The Right 'Ism' For India

June 11, 2008
Suresh Naig

Similar to an individual or an organization a nation too has its own strengths and weaknesses. A proper understanding of the basic culture and ethos can only steer the country forward and not by mimicking another country or its philosophy. By copying another, a nation would lose its originality and remain only a copy, bereft of its inherent flavours. To substantiate my views, let me share my thought process and I am open to criticism.

What we see as the present day USA, originally came into existence by the settlers, mostly originating from Britain. On becoming an independent nation, the forefathers of USA though had their roots in Britain, never copied the political system of the English. They might have thought that the British were too conservative, and to copy their model would be detrimental to their progress. Not only they did not copy British model, but they also ensured, that every act and thinking of America is distinctly different from English. It may be the traffic, the balance sheet, political model or even the hand which holds the fork at the dining table.

I was reminded of an old joke. An American vacationing in England was traveling in a train. The train was slowly getting crowded as every station passed. An English woman boarded the train carrying her pet, a Pomeranian pup. On nudging her way she managed to sit on a seat already crowded. She started slowly making way for her pup too on the seat, to the discomfort of fellow passengers. When it was too much to tolerate, the irate American opened the window and threw the dog out. An old English man folded his Newspaper, who was sitting opposite to the American and said. ‘You Americans are real queer people. You drive on the wrong side, you hold the fork on the wrong hand and now you have thrown the wrong bitch out.’

Whereas we Indians, imbibed and inherited the legacy of the English rule and most of our constitution and IPC, were nothing but copy and paste of the erstwhile British rulers. In 1976, just fresh from the college, I visited one of my friends who had joined the police force and was in training for two years, at Madras. When I visited his training school in Ashok Nagar on a Sunday, we were discussing about several things, which included his training. What he told continues to bug me, even after so many years. His superior officer, presumably got trained by his British masters, told the aspirants not to have any visitors’ chairs opposite to their table, in the police station. He further told the youngsters to keep every visitor standing in front of them, and justified it as the easiest way to express authority and to inculcate discipline. A clear case of master & slave attitude.

During the British rule all the police officers were considered to be loyalists, and all public were considered against the British rule. The system developed by British for India, had become a scourge till date. The police force is loyal to the rulers and not friendly to the public.

I had a rude shock of my life, when I lost some NSC certificates and wanted duplicate certificates. The post master insisted, that I get a surety signed by a Government employee, to issue duplicate certificates. The value of the lost certificates were pittance, when compared to my net worth. In the eyes of the postal department, which has not evolved from the antique rules laid by the British, a Government employee is more loyal, than an honest citizen who contributes several lakhs as income tax, from which pool all these people get their monthly pay. Refusing to accept his condition, I arranged for a bank guarantee and got my duplicate certificates.

On the economic front again, without any original thinking we started adopting Soviet model, on the insistence of Nehru. Both communism and capitalism are alien philosophy to us, and recognising this Gandhi suggested co-operative movement. Nehru was adamant and not conceded to Gandhian philosophy of prospering villages. Gandhi wanted the development to start from the periphery so that it would enrich the centre, but Nehruvian theory had resulted in islands of prosperity, leaving a major portion of the country in poverty.

Understanding the ethos had helped Akio Morito – the founder of Sony Corporation growing to such a level. In the early days of Sony, Akio Morito refused to come down on the price of their transistor radios, when huge orders were placed by an American Company. He convinced the American with a graph, which showed the prices of their radios curving down with the quantum and the curve turning upwards beyond a specific quantum of orders. He justified the lowering of prices by increased productivity with their existing labour strength. When the quantum increased beyond the threshold, warranting additional employees, who would become a liability in case the orders were not repeated in subsequent years and hence increased price. In Japan, they did not follow hire and fire philosophy then. When a leader of a business organisation could understand the importance of culture in formulating strategies, is it too much to expect the same from national leaders?

Majority of rural Indians are small entrepreneurs, owning a small piece of land, small herd of cattle and fowl. Taking cognisance of this fact, unparalleled success is achieved by Amul, which is a co-operative movement and the credit of India becoming the largest producer of milk in the world goes to a large extent to Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation. To these peasants communism and capitalism are alien philosophy. Another sterling example for co-operative movement is Lijjat papad, their success story empowering more women than the ranting of crusaders of women’s cause. The best of all success stories, where every member is a small entrepreneur is Dabba Wallahs of Mumbai, whose efficient supply chain management is discussed in top ranking management schools of the world.
Had our leaders considered Gandhian philosophy with open mind, perhaps we would have gifted a new “ism” other than capitalism and communism for the entire world to emulate.

