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Wisdom/Enlightenment and empowerment

 “Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” Lao Tzu

Introduction 

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.”(Kofi Annan) – Everybody desires to be empowered enough to lead a peaceful and comfortable life-style. But how? Hardly anyone tries to understand. Quite often, while talking about empowerment, many intellectuals and political leaders are trapped within the caucus of economic and political empowerment, not the real one. The real empowerment comes from within. Do not wait for any outside agency , government or society for power to be given.

Therefore instead of empowerment, emphasis should be more on enlightenment – enlightenment through wisdom. Wisdom is required to choose the right path, generate positive energies and saves human mind from confusion as what to do and what not. For enlightenment and wisdom, knowledge is important. Knowledge is necessary for giving deeds or actions its due meaning, direction and value. Kofi Annan comments “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.” Liberation to do what one wants to do is empowerment.

Politics on empowerment – Today in political world, leaders talk about empowerment. Politics and government is there mainly to take care of its people and look-after their welfare. Merely talking about empowerment does not empower the people or leads to their sustainable development. Sri Sri Ravi Shanker says, “If everyone understood this, the country will gain a lot. We need to spiritualize politics, socialize business and secularize religion. Devoid of spirituality, politics breeds corruption.”

Wisdom/Enlightenment, “Knowing others, is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom” – Hindu philosophy shows high regards for wisdom/knowledge, virtues, characters and will power. According to it, senses are superior to body, mind is superior to senses and knowledge/wisdom/intellect is superior to mind.  Bhagwat Gita’ suggests that human action/deed needs to be combined with wisdom/intellect for enlightenment and empowerment.

According to Hindu philosophy, the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature – goodness (Satwa), Passion (Rajas) and dullness (Tamas). `Goodness is associated with purity, peace and knowledge; `Passion with comfort and action; and `Tamas with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness.

These qualities determine the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of individuals and give them direction for action. `Adharma (immoral behavior), Alasya (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) are responsible for negative behavior like becoming victims of evils, unhappiness and miseries.

 Balance between desires and righteousness – People should be empowered enough to enjoy material success and fulfil all worldly desires. If  desires are suppressed, one day it may erupt like a volcano and create troubles. But simultaneously, it is also necessary to achieve one’s dreams in a right way and keep a balance between desires and righteousness. It is the wisdom that balances the two and leads to the path of knowledge and righteousness.

Materialism influences most of the people in modern times. It is difficult for  them to resist worldly temptations. The desire to enjoy sensual pleasures and be happy without much efforts traps them in a vicious circle. To save  their comfort-zone encourages, they desire to hold enough economic and political power in their hands, so that they can do what they want and control the destiny of masses. People with weak minds  easily become the victims of such ambitious leaders. Their ignorance makes their efforts futile and destroys their sense of direction. Awareness, knowledge and discipline needs to be inculcated amongst poor masses to empower them and save them from  negative forces. Wisdom/intellect needs to be developed to make their mind strong and deeds rational. A mind governed by wisdom makes a person empowered, calm and content.

Empowerment – Meaning of empowerment and approach to be empowered differ from person to person and place to place. As Toffler says, there are three main sources of power – ‘knowledge, wealth, and muscle’. In a way, ‘empowerment is an inter-play of all these variables. During ancient times in agricultural societies, power was mainly based on force. After Industrial Revolution, wealth was the source of power and in modern times, it is mainly based on knowledge.

Power achieved through money or force is short-lived. It can never lead to sustainable development of the poor and needy people. In agricultural society, power was based on force, in industrial societies on wealth and now in present information -technology period, it is based on knowledge. long long ago, even Chanakya also believed that knowledge is wealth. Knowledge was his greatest weapon, strength, asset and power through which he created emperors like Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka.

Positive and negative energies – There are choices before human beings to follow the path of positive thinking or opt for negative mindset. Developing positive attitude/thinking is not an easy task. For attaining it, one needs tremendous perseverance, hard work, and dedication and determination/will power.

Style of thinking and working of people with positive or negative attitude differs very much from each other. People having positive attitude are empowered in its true sense. Positive energies develops the mind, enlarges the vision, enlightens and guides a person to take wise actions with using one’s intellect or wisdom.   

Negative mindset – Negative mindset makes mind weak. Actions taken with weak mind is bridled with suspicion, lust and desires – mainly depending on emotions, impulses, hatred, greed and selfishness. It, quite often leads to agitation/aggression and discontentment.

Role of wisdom in empowerment – It is a reality that it is wisdom that empowers a human being and enlightens his/her path. Wisdom can be achieved:

  1. Through reflection, which is the noblest;
  2. Through imitation, which is easiest and
  3. By experiencing, which is the bitterest.”

Role of empowerment – ‘Empowerment’ or sharing of power has become a keyword of the modern political world. In politics, everything revolves around the world ’empowerment’.

Problems created by over-emphasizing ‘empowerment – Following are some of the problems –

  • Split in society – Recently, focus on empowerment has created split in society. The attention of the people on empowerment has given rise to the pursuance of sectional interests.
  • Encouragement to sectional interests over national interests – In the name of ‘empowerment’, various pressure groups are encouraged by the authorities to pursue their own sectional interests. Almost all the political parties make different kinds of promises to ‘empower’ the upcoming or deprived groups. They do not even hesitate to adopt such populist/paternalistic policies, which are against the national interest in a long run.
  • Means to grab the political power – Present day politicians care for knowledge only up-to the extent, so far as it enhances their chances of entering into the corridors of ‘power’ and control the levers of authority.
  • Rat race – Attitude to be ‘one up’ does not encourage healthy competition. Rather it pushes individuals/groups towards ‘rat-race’, pulls others down and care only for ‘I, my and me”.
  • Increasing corruption and manipulation – With this sole mission in their mind, most of the upcoming politicians concentrate on amassing more and more wealth/empires to buy muscle-power and conscience of common man. They concentrate their efforts/energies to acquire as much money as they can by hook or crook. There is no limit to their greed. The only mission is to hold so much economic and political power in their hands, so that they could lead a luxurious life-style on tax-payers money and whenever they or their supporters are caught doing something wrong, they can get away easily.
  • The word ‘empowerment’ exclusive not inclusive in nature – Empowerment, by nature is ‘exclusive’, which separates individuals/different sections of society starts a cut-throat competition amongst different individuals/sections of society/nations. The word ‘Empowerment’ generates excessive desire in individuals to establish their superiority/authority over others, so that they can control the destiny of others.

True Knowledge necessary for enlightenment – For enlightenment, acquisition of true knowledge is necessary. It is knowledge, which inculcates in a person, qualities like self-confidence, self-reliance, self-discipline, self-control and self-respect.

Sound education necessary for enlightenment as well as empowerment – True knowledge inculcates positive attitude, which ultimately leads towards happiness and prosperity.Wisdom depends on knowledge. Sound education is necessary to make people knowledgeable.

 Negative mindset – People with negative mind-set care about knowledge only up-to the extent, that enhances their chances of entering into the corridors of ‘power’, get control over levers of authority and over the destiny of masses. They concentrate on amassing wealth/empires to buy muscle-power and conscience of poor people.

In political world, politicians and political parties are generally not much interested in maintaining law and order in the country. They are more interested in propaganda, creation of vote banks and grabbing power – become PM (Prime Minister), CM (Chief Minister), DM  (District Magistrates) and GM (General Manager) by hook or crook and thus accessing more  space  in the corridor of power, so that they can control the destiny of masses/common men and hold the reigns of state authority.

Role of enlightenment in a democracy – Atifete Jahjaga has rightly said, “Democracy must be built through open  societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, rule of law and accountability, there is abuse, corruption…”

Many superficial measures are being taken by the government or other organizations (governmental or NGOs) to help and empower poor and underprivileged sections of society. But it has not yielded desired results. Why, because no superficial measure or action can empower any person or section of society. The efforts for empowerment should be from within – be it an individual, a group within a society, a society or a nation.”

The enforced measures of empowerment leads to conflicts and even denial of the rights to other section/sections of society. One’ own efforts and intellect can empower a person in its true sense and guide him how to apply his knowledge gainfully. Lack of intellect leads a person to vices like egoism, superiority/inferiority complex etc. and creates many problems for him as well as for others around him. Only intellect can control human mind and lead his mind towards Enlightenment. When intellect becomes weak, negative thinking and reasoning take over mind.

How to become empowered – Lao Tzu says “Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” True empowerment can be achieved not through holding political power or access/entry/influence in the corridors of authority/power, but through ‘Enlightenment’/true wisdom’.

Emphasis only on empowerment leads to rat race – Present day’s scenario more emphasis is given to “Empowerment” without understanding what ‘empowerment’ really means and how to make people really empowered. Such an approach has led to a rat race between different sections of society for being one-up by hook or crook.

Too much emphasis on the word ‘empowerment’ incites/agitates the minds of people and generates negative energy in them. It has done irreparable loss to the society and given rise to different kinds of problems.

‘Empowerment’ of ‘Haves-nots – Almost all the societies are divided into two sections – ‘haves’ and ‘haves-not’. There is unrest in the minds of ‘Haves-not’. They also desire and naturally so, to lead a peaceful and comfortable life-style. Modern politicians allure poor by talking too much about ‘empowerment’. They are not concerned so much about the advancement of poor section of society, as about creating vote-banks necessary for holding the reigns of state authority/power.

False promises to allure poor masses – In the modern materialistic and consumerist world, everyday many new gadgets are coming in the market every-day, which makes the life more comfortable. But for majority of people, it is difficult to afford it. Many a times, it becomes difficult for the poor people or persons with weak minds to resist the temptations. False promises of present day politicians attract such persons easily.

Enlightenment ‘inclusive’ by nature – Enlightenment develops respect for positive attitude, right knowledge and respect for truth and ethical values. It teaches people ‘United we stand, divided we fall’. It inculcates in people an attitude to work for common good, to support each other and move forward together. It guides people to keep their ‘ego’ under control. The only way to control it lies within each human being.

Acceptance for others – Enlightenment tells people to be respectful to others knowledge. Access to knowledge through sound system of education is the basic right of every human being. As Jyotirao Phule has said “Lack of ‘Education’ leads to lack of ‘Wisdom’; which leads to lack of ‘Morals’; which leads to lack of ‘Progress’; which leads to lack of ‘Money’; ‘which leads to ‘Oppression’ of vulnerable classes.”

Conclusion – ‘Enlightenment, not empowerment, is the real source of power’. ‘Enlightenment’ through self-introspect can only lead to sustainable development and true ‘empowerment’, not through extraneous/artificially/superficially imposed measures. Focus on ‘empowerment’ by superficial means quite often leads to negative attitude. ‘Enlightenment’ through right kind of knowledge makes people intelligent, generates positive energies in them and leads to their sustainable development.

Resist temptations? – For making mind strong enough to resist temptations, one has to raise the level of consciousness. Human mind has three dimensions – conscious, sub-conscious and super-conscious mind. Once the conscious mind is regulated, sub-conscious and super-conscious state of mind automatically gets controlled.
Conscience is always guided by intellect. Intellect automatically develops the inherent potential of individuals and keeps them away from lust and greed. Only ‘intellect’, knowledge, education and positive attitude of enlightened persons can make them so powerful that they can contribute to make a difference for betterment and not to indulge themselves in sinful activities for their self-interest. It would ultimately bring in prosperity and transform the whole society.

February 18, 2017 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

Rights and duties

“A society that puts equality (of outcome) ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom and force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”  Thomas Sowell        

Born free, but everywhere in chains – An individual is born free, but in real life, s(he) finds oneself in chains all the time.

