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Untouchables (“Dalits” of modern India) in Ancient India

Introduction –Existence of Shudras (at present referred as Dalits, untouchables or Harijans, out-castes etc.) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they belonged to service class and were always an integral part of Hindu society. They performed essential social and economic tasks in different areas including agricultural sector.

Discrimination agaisnt Shudras – The Ancient India did not sanctify discrimination. According to Bhagwat Gita, four Varnas were based On attributes (Guna) and Deeds (Karma). Rishis/sages (‘Intellectuals’ according to modern thinking) were accorded the highest status. The two most popular epics ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ were composed by Valmiki (a Shudra according to present ranking) and Ved Vyasa (a backward caste). And both are revered by all Hindu community. The present birth-based caste discrimination is more recent than is told by vested interests.

Ambedkar himself acknowledges in his famous book, ‘Who were Shudras?’ that in ancient times, India had widely respected Shudras rulers as well. And the oppressive and scriptural verses justifying discrimination and casteism were included into the texts later. 

Arvind Sharma, a Professor in McGill University says that caste rigidity and discrimination emerged in ‘Smriti’ during period from after the birth of Jesus Christ and extending up-to 1200 CE. During Medieval Period, it was challenged by Bhakti movement led by many Sufi saints.  At that time, some powerful empires led by Shudra rulers like Kakatiyas emerged. Caste discrimination became rigid once again during British rule

Social systems kept masses in society reconciled – As far as masses were concerned, the systems always kept them reconciled, if not contended in the past. Because of the system of Interdependence, all people living in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.It kept all the sections of society united under one umbrella despite of their diversity and gave the society stability, continuity and prosperity.

Criteria of ranking in social hierarchy – In ancient India, there was no hard and fast rule of ranking various castes. It did segmental ranking of different caste groups according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. Usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different people were the factors to determine social, economic or political status of a group in society vis-a vis others.  

Not a framework of hierarchical layers, but a series of vertical parallels – Ranking of different castes was not done by putting them within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels. All local groups, whether high or low, living in an area mutually depended, cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of needs of the society.

Importance of self restraint and self discipline in ancient India – Every section of society was supposed to lead a self restraint and self disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship.

Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards were given importance in their ranking. Higher a caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. Brahmins commanded respect of the whole society. They were put under maximum restrictions – to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and denied accumulation of wealth.

Lower strata of society in ancient India – In ancient India, conquered groups were kept under the category of ‘Shudras’. Individuals or groups engaged in unclean occupations, clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable under the category of untouchables, and persons born illegitimately or the groups clinging to anti-social activities were treated as outcastes. All these sections of society were given lower status in the Hindu society. Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the society. Permanent loss of caste – out-caste- was considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes.

Who were Shudras? – Socially, those groups were put amongst Shudras, who belonged to service class, helped upper castes in their work or functioned in different areas under the guidance of upper castes  of the three Varnas.. They were doing all sorts of menial work under their guidance, therefore socially they were given lower stratus in Hindu community, .

Whom to blame for the miseries of downtrodden? – Instead of holding others responsible for their miseries, Hindu Dharma taught that Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) were to be blamed for all evils, exploitation and miseries of people.

How to gain respect in society? – -Respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. Sir John Shore (Sir John Shore, the Governor General of India during the period 1793-1798) had observed that Hindus regarded Britishers at par with the lowest natives despite their being so powerful and the ruling community. Similarly Brahmins associated with unclean jobs like, Mahabrahmins performing last rites, have also been treated, more or less like Shudras and have been put at the bottom of the social structure. There were instances when non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.

Nobody was prevented to rise the scale of society in ancient India? – Many studies have shown that Hinduism never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers like .Lord Rama, a king, ate half-eaten berries of Shabri – an untouchable. Lord Krishna’s foster parents Nand and Yashoda, who in today’s classification would be called OBC, get more respect than his real Kshatriya parents from Hindu society. Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame and Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, both untouchable according to present standards, were not ashamed of his origin and are highly respected persons all over India. In middle ages, Sant Ravidas, Namdev, Tukaram, Malika, Sunderdas and several other saints, belonging to lower ranks, earned the same respect as any higher caste saint. There had been instances of people of lower ranks becoming kings.

Hinduism or its practices are responsible for Shudra’s isolation – Therefore, it is not fully correct that Hinduism or its practices are responsible for Shudra’s isolation, deprivation, exploitation, low social status, inhuman treatment by caste Hindus, their low status in traditional Hindu Society, or forced them to do menial, unsavory and unclean jobs.

Beginning of the troubles for lower strata of Indian society – All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. It resulted in Hinduism turning inwards and observing all the rituals rigidly and blindly to save its distinct identity under foreign rule. Afterwards, feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

Rise of White-collared jobs during British rule and its effects on lower strata of society – Again, in  nineteenth century during British rule, modernization an industrialization process has made many traditional occupations obsolete or less paying or were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming. White collared jobs gained importance.

Modernity taught people to escape from menial work and discredit manual work – More, a person withdrew from physical labor, more civilized, honored and qualified he was regarded by modern society. The British apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions of rural artisans, craftsman and small scale farmers, for whom work was essential for survival, backwards in a very subtle manner. It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry.

Process of Industrialization and modernization had scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc. A few of them joined modern occupations. Majority belonging to different groups could neither enter modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering menial work derogatory and lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Masses had no option, but to either join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, and marginal labor and increase number of poor and unemployed. Outcome of such a change has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture.

Lower strata victim of circumstances – Therefore, it can be said that it was not the malice of upper castes, but the circumstances, that pushed untouchables and others away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.                                                                                                                 Winding up – In the end it can be repeated, what in the First Backward Class Commission Report, Kaka Kalelkar (Chairman of the Commission) had commented, 

It would be well, if representatives of the Backward classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves. Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole. The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes.” BCCI, para III.

December 5, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Happiness in life

“Life is there to live and live happily”

“It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you have not lost the things that money can’t   buy”                                  George Lorimer                                                

Introduction – Life is there to live and live happily Almost everyday people, people wish to their near and dear one, ‘be happy’, ‘enjoy the day’, ‘enjoy life’, ‘enjoy the trip’ ‘enjoy your holidays’ etc. etc. But the irony is that hardly most of them know or understand what is true happiness, how can they be happy.

Issue – But how? The main problem is how to make people realize what is happiness, how can they be happy and what they should do or what are the ways and means to achieve it.

What is happiness? – For many people, for enjoyment and happiness they should have muscle, money or political power. Some get happiness lies in getting name, fame, wealth or in securing for themselves important positions in the corridors of authority – be it social, political or economic. For them, authority over others is enjoyment. They like to control the destiny of other people around them and have a say in all important matters of society/nation.

Youth of the day find happiness in visiting and holidaying in world’s most exotic locales, purchasing expensive goods and clothes, providing best education to their children, buying expensive cars and  residences in exclusive areas and ultimately retire rich. For fulfilling all these desires, they would require a handsome amount of money. Without enough money at hand and good bank-balance, they feel insecure and restless.

Does material success give happiness – Material success does matter in life and is necessary to be comfortable and to enjoy in life. There is nothing wrong to pursue ambitions and self-interests and make efforts to be successful in life. All are supposed to lead an active and happy life especially when they are young, because youth is the most energetic and most enjoyable period in anybody’s life. As far as possible, it should be free from  worries and tensions. Nature offers maximum opportunities to young people to utilize their intellectual and physical capabilities and enjoy the life the most.

In Hinduism, ‘Grihasthashram’, (young couples leading a family life) are advised to work for financial and material gains, get involved in economic activities of the nation and fulfill their dreams and ambitions. But at the same time, they have certain duties/obligations towards society. They are the trustees and managers of social estate. They are supposed to fulfil their duties towards family members – parents, wife/husband, children  and elders; towards the rest of the society, helping other people in need of protection/help; and towards nation by observing the law of the nation and pay taxes honestly on their income.

Young couples are the main contributors and ‘Society’ is the recipient. They are supposed to make direct/indirect contribution to the society consistent to their capacity, knowledge and conscience. Taking proper care of toddlers and elderly/old people, proper maintenance of institutions of learning,  NGOs involved in social service and support the poor etc. are included in their duty. They are also supposed to be sensitive and compassionate to the problems of weaker sections of society.

Can only money make one happy? –   George Lorimer suggests “It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you have not lost the things that money can’t   buy”   (George Lorimer, TOI, Sacredspace, P.16)  

A million dollars question arises – Can  only money or material success buy happiness? Such questions are being asked from time to time. People thought over it, tried to get an answer but have never been satisfied with the answer. The answer depends on just what one means by ‘happy’. Present generation born and brought up during the era of materialism and consumerism regards money the most important thing in life. Many people are running after money blindly. It needs to be understood that money is  the means, not an end in itself. Money is not the master or sole aim in life. It is supposed to be the servant. Money is important and useful for meeting day to day requirements and basic needs of the life, but ‘greed’ or aspiring for more and more money does not make a person happy. More one has, for much more he desires. Once craving for money starts, there is no end to it.  ‘Satisfaction’ with what one achieves in life or possesses and living within its limits gives more happiness than always craving for ‘more’.

What money can’t give – Some successful persons feel that happy and satisfied with what they have earned or achieved in their lives. But most of the times, such happiness is superficial and short-lived. Money and material successes can make one happy for a short period, or provide comforts in life or satisfy their ego up-to certain point, but can not buy sustainable happiness in life. People keeping themselves busy in earning money, hardly get time to enjoy life’s little pleasures.

There is a large number of persons, who are poor, unemployed or underemployed. It is difficult for them even to fulfill their basic requirements. Unemployment is continuously increasing and prices of commodities are soaring after the great economic depression of 2008. Because of the lack of opportunities, money and numerous temptations,  many of them are tempted to adopt wrong means including extortion, violence etc. to become rich overnight. These are one of the main reasons why corruption, crimes, violence or thefts are increasing amongst all the sections of society every day. It is becoming very difficult for the government to maintain law and order situation properly. There seems not much hope for the improvement of the law and order situation in near future.

What is happiness according to Hindu Philosophy

According to Hindu philosophy, real enjoyment/happiness (आनन्द) means ‘Satchitanand’ which includes in itself three things –

  • Sat (सत्)

  • Cit (चित्), and

  • Ānanda (आनन्द).

Sat (सत्) or path of righteousness – Sat refers to what is true and real. It inspires one to be true/honest to oneself and to others. It enables a person not to live in an illusionary world, but to accept the facts or realities of life and then decide his/her course of action.

Tremendous will power and a strong character is required to follow the path of ‘Sat’. It is difficult to follow the path of ‘sat’ for persons with weak faculties of mind. One needs to control or abandon passions like lust, anger, greed, vanity, conceit or over-joy, as it leads only to sorrow and distress.

Cit (चित्) or mindset/consciousness, knowledge, awareness or wisdom, Wisdom controls passions. It leads to balanced mind-set and controls irrational desires or passions. A balanced mind directs a person towards path of righteousness and achieve in proper manner desirable objectives.i

Ānanda (आनन्द) or happiness – Usually a common man devotes his/her time, effort and energy in satisfying the physical basic human needs. Real happiness lies in the development of ones inner self. One needs to have a balanced mind for being happy. Whatever comes on the way in life, one must accept that. Indian value system teaches an individual to accepts his surrounding, as it is and try to extract from it, whatever happiness he can. An Indian does not find life a vale of tears, from which to escape at all costs. It is said that Indians do “not count wealth in money alone, there is richness in their poverty.”

A person, whether rich or poor can be happy if he is able to keep a balance between his material (physical body) needs (be it money, attachment, material pursuits or ego) and spiritual needs (of soul).

How to achieve ‘Satchitanand’?

For reaching to the stage of ‘Satchitanand’, it is necessary –

  • Knowledge, and

  • Contentment

  • Positive attitude                                                                                                                        

Role of knowledge – It is not the money but acquisition of Knowledge, which is necessary to become happy. For real happiness people focus on pursuit of right kind of knowledge, maintenance of harmonious relationships with fellow-beings and health are more required rather than anything else.

Knowledge is essential the purpose of giving activities, their due meaning and value and make a person happy. Even a wise man may get puzzled without knowledge, as to what he should do or should not do. Therefore acquisition of knowledge is the most important thing in life. It is only after gaining knowledge, a person could understand well the real nature of work and could distinguish correctly between action, forbidden action, and in-action.

Positive attitude – A person is, what he thinks. Negative thought generates negative energy that is transformed into illness/bad feelings.  Negative thinking pushes a person backwards. It pushes away the solutions and enlarge problems. It leads to pessimism. It is better to light a match that to regret the darkness. A bee is small, but produces one of the sweetest things -honey – that exist.

