PROGRAMMES OF THE CENTRE FOR POLICY STUDIES
The objective of the Centre for Policy Studies is to comprehend the situation of India, and of the world around us, from an Indian perspective, and to evolve policies that may help in transcending the present state of dormancy of the Indian spirit. The Centre endeavors to create a climate of mindful awareness about the state of India, and passionate resurgence of the Indian spirit, so that India may become creative and functional again, in all aspects of national life, within the near future.
How far this objective can be achieved shall depend upon the level of concern and awareness we can generate for the present state of India, and also upon the depth of faith in the capabilities and skills of the people of India, that we may be able to awaken. The programmes of the Centre therefore have to be directed at a resurgence of the spirit of India and a reassertion of faith in her destiny and that of her people.This task of national self-discovery and reassertion is of course beyond the capabilities of any single institution or group of individuals, howsoever committed they may be in their efforts.
The research programmes of the Centre therefore have to serve as the nuclei around which there may evolve a much bigger effort to understand ourselves and to take our destiny in our own hands.Keeping these objectives of the Centre in mind we plan to initiate research efforts along the following directions.
1. State of India Reports: Under this programme we shall undertake an evaluation of our national activities in the fields of agriculture, education, housing, textiles, energy, and transport etc. These are the basic sectors determining the quality of life in India today. We shall look in detail at the development of these sectors over the last forty years, and go into the ideas and the vision on the basis of which these sectors have been planned.
It seems to us that our efforts in all these sectors have followed a pattern. We seem to have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem of providing for the basic necessities of a country of the size of India, and we have started with the assumption, stated or tacit, that this task cannot be fulfilled in any dignified or meaningful sense. Therefore whether it is the question of food, or housing, or clothing, or transport, or even drinking water, we have merely been trying to ensure that the problems of scarcity in any one of these sectors do not reach crisis proportions, that the vocal sections of the society are somehow kept satisfied, and the others do not reach levels of deprivation that may lead to mass deaths.
The figures for average per capita availability of various items of food and clothing, and the statistics on basic education and housing, etc., themselves tell a story of large scale deprivation. If these statistics are to be believed, and there is no good reason not to believe them, then at least one third of the population of India must be sleeping every evening with half-filled stomachs, and most of these hungry people may not be in a position to afford a single yard of fresh cloth in a year. The proportion of population deprived of basic education, not only of formal literacy, but also of the more essential opportunities for learning traditional skills, folklore, manners and ways of a functioning community, is perhaps much more. The provisions of clean drinking water, reasonable health care, and dignified modes of transport are of course beyond the reach of even the relatively well to do sections of our society.
Our failure to provide for the basics of ordinary life stems from a strange sense of helplessness that one can see in all plan documents, beginning with the report of the Planning Committee of the All India Congress Committee set up in 1937, to plan for the development of independent India. That report seemed to indicate that the situation of India was almost irredeemable, and that we would have to learn almost everything anew, mainly from our colonial masters. Under those circumstances the thought of organizing our independent polity and society in such a way that the people of India gained access to the basic necessities of life could hardly be entertained. In a situation where we felt that we had to learn even the art of rearing goats from the West, the provision of the basic necessities of the vast mass of people of India could only have been a distant goal.
The various planning and policy documents since then have shown a similar sense of helplessness and the impossibility of planning for all of the people of India. Thus for example the reports of various commissions and committees on education while paying lip service to the goal of universal literacy nevertheless assume that it is not going to happen in India in any foreseeable future. They also assume that it is not going to be possible to re-orient education in a way that the educated retain a sense of belonging to their community. What they seem to be prescribing then are ways of making a hopeless situation a little better, and making at least a few of the educated match the style and accomplishments of their western counterparts. Similarly those planning for agriculture assume that agriculture for most of the peasants of India and on most of the cultivable lands of India is going to remain an unproductive exercise, and the best that can be done is to help some of the relatively better off areas engage in agricultural practices of the modern type.
