Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Guest Posts

The Indian Mindset Prefers Inaction to Action

Kishore Asthana writes very thoughtfully. This email of his which I'm converting into a guest post (I've done so in the past with his permission so I assume he won't mind if I continue the practice), presents the problem of India very elegantly. I don't agree with everything he is suggesting (e.g. the view he has about 'hoarders' – for the solution to such things is different), but I agree with the overall thrust. I've seen the great difficulty in finding even 1500 leaders out of a population of 1,155,347,678 people. Barely 100 leaders so far. And that too mostly very feeble in their efforts.

This, unfortunately, is the India I was born into. A nation the honour and wealth of which was looted for thousands of years by foreigners. And now, being looted by its own people. And yet there is silence. Indeed, there is support for the corrupt. I am flabbergasted by the "hope" otherwise good people have of gang-leaders like Rahul Gandhi.

But I won't go on. Listen to Kishore Asthana. And if you are persuaded to DO something, then join FTI. One day I'm going to have to stop. This miserable response to my call for action (and of many others) is simply not acceptable. This can't go on. Either you rise to lead India, my friend, or I too shall join you in inaction and apathy. Let's all let the world (and our domestic thugs) trample us to dust, together. Shamelessly.

The Indian Mindset Prefers Inaction to Action

by Kishore Asthana

I grew up when the independence movement was still fresh in the minds of Indians. Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence and his non-cooperation movements were lauded all around. Indeed, they were major achievements, or so we thought.

Since then I have had the time to think about these in more depth. I have a feeling that Mahatma Gandhi’s movements were successful because these were were an exact fit for the Indian mindset. As, also for the British mindset.

To get the British out of the way first. I do not think such movements would have succeeded against German, Spanish or Portuguese colonizers. The Mahatma may have prematurely become a martyr, of course, since these colonizers were experts at removing such people without any moral scruples. Fortunately, by that time, the British had become more benign in this regard.

Now to the Indian mindset. I suspect that Indians supported non-violence because, despite the urging Bhagwad Gita, we tend to prefer in-action to action. Look at our history where we have lost countless opportunities just because we could not make up our mind to act courageously. Even at present, we are reluctant to take action against the corrupt. All this show of doing so at present is only because the Congress party fears a backlash. Left to themselves, they would have preferred to have continued with their inaction of the last few years. The venal, too are safe against resolute action as we see in the case of Afzal Guru and Kasab and, earlier, we saw in the case of the Kandahar hijacking and Mehbooba Mufti’s kidnapping and release.

Our incompetent are safe too. Very few face action for being incompetent in India even when children die in manholes callously left open. Our non-violence and incapacity to take action works in favor of the traitorous, too, as we see in the case of Indians with black money stashed away in Swiss bank accounts which we are reluctant to pursue. The greedy are left undisturbed by us. Even with food inflation at 18%, we do not act against the hoarders. There are so many other examples.

Our preference for official inaction has resulted in the country being virtually run by the Supreme Court on the behest of activists who file PILs. Without a court order, it appears even simple things like winter shelters for the home-less do not get built. Perhaps if someone was to get a judgment from the Supreme Court that provision of toilets should be mandatory in our villages, the government would be forced to take action. This would save hundreds of women who are raped when they venture out into the fields for their toilet every day. However, till forced to do so, the government would prefer not to take any action on this or on so many other such issues. It is indeed very revealing of our mind-set.

Other countries laugh at us. Dubai, which would blow away if India were to sneeze in its direction, harbors our criminals with impunity, knowing that we will take no action against it.

Yes, one can point out to the violence prevailing in our society. Indeed we have too much of it  – violence against women, violence against the Dalits, violence against each other’s political parties, violence perpetrated by Naxalites and so on. However, these are all examples of the violence of the strong against the weak, where the threat of retaliation is minimal. Yes, even the Naxals are being violent against a weak state. These are not examples of violence – to coin a word, these represent vile-ence. As does the senseless inter-religious violence we see off and on.

I do not advocate violence. Most of the time it is pointless. Often, as we see above, it is vile-ence. However, sometimes violence may be justified. Violence against the hoarders, the corrupt, the venal, the traitorous, the greedy is essential if hoarding, corruption, venality etc. have to be eradicated. I do not mean physical violence by individuals. I mean well-directed, legally sanctioned violence in thought and action by the state. I mean effective action which would curb such practices.

Non-cooperation, again, is an idea whose time is past. We have all seen the effects of non-cooperation in our parliament. Non-cooperation by our unions has hampered industrial development, reducing some states to pitiable conditions. This again is an example of the victory of our preference for inaction over action.

