His older sister, E. S. Appasamy, became a notable educator and social worker in Madras.[6]

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.[7] J. C. Kumarappa responded positively to the Indian national renaissance, and he and George rejected the idea that British rule in India was ordained by divine providence[8]

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] between May 1930 and February 1931.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] He settled near Madurai at the Gandhi Niketan Ashram, T.Kallupatti (a school based on Gandhian education system) constructed by freedom fighter and Gandhian follower K. Venkatachalapathi, where he continued his work in economics and writing.

He died on 30 January 1960, the 12th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, aged 68. After his death the Kumarappa Institute of Gram Swaraj was founded in his honour. His elder brother Bharatan Kumarappa was also associated with Gandhi and the Sarvodaya movement.

Select works by Kumarappa


  1. ^ a b "Remembering Dandi". The Hindu. 6 March 2005. Archived from the original on 14 March 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  2. ^ The Hindu – Jan 2003
  3. ^ "Indian express – Jan 2010". Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b Kumarappa Institute of Gram Samaj:
  5. ^ Down To Earth – Mar 1993
  6. ^ Sita Anantha Raman, ''Crossing Cultural Boundaries: Indian Matriarchs and Sisters in Service,'' Journal of Third World Studies 18, no. 2 (Fall 2001): 131–48. via ProQuest
  7. ^ M.M. Thomas, The Acknowledged Christ of the Indian Renaissance (1969), p.215
  8. ^ M. M. Thomas, The Acknowledged Christ of the Indian Renaissance (1969), p.240, 243
  9. ^ Reed, Stanley (1950). The Indian And Pakistan Year Book And Who's Who 1950. Bennett Coleman and Co. Ltd. p. 704. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Building a Creative Freedom : J C Kumarappa & his Economic Philosophy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2007.
  11. ^ Ramachndra Guha (2004). Anthropologist Among the Marxists: And Other Essays. Orient Blackswan. pp. 81–6. ISBN 9788178240015.
  12. ^ Victus, Solomon, Religion and Eco-Economics of J.C.Kumarappa,2003, pxxx

Further reading