Similar efforts to salvage the situation for some little part of India seem to mark all our planning. It is as if we are awed by the vastness and greatness of India and we want to build a small niche for ourselves, where we can experiment with our plans, provided of course that the rest of India can somehow be kept quiet. This latter problem of finding ways of keeping the large mass of Indians quiet has been another of the obsessions of Indian planners. But no great nation can possibly be built on the basis of such puniness of thinking.This sense of helplessness in the face of the vastness of India probably arises from a lack of faith in the capabilities and the skills of the people of India. We do not have any clear idea of what these ordinary people of India can accomplish. We perhaps know in a vague sense that these people of India at one time used to grow rich crops, weave excellent cloth, make high quality iron and steal, build great buildings, organize their social and political life in a complex democratic polity, and so on. But all this used to happen in some ancient past. And in any case even if the people of India retain those skills today they have all been superseded by the superior skills of modernity, and have become totally irrelevant to the national tasks on hand. We have somehow convinced ourselves that the task of rebuilding India has to be performed by a few of us who are conversant with the ways of the modern world. The rest of the Indians can have no role in it, except of course as hewers of wood and drawers of water. Seen from this perspective the tasks ahead seem indeed insurmountable.But it is not merely lack of faith in the capabilities and the skills of the ordinary people of India that makes us restrict our vision to the few and thus make even the dream of a great India an impossibility. We are also a little suspicious of the ways and manners of these ordinary people. This suspicion is probably a hangover of the colonial times. The British were of course deeply afraid of the possibility of the people of India waking up to their capabilities, and asserting themselves in the governance of India. Therefore they designed Indian polity in a way that the ordinary people had no role in it. This was also in consonance with their ideas of the relationship between society and polity, that they had learnt from the Greek theorists, the Christian and Judaistic traditions, and their own practices at home.
But the British were running an occupation government in India and their fears of the ordinary people coming into the mainstream of polity were justified by their situation as conquerors. We are continuing with the same suspicions perhaps merely out of habit and the force of dead bureaucratic routines. However, by continuing to think in terms of the needs and capabilities of the few, we are losing the opportunity of building India into a great nation with a mission and manner of her own. What is perhaps worse is that through the puniness of our vision we have indulged in programmes that have not only restricted the initiative of the people of India but are also destroying and degrading their physical and cultural environment. The type of irrigation, power and forestry projects that we have been pursuing without care for the long term health of this country, and without taking into account the peculiar geography and environment of India, are limiting our options for the future. Similarly the type of reckless cultural incursions that we are making into the life of the larger society, through the demonstration effect of the delinquent ways of the resourceful few, through our strange ideas of education, and through our electronic media, are making the possibility of the people of India coming into their own that much more difficult. The state of semi-starvation and semi-idleness that a large number of the people of India are forced to live in must also of course be taking its own toll on their capabilities and skills, and those of our future generations.
With our lack of vision of a great India and lack of hope of doing anything major in bringing India back into her own, we are essentially running a holding operation. We are merely trying to keep the business going until some great ideas and great possibilities emerge. That is the best construction one can put on our activities since independence. But through this holding operation we are also destroying the possibilities for the future. There is therefore an urgent need to become aware of this situation, to understand the nature of our activities of the last forty years, to unravel the ideas and antecedents on which these activities have been based, and to evolve a perspective on how to organize our activities in consonance with the greatness of India and the immense capabilities of her people.
One of the major programmes of the Centre is to prepare a series of status reports on some of the more important sectors of national activity, and try to prepare perspective plans for the reorganization of these sectors. We shall begin this exercise with the sectors of agriculture, irrigation, energy and education. Later we shall take up a similar exercise for the housing, transportation and health sectors. We of course have no illusion that any comprehensive perspective plan for re-orientation of policy in various sectors of national activity can be prepared by a small group of researchers. The effort of the Centre shall be mainly to clarify the issues at stake, and to define the perspective from which the present situation is to be comprehended, and the task of national reconstruction is to be approached.
This programme shall involve collection of basic statistics on the various sectors of national activity. We shall also need to go into the reports of various commissions and committees that have studied the possibilities of reorganizing these sectors. We shall also look into the history of the planning process for these sectors, and the ideas on the basis of which the plans were conceived.