Positive thinking brings happiness, serenity, blissfulness and sensitivity. It helps one to achieve success and to reach up-to great heights. Positive attitude towards life inspires in human beings qualities like sincerity hard-work, honesty and uprightness. For leading life in a positive way, one’s actions(Karmas) need to be performed with balanced mind. A person should adopt the path of righteousness without any bias.

True education is self-acquired and leads to self-awakening and to live with wisdom. Self awareness brings in love, peace harmony, joys and ‘Bliss’ Formal education in schools usually teaches to maintain external things or what exists – to preserve the systems, culture, religion and philosophies and prepares people for employments. All the time people worry about losing in the maintenance process. Human life is to live, not just to maintain.

Contentment – Contentment has an important role in life to make one happy. There is enough for everybody’s need in this world, but not enough even for a person’s greed. Contentment can generate happiness or feeling of real enjoyment in life amongst those who have enough money for fulfilling their basic needs. Hindi poet Kabir has said –

Godhan gaj dhan baji dhan aor ratan dhan khan,

Jo ave santosh dhan sab dhan dhhuri saman.”

(meaning all kind of wealth in this world can not bring that kind of satisfaction to human beings as contentment brings)

In India, it is a proverb that Lakshmi, ‘the goddess of wealth’ is quite unpredictable. With great effort a person learns to earn the wealth righteously, spend it properly and keep it safely. (Lakshmi bahut chanchala hai, isko sambhal kar paana, rakhana aur kharchana, teeno bahut tapasya ke baad aata hai. Quoted from the booklet Anmol Moti, written in !940’s by Shri Bhagwati Dayal Khare , an Advocate, Barabanki, U.P.)

Indians believe that achievements only at physical plane do not always make a person happy, successful and strong. Such a mindset gives rise to greed, anger and passion and most of the times (s)he is not able to maintain good relations with others. Materialism, consumerism, ruthless competition for positions of power, money and VVIP status in society or desire to have all the pleasures of life at others cost have brought some unpleasant changes in the mind-set of people in recent past and is increasing every day in the character, role and inter-relationship of the following main constituent of the national elites – political executive, legislators, businessmen,  media, organized workers, surplus farmers and bureaucrats etc.

Winding up – With positive thinking and contented mindset, child-like innocence is also required for happiness, which guides one to forgive and forget easily, carry no grudges against anyone, focus attention on the present, and keep always alive curiosity to understand new things and spirit of adventure.

True education and learning removes ignorance and trains the faculties of a person towards positive thinking and channelize his/her energies towards right direction. Positive thinking inculcates in human mind discipline and productivity. A knowledgeable person does not believe in discrimination. All persons rich or poor, high or low, forward or backward appear equal. Detached mindset helps them to live together peacefully in this world.

Positive-thinking leads towards clear objectives. Clear objective decide the right course of action. Choosing right path or course of action makes a person happy and contented. For happiness  knowledge, wisdom and intellectual intelligence is necessary. Intelligence itself  brings in financial independence. Limit one’s desires/over-ambitions. Even best ones are short-lived. Whatever comes in the way, one must accept it gracefully with positive mind-set and try to make efforts to extract the best out of the worst circumstances.

i Manusmriti, II, 94.

ii Bhagwat Gita, IV 14,15,16,and 17

iii Manusmriti, II, 3 and 5.

November 15, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Census operations

Introduction

After consolidating its position, the British Government in India made an effort to know about the people, whom they want to rule and chalk out strategies for the colonial governance. British anthropologists worked very hard to collect data and to catalogue various castes and tribes. For the first time, the collected data had drawn the attention of the rulers, intelligentsia and public to the diversity of Indian society and multiplicity of castes and sub-castes throughout India. All the collected data was catalogued by Census Commissioner into an official document, known as Census Operation.

Risley, the Census Commissioner, India – In the beginning of Twentieth century, like modern Manu,  Risley, then the Census Commissioner, India, invented a new method to stratify Indian society. Since then after every ten years, the government does census operations to know the demography of India and officially publishes it.

Classification of Indian society before British rule – Earlier, before British rule, Indian society was classified into four Varnas embracing numerous castes and sub-castes within its fold and incoming ruling communities like Muslims or British, treated by Indians as foreigners.

Indian society divided into water Instead of four Vernas, British rulers, in 1901  census, created five new unbridgeable water-tight compartments within Indian social structure. Through legal process, they gave each one a new group separate and distinct identity.

The first volume of Man in 1901 (the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute) noted, The entire framework of native life in India is made up of groups of castes and tribes, and status and conduct of individuals are, largely, determined by the rules of the group, to which he belonged. He classified the Indian social structure in following water-tight compartments –

  • ‘Forward caste’ (caste Hindus)
  • Backward castes,
  • Untouchables or scheduled caste,
  • Scheduled tribes and
  • Minorities

Risley’s efforts, in 1901 census, of recording and putting in order numerous castes in hierarchical order like modern Manu had fossilized, imparting it a solidity, it did not have earlier. (Das Veena and Kagal Ayesha, Through the Prism of Clerkdom, Times of India, dated September 16, 1990, p2.)

 

Pigeonholed everyone by caste and community – British rulers codified the castes and standardized the system by placing all the jatis into four Varnas or in the categories of outcastes and aborigines. Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We pigeonholed everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for the system…Our land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste.”

Census operations destroyed the flexibility of caste system – Caste, in itself, was rigid among the higher castes, but malleable amongst the lower…The government’s act for labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was really very fluid under indigenous rule. Therefore, the Census operations destroyed the flexibility of caste system, led to an all-round hardening of social-system and to frantic effort by each group-for upward mobility.

Immediate outcome of census operation – The Census operations instigated caste consciousness, caste animosities and made caste a tool in political, religious and cultural battles, that Hindus fought amongst themselves.

Census operations done by British rulers, far from neutral – The process of Census enumeration, which was started under British rule, was far from neutral. Through it, British rulers in India made an effort to chalk out strategies for the colonial governance.

  • British rulers retained distinctions between different sub-castes, relevant to them for organizing labor
  • They homogenized all those sub-castes, for which they had no use, therefore, no interest. All the floating population like Gujjars, Bhattis, Ranger Rajputs, who remained out-side caste system were fused into one.
  • Census operations kept Brahmins at periphery and instigated other castes against them. The reason was that British administrators, Christian Missionaries and Orientalists considered them as potential threat to British rule.

Made the system rigid – The new method of stratifying Indian society has changed the older system in a fundamental way giving rigidity to social stratification and hierarchical ranking. Every group lives in its own water-tight compartment, having virtually no communication with others, unknown and insensitive to the requirements and plusses and minuses of others. To a great extent, such a situation has given rise to intolerance for others, resulted in politicization of caste-system. To a great extent, such a situation has given rise to intolerance for others, resulted in politicization of caste-system. done by imperial rule through Censuses had recorded and placed numerous castes into Brahmins, Non-Brahmins, Muslims, Anglo-Indians, untouchables, non-Hindu Communities and backward castes or in categories of outcastes and aborigines and put them in hierarchical order.

Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We pigeonholed everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for the system…Our land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste. Caste, in itself, was rigid among the higher castes, but malleable amongst the lower…The government’s act for labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was really very fluid under indigenous rule.” This division remains a by-word even for the present-day political leaders of Independent India.

Therefore, the Census operations destroyed the flexibility of caste system, led to an all-round hardening of social-system and to frantic effort by each group-for upward mobility.

The first volume of Man in 1901 (the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute) noted, The entire framework of native life in India is made up of groups of castes and tribes, and status and conduct of individuals are, largely, determined by the rules of the group, to which he belonged. Risley’s efforts, in 1901 census, of recording and putting in order numerous castes in hierarchical order like modern Manu had fossilized, imparting it a solidity, it did not have earlier.[i] Therefore, the Census operations instigated caste consciousness, caste animosities and made caste a tool in political, religious and cultural battles, that Hindus fought amongst themselves.

The seeds of caste animosities sown by the British rulers have blossomed to its full after the independence, thanks to Indian politicians and political parties. Today the caste-ism in politics is at its peak.

Consequences of the change – The consequences of this system has been that Indians have forgotten about their roots. The new system has made a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society. Caste and communal conflicts have increased. Sectarian and regional imbalances has generated social and psychological tensions. Work culture has been degenerated. People have lost faith not only in basic principles/systems of their own culture, but also in themselves and their fellow-beings. Favoritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption, and chase of materialism based on ruthless competition have weakened social fabric beyond repair. A few Individuals and groups, with political, money or muscle power control destiny of millions and have a say in almost every walk of national life. They work day and night to deny justice to ordinary citizens. Erosion of basic moral and human values has turned life of men, “nasty, brutish and short”. Scientific progress has endowed him with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy, but at slightest provocation, they do not hesitate to unleash its destructive powers accessible to them. Swami Vivekanand had said, “It is we, who are responsible for our degradation.”

Winding-up – Indians people still have faith in good intentions and wisdom of their ancestors, who contributed in building social structure of India. Almost all the principles of good organisation are found in the system like “team-spirit”, “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” (whole world is one family), “live and let live”, “Self restraint”, “automatic checks and balances” “division of labour” along with “to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity” etc.

November 12, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Good Governance

Good Governance, the toughest job – In modern times, of all acts of civilized society, perhaps, governance is one of the most difficult tasks, as it deals with issues – political, economic or social, that directly affect public life of living human beings, who are full of psychological and sociological complexes and prone to unpredictable behavior. Good governance is the foundation stone to build a forward- looking society. The ultimate aim of governance is to help common men live a peaceful, safe and secure life. Today, this simple and powerful truth is too often forgotten.

How to judge good governance – An efficient administration can successfully comprehend what is attainable, what is practical and what can help the various institutions to formulate plans and policies, by which the nation can seek to assure welfare of all its members. For pursuing the desired objectives  for the sustainable development of the nation, good governance is necessary.

 Maintenance of law and order – Good governance demands maintenance of law and order all over the country.  Then only, those engaged in the task of governance could yield maximum results with minimum labor and resources within time and cost parameters and provide convenience to public at large.

Requirements for good governance – The following are the requirements for good administration leading to the development of the nation –

  • Mental framework of the authorities responsible for governance– Mental framework of the authorities responsible for governance should never be conservative. It should have a scientific outlook and should be progressive, innovative, reformist and even revolutionary in mental attitudes and approaches.
  • Aware and responsible citizens – In governance, attitude of rulers and ruled matters equally. Citizens should be responsible and should be aware of their rights as well as of their duties.
  • Knowledge – For  should have knowledge of science, technology and social sciences.
  • Skills – The authorities responsible for governance should have conceptual skills (ability for innovative problem – analysis), planning skills, technical skills, managerial skills and human skills.
  • Vision – A development-oriented governance requires in the personnel involved, the vision of a statesman and not that of either narrow-minded politicians nor a rule-minded bureaucrat. Along with vision is required dynamism, integrity, drive and passion to convert dreams into reality.
  • Structures – Good governance requires less hierarchical and more team-like structures of governmental institutions, such as Commissions, Boards, Corporations etc.
  • Behaviour – The behavioural pattern should consist of (a) action and achievement orientation (b) responsiveness (c) responsibility (d) all round smooth relations inside with juniors and seniors and outside with clientele and the public (e) commitment to development ideologies and goals. Besides, there should be –
    • A working partnership between the political leaders and bureaucrats.
    • A sense of service, a spirit of dedication, a feeling of involvement and a will to sacrifice for the public welfare.
    • A pragmatic application of the basic democratic principles. Higher authorities should provide the required leadership to the juniors.
    • Constant field inspection by political leaders and senior officials.
    • To provide the government with the ability to be in constant contact with the people; and
    • to make the people conscious that the government is alive to their problem;
    • Smooth relation between generalist administrators, professionals and expert specialists.
    • Refresher courses from time to time to understand and evaluate the success already achieved in the field of development administration and the efforts to be initiated in future.

Decaying trends – According to Ferrel Heady (Ferrel Heady, Public Administration, A comparative perspective, P.270) –  the main hindrances on the way of effective development are:

  1. By the late sixties, a spirit of frustration and despair with `development administration’ and with `development’ in general had set in. For one thing, it became evident that externally induced modernization had failed to eradicate the basic problems of under-developed, it purported to solve. Whilst some significant increase in GNP had indeed taken place, poverty, disease and hunger had either worsened or remained unaltered. The same could be said of the growing gap between the rich and the poor nations or between different social strata within a nation. By seventies, the decaying trends had become noticeable in all the nations of developing world.   Events like the major industrial countries and a crisis of liberal democracy in the seventies and the early eighties have dampened most traces of early optimism.
  2. All developing nations have inherited many things from their past. Their colonial heritage has meant a carry-over of the colonial bureaucratic traditions like elitism, authoritarianism, aloofness, red-tapism and paternalistic tendencies;
  3. There is a deficiency in skilled manpower necessary for development program. It is caused by inadequacies and deficiencies in the educational system, training schemes and brain drain.
  4. There is lack of achievement orientation. The emphasis of government is usually not on programme goals, but on personal expediency, status-orientation on ascriptive grounds. Reason for this is the persistence of traditional value system. Results of this tendency are `institutionalized’ and `socially sanctioned’ large-scale corruption and `over-staffing’ in lower bureaucracy
  5. There is discrepancy between form and reality. There is wide gulf between the administrative form and reality due to a superficial change to modernizing values and substantial continuation of the traditional ideas. As a result, we find superfluous and excessive legislation or rules (which are normally violated), false delegations and decentralizations, eye-washing reports and actions with continuing backwardness.
  6. Bureaucratic Autonomy – Following factors have all made Bureaucracy more self-serving than development oriented –
    •  Colonial tradition, Monopoly and prestige of expertise for development available in bureaucracy,
    • Monopoly of coercive power,
    • Tiredness, inadequacies and instability of political leadership and
    • Near absence or weakness of groups exercising countervailing force over bureaucracy.

