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India! I dare you to be rich

Category Archive: My publications

A position on the concept of reservations – extract from BFN

I'm republishing this extract from BFN to support the debate I've referred to. (I've further elaborated on this issue on many occasions, but this is broadly what I still believe in):

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In its Part XVI, our Constitution has institutionalized social inequality and inequality of opportunity, despite the claims in the Preamble to the contrary. Article 15 (1) states quite clearly, ‘The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them’. And yet, the Constitution goes off to do precisely that! On the ground presumably of social justice and of the ‘justice of yesterday’, Part XVI recognizes multiple classes of citizens, namely, the scheduled castes and tribes and the rest of us – each being treated quite differently from the other through affirmative action such as by Article 335 which enables the ‘relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards of evaluation’ for such classes of citizens.
 
            The argument underlying affirmative actionis the following – that non-scheduled members of the present generation should legally relinquish their equality of opportunity in order to compensate the scheduled groups for the harm allegedly caused by the forefathers of the non-scheduled groups. This is an untenable argument. The present generation both of the scheduled and non-scheduled groups was not even born when the alleged harm took place. If the current generation of non-scheduled people have harmed ‘lower’ castes or tribes in any way, they must be punished, but individually, not collectively. This is a matter of justice, not a matter of the ‘justice of yesterday’.
 
            Ours appears to be a contract between two types of slaves. As Gandhi said, ‘A slave is a slave because he consents to slavery’.[i] One claims to have been discriminated against and hence wants compensation from people who had nothing to do with it. The other group offers to be punished for the alleged discrimination that someone else practised in the past! No one can remain free in a society where both parties violate the basic principles of accountability. This masochistic self-flagellation on the one hand, and the opportunistic beggary on the other, diminishes everyone.
 
            On a personal level, I would hate to be a member of a ‘lower caste’ or ‘tribe’ who takes advantage of a more meritorious person. It would lower me, demean me; it would reduce my sense of self-worth. Charity is anathema to able-bodied free peoples, an insult greater than no other. I would be unable to get out of a sense of deep anguish at being an able-boded person given other’s charity. Therefore I would say to such foolish ‘higher’ caste people, ‘Stop this! Stop perpetrating this mayhem of charity towards me, you slaves of injustice! Let me find my own way and own level in life through my own effort. Let me be a man. Do not treat me as a cripple’. I admire Ambedkar precisely for getting out of the stigma imposed on him by Hindus who called him a lower caste person. He joined Buddhism. Mass-scale exodus of this sort is perhaps one of the most effective ways to fix Hinduism’s flawed caste system that deeply insults virtually half its members. I would suggest an exodus to reason as an even better option.
 
            Let India become a place of respect-worthy people and not a land of cowards, each coward begging for a little ‘extra marks’ from others. If you were to call me backward I would be extremely angry. And yet today, entire groups of people seek to be labelled as backward! This is a clear sign of a great people who have lost their way. Let all men and women of India forget their social and economic past, and stand up as Indians – no less, no more. Let each person meet the great challenge of making the greatest possible contribution to society by dint of his or her determination, hard work and merit. Let the best man or woman win in every field of life in India.
 
I love the story about a young couple, Craig and Helen Elliott, who started with virtually nothing in their pockets in 1995 and have built their own farm in New Zealand which now generates 26,000 litres of milk per day. Between the two of them they milk 900 cows a day; only two of them work on the farm! And they have done this without any government assistance as well.[ii] That is the minimum standard of sheer determination that each of us must show. No more of this shameful desperation to be labelled as ‘backward’! Let us cast out all charity into the ocean! And throw the person who gives us charity far into the ocean as well. That is the only way we will grow up into humans worthy of living in a free country.
 
