Centre for Policy Studies
In the task of nation building it is the spirit and the willingness of the people alone that matters. The tools and resources can always be generated once a nation decides to move ahead towards its goal with self-confidence and determination. Like other resurgent societies of the world, we too displayed the spirit and the determination that builds nations, when under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi we harness all our energies to reach our goals. But after achieving independence we somehow lost that drive, and slipped into the old habits of mental sloth and mechanical imitation, which we had acquired during the long years of bondage. We have to somehow rekindle the national spirit and determination, for India to forge ahead again. But for that to happen it is essential that we acquire a clear overview of ourselves and of our situation in the world of today, and evolve clear-headed policies for restructuring the Indian reality. To initiate this review of the Indian situation and to help in formulating a polity that provides all Indians with the challenge and the opportunity to get onto the task of national reconstruction with an abiding passion, we propose to set up a Centre For Policy Studies.
After the conversion of half a million of its people to Christianity by the Jesuits in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Japan closed its frontiers to people from Europe for over two centuries. It is only around 1860 that it reopened itself to the western world. It is said that in the intervening two hundred years, Japan kept a very little contact with the Dutch, which served as a sort of photographic camera aperture through which Japan could concentratedly take note of what interested it and yet not be distracted by being exposed to what did not concern it.
Soon after Japan resumed links with the west in 1860, it sent some of its young men to the countries of the west. One of them was Maeda Masana. He went to France in 1869 and seeing the splendor of Paris felt very depressed for months, believing that Japan would never be able to match France. But soon after the Franco-German war, France seemed to be in shambles and had to rebuild itself again. While the happening itself must have saddened him, somehow his spirits picked up from then on and he could write that “I felt confidence in our ability to achieve what the west achieved.”
Maeda Masana returned to Japan in 1878 and became one of the major architects of Kogyo Iken, Japan’s ten year plan. The plan was completed in 1884 in thirty volumes. Discussing the various constituents required to make a country functional, the plan stated:
“Which requirement should be considered as most important in the present efforts of the government in building Japanese industries. It can be neither capital nor laws and regulations, because both are dead things in themselves and totally ineffective. The spirit / willingness sets both capital and regulations in motion….If we assign to these three factors with respect to their effectiveness, spirit / willingness should be assigned five parts, laws and regulations four, and capital no more than one part.”
What Japan managed to achieve through its spirit and willingness, and its emphasis on creating organizational structures appropriate to the goals and the times is now apparent. But even in the early twenties, less than forty years after the launching of its ten year plan, the impression that Japan made on visiting western inventors and engineers was that of a busy industrial giant, fast waking up to technological excellence and maturity.
The story of other nations that have in history managed to break through their periods of sloth and decay is not very different from that of Japan. It seems that in the task of national restoration it is the spirit and willingness that prove to be decisive, and not the tools and the resources. When Europe started in its civillizational quest for the dominance of the world, it was not particularly advanced in science, technology, agriculture or education etc. in comparison to other societies. But through its will-power and spirit it developed the institutions to fulfil its goals, and could consolidate the necessary resources later.
Similar spirit and determination were displayed by the Indian society in the first half of this century when under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi we harnessed all our energies to achieve our goals. When Mahatma Gandhi arrived in India in 1915, our self-image was at its lowest, and all our resources had been confiscated, resulting in widespread deprivation and helplessness. Yet by infusing the Indian society with spirit and creating the necessary organizational framework, Gandhiji made us forget our helplessness and move confidently towards the goals of swaraj and self-governance.
But after achieving independence, we somehow lost that spirit and determination, and slipped once again into the old habits of mental sloth and mechanical imitation, which we had acquired perhaps during the long years of bondage. For more than forty years now we have been making efforts to industrialize India on the Western pattern. But our determination in these efforts is so low that even today we find it easier, cheaper and faster to buy technology from the international markets than to invent it or innovate it ourselves. It is true that in the last four decades we have started producing a number of industrial goods in India. But if we could, quite some of us may perhaps prefer to replace even most of these by their international equivalents. In fact, given a reasonable chance, a high proportion of our elite would perhaps themselves prefer to migrate to industrially prosperous and functioning areas of the world.
We seem to have no real determination in the task of industrializing India on the western pattern that we have set as our goal. Much of what we do in the name of industrialization and modernization is in fact play-acting having no meaningful relation with either the problems that India faces within itself or with our situation in the world. Take for example the case of our dalliance with nuclear technology. We seem to have long ago convinced ourselves that we need to master this technology in order survive in the modern world. In our own way we have given very high importance to this task. It is perhaps to underline the importance we attach to nuclear technology that the Indian nuclear establishment has always been headed by the Prime Minister himself. But after all this what has the nuclear establishment delivered to the nation? In the energy sector, we have installed nuclear reactors with a total electricity generation capacity of about 1300 megawatts. Today, this amount of generation capacity can be obtained from a single big-sized thermal plant. In the defence sector, we can show off a single test of a small nuclear device, which hardly convinces anybody of our capabilities in nuclear warfare.