Constraints on bureaucracy – According to Valson1, (E.H. Valsan, Development Bureaucracy, A Tentative Model,P.270) the development bureaucracy suffers from the following four constraints:

  • At higher level –
    • disagreements with political bosses;
    • the relatively better economic and social status of civil servants;
    • Supremacy of seniority and patronage than qualifications in promotions; and
    • Unwillingness of bureaucrats to accept new ideas and technology for fear of loss of power and positions.
    • At Middle level, bureaucracy is constrained by: –
      • conflict between young and old minds in civil service;
      • a high level of corruption;
      • low commitment to development; and
      • conflict with higher level development bureaucracy and local politicians.
  • At lower level The government faces:
    • insufficient qualifications;
    • poor salary;
    • loss of morale and loss of faith in development ideology due to frustrating field experience; and
    • loss of initiative, crippling subservience to seniors and sacrifice to developmental objectives.

Remedy

  • Need of a strong and decisive leadership at political level;
  • Through repatterning the Administrative structure; and
  • Through repatterning the behaviour of civil servants. Behavioural changes in bureaucratic patterns are obviously more important.

These dimensions can be achieved through aware and educated citizens, structural reforms  of bureaucracy and arranging for a sound system of ‘education and training’ for all.

For efficient and effective governance, more attention should be paid to proper selection and proper training of those, who occupy managerial roles, and are in some directive capacity in either central agencies or in the field, those, who are concerned with the policy and plans formulation, program-implementation and evaluation” (Valson).

An appropriate designing and sincere shaping of the bureaucracy is necessary for making it an effective instrument for the ‘Development Administration’ required purpose can be done: –

  • Making civil service to serve development is not an impossible thing. It requires a development of administration itself. Development of Administration means “a pattern of increasing effectiveness in the utilisation of available means to achieve prescribed goals” (E.H. Valsan, Development Bureaucracy, A Tentative Model P.270 ). 
  • Administration mainly means increasing the effectiveness of the human resource of administration termed as personnel or civil service.
  • For an effective development administration, the role of entire personnel system should be efficient.
  • But relatively speaking, the role of the higher civil service or the managerial class of service is always more important.   Because in development administration changes with vision, values, ideas, plans and programmes have to be generated and applied.

 Scenario in India – In India, there are many factors, which have made good governance difficult. As a developing nation, it is reeling between many internal contradictions like between prosperity-poverty, between plenty of resource endowments-scarcity of their management, between its culture of peace and tolerance-its tendency of sliding towards violence, intolerance and discrimination.

Deteriorated position of law and order – In recent past, due to unstable political atmosphere, the arbitrariness of few powerful groups or persons has increased and there is lawlessness, corruption and intolerance in public life all over the country.

It has generated a sense of frustration, distrust, venom and agitation/violence amongst masses. Quite often, it threatens to shake the whole system and its structures. Sometimes, general public becomes so inured that any amount of harassment, violence, assaults on human dignity and human rights, bloodshed, caste-wars, carnage, riots, corruption, scams or scandals hardly fazes it anymore. One feels secure, until not affected personally, but how long?

The greatest damage to the nation has been done by intellectuals belonging to six main constituents of national elites of the country – political executive, legislators, media, businessmen, organized workers, surplus farmers and bureaucrats. In recent past, some unpleasant developments have taken place and are continuously happening in the character, role and inter-relationship of these groups.

In such an atmosphere, it is not easy for upright bureaucrats and citizens to give free and frank opinion to their political masters. For their own security and career prospects, they have to play safe.

Experiencing the weaknesses of weak coalition governments, in last general election and Assembly elections of Delhi, Madras, West Bengal, public has sent the respective parties in majority so that they could be strong enough take corrective measures. But instead of working in partnership, few ambitious politicians have started blame-game. The result of such a trend has been that neither they could do much for the public welfare nor let others work for the development of the nation such as has happened in the case of chikungunia and Dengue spreading in Delhi in epidemic form or Delhi becoming almost like a gas-chamber, only because the leadership did not take corrective actions in time.

India is lucky to have a handful of those political leaders, who instead of developing their personal interests and wealth, have guts to take strong actions, such as recent surgical strike against Pakistan’s terrorists and their training camps to curb down the violence at borders. And now a very strong decision to control corruption, black money and terrorism(which has made the nation hollow from within) by addressing the nation and made the stunning declaration on 8th of November evening to scrap Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes from the midnight of November 8. Honest and upright persons are happy with the decisions and are accepting and co-operating the government by facing the hardships with the hope of better future.

November 12, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , | Leave a comment

Basic tenets of Hindu philosophy/Hinduism

It is important to know the basic philosophy of a principles/culture and religion one follows. Rituals, customs, traditions of a society should not be mixed up with its basic principles. In a country like India where followers of all the religions reside, it is important to know about the philosophical tenets of Hinduism, the religion followed by the majority community living in India since ages.

  1. Principle of non-duality – The ‘Creator’ (God) and the ‘Creation (every living thing in this world) is an integral part of the same ‘Parmatma’/God/Creator, therefore inter-linked.
  2. Reincarnation – After several births and deaths of body, one can reach a state of immortality. A person is reborn depending on his deeds of previous birth.
  3. Immortality/Salvation – The final objective of all humans is to reach to the state of ‘Moksha’ or immortality – getting free from the cycle of multiple rebirths and deaths. In order to reach that status, one should do one’s duties.
  4. Karma with Detachment – This is perhaps the centre piece of Bhagwat Gita. Everyone has a role to play in ones life as per one’s karmas and destiny. While performing one’s duty/action, one should develop detachment – indicating, one should not bother for fruits of Action.
  5. Equanimity – One should try to be equanimous by overcoming the influence of the “pair of opposites” like heat or cold; pleasure or pain and honor or dishonor.
  6. Knowledge – As per Gita, senses are superior to the body, mind is superior to the senses and knowledge or intellect is superior to the mind. Gita tells: knowledge is better than abhyas (practice), meditation is better then knowledge and renunciation of the fruits of action is still better than meditation as peace immediately follows such renunciation.
  7. Four stages in life – For living life fully and fruitfully and aging gracefully, everyone one has to pass through four stages of life and perform different duties in different stages of life – before marriage learning; married life raising a family as householder; delegation of authority to next generation and spending time in contemplation; and after fulfilling familial liabilities, complete detachment and renunciation of worldly pleasures.
  8. Tolerance and acceptance/interdependence – Hindu philosophy values interdependence, acceptance and tolerance as – (a) It accepts that there are different paths leading to God and be humane; (b)It gives complete liberty to worship any god or goddess of their choice, as well as use their own methods of worship; (c)It does not impose its own codes of conduct on other faiths; (d) It is liberal enough to see atheism as a legitimate pursuit.
  9. Avatars – The Supreme power visits earth from time to time in some form to make human-beings free from evil and tend them follow virtue. So far, according to Hindu mythology human evolution began with Matsyavatar (fish), then to Kurma (tortoise)); Varaha (wild boar); Narsimha (half animal half mam); Vamana (dwarf); Parushrama with axe (tool); Rama the Maryadapurusha; Krishna the playful and serious avatar; and ninth, Budha the enlightened one. It is now expecting 10th avatar in the form of Kalki, a genetically supreme bionic man. (Quoted from ‘Know your religion through its philosophy’ by Prakash Shesh, the Speaking tree, TOI, January 14, 2016, p. 20)
  10. Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma – Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma are the core values of Indian ethos, which together defines the duties and vocations of different sections of society, ensures social harmony and prevents rivalries and jealousies.
  11. The principles of Dharma Varna and Karma principles still maintain inter-relationship of various sections of Indian society and contribute to its growth as a whole. It gives it a distinct character and prepares an atmosphere for their coexistence – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It has served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.

Principle of Varna – Principle of Varna gives the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure, ensuring its continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. It organized orderly performance of various basic functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people. It was based on the assumption that all persons were not identical and differed from one another on the grounds of natural endowments and aptitudes. Therefore, they should be assigned duties according to their natural aptitudes, instincts and qualities.

Ranking of different sections was done according to social relevance of their work, real contribution of their activities for social subsistence and amount of purity, discipline and training required to perform their duties well. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence and hierarchical order of social units were the main features of Varna system. Observance of restrictions for self-discipline, clearly defined rights and duties and specialization were its important traits. Doctrine of Dharma and Karma provided legitimacy to it and prepared a political and social framework for Hindu society.

Principle of Dharma – Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights forming the natural foundation of human relationship, Indian value system has evolved around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant. In this system, sacrifice is regarded more important than success, and renunciation as the crowning achievement.

Meaning of Dharma – Scholars have repeatedly commented that the word ‘Dharma’ is not translatable in English. Words like law righteousness, ethics, morality all together are not enough to give justice to the meaning of Dharma. The principle of Dharma embraced within itself religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”. Along with its being a religious idea, Dharma was also a principle and a vision of an organic society, in which all participating members were independent, yet their roles complimentary.

There was a common Dharma, which was applicable to all. It was nothing, but norms and values of good conduct, leading individuals to the path of righteousness. All the people in the society were governed by Dharma at all times, be it a ruler or ruled, parent or child, teacher or student or man or woman.

The principles of Dharma guided individuals to remain true and to fulfil their duties earnestly, enabled different groups to act cooperatively and regulated the behavior of its component members within the society. It provided universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life.

Dharma also specified duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. In order to maintain a smooth relationship of its people with nature and society, Dharma prescribed a separate Dharma appropriate to each Varna, each class and each stage of human life. Separate Dharma for different communities was based on inherent qualities, aptitude and potentialities of its members. The Dharma of Brahmin was not that of a Shudra, or the Dharma of a student not that of an old man.

Separate rules of conduct were aimed to inspire every one to perform sincerely one’s own duties and obligations, giving everybody opportunities- social, economic physical and spiritual . It inspired people to do their jobs well and preserve the tradition and lifestyle of all communities.

Molding ones life according to Dharma was not an easy task. It required tremendous will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties found it difficult to observe Dharma. Dharma along with Karma was the means, through which a person approached the desired goal of life, the ultimate aim being salvation from the cycle of birth and death.

Principle of Karma – Doctrine of Karma made the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to a common man. It gave hope and inspired people not to get disappointed by their present unfavorable circumstances, but to keep on making efforts to improve their future, by performing their duties sincerely, which would ultimately strengthen their character and improve social position.

Principle of Karma offered an explanation for inequality, affluence, poverty and happiness. According to it everybody has to face the inexorable consequences of one’s own doings. Therefore it is not proper to blame others for one’s own failures, miseries, or being revengeful. Such an attitude had prevented ancient India to exercise coercion against its working class, whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip. It stopped people from taking law in their own hands. While other nations passed through many bloody revolutions, Indian value system kept on adapting itself to changing times.

Doctrines of Dharma and Karma filled the Indian community with a sense of duty and trained them in obedience. It helped the people to adjust themselves, without much difficulty, to most drastic changes in the past. It guided people to lead a disciplined life – to do one’s own work assigned to him/her by the society and not to interfere in other’s work. It taught people that Work is Worship. All types of work were worth pursuing and respectable. Any work done in its true spirit could never be derogatory or a waste. A work was not so much valued for its external reward, as for the intrinsic satisfaction towards realization of ‘Swadharma’. It gave the feeling to all, that each one was an integral part of the society, not an outsider to it. Society itself had assigned everybody a specific task to do; therefore, each person earned a rightful place in the society.

Knowledge was supposed to be necessary for giving Karma its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance was considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying direction. Discipline was inculcated amongst ignorant masses, and a sense of direction was given to them through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation.

Winding up – Ever since an average Indian has lost faith in these principles, (s)he has also lost faith not only in her/his fellow beings, but also in herself/himself. Almost all persons are heading towards indiscipline, violence and chase of sheer materialism/consumerism based on ruthless competition. The knowledge of the foundation pillars/core values and principles of Hinduism will lead to more tolerance and acceptance by all the communities settled in India.