            Many things are deeply wrong with Part XVI of the Constitution:
  • Sociologists and anthropologists can use terms like tribes and castes, but not a government. A government only recognizes citizens. Period.
  • As already indicated, Part XVI perpetrates grave injustice by punishing people who have not, as individuals, participated in any crime.
  • By recognizing these castes and tribes in our Constitution, we have effectively frozen them forever. Our culture and society should remain free to evolve and change in any way that its people individually choose to, so long as they remain accountable for their actions. In any event, the time has come for people to move from tribal modes to a modern, individualist mode sooner rather than later.

          Affirmative action increases caste-based inequality. If the caste system would have disappeared on its own in, say, a hundred years in capitalist India, the socialist intervention of reservations will now sustain it for ever. Thus, our Constitution has made it very hard even for the best social reformers of Hinduism to do anything about the caste system now. There has never been greater awareness of one’s own caste than in today’s India. We don’t know our politicians by their views any longer, but by their caste. Perhaps even primary school children think about their caste now.

These things should be completely out of the reach of a government. A government should entirely focus on the economy, on the education of our children, on teaching them the wonders of science. The way to break the back of the invasive and insulting caste system is the following:
  • abolish reservations;
  • remove all references to any religion, tribe or caste in the Constitution;
  • review, and where possible repeal, any law in India with the words Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jain or Sikh included in it; and
  • ban the census of India from asking us silly questions about our religion or caste. Let us only be Indians. Period. That should do.

* * *

            I am not denying the deplorable practice of caste discrimination. I strongly oppose it, it being one of my reasons for choosing not to be a Hindu (I have, in addition, many other reasons for opting out of the business of religion altogether). Nevertheless, eliminating the caste system is not a matter for a government to get involved in – it is a matter purely for social and religious reformers.
 
            Similar discrimination or stereotyping has occurred in the past in every part of the world. Ending these things needs a different approach. Even as George Washington was taking on the role of American presidency after the 1776 Declaration of Independence, he owned hundreds of slaves. Thomas Jefferson, the man to whom we owe the sentiments of the Declaration, also owned over 180 slaves; even as late as in 1824. Similarly, providing equality and adult franchise to women took a very long time coming in the USA. In other words, there has been massive discrimination in the past even in today’s relatively free societies.
 
            The lesson here is that while a government can set minimum standards and punish people if they violate these standards, the task of preparing a society to accept these standards requires social reformers to spend decades, if not generations, in preaching the message of reform. Yes, governments can set in place non-discretionary outcome standards, and they should. In the case of caste discrimination, the government can do the following two things:
  • Ensure that poverty is eliminated and all children receive education of decent quality up to their twelfth year. This will involve a total revamp of the school education system, as outlined in Chapter 6.
  • Enact an Equal Opportunity Act in order ‘to enforce everyone’s right to equality of opportunity; to eliminate, as far as possible, discrimination against people by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of various attributes’.[iii] A government can definitely control people’s behaviour, even if can’t change people’s feeling. Such a law will clarify, extend and enforce Articles 15 and 16 of our Constitution. The government would then need to build a very strong capacity to enforce this law.
            But to ask a government to do anything beyond these two is not realistic or reasonable. If a government attempts social reform, it faces the following problems:
  • Governments are not credible. Their sincerity is questionable. Members of a government are not qualified to touch our hearts and to make us change. People know that politicians are on the lookout for votes.
  • The opinions of the political class or the bureaucracy merely reflect existing social opinion. They can’t become reformers, anyway.
  • Bureaucracies established to ‘reform’ the society have no interest in eliminating the social problem, for if that problem goes away then they will lose their jobs! 
The diagram below tries to distinguish the role of government from that of social reformers.
            It is therefore up to social reformers to initiate community-based action to educate and change people’s minds and hearts. When we feel really bad about the terrible things that continue to happen in Indian society, we can try to do the following few things:
  • We can begin by setting aside, in differently coloured piggy banks – labelled separately as ‘Ending the Caste System’, etc. – all the money that we would have been otherwise willing to let the government take away from us in taxes for the purpose of social reform (say 1 per cent of our income?). Presently, this money would go towards establishing mammoth ineffective bureaucracies which are focused entirely on increasing the problem.
  • Instead of then funding the government through this 1 per cent increase in our taxes, we can get together with others who believe in similar causes and form associations to promote our chosen causes. There may already be many such associations in existence that need volunteers like us. Let us network with other like-minded people and expand India’s social capital. Let us build civil society.
  • Once we are satisfied about the quality of work of these associations, let us then break open our piggy banks and fund these associations.
We will be pleasantly surprised by participating in such associations that social causes are impacted quickly, economically and very effectively. In addition, those of us who belong to a so-called ‘high caste’ should not forget to clarify to our children that we will be equally happy if they marry a person from a social category considered by un-enlightened Indians to be ‘lower’ than ours –as long as the person they choose is of good character. We can also use non-caste titles in our names. Finally, we can place the entire offending religion on notice and publicly declare that we will abandon it if it refuses to reform.
 