A nation may need nuclear technology either for producing electricity or for obtaining defence capabilities that act as a deterrent for others, or both. We seem to be serious about neither. If we were serious about using nuclear technology to solve the problem of scarcity of energy in the country, then we would not have talked about installing reactors that provide electricity generation capacity of a few hundred megawatts. We would have instead aimed at installing perhaps 50,000 megawatts of nuclear energy capacity within a few years. If we had kept that sort of goal in front of us and pursued it with seriousness, then we would have been forced to harness all the skills and resources available in the country, and our engineers and scientists would also have had the opportunity and the challenge to invent and to innovate to the best of their capabilities. In that case we would have also tackled the problems of nuclear pollution with some seriousness. Similarly if our goal were to build a defensive capability through nuclear technology then we would have done whatever was necessary in order to be taken as a self-confident and significant nuclear power.
But we, it seems, are not interested in the making nuclear technology deliver anything meaningful. Consequently, it does not matter whether even the few reactors we have tried to build work or not. And the question whether nuclear technology is good or bad for us can be endlessly debated. Since nuclear technology is merely a matter a matter of play-acting for us, we cannot decide either that it is good for us and we should make the best of it, or that it is bad for us and we should find other ways of meeting our energy and defence needs.
Similar lack of seriousness marks all our efforts in the use of modern technologies. Let us take another example, this time one that has become recently controversial, the Tehri dam project. This 850 feet high dam to be built deep inside the mid-Himalayas is going to make a massive intervention in the natural flows of the Ganga. There is much talk about the environmental impact of such an intervention, and there are equally weighty arguments being put forward by the supporters of the project, claming that the project is not going to cause any serious damage to the Himalayan environment. But nobody seems to ask what the Tehri dam is going to deliver. According to the plans, the project in its first phase shall produce about 3 billion units of electricity annually and provide irrigation for about 2.7 lakh hectares of land in the Ganga basin. These tiny amounts of electricity and irrigation may have been important to us in the forties when the project was conceived, or in the sixties when the detailed planning for the project was done, but today when we already produce and consume about 220 billion units of electricity and have the potential to irrigate some 700 lakh hectares of land, the electricity and irrigation generated through the Tehri dam project are irrelevant for thr country as well as for the Tehri region. It is claimed that at the second stage of the project the installed generation capacity shall be doubled. But that will not of course increase the amount of water available for power generation, and the amount of power actually generated. The project at that stage shall be used not for generating electricity but mainly for balancing the peak load and slack load demands on the grid. During the peak load hours of the day, the water from the Tehri reservoir shall be brought down to produce electricity and supply the grid, and during the off-load hours of the night power shall be drawn from the grid to pump the water back into the Tehri reservoir. It is not clear whether this new plan for the Tehri dam fits in with any overall scheme for balancing the grids a decade hence, when this component of the Tehri project is going to become operational. But for the time being, it seems that the Tehri project is being pursued neither for the power it is going to produce nor for the irrigation potential it is going to provide. Like in the case of our efforts in the nuclear technology, we are not interested in what this major intervention into the Himalayas is going to deliver for us. We seem to be pursuing the project merely for its own sake. Incidentally the interest of the local people in the project is also aroused for the money and the jobs that the process of building of the project is going to bring into the area, and not for the electricity and irrigation that the completed project may deliver.
If we were to analyse any other sector of our modern activities, we shall find similar efforts being carried on ritualistically, for their own sake, without any larger national purpose in view. While we are play-acting in this way at industrial development on the Western pattern, the resources and skills of our people at large are being continuously eroded. They are continuing somehow with their worn-out and rusted indigenous technologies. But even these technologies are coming under great pressure. The indigenous manufacture of iron and steel has of course gone completely overboard. Even the making of most agricultural implements is on a decline at the village level. The manufacture of looms, of charkhas, of dyes and chemicals, etc. has almost disappeared. Oil pressing by bullock driven ghani, making of compost manure for agriculture and even ploughing by bullock are become rare. Shoddy products of modern industry are fast taking the place of the village and small-town product and those who cannot afford even the cheaper though grosser modern industrial products, perhaps the much mourned 50% of India’s population, who are said to be below the widely debated poverty line, have slowly learnt to do without even the little that was thought necessary before. Thus while our spiritless and lackadaisical efforts at modern industrialization have not produced any significant power for the nation as a whole, they have indeed contributed to the continuing deindustrialization and deprivation at large.