Our vaunted ‘toleration’ is, also, to a large extent, an example of our love for inaction. Chalta hai, is an easy way of saying, “I cannot be bothered to do anything about it.” It appears that we view action as a slope and, instead of climbing it, we generally prefer to roll down to the lowest point.

Indeed, we Indians are very prone to inaction. As a nation, we are also prone to being prone. That is why the world walks over us. And, it will continue doing so till we change our mind-set and rise, head held high and say, we are willing to act.

Continue Reading

The Swatantra Party – Victory in Defeat: a review

This is a guest post by Vishal Singh, an FTI member. Here's a short note he wrote in  Towards a Great India magazine of 15 September 2009, pointing out some of the lessons to be learnt from the failure of Swatantra party.

==BY VISHAL SINGH==

I recently read the book ‘The Swatantra Party – Victory in Defeat’, by H. R. Pasricha. I write this article from the point of view of what lessons can be drawn from success and failure of Swatantra party. I will focus more on the failures, as that has more value to the current and future liberal parties.

.

 

Swatantra party believed in the principles of liberalism. It had many great leaders like Rajagopalachari, Minoo Masani but still the party is no more today.  What made a party which stood for individual liberalism die down? After reading the book I can think of the reasons of the downfall of Swatantra Party. I need to add that my understanding about Swatantra party is limited and I may be well wrong in my analysis.

• Ideology Acceptance – Swatantra party's core ideas were based on liberalism, which reflected in the 21 principles of the party. It is a question whether the ground workers really understood and believed in liberal ideology. It attracted the Rajas who were feeling threatened by Congress socialism. Many joined because they were threatened by the politics of the day. 

As opposition to Congress party was the main focus, Swatantra party joined hands with right wing forces. The key point for the Swatantra party became opposition to congress and the ideology probably took a back seat. For every organization the binding force should come from within rather than opposition of another organization.

• Leadership Pipeline – There were outstanding leaders in Swatantra party but it can be questioned whether Swatantra party had the infrastructure to produce more leaders as time went by. There have been instances cited in the book where people changed their views when it was learnt that Rajagopalachari – the tallest Swatantra party leader did not support it. Leaders need to stick their neck out even when they face opposition.
 
The challenges which Swatantra party faced will always be there for any liberal party. How does one convey the message of liberalism? The masses think of Capitalism (punjivad) as exploitation. The majority of middle class is not interested in the politics of the day. Socialistic policies of the last 60 years have pushed many people into poverty. The poor masses are now being trapped in the NREGA and welfare schemes. Sarkar is indeed mai baap for the poor today. There is a challenge today in conveying the message of less government and of individual responsibility. I do not have answers to these challenges but I think that one needs to slowly and steadily build a liberal organization. There will be a time in near future when liberalism will be accepted by masses.
Continue Reading

Religion to be severed from Politics

And now for a guest post by Ujjwal Banerjee, a member of the Freedom Team of India. Ujjwal was a finalist in the 2007 ‘Lead India’ contest and works in the Akanksha Foundation. This write-up by Ujjwal was published in Towards a Great India, January 2009.

FTI has produced a policy on religious freedom, which is worth examining if you haven't seen it yet.

As usual, I invite readers of this blog to consider leading India to freedom. Join FTI.

THE WRITE-UP BY UJJWAL

History feeds the present and the present feeds the future. Unless we consciously try to understand the present in the light of the past and do it without any bias, we may not be able to get a true picture of where we need to correct ourselves.

Considering the fact that the country is as much familiar to riots in the name of religion as much as kids are familiar with the game of cricket, its a matter of serious thought to understand what keeps our society in a perpetual state of war within. These riots are simply external manifestations of deep rooted hatred that lurks in the minds of people. And each riot gives birth to lakhs of minds which decide to take this negative spirit ahead probably in a different context may be in a different time frame. But it surely emerges. 

Riots have happened. Media has covered them enthusiastically with exuberant histrionics and at the end of it all the guilty go scot free. Politicians continue their games. Citizens continue to live with their religious frenzy.

This entire situation throws open two important questions. One, effect of combining religion with politics and second which also is related to the first, the role played by citizens in general in perpetuating this state of affairs.

The communal division in the name of religion has always been soft soil for political groups. As much as it is easy to gain mileage out of this display of a party’s inclination towards a certain religious group, it’s a dirty game which has benefited none.  

One, it draws the attention of people away from things which actually should matter to them in terms of good governance and good services and  second, it keeps the nation divided.