It is important to know the basic philosophy of a principles/culture and religion one follows. Rituals, customs, traditions of a society should not be mixed up with its basic principles. In a country like India where followers of all the religions reside, it is important to know about the philosophical tenets of Hinduism, the religion followed by the majority community living in India since ages.

  1. Principle of non-duality – The ‘Creator’ (God) and the ‘Creation (every living thing in this world) is an integral part of the same ‘Parmatma’/God/Creator, therefore inter-linked.
  2. Reincarnation – After several births and deaths of body, one can reach a state of immortality. A person is reborn depending on his deeds of previous birth.
  3. Immortality/Salvation – The final objective of all humans is to reach to the state of ‘Moksha’ or immortality – getting free from the cycle of multiple rebirths and deaths. In order to reach that status, one should do one’s duties.
  4. Karma with Detachment – This is perhaps the centre piece of Bhagwat Gita. Everyone has a role to play in ones life as per one’s karmas and destiny. While performing one’s duty/action, one should develop detachment – indicating, one should not bother for fruits of Action.
  5. Equanimity – One should try to be equanimous by overcoming the influence of the “pair of opposites” like heat or cold; pleasure or pain and honor or dishonor.
  6. Knowledge – As per Gita, senses are superior to the body, mind is superior to the senses and knowledge or intellect is superior to the mind. Gita tells: knowledge is better than abhyas (practice), meditation is better then knowledge and renunciation of the fruits of action is still better than meditation as peace immediately follows such renunciation.
  7. Four stages in life – For living life fully and fruitfully and aging gracefully, everyone one has to pass through four stages of life and perform different duties in different stages of life – before marriage learning; married life raising a family as householder; delegation of authority to next generation and spending time in contemplation; and after fulfilling familial liabilities, complete detachment and renunciation of worldly pleasures.
  8. Tolerance and acceptance/interdependence – Hindu philosophy values interdependence, acceptance and tolerance as – (a) It accepts that there are different paths leading to God and be humane; (b)It gives complete liberty to worship any god or goddess of their choice, as well as use their own methods of worship; (c)It does not impose its own codes of conduct on other faiths; (d) It is liberal enough to see atheism as a legitimate pursuit.
  9. Avatars – The Supreme power visits earth from time to time in some form to make human-beings free from evil and tend them follow virtue. So far, according to Hindu mythology human evolution began with Matsyavatar (fish), then to Kurma (tortoise)); Varaha (wild boar); Narsimha (half animal half mam); Vamana (dwarf); Parushrama with axe (tool); Rama the Maryadapurusha; Krishna the playful and serious avatar; and ninth, Budha the enlightened one. It is now expecting 10th avatar in the form of Kalki, a genetically supreme bionic man. (Quoted from ‘Know your religion through its philosophy’ by Prakash Shesh, the Speaking tree, TOI, January 14, 2016, p. 20)
  10. Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma – Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma are the core values of Indian ethos, which together defines the duties and vocations of different sections of society, ensures social harmony and prevents rivalries and jealousies.
  11. The principles of Dharma Varna and Karma principles still maintain inter-relationship of various sections of Indian society and contribute to its growth as a whole. It gives it a distinct character and prepares an atmosphere for their coexistence – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It has served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.

Principle of Varna – Principle of Varna gives the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure, ensuring its continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. It organized orderly performance of various basic functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people. It was based on the assumption that all persons were not identical and differed from one another on the grounds of natural endowments and aptitudes. Therefore, they should be assigned duties according to their natural aptitudes, instincts and qualities.

Ranking of different sections was done according to social relevance of their work, real contribution of their activities for social subsistence and amount of purity, discipline and training required to perform their duties well. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence and hierarchical order of social units were the main features of Varna system. Observance of restrictions for self-discipline, clearly defined rights and duties and specialization were its important traits. Doctrine of Dharma and Karma provided legitimacy to it and prepared a political and social framework for Hindu society.

Principle of Dharma – Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights forming the natural foundation of human relationship, Indian value system has evolved around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant. In this system, sacrifice is regarded more important than success, and renunciation as the crowning achievement.

Meaning of Dharma – Scholars have repeatedly commented that the word ‘Dharma’ is not translatable in English. Words like law righteousness, ethics, morality all together are not enough to give justice to the meaning of Dharma. The principle of Dharma embraced within itself religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”. Along with its being a religious idea, Dharma was also a principle and a vision of an organic society, in which all participating members were independent, yet their roles complimentary.

There was a common Dharma, which was applicable to all. It was nothing, but norms and values of good conduct, leading individuals to the path of righteousness. All the people in the society were governed by Dharma at all times, be it a ruler or ruled, parent or child, teacher or student or man or woman.

The principles of Dharma guided individuals to remain true and to fulfil their duties earnestly, enabled different groups to act cooperatively and regulated the behavior of its component members within the society. It provided universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life.

Dharma also specified duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. In order to maintain a smooth relationship of its people with nature and society, Dharma prescribed a separate Dharma appropriate to each Varna, each class and each stage of human life. Separate Dharma for different communities was based on inherent qualities, aptitude and potentialities of its members. The Dharma of Brahmin was not that of a Shudra, or the Dharma of a student not that of an old man.

Separate rules of conduct were aimed to inspire every one to perform sincerely one’s own duties and obligations, giving everybody opportunities- social, economic physical and spiritual . It inspired people to do their jobs well and preserve the tradition and lifestyle of all communities.

Molding ones life according to Dharma was not an easy task. It required tremendous will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties found it difficult to observe Dharma. Dharma along with Karma was the means, through which a person approached the desired goal of life, the ultimate aim being salvation from the cycle of birth and death.

Principle of Karma – Doctrine of Karma made the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to a common man. It gave hope and inspired people not to get disappointed by their present unfavorable circumstances, but to keep on making efforts to improve their future, by performing their duties sincerely, which would ultimately strengthen their character and improve social position.

Principle of Karma offered an explanation for inequality, affluence, poverty and happiness. According to it everybody has to face the inexorable consequences of one’s own doings. Therefore it is not proper to blame others for one’s own failures, miseries, or being revengeful. Such an attitude had prevented ancient India to exercise coercion against its working class, whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip. It stopped people from taking law in their own hands. While other nations passed through many bloody revolutions, Indian value system kept on adapting itself to changing times.

Doctrines of Dharma and Karma filled the Indian community with a sense of duty and trained them in obedience. It helped the people to adjust themselves, without much difficulty, to most drastic changes in the past. It guided people to lead a disciplined life – to do one’s own work assigned to him/her by the society and not to interfere in other’s work. It taught people that Work is Worship. All types of work were worth pursuing and respectable. Any work done in its true spirit could never be derogatory or a waste. A work was not so much valued for its external reward, as for the intrinsic satisfaction towards realization of ‘Swadharma’. It gave the feeling to all, that each one was an integral part of the society, not an outsider to it. Society itself had assigned everybody a specific task to do; therefore, each person earned a rightful place in the society.

Knowledge was supposed to be necessary for giving Karma its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance was considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying direction. Discipline was inculcated amongst ignorant masses, and a sense of direction was given to them through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation.

Winding up – Ever since an average Indian has lost faith in these principles, (s)he has also lost faith not only in her/his fellow beings, but also in herself/himself. Almost all persons are heading towards indiscipline, violence and chase of sheer materialism/consumerism based on ruthless competition. The knowledge of the foundation pillars/core values and principles of Hinduism will lead to more tolerance and acceptance by all the communities settled in India.

November 1, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Senior Citizens and their Problems

  “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘universe; a part of limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.) Albert Einstein

“The death of an elderly man is like burning a library.”   A proverb

Introduction – “Age is nothing but a number.” Not very long ago, retirement meant end of active life and wait for death, whenever it comes. So during the interim period, one should lead a sedentary life, most of the time be spent on reflection and meditation.

Not anymore – The mindset of old people is tuned to what Abraham Lincoln had said, … In the end, it is not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years.” Or what Mark twain commented, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you do not mind, it does not matter.” Now there are no restrictions how a senior citizen should behave, act or think. The gap between generations has almost disappeared. Internet and social media have played a big role in making the free flow of ideas between people of all ages.

At present, as far as possible, Many old people refuse to retire in earlier traditional way, as it led to boredom, total dependence on sons, depleting funds, loneliness. Today with increased awareness, longevity and better health-care, most of the senior citizens after spending their prime time in job requirements and familial responsibilities, now look forward to pursue their hobbies holidaying, travelling or work which really interests them. They are careful to keep themselves emotionally, financially and health-wise fit enough to enjoy their retired life. There are so many opportunities for them to keep themselves occupied meaningfully, only they have to keep pace with the changing times.

Psychologist Gitanjali Sharma says very correctly, “The mind does not age like the body. In mind everybody is as old as one feels.” Failing energies with aging compels one to dependence – whether one likes it or not. That day comes in every body’s life, when he/she is compelled to depend on younger ones, even for fulfilling their daily needs. There is a saying – Old age is very bitter -“Tulsi wa fal kaun hai, pakat hi karuwaen”. Living with no hope of better health or better future itself, is very sad and painful. Indian scriptures have permitted voluntary death in old age, especially when one’s body is incapable of carrying out basic human activities for survival.

Issue – In modern societies such elderly people are usually neglected or treated well because of lack of time, patience and resources. Instances of parental abuse are increasing. Together with child abuse and spousal violence, neglect of elderly has been a hidden social problem an unholy trinity of domestic violence since long. The issue of neglecting elders encompasses physical as well as financial exploitation of the 60+ people. Dr. Buston wrote an article, “Granny-battering in the August Medical Journal 1975, “It is about time that all of us realized that elderly people too are at times deliberately battered”.

Gaps in present understanding of elder issues – There are many gaps in the present understanding of elder issues all-over the world. It is a complex problem. Youth are also too busy in their present world and have little apprehension of old people’s problems. Lack of sensitivity aggravates the problems more.

Old age becomes a source of many physical and mental worries for themselves as well as their near and dear ones. People do not know how extensive it is, what are the endangering factors, or what are the policies and interventions that would be effective to prevent or reduce these problems. Until and unless we understand the issue of elders abuse better. Any one of us could end up being a victim or a perpetrator.

Proper elderly care requires various measures ranging from better support of caregivers; more training and incentives to for those paid or unpaid – who take up the responsibility of helping elderly people; to legislation and provide the legal instruments for better protection to them. There should be better public awareness and education about Geriatric Psychiatry to know the common causes and signs of elder abuse or to be aware of the existence of Elder Protection Team and how to make a report.

Difficulties in old age – The reasons behind the difficulties old persons have to face are indifferent family response, slow interventions and intra-familial pressures. Even in many well-off families, youth misbehave with elderly. There are many cases reported in newspapers when the old parents are often considered a burden by married children. They are abandoned, compelled into destitution and isolation or even eliminated. In order to preserve or save family honour and reputation, many senior citizens bear it silently, deny or cover-up the ill-treatment they get from their own children. There is a large number of elderly persons, whose sons/daughters are settled abroad. It is not always possible for young sons/daughters to reach to their parents immediately. So much and so disgusted are some senior citizens, that they pre-book for their funeral services.

Usually, the main trouble of elderly arises because of dementia which means a loss of memory. With them it is “a progressive loss of comprehension, judgment, insight, speech and physical function. Psychological and behavioural changes in elders make them dependent and vulnerable. Increasing burden and stress of modern life makes the service giver (family members, paid caregivers, friends and professional health-care workers) agitated and aggressive, which starts from verbal abuse and neglect. The vulnerability and weakness with growing age tends to shake old persons’ self-confidence forever.

Euthanasia, both active and passive (Ichcha mrityu or freedom to die) – Many older people think that it seems to be cruel to keep a person alive even in vegetative stage, when medical opinion is as certain as can be, that there is no chance of recovery, for both – the patient and his family. Such people, who choose to die peacefully should be allowed to do so. In the past Supreme Court has acknowledged that the right to dignity in life extends to the right to a dignified death. Active euthanasia means assist in patients immediate death through painless injection. Passive means withdrawing life-support. There must be strict safeguards to ensure that the provision is not misused by people who may benefit from the death of the patient.

Senior citizens in India – Elderly population is in increase in India. India will soon become one of the countries in the world having largest number of older people. Medical science has improved public health and quality of life, reduced old-age suffering and improved average life span. Still there are many physical and mental problems. A Sample Registration System Report says (TOI, p.13, 2.4.2012). Nearly 7.5% of India’s population is currently above 60 years. A majority of them are in rural areas. In urban areas too, better education, health facilities and awareness has increased the life expectancy. (A Sample Registration System Report quoted from TOI, p.13, 2.4.2012).