What is perhaps sadder is the fact that the industrial and other skills of the people are being put to no use at all in the task of nation-building. We have attempted the creation of modern industry on the basis of talent drawn from no more than two percent of our people. These two percent largely belong to classes who had no tradition of craftsmanship or technology. The innovative skills of those of our people who professed them for millennia and till at least 1800 have on the other hand, fallen into disuse.
It seems that we have to start afresh. We have to somehow kindle the spirit and determinations that builds nations. We have to invoke the confidence that Maeda Masana felt when he saw France rebuilding itself after the Franco-German war and that Japan displayed in drawing up its ten year plans, the spirit of adventure that Europe had while starting on its project of world domination, and the dedication and the spirit of sacrifice we showed under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. From Mahatma Gandhi perhaps we shall also have to learn the importance of involving the ordinary people of India and their skills in the task of nation-building. We shall also need to give some thought to creating organizational structures that allow for the free expression of the spirit and confidence of our people, instead of blocking and stultifying all innovation and adventure.
Before any of this can take place, we need to have an overview of our situation today. In our mindless attempts at imitation and catching up with the world it sees we have had no time to understand our situation or that of the world at large. It may therefore be appropriate to start with a review of all that we have done during the last forty years. In all spheres of our activity we should evaluate what we have been trying to do, and what we have achieved. We should also try to identify and understand the basic ideas on which our activities in various spheres have been based, and investigate the situation of those ideas in the world of today. We may then find that most of the ideas and models on which we have structured our activities have long since become outdated in the European world from where we had borrowed these in the first place.
Such reviews should deal with all aspects of agriculture, irrigation, horticulture, forests (including the controversial social forestry programmes), the production of various types of energy and the uses to which such energy is put, the problem of soil erosion and its causes, and the steps that have been taken regarding it, the major causes of water scarcity in India and the increasing drought conditions, the state of our textiles, steel and other consumer goods, our processed food product industry our medical care and health services, the sanitation systems, the municipal services of our cities, towns and rural habitats, the design, aesthetics and utility of our houses and public buildings, the state and usefulness of our public transport systems, and the state of our physical and cultural enviroment. The organization and working of the law and machinery, of the judicial system from the Tehsil court to the Supreme Court, and of our defence systems have also to be reviewed similarly.
Similar reviews has to be undertaken of our relations with the world at large, of our relative indifference to people in countries with whom we have long and historically shared close civilizational and economic links, and how best we can get reoriented in our relations with other people both nearer to us, as well as distant. Blind imitation and the sort of links we have had till now, have rather separated us from the community of nations instead of taking us nearer them.
We must also apply our minds to the longer term problems of th restructuring of India, an India which would have completely come into its own within say the next twenty years. For that we have to acquire a thorough understanding of our past, whether it is reflected through myths or through historically verifiable facts relating to the sciences, technologies, and social, political and economic structures of India.
We must also acquire an adequate comprehension of other civilizations of the world from an Indian perspective. We have not only to comprehend the modern world, i.e., the world of the past 300-400 years, but even more we have to have an understanding of its sources by getting to the roots of what Plato, Aristotle, Moses, Lao Tse meant, or the assumptions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and of the more ancient civilizations and people of Africa and Americas. It is perhaps the ancient world view of the people of Africa and the Americas and of those of East and South East Asia which is more akin to our own and has an immediate relevance to the problems of the violent world created since about the time of Columbus and Vasco da Gama.
Such an effort would provide us appropriate values, theories and frameworks, and would help us structure a more lasting polity and its various appurtenances like aesthetics, sciences and technologies, production methods and new economic arrangements. This effort to understand our situation and search for the new polity shall perhaps also help in kindling the spirit and the passion that are so essential for building a nation and that we have somehow lost.
To initiate this review of the Indian situation and to help in formulating a polity that provides all Indians with the challenge and the opportunity to get onto the task of national reconstruction with an abiding passion, we propose to set up a Centre for Policy Studies.
The Centre shall have a team of scholars who shall try to form an overview of the Indian situation, and of our place in the world. Scholars associated with the Centre shall individually specialize in understanding particular aspects of Indian reality in detail, in various spheres, say in, Agriculture, Irrigation, Education, Architecture, Energy, Polity, and other areas relating to material culture. But this effort in the long run is beyond the scope of any single group of scholars. Ultimately, the effort of review and restructuring has to become a national effort. Keeping this in view, the various scholars associated with the Centre shall try to carry their understanding of the situation in their particular field to the mainstream scholars in that field and to involve them in this task of review and restructuring. The Centre may also bring out a journal so that the idea that we need to take our situation into our own hands and move ahead according to our own well thought out plans reaches at least up to those of the ordinary citizens who are concerned about the state of India.
