Dr. J. K. Bajaj

Work on Indian Society and Polity: Centre for Policy Studies (Since 1990)

From around 1986, began to take a keener interest in the larger Indian society and polity. As an assistant editor and later resident editor of Jansatta, wrote extensively on economic, sociological and technological issues facing Indian society. These included series of articles on school education, on agriculture and on economic liberalization policies, besides articles on current political and social issues.

In 1990 founded, with some of the colleagues and friends from the PPST endeavor, the Centre for Policy Studies, with the objective of comprehending and cherishing the essential civilisational genius of India not only in the matter of science and technology but also in all other fields of thought and organization, and helping in formulating a polity that would allow the Indian people and their genius to flourish and assert themselves in the present day world.

The Centre in its functioning since 1990 has evolved into a widely-regarded research institution where present problems of India are looked into from an assertively Indian perspective. To underline the commitment of the Centre to study current problems with an attitude of respect for the traditional Indian ways and genius, the Centre has sought and received the guidance and blessings of some of the highest traditional scholars of India today. The acharyasabha of the Centre includes: Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peethadhipati Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati Swamiji; Late Sri Virakta Siromani Paramahamsa Swami Sri Vamadevaji Maharaj of Vrindavan; Sri Sri Tridandi Srimannarayana Ramanuja Jeeyar Swamiji of Sitanagaram, Vijayawada; and Sri Pejavara Adhokshaja Mathadhisa Sri Vishwesha Tirtha Swamiji of Udipi. The Centre has also been recognized as a research Institution in social-sciences by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research of the union government.

The work of the Centre includes an extensive study of the social, economic and political condition and organization of Indian society prior to the re-ordering undertaken by the British administrators. The Centre has undertaken a detailed study and analysis of palm-leaf manuscript accounts, and archival information about the life and society of some two thousand localities in the Chengalpattu District of Tamilnadu in the 1760’s, just before the establishment of British administration in this area. The detailed locality level accounts, recorded in the palm-leaf manuscripts studied by us, constitute a unique source of information; such detailed accounts of Indian localities are seldom found.

This study offers a picture of a society that was not only economically and culturally affluent and technologically competent, but also a society that could accord a dignified place and role in the economy and polity to every household in every locality. The information is being processed and prepared for publication in various forms. A lay version of the available information has been presented in a series of illustrated articles in the Hindu of Chennai.

To have a glimpse of how other societies have tried to preserve and relate to their earlier organizational structures and technologies, a visit was undertaken in 1992 to Japan, on the invitation of Daito Bunka University near Tokyo. The visit offered an opportunity to travel to a number of sites in Japan, where traditional technologies in various fields, especially in iron metallurgy, had flourished and to study how the traditions and skills of these regions had been integrated into modern technological functioning. The visit also took us to some of the major centres of modern technology, like the Kobe Steel Works. Earlier, towards the end of 1991, there was an occasion to learn about the European ways of relating to their civilizational traditions during a visit to Paris to participate in the preparatory conference prior to the United Nations meeting on environment at Rio-de-Janeiro, which was followed by a visit to the Schumacher College in England.

In addition to studying the indigenous ways of organization of Indian society, the Centre has also tried to understand the essential nature of Indian consciousness, on which the Indian ways of social and economic organization must be based. Sri Dharampal sketched a preliminary outline of the Indian mind and the Indian sense of time, on the basis of the Indian pauranic literature. The work was published by the Centre. It was also translated into English and published along with a glossary of basic Indian terms in the form of a book entitled, Bharatiya Chitta Manas and Kala, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai 1993.

In early 1993, the Centre undertook a major exercise to comprehend the Ayodhya events from diverse viewpoints. Leaders of different sections of Indian opinion were asked to present their perceptions of the situation and were engaged in detailed discussions by the scholars at the Centre. These discussions along with an analysis of the current Indian polity in the perspective of the Indian conceptions of the state and society were edited and published in the form of a book entitled, Ayodhya and the Future India, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai 1993.

An understanding of the present state of Indian economy and of the ways of rejuvenating it through a proper appreciation and utilization of the resources and skills of India and her people forms the core of the mandate of the Centre. Much of the work of the Centre on understanding the pre-British Indian technologies and polity as well as on comprehending the essential features of Indian consciousness has been carried out with this objective in mind. Recently the Centre has carried out a survey of the essential aspects of Indian economy, presenting detailed data on the basic needs and resources of the country and proposed an intensive plan for the rejuvenation of Indian resources to fulfill our needs. This work, which arose out of a series of lectures presented in a workshop organized at the Centre, is published as a compilation entitled, Indian Economy and Polity, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai 1995.