Importance of Family for well-being of elders – One of the salient feature of Indian culture is to revere and take care of the elders in their old age. Family has been the mainstay of social support. Traditional and conservative society view is that it is the duty of parents to take care of their children till they mature enough to meet the challenges and get settled in life. Similarly sons/daughters are obliged to take care of their old parents when their energies fail. Offering Prayers or performing rituals for dead have no meaning, if one does not look after well one’s own parents/grand-parents while they are alive. The National Policy on Older Persons also recognizes the importance of family for the well-being of older persons.

Elder’s Abuse – Elder abuse is a complex, poorly understood problem. It, along with child abuse, sexual abuse forms a trinity of domestic violence. The issue of elder abuse encompasses physical, psychological, sexual abuse, neglect as well as financial exploitation of senior citizens. They are discriminated and marginalized by the mainstream of society. In 1975, G.R. Busrston attracted the attention of people towards the problems of elders in his article ‘Granny battering, published in the British Medical Journal (August issue) –“It is about time that all of us realized that elderly people too are, at times, deliberately battered.”

 A study on abuse of India’s elderly, conducted across 20 cities and over 5,500 people has found that ill-treatment of elders is on rise.

  1. “Even in this age and time, 58% of older persons in India are living with the family. The findings of this report also confirm confidence in the ability of the family to care for its elder members.” (Quoted from TOI, p11, 29 Sept, 2012)
  2. Almost 1 in 3 (32%) have faced abuse. (TOI, 29 Sept. 2012, p.1) The study revealed that Indian sons (56%) and their wives (23%) were found to be the primary abuser. They are not treating their aged parents well. Then comes the neighbors, living in nearby places, especially in multi-storied flats, shrewd friends and members of extended families. There are more than 50% cases which remain unreported in order to uphold family honor.
  3. Out of total older men who faced difficulty 47% cases were reported and 53% did not report.

States with high abuse rates are Madhya Pradesh (77.12%), Assam 60%, UP 52%, Gujrat 43% and AP 42.86%., West Bengal 40.93%. People in Rajasthan are most well-behaved with the elderly in their family. States with low abuse rates are Rajasthan 2%, HP 3%, Kerala 11%, Maharashtra 39%, and Delhi 30% and TN 27.56%. In Delhi, out of 84% cases of those who felt abused by their sons or their wives, 69% felt disrespected. 76%of those abused did not report it.

What can be done to give relief to elderly people – Measures needed to be taken to control elder abuse –

  • To promote family values,
  • Sensitize the young on the necessities of older people and promote in them desirability of meeting familial obligations.
  • The most effective measure is through sensitizing children and strengthening inter-generation bonding.
  • Increased economic independence.
  • Initiate state policies to encourage young generation to co-reside with their parents by providing tax relief, allowing rebates for medical expenditures and giving preference in allotment of houses.
  • Short term staying facilities for older persons, so that family can get some relief when oldies go out.
  • There should be nation-wide programs in schools and colleges for sensitizing children and young adults towards the aging and the aged,
  • Sensitization of healthcare workers to recognize and develop a protocol for treating,
  • Develop a robust social security system that not only ensures income security to the older persons, but also gives them opportunities for income generation.
  • It is one of the primary ethical duty of any welfare government and its institutions to provide comfortable environment for elderly and terminally ill persons or to ease their anxiety, stress, or pain and other problems, physical, psychological and spiritual by opening healthcare centers in each and every local area, to take care, genuinely and compassionately, of their day today physical, medical and mental necessities.
  • Government should build flats for senior citizens specially designed keeping in view the special needs of old-age – from grab rails in bathrooms and corridors to anti-skid flooring, arthritis friendly taps, wheelchair friendly lifts and flooring etc. It will give them secure atmosphere and live independently with dignity.

As a welfare state, UK is one of the foremost nation in the world for providing best possible care to its elderly people as well. It has developed many effective and efficient support systems for elderly and terminally ill patients – thanks to Mac Millon’s institution, being the major force behind it. palliative care is not an essential part of the treatment regimen. In India, most patients cannot afford institutionalized care (such as in hospice).

Geriatric and palliative care in India – At least 1.2 million disabled people in India are living in households consisting only of persons with disability. Life is a challenge for them. There are 24.9 cr total households in 2011 out of which households with one or more disabled person is 2.1 crore and disabled persons living on their own are 11.8 lakh. (TOI Report, Aug 29, 2014, P. 9)

Cases of old parents being abandoned or abused is on increase across the country, a survey (across 12 cities, 1200 senior citizens surveyed across 12 cities) was conducted. It pointed out that 60% of senior citizen’s experienced (mostly verbal, rather than physical) abuse. Generally women are more vulnerable than men, report suggests. Most of them do not know how to deal with the abuse.

Common forms of abuse, which are on rise, are verbal abuse, disrespect, and neglect. Common reasons are emotional dependence on children, economic dependence of elders and changing ethos. Now elders lack confidence in any person be it their own off-springs, close relatives, friends/neighbors or any governmental (be it police, helpline etc.) or non-governmental organizations. Fear of retaliation and their vulnerability are the reasons behind this kind of distrust. Also elderly persons believe in maintaining family honour and confidentiality of a family matter and become silent sufferers as many of them live with their abusers i.e. their own children.

Unfortunately palliative care is not in the priority list of health schemes of the government. Doctors are too busy battling disease rather than caring about offering pain relief or emotional balm. Of the 9 million estimated deaths every year, almost 6 million are said to need palliative care. This includes almost all cases of cancer (80% of the 1 million new cases in India come for treatment at advanced stage.) Then there are conditions – AIDS, muscular dystrophy, dementia, multi-organ failure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases, end-stage renal disease, heart diseases, those who are permanently bedridden and people with neurological problems.

The demand for palliative care is expected to explode with increasing life span and shift from acute to chronic illness. With it increases the need to improve the quality of life of patients and their families facing problems associated with life-threatening-illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychological and spiritual.

How to deal – There is a strong need to give elderly persons proper protection It requires –

  • Economic independence for elderly people,
  • Sensitizing youth,
  • Strengthening intergenerational bonding
  • Developing groups of elderly for assistance, intervention

Sensitize the Youth of the day – Instead of running after blindly for name, fame or money, they should feel that it is the time for them to pay-back for whatever they love and care they got from their parents till now. Youth of the day have more education facility, more exposure and more talented and capable to do wonderful work in technological field than previous generations. But most of them neither have time nor tolerance for older people. There is a need to sensitize people about elders.

The focus should be on propagating and inculcating family values so that the needs of the elderly are met by family members to the maximum extent possible. Future of humanity lies in resurrection of family values like sharing vision, caring, loyalty and discipline.

Developing an effective legal reporting and redressal-system – Realizing the need Government of India has enacted Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior citizens Act 2007 has been. It aims “to provide for more effective provisions for maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens guaranteed and recognized under the Constitution and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.”

The Act outlines the legal options available to elders.

  • Parents and grandparents who cannot maintain themselves can demand maintenance under the Act.
  • Maintenance include food, clothing, residence, medical attendance and treatment.
  • Maximum maintenance cannot exceed Rs. 10,000/- per month.
  • The state government can designate a social welfare officer to ensure the senior citizen gets maintenance.
  • If children/relatives fail to pay maintenance within three months, the tribunal can impose a fine and even imprison them, the tribunal can impose a fine and even imprison them till the fine and even imprison them till the fine is paid.
  • If senior citizen is abandoned, children/relatives can be imprisoned for up-to three months or fined up-to Rs.5,000, or both.

Proper training to care-takers – The vice chairman, medical board, research, at the institute of Mental Health has advised that there should be better support of care-givers, more training and incentives for those who take care of their elderly, legislate to provide legal instruments to better protect the elderly. There should be better public awareness and education. (stopnion@sph.com.sg,)

  • Need of trained care-taker/institutional help – It has been observed that within a family presence of domestic help lessens the burden of family members and reduces the burden and stress of care-giver and minimizes the chances of elder abuse as the presence of “non-family member” within household places a restraining hand.

 Winding up – As is evident, in India elderly population is in increase. It will soon become one of the countries in the world having largest number of older people. Medical science has improved public health and quality of life, reduced old-age suffering and improved average life span. Age longevity Old age still becomes a source of many physical and mental worries.

Growing awareness about the agonies of old people – Recently, welfare of senior citizens has assumed significance. Age longevity has given rise to new set of problems. Failing energies as one gets older every year, needs support of youth at every step, no matter what is ones bank-balance. The responsibility of looking after old parents falls on already aged and weakened shoulders. As age of the sons and daughters advances, even their own shoulders are not strong enough to bear the burden and solve all the problems of elders.

Collapse of family as a social institution, while aping the west is causing severe problems. Innovations in medical science have solved many problems, but simultaneously it has forced a person to live unnaturally, just for the fact that they are still alive. It is very difficult for them to lead a quality of life. Sometimes family has to sell homes, beg and borrow to look-after terminally ill patient.

New support systems – Many new kind of support systems have come up like – Night shelters, old-age homes or other senior living projects etc. but they are only transitory measures. Living away from a loving family is really harsh. However while coping demands of a fast-paced life, when it becomes difficult the youth to shoulder the burden of oldies, old age homes are an alternative for elderly people. The continuously growing number of old persons has given rise to the number of old age homes as well. Some offers short stay facilities where the elderly can be kept while family members are out of town. Some provide pay and stay facilities to live securely. The concept of retirement homes in particular areas have been gaining ground. There are some specialized apartments which give elders a sense of community as they live away from their families in a multistoried flats.

Senior citizens not only require protection from the younger generation, but also love and care. They hardly have anybody to talk freely or share their emotions with. The younger generation does not have time or patience to listen the same story again and again.

Distances, a problem for younger generation – Some educated and aware old people realize the difficulties their children face in coming immediately every time, they face  an emergency. There young sons/daughters also have their own liabilities – familial as well at their workplace.  But many old ones take it to their heart. They keep on brooding and many of them become the victim of depression. It is more practical for senior citizens to be in close touch with the relatives, friends and colleagues of their own age living in their local area, so that they get required assistance immediately when-ever needed.

I

October 29, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Modernity of 21st century

 

Lata Sinha

“Life is to be lived, not controlled” (Barrack Obama)

“Every art and every inquiry and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.’  (Aristotle)

And to lead a happy life, –

“Keep your thought positive because your thought becomes your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

Paradox of modernity

George Carlin (‘O Tempora, O Mores’) has described beautifully the modernity of twenty first century and the life style of modern times –

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints.

We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.

We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait.

We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.

Introduction

Modernity has adversely affected in many ways, the societies, especially the societies of western countries. Erosion of traditional values and decay of morality in ‘community life’ has been a matter of concern everywhere. Leaders and intelligentsia now desire to restore the moral values back.

Mostly the children of twenty-first century are brought up and educated in such a way that they there learn to stand on their feet firmly, quite early in life. The youth living in western countries or brought up in western life-style become politically and economically independent better much earlier than their previous generation and counterparts living in eastern societies. However, quite often they end up “Bowling Alone” (in sociologist Robert Putnam’s memorable phrase) and unhappy.

Complexity of modern life

In-spite of having so much exposure to knowledge and technological developments, complexities in modern life-style are increasing every day. Cut-throat competition for being one-up kills the human values of ‘caring, sharing and accepting others heartily’. Instead it teaches an individual to care only for oneself. For achieving success in life, self-interest sometimes incites people to ‘Go and kill’ others in self-interest or.

Aversion to traditional values and systems

Amongst twenty-first century youth, there is gradual disappearance of the sense of morality. There is a trend of aversion to traditional values and systems. There is ruthless competition amongst them for material gains. Most of the time, their life-style is based on in-discipline. Chase for materialism in present consumerist world has lead them towards favoritism, violence, corruption has weakened the social fabric of a modern society beyond repair.

Scientific knowledge a source to preserve and destroy of power

Over and above all this, scientific and technological developments have endowed man with tremendous power both to ‘preserve and destroy’ anything. At slightest provocation, people do not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to him. It has, once again, made the human life of modern society “nasty, brutish and short”.

Creation of civil society

Today there is an urgent need to make each and every society a civilized one. It requires a society/nation to reach to an advanced stage of mannerism and inculcate in its people eternal humanitarian values in all the spheres – intellectual, technological, cultural values. A civilized society/nation needs to create well-meaning systems for the benefit of the whole society.

Social norms/values/code of conduct

Based on experiences, traditions and customs, every society sets a code of conduct for all the members of a society, defines rights and duties of all all the sections society. It not only regulates behavior of individuals within the community, but also provides practical and useful vision/guidelines to be followed by its members everywhere, be it their personal, family, community, social, professional, national or universal life.

Basis for setting code of conduct

Social values are formed on the basis of specific needs, time-frame, mind-set of the people of that society and total atmosphere/circumstances of that place. Experiences of many generations form the basis to set code of conduct. In due course of time, it takes the shape of customs, traditions and rituals, which are observed by the common men living in that respective society. Efforts put by different social groups of a society at different point of time develop the attitude, aptitude and innate psycho-biological traits of its people. Over a period of time, all together set up the social norms/values of a society. Value system of a society does not remain static. It keeps on changing from place to place and time to time.