An individual as social-person  – A Famous philosopher Aristotle says – man is a social animal. “if a human being does not live with men or amongst men, then surely either he is god or a beast.” While living in a society, one is not supposed to care only for one’s own-self,  one’s own comfort zone, one’s own liberty/rights/needs/conveniences, and unmindful of others’. 

Rights and duties intertwined – Rights and duties are so intriguingly intertwined with each other that one cease to exist without the other. One’s rights become other people’s duties and others rights his/her own duties. Clear-cut vision and a balanced approach towards one’s rights and duties is a must for any matured/civilized society.

Fine and balanced tuning between rights and duties – A fine and balanced tuning between rights and duties is a must for any civilized society. For achieving it, effective systems of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s rights is a necessary.

In ancient Indian scriptures, for duties the word ‘Dharma’ is used. ‘Dharma’ embraced within itself different ideas and concepts like religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”, “ethics”, “spirituality”, or “responsibility” etc.

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

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 (Prabhu, Pandarinath, H., Hindu Social organizations, P. 30).  The ideal of Dharma gave an abiding sense of purpose to the individual’s life, an aim to be actively striven for, cutting across class distinctions and caste boundaries, bridging the distance between rural and urban folk and between the illiterate and educated. Dharma enabled different groups to act cooperatively and to regulate the behavior of its component members.

During ancient India, Dharma guided individuals to remain true and to fulfil their duties earnestly. Molding one’s life according to Dharma is not an easy task. It requires tremendous will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties found it difficult to observe Dharma.

Such a system in India 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 systems kept on adapting itself to changing times. It had filled the whole of society with a sense of duty and trained them in obedience. The sense of duty had helped the people to adjust themselves to most drastic changes in the past.  

Constitution of India on fundamental rights – The fundamental rights of Indian citizens are embodied in Part III of the original Constitution.

The Fundamental Rights guarantee civil rights to all Indians. The purpose of Fundamental rights  is to preserve individual liberty and democratic principles based on equality of all members of society. It prevents State authorities from encroaching on individual liberty. It also places  upon state an obligation to protect the citizen’s fundamental rights from encroachment by society.

Seven fundamental rights are provided by the constitution – right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, right to property (Right to property was removed from Part III by 44th Amendment of Indian Constitution in 1978), and right to constitutional remedies.

Dr Ambedkar had said that the responsibility of the legislature is not just to provide fundamental rights but also and rather more importantly, to safeguard them. Fundamental Rights act as limitations on the power of legislature and executive, under Article 13, and in case of any violation of these rights the Supreme Court and the High Courts of States have the power to declare such legislative or executive action as unconstitutional and void. Article 12, includes not only the legislative and executive, but also local administrative authorities and other agencies and institutions which discharge public functions or are of governmental character.

 Fundamental Duties –— Fundamental Duties were introduced by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. Article 51-A describes the duties of Indian citizens saying that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India: To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem; to cherish and follow the noble ideals etc.

Develops de-centralization of control systems – Balanced exercise of rights and duties automatically develops de-centralization of control systems, misuse of authority and prevents chaos. However, a balanced outlook towards rights and duties is very difficult.

Focus of Western and Eastern societies – Western societies give more stress to “rights” of an individual. On the other hand, in India and eastern part of the world, societies put more emphasis on “duty”. Both the systems leaves something more to be desired.

Duties/Dharma of an Individual according to Indian Philosophy – Principles of Dharma, Karma and Varna are the three pillars, on which the culture of traditional Indian society is based. Dharma , along with a ‘Religious Idea’ is also a ‘Principle’ and a ‘Vision’ of an organic society, in which all participating members are independent, yet their roles complimentary. 

What is Principle of Dharma – Dharma specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. The principles of Dharma not only regulated the behavior of an individual within the community, but also provided universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life. The principle of give and take guides the human relationships. People are taught to lead a simple life free of covetousness, greed or lust.

There is  a  common  Dharma,  general  norms  of conduct, which are applicable to all individuals irrespective of caste or creed. These are nothing,  but   mannerism, leading individuals to the path of righteousness and values of good conduct,  Such as

  • Smritis teaches the people to follow ten principles of steadiness, forgiveness, self control, abstention from appropriating any thing belonging to others, purity, control, correct discernment, knowledge, truthfulness and absence from anger.
  • Kautilya lists harmlessness, truthfulness, purity, absence of spite, abstinence from cruelty and forgiveness as common duties of all persons as members of an organized society. He advised people to abandon lust, anger, greed, vanity, conceit, and overjoy. According to him desires fulfilled, never extinguished, but grew stronger. Therefore, desires should be directed in proper manner towards proper objectives.
  • Manusmriti guides people to control the five faculties of sense and five organs of actions. The purpose of education and learning should be to train the faculties of a person to channelize his/her  energies towards right activities. Discipline and productivity are necessary for education.

In order to maintain a smooth relationship of people belonging to different sections of society, Dharma prescribes a separate Dharma for appropriate to their nature and customs,  Separate Dharma for different sections of society, different classes and different stages of human life. It is based on attitude and aptitude, inherent qualities, and potentialities of its members at different stages in life. Dharma of Brahmin is not the same as that of a Shudra, or Dharma of a student not that of an old man. Separate rules of conduct have been aimed to inspire every one to perform one’s own duties and obligations, giving everybody opportunities- social, economic physical and spiritual – to do their jobs well and preserve the tradition and lifestyle of all communities.

Winding up – Too much importance to rights though gives more opportunities to enjoy life, but makes individuals selfish and unmindful of others conveniences. Too much importance on duties makes a person or a group too much humble, tolerant and submissive.

 

January 27, 2017 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , | Leave a comment

Role of Bureaucracy in good governance

Introduction

Important variables in governance – Of all the acts of civilized society the task of governance is perhaps the most complex one. The governance is not done in vacuum. For the governance/administration of any country, amongst all, two variables are most important. One who governs, and two who is to be governed. It is the government of the country that governs. And it is people of the country, who are governed. The quality, the tools and the style of governance, therefore, depend on variables like the characteristic of the nation, its social structure, nature, behavior and their value system of its people.

Role of Bureaucracy in governance of a democratic country

How well the crucial role of bureaucracy in governance has been described  by Finer as following –

          “For the forms of government, let fools contest.That which is best administered is best.” And also,

          “But what is best must free man still decide. Lest leaders gull them and officials ride.”

Government that Governs

Amongst the three wings of government – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, executive is responsible for governance/administration of a country. Executive consists of elected representatives of the people and bureaucracy. The Government roughly falls on the following two general processes: –

  • Process of politics, which consists of activities of the elected representatives of the people, and
  • Process of administration which consists of the activities of permanent civil servants/bureaucracy.

Role of Bureaucracy vis-à-vis elected representatives – One needs to understand, what is the role of both the wings – elected representatives and Bureaucracy in governance of a country?

Relation between the political and Bureaucratic/administrative wings of a government – That being so, an examination of the relation between the political and administrative wings of government would be the starting point for determining the role of civil service for delivering goods to public at large.

According to Fainsold (quoted from Administrative Culture, Need for conceptual Clarity and Further Rearch by Puranik, S.N. IJPA Sol., XXIV No. II April-June 1978 PP 467-468). famous thinker in the field of administration, the area of the activities of civil service depend upon-

  •  Relation with political authority;
  •  Range of functions which it performs
  •  Military dominated civil service as are in Bangla Desh, Pakistan, some nations  in Middle East or Africa,
  • Ruling Civil Service – as was in India before independence.

Bureaucracy an indispensable part of any political system – Bureaucracy has become a very potent and vital element of any government all over the world. It is an indispensable part of each and every political system be it a democracy, monarchy or aristocracy. It can exist in a type of society, be it a dictatorial or a democratic society. It role is crucial everywhere – in nations following the principles of communism or socialism or capitalism.

In theory – Theoretically the administrative machinery is subordinate to the political arm of a government. The decision making power rests with ministers. But bureaucracy assists the elected representatives of the people in governance of the country of administration. But, in practice, its role is very important in governance of a country.

Position of political chiefs vis-a-vis bureaucrats – Due to exclusive and specialized nature of work and the need for more and more expert knowledge in governance for improving the quality of service, the responsibility of political chiefs is becoming exceedingly formal in matter of governance. They are forced to listen the advice of the bureaucrats, who dig the expert knowledge from the raw material, give it a shape with a sense of commitment.

Bureaucracy’s importance, is of influence and not of power – The civil service’s role in relation to the ministers is that of influence and not of power. It is this administrative apparatus, which actually runs the government. Owing to other preoccupations of elected political leadership and its lack of technical know-how, the responsibility of bureaucrats in governance, policy making and its implementation, has become a determining factor. Converting policy into directive plans, programs and projects is an inevitable function of an action-oriented administration.

Bureaucracy a permanent link between successive elected governments – Elected representatives come for a fixed period. They come and go. But Bureaucracy is permanent, which forms a link between successive elected governments. Therefore, its becomes vital in guiding the social changes and development in desired direction, especially in the case of less developed or developing countries, where society is in a state of transition.

Importance of bureaucracy in governance – Being so, as far as governance in a country is concerned, bureaucracy could be regarded as the pillar, on which the entire structure of governance rests. Weakening of this pillar could only spell disaster[ii]. For any administration to be good and efficient as a whole, the right type of men placed in crucial positions of bureaucracy is more important than laying down rules and methods of operation.[iii]

What is Bureaucracy? Bureaucracy according to Max Weber – According to Max Weber2, whose study on bureaucracy has become a base for the modern exponents of the science of administration, the main characteristics of a civil service are as following:

  • Division of labour – defined rights and duties prescribed in written regulations;
  • Hierarchy – (a) Systematically ordered authority relationship;
  • Promotions regulated by merit and seniority;
  • Merit based selection and training – technical competence as a formal condition of employment;
  • Full time career-based service with fixed monetary salaries;
  • Impersonality – strict separation of office and incumbent in the sense that employee does not own the means of administration and cannot take the advantage of their position for promoting self-interest.
  • A system of rules and files – its operations are government by a consistent system of abstract rules.
  • Team-work – One of the important feature of bureaucracy is team-work, i.e. ability to work together toward a common vision. It is ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” (Andrew Carnegie, TOI, P.18, Feb 7, 2017)
  • Loyalty to impersonal authority like the State. Cal.J. Friedrich rejected this ‘ideal-type’ theory as neither ideal in the platonic sense nor real in empirical sense.

Criticism of Weber’s theory – Friedrich, Alwin W. Gouldner, Philip Seiznic, Michel Crozier and others emphasised certain behavioural characteristics of civil service as more important.

  • Peter Blau introduced an element of positivism, when the emphasized ‘efficiency’ as the core and goal of bureaucracy or civil service. His approach permits structural and behavioral flexibility in response to ecological reaction, as long as they contribute to efficiency. His approach is dynamic and covers ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ aspects of civil service and welds the structural and behavioral aspects in terms of ‘efficiency’.
  • F.W. Riggs, John Forward, James Brady4 and others have developed a new approach of ecological and developmental administration. In this approach the civil service is to be explained and designed in terms of local influences as well as the influence of developmental tasks and goals. This approach has been admired, because of its open-minded realistic and flexible character, particularly for purposes of designing a developmental bureaucracy.
  • V.A. Pai Panandikar and Kshirsagar (Pai Panandikar and Kshirsagar, Bureaucracy in India, I.J.PA.Vol. XVII No.2 PP 187-208) are of opinion that bureaucratic model cannot be a single type. According to them while the Weberian Model is most suited in Secretariat type of Organisation and the Blau’s model operates well in dynamic field of development type of agencies like the agriculture or industrial departments.