There is another problem brewing on the horizon. In addition to caste-based affirmative action, gender-based affirmative action is gathering momentum, namely, reservation of seats for women in elected bodies. This, once again, is primarily a matter for social reformers to deal with. There can never be any justification for a government to legislate quotas for women. Reservations for women (or any other group) in Parliament or any other elected body goes against equality of opportunity. Sweden doesn’t have any reservation of seats for women, but its political parties have a voluntary norm under which 50 per cent of their candidates are women. As a result, women constitute 45 per cent of Swedish parliamentarians. The way out for India would similarly be for political parties to take the lead and not to have the government do things which are none of its business.


[i] Fisher, Louis, op. cit., p.204.

[ii] Article entitled ‘A Rich Harvest and No Handouts’, by John Dyson, Readers Digest of January 2008.

[iii] This is a paraphrase of the objective of the Victorian Government’s Equal Opportunity Act.

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A brief discussion about Breaking Free of Nehru on FB

I'm replying to a comment I received on FB since such debates are best done in full public awareness, and may clarify things for others, as well. 

Comment received
I read your book "Breaking Free of Nehru". As your explained you wanted an aggresive title, you got it. However, I do thank you for writing and putting forth such a debate – great. Actually, some of the points that you made are good and right, and one point I think should not be mentioned about avg IQ of indians in UK, and for other points in particular on economy, more like the US – your PhD from the USC, I think needs more self education on actually how it is turning out to and what is at miss.
 
I see you just as me when I came in 74 and studied in Georgia Tech. But having lived here for 36 years I begin to see issues that are not just visible at first.
 
I find it a vaneer society where as India is good in core. While Adam Smith is right but its implemantation in the US has come to rip it at seams. So, I think while you got a good size economy injection of the US capitalist indoctirnation, which is good, and it is dominant now or at least it was at that time of your PhD, a closer look now will be helpful for debate for us.
 
Today, though the US covers itself in capitilist doctorin, is protagonist of it yet it is functioing with all capitalist priciples compromised – not because of economic compulsions but becasue of political, economic, and hegamony.
 
We can debate on it – but, I am interested in pointing out to you should be copy this economic system as we did British Parliament system, it will be a grand system to put indian society in hugh pain. Given India's current economic model is not going to be much good for India as was the yesteryear economic model did not work, we ought to debate not on capitalist priciples but on implementing those priciples. We can discuss it more and later.
 
Now, I want to shock you and compell to think, and pl do reply me. Breaking away from Nehru will not be a bad idea as it will fetch some short term good results. However, frankly I think we need and ought to break away from McCaully – that will bring us enduring results in all spheres.
 
Why I wrote this? While I agree with you that Nehru and for that matter the assemblies of that time did some absurd idea things as you pointed out, social justice, but no matter how good the constitution is, it is the SOCIETY SELF ESTEEM that will do socity good. The Self Esteem DNA will help us as we are unique civilisation on planet.
 