Difference between Morality vs. Moral-policing

There is difference between social values/code of conduct and moral policing. Morality preaches individuals to exercise self- restraint in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or social relationship.

  • While social values/morality is concerned with self-discipline, moral policing is to discipline others.
  • Unadulterated social values, morality, mannerism and norms based on reason and experiences help people to improve one’s own behavior by making conscious efforts for self-control, self-direction and self-discipline rather than forcing others to behave.
  • Morality leads to peaceful co-existence, while moral policing generates agitation in people’s mind.
  • Morality/social values cannot be taught like texts, nor tested in written examinations. They are learnt by living and practicing it in day to day life.
  • Morality is not something which could be decided or opined at one point of time or propagated by self-styled Messiahs of a society or can be forced upon people.
  • Morality believes in decentralized self-regulated system – be it in social, political religious or economic life of an individual.

Self-styled Messiahs

Politicians, religious gurus or powerful lobby of elders or self-styled reformists cannot become the guardians of social values/culture. Their role in a civilized society is that of facilitators. They are supposed to inculcate positive attitude, good values and thinking by creating friendly atmosphere and arranging a sound system of education.

‘Born free but everywhere in Chains’

A human being is born free and desires to lead a free life. Now-a-days, in modern societies, there is too much emphasis on freedom and liberty of individuals. It is quite often said that an individual is born free and therefore, is entitled to lead an absolutely free life, – ‘I will do, what I want’ and ‘I do not care for anybody’ etc. etc. Everyone desires to have full liberty and freedom from all the liabilities/bondages.

Absolute freedom not possible

Total freedom or establishment of an absolutely free society is not possible, if one wants to live with other human beings. Where everybody lives/acts according to one’s own wishes without caring for other members of the society, a situation of lawlessness is created. In turn, lawlessness creates an atmosphere of a jungle, where ‘Survival of the fittest’ is the norm. ‘Survival of the fittest’ and ‘law of jungle’ instinct can be accepted in a civilized society.

For survival, ‘law of jungle’ develops killer-instinct within a person’s mind It makes him very selfish and forget about others’ conveniences. Such a mindset makes the whole atmosphere tense/uncertain and makes human life, ‘nasty brutish and short’ (Hobbes).

How to create a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere?

In order to have a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere, creation of a civil society becomes necessary. In a civil society, no one is totally free to think or act according to his wishes. There people find themselves all the time in chains. Everybody has to live within frames, follow the ‘rule of law’ and observe in general the values, norms and systems created by the society. Nature has given enough wisdom to all the individuals. Only one has to listen to his/her conscience. It gives a human being enough power to escape from unruly/unwanted behavior.

Individual as a social being

As famous Greek philosopher Aristotle says, “A human being is a social animal. If he does not live with men or amongst men, then surely either he is god or a beast.” Living together peacefully is not an easy task. Dealing with some people is easy and natural, while with others complicated and difficult. People’s desire/need to live together peacefully in a harmonious atmosphere, a code of conduct is set for the people and is enforced by the authorities of that society or nation. Set norms and rules keep a control on laws of jungle and make the living of the people of society peaceful and harmonious and ultimately lead towards civilization.

Right balance between rights and duties

A civilized society needs to have a balanced outlook towards rights and duties. Keeping the right balance between the two is very difficult. To ensure that all people could enjoy their rights, liberty and freedom properly and equally, society sets some norms. It ensures that while enjoying one’s own rights, one should give due regards to others’ liberty and freedom as well, which in turn becomes his duties. One’s own rights binds others and becomes others duties, and other’s freedom binds him in return.

Due regards to others liberty, while exercising one’s own

Code of conduct teaches people to give due regards to others liberty and freedom while exercising one’s own liberty and freedom. An individual’s freedom binds others and other’s freedom binds him in return. Observance of norms and rules puts everybody ‘everywhere in chains’. It draws a line on human freedom and his behavior and keeps a control on the unruly behavior. It makes a person more humane. The whole atmosphere becomes peaceful and pleasant and ultimately leads a society to become more and more matured, cultured or civilized.

Foundation of human relationships, rights or duties?

In general, ‘Rights’ forms the natural foundation of human relationships in the societies of Western countries. Eastern societies have been evolved around the concept of ‘duties’. Too much importance to rights, though gives more opportunities to enjoy life, but it tends to make individuals selfish, arrogant and unmindful of others conveniences. More stress on duties tends to make people too humble, tolerant and submissive even to raise their voice against excesses and trains people in obedience without questioning.

Both the systems leaves something more to be desired. Advanced nations have succeeded in creating systems to keep an effective check on arbitrary behavior of people and developing respect for ‘rule of law’. Developing and underdeveloped nations, especially in eastern part of the word are still struggling to improve law and order position in their countries.

Culture of India

In principle – According to the tradition and culture of India, doctrines of Dharma and Karma define rights and duties of different sections of society. It gives to people an abiding sense of purpose to life, an aim to be actively striven for, cutting across class distinctions and regional boundaries, bridging the distance between rural and urban folk and between the illiterate and educated. Common men in India still regard doctrines of Dharma and Karma as norms and values of good conduct. These principles are applicable to everyone, show people follow the path of righteousness and develop harmonious relationship between different sections of society.

Observance of these principles in the past

In ancient India, sacrifice was regarded far more important than success and renunciation as the crowning achievement. On most of the occasions, stress on duties combined with the principle of inter-dependence ensured social harmony and prevented rivalries and jealousies between different sections of society. In the past, it helped the people to adjust themselves and adapt themselves slowly but steadily to changing times without much difficulty.

On the whole, the system worked so well that when the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. It had prevented people to exercise coercion against its working class, whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip, ancient India remained peaceful and ensured social harmony. Also, while other nations passed through many bloody revolutions in the past, India kept on adapting itself to changing times.

Undesirable developments in Indian society

At the dawn of twenty first century, India has become a land of paradoxes. Some unpleasant changes have taken place in the recent past, which are multiplying every day in the character, role and inter-relationship of these main constituent of the national elites – political executive, legislators, bureaucrats businessmen, media-persons, organized workers and surplus farmers. As the result, on one hand, common-men feel very insecure and confused. They have lost faith not only in governing authorities, but also in their fellow-beings and in them-selves as well. On the other hand, scientific progress has endowed man with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy. At slightest provocation, one does not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to him.

Alarming disparities of power, wealth and culture

There exist alarming disparities of power, wealth and culture amongst different parts and sections of the nation. In the recent past, the black money has subverted the whole socio political structure of the nation. Glaring disparities between different sections have been a cause of great social, political and economic tension. Whereas, the cumulative wealth of India’s 10 richest people is 6% ($ 114.50 billion) of India’s GDP, the cumulative wealth of America’s 10 richest people is mere 2% (311.30 billion). On the other hand 60% of the Indian population lives below poverty line.

Sectional and regional imbalances

Sectional conflicts are increasing day by day. There are sectional and regional imbalances, which have led to ever-increasing conflicts in the society and generated different kinds of social and psychological tensions. Attempts for social changes superficially have made a virtue of narrow loyalties of class, caste, creed or religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society.

Lure for easy money

Lure for easy money has degenerated work culture. Rule of law has got adversely affected due to under-currents of sectarian politics, which makes the task of governance difficult and ineffective.

Centralization of control systems

These developments have led to complete centralization of control systems in the hands of a few individuals/groups or nations having political, money or muscle power behind them, who rule and control destiny of millions of people. They try to reform people, the way they want.

Conclusion

A nation or money can be created overnight, but it takes several generations for a society or a nation to become cultured or civilized in its true sense. The downfall in the observance of human values/norms/mannerism has led India to its present position. It has become a land of paradoxes. Once again, India has to get rid of the undesirable elements of modernity like narrower viewpoints, decay of traditional values, prejudiced mindset, trouble in accepting others. shallow relationships, broken homes etc. The nation needs to reach up to advanced stage of mannerism in true sense and make developments all the spheres – intellectual, technological, cultural values and to create well-meaning systems, so that  the whole society could taste the fruits of all-round development.

It can be concluded quoting Katha Upnishad 1.3.3-6,”Know that Self is the rider and body the chariot; intellect is the charioteer, and mind the reins. The senses are the horses; the roads they travel are the mazes of desire…” Keep the horses under control.
  

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Brahmins in modern India

 

              “In modern understanding of caste system, element of caste is predominant and element of system is less.”

India is in a critical phase of history. The actions of present generation in right direction can lead the nation towards a better future. Therefore all citizens – Brahmins-non-Brahmins, rich-poor, forward-backward etc. – should join hands and work for the sustainable development of the nation. People must realize that they are one human family with a shared vision and common destiny. All Indians must give preference to their national identity over their class, caste, community, gender, linguistic or regional identities and work for an inclusive society. They must align together their efforts to restore the vitality, strength and dignity of our nation.

Issue

Brahmins  (The literal meaning of Brahmin is ‘all-pervading’ and ‘consciousness’) in India  are usually portrayed by some political parties as the enemy of non-Brahmins, backwards, minorities and Dalits, whom they have been oppressing and exploiting for centuries. Why have always been the needles on Brahmins? Before commenting in favor or against any subject or assessing any practice, one must keep in mind that right and wrong are relative terms, which depend on total configuration of the four variables of an action – 

  1. Region (the culture of a place in which a person is born or brought up;
  2. Time (the period historical time, in which a person is/was living;
  3. Effort (efforts required at different stages of life)
  4. and Quality (Aptitude and innate psycho-biological traits).   

Considering all these factors ancient India gave most important place to Brahmins.

Culture of the place and time – The stratification of Indian society is based on Varna System. According to it, Hindu society is divided into four groups – Brahmin (intellectuals), Khhatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (businessmen) and Shudras (labour class). It was associated, more or less, with social position of each group. The restrictions and privileges in matter of social intercourse and rights and duties of each group were clearly defined. All members of a group had similar rights and duties, similar thinking process, similar customs, language, food habits and style of dress.   Though it believed in segmental ranking of different groups according to their relevance and contribution of their work to the, it placed all the individuals  within each group -rich or poor- on the same footing.  A person’s relation with fellow members were closer and equal than with those belonging to other castes. His relations with other Varnas were formal. Elders of a group took care of maintaining discipline within the Varna and helped its weak and helpless members. All the members shared moments of joy and sorrows together. 

There was not much disparity between different Varnas or urban and rural people. The heavily-loaded concepts of disparity, discrimination, exploitation of weak were almost non-existent at that time.  

Place of honour for Brahmins in ancient Indian Hindu society – In the category of Brahmins came the people, who had intellectual and spiritual qualities.  Their duty was learning, pursue knowledge and then set norms for common man, based on their learning and knowledge, so that the whole society can be benefitted from their  wisdom. They were supposed to keep themselves away from ignorance, illusions and lust. Maximum self-restrictions had been imposed on them by Hindu Shastras. They were debarred from indulging in the pleasures of material world.

Brahmins had been given the highest place of honour in Hindu society, not because of material successes, but for their learning, character, intellectual and spiritual pursuits and ability to guide the masses. Initially it was not birth in Brahmin’s family, that entitled a person to get automatically that respect and placebut it was his aptitude, attitude deeds and character. A powerful emperor like Ashoka the great thought it his duty to bow before monks, “as a mark of my deep respect for their leaning, wisdom and sacrifice. What matters in life, is not a persons status or position, but his virtues and wisdom. Only when you have raised yourself up from ignorance, can you recognize the greatness of a few in the sea of humanity.” (Quoted from Palkiwala)

In today’s context, persons, who are not able to lead the life of austerity and self-discipline, should not get the entitlement.

Ranking based on efforts and quality in ancient India – In ancient times, the system had the seeds of liberalism. The relative standing of four Varnas was neither rigidly fixed nor there was a nation-wide hierarchy of the Varnas because of the local character of the society. Local semi-autonomous nature of society (before Industrial Revolution) had made each local unit self-sufficient and capable to fulfil all the needs of  its people locally. Interdependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life  were the intrinsic features of Verna system. It was practically impossible for any varna to provide everything by itself. People of each varna had to depend on other groups for the fulfilment of all the needs. Every regional area had managed well and produced  enough to fulfil the basic needs of its people. Society as a whole had control over its natural resources. 