This programme shall require at least three scholars at the level of fellows of the Centre. These researchers should preferably be young Ph.d.'s., who have a flair for working with statistical information and have the capability of collating and comprehending such data. They should be able to independently take up work in a chosen sector of national activity, look at the available information in that sector, and present a coherent picture of the current situation in that sector. In addition to having these technical capabilities, we shall also expect these young researchers to have a sense of respect for the capabilities and potentialities of this country and her people. Without this sense of respect for ourselves any clear headed thinking about the situation of India is hardly possible.
It shall be of help if we can also get one senior scholar to review the plan documents, especially the reports of the Planning Committee of the AICC that was set up in 1937, and to put the ideas, aims and apprehensions expressed in those documents in the perspective of the thinking of our leaders in the period immediately preceding and following the transfer of power. The apprehensions and ideas of that period seem to have determined all our actions since then, and for a re-orientation of polity to take place it is perhaps imperative to exorcise the spirits of that gloomy period, when we had little confidence in our capabilities of building India through our own efforts, and according to our own ideas.
To effectively implement this part of the programme we shall need to build a library that stocks at least some of the major publications dealing with international, national and regional statistics. As far as possible, we should also try to obtain reprints of the reports of the major commissions and committees that have gone into the questions concerning the planning of various sectors of Indian economy since independence, and also before it.Dr. J. K. Bajaj, Director of the Centre, shall be in charge of this part of the programmes of the Centre.
2. Review of the Institutional Structures of India: Any re-orientation of India shall require a restructuring of the political, economic, judicial, and administrative structures of the country. These structures were built by the British for the specific purpose of minimizing the initiative of the people of India and their communities in the public life of India. These structures therefore cannot be the instrument of a polity that values the initiative of the people, and relies upon their capabilities and skills for national reconstruction.
The Centre plans to study these institutional structures from two distinct perspectives. On the one hand, we shall look at the historical evolution of these structures in India, and the ideas and aims of the original builders of these institutions. On the other hand, we shall look at the actual functioning of these institutions at the ground level, and try to evaluate their role in the functioning of the Indian society of today.The Centre is fortunate in having access to the papers of Sri Dharampal. These papers relating to the establishment and consolidation of the British rule in India from around the middle of the eighteenth century contain documentary details of the evolution of the British institutional structures in India. The papers also offer a glimpse of the personalities and motivations of the British officers who created these structures, and give some idea of the revulsion with which the Indian society reacted when these structures were first imposed upon it. These papers are an invaluable source for understanding the essential nature of British inspired institutional structures with which we are operating the polity of independent India even today.
We plan to comprehend, collate and present the information contained in Dharampal papers. To begin with we shall need to appoint one research fellow, preferably a Ph.d. in history, to read through and catalogue these papers. In the process of cataloguing and collating these papers we should also be able to present the basic ideas that informed the building of the institutional structures for India. Publishing this information in the form of occasional papers shall be a continuing activity of the Centre.
Dr. M. D. Srinivas, Chairman of the Centre, shall direct this part of the programmes of the Centre.It should however be emphasized that, like in all other fields, the work of the Centre in this direction can also be only indicative of the effort that needs to be undertaken at a much larger level. We have to thoroughly re-evaluate our understanding of the British rule in India, and of the institutional structures created during that rule. At the least we have to replace our touching faith in the efficacy of these structures with a healthy skepticism, and begin looking upon these structures as merely one of the possible ways of organizing society and polity. Appreciating and understanding the variety of institutional structures created by other societies, even those of the modern West, shall help in generating such skepticism. It shall be the effort of the Centre to open up debate and discussion on the diverse possibilities available for organizing our national institutions.