One more point, it is not attack on you. It is a mere personal disagreement with you on one of your choice on a fundamental level and priciple. In my view and firm conviction, I am to not only like myself but I am to love myself – it is in humility manner and not in egotistical manner. In this way, I can change myself yet still be what I am. Because, the change we make are only to a certain attributes but we cannot ever undo where we started from. For example converting to Budhasim did not change Mr Ambadekar and it only became a qualifier. All those hindus who converted to Islam or Christinity still are dalit and trying to seek benefits of OBC. What good was their rejection? Pl think and comment. Why I wrote this much? i would like you to take that line out from the book. However, i respect and admire you in and for your personal choices and dicisions.
 
I wish you well and look forward to a dialog with you.
 
Thankd and regds
V
My response
Dear V
 
Thanks for reading BFN. Much appreciated. Glad you found some agreement with the message in the book. I'd like, however, to focus here on the few issues you raised which seem to me to require a brief discussion and clarification.
 
Let me assure you, first of all, that there was NO indoctrination about capitalism during my studies in the USA! It would do my studies in philosophy and economics in India and Australia, well before going to USA, great injustice, to suggest that my US studies were somehow pivotal to my philosophy of life. If anything, the university I went to had a preponderance of Fabian socialists and Keynesians. Marx was taught, as well, with considerable sympathy. And Rawls. My worldview has been informed by a vast amount of reading and thinking about philosophy since the age of 12. My US studies did help provide rigour to some of my views, by providing me the capacity and time to study issues in detail. These studies did not, however, make my views.
 
I agree that the US system is not a functional capitalist system. But I don't recall suggesting (even remotely) in BFN that India should "adopt" the American way. 
 
Re: breaking away from Macaulay, I'm afraid I don't know what you mean. Are you suggesting that a young man who came to India for about five years 180 years ago influenced India so much that we are now his slaves? I'm afraid you must spend some time to read history, and indeed, about Macaulay. If you search this blog, you'll find considerable discussion about Macaulay. Much of it will surprise you, since there is SO MUCH disinformation on Macaulay in India today – which merely shows that Macaulay failed to educate Indians. Indians today not only COOK up imaginary things about what Macaulay presumably said, but without reading or understanding him ONE BIT, make wild generalisations. One sentence or two of his alleged writings is all it takes for them to form a view. Such "highly educated" Indians! I hope you are not one of them. I prefer scholarly discourse, not shallow perceptions.
 
Self- esteem in India? What self-esteem can a POOR, CORRUPT nation possibly have? India can't acquire any self-esteem with SUCH A MISERABLE QUALITY education system, such poor quality public life, such pathetic "leaders", such hopelessly corrupt business leaders, and such deep poverty. 
 
And no, India is by no means a "unique" civilisation. It is merely one of many typical human civilisations. It is currently struggling to come out of its feudal era, but finds it can't. That is why I write my books – to take India to its next journey.
 
Your last point – I object vehemently to your suggestion that people are somehow stuck to "where they start from".
 
Ambedkar was a great thinker, and while Hindus may still consider him to be a "scheduled caste" and look down upon him, he spat on the caste system, and did the only honorable thing he could do: He left Hinduism.
 
He was NEVER, therefore, a Hindu again.
 
The fact that his "followers" in India are so poorly educated (they don't even know what he wrote) and desperate for benefits from the reservation system is a sad story that can't be attributed to the genius that Ambedkar was. These people are mere beggars. Ambedkar was a king. And so my recommendations for social reform, found in BFN, will stay. 
 
S
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Tolerance as the kingpin of liberty

I haven't had time to continue the active debate going on here about a play being staged in Sydney, but while revising DOF a short while ago, I came across a small section that I thought would be useful for people to consider:

Tolerance as the kingpin of liberty

Let me make an observation about one of the underlying difficulties of advocating liberty. The idea of liberty doesn’t always lead us to things we are conditioned to support. Its implications often challenge our long-held beliefs. I believe, for instance, that marriage should only refer to a relationship between a man and woman. I do not support public nudity, tasteless ‘fashion’, or the increasing trend towards the use of foul language in daily discourse. Yet, I am prepared, now, to look at these issues through the lens of liberty, no matter where that might take me (that I’m raising these issues does not mean I have changed my opinion on these matters).