Whatever the merits and demerits of the above models may be, it is a fact that no single   model is sufficient either to explain the complex bureaucratic universe empirically or to Guide the designing of a bureaucratic system normatively.

In short – It can be said that civil service is a “professional body of officials, permanent, paid and skilled”2. It is always connected with the exercise of authority as members of a class of power elites. It is engaged in the governance of the country and its administrative work. Its officials are professionally recruited, permanent, paid and properly trained in various disciplines of administration. Its main characteristics are its efficiency, predictability, impersonal nature, and its impartial and speedy working. It is always associated with exercise of authority. It has to deal with human beings with many complexes – psychological and sociological and its dealings extend to society as a whole.

The people who are governed

Government has to deal with living human beings prone to unpredictable behavior. It also deals with the issues and challenges in all the spheres, whether political, economic or social, which directly affects public life.

Governance a difficult task in India having many kinds of Diversity – Way back on December 9, 1946, Mr. V.N. Narayan had said, At best of times, India is ungovernable country of diversities, conflicts and problems”. A touch here, a push there may make India ungovernable. Governance of a pluralistic society, like India, is a sensitive and challenging exercise. Mr. Nani Palkiwala expressed the same feeling after 50 years of self-rule, which gave to India empty coffers, unfulfilled promises, political instability, fractured society and perpetual divide among different groups along caste and community lines. He said, Our legal systems have made life too easy for criminals and too difficult for law abiding citizens.

India comprises of different identities India comprises people of different identities – ethnic, religious, castes, linguistic and regional identities. While, these identities lived together for centuries and presented a mosaic culture, there have been periods of discord. The diversity made the divide easy. However, the forces of unity have always been stronger than the divisive forces. It is for this reason that India occupies a special place in the global society. It is one of the oldest alive civilizations of the world. It presents a fascinating picture of unity amidst diversity, cultural richness, largeness of area and huge population. It has assimilated multi-ethnic migrants into its fold. The diversities, that exist, are many like:

  • Geographical diversity
  • Ethnic diversity
  • Linguistic Diversity
  • Occupational Diversity
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Demographic Diversity
  • Political division of Indian population etc.

As we have seen, in India, there exists perplexing diversities in geography, language, race and culture since ages. It pervades every aspect of life. Equality in each and every sphere of life is just not possible. In such a situation, no compromise should be made to work hard and to discourage healthy competition on the ground to reduce social inequalities artificially. For unity and sustainable development of the nation, a strong and healthy competitive system of placement at all levels of administration according to the requirements of the posts needs to be followed.

Concepts of ‘Welfare-State’ and ‘Development- administration” 

The “Laissezfaire” theory of government’s function prevalent during 19th and beginning of 20th centuries. During this period, the main task of the government was generally maintenance of law and order and revenue collection. Now the emphasis has shifted to the welfare plans, national reconstruction and development.

Concept of ‘Welfare State – French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, Industrial Revolution, two World Wars  and other Contemporary developments gave rise to the concept of `Welfare State’ and Developmental Administration.  The former being the objective and the later the machinery to achieve these objectives.

Care of citizens rom womb to tomb – In a welfare state, the government assumes and aims at improving the quality of life of its masses and the responsibility of its citizens from `womb to tomb’.   It aims at bringing `social, political and economic justice’ for all  irrespective of their caste or creed, the voluntary abdication of riches and power – that these riches brings and establishment of a productive, vigorous and creative political and social life. In short its objective is a massive attack on five major evils of society – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.. The main aim of initiating and nurturing these concepts is to bring about betterment to the lots of deprived sections of society and build up a rapidly expanding and technologically progressive economy.

People also desire to go forward quickly and to establish a new economic order, in which common people should have a better deal. It has widened the responsibilities of the State’s government.   Poverty and misery, which were earlier accepted as the lot of masses, are no longer regarded as inevitable. Millions of people have started demanding, with persisting insistence, better standard of living, better housing, better education and better medical facilities. The masses started wishing that they themselves should be benefited a much as possible, from the resources of their nation.

“Concept of Development Administration” – The welfare concept of state has no utility in itself unless it is translated into action. The government now work for establishing “Socialistic pattern of society”.

The instrument deployed for achieving welfare goals – The instrument deployed for achieving welfare goals national reconstruction and development – is the institution of civil service, which puts all its energies at bringing about socio-economic and political development of the nation as a whole. An efficient administration can successfully comprehend what is attainable, what is practical and what can help the agencies in the community to formulate plans and policies, by which the community can seek to assure welfare of all its members.

The emphasis in governance has resulted in –

  1. Increase in the responsibilities of Bureaucracy – Both the concepts of ‘Welfare nation’ and ‘Development Administration’ have increased the responsibilities of bureaucracy manifolds. In addition to their traditional regulatory work to maintain law and order situation in the country, the national governments have gradually assumed the responsibility of welfare of all its citizens from “Womb to tomb”.
  2. Regulatory and service functions of Bureaucracy – Activities of Bureaucracy have penetrated into different spheres of social, political and economic spheres. Its functions are now divided into two – Regulatory and service functions. It is an irony that Services engaged in Regulatory and Economic functions always remain at the top at controlling-end. Services responsible for service functions in different spheres busy to provide convenience, relief and to give common men a better deal always remain at asking end. So is the fate of bureaucrats engaged in development of the nation by building-up the infra-structure for a rapidly expanding and technologically progressive economy always remain at the asking-end.
  3. Arising the aspirations of people from the government – Recent developments and various revolutions have aroused the aspirations of people and expectations from the government. The desire of public to go forward quickly and to establish a new economic order, in which common man and weaker sections of society could have better deal, forced the national governments to take upon themselves the responsibility of protecting and nurturing them in such a manner that people get enough opportunities to grow to their fullest stature and prosper.
  4. People more assertive of their rights – People are now more alert and aware. They are assertive of their rights. Misery, ignorance and economic deprivation, which were earlier accepted as a lot of masses, are no longer acceptable. Now they wish to taste the fruits of development and get benefited from the resources of the nation.   Millions of people started demanding with persisting insistence better standards of living, housing, education and medical facilities. In a way, they demand protection from five major evils of an underdeveloped or developing society – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

Bureaucracy includes all the Government services – At present, in any nation, aiming at Welfare and Development administration, Bureaucracy includes all the Government services, Financial, Technical and Specialists as well as Managerial and Generalist. There is police force to maintain law and order, diplomatic service for external affairs, technical services for Public Works Department or Electricity Departments, Railways and Customs for providing services in their respective area.

Bureaucrats in the role of   knowledge managers –   In the increasingly knowledge-based society of twenty-first century bureaucrats/administrators have to play the role of knowledge managers. They are supposed to find out knowledge based solutions for problems in different spheres. The major goals of development administration could be said to be national integration, holistic change and modernization of social and economic process, welfare and ultimately equality, liberty and justice. Development Administration has to concern itself with four `Ps’ standing for –

  • Policy making
  • Planning
  • Programmes; and
  • Projects

For doing justice to their work, bureaucrats needs to develop observation skills, alertness and awareness of their surroundings. They need-

  • Intelligence or basic applicative skill to create solutions;
  • Relevant data;
  • Ability to understand pros and cons and alternatives;
  • Mental alertness to deliver results within time and cost parameters.According to Valson, the whole bureaucratic set-up needs to be organized properly at different levels and the government should be specific about expectations. Different skills are needed at different levels of its administrative-setup.

Role of bureaucrats at different levels – At all the levels, an administrator has to meet the challenges of modern time. The higher, one goes in the ladder of bureaucratic set-up, more his role becomes of analyzer and synthesizer, break a problem down into many parts, then put those together again in a rational design. Some-times, an official has to make rationality a compromise/fusion of opposite ends and means. One needs to be sensitive enough understand the sentiments of colleagues, value the good work done by his colleagues – individually and in group, and give reward for good performance. He should be capable to maintain discipline within his respective organization.

At topmost level – At topmost level, bureaucrats are responsible for policy formulation; setting goals and designing strategies, appropriation and allocation of funds, fixing priorities, execution of policy, direction and training. Therefore, at this level they need the conceptual skills to look into the future; to look at the organization as a whole; to visualize the whole scenario rather than in tit bits. at the topmost level, they suffer from disagreement with political bosses, weight to patronage and seniority instead of qualities required for a particular post or promotion, and unwillingness to accept new ideas and technology for fear of loss of power and position. They are constrained by conflict between young and old minds in civil service, high level of corruption, low commitment to development and conflict with or influence of politicians on their superiors.

At the middle level – The middle level administrator is usually responsible for learning and interpreting, energizing and supervising, coordinating and collecting information. Therefore, at this level, officers are required to have human skills along with technical skills. At senior and middle levels, skill of communication/networking within the organization and outside is also required for successfully saving effort, time and money.

At lower level – The lower level administrator undertakes the role of mass contacts, demonstration, innovation, introduction of new institutions and collection of taxes. Therefore, at entry level and during the initial years, the administrators are supposed to possess knowledge about the subject, they have to deal. The lower level administrators suffer due to insufficient qualifications, poor salary, and loss of morale, loss of faith in development ideology due to frustrating field experience and loss of initiative crippling subservience to seniors and sacrifices to develop objectives.

 Government that governs in India

India opted for the most difficult path, for its governance – India has chosen the most difficult form of government, democracy, which are working successfully only in a very few nations that too in developed countries. This poses many challenges before the administration. The Government of India has accepted the planning process. The success of government’s welfare and developmental plans solely depends upon the efficiency of its bureaucratic cadres. Therefore, India requires that every level of its administrative set-up must be equipped with officers having the capacity to meet various challenges of the modern India.

Federal structure – India has adopted is a system of federal parliamentary democracy. Its federal structure consists of Union and State Administration.

Three arms of the government – To govern the country, the Constitution of India has established three arms –

  • Executive – The Union Government at the Centre consists of a ‘President’, (in states Governors) in whom all the executive power of the Union is vested. It is exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with the Constitution [Article 53 (1)]; the Vice-President – only a ceremonial dignitary; and ‘a council of ministers with prime Minister (Chief Ministers) as its head “to aid and advice the President in the exercise of his functions”. The President is the nominal head of the executive. The Prime Minister and his colleagues are real political heads of different government departments. Their executive power, in practice, is exercised by permanent bureaucracy/civil service (civil services mean all the streams of functional, technical and specialist cadres as well as managerial and generalist cadres).
  • Legislative powers are vested in Parliament/Assembly. It lays the policy and frames laws of the land for governance. The Executive implements the policies, the laws and the programs.
  • There is also an independent judiciary, which acts as a watchdog of the Constitution and is the supreme law of the land.

Government at State level – Different provinces or states in India have their separate political set-up similar to that of Centre. The Judiciary acts as a watchdog. All the three Arms of the State go together in improving the quality of life of public at large. Instead of President and Vice-President, Governor is there as the head of the executive in every state. It also includes the officials at regional or state level, which works under ministers and serves as a link – so essential to maintain continuity of policy and consistency of administration between successive ministers.