At a different level, we plan to understand the functioning of these institutional structures within the ground reality of India. What sort of justice are the elaborate judicial structures of India delivering to the people of India? What is the level of law and order services provided by the police and administrative set-up? What functions are being performed by our megalithic bureaucracies at various levels? How efficient are our defense organizations in providing for the defense needs of the country? What is the state of our welfare organizations, like the health delivery systems, the food distribution efforts, water and sanitation organizations, and other municipal services? To some extent our newspapers are acting as watchdogs on the functioning of these services and organizations. And lapses in their functioning are extensively reported in the media, especially at the local level. We of course have no intention of duplicating the task that the print media is performing. But we shall like to look at the functioning of these structures not to point out individual lapses, but to discover systemic weaknesses. In spite of the great deal of information about the malfunctioning of our administrative and policing structures that keeps appearing in the newspapers, there is very little that we seem to have done towards their restructuring. In fact we have stuck to the British created organizations with such tenacity that even the district police manuals have not been rewritten since the regaining of independence. Our effort shall be to show the inefficiency, inadequacy, and sheer callousness of this approach to governance.
For this part of the programmes of the Centre we intend to rely more on our associates and colleagues in the mainstream than on the regular fellows of the Centre. We shall begin by commissioning studies on the functioning of judicial, administrative and welfare delivery systems in specific areas. We hope that we can persuade practicing lawyers, medical doctors and administrators, etc., to undertake explorations into the working of these organization in the areas they are involved in.
The Centre should however try to have in its library various Indian journals concerned with public administration in India. To the extent possible, we should also acquire copies of the reports of the various administrative, judicial and police reform commissions.
3. Reviews of Indian Industrialization: In the modern world India cannot possibly come into its own without coming to terms with the current worldwide thrust at industrialization. The importance of this aspect has been more than adequately understood by the Indian planners. But like in everything else in this sphere also they seem to have been convinced that India is incapable of industrializing in any real sense. It is true that over the last forty years, we have started manufacturing a number of materials and implements within the country, and to an extent the industrial base of the country provides us today with a certain amount of strength in dealing with the world around us. But our effort has not been commensurate with the expanse and capacities of this country, and this effort has definitely not been designed to either build India into a great industrial giant, or to expeditiously fulfill the ordinary needs of the Indian people. The industrialization of the last forty years has remained a mere surface phenomenon. While we have endeavored to produce a little of this and a little of that in pathetic mimicry of what is happening in the world, the large mass of the people have remained untouched by our drive to industrialize India. In fact the people of India have been getting progressively de-industrialized. Their industrial and technical skills have been getting rusted for lack of use, and whatever little access they continue to have to manufactured products of their own industry is getting further restricted with the indigenous industries coming under more and more stress.
Besides the sheer smallness of its size and capacities, the other major problem of Indian industrialization is its dependence on the world outside for repeated inputs of designs and technologies. There is of course nothing wrong in borrowing from others, provided that what is borrowed is internalized and is moulded according to the needs and preferences of the borrower. In the Indian industrial scene no such internalization of imported technologies is taking place. In almost all sectors every fresh thrust seems to require fresh imports of technologies and know-how. We seem to be constantly following others, in a sort of perpetual apprenticeship to the world. A great nation can hardly be built thus, by hanging on to the coat-tails of others.Our failure to innovate and follow our own trail in the industrial sector, probably stems from the prevalent understanding that India is basically an agricultural country, and industrial culture and industrial technologies do not come naturally to the people of India. And therefore we have no option but to keep learning from the technologically advanced people of the world. This of course is a misrepresentation of the facts of history. When the British came here India was probably more industrial than agricultural. In many areas of technology Indian capabilities were comparable to the best in the world of that time. It is only through the rapacity of of the colonizers that India started losing its industrial character.For India to become an industrial power again it shall be necessary to recall the industrial and technological character of pre-British India, and to invoke again the famed technical skills of the people of India. We have to re-industrialize India, so that industry and manufacture do not remain alien esoteric activities that we carry out in a few selected locations by learning from others, but become the routine of ordinary Indian life. Every locality of India must start humming with varied activities as it used to in pre-British times. Only that level of activity shall provide appropriate opportunities for the blooming of the innovative genius of India, and make India a self-confident industrial giant again.