Such an open approach is ethical, apart from being scientific. More generally, if someone isn’t directly harming us then we must learn to tolerate such a person, even if we do not support his actions or opinions. Tolerance is the kingpin of freedom. As John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) (an East India Company bureaucrat who later became a British parliamentarian) noted, ‘If [someone] displeases us, we may express our distaste, and we may stand aloof from a person as well as from a thing that displeases us; but we shall not therefore feel called on to make his life uncomfortable.[1] This includes things that we may personally detest on so-called ‘moral’ grounds. But should anyone harm us directly we shall invoke the social contract and demand accountability.

[1] Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty, 1859, Chapter 4.

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What Would I Do If I Became India’s Prime Minister? #9 (and final)

Final Comments

The capitalism advocated in this book is not aboutunfettered freedom, but about a system of freedom with accountability. I don’t want to be told by anyone that I have been preaching unfettered, reckless freedom! Instead, this book has been clearly about self-discipline, moral responsibility, enlightened self-interest, even enlightened selfishness. There is a point where the philosophy of freedom merges seamlessly with the highest spiritual philosophies of mankind. However, ethical liberalism is a philosophy of action and does not tolerate corruption and decadence, unlike many spiritual perspectives which have no civic sense. Capitalism is a system of freedom with accountability. It is a delicate balance between competing needs.
 
I do not ask people to sit on their haunches like spiritualists do, watching their country go to the dogs even as their soul apparently achieves salvation. I do not believe that such methods will lead anyone to salvation, either. Inner peace, surely, but not salvation. There has to be a careful balance wrought between self-development and social development. The world we live in is the real test for what we stand for. Do we stand for humanity, for reason and for compassion? Or do we stand for extreme selfishness, so immersed in our soul that we lose all sense of our civic duties and responsibilities? No society will become free or remain free if its citizens are focused only on their own souls, to the neglect of vigilance over their temporal governments. Let us look after ourselves and our souls, but in doing so also discharge our duties and responsibilities as citizens. That will achieve the fine balance of enlightened selfishness, the greatest virtue of all.
 
And so stop just sitting there! Let us raise a commotion about corruption! Let us organize! I ask you to wake up. Freedom demands civil society; it demands voluntarism; it demands vigilance. This book can be summarized in the following scorecard:
Outcome for the Country and Society
Nehruvian Socialism
(Equality)
Capitalism
(Freedom, Equality of Opportunity)
Is the country a great place to raise our children?
X
Are its people independent, i.e. they do not ask the government to do everything for them?
X
Is justice delivered effectively and quickly?
X
Are the people largely ethical? Is the society a moral society?
X
Are the people secure? Is there law and order?
X
Is the government free of corruption?
X
Has poverty been banished?
X
Are many of its people deservingly rich? Is inequality encouraged and charity to able-bodied people discouraged?
X
Are religious and other discriminations severely punished?
X
Are all children well educated, at least to year 12?
X
Is the country’s infrastructure world class?
X
Is the country’s environment sustainable, and is its wildlife thriving?
X
Do citizens always seek to exceed the world’s highest standard in everything they do?
X
           
Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, recently said in an interview in the Time magazine[i] that ‘One doesn’t have to be a particularly brighthighbrow to see the obvious, that the market economy has major advantages over an administrative system’. Even though Putin’s Russia is nowhere as free as this book intends India to become, it now sees a clear advantage in moving towards freedom. The poisonous ideas of Marx have been trashed in Russia, the land which espoused them so vehemently for 70 years. But Indian socialists and communists continue to thrive in their Marxian world as never before. So if Putin’s Russia can “get it” why can’t we – are we to conclude that we do not have sufficient people even as bright as ordinary Russians?
 