Set-up of a Department in Government – Directly under the Minister, comes the Secretary of a Department. A Secretary may head one or more Departments and can be under more than one minister. All matters of the cabinet are routed through him. He is the Chief functionary of his Department(s) Joint Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries and Under Secretaries help the Secretary in the discharge of his work. In Secretariat, decision taking, normally starts at the level of Deputy Secretary. He puts up proposals for policy decisions to the Secretary. Working in the Secretariat exposes the officers to policy perspective in diversified subjects like agriculture, horticulture, power, coal, transport etc. The work in Secretariat requires bright officers having experience and knowledge in relevant areas. The IAS officers on deputation from different states occupy most of the senior posts in Central Secretariat. In the State Secretariats also, it is the IAS Officials, who are posted on the top posts in almost every department.

Working of the bureaucracy in India – The bureaucracy’s work is divided into:

  • Work at Secretariat for policy making and
  • Work in field organizations for implementation of policies and Plans.

Working in Secretariat – Secretariat functions as the nerve center of the Government, both at the Center as well as in the States. State Secretariats are located in the capital cities of respective State and the Central Secretariat at New Delhi.

Bureaucrats assist the minister in formulating and monitoring policies and programs. Executive orders originate from here.   It keeps a watch over the program implementation and presents a correct appraisal of it to the Government, from time to time.

Directly under the Minister, comes the Secretary of a Department. A Secretary may head one or more Departments and can be under more than one minister. All matters of the cabinet are routed through him. He is the Chief functionary of his Department(s) Joint Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries and Under Secretaries help the Secretary in the discharge of his work. In Secretariat, decision taking, normally starts at the level of Deputy Secretary. He puts up proposals for policy decisions to the Secretary. Working in the Secretariat exposes the officers to policy perspective in diversified subjects like agriculture, horticulture, power, coal, transport etc. The work in Secretariat requires bright officers having experience and knowledge in relevant areas. The IAS officers on deputation from different states occupy most of the senior posts in Central Secretariat. In the State Secretariats also, it is the IAS Officials, who are posted on the top posts in almost every department.

Functions performed at Secretariat level – According to Punjab Administrative Reforms Commission, the following are important functions of the Secretariat: –

  • Making decisions on policy matters and enunciating policy decisions in clear language,
  • Looking after Planning and finance work,
  • Legislative business,
  • Personnel management policies,
  • Legal advice,
  • Coordination and cross clearance among the administrative departments, in the Secretariat,
  • Communication with central institutions like the Planning Commission etc., and
  • Overall evaluation, supervision, control and coordination of the work being done by the field organizations.

Fieldwork – A large number of bureaucrats play a crucial role in state administrative work. Working in the field can be divided in two groups-

  • Working in the field departments or head office,
  • Working in District.

Field departments or head office – The Head offices are to supervise, coordinate and monitor/watch the implementation of policies within their specific field-area. Their administrative and financial powers are defined in Civil Service Rules and Financial Rules, the Budget Manual and other Codes. It is their responsibility to set their men and machinery; money and material in order. Administration at field level requires men of drive and initiative possessing leadership qualities of leadership.

District administration – The district administration occupies a key position. In a district, officials have to perform regulatory as well as developmental tasks. It is the most convenient geographical unit, where the total apparatus of Civil Administration can be concentrated and where it comes into direct contact with the people.

The importance of field-work arises from the fact, that it is at this level, that bulk of people gets affected, favorably or adversely by the governmental policies, programs and its implementation. It is here, that people judge the quality and efficiency of the governmental administration. Collector continues to play a pivotal role in the District Administration.

First five or six years of bureaucrats are crucial for all. During this period, they go on field postings to get the feel and first-hand knowledge of real life and social realities. These postings open up the minds of young officers, by bringing them into direct contact with administrative life, with officials working in other departments, feelings of people at grass-root level. They get opportunity to understand the concrete problems. They come to know about people belonging to different sections of society and their social conditions prevailing in that particular area. They get acquainted with the structure of their own as well as of other departments working in a district and coordinating activities of various departments at district level and with that of district headquarters. This period enriches them with a variety of experiences and makes them ripe for senior positions.   A collector enjoys immense power and prestige at district level.

Both kinds of work – work at Secretariat and work in the field have their distinctive challenges. For efficient performance of work in both the areas, there is need for really bright and talented officers.

Tasks of the Government – Like most developing nations, India has yet to cover distance of centuries in decades, making the transition from agrarian society to industrial-society and then to information society. Science and technology have made their debut here rather late. Time never ran so fast, as it did for India, after independence. Yesterday was not long ago and today is nearly over, with so much still pending to be done.

Great transformation under way – A present, a great transformation is under way, not only in India, but every- where in the world. Time never ran so fast, as it did for India, after independence. Yesterday was not long ago and today is nearly over, with so much still pending to be done. Like most developing nations, India has to cover distance of centuries in decades, making the transition from agrarian society to industrial society and then to information society. Science and technology have made their debut rather late in India.

For sustainable development, right person at right place – To absorb such a transformation, the main thrust of the authorities should be employ persons at all the levels of administration according to the requirements of the posts. Good governance needs as many persons as possible with knowledge, expertise, efficiency and who are capable to apply science and technology in the work of administration. It would expedite the task of governance and provide transparency and give relief to the public. To find out right persons for good governance, a system of healthy competition for placements is required. Government should give more importance to sustainable development of nation rather than to employ people just to reduce social inequalities artificially. This is truer in a large country like India, where perplexing diversities exists in geography, language, race and culture since ages, and pervades every aspect of life.

Role of executive in governance – Amongst all the three wings of the government, the Executive affects the daily life of the people the most, as it implements the policies, the laws and the programs. Bureaucracy is an important component of the Executive. Any laxity in the performance of this Service would jeopardize the objective and push the developmental goals behind.

Challenges before the present Government – Some basic problems after the Independence have been – Poverty, low per capita income, illiteracy, dependence of at least ¾ of her population on agriculture, industrial backwardness, capital deficiency, rapid population growth, unemployment and under-employment, prevalence of backward technology, under-utilization of natural resources and unsuitable social structures.

  • Population explosion – Population is exploding virtually unchecked. Standards of education have declined beyond any remedy and it has become inefficient, wasteful, dysfunctional and increasingly unrelated to national needs and aspirations. Illiteracy of masses is still a problem in the society.
  • Challenges on economy-front – Because of the factors mentioned above, the growth has been very slow and the economy of the country has always been in a bad shape. In the absence of enough capital or skilled personnel or able management and efficiency, the level of productivity has remained low, leaving little surplus for saving and capital formation. In addition to all this, by and large, the absence of able and honest leadership and lack of efficient and clean administration are the main reasons for persistent economic backwardness.
  • Periods of strife and conflict – The periods of unity, in our history, have been lesser as compared to periods of strife and conflict. The partition of the nation, the three wars, the swelling streams of nearly a crore of refugees from Bangla Desh and Sri Lanka, the periodical terrorist attacks, famines and floods, recent economic depression has adversely effected the whole nation. Each has to be tackled firmly and speedily.
  • Divisive forces – There are new divisive forces due to diversities India, which base themselves on cultural and linguistic variations of the country. Today the violence in West Bengal, Bihar, J&K, Assam and Punjab is a serious challenge before the administration at various levels and that unless local problems are solved speedily, they are likely to pose a new threat to the unity and stability of the nation as a whole.
  • Regional Disparities – There is a wide gap between the rich and poor and between region to region. Some states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Punjab are marching ahead rapidly under the stimulus of the plan schemes, while others are lagging behind and re unable to find adequate resources to implement the schemes. Therefore, the gap is widening between the prosperous and backward states. Besides, within each state, there are pockets of poverty amidst plenty – such as dry and hilly areas as well as those with tribal populations are still far below the national average. This gives rise to new tensions – social and economic and the stability of the society is threatened. The administration of the country has to face this challenge and take up lead in reconciling regional interest with national unity.
  • Challenges at Social front – The administration of the nation has to face many challenges at social front also. Pervasive corruption and indiscipline has weakened the social fabric beyond repair. Generally law follows social change, but in India the Government is trying to foster social change through law. Some unpleasant changes took place in the past and are increasing every day in the character, role and inter-relationship of the main constituents of the national elites – the political executive, the legislators, media, the businessmen, the organized workers, the surplus farmers and the bureaucrats. Sectoral and regional imbalances are also sources of great social and psychological tensions.
  • Bitter relationship between Centre and the StatesThe political and administrative atmosphere is also not in harmony with the developmental activities of the administration. Due to India’s unique federal structure, many complexities arise due to tense Centre-State relationship. Also there exists a great deal of friction, tension and mutual suspicion between different political parties, as well as the political leadership and the administrators. This results in delay in decision-making, lack of coordination of policies among departments and lack of dissemination of information for effective decision making and thus either procrastination and long delays or inadequate and inapt policies.
  • Corruption – “Corruption, embezzlement, fraud, these are all characteristics which exist everywhere. It is regrettably the way human nature functions, whether we like it or not. What successful economies do is to keep it to a minimum.” (Alan Greenspan) In India, after six decades, the country’s democracy has given too much space to corrupt and inefficient governance without any accountability towards public. People have also become immune to corruption, inefficiency and poor governance in public life as normal.

Conclusion – Spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shanker says “Peace and progress can only happen through reconciliation and reform. Reform cannot happen out of anger or hatred. We need a calm and clear mind, a compassionate approach, along with the whole-hearted participation of the parties concern.”

Common man in India is still waiting hopefully for good governance. People are hopeful that with the result of previous few elections in centre as well as in states, majority party is forming the government instead of coalition governments, the situation should become easier for the ruling authority to provide good governance to the nation. Advancement in technology also is helpful in making the task of the government easier.

However, at present, all political parties pay more attention to ‘propaganda, publicity and populism’, attention-catching slogans  and stunts rather than working for the welfare of common-men, and  giving relief to the common man. They  are busy to connect themselves with people through media, “publicity driven” campaigns, print-media, social-media, television, radio, advertisements etc. Instead of working for the welfare of people and development of the nation, they are wasting or misusing lots of money and public funds on propaganda. Rival national and regional parties are also fighting all the time over distribution of powers between national and provincial governments.

[i]      Paipandikar VA, Bureaucracy in India – An Empirical Study, IJPA, pp187, Vol. xvii, no.2, April-June, 1971.

[ii]            Shourie HD, Bureaucracy Baiting, The Tribune, June 18. 1992, p6.

[iii]     Rajagopalachari C, Talk delivered on August 14, 1955, under Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel lecture.

[iv]        Valson EM, Development Bureaucracy. A tentative Model, IIPA, vol. XVIII no. I, pp36-50.

 [LS1]

January 20, 2017 Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services | | Leave a comment

India – Unity in Diversity

“There is more power in unity than division”.  Emanuel Cleaver, US politician

Introduction – Way back on December 9, 1946, Mr. V.N. Narayan had said, At best of times, India is ungovernable country of diversities, conflicts and problems.[i] A touch here, a push there may make India ungovernable. Governance of a pluralistic society, like India, is a sensitive and challenging exercise.