However, in a local area, the relative standing of Varnas was more or less fixed. There had been local variation in quantity and quality and in the amount of rigidity, with which the distinction between them was maintained. In northern part of India there always were four Varnas, within which all  castes came. But in Dravidian South, where Varna came comparatively late and in the Western part of India, there was a fifth Varna(Panchamas/untouchables) also. South Indians were more rigid in their observations. (Basham pp 139-144)

Opportunities to progress available to all – The system had provided the right and opportunity to get to the top from the humblest origin and earn respect of the whole  society. For example Vashishta, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism was the son of a prostitute, Urvashi. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the Quintessence of the Vedic  Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Airteya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa  of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman (an OBC, according to the present standards) and was not ashamed of his origin. Balmiki, an untouchable according to the present standards, the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India 

Downfall of Brahmins, from ivory tower – System of identifying persons in different categories of ‘Varnas’  by birth had made Brahmin community relaxed. They started making compromises with their tasks. One compromise set them off to other compromises in order to enjoy pleasures of money and get name, name and power. It made them to forget about the life of austerity.

Change in attitude –  Combination of knowledge with greed and of superiority complex with arrogance led some misguided and ambitious Brahmins neglect their role as the trend-setters. By hook or crook, such Brahmins (not in the real sense a Brahmin) tried their best to retain hold over the people of their respective local areas.

During medieval and modern period, the irresponsible and arbitrary acts of some Brahmins added fuel into the fire. They took advantage of their superior status. Ignorance and superstitions of masses helped them in achieving their mission.

Corrective measures – India never needed the help of any outside force for its exaltation. However, after establishing their rule in India, British rulers tried to correct the Indian society in their own way. In the past, Indian society from time to time looked inwardly and corrected the arbitrariness and irresponsible behaviour of Brahmins. Rise of Buddhism in Ancient India, or Bhakti movement in mediaeval India, when Hindu and Muslim priests, alike, arbitrarily distorted and misinterpreted the tenets of their respective religions, and Reform Movement in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries are a few examples of it.

Potrayal of Brahmin’s as oppresors? – Arbitrary acts of a few Bramins gave opportunity to British rulers to pin-point them as exploitators of other sections of society. But much more than arbitrariness of Brahmins, it was the potrayal of Brahmins as oppressors and tyrants by the missionaries and the British rulers in India. What compelled them to do so?

Brahmins ahead of others in opting for Modern education – During British rule, initially, British, who annexed authority from Muslim rulers, looked favorably towards Hindu community. The gradual displacement from their source of income, after the decline in financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars, the appalling poverty of Brahmins compelled them to switch over their attention towards modern education.

Why? To earn their living respectfully – Initially, it was the impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of livelihood, which looked upon modern education as means to earn their living respectfully. They devoted their scarce resources and energies to get costly Western Education.

Sir Alfred Croft, Director of Public Instruction in Bengal wrote to Rev. J. Johnston in 1881, We know well that any considerable increase in the fees paid by college students would compel many to withdraw. It seems not to be fully understood… how poor the middle classes that flock to our colleges really are. Half the students live from hand to mouth…. And yet though, far behind in point of wealth, they correspond to, and are in fact the only representative of our professional classes at home, and the pressure on them for the means of subsistence is so great, that they must either be educated or go to wall.

Their poverty gets confirmed by a study done to examine the annual income of the guarantors of 1271 Brahmin Students enrolled at Ferguson College, Pune from 1885 to 1895. According to it, 76% of the Chitpavan Brahmins guarantors belonged to the low or medium income groups. Similarly of the 277 Deshastha Brahmin guarantors, 70% came from low or medium groups.

Hold of educated Brahmins on Hindu society – Brahmins, being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge, were quick to move ahead of other communities. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them to take a lead in all newer areas of advancement and secure an important place in the society.

In 1900, Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noted Brahmins dominance in the Civil Service, during 1869 to 1899. The British authorities also noticed the preponderance of Brahmins in other areas, too, including National movement and their growing influence and hold over the Hindu Community.

Role of Brahmins in national movement alarmed the rulers – Overwhelming support of Brahmin lawyers to Congress Party and Mrs. Anne Besant’s Home Rule made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement alarmed the rulers. They considered it necessay to counter the hold of Brahmins by raising a strong force against them. Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement.

In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English (rule) In the words of an observer, If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.

Sir Richard Temple, the governor of Bombay said that ever since 1818, when British finally defeated the Peshwa in the third Anglo Maratha war, Brahmins were, Inspired with a national sentiment and with an ambition bounded only with the Bonds of India itself.

Rowlett Report (1880) also confirmed that the British regarded Brahmins as the main force behind all terrorist movements and agitation leading to violence in almost all the provinces.

 Steps taken by British rulers – Many British administrators including Temple advised the Government to stop the dominance of one or few groups in administration and begin to rely on other groups or castes, in order to keep the balance of power.

In 1881 the Government decided to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in order to counter Brahmins hold in education and administration.

Success in creating venom – The atmosphere was already ripe for it as there was a fear in the minds of minorities and non-Brhmin community that if by any chance India would get Independence in near future, Brahmins would dominate them completely. On one hand, the British slighted the role of Brahmins as Indian intelligentsia and reformers, and on the other, portrayed them as oppressors and tyrants.

Starting point South – Missionaries and the British rulers initially spread the idea to generate the resentment in the minds of ‘Non-brahmins’ of South against ‘Brahmins’ that Brahmins had occupied most of the places in education, jobs and places in modern callings. It succeeded in developing an in anathema amongst South Indian non-Brahmin population towards Brahmins (who constituted only 3% of the total population of Tamil Nadu), Sanskrit, and northern culture.

Divide between Brahmins and non-Brahmins – Being a minuscule non-militant community by nature, the Brahmins have surrendered to their fate. Brahmins yielded to the pressures of aggressive attitude of non-Brahmins. The geographical cum social mobility of Brahmins from Madras earlier to other parts of the country, where non-Brahmin movement was either weak or non-existent and then abroad led them to explore new pastures.

Adam’s Report destroys the popular nototion of monopoly of Brahmins in education – Education, being an important Institution, had attracted the vigilant attention of British rulers. The Raj made a thorough study of the prevailing indigenous educational system. Many surveys were made before introducing its own system of Modern education in 1834, most prominent being the Report of W. Adam, of 1835 an excommunicated Baptist missionary. His data on indigenous education system of Madras was the most comprehensive.

Data of Adam’s Report (1835) reveals a different story and destroys completely the popular notion that education in India was monopolized by the Brahmins. and resentment in the hearts of present day politicians because of North being always in prominance in national politics. Colonized Indian intellectuals still continue to sing their tune. The data shows –

  • There were 12,498 public schools containing 188,650 scholars in Madras. Madras Presidency reported 1,101 schools (with 5431 students) of higher learning, Rajahmundry heading the list with 279 such schools.

  • besides the system of public education, there was also widespread private coaching. In Madras, the number of pupils taught privately at home was considered to be “above five times greater than that taught in the schools”, according to Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras Presidency.

  • Non-Brahmins were not unrepresented in learning. In Malabar, out of 1,588 scholars of Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics and Medical Science, only 639 were Brahmins, 23 Vaishyas, 254 Shudras and 672 “other castes”.

  • Brahmins had a near-monopoly only in the Vedas and Theology.

  • Shudras and the “other castes” had in other branches of advanced learning like Astronomy and Medical Science.

  • The share of the Brahmins in certain areas was indeed very low. Even in higher learning in Malabar, out of 1,588 scholars of Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics and Medical Science, only 639 were Brahmins, 23 Vaishyas, 254 Shudras and 672 “other castes”.

  • In Astronomy, out of a total of 806 scholars, Brahmins were only 78, Vaishyas 23, Shudras 195, and other lower castes 510. In Medical Science, the share of the Brahmin scholars was only 31 out of a total of 190. The rest belonged to the Shudras and “other castes”.

  • In many places like in Seringapatam, it was only 7.83% in Madura 8.67%; in North Arcot, Brahmin boys were 9.57%, while the Shudras and “other castes” were 84.46%.

  • the female education was very much neglected though it was not altogether absent.
  • In some regions, Shudras did better in the matter of female education than the upper class Hindus including the Brahmins like Malabar and Joypoor in Visakhapatnam.

According to the data, out of the total number of 175,089 students, both male and female, elementary and advanced, only 42,502 were Brahmins (24.25%); 19,669 were Vaishya students (about 11%); but 85,400 were Shudras (about 48.8%); and still 27.516 more were “all other castes”, meaning castes even lower than the Shudras including the pariahs (15.7%). Thus the higher castes were only about 35% and the Shudras and other castes were about 65% of the total Hindu students. If we also include the Muslims who were about 7% of the total Hindu and Muslim students, then the share of the Brahmins was even less.

Act of dividing Indian society – The rulers created other new identities in Indian society through census operations for the purposes of creating rift among different sections of Indian society, like Upper castes-lower castes, Brahmins-non-Brahmins, Backward castes, Dalits, Majority-minority communitities etc. etc. The newly created identities generated venom in the hearts of the people against each other. A strong force against Brahmins was thus raised to counter their hold on masses.

While laying the foundation of democratic institutions in India, some discriminatory Acts were passed on electoral reforms and quota system like Act of 1919 (Minto Morely Reforms)or Communal Award of 1932, in order to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in administration and other modern callings. It created a wide gulf amongst various sections of Indian society.  Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the “Unkindest cut of all” intended to “divide population into communal groups” and to create a permanent split in Hindu Society.

Now onwards, Muslims and non-Brahmin castes resisted vociferously the dominance of Brahmins everywhere. The Imperial government allowed formation of many caste groups against Brahmins. The movement against Brahmins forged ahead with ferocity in the Southern and Western parts of India. It remained mild in North India, where communalism had already disrupted the peace of the land.

Winding up 

First Backward class Commission’s Chairman Kaka Kalelkar had commented in First Backward castes Report – “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation. All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity. Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone, on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested and anything that undermines it, will be expected and brought to book.

Also, Communalism and casteism are bound to destroy the unity of the nation and narrow down the aspiration of our people.” …It would be well, if representatives of the Backward classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves. Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole. The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes.

If the backward communities have neglected education it is because they had no use for it. Now that they have discovered their mistakes, it is for them to make the necessary efforts for making the leeway…As far as the assistance in the matter of education for the backward classes, I am convinced that introduction of basic education in all the states with help the backward communities to cultivate self-confidence. They will also have a better chance of succeeding in life and have the advantage of mixing with other people.

 Conclusion – Irrespective of caste or creed, materialism and consumerism  is at rise. People in general want to fulfill all their desires and enjoy the life to the core, even if one has to ‘beg, borrow or steal’.  Such a tendency ignites the desire or craving for ‘more’, which instead of making them happy and contended, limits human aspirations to sensual enjoyment only, meaning eating delicious food, nights out, wearing good clothes and possess all the riches and worldly possessions to enjoy pleasures of life and make people very selfish. Achievements only at physical plane does not always make a person happy, successful and strong. Such a mindset gives rise to greed, anger and passion and most of the times (s)he is not able to maintain good relations with others. Materialism, consumerism, ruthless competition for positions of power, money and VVIP status to get access over all the luxuries of life at tax-payers cost have brought some unpleasant changes in the mind-set of people recent past and are increasing every day in the character, role and inter-relationship of the six main constituent of the national elites – political executive, legislators, businessmen, organised workers, surplus farmers and bureaucrats.

We are in a critical phase of history. The actions of present generation in right direction can lead the nation towards a better future. Therefore all citizens should join hands and work for the sustainable development of the nation. They must realize that they are one human family with a shared vision and common destiny. All Indians must give preference to their national identity over their class, caste, community, gender, linguistic or regional identities and must align together their efforts to restore the vitality, strength and dignity of our nation.

October 11, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | 1 Comment

Kayasthas

Kayasthas

The Kayasthas trace their genealogy from Adi Purush Shri Chitragupta Maharaj, the son of Lord Brahama, the son of Lord Brahamawho had 12 sons with two wives, Irawati/Shobhwati and Sudakhina/Nandani. These 12 sons were married to Nagakanyas of Nagraj Vasuki and were the origin of the 12 castes of the Kayasthas. The same legend, with slight variation, is found in most of the Puranas. There are

Like Brahmins, who are being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge, Kayasthas were also quick to  go for modern education and move ahead of other communities. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them to take a lead in all newer areas of advancement and secure an important place in the society.

Kayasthas are one of the most secular community. Of all the castes and communities in India, they are the easiest to mingle with others. Their cosmopolitan and secular outlook and focus on education and revenue work  distinguished them from others. These two factors have been the main factors, which to a large extent are responsible for their success in changing times.

After Hinduism re-emerged around 2nd century, many liberal-minded people from the four Varnas, who had joined Budhism earlier, wished to come back to their original ‘Varna’ were not allowed to do so. It is said that at that time Brahmins refused to take them back into Hinduism saying that Hinduism does not believe in conversion or re-conversion. Time had given opportunity to such people to get a new identity. The people, who were learned who were proficient in revenue work and whose traditional occupation was reading,  writing came to be known as ‘Kayasthas’.

Kayasthas mingled with other communities without any fuss again and again. Such as during medieval period with Muslim and or during under British rule in modern times. In recent past Kayasthas in global world have mingled with other nationals more than they mingle among themselves in India. This cosmopolitan outlook distinguished members of this caste. Along with the great emphasis on education, is to a large extent responsible for their success in changing times.