I trust that you are by now one with me on the virtues of freedom, capitalism, ethical liberalism, enlightened self-interest, enlightened selfishness…whatever you call it. And yet, I am keenly aware that I have made recommendations in this book some of which you may not agree with. Indeed, I have not only received many positive comments on this book but also some objections. So I would like to discuss some of these objections here. A few general comments before I do so:
  • Some readers pointed out that many good things are already happening in India. In accepting that, I would like to remind them that such good things have been motivated entirely by the initial burst of capitalism forced onto India by the IMF. We have still no internalized full-fledged capitalism, which is primarily about justice and good governance. We should not be content with morsels of capitalism when we can but should have it fully. There are still millions of poor and illiterate people in India. The task has barely begun, and good governance is not even on the horizon.
  • Some readers said they agreed with parts of this book but not with other parts. I suggest that such an approach is not logically consistent. I see this entire book as one piece. People have only one real choice: to either agree entirely with this book, or to disagree with it completely.While this may sound like the height of arrogance, the problem is that my recommendations have been derived exclusively from the principles of freedom and the value of life. The recommendations of this book flow as a mathematical proof would, being either completely right or completely wrong. There are no grey areas in this book; people can’t pick and choose. If you do, you will end up with a logically inconsistent model.
  • The claim of impracticability doesn’t hold water at all, either. For example, it could be claimed that we simply won’t find enough high quality economists today to recruit into each State Government in India. But such an objection is a matter of detail. It may mean that we need to get there slowly, or it may mean that we need to bring back our economists who are forced to teach in Western countries today (or like me, help Western governments to even further improve their countries) instead of teaching (or working) in India. But it doesn’t change our destination. Matters of practicality can always be worked out if there is a will.
Having said that, I can understand partial disagreements (a) where it can be shown that one of my particular recommendations is erroneous because it does not derive from freedom, or (b) if a better solution than the one I have suggested can be found, being equally or more compatible with freedom. As to the first of these, there is only one Truth, so please write to me at sabhlok@yahoo.com with your better arguments and evidence. I will discuss these suggestions on the blog I have created for this book. And I promise to change my mind wherever I am conclusively shown to be wrong. The second of these disagreements is quite possible. Interplays of technology and incentives could mean that I may have missed out a better solution. I would be pleased to incorporate good solutions into potential future versions of this blueprint. Do write to me. Let us interact! Let this not be a passive book or a one-sided monologue but the beginning of a conversation leading to clarification of thought and then to action. One way would be for people to consider joining the Freedom Team and working on improved solutions together. Now to a discussion of the detailed objections I have received, in Box 5.
Box 5
Some Objections to Views Expressed in this Book
 
‘Nehru did the right thing for his time’
A reader, commenting on a draft wrote, ‘after independence, industrialists were not willing to invest in industries requiring larger gestation period’. Therefore, ‘opening our economy to the world would have led to many a devastating effect’. The implication is that Nehru was right in taking upon himself the task of baking bread, making steel and stitching shirts for us instead of ensuring justice. The real point is not whether industry did or did not want to invest. It would be presumptuous for us to judge a particular investor’s constraints. In a free market, where people put their own money on the line, each investor must decide for himself. The question is whether Nehru focused his efforts exclusively on promoting our freedoms or not. And the answer is, he did not. That is the real concern raised by this book. A government must give us freedom of choice. We can then decide if we want to invest our money or not.
 