Mr. Nani Palkiwala expressed the same feeling after 50 years of self-rule, which gave to India empty coffers, unfulfilled promises, political instability, fractured society and perpetual divide among different groups along caste and community lines. He said, Our legal systems have made life too easy for criminals and too difficult for law abiding citizens.[ii]

India comprises of different identities India comprises people of different identities – ethnic, religious, castes, linguistic and regional identities. While, these identities lived together for centuries and presented a mosaic culture, there have been periods of discord. The diversity made the divide easy. However, the forces of unity have always been stronger than the divisive forces. It is for this reason that India occupies a special place in the global society. It is one of the oldest alive civilizations of the world. It presents a fascinating picture of unity amidst diversity, cultural richness, largeness of area and huge population. It has assimilated multi-ethnic migrants into its fold. The diversities, that exist, are many like: –

(a) Geographical diversity – India is the Sixth largest nation in the world in terms of area, covering a territory of about 3.27 million sq. kms. which is about 24% of the total world area, all divided into:-

  1. Himalayas – forming the northern boundary of India, extending from J&K in the west to Assam, Manipur and Mizoram in the East. These regions are not very well connected with the mainland. Therefore, development processes are slow.
  2. Indo-Gangetic lowland – includes Gangetic, Brahmputra and coastal plains. It is densely populated. Indian civilization spread all over India mainly from this region.
  3. Peninsular Plateau – A mass of mountain hill ranges of Aravalli, Vindhyas, Satpura, Mekala, Nilgiri and Cardamon hills separates it from Indo-Gangetic lowland. This peninsula is flanked on one side by the Eastern Ghats and on the other by the Western Ghats.

The above three areas have different climate, different quantity of rainfall, different quality of soil, different kinds of vegetation, crops and minerals. Therefore, the people living in these parts differ from each other in their needs, way of living, eating habits and approach to a problem.

(b) Ethnic diversity – The assimilation of multi-ethnic migrants into Indian society makes its ethnic diversity a striking feature. The groups, that comprise this diversity, are: –

  • Negritos – the earliest men coming probably from Africa, now represented by tribal population in some interior jungles of South India and Andamans.
  • Proto-Australoids – considered being the original builders of the Indus valley civilization. They had settled in the hilly and forest tracts of Central and Southern India and in the lower strata of North India.
  • Mongoloids – coming from China, they settled mostly in Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal, Assam and the North Eastern States.
  • Mediterranean – Fairly civilized people coming from Southwest Asia around 2000 BC. They are believed to be the bearers of the earliest form of Hinduism and were the architects of later Indus Valley Civilization. Later, they were pushed to the Ganga plain and down the Central and South India.   Today they constitute the bulk of population in South India and bulk of scheduled castes in the North, including Punjab.
  • Alphinoids, Dinarics and Armenoids – Coming from South Europe, now they are found in the Coorgis and the Parsis.
  • Nordics – They came to India around 2000 BC. Their concentration is now in Northwest India and among the upper castes of North India.

These multi-ethnic migrants came to India in waves. In due course of time, they assimilated into Indian Society as its integral parts. They were allowed to preserve their distinct dialects, beliefs, and values, customs and traditions, which are intact even today. Their assimilation resulted in: –

  1. Linguistic Diversity
  2. Cultural Diversity.
  3. Occupational Diversity

 (c) Linguistic Diversity – According to Majumdar RC, Roy Chaudhary HC and Datta Kalikinkar,[iii] on the basis of linguistics, Indian people could be divided into the following four groups according to their language and physical appearance: –

  1. High Class Hindus – They are known as Indo-Aryan. They account for 73% of the Hindu population. [iv] Their language is derived from Sanskrit. They are usually tall, fair skinned, long nosed, aggressive and martial people. Their religion has been masculine, ritualized and organized.
  2. Dravidians – Mostly living in South Indian Peninsula. They speak Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese and Malayalam. They account for 20% of the population.
  3. Primitive Tribes (like Kol, Bhil and Mundas) – They are dark skinned and snub-nosed. They speak languages quite different from the above two. They account for 1.5% of the population.
  4. People with strong Mongolian features – They are yellow in color, snubbed nose with flat faces and prominent cheek bones, living mostly on the slopes of Himalayas and mountains of Assam. Gorkhas, Bhutiyas, Khasis are some of them. They have their own languages. They account for 0.85% of the total population.

The last two classes of people may be regarded as descendants of the Neolithic people and do not appear to have made much progress till today. They yielded to the forces of Dravidians in the South and Aryans in the North. At present India has 18 major languages included in Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, more than 250 dialects and about 200 to 300 castes in each linguistic region.[v]

(d) Occupational Diversity – The Indian scene presents a unique diversity in occupational structure greatly affecting terms in income, standard of living, way of life, status, economic activities, purchasing power and thinking of people.

Changes in occupational pattern after Industrialization – The modernization and industrialization process, especially under the guidance of British during the 19th Century changed the scene.

  • Gradually, many traditional occupations became less paying and were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming.
  • White collared jobs gained importance.
  • The more, a person withdrew from physical labour, the more civilized, honored and qualified he was regarded by the modern society.
  • It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry.
  • It scattered the efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc.
  • A few of them joined modern occupations.
  • The majority could neither enter the modern sector nor stick to traditional occupations considering the menial work derogatory.
  • Unskilled persons had no option, but to either join the band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, marginal labour or increase the number of unemployed.
  • The outcome of such a development has been the casualty of workers, first, their work style, commitment, motivation and culture afterwards.
  • Many groups had lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride.
  • Some entrepreneurs with money, education and awareness did market surveys and hijacked many traditional occupations. Occupations like mechanization of fishing or leather industry were modernized by them and made profit oriented.
  • Even less capital-intensive occupation, such as barber, washerman etc., have been taken up by educated middle class. Hitherto, these occupations were viewed with disdain and contempt by modern society. These have been, therefore, re-christened as saloon, laundry etc. It employed workers, largely from poor traditional workers, earlier practicing such occupations independently.

Nature of occupations – There are traditional and modern occupations and occupations in the organized and unorganized sector.

  • Traditional and Modern occupation – There was no choice in the matter of occupation in the traditional system. Maintaining differentiation between various occupations was the main feature of traditional system. It was community based and not individual based. It led the society to have more production, economic efficiency and specialization in various areas of activities. The system had created an atmosphere of high quality of occupational skills in different areas like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terracotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc. The manner, in which these hereditary occupational skills were transferred, was through practice and experience; not through formal classroom lectures, which often kills the originality and verve of the people.
  • Main Workers and Marginal Workers – The Census classifies Workers into two groups namely, Main workers and Marginal workers. Main Workers are those workers who had worked for the major part of the reference period i.e. 6 months or more. Marginal Workers are those workers who had not worked for the major part of the reference period i.e. less than 6 months.

The Main workers can be classified on the basis of their nature of work into the following four categories:

  1. Cultivators
    2. Agricultural Labors
    3. Household Industry Workers and
    4. Other Workers

According to censuses, the total number of workers in rural and urban areas was as following: –

 Total number of workers (In Percentage)

Area

Persons Males Females

Rural

40.24 52.50 27.20
Urban 30.44 48.95 9.20
Total 37.68 51.56 22.73

Amongst these, a large number is that of marginal workers, who do not get work for the major part of a year. The Census operations indicate that the numbers of marginal laborer has been growing for the last two decades. Their number is higher in the rural areas than in the urban areas. About 85% marginal workers are female.

Main and Marginal Workers – (In Percentage)

Category

Persons

Workers Main

Workers

Marginal

Workers

37.64 34.12 3.52
Males 51.52 50.54 0.98
Females 22.69 16.43 6.26

 

Rural

Category
Workers  

Main workers

Marginal-workers

Persons

4013 3567 446
Males 5243 5129 114
Females 2706 1907 799

Urban

Persons

30.46 29.64 0.81
Males 48.96 48.43 0.53
Females 9.73 8.64 1.11

Source: 1991 Census, p 323

Organized sector – Organized sector is the backbone of modern economy. It provides to people, engaged in it, adequate means of livelihood and a specified position in social, economic and political world.   The reasons for its importance are –

Ø         The State authority itself and

Ø         It’s role in development.

Having full knowledge about the system, the persons working in organized sector are able to protect themselves against malfunctioning of state authority, because-

Ø         They are organized to challenge any misuse of authority.

Ø         Whenever the system fails, they can make special arrangements.

Ø         Their future is secured under various schemes.

Unorganized sector – In contrast, people in unorganized sector find themselves helpless and vulnerable, as their awareness and knowledge about the system is very limited. Very often, they are the people living below poverty line, deprived and exploited. Some of them are even unable to manage two square meals a day.

Moreover, their agony is multiplied due to growing underhandedness, insufficient and ineffective monitoring of projects undertaken for their welfare, corruption, undue pressures of influential groups and unholy alliances. The poor even do not get due wages for their labour and skill, because the wage-determination policy of the government does not recognize the value of their knowledge/skill. For example, an agricultural worker, whose work is most skilled, most arduous and working conditions most difficult, has been recognized as an unskilled worker getting lowest wages.

(e) Cultural Diversity – This diversity is based on religion and caste. According to 1991 Census, as quoted by Silverra [vi], the main religious groups, in India, are as under: –

Main religious groups –

Group

% of population

 

% increase since 1981

Hindu

82.41 22.78
Muslims 11.76 32.76
Christians 2.32 16.89
Sikhs 1.99 25.48
Buddhist 0.77 35.98
Other religions 0.38 13.19
Religion not stated 0.05 73.46

(Source: 1991 Census)

In the modern world, no society or nation can exist as a homogeneous cultural monolithically. India specially presents a unique picture of composite culture, which grew out of intermixing of people of different cultures, belonging to different identities. As India passed through various phases in the past, each and every group left its influence on its culture, which came down to the present generation in an unbroken chain of succession, with some modifications and adaptations.

The impact of different religious communities on Indian culture is as follows:

  • Vedic Hindu Culture– Vedic Hindu Culture is one of the oldest living cultures in the world. It is identified with the whole of India. To foreigners, it represents the ancient culture in its eternity. It mainly originated and flourished in northern parts of India and later on spread throughout India. The strength of Vedic culture is proved by the facts: –

Ø         Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu.

Ø         Had it become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and cultures.

Ø         It influenced almost all other religions found in India.

The word ‘Vedic’ is derived from the word ‘Vid’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ and signifies’ ‘knowledge par excellence’. The Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the culture of Aryan invaders, who came to India in waves, with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD.

The origin of the Vedic culture cannot be traced in any single founder; neither can it be confined in one single authoritative text. Its sacred knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations. It has not prescribed final absolutes. It is a constant search for more knowledge. The Rishis and Munies have always held that Vedas are not the end of quest for knowledge. It is a non-ending process. This is what the Indian culture is.

  • Buddhism and Jainism – Both the religions, originated in India itself, have an influence of the later Vedic culture, but with certain basic differences. These religions have influenced the thought, moral and life style of Indian people. Buddhism has attracted equally the elite as well as the lower strata of Hindu society. The main contribution of Buddhism to Indian culture is an attempt to draw the attention of people towards the harsher effects of the caste system, sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings and system of organized education. Major contribution of Jainism is the principle of non-violence.
  • Dravidian culture – After the sudden disappearance of Indus valley culture, of which the most characteristic feature was its town planning, Dravidian culture with its advanced social system, industry and trade made a mark, in the South.
  • Islamic culture– After the tenth century, under Muslim rule, Islamic culture influenced the Indian culture substantially. Its influence could be seen in the rejection of elaborate rituals and caste pretensions. It preached a simple path of faith, devotion, brotherly love and fellow-ship. With the growing political strength of Muslims, the need for mutual understanding and communal harmony gave rise to Sufi tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus. Both these emphasized the need for mutual appreciation, tolerance and goodwill. Like Buddhism, Islam also provided an alternative to people, wishing to opt out the caste system.
  • British Culture– Eighteenth century onwards, the British culture influenced the Indian culture substantially, especially that of elite and intellectuals. Access to modern education, Western literature and philosophy gave Indians the understanding of liberal and humanitarian ideas of the West. It produced many great leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. The efforts of missionaries, reformers and educationists influenced the thinking of the masses. Missionaries converted many people from the lower strata to Christianity. British systems gave India political and administrative unity. Institutions like Parliament, bureaucracy, and concepts like rule of law, unified nationality, a common currency, a common Judiciary are some of the contributions of the British. They gave a new economic structure based on industrialization. The British also gave impetus to social progress and brought many reforms. The British influence on Indian minds was as discussed below:

(a)  Some people welcomed rationality and other good features of Modern English culture, but wished to remain firmly rooted to the Indian Culture. They organized people and made them aware of social evils like Sati, Polygamy, child marriage, un-touchablity and many superstitions prevalent at that time. They advised the people to eradicate the same without foreign intervention. Emphasis was laid on education and science. Brahma-Samaj, founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1928, inspired the people of Bengal, UP, Punjab, Madras and other provinces, to form similar organizations and interpret religion rationally.

