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.

 

MADRAS
July 18, 1990