But for argument’s sake, let us examine the investment issue. Many Asian countries had opened up their economy well before India did in 1991. Japan opened up in the late nineteenth century, South Korea in the 1960s, China in 1979. None of these countries was ‘devastated’ when they increased the levels of economic freedom. They only became rich. There is no shred of evidence to indicate that our industrialists in 1947 were a bunch of fools who wouldn’t have invested even when opportunities arose. These people had invested even under British rule and created large steel and cotton mills under harsh conditions. Reading the Tata story (Creation of Wealth by Russi M Lala) shows that we had world class industrialists who fought and worked hard to produce wealth. But Nehru never bothered to give us the rule of law, justice and infrastructure and let these people make the investment. Instead, he blocked investments through quotas and licensing. The public sector became the ‘dog in the manger’, destroying our wealth even as it prevented citizens from investing. How can we possibly blame our industry to justify Nehru’s mindless attempts to become a government businessman?
 
‘Reservations and the uniform civil code are necessary’
            A reader has indicated that reservations and the uniforml civil code must continue. However, based on the principles of freedom I am clear that there is no place in India for such things (see Chapter 3). At the same time, we must create uniform prohibitions on certain actions, minimum standards of accountability in social matters, but most important of all, equality of opportunity through elimination of poverty and provision of school education for all children. Enforcing equal opportunity and taking action against discrimination will also help. Such policies will yield a far superior outcome to the unjust and anti-freedom strategies found in our Constitution.
 
Capitalism Leads to Exploitation and Guilt
An interesting objection I received against capitalism was that people are advocating corporate social responsibility (CSR) nowadays because of all the guilt that capitalism creates in the minds of chief executives (CEOs) of large companies who draw very large salaries. Apparently such people are exploitative and feel guilty. So they need to undertake CSR programmes. Two things: first, CEOs don’t steal their salaries; they are given this money by the owners of the company (shareholders) because the CEOs provide much greater value to the shareholders. There is no exploitation involved here. It is a pure negotiation, a trade. Second, an industrialist can’t ever feel guilty if he has produced wealth the right way. He has already contributed by providing employment to thousands of people; that is the biggest ‘CSR’.
 
The modern idea of CSR is often just a clever marketing strategy, and I don’t believe that such CSR programmes contributes one bit to a country. Countries don’t become great on the basis of charity of any sort. They become great by competition and by creating wealth. Let Indian companies focus exclusively on generating profits and not distract their attention from wealth creation. Let India become a thousand times richer first. That will be the greatest CSR.
 
These Solutions Are Too Ambitious and Too Radical
According to this view, we have to be ‘realistic’ about India. Its problems are too deep-rooted to allow changes of the sort I have proposed – particularly in the short time span of five years. But the rate of change I have proposed is neither too fast nor too slow. I would like to suggest that wherever successful change has been made, it has been made fairly quickly. Change requires will power, and if momentum is not maintained, vested interests will gain strength and block the change. They will sap the will of the change leaders. The real blocker to such change is the availability of the right people to lead India to freedom. This exercise could take many years just to start. That is India’s greatest challenge for the future, not the ambition or speed of these solutions, which can always be refined.
* * *
The observant reader would have noted that there is a deeper layer or message in this book. It is about becoming seekers of the Truth; about critical thinking. Tagore’s Heaven of Freedom is, after all, a state of mind that each of us can aspire for, irrespective of whether our entire society is free. The government or a society can block our body but it can never chain our mind. To that extent we can be free irrespective of the society in which we live. A key message of this book is therefore about free thought and reason, about finding out the best way we can to live. This book seeks a cultural shift in India from blind acceptance of what our seniors or leaders tell us to asking probing questions and personally examining the facts. It is crucial for everyone to discover the truth about capitalism or socialism or whatever the ‘ism’ is, for themselves. As Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950) wrote: ‘We must begin by accepting nothing on trust from any source whatsoever, by questioning everything and forming our own conclusions’.[ii] That was also the message of Socrates and Buddha 2,500 years ago. I’m adding my squeaky voice to that hoary message.
 