(b)       Some people were so influenced by the alien culture, that they developed a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society. With the help of British rulers, Christian missionaries and religious minded Westerners like William Webberforce or Charles Grant tried to Christianize such people.

©Some reformists tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien culture. Araya Samaj (1875 onwards) founded by Swami Dayanand, asserted the superiority of Hindu Vedic culture. It gave the call for ‘Back to Vedas’, as Vedas were to them the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture.

Two aspects of Hindu culture received a good deal of attention of the Westerners. These are: –

Ø     The Caste system and

Ø     Reluctance to convert people of other religions, on the ground that all religions are valid.

The British condemned the Caste system, but the later, they enthusiastically applauded.[vii]

Hindu, Islam and Christian religions had received substantial state patronage for sufficiently long period. This way, it could be said that the composite culture of India grew out of: –

Ø         The growth, influence and refinement of values of different religions generated within the land of India.

Ø         The creative interaction between the values of indigenous religions and religions of diverse migrating or foreign communities like Islam, Christianity, Zorastarianism etc.

The wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different cultures has been a continuous process of the India civilization. A major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century, between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture. Another assimilation was seen after the 10th century, when the thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. Sufi and Bhakti movements are examples of this. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These also brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation. Once again, a major cultural synthesis took place during the period between18th century to 20th century, with modernization and industrialization, ushered in by the British.

All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, practices and systems. It contributed to the cultural richness of India. Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions. Therefore, it is very difficult for the Western world to understand and appreciate Indian culture fully.

(f)Administrative Diversity – After integration and merger of princely states under Indian Independence Act, 1947, India reorganized the land for administrative purposes into provinces, union territories and districts on the basis of their geographical position, linguistic status, historical developments and other considerations. According to 1991 census, there are about 452 administrative districts (excluding J&K) 19 major cities, 3949 towns and 5,80,000 villages, in 25 provinces and seven Union territories. The provinces are – Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, TamilNadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.[viii] The union territories are – Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadara and Nagar Haveli, Delhi, Daman and Diu, Lakshwadweep and Pondicherry.

(g)Demographic Diversity   – Just as the landmass of India has been divided into different provinces and regions, so also the Indian people could be divided into distinct units, politically and socially.

(h)Political division of Indian population – According to 1991 census, 843.9 million people, belonging to 60 socio-cultural region and sub regions, having 12 major religions and 18 major languages, have been divided politically by the government into forward class, backward class, scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and minorities for the purposes of admission in educational institutions, employment in the government and welfare planning. The breakup of Indian population is as following [ix]: –

Sl.
Category
%
A. Scheduled castes and tribes
   
A1 Scheduled Caste 15.05
A2 Scheduled Tribe 7.51
Total A 22.56
B. Non-Hindus Communities
   
B1                                            B1 Muslims (Other than STs) 11.90
B2 Christians (Other than STs) 2.16
B3 Sikhs (Other than SCs/STs) 1.67
B4 Buddhists (Other than STs) 0.67
B5 Jains O.47
Total B 16.16
C. Forward Hindu Communities  
 
C1 Brahmins 5.52
C2 Rajputs 3.90
C3 Marathas 2.21
C4 Jats 1.00
C5 Vaishyas 1.88
C6 Kayasthas 1.07
C7 Other Hindu caste groups 2.00

Total C

17.58

Total A + B + C

56.03
D Backward communities 43.70
E 52% of the religious groups under B may be treated as OBCs  

8.40

F Approximate derived population of OBCs  

52.00

 (i) Social division –      Like religion, caste system is an integral part of Indian society. Starting with the arrival of numerous Aryan hereditary kinship and tribal groups in waves, from different parts of the world and their mixing up with the indigenous people gave birth to caste system. Caste system accommodated different groups with diverse belief and way of living, under Hinduism, and bound them into a single cultural system.   The assimilation of numerous racial, professional, immigrants, tribal and other groups into Hindu fold was done through caste-system by assigning each new group a separate caste status.

Different identities – The political and social divisions, discussed above, have given birth to a set of different identities, is as discussed below:

  • Equal Identities – Although drawn from different cultures or regions, they find themselves at the same level of acceptance in society like Tamils and Bengalis.
  • Marginal or Inferior Identities – Almost in all the traditional societies, women, old, children or immigrants are regarded as inferior. Also some sections of society were perceived as inferior in spite of constitutionally guaranteed equalities like untouchables in India.
  • Deviant Identities– The people, who reject general norms, evaluation and standards, come in this group, such as anti-social elements, drug addicts etc. They are looked down with contempt, though they are insiders to the system.
  • Hated Identities– People, seen as outsiders to the society, are sometimes hated, some-times feared such as British rulers in India. They face many problems of interaction, because of their externality.
  • Religious Identities– Believers of different faiths constitute religious identities. The different religious communities present in India could be divided into people : –

Ø belonging to faiths originated in India like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

Ø Migrated to India due to persecution or oppression in their homeland like Jews, Bahai, Zoroastrians, or Tibetans.

Ø Converted to alien religion like Christianity and Islam, the religions of the conquerors.

Necessary to maintain proper balance and harmony for unity – To maintain proper balance and harmony between different sections with so many diversities and numerous identities is a delicate and a difficult task. Too much stress on identities can create problem, confusion and chaos. Situation can become more complicated, if identities are pigeonholed.

In modern times, a person can bear more than one identity at a time. The more a person enriches one’s personality; wider becomes his/her identity. Modernization, technological developments in the field of communication and transportation give added dimensions to the issue of identities.

Unity in Diversity in India

Absorptive nature of Indian culture – In spite of having so many diversities, which unite and divide the nation simultaneously, the dominant pattern that emerges in Indian history is one of accommodating different groups through assimilation and synthesis.

India has developed an atmosphere, where different identities have co-existed, generally in harmony and sometimes in rift. In its long process of evolution, each identity has been carefully nurtured and preserved. It never tried to liquidate or absorb them, artificially, into one main culture of the land. Instead, it absorbed the good points of other cultures and allowed them to flourish and contribute in enriching the composite culture of India.

The multi-centricity has given the Indian society its predominantly syncratic character, its pluralistic tradition and its absorptive nature of internalizing alien influences. Many times, there had been strife, contradictions and discords amongst different identities, so much so that, at times, India appears to be a land of contrasts. Nevertheless, most of the times, the Indian society has been able to develop an attitude of reconciliation rather than refutation, cooperation rather than confrontation and co-existence rather than mutual annihilation.[x]

Factors that Unite India – India exhibits a fascinating picture of unity in diversity. There is co-existence of varied belief, patterns and thoughts due to racial intermixing and cultural mingling. More than anywhere else in the world, it holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. This is the reason for its being one of the oldest, continuous and uninterrupted living culture in the whole world.[xi] The factors, which keep its unity and continuity intact, are: –

  • Tolerance – The spirit of tolerance and firm belief in the principles, ‘Live and let live’ has always been the part of Indian ethos.
    • Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspired it to accommodate people of all faiths. Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without any hindrance.
    • Hinduism has adopted the path of assimilation. Therefore, it does not force others to convert. It does not impose its beliefs, practices and customs on others. Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its established culture off the roots.
  • ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – Tolerance is not confined to religion alone. It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life. Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – the whole world is one family.
    • Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Indian culture. The people endure injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right to the wall.
    • John Fischer mentions, Even during Bengal famine, an extreme situation – when necessity knows no laws, people did not take law in their own hands, nor was there any violence. No grocery stall, no rice warehouse, none of the wealthy clubs or restaurants were ever threatened by a hungry mob… They just died with docility, which to most Americans is the most shocking thing about India.’[xii]
    • Many times in the past, Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations, elsewhere in the world, would have led to bloody revolutions.
    • Even today, the people are tolerating the criminalization of politics, corruption, scams and scandals and inefficiency of the administration without much protest. Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards.

Pride in Heritage and value System – C. Rajgopalachari said, If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity…. any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture.

Indian philosophy, containing a vast reservoir of knowledge, still commands the respect and attention of an average Indian. Basham says, The Vedic literature found in Vedas, Upanishads, Sutras and Smritis contain an ocean of knowledge in a jar.[xiii] Its values give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Its Sanatan Dharma, nurtures the basic instincts of human beings over nature, after a deep study of natural instincts, inherent attributes and natural behavioral pattern and takes care of the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human beings at different stages of life.

The Vedic literature is a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy. The priestly schools had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in the form of hymns, restricting it only to those, possessing brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep extreme sanctity. Only after raising oneself from ignorance, a person could be able to understand the greatness of the Indian value system.

Like a jeweler, one could spot out gems from amongst worthless pebbles. A knowledgeable person could pick up knowledge and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed in it with passage of time. This gold mine of knowledge inspired not only Indians, but foreigners as well. Intellectuals from various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind.

Principles of Dharma, Karma and Varna – The foundation pillars of the Indian civilization are the principles of Dharma, Karma and Varna. Each are discussed in details in the chapter Indian Social Structure-Caste-system and casteism. The doctrine of Dharma defines the duties and vocations for different sections of society, ensures social harmony and prevents rivalries and jealousies.

  • Doctrine of Varna gives the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure, which distributes and organizes performance of various functions. It has made it possible for the people to lead a quality of life and ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups.
  • Doctrine of Karma makes the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to an average Indian.

Conclusion – Many principles and cultures developed in the past, elsewhere in the world, had created such a wave that swept over the entire world for some time. An anti-wave, replacing such waves, emerged soon. It wiped off the previous influence. The Vedic culture, however, has proved to be an exception in this regard. There had been periods, when the Vedic culture became weak, especially under foreign rules. But it re-emerged every time, and whenever it re-emerged, it did not destroy other sects, it assimilated them within itself. It happened due to basic tenets of Vedic culture along with tolerance, which are very close to every Indian. These principles have contributed to the growth of the Indian society as a whole in a systematic way. It organized orderly performance of various functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people. It prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different sections of the society – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It 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.

******

[i]1 Quoted from The Tribune, dated 21.6.92, p21.

[ii]   Palikawala, We the People – The Lost Decade, p3.

[iii]3 Majumdar RC, Roy Chowdhary HC and Datta Kalikinkar, People of India, IV edition, and 1978.

[iv]   Francis SRS, Advanced General Studies, p153.

[v]   Khan, Democracy in India, p8.

[vi]   Silverra DM, India Book, p19.

[vii]   Sharma A, Hinduism of Our Times, p75.

[viii]   Four new states – Delhi, Uttrakhand, Vanachal and Jharkhand – are likely to be created in near future.

[ix]   Report of Mandal Commission, Chapter XII.

[x] Khan, Democracy in India, pp 4-5.

[xi] The other three being Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece

[xii] John Fischer, India’s insoluble Hunger – 1947, pp 7-8.