A science graduate from Madurai University.(1975) A compulsive writer as there is no dearth of compulsion from the system, society or our beloved politicians. A tough minded optimist, who would enjoy the scenic beauty from suicide point. Maveric in words, thoughts and deeds. He lives in Bangalore
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June 11, 2008
04:29 AM

Yes, the failure of Gandhianism to take root in post-Independence in India is a profound and shocking disappointment. There are many reasons for this, of course, but none are more pathetic than the inability or unwillingness of Gandhi-ji's putative disciples to advance the philosophy in a powerful, persuasive, or meaningful way after his death.

Some, like Dwarko Sundrani withdrew to do good work in a locally-focused way, which was never intended or likely to draw the kind of attention that might transform its achievements into a movement. Others, like Nirmala Deshpande, cloaked themselves in the glory of the movement while doing little for it in return. And far too many custodians of the Gandhian legacy simply lacked the imagination with which to inspire a new generation.

Have you ever been to a Gandhi museum? They are in embarrassment to the very notion of museumness, not to mention a significant slight to the memory of one of the most important figures in human history.

The sad truth is that, in many ways, Gandhi-ji is better appreciated outside of India than in his homeland, where school children are given only a dry, textbook recitation of his life and political achievements, and Sanjay Dutt's absurd Munabhai character has done more to advance Gandhianism (abeit in a overly-simplistic, unidimensional, cartoonish way) than anyone in nearly half a century.

suresh naig
June 11, 2008
07:54 AM

Yes Mark I have visited Gandhi museum. It was a subtle way to express to the new generation, that Gandhian philosophy is so antiquated,like Egyptian mummies, that can be found only in musuems.

I agree with your point, on the inadequacy of text book accounts of Gandhi Ji, which was meant to promote the ideology of the rulers. The so called followrs of Gandhian legacy have done more harm to Gandhi Ji, than his opponents.

June 11, 2008
07:56 AM

On the economic front again, without any original thinking we started adopting Soviet model, on the insistence of Nehru

Chandra: Factually incorrect. Example: When most Indian Airlines were making losses in the 50s, the Tatas who owned the largest Airline pleaded and got Nehru to take over their Airlines. Most of the soviet style ideas came into play during the time of Indira versus Syndicate in the late 1960s. Further, during the period 1969 to 1976 some of the most draconian laws were passed to control businesses....

June 11, 2008
07:01 PM

All economic collectivisms ultimately lead to marginalization, disempowerment, dehumanization and slavery - And it does not matter if such economic collectivciams are framed under statism(commuism), corpocracy or caste order. Gandhiji gave new mantra of empowerment - rural/cottage industries, decentralized economics thru ruralized economics, economic self-suficiencies at 'family and village' level - His Charkha was symbol of such economic paradigm as a way out of entrapment of economic collectivism. Sadly, post-independent Gandhian elites India wanted no part of Gandhi's economic paradigm. All they ever cared about Gandhi was Gandhi's policy of minority appeasement which had failed during the very lifetime of Gandhi. Thus Gandhi has been reduced to a caricature by his own ardent votaries by discarding his most potent ideas while clinging to his most dubious failed ideas.

June 12, 2008
12:58 PM

amen to that, kerty! Ganghi's greatest strength lay in his ability to "connect" people together. Co-operatives. Team building, in modern "expensive' MBA terminology. Even the weavers are surviving in parts of India thanks to the cooperative movement. It is tragic that the "modern" MBAs have messed up the economy of living on the planet.

August 13, 2008
04:45 AM

arent we still doing the same old mistakes?!? there's nothing new that we've creted for ourselves, be it in politics, beurocracy, administration, law, science, technology, music, literature, entertainment, lifestyle, fashion et al.,... we are still in the nehruvian style of copy & paste... mtv has taken over in terms of dictating whats hot & whats not in fashion wear, all the software/IT herd is just riding a wave, created in california/seattle, and are prepared to surf the wave wherever it takes them, technology & lifestyle is pure imitation of the west (to the extent that the modern day kitchens are taken over too), all the corporate techniques like six sigma/lean/kaizen/TQM/Agile/project mgmt et al. are copy+paste from the west, ayurvedic practioners are doubted on their practicesm the media mocks at a yoga guru (baba ramdev).... where are we headed now?!?!? we can definitely not rewind and erase the past, but is there a way forward...?!?

i strongly feel that we need to embrace english as the language (all the more reasons due to our dead native language)... but does this mean we keep on following the rest... or if we believe in the larger cycle, is our best interest lying in following the rest, wait for the destruction (or the world to end), and we can be rest assured to be the last ones to be destroyed as we are following...

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