And therefore the way to proceed would be to question all my assumptions and all my conclusions – if you have not already done so. It is possible that I have been entirely wrong! The free man doesn’t claim, can never claim, complete knowledge and understanding. Also knock off all the dross and exaggeration you find in this book. Knock off anything that doesn’t ring true or make sense to you. I will have achieved my purpose only if the critical thinking processbehind the conclusions drawn in this book becomes your own. It is, of course, my hope that this thinking process will lead you to the same or similar conclusions as I have come to. If, after you have turned this book upside down and smacked it hard with a stick, it still manages to survive in one piece, then we can proceed to the next, last, steps of this journey – towards a new journey that you will need to create for yourself.
* * *
Once you have crossed that point, there is no time to look backward for even one more second! It is then time to face the future; time to make the future. What has happened is history – water under the bridge. Let’s forget it. There is absolutely no point in regretting Nehru’s misjudgements. We must follow Martin Luther King, Jr.’s counsel: ‘Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness [...] We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline’.[iii] And so with sprightly steps we now turn towards the next journey.
 
We have many urgent tasks before us. We need to ponder carefully over how each of us can become, or help inspire, ‘leaders of ability, vision, and moral character’[iv] to represent the citizens of free India. That India desperately needs good political representation is not in doubt. But the problem is it won’t happen on its own. On the other hand, merely jumping into politics with brash fervour will not solve any of India’s problems, either. There has to be a systematic effort. This is my suggested outline of the systematic effort India needs now to initiate its real freedom movement:
  • Let any two believers in freedom come together with the aim of building a Freedom Team of India to an initial size of 1500 persons. I am happy to coordinate an electronic platform for this if it will help anyone.[v] Using this platform is purely optional – any platform will do.
  • The Freedom Team of India (or whatever else it is called) will then need to agree on what the new India will look like and how its members will deliver the reforms if they were to ever come to power. I’ll be pleased if Chapters 2 and 6 inform the answers to some of these questions. But of course, the blueprint would entirely be the work of the Freedom Team.
  • After that will come the question of who. Once ready, this group of 1500 should select outstanding leaders from among itself and form a new, ethics- and freedom-based political platform.
  • Its leaders and supporters should then go from village to village, explaining the proposed policies to people.
  • Finally, about 550 outstanding leaders should contest elections. With the right effort and good luck, a majority of them will hopefully get elected.
  • After that it would be a matter of disciplined implementation of the planned reforms.
  • It going to be that simple to change India!

Till now I have largely continued with the expositional tone of an Indian citizen because this book was started to support my political efforts of 2004–5 while I was still a citizen. After three failed attempts to establish a platform to reform India’s governance, I forfeited my Indian citizenship on 17 November 2005 upon acquiring Australian citizenship. I am now an overseas Indian citizen. I can therefore play only a limited role in India’s future unless India agrees to full dual citizenship in the future. However, the task I had started upon is still incomplete. Indeed, it has not even been started.

I have taken you along with me on a short journey, but the much longer journey lies ahead. The ball is in your court. You should carefully consider whether you wish to take up the personal challenge to lead India to greatness and the world to the new era of harmony, peace and freedom. If you are willing to give it a go, and keep learning on the way, then I applaud and welcome your initiative and appeal to India to join you in working for true freedom and greatness. I don’t often pray, for I don’t know if it works, but in this case I wish you Godspeed!
* * *
The final end of the State consists not in dominating over men, restraining them by fear, subjecting them to the will of others. Rather, it has for its end so to act that its citizens shall in security develop soul and body and make free use of their reason. For the true end of the State is Liberty.
Baruch Spinoza (1632–77)

[Note: This is an extract from my book, Breaking Free of Nehru]


[i] Time, 31 December 2007 – 7 January 2008, p.31.

[ii] Published posthumously, written c.1912. See [http://sabda.sriaurobindoashram.org/catalog/show.php?id=eNews506].

[iii] In his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

[iv] Fears, J Rufus, Lectures on History of Freedom, The Teaching Company. Cited at

[v] The Freedom Team of India group at [http://www.freedom.sabhlokcity.com/].

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