The challenge before us is to find ways of bringing the technologically sensitive people of India, those who have followed the technological and industrial professions for generations, back into the mainstream of industry. They have to be involved not only in the so-called cottage industries, but also in the large scale high technology ventures of the nation. The technical skills required remain essentially the same,whether the manufacture takes place at a small scale in an artisan's shed, or at a large scale in a modern factory. And therefore those Indian artisans who used to smelt high quality iron and make the best steels in the world in their tiny furnaces are also probably the ones who can best run and understand the modern steel furnaces, and innovate and improve upon them.
In our efforts to revive the industrial culture of India and to involve the industrially inclined people of India in the current industrial activities, we can perhaps learn from the efforts of other countries. It can be instructive to look at how modern industry was built in Europe and the Americas, and how Japan, Korea, and China, etc., went about domesticating modern industry. None of these can serve as the model for us. But understanding their experiences can help us in evolving our own model of industrial revival.
The Centre shall endeavor to start a debate on the question of industrial revival of India. The Centre shall especially try to project the view that industrialization of India in any real sense is impossible without involving the artisans of India, and without generating opportunities for the opening up of all sorts of industrial and manufacturing activities at all levels and all scales. The Centre shall also endeavor to project the view that in the matter of industry it is not enough to follow the world or to try to catch up with it. If we are to emerge as a powerful nation we have to be ahead of the world, at least in some specific areas of our own. And this can be achieved only by relying on the skills and capabilities of our own people, and by having the courage to do our own thing in our own way.
It shall be best if the Centre can find a senior scholar to devote his time to the question of re-industrialization of India. The Centre shall in any case try to commission studies on the experiences of other countries with modern industry. The Centre also plans to put together a team of working engineers, technologists, and scientists to review our experience with high technology ventures, and to point out the areas of our strength and weakness, on the basis of which a plan for concerted effort in specific areas of technology may be drawn up.
4. Documentation of Indian Revival: In spite of all the difficulties put in her way by the left-overs of the colonial organizational structures and persistence of elitist ways of thinking, the ordinary India is waking up in various ways. The coming of the political independence after a long period of defeat and servility has allowed the ordinary Indians some room for self-assertion. And they are expressing their ingenuity and creativity in a myriad of activities.
The technical ingenuity of the ordinary Indians can be seen to be blossoming all around us. They seem to be all the time moulding and adapting the newer and newer technologies that we are introducing into the Indian scene. They are trying to domesticate these alien technologies, to the extent these technologies happen to be domesticable. In fact it is the technical ingenuity of the Indian peasant that has made the ruinous technologies of modern agriculture succeed to some extent. This they have achieved by varying the specifications decreed by the agricultural universities according to the needs of their environment and according to their economic judgements about the marginal returns of various inputs. If they had not made these adaptations and judgements and had followed the suggestions of the agricultural scientists to the letter, then most of them would have been economically bankrupt and most of the relatively fertile lands of India would have been completely ruined by now. As a matter of fact the home farms of many of the agricultural universities, run strictly according to the scientific principles of agriculture, are in an advanced state of ruin, and all calculations indicate that agriculture practised according to their recommendations cannot be economically viable. The peasants of India have survived these recommendations and technologies by their sheer technical and economic ingenuity.
As in agriculture, so in automation, the ordinary Indians are showing their enormous technical skills. Most of the machinery for agricultural purposes, except the tractor, is in fact designed, fabricated and manufactured by the local artisans. Similar machines designed and manufactured in the modern sector would have been simply too expensive to be of any use to the peasants of India. But the mechanical and other skills of the ordinary people of India are not confined to the agricultural sector alone. In the transportation sector our outmoded machines have been maintained and kept on the roads only by the mechanical ingenuity of the uneducated and untrained Indian artisans. Even the newer breed of transportation vehicles that we have imported from Japan and other assorted countries of the world are being maintained by these ingenious indigenous technicians.In fact the enterprise of technological modernization of India is being kept going largely by the adaptive, mechanical and technical skills of ordinary Indians. And through participation in this enterprise their skills are finding a new revival. However, since we do not recognize them to be partners in the technological enterprise of modern India, this revival is very limited in nature. The ordinary Indians are carrying out all their innovations and adaptations almost on the sly, against the judgements, as it were, of the engineers and scientists of India. Since we do not regard these innovations and adaptations to be authentic technological efforts we have not even cared to document and encourage this ingenuity. Our universities and various institutes of technology are too busy in keeping abreast with the developments outside India to care to find out what Indians in India are doing. And our newspapers are too enmeshed in the goings-on in the centres of power to have time or resources to record the efforts of the ordinary people of India. But if India is to go through a genuine technological revival it cannot afford to ignore these expressions of the ingenuity and skills of her people. We shall have to learn to record, recognize and celebrate each one of the innovations made by the ordinary Indians to make any headway in the direction of a technological and industrial revival of India.