[xiii] Basham, Wonder That Was India, p51-52.

 

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Fusion of many cultures in India

Introduction – As India passed through various phases in the past, each and every social, political or religious group has left its influence on the composite culture of India, which has come down to the present generation in an unbroken chain of succession, with some modifications and adaptations. All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have left their influence on its indigenous  religion – Hinduism, its thinking, practices and systems. All the religious communities present in India have also influenced the culture of India.

 Following cultures have contributed in enriching the composite culture of India : –

 The growth, influence and refinement of values of different religions generated within the land of India.

 The interaction between value-system of indigenous religions of India and religions of diverse migrating or foreign communities like Islam, Christianity, Zorastarianism etc.

Vedic Hindu Culture

Vedic Hindu Culture is one of the oldest living cultures in the world. It mainly originated and flourished in northern parts of India and later on spread throughout India. The word ‘Vedic’ is derived from the word ‘Vid’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ and signifies’ ‘knowledge par excellence’.

The Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the culture of Aryan with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD. The origin of the Vedic culture can not be traced in any single founder; neither can it be confined in one single authoritative text.

Its knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations. It has not prescribed final absolutes. It is a constant search for more knowledge. Vedas are not supposed to be the end of quest for knowledge. It is a non-ending process(Neti-Neti).

The strength of Vedic culture is proved by the facts: –

 Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu.

 Had it become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and cultures.

 It influenced almost all other religions found in India.

Buddhism and Jainism

Budhism and Jainism has influenced the thought, moral and life style of many Indians. Buddhism attracted equally the elite as well as the lower strata of Hindu society. Buddhism drew the attention of people towards the harsher effects of the caste system, sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings and system of organised education. Major contribution of Jainism is the principle of non-violence.

Dravidian culture

After the sudden disappearance of Indus valley culture, of which the most characteristic feature was its town planning, Dravidian culture with its advanced social system, industry and trade made a mark in the South.

Islamic culture

After the tenth century, Islamic culture influenced the Indian culture substantially. Its influence could be seen in the rejection of elaborate rituals and caste pretensions. It preached a simple path of faith, devotion, brotherly love and fellowship. With the growing political strength of Muslims, the need for mutual understanding and communal harmony gave rise to Sufi tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus. Both these emphasized the need for mutual appreciation, tolerance and goodwill. Like Buddhism, Islam also provided an alternative to people, wishing to opt out the caste system.

British Culture 

Eighteenth century onwards, the British culture influenced the Indian culture substantially, especially that of elite and intellectuals. Access to modern education, Western literature and philosophy gave Indians the understanding of liberal and humanitarian ideas of the West.

Some of the contributions of the British to India are political and administrative unity, many democratic institutions like Parliament, bureaucracy and concepts like rule of law, unified nationality, a common currency, a common Judiciary. They gave a new economic structure based on industrialization. British-rule gave an impetus to social progress and brought many reforms.

The British influence on Indian minds was as discussed below: –

  • Many reformers welcomed rationality and other good features of English culture. They advised people to interpret religion rationally and make efforts to eradicate social evils like Sati, child marriage, untouchablity etc. prevalent at that time.
  • Some people were so influenced by the alien culture, that they developed a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society.
  • Some reformists tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of Western culture. It gave the call for ‘Back to Vedas’.

Two aspects of Hindu culture received a good deal of attention of British: –

 The Caste system and

 Reluctance to convert people of other religions, on the ground that all religions are valid.

The British condemned the Caste system, but the later, they enthusiastically applauded. iv

Hindu, Islam and Christian religions had received substantial state patronage for sufficiently long period.

Assimilation and fusion of different cultures has been a continuous process of the India civilization. A major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century, between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture. Another assimilation was seen after the 10th century, when the thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. Sufi and Bhakti movements are examples of this. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These also brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation.

Once again, during the period between 18th century to 20th century, a major cultural synthesis took place with modernization and industrialization ushered in by the British.

Winding up

Many principles and cultures developed in the past, elsewhere in the world, had created such a wave that swept over the entire world for some time. An anti-wave, replacing such waves, emerged soon. It wiped off the previous influence. The Vedic culture, however, has proved to be an exception in this regard. There had been periods, when the Vedic culture became weak, especially under foreign rules. But it re-emerged every time, and whenever it re-emerged, it did not destroy other sects, it assimilated them within itself.

Despite of having different kinds of diversities, most of the times, the Indian society has been able to develop “an attitude of reconciliation rather than refutation, cooperation rather than confrontation and co-existence rather than mutual annihilation.”v

It has happened due to basic tenets of Vedic culture along with tolerance, which are very close to every Indian. The principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma have contributed to the growth of the Indian society as a whole in a systematic way. It has organized orderly performance of various functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people. It prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different sections of the society – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It 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.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | Leave a comment

Theory of biological Evolution

Let us see how the theory of evolution has been developed by Darwin (1809-1882) and by priestly schools in ancient India.

Theory of Evolution

English naturalist Charles Darwin and others, had developed a theory of biological evolution stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is the widely held notion that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor: the birds and the bananas, the fishes and the flowers — all related. Darwin’s general theory presumes the development of life from non-life and stresses a purely naturalistic (undirected) “descent with modification”. That is, complex creatures evolve from more simplistic ancestors naturally over time. In a nutshell, as random genetic mutations occur within an organism’s genetic code, the beneficial mutations are preserved because they aid survival — a process known as “natural selection.” These beneficial mutations are passed on to the next generation. Over time, beneficial mutations accumulate and the result is an entirely different organism (not just a variation of the original, but an entirely different creature).

Theory of Evolution according to Hindu Mythology – In Hindu Mythology, the theory of evolution has been described in the form of Dashavatar as following -.

  1. Matsya Avtar – According to it, the life in this world begins with Matsya Avtar. It means fish. It is true as well, because it is said that life began in water.
  2. Kurma Avtar – Second phase came with Kurma Avtar. Kurma means the tortoise. During this phase life moved from water to the land. life moved from water to the land. The Amphibian. So the tortoise denoted the evolution from sea to land.
  3. Varaha Avtar – The third avatar was that of Varaha., which means the wild animals with not much intellect. It may be called Dinosaurs.
  4. Narasimha Avtar –  The next was Narasimha Avtar – half man and half animal. The evolution Of life from wild animals to intelligent beings.
  5. Waman Avatar – Waman means midget or dwarf, who could go really tall. To understand it, one must know that there are two kinds of humans – Homo Erectus and the Homo Sapiens. And Homo sapiens won that battle.
  6. Parshuram Avatar– The sixth Avatar was Parshuram – the man who yielded the axe, a man who was a cave and forest dweller. He was an angry man and not social.
  7. Ram Avatar – Next was Ram Avatar, the first thinking social being, who laid the laws of society and the basis of all relationships.
  8. Balram Avatar – The Eighth was Balram Avatar, who was a true farmer and showed the value of agriculture in life.
  9. Krishnavtar – The Ninth avatar was Krishna, the statesman. The politician, the lover who played the game of society and taught how to live thrive in the social structure.
  10. Kalki Avatar – Yet to come, a genetically supreme human being, on whom the modern scientists are working on.

 According to Hindu philosophy the process of evolution never stops. No stage is supposed to be final. Neti-Neti (not an end) is the principle.

About Indian philosophy – The priestly Indian philosophers in Ancient Indian had also developed the theory of evolution. Indian philosophy contains “an ocean of knowledge in a jar.” It is supposed to be a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life.

Use of Symbolic language – For expressing their thoughts, Indian priests had used Symbolic language. The purpose of using symbolic language was perhaps to make it easier for human mind to remember. In Upnishads, Hindu epics and Geeta, there are many examples of symbolic mentality. Shiva–Shakti stood for Divine masculine-feminine union, Purush and prakriti for ideal man-woman relationship, Som ras as a symbol of divine bliss etc. Four elements of nature (i) Om stood for the sound of creation, (ii) Trishul for trinity, (iii) Lotus for balance, (iv) Venus-star for creativity, Sacrifice for an offering to gods.

Thinking of Indian sages was passed on orally from one generation to another – In ancient India, in the absence of any written material, the scholarly thinking of Indian sages was passed on orally from one generation to another. It involved three basic processes, one, which included ‘Sravana’ (stage of acquiring knowledge of ‘Shrutis’ by listening). Two, ‘Manana’ (meaning pupils to think, analyse themselves about what they heard, assimilate the lessons taught by their teacher and make their own inferences,) and three ‘Nidhyasana (meaning comprehension of truth and and  apply/use it into real life).

System to transfer their thoughts to coming generations –  The learned sages and munies devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring it to succeeding generations in form of hymns. They restricted it only to those, who possessed the capability to understand, had brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep its extreme sanctity. It gave their thinking a sacrament, religious and sacrosanct shape.

Later on developed in the form of mythological stories – With the passage of time, the people, who lost the mindset to understand the true meaning of this symbolic language gave everything an imaginative, mysterious, mystic or divine shape. This trend with some additions and deletions took the shape of mythological stories.

 Mythology makes sense – In India people know some amazing things, but they do not know how to interpret it scientifically. So developed their thoughts through mythological stories. Mythology makes sense. It is just the way one looks at it – religious or scientific. In mythology, quite often the symbolic language has been used to express thoughts.  There was infinite scope to develop these stories.

(Quoted from Jyotsna Sinha’s message and edited by Lata Sinha)

 

January 1, 2017 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Dalit Assertion, A Journey from ‘Shudras’to Outcastes, to’Panchamas’ and to ‘Dalits’

Introduction – In Vedic system of ancient India, masses or the lower strata of Indian community was called “Shudras”. In modern India, especially in political circles, they are known as  “Scheduled Castes”, “Dalits” and “OBCs”. Rest of the people are known as “Upper castes”

A large number of poor people, irrespective of caste or creed including lower castes,  continues to suffer because of poverty (unable to fulfil their basic needs), illiteracy, unemployment and unbridled exploitation even almost 70 years after the Independence. A majority of them are working in unorganized sector.

In order to uplift submerged sections of society, the successive governments at centre and provincial levels have initiated many welfare schemes – some of them being paternalistic policies in nature.  But the way these plans and policies have been implemented, instead of uplifting the poor masses and improving their social status, working conditions and economic position. Only a few influential persons could be benefitted and come up forming a “creamy layer” amongst OBCs and Dalits. Poor remain as poor,  deprived and exploited as earlier.

Had the developmental plans been applied judiciously and honestly, a large number of poor could have come up during last 70 years.  Such disparities have  sowed the seeds of mutual strife and polarized the Indian society into water-tight compartments.

Correct diagnosis of the ailment –  It is said that prescription only works, if diagnosis of ailment is correct. Without making people strong enough to hold power with responsibility, entrusting power in weak hands would not bring positive results. Attempts to facilitate upward mobility of the deprived sections of society, to uplift them financially and to empower weaker sections, first of all right diagnosis (real issues) is needed to be found out. Then based on that,  a valid prescription (plans and policies) are needed to be prepared, applying them to deserving persons at right time, and in right quantity and quality and implement such development plans and programs sincerely.

Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries – Caste is a conglomeration of many sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. They have not so far given up their separate identities. The unity of backward castes under the label of Dalits or OBCs is an illusion created by vested interests. Neither the term Schedule caste”, nor OBC nor Dalit makes them a homogenous class.But for political purposes, they have come together and bear an identical caste tag like caste Hindus, backwards, SCs, STs and minorities and demand special measures for themselves. It has increased the in-fights between different categories and created social disorder, making now and then, the task of governance difficult.  Inthe opinion of MSS Pandian, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self assertion. (An academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, Sunday, pp. 12-13, and 8-14, June, 1997). 