The Centre has continued to take interest in the current state of Indian science and technology. A review of the current Indian science planning was published as Planning without the Spirit and the Determination, Current Science (1991). The Centre also undertook an appraisal of the so-called herbal fuel technology which the Department of Science and Technology was called upon to assess in 1996. The Centre’s earlier controlled experiments proved crucial in this assessment.

Perhaps the most significant work of the Centre has been regarding the food situation of India. The Centre compiled detailed data on availability and food consumption in India and other parts of the world; and was able to show that India has been suffering from an acute scarcity of food for almost two centuries. This data was then placed in the perspective of the classical Indian position concerning production and sharing of food. Based on an intensive study of the civilizational literature of India, consisting of the vedas, itihasas, puranas and dharmasastras, the Centre authentically established that classical India strongly articulated and faithfully followed a rigorous discipline of growing and sharing food in plenty. The Centre’s work showed how this discipline has been advocated in all civilizational texts of India, how this discipline continued to be followed in India till the end of the eighteenth century and how the discipline was systematically denigrated and largely broken during the period of British domination in India. The work was presented in a book entitled, Annam Bahu Kurvita: The Indian Discipline of Growing and Sharing Food in Plenty, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai 1996, which was published both in Hindi and English.

Before publication the work was placed before the great scholars, teachers and practitioners of Indian classical thought, including those on the acharya-sabha of the Centre. To discuss this work of the Centre and the Indian discipline of growing and sharing food in plenty, the acharyas met in an unusual conference at Sri Tirumala, organized by the Centre in collaboration with the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. In the opinion of the acharyas this work of the Centre was of seminal importance in correctly apprehending the basic attributes of classical Indian thought, and in turning the nation’s attention to the most crucial aspect of national economy and polity. The conference was in fact a historic gathering of high scholars and teachers, and it is likely to become a major reference point for the gathering debate on food and hunger in India.

Later, the Centre, in collaboration with the Observer Research Foundation at Delhi, organized a seminar at the Parliament House Annex to place the work and the call of the acharyas before the political leadership of the country. The seminar, held on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Indian independence, and attended by the high leaders of almost all political parties, helped in evolving a consensus on the need to undertake a serious national effort to substantially enhance the production and sharing of food. The need has been now widely recognized and accepted in Indian public life. The proceedings of the seminar have been edited and published in the form of a book entitled, Food for All, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai 2001.

This work of the Centre is important, not only because it has drawn attention to one of the most pressing problems of India without solving which India cannot hope to become a self-confident and dignified nation, but also because the work has presented an exemplar of how current problems of India can be studied with an attitude of respect for the Indian civilizational genius and how respect for that genius can prove to be a great resource in finding solutions to such problems.

At the beginning of 2001, the Centre compiled the essential features of Indian geography, history and civilization in the form of an exhibition, entitled, Timeless India, Resurgent India: A Celebration of the Land and People of India. The exhibition also includes sections on the material, social and technological culture of India, and on the current state of Indian economy and polity. The exhibition is designed to give on overview of the greatness of India in all its multifarious dimensions, and to infuse the viewers with an urge to participate in the effort to raise India once again to her natural greatness. The exhibition has been also rendered into Hindi, and the material has been published in the form of a book in both the English and Hindi versions.

Around 1998, the Centre began to collect material on the changes in the relative population of the Indian continent in comparison with other major civilizational regions of the world, and changes in the religious profile of people within the continent. Under the programme, we have collected census data from the beginning of the census operations in India in 1871 to 1991, the last year for which the data is available. For these more than one hundred years, we have collected, compiled and analysed data for every district of Indian Union, as also for the provinces of Pakistan and divisions of Bangladesh. The data provides a fully documented and rare insight into the changing religious profile of the Indian subcontinent.

To place this information in the perspective of corresponding changes in other parts of the world, we have also compiled data on the changes that have taken place in the religious profile in the course of the twentieth century for almost all countries of the world. This country-wise data has been further organised into different geopolitical regions and continents of the world to provide a comprehensive picture of the changing religious demography of the world.

This data and the analyses have been collated in an exhaustive volume, entitled Religious Demography of India, Centre for Policy Studies, 2003. This work has proved to be a landmark in religious demographic studies, and has made the nation aware of extraordinary changes that are taking place in the religious profile of several regions of India. A revised edition based on the census of 2001 and several other books have been published on the subject as mentioned in the list of publications.

Demographic studies remain one of the major areas of concern of the Centre. Presently, we are working on extending our work to the taluk and town levels. We are perhaps one of the few institutions that have systematically compiled data on the subject.