The revival of India is perhaps as marked in the political sphere as in the sphere of technology. The people of India have ingeniously utilized the opening provided to them by the fact of political independence to assert themselves in various ways, and the power structure in India has undergone a sea change over the last forty years. The so-called backward castes have come to the fore almost everywhere, and even those who were classified as the lowest of the low during British times are bestirring themselves to try to find their rightful place in the Indian society. What has happened in India in these four decade of independent political functioning is perhaps the most thoroughgoing bloodless revolution that may have ever taken place anywhere in the world. It is another matter that the stultifying institutional structures with which we have tied ourselves have not allowed this political revolution to blossom into a social and economic revival. However it is important to study and celebrate this political revival of India, and the places to look for signs of this revival are not the so-called corridors of power in the capital towns of India, but the villages and small towns where new power equations are taking shape with such rapidity.
The Centre cannot possibly have the resources to study and document this technological and political revival of ordinary India that is taking place across the length and breadth of this vast country. The Centre shall however endeavor to create a climate such that this revival is taken seriously. We shall try to look at the revival of ordinary life in the villages and towns of Tamil Nadu, and especially in the region around Madras, the Thondaimandalam. The Centre already has access to detailed data on how life in this area was organized about two hundred years ago, on the eve of the British conquest. These data provide us with a benchmark with which to compare the situation of these villages today. The data also provide us some insight into the preferences and manners, and organizational and technological skills, of a functioning indigenous society. From that perspective it may be easier to understand the direction that the revival of ordinary life in India is likely to take.Sri T. M. Mukundan shall be in charge of this part of the programmes of the Centre.
5. Understanding the Religious Revival of India: Religious revival is one of the important channels through which the people of India are trying to come to grips with reality, to take the situation into their own hands, and to assert themselves. Everywhere in India one sees a great resurgence of the mandirs, gurudwaras, and also masjids. New places of worship are being built, the old ones are being renovated, and all of them are being frequented much more than what was the case even a couple of decades ago. It is as if the people of India having found freedom after a long time have reverted to religion to understand who they are and what their role in the world is. One of the consequences of this religious revival is that the people of India are expressing their religious, and also regional, identities much more strongly. And since we have not yet learnt how to translate into modern day practice the timeless conception of India as a unified cultural and geographic entity that encompasses diverse localities, communities and sects and brings them all together under an overarching Indianness, the revival of religious identities often takes the form of separatist and fissiparous tendencies. But India can hardly come into her own without the various localities and communities of India regaining their identity, and without the religious traditions of India reasserting themselves in the public domain.It is therefore important for us to understand the role of religion in authentic Indian life, and to undo the mischievous interpretations of religion in India and of its various expressions in the diverse Indian sects, that abound in our modern literature and scholarship on religion. But more than that it is perhaps important to understand the functions that the religious institutions are performing in the life of indigenous communities.
The Centre shall undertake a programme for the study of the state of the religious institutions in the country. Through this programme we shall try to understand the processes that led to the severing of seats of high religion from the community around them, and vesting of their control in the state. These processes provide an insight into the fear and skepticism that those who have been responsible for framing the polity of modern India have had about the participation of the people of India in any sort of public activity. We shall also study how the state controlled institutions are faring in the matters of maintenance, upkeep and activity as compared to the institutions over which the local communities have managed to keep their control. It shall also be of interest to see how the level of participation of the people in the religious institutions around them has been changing over time, to comprehend the role they expect these institutions to perform today, and to understand how these expectations compare with the role religious institutions used to perform in the functioning indigenous communities. From this perspective we shall also study the relative status of the seats of high religion, and the more intimate locality based institutions.
We shall need to appoint a senior fellow to undertake this part of the programmes of the Centre. In order to successfully carry out this project we shall need someone who, in addition to having capabilities of sociological and historical research, has some respect for the religious institutions of the country, and can hopefully establish a rapport with those who manage and visit these institutions.
6. Understanding Indianness: For India to come into her own and present an Indian model of living to the world, it shall be essential for us to define the essential Indianness of India, to reassert what it means to be an Indian, as distinct from being an European, or a Chinese, or an Arab. For over a century or so we have been carried away by the European rhetoric that all humanity is one and there is no essential difference between one people and the other, except that they happen to be at different stages of human development. Starting from this position there is nothing for us to do but to try and catch up with the European world. And that in itself is a hopeless enterprise.
Though in a certain sense it is true that all human beings are the same, yet different civilizations of the world have had quite different aspirations and seekings. According to those seekings, the varied people of the world have defined their special relationships with nature and with God, and have evolved their peculiar ways of organizing society and polity. In these aspects the people of the world have been so different from each other that it is perhaps appropriate to insist that they are not the same human beings at all. In any case they have been trying to work out entirely different expressions of the human state, and each one of those expressions is legitimate and valuable in itself, each has something to teach to the other without
annihilating the identity of the other, or losing its own.If there is to be an Indian revival then we have to understand and learn to value the peculiarly Indian expressions of the human state. We have to restate the relationship that India defines between man and God, between man and nature, and between man and man. We have to understand how these defining characteristics of man in India are reflected in the type of sciences and technologies he prefers to evolve, and the type of political, social and economic organizations he likes to operate with. We have to understand how in all these aspects the man in India differs from say the man in Christianity, or in Judaism, or in Islam, etc. And finally we have to learn how to once again express ourselves in our peculiar Indianness within the world of today.
To re-discover the essential nature of man in India we shall probably have to look into our epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana and seriously study what they are trying to say about the human state. We shall also have to look into our technological and scientific traditions and see how they tried to relate with nature. Most importantly perhaps we shall have to try and discover how the functioning indigenous communities actually organized their affairs when they operated according to their own preferences and ways.
While studying these varied sources we may discover that there is no single expression of humanity that one finds in them, and that the type of human aspirations and seekings that the Mahabharata, for example, is talking about are seemingly quite different from the aspirations and seekings of the indigenous communities of say the eighteenth century Chengalpattu about whom we happen to know in fair detail. We may even discover that some of the expressions of the human state that are described in the Mahabharata or the Ramayana are perhaps no different from those described by say the Greek Plato, and practised by the modern West. Yet there has to be a peculiarly Indian strain that runs through the varied expressions of India. There must be a peculiarly Indian message that at one time made India so attractive to the world that almost all of the Eastern world came under the sway of her thought and culture. More recently, Mahatma Gandhi, and along with him the majority of India, thought and believed that India must come into her own in order to offer to the world a more humane and a more sensible model of living. And for sometime the world too started believing that India may teach it how to live differently. We should perhaps study these phases of Indian resurgence to understand and capture the essence of being Indian.
The Centre of course cannot possibly undertake on its own this task of re-discovering the spiritual moorings of India. The best we can hope is to start a debate on these questions. We however propose to produce a statement on the essential nature of the sciences of India based upon our understanding of the traditional Indian enterprises of Ayurveda, Astronomy and Grammar. We also hope to present a picture of the Indian modes of social and political organization through our study and analysis of the information on eighteenth century Chengalpattu society that has already been collected under the leadership of Sri Dharampal. The Centre also proposes to request Sri Dharampal to work on preparing a statement on the varied expressions of humanity that different people of the world have epitomized. We hope that through these different statements the Centre shall be able to initiate an active debate on the essential identity of India.
July 18, 1990