Issue, the nation divided into numerous political camps – The nation divided is into numerous political camps like pro-Hindu camp, anti-Hindu camp, secular camp,  fundamentalist camp, and caste camps into forward, backward and Dalit camp. There are regional camps too, playing up federal card to woe the electorate. The situation is leading to fundamentalist and separatist attitudes, conflict, instability, in-decisiveness, and rigid and irrational attitude.

Historical background

All the social groups as vertical parallels in ancient India – In ancient India all the social groups (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas (now known as upper castes) and Shudras were placed more or less as a series of vertical parallels. All of the people living in a local area, whether high or low, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. They cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of their needs. Socially, Shudras were supposed to do all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas.

Respect not on the basis of material success or control of power – Respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. 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. Many studies have shown that Hindu system always kept masses reconciled, if not contended in the past. Hindu Dharma taught the people that instead of holding others responsible, for all their sufferings, exploitation and miseries it was their own “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) which were to be blamed.

Opportunities to Shudras to earn respect of the society – It 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.

Low status and sufferings of Shudras after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values – All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values around Seventh century. Since then, 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. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore, it can be said that it was not out of malice, but the circumstances, which has pushed Shudras away from the mainstream.

The low status and sufferings of Shudras or their exclusion from the mainstream for centuries has gradually stopped growth of their personality and made them completely dependent on others for their livelihood. Centuries old enslavement, ignorance, suppression and ostracism shook their confidence, deteriorated severely their condition and made them to suffer inhuman treatment by the rulers as well as other well-to do sections of the society.

Depressed Class – During the nineteenth Century, in official circles lower castes were addressed as ‘Depressed class’ or ‘Exterior class’. British government in India regarded these people as ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’. Missionaries were trying to convert this section of society into Christianity. British rulers passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders and declared denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.

Till now, untouchable activities were combined with the intermediate castes’ non- Brahmin movement. But now all these developments inspired them to enter into the political arena under the name of “depressed class” and desired to a share in political power separately in India.

Harijans – The attempt of British rulers in 1911 to exclude untouchables from Hindu population and continuous decline of number of Hindus cautioned the national leaders. In order to retain their Hindu identity, Gandhiji and his followers called them Harijans meaning the “people belonging to god”. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to create compassion in the hearts of forward communities for Harijans and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society. Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.

During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritisation to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.

They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability. They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism. They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift. and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.

Untouchables – By 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society came to be known as untouchabes. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement. He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.

Other prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.

By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.

In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division.

Scheduled Castes – In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. The term continued after the independence as well, for the purpose of Reservation.

Untouchables in Independent India – After second world war emergence of the concept of ‘welfare state’ swept the whole world. Independent India, as a civilized democratic society, considered it its humanitarian obligation to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. The overwhelming poverty of millions belonging to lower strata of society and their near absence in echelons of power at the time of Independence has led the government to of India to intervene. The Constitution of India has directed the Government to promote social justice and educational, economic and other interests of the weaker sections with special care. It instructed the Government to remove the poverty and reduce inequalities of income and wealth and provide adequate representation to the downtrodden in power echelons through Affirmative Action Program/Reservation Policy. Public facilities, which were denied to untouchables so far, should be made accessible to them. The successive governments both at national as well as provincial levels initiated various Welfare Plans and Policies for employment generation and their social, economic and political growth from time to time.

Dalits – Dalit, a Maradhi word means suppressed. The term was chosen and used proudly by Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956). The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience.

In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. One of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation was primarily militant and rebellious. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables.

Earlier, a few leaders of untouchables had at least some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism, out-rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj. But present Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. There is always a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.

In mid sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements.

The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP, where the upper caste domination has been challenged by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayavati. They redefined Dalit politics especially in north India. Their approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. BSP has started pursuing power with militancy since 1990. Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. Political and economic vested interests of its leaders has aroused militancy among discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation. They care only for rights and pay scant attention to their duties. There started a cutthroat competition for scarce positions of power and prestige.

Once again, the tendency of ‘divide and rule’, as was there during British domination, has emerged in national scenario. The growing desire of Dalits to rule has made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, even after so many years of Independence has identified Upper Castes as their enemy and intermediate castes sometimes as their friends and sometimes as their enemies. Kanshi Ram, a BSP leader initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs.

OBC leaders also know that Dalit parties now control a large vote bank. Therefore, from time to time, they try to please Dalits leaders in order to increase their own political strength. But Dalits are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties. They are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere. All the three major national political formations – Congress’s UPA BJP’s NDA and National Front – are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. Instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalits now want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing all political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations/Affirmative Action Program.

There is an elite section amongst Dalits, which protects its turf under the banner of Dalits at the cost of poorest of Dalits. It does not care much to bring Dalit masses into the mainstream. For some, presence and miseries of large number of dalits is a recipe for Dalit vote-bank, for others enjoying all the benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India and other concessions given to them. Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. And here lies the crux of Dalit poltics.

Dalits at International platform -Dalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining enough places in the government jobs. Since 2001, these activists have been pushing the cause internationally arguing that Indian Dalits are like blacks in US till 1950. They faced problems in workplace, at school and in temples.

In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalt activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, tribals and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject. A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. “Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”

So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidass sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conferernce.

Along with it, staunch supporters of Human Rights, some Scandinavian countris, Church organisations around the world and Lutheran World Federation have shown interest and expressed their solidarity with Dalits. Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognise caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentia.

No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? It is not the paternalistic policies, (which have failed to yield so far the desired results) that are required for the upliftment and empowerment of submerged sections of society, but there is need to educate, make them aware of their rights and duties, provide enough employment opportunities and other civic facilities like health etc at the grass root level for the sustainable growth of backward communities.

‘Shudras’, ‘Outcastes’ and ‘Panchamas’ – In ancient India all the social groups were placed more or less as a series of vertical parallels. All of the people living in a local area, whether high or low, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. They cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of their needs. Socially, Shudras were supposed to do all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas.

Respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. 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. Many studies have shown that Hindu system always kept masses reconciled, if not contended in the past. Hindu Dharma taught the people that instead of holding others responsible, for all their sufferings, exploitation and miseries it was their own “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) which were to be blamed.

It 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.

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. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore, it can be said that it was not out of malice, but the circumstances, which has pushed Shudras away from the mainstream.

The low status and sufferings of Shudras or their exclusion from the mainstream for centuries has gradually stopped growth of their personality and made them completely dependent on others for their livelihood. Centuries old enslavement, ignorance, suppression and ostracism shook their confidence, deteriorated severely their condition and made them to suffer inhuman treatment by other sections of the society.

Depressed Class – During the nineteenth Century, in official circles lower castes were addressed as ‘Depressed class’ or ‘Exterior class’. British government in India regarded these people as ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’. Missionaries were trying to convert this section of society into Christianity. British rulers passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders and declared denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.

Till now, untouchable activities were combined with the intermediate castes’ non- Brahmin movement. But now all these developments inspired them to enter into the political arena under the name of “depressed class” and desired to a share in political power separately in India.

Harijans – The attempt of British rulers in 1911 to exclude untouchables from Hindu population and continuous decline of number of Hindus cautioned the national leaders. In order to retain their Hindu identity, Gandhiji and his followers called them Harijans meaning the “people belonging to god”. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to create compassion in the hearts of forward communities for Harijans and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society. Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.

During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritisation to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.

They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability. They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism. They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift. and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.

Untouchables – By 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society came to be known as untouchabes. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement. He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.

Other prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.

By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.

In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division.

Scheduled Castes – In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. The term continued after the independence as well, for the purpose of Reservation.

Untouchables in Independent India – After second world war emergence of the concept of ‘welfare state’ swept the whole world. Independent India, as a civilized democratic society, considered it its humanitarian obligation to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. The overwhelming poverty of millions belonging to lower strata of society and their near absence in echelons of power at the time of Independence has led the government to of India to intervene. The Constitution of India has directed the Government to promote social justice and educational, economic and other interests of the weaker sections with special care. It instructed the Government to remove the poverty and reduce inequalities of income and wealth and provide adequate representation to the downtrodden in power echelons through Affirmative Action Program/Reservation Policy. Public facilities, which were denied to untouchables so far, should be made accessible to them. The successive governments both at national as well as provincial levels initiated various Welfare Plans and Policies for employment generation and their social, economic and political growth from time to time.

Dalits – Dalit, a Maradhi word means suppressed. The term was chosen and used proudly by Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956). The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience.

In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. One of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation was primarily militant and rebellious. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables.

Earlier, a few leaders of untouchables had at least some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism, out-rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj. But present Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. There is always a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.

In mid sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements.

The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP, where the upper caste domination has been challenged by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayavati. They redefined Dalit politics especially in north India. Their approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. BSP has started pursuing power with militancy since 1990. Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. Political and economic vested interests of its leaders has aroused militancy among discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation. They care only for rights and pay scant attention to their duties. There started a cutthroat competition for scarce positions of power and prestige.

Once again, the tendency of ‘divide and rule’, as was there during British domination, has emerged in national scenario. The growing desire of Dalits to rule has made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, even after so many years of Independence has identified Upper Castes as their enemy and intermediate castes sometimes as their friends and sometimes as their enemies. Kanshi Ram, a BSP leader initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs.

OBC leaders also know that Dalit parties now control a large vote bank. Therefore, from time to time, they try to please Dalits leaders in order to increase their own political strength. But Dalits are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties. They are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere. All the three major national political formations – Congress’s UPA BJP’s NDA and National Front – are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. Instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalits now want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing all political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations/Affirmative Action Program.

There is an elite section amongst Dalits, which protects its turf under the banner of Dalits at the cost of poorest of Dalits. It does not care much to bring Dalit masses into the mainstream. For some, presence and miseries of large number of dalits is a recipe for Dalit vote-bank, for others enjoying all the benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India and other concessions given to them. Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. And here lies the crux of Dalit poltics.

Dalits at International platform – Dalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining enough places in the government jobs. Since 2001, these activists have been pushing the cause internationally arguing that Indian Dalits are like blacks in US till 1950. They faced problems in workplace, at school and in temples.

In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalt activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, tribals and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject. A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. “Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”

So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidass sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conferernce.

Along with it, staunch supporters of Human Rights, some Scandinavian countris, Church organisations around the world and Lutheran World Federation have shown interest and expressed their solidarity with Dalits. Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognise caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentia.

No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? It is not the paternalistic policies, (which have failed to yield so far the desired results) that are required for the upliftment and empowerment of submerged sections of society, but there is need to educate, make them aware of their rights and duties, provide enough employment opportunities and other civic facilities like health etc at the grass root level for the sustainable growth of backward communities.

December 18, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

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 | | 7 Comments

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. Most of  the unhappiness of people are self-created.

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

What is happiness? – Many people desire to have ‘name’, ‘fame’ or ‘wealth’. They feel happy and empowered when they get control over muscle, money or occupy an influential place in the corridors of power/authority – be it social, political or economic. For them, controlling the destiny of others  is enjoyment and desire to 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.

In 1885 itself, Eutice J Kitts, a British ambassador in Azamgarh listed, for the first time, backward castes and tribes, from 1881 Census. The objective was to give them financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level. For the first, the government officially recognized caste as a base for the purposes of governance.

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 | | 6 Comments