The idea of such a Centre has emerged out of the understanding of the Indian situation acquired through the work of the PPst group over the last ten years. The following scholars are likely to be associated with the Centre in its initial stages:
1. Shri Dharampal, Former President, PPST Foundation. He has done extensive historical work on the state, society, polity and the sciences and technologies of India during the 18th and 19th century. His work has given rise to a new perception about the way the Indian society function in its indigenous ways. This work has suffused many with the faith that India is capable of ordering its affairs in a sophisticated and effective manner even in the complex reality of today. Shri Dharampal may not associate with the Centre in any formal capacity but he shall remain the guiding spirit behind this effort. He shall work on clarifying various aspects of the indigenous Indian polity and comparing and contrasting with the various aspects of the polity of other major civilizations of the world.
2. M. D. Srinivas Ph.D. (Theorrtical Physics, Rochester); Former Director, PPST Foundation; Reader, Department of Theoretical Physics, University of Madras. He has worked on understanding the various aspects of Indian mathematics and logic and how they fit in with the indigenous Indian worldview and polity. With Shri Dharmpal he has also done extensive work on understanding the Indian polity as it operated in the district of Chingleput around 1760. For the Centre, Dr. Srinivas shall specialize in assessing our activities in the fields of education, and science and technology.
3. T. M. Mukundan, M.S. (Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, Berkeley), Joint Director, PPST Foundation. He has worked on the indigenous water management techniques and indigenous process of iron and steel making. He has intimate knowledge of how the village society in South India functions today. For the Centre, Shri Mukundan shall specialize in understanding the present situation of the village society and the villagers perception of how India needs to be restructured. In this effort he shall concentrate mainly on the villages of Tamilnadu.
4. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, B. Tech (IIT Kanpur), Ph. D. (University of Maine), Professor of Electrical Engineering, IIT Madras and Executive Trustee, PPST Foundation. He has been working on problems associated with the development of indigenous capabilities in high technology ventures. For the Centre, Prof. Jhunjhunwala shall specialize in assessing our situation in high technology fields and in involving a coherent technology policy for the country.
5. V. Balaji, M.Sc. (Chemistry, IIT Kanpur), Ph. D. (Energy Systems, MCRC, Madras), Trustee, PPST Foundation. He has worked on understanding the energy situation in India today. He also specializes in the study of Japanese society, and how it coped with the western onslaught, and restructured itself. For the centre he shall work on an understanding of Japan and South East Asia and their relationship with India. He may also be requested to continue his work on the energy situation in India.
6. J. K. Bajaj, Ph.D. (Theoretical Physics, Punjab University), Founding Member, PPST Foundation and former Resident Editor, Jansatta. He has worked on the philosophy of sciences in India, especially as enshrined in Ayurveda. He has done some work on comprehending the philosophical roots of modern science and society. He has also carried out intensive reviews of the situation in various sectors of Indian economy, especially in agriculture, animal husbandry and energy. For the Centre he shall specialize on agriculture and related fields. He shall also coordinate the activities of the Centre.
Besides the above the Centre shall try to involve some scholars interested in economic theory, classical Europe, defence studies, and religious studies.
Financial and Organisational Arrangements
The Centre shall operate as a public charitable trust instituted by the PPST Foundation.
Financially, the centre shall need to support a team of full time scholars. The centre is looking for institution of specific fellowships for support of its scholars. These fellowships are expected to be committed for a period of three to five years. In addition, the Centre shall initially need tt least around Rs. 1.5 lakh a year to provide the necessary infrastructural facilities, and to cover travel and other incidental expenses for its activities.
In order to sustain the activities of the Centre on an ongoing basis the Centre plans to raise substantial corpus.
To be fully effective the centre shall also need to develop a library that collects all the available statistical information about the state of India. The centre library shall also need to collect books concerned with India and its situation of the world today. Ultimately, the centre aims at building a specialized library of books and documents concerned with the peculiarities of other civilizations of the world. For the purpose of building up the library the centre shall need additional financial resources.
We are keen to hear from all those who share our vision of a resurgent India, and who feel the urgent need for evolving an overview of the Indian situation and a plan for restructure, so that India becomes whole again in the near future. Please get in touch with us at the address below.
J. K. Bajaj, T. M. Mukundan, M. D. Srinivas, Ashok Jhunjhunwala
D-23, Bay View Apartments,
Madras-600 090, INDIA