  • Kayasthas are the only sect who are referred to as direct “blood” descendants of a Vedic god (Chitragupta) in the religious texts and the only ancestor-worshiping sect of Hinduism.
  • Kāyastha are said in the Vedas and Puranas to have a dual-caste status, i.e. Brahmin and Kshatriya.
  • Kayasthas are more secular in attitude than other sections of society. People from all the four Varnas have formed different sub-castes.
  • The Anthropological Survey of India conducted a survey during the British Raj which concluded that the Kayastha community were also influential during the Mauryan period as administrators. Also, many proof have been found that the Hindu Kings used to grant lands to the Kayasthas, a practise enjoyed only by a particular caste.
  • The Kayastha were one of the most influential Caste in Kashmiri politics around 7th century (ref. Rajatarangini) .
  • During Mughal rule, Kayastha developed expertise in Persian (the state language in Islamic India), learnt Turkish, Arabic and later Urdu, economics, administration and taxation.
  • In the colonial era, learnt English, whilst the more affluent ones sent their children to England. Many Kayastha became civil servants, tax officers, junior administrators, teachers, legal helpers and barristers. They rose to the highest positions accessible to natives in British India .
  • Kayasthas are mainly spread across Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, North India.
  • Kayasthas worship Shree Chitraguptaji and on Bhai-Dooj, they celebrate Kalam-Dawaat Pooja (pen, ink-pot and sword worship), a ritual in which pens, papers and books are worshipped
  • Kayasthas eat onions, garlic, meats like mutton and chicken, fish and eggs, though a large number are also vegetarians. Meat eating kayasthas do avoid beef as the cow is considered sacred for Hindus.
  • It is believed, though not yet proved, that Kayasthas of holy towns like Prayag, Mathura, Varanasi, etc. are purely vegetarians, while in other areas they may be mixed. It is said that Kayasthas started eating meat during the Muslim period when they socially mixed with the Muslims. It is also said that Kayasthas have the best eating sense, because amongst Hindus, Kayasthas add the largest varieties of food to their diet.
  • They are experts in revenue and legal professions.
  • They have given a tough competition to the Brahmins in the sphere of education (Grammer=School) and modern callings.

Post independence Kayasthas rose to the highest positions in administration in judiciary, There are many top civil servants and high ranking officers in the Indian armed forces. Some prominent kayasthas are the first President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, third Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri are Swami Vivekananda, Sri Arbindo, Subhash Chandra Bose, Amitabh Bachchan, Raju Srivastava, Sri Arbindo, Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan,   Munsh iPremchand, Mahadevi Varma, Dr. Vrindavan Lal Verma, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Bhagwati Charan Verma, Ramkumar Verma, Dharmavir Bharati, Sri Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, Firaq Gorakhpuri etc.

Many Kayasthas have emigrated to the West since 1970s and especially after 1990’s. Their numbers are increasing every year.

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Homage to Lal Bahadur Shastri on the occasion of his birth anniversary

Introduction

Today is 2nd October – the birth anniversary of India’s great leaders – Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri the Second Prime Minister, (1964-1966) of India. On the occasion of the birth-anniversary, we pay homage to Lal Bahadur Shastri, who not only understood the value of the invaluable services of our farmers and armed forces, but also appreciated it – farmers who work hard to feed about one and a half crore people of India, and our soldiers who without caring for their sleep and comforts defend our country from external aggression. Today every Indian feels proud for the surgical operation done by Indian army on 29th September in POK to destroy terrorists’ training centres. No doubt, the health, wealth and prosperity of the nation depends on their efficient performance. Along with paying homage to him, we should give full regards to our farmers and armed forces.

It was Shastriji, who gave the Mantra of “Jai Jawaan (soldiers), Jai Kisan (farmers)”. The ideals has set an example for today’s political leaders, as to how through simplicity, modesty, firmness and commitment to the cause of the poor and downtrodden, they can identify themselves with the common-men of India.

Feeling of being not treated fairly in Armed Forces – In recent past, a feeling in armed forces is growing that they are being treated unfairly by the authorities. The nation does not pay due regards to the sacrifices, they make for the safety and security of the nation and peaceful living of the people of India– they give up their today, so that others could sleep peacefully throughout the nation. Armed forces, while living in remote areas continuously take care of the safety and security of the nation from external aggression, and help the people at the times of natural disasters or internal aggression.

The Armed Forces feel hurt, not so much about the monetary benefits, but because of status of Armed forces in the hierarchy of service and command, vis-a-vis other civilian government services. Over the last 15-20 years, it has slowly declined in stature and relative importance and positioning vis-à-vis other government services. Civil services due to their proximity to political powers have put armed forces under total subservience of political and civil authorities and left them in cold.

Position of Farmers – Also, drought and debt continue to claim lives of a number of farmers in India. The administration has not been able to reach to farmers and find solutions for their genuine problems. Consequent to untimely and sudden demise of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, Shastriji with his quality leadership and the nation confronted with many critical issues like food shortage, rising prices, language riots and the mounting threats of aggression from China and Pakistan. At that time, Lal Bahadur Shastri, then the Prime Minister of India had taken many challenging decisions and dealt effectively during that crucial hour of Indian history. It would have unnerved even a seasoned leader.  His good governance and efficient leadership enabled India to undergo a smooth transition, consolidating on the gains of freedom even further.

An Exemplary National Leader, Lal Bahadur Shastri

After the sad demise of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri became the Prime Minister of India on June 9, 1964. At that time nobody thought that Shastriji would prove to be a tower of strength, an astute politician and a man gifted with rare qualities of head and heart. People were skeptical about his being a worthy successor of Pt. Nehru as the Prime Minister of India. Some had the feeling that he was simple and too modest a person and, as such, he would be eclipsed by the Congress Party’s Syndicate. But soon they were disillusioned when K. Kamraj, the then Congress President, went all out to get him elected as the leader of the Congress Party and the Prime Minister of India.

It was not long before when the people realized that his modesty was due to the traditional Indian refinement and not a symptom of lack of firmness or courage. He believed that Prime Minister’s own functions and responsibilities could not be shared by others and in no case by persons outside the government, however high and mighty they be in the party hierarchy. It was not in his blood to be any Tom Dick and Harry’s satellite or henchman. He proved to the world that he was not a prisoner of indecisiveness and could act on his own, however, formidable the task might be.

Even as Prime Minister, he kept himself away from the bed of roses. From the very inception, he was confronted with ticklish problems. He inherited the legacy of thorny issues like food shortage, rising prices, language riots and last but not the least the mounting threats of aggression from China and Pakistan. He took many challenging decisions, which otherwise would have unnerved even seasoned leaders. He won the hearts of his countrymen by virtue of his humble yet firm handling of national problems. His transparent honesty, unimpeachable integrity, love with the masses and unassuming identification with progressive ideas and forces endeared him to all and sundry.

Shastriji was sure that the finances of the country could be improved only its economy was planned in a more rational and scientific manner. He accorded high priority to agriculture. But he attached equal importance to industry. In his view, the improved agriculture and industry alone could take the country on the road to prosperity.

He believed that the shattered confidence of the people could be restored through the welfare schemes and the Five-Year Plans yielding concrete and immediate results for the well-being of common-men. In this context Shastriji said, “The strain that have shown up in the recent months cannot be ignored. I believe that first task is to provide food, clothing, shelter and medical to the millions. I have, therefore, suggest that planning should be geared up to face these primary needs, at the same time as we pursue other goals.”

Shastriji established Food-grains Trading Corporation to purchase grains within the country at remunerative prices and to distribute it equitably. An Agricultural Price Commission was set up to fix a reasonable margin of price to be enforced at wholesalers and retailers’ level with due consideration to the cost involved in processing, storage and transport etc. Implementation of Minor Irrigation Programs received special attention and the Chief Ministers of States were directed to improve the output of crops. Various steps were taken to bring about coordination of administrative activities at different levels e.g. Central, State, District, Block and Village. Coordination Committees were set up both at Cabinet and Secretariat levels in the States for discussion to expedite the development programs relating to the departments of Agriculture, Irrigation, Revenue, Animal Husbandry, Cooperation, Community Development, Panchayats etc.

Shastriji gave a number of slogans, namely “Self-Reliance”, “Grow More Food”, “Miss a meal”, “Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan” etc., to boost the morale of the peasants and jawaans in particular and the people of the country in general. He appealed to the nation to lend a hand in solving the problem of food shortage. All-out efforts were made to hasten self-sufficiency in food. Steps were also taken to control prices of essential commodities. He made available to the common man, the essential goods at fair price shops. Successful programs were instituted to control the sky-rocking prices and unearth the vast quantities of black money.

Shastriji laid great emphasis on administrative reforms. A campaign was launched to curb the evil of corruption and mal-practices. He took deterrent action against black-marketers, hoarders, and foreign exchange racketeers. He accepted most of the recommendations of the ‘Santhanam Committee’ to make an end of the corrupt practices on war footing. He drew a code of conduct for the Ministers, according to which they had to disclose to the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers in the state, their assets and liabilities every year. It also laid down ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ for raising funds by the political parties.

Within twenty four hours of the Das Commission’s adverse report against Pratap Singh Kairon, the then the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shastriji took drastic action and asked him to resign his post. It was a remarkable feat of smooth-sailing with which the succession question in the Punjab was handled by him and Comrade Ram Kishan was made Chief Minister of Punjab.

The firm action he took in the case of Sri T.T. Krishmachari proved to be the hit that whenever necessity arose. Shastriji was capable of taking very harsh decisions without fear or favour. He accepted Mr. Krishmachary’s resignation after Mundra episode and without loss of time, he appointed his successor.

The fierce language riots in the South were a threat to the unity and integrity of the country. The handling of the grave situation called for statesmanship, imagination and determination. The Government has to make sure that any measure taken to pacify South did not have repercussions elsewhere in the country. As a sequel to the disturbances in the South, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of the Chief Ministers of the States; and with the emerging consensus, it was decided to introduce Hindi for official purposes without displacing English until people in non-Hindi speaking areas were willing for a change-over. The language crisis thus blew over without much ado.

Shastriji’s participation in the Non-Aligned Summit held in Cairo was his first big international event. It was a resounding success. His 5-Point Peace Plan presented at this Conference was not only received with enthusiasm from all concerned at his historic conference, but also formed in a large measure the basis of the final resolution passed on the ‘International Peace’. It brought him laurals and recognition as a protagonist of world peace and peaceful co-existence.

His displayed wisdom, grit and determination against the Pakistan infiltration in the Rann of Kutch and Jammu and Kashmir. He repelled the attacks by force of arms and led India to victory in the battle-field. A ceasefire was brought about with the good offices of the British Government.

Pakistan, after sometime, again intruded into the Indian Territory in a more planned manner than ever before. Shastriji once again picked up the gauntlet. Throughout the three week war with Pakistan, he continued fighting and did not look back. His cool composure and unambiguous strong language of his statements and broadcasts to the nation from time to time boosted up the morale of the brave Indian soldiers against Pakistan’s wanton aggression. In this context, Shastriji said, “India’s faith in peace is unshakeable. With us, it is a matter principle and not of expediency. But adherence to peace does not mean that we should not take up arms to defend ourselves when attacked. Let us not slacken our efforts and activities. We must remain alert and vigilant. All the people of India should be ready and determined to defend the Motherland in any emergency with all their hearts and all their might. … when freedom is threatened and territorial integrity is endangered, there is only one duty, the duty to meet the challenge with all our might.”

Shastriji’s rejection of the “Three-day” Chinese ultimatum was equally irrevocable. It called the Peking’s bluff and their ultimatum and their ultimatum fizzled out. After the crisis was over, Shastriji’s addressing the nation inter alia observed, If the experience of the recent past hold any lesson for us all, it is that we must endeavor to be as self-reliant as possible. In the ultimate analysis, it is the strength of the nation itself which matters more and which is our best safeguard.”

In January, 1966, when Shastriji, as Prime Minister of India, went to Tashkent to hold talks with President Ayub of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of USSR, there he played his cards well as an astute negotiator. And after in-depth discussion and exchange of views with the other two stalwarts, he signed the historic, ‘Tashkent Declaration’. It was sheer irony of fate that he did not live to enjoy the fruits of his pyrrhic victory over Pakistan.

There is no doubt that Shastriji as Prime Minister of India in his brief tenure of 18 months, not only brought about unity in the country but also put it on  the road of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. He left to his heirs a richer legacy than he himself had inherited. His sagacious and Herculean efforts earned respect for him and for his country.

(This post was published in Saga of Lal Bahadur Shastri, pp. 222 to 224 in 1987 under the title ‘Dharti Ka Lal, released by then the Prime Minister Sri Rajiv Gandhi)

October 2, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment