I have often noticed in your remarks an undercurrent of contempt for wealth, as if being
wealthy is unnecessary, or even a symptom of greed.Until I was 20 I used to express
similar sentiments, as if all the rich were exploiters accummulating money by depriving
others of theirs. Do you also feel the same way?
Karl Marx was not against wealth per se. He stood neither for
simplicity nor sanyasic detachment. In fact, in some ways he laid great stress on
the material and too little on either the spiritual or the psychological. Otherwise, he
would not have interpreted history on the basis of materialism. What the prophet of
communism opposed was the unequal distribution of wealth. If Marxism is summed up in one
phrase it should be the philosophy of just distribution. In contrast, the American
economists inspired by Adam Smith could be called the proponents of growth.
History's great economic debate has been centred around growth versus
distribution. Which should be given priority? In my opinion neither. Distribution without
increasing production is difficult. It is difficult to satisfy the rising expectations,
especially of a growing population. On the other hand, growth is pointless if there were
not to be wide distribution. What is the use of growth if its benefits were to be confined
to only a section of the people? Merely enabling the rich to become richer and leaving the
poor where they are does not make sense. Neither would it be fair nor could it be wise
even for the rich.
If the poor do not earn more and do not have more money to spend, how would demand for
goods and services increase? Arm without demand increasing, how can growth be sustained?
The debate between growth and distribution, between capitalism and socialism, between Adam
Smith and Karl Marx has not yet concluded. However,one side of the debate has collapsed.
Socialism expired. Its demise was signalled by the breaking up of the Soviet Union. With
it unfortunately, the cause of the poor man was abandoned almost across the world. Even
societies, like that of China, which continue to claim to be communist, no longer care for
the poor. Providing of employment to people is no longer anybody's business. Many
corporations, companies and governments appear to be retrenching employees. In India we
call the process phenomenon a golden handshake or restructuring, rationalizing the work
force or early voluntary retirement scheme and so on.
I have narrated all this merely to build up the backdrop which should
help you to see how different the stress would be in the suraaj which I envisage.
It is the duty of the state to enable every citizen to have sufficient food, clothing and
shelter. So that he/she is not driven to committing a crime or dushkarma out of
hunger or exposure. For such a possibly inexcusable crime could be blamed on the state or
society,which in turn must lead to collective bad luck or durbhagya. Normally a bad
deed by a person would lead to an adverse destiny. But if a society allows him to be
driven to crime (say by the denial of food for his child),could the society escape the
collective destiny caused by its callousness?
From this premise flows the corollary that the state must create
conditions to enable every willing citizen to get productive employment. This is the
economic core of suraaj. The state need not guarantee employment as the socialist
republics tried to do. They employed individuals regardless of whether they were willing
to do a full day's work or not. Even if they sat around, they got their wages. Any number
of healthy men and women were given their full salaries and benefits for doing little
work. What is the differcace between such employment and state charity? I can see very
little indeed. Surely charity is for the helpless. It is not for the healthy. Today in
Russia those undeserving beneficiaries are virtually starving; they did not learn to work.
The Soviet state has disintegreated; as a consequence of ots collective wrong doings in
broadcasting charity to the lazy the undeserving.
Many countries of western Europe run welfare states. This concept now
leaves employment to the flow of market forces but gives a dole or a compensation to
whoever happens to be unemployed. The approach is prima facie humane but it subsidises
non-work. To many people, work and career provide self confidence and a social position.
As is often said, man cannot live by bread alone. Men and women, who are comfortably off
but without satisfactory work, subtract from, instead of adding to, the progress of
civilisation. Suraaj would beneither a fountain of charity nor a spring of subsidy.
Rather, it should be a state alive and alert to enabling plenty of opportunities
Here, the word productive means that the produce of each person's work
should exceed in value his/her wage or income. If someone costs his employer say Rs. 5000
per month, his work should be worth more than this amount. So that every working person
contributes some surplus for the society or the common good which in turn the state could
spend for development, in order that the civilisation blooms with time and not wither. To
enlarge the concept of the productive employment, it may be said that whoever is self
employed produces goods or services worth more than the money he takes home. No one is
likely to pay him more than he is worth. Even a baloon vendor can be cited as a good
example. Unless his baloons bring more fun or joy to the children, their parents
would not buy them. And hypothetically, in the perception of the parents, I the value of
the fun or satisfaction must be more than what they pay the vendor. There is however no
comparable acid test of productivity in a job. In the private sector there is a greater
sense of result orientation. In the public or the government sector, procedures tend to
supersede the product. In the Soviet Union, most of the economy belonged to the
government. And the result was unfortunate. Not all the bounties of nature were able to
sustain an under productive system. In contrast, Japan is not gifted with many natural
resources and yet it bloomed with the productive surplus of its people. I quoted this
contrast merely to show thee my view of the economic face of suraaj is pragmatic, to
assure you that I am not dreaming but trying to envision.
The essence of Hindueva is liberty. The individual is free to sow as
much as he/she likes. There is no limit to karma, either qualitative
orquantitative. Do as many good deeds as you like. No church or priest is there to watch.
The Hindu panda or poojari in the temple is only to assist in
performing pooja. His writ does not run beyond the boundaries of the temple. Nor is he a
part of a chain of priests that conduces pooja in another temple. There is no
ecclesiastical network. Nor is there anyone even remotely comparable to the Pope or the khalifa
or the Shahi Imam of Delhi. Yes, there is literature to explain what is life,
human and divine, and to guide the reader on how to traverse from one to the other. Read
it if you like or listen to a guru interpreting it. But there is no broker between a Hindu
and his God.
This also holds good for the economic sector of life in suraaj. The
state would not participate in investment, production or distribution. Its role would be
confined to helping out when and where the citizens are unable to either invest, produce
or distribute chose goods and services which are widely perceived to be essential, like
the building of large dams, perhaps running the national railways. A more important
function of the state would be to ensure that one citizen does not obstruct another from
pursuing his economic goal or karma. Compete yes but come in the way, no.
Infringement or violation of law must be punished impartially and effectively. The state
must also create systemic mechanisms that help to ensure an equitable playing field
between citizen and citizen, between citizen and foreigner. The concept of swadeshi
is an example.
Swadeshi or national self reliance is necessary to make sure that the
business tradition and commercial aptitude, that so many Indians can be proud of, are not
destroyed. In fact, they are the pillars of our economic ethos. They should not only be
protected but also promoted.I know that, as a leftist, you will sympathise with this view.
Yet you could snap back at me or rather at Hindutva and ask how do we propose to keep pace
with the rest of the world? You could remind me that the world had become a global village
and also tell me that we cannot have the cake and eat it too. But we can. If we think
with an open mind and perhaps also use a tool of reasoning provided by Georg Hegel, the
eighteenth century German philosopher. In the course of expounding his theory of
dialectical imperialism (not materialism which Karl Marx took up), he adapted an ancient
Creek equation which helps to think clearly and to resolve an apparent contradiction. It
was postulated that if there be a thesis and an antithesis, it should be possible to
Say swadeshi or self reliance is the thesis, the tradition. Say, the
times have changed, the world has become a global village and
globalisation is now the necessary fashion. How to reconcile this opposite or anti-thesis
with the thesis? By arriving at a synthesis, which would accommodate both the needs. India
needs to preserve, protect and promote its entrepreneurial aptitude in the smallest of
shopkeepers to the largest of its businessmen. Yet the country has to keep pace with the
latest technology in the world and also its goods and services muse be able to compete
with chose made by rival countries.
The answer, or rather the synthesis, would be in the creation of an
individual sector of business and industry. Its speciality would be that only individuals
would hold shares in such a company. A company must not be allowed to invest in it.
Individual foreigners yes. But Indian institutions, including Hindu Undivided Families,
no. The purpose is to prevent a multi-national corporation (MNC) or a large house to enter
this personal sector through the backdoor. The capital or equity could go up to say Rs.10
crore. Its products would be exempt from central indirect taxes like the excise duty, so
that they could compete against the products of the largest of corporations whether
foreign or Indian. The tax exemption should give them the handicap start and enable them
to survive and succeed in the face of the severe competition offered by giants and their
economies of large scale.
The personal sector should also be kept outside the purview of the
Industrial Disputes Act. The idea would be to encourage entrepreneurs to start labour
intensive enterprises. Today they are reluctant to do so for fear of having to carry and
pay the employees even when orders are few and business is dull. Take for instance,
garment exports in which orders from overseas fluctuate sharply. The Indian suppliers
prefer to keep small factories of their own and farm out or sub-contract the work to
others including housewives who are willing to stitch the garments at home. This method
has the disadvantage of quality variation. Suppliers from other countries like China have
large factories with hundreds of tailors. This is an important reason for their being more
competitive than Indians. In the process, India loses. What is particularly
unfortunate is that our citizens lose employment opportunities. Seasonal or even temporary
work is better than no work. Once India becomes a major supply market, it would have many
suppliers. It is possible that although one factory at a certain time might not have
orders, yet other factories I could have work to offer to the same tailors. The vital
objective is to enable business to grow freely and helpbring about prosperity.
Near full employment is not difficult to achieve provided it becomes the overriding aim of
our economic policy. Unfortunately, Jawaharlal Nehru and his advisers like P.C Mahalanobis
used the Soviet development as the model for India. Even assuming that the Soviets were on
the right track, our leaders forgot the difference between Russian and Indian conditions.
Industrialisation was necessary but evidently our economists of the time overlooked the
fact that their industry is primarily the deployment of machinery and not the employment
of human beings which, incidentally, was India's prime need.
Even in the fifties when planning in India was inaugurated, to create one job cost an
investment of rupees two lakh in plant and machinery. Today, the figure would be 50 lakh
or more. In short, Nehruvian planning put the cart before the horse. This lopsided
priority took such deep roots in popular thinking that, to this day, a district or a
taluka leader would ask for setting up udyog or an industrial unit in his area. He
does not appeal for a project that would provide employment to a large number of his
For example, it seems to occur to comparatively few that even domestic
tourism can create employment on a large scale. I have visited a cinema city ten
kilometres from the town of Portiers in France There were twenty different types of cinema
located in a beautiful man-made landscape. The site was selected by a private firm largely
because the land was cheap. The city has become a tourist attraction. Since it takes at
least three days to enjoy all the cinemas, in turn, a large number of hotels have come up
in the surrounding area. The total employment created, including for transport, from
Portiers and back, was of the order of 10,000 persons. The cinema city itself directly
employs only 1500. And this is in France which is short of people and does not have either
the numbers or the comparatively lower wages that we have in India.
Typical of the attitude of some of our leaders was a statement by H.D.
Deve Gowda, when he was prime minister, that India was too large a country to worry about
A fair number of foreign tourists, especially from East Asia, visit Varanasi, the
Jerusalem of Hindus and Sarnath where the Buddha attained enlightenment. If one observes
the infra-structural facilities, one would be left with the impression that rather than
attracting visitors we seem to be discouraging them.