“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.
- “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)
- 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.
- 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. (email@example.com,)
- 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.
“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.
Issac Newton has said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” Modern world is full of confusions as per the saying of George Carlin (‘O Tempora, O Mores’) mentioned above. And the adverse effect of Modernity is visible all-over the world. Erosion of traditional values and decay of morality in ‘community life’ has been a matter of concern everyone. 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.
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.
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.
The Kayasthas trace their genealogy from Adi Purush Shri Chitragupta Maharaj, the son of Lord Brahama, the son of Lord Brahama, who 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.
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)
- Wisdom/Enlightenment and empowerment
- Rights and duties
- Role of Bureaucracy in good governance
- India – Unity in Diversity
- Fusion of many cultures in India
- Theory of biological Evolution
- Dalit Assertion, A Journey from ‘Shudras’to Outcastes, to’Panchamas’ and to ‘Dalits’
- Untouchables (“Dalits” of modern India) in Ancient India
- Happiness in life
- Census operations
- Good Governance
- Basic tenets of Hindu philosophy/Hinduism