The other important aspect is the role played by citizens as they use discriminatory attitudes in their interactions in the society. Some of the simple examples like hesitating to rent a space to a person from the minority community, discrimination in enrolment of students, looking at a job seeker with skepticism etc lead to a state where an individual feels victimized and to him the State appears to be conspiring to make him stay in that position of powerlessness.

This kind of attitude leads to marginalization and extreme hatred which gets manifested in different forms. At times such frustrated people might become the most eligible candidates for the extremely dangerous religious teachers or else terrorist groups which are hatching the plan of the next attack in the name of religion.

There are no easy answers to changing from this state where we are in today. 

As a society, we should be extremely cautious about the way we understand the differences of birth and how they define our attitudes towards other people. The only understanding which can really help a phenomenally segregated society such as ours is to accept religion as a means to human and societal betterment through pursuit of righteousness.

If we go by that understanding, the politicians would be compelled to explain their policies on core issues of development and we as a society would measure them on the number of children they are able to educate, the jobs they create, the number of hours of electricity they are able to provide etc. Whether they provide party tickets to yoga experts or attend Iftaar parties wearing skull caps, will not be of anyone’s concern.

Continue Reading

Power of Action

Here's a guest post by Kamal Sharma, member of the Freedom Team. Kamal  has a doctorate from IIM Ahmedabad and has held senior executive positions in the private sector in the past. He wrote this article for the Towards a Great India magazine on 17 January 2009.

== POWER OF ACTION ==

I remember a friend of mine from a Rajasthan village who always used to rue that our village did not have a telephone, electricity or roads as against the world around us that is changing so fast … a very natural reflection if there is a real felt need and a feeling that a positive change is possible. And it is almost always true that such discussion ends at somebody among the government, ministers, local politician, local panchayat being held responsible.  In this game of failure responsibility assignment lies the subconscious belief that politics is the way to bring about change because when it comes to the power to influence policy change or getting things done, the political executive can hit the hardest.   

In those same friendly discussions, what I today remember the most was the unusual silence of a friend despite he being an extrovert and a successful small business owner.  One day, on much goading, he poured out something which still lingers in my memory… he said, “if I cant do anything about it, what is the use of even a mention, I have no locus standi on commenting on why certain things are done or not done in a certain way unless I can do something to change or influence it myself."  The “change” he was referring to was ground-level-actions with a positive difference and the “influence” he was talking about was the “political- policy- influence” side of it.  A few years back, our village managed to have telephones, roads and electricity and I am told that this businessman friend of mine was one of the most active member of our village community that put in efforts running from pillar to post in the administrative corridors to get these facilities/ infrastructures approved. 

Almost 15 years thence, this reflection remains an eternal truth.  There is one set of people who believe in voicing opinion, in most cases, more vocal than action-oriented and there is always this second set of people who may not be much heard about but to whom action always carries more meaning than words.  Not that the arm chair thinkers of the first kind are not important in the way they articulate and show the way but there are more illustrious and exemplary people in history of the second kind who brought about a larger iconic and long lasting social change viz. Swami Vivekanand, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, M.K.Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Bose, Mother Teresa.   

Down to the current times where direct positive political action is a bigger need, take for instance Arun Bhatia… while millions amongst us may deride today’s politics and politician and not tread this much maligned path, Mr. Bhatia saw the brighter side of it that the bottomline still is politics where not only you can voice but put direct actions into it.  So bravely he chose the much less charted territory, direct politics.  What he believes in is that if he shows the way by DOING it, many would join who are just waiting for a positive & honest leader or an organized effort/platform. 

“Action” has more powers of explanation, creation, solution than words.  Take Swami Agnivesh, take Medha Patkar or the most recent Lead India campaign in which the little boy leading efforts than be a mere spectator… all of them believe in action, to bring about a difference in whatever way they can in the fields of social change, environment or just a strong display of what is citizen’s responsibility.  A positive social action can be done in any sphere, a businessman by filing returns and taxes regularly, a corporate in showing transparency and a being a socially responsible corporate… to a common person respecting the rights and duties of other citizens.

To bring about a positive political change in this great democratic India is definitely a big dream.  To dream big… is human but to turn it into reality and action, more often than not, requires a superhuman effort which only collective human action can provide.  The bottomline thus is the need of a multitude of like-minded people sharing a dream and leading by examples.

There is a bit of leadership in every person, he or she just needs to discover it, think positive and guide it to positive action.  To leaders politics should come naturally. It is not dirty as it looks to be, the politicians may be and the only way out to is to get into direct and positive political action. If you harbour this dream, we at Freedom Team of India (http://www.freedomteam.in) can help you realize it. We do not promise instant action and realization of your dreams for India but we definitely have the resources and leaders to show you the positive way forward.

Continue Reading