Media has been trying to read Prime Minister Modi’s policies since his election. Many believed he will be pro-industry and corporate-friendly. The second budget strengthened many policies that would lead to the inclusion of poor in the mainstream of the national economy. He did not give up many schemes that carried a distinct Congress stamp. Apart from the slight reduction in taxation, there was nothing for the corporate. Then came the sledgehammer blow against vested interests through demonetisation. Experts and media were flummoxed.
Who would strike at one’s own solid conventional BJP support base? What kind of politician is Modi who has not just hurt black money hoarders and terrorists but in the process also hurt his own core constituency and his own party interests? After all, there are 19 state governments run by BJP, and which party doesn’t need funds for elections?
To understand the policy decisions of BJP and particularly of PM Modi, one has to look at his background. Modi comes from the RSS background. He was a pracharak nearly all his life since he entered public life. As a swayamsevak, later a pracharak, and now a BJP leader since 2000 he has imbibed economic and social philosophy of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay who developed an economic policy for the then Jan Sangh, later adopted by Bharatiya Janata Party i.e. BJP. That policy penned in 1965 after a thorough study of two dominant economic thoughts, viz. Communism and Capitalism.
One has to understand this background. Then we can see why his approach to political economy is different from all his predecessors. Why he is not satisfied with the tinkering of fiscal policies and plans, achieve decent growth and enjoy the afterglow of a successful delivery as a Prime Minister. After all, he carries a massive mandate, not seen since last thirty years and is buoyed by good monsoons and optimistic population.
Volumes of papers and terabytes of digital space have been filled with reactions to this rarely heard action that has rendered all other actions of his pale into insignificance. Rather than get into possible fall-out, negative or positive, I would like show readers the larger picture envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Many politicians, intellectuals and opinion makers have failed to see a plan to Modi’s policies, or have refused to acknowledge it. His actions since coming to power show a consistent pattern. It is not his critics would like to believe. His policies are geared for the poor, not for the rich as they would have us believe.
He is surely not anti-industry or against corporate. But, his heart is elsewhere – with the poor and small businesses. All his efforts are towards financial inclusion of disadvantaged classes into the national mainstream, through various policy initiatives, because ultimately without two morsels of food in the stomach, nothing makes sense - ‘Bhookhe pet bhajan na hoye Gopala.’
Many RSS-inspired organisations like Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) have been talking for years about Integral Humanism. But, none could develop a viable model of development based on Integral Humanism. All one could see were regurgitated forms of original thesis of Deendayal Upadhyay or massive notes by Dattopant Thengdi. Very few books or papers got published with the practical application of Integral Humanism. This theory was initially put into practice Rajasthan government under Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as Antyoday yojana. A few schemes of Madhya Pradesh government have also been inspired by these thoughts.
What does Integral Humanism imply in practice? How can Integral Humanism be used as a compass to design public policy?
Integral Humanism places an Individual at the centre of the scheme of things. An individual is connected in an integrated way, to the family, to the society, to the nation and ultimately to the universe of Mother Nature. Unlike western concept these entities are not connected in concentric circles, disconnected from each other. They are integrated with each other in an outward spiral. An individual is not an island in itself.
Antyodaya espoused by Deendayal Upadhyay talks of fruits of development reaching to the last man standing in the queue. Antyodaya is supporting the rise of the disadvantaged individuals.
Integral Humanism picks up Vedic wisdom and treats humans as more than a materialist animal. An individual human being is a body with a soul or heart, mind and intellect that is not satisfied with the fulfilment of physical wants but needs spiritual solace too that comes from mental happiness. Even an animal is satisfied with the fulfilment of basic raw desires – like hunger, sex and sleep.
Human welfare in Hindu philosophy means fulfilment of four types of actions or purusharthas in life – arth (wealth creation), kaam (desires), dharma (both of the first two to be achieved following rule of law or ethical conduct to attain moksha (breaking free from the cycle of birth and death).
Russian and Chinese Communism and similar other experiments that worked on the premise that taking care of physical wants to solve all miseries have failed. Capitalism has failed to make human beings happy as a number of cases of depression, psychological disorders indicate. Thus, western parameters of GDP failed.
The only difference between Capitalism and Communism is who will control the means of production, underlying thinking being centred around materialism. This is how the concept of Gross Happiness Index (GHI) came up. This concept is closer to the all-round fulfilment of human wants that Integral Humanism espouses.
Decentralisation espoused by Integral Humanism has been the strength of Indian economy. This village-republic model gave India strength. Invasions and plunder didn’t snuff out Indian industry or economy as it was not concentrated in the hands of the all-powerful king or central authority. We survived and thrived in spite of so many adversities. Indian economy collapsed due to ill-effect of the centralised British approach to filling its treasuries with highly exploitative taxes.
Deendayal Upadhyay advocates an economic model that is based on innate nature of a nation. He called it - ‘Chiti’. He believed that one cannot transpose or copy an Economic model from another culture or nation.
Briefly, we may say that ‘Chiti’ of Bharat resides in its institution of family, an urge to save and spirit of entrepreneurship. It is a nation that thrives of decentralisation. One can go back to models of village republics. Innate nature of an Indian is to respect nature, worship it to strengthen that feeling about nature who gives human beings quality life.
The institution of family has supported individual liberty within the framework of a family. It is not extreme of individual liberty at the cost of family values. Lack of family security in West has led to huge swaths of the population being in the depression, huge medical expenses due to this as it gives birth to more diseases.
Savings of all types of resources, including the economics of recycling and avoiding wasteful expenditure or waste of resources was innate in Indian society’s behaviour. Consumerism is not only suffocating this saving habit but also forces one try to make more money through speculation and corruption. Even now, Indians don’t live on credit.
Spirit of entrepreneurship – nearly every Indian citizen wishes to start his/her own enterprise. India is supposed to have highest per capita shops in the world. This was the secret of successful Indian economy earlier on. Socialist mindset that tried to govern all aspects of life meant converting everybody into a servant or employee of big government machinery.
Village republics – Indian community was self-reliant and managed its own affairs through its village, its panchayat and its own self-generated resources, without looking at the government of the day for help. Over-centralization of power with central and state governments saw shrinking of village panchayats into powerless bodies.
Respecting nature – Our people worshipped rivers, mountains, trees and other elements of nature to show respect to them as they sustain life. Thus, conservation of nature was part of a daily life. Mindless exploitation has brought the world to the brink of disaster.
After independence, our Nehruvian planners’ model did not take into account our unique history, diversity and cultural ethos. Blinded by their love of socialist model and Marxist philosophy they undermined discounted our biggest asset – our culture; a living culture that had created most successful material and spiritual development models – proven through its 5000-year-old documented, known history. This resulted in the alienation of people from the planners and development processes.
Since our new rulers didn’t have a sense of history and civilisation memory, contaminated by West-oriented Marxist interpretation; they believed they were building a new nation and a new culture based on the western model that didn’t incorporate the tried and tested cultural heritage as India.
Rulers did not have a vision, nor did they work on creating a 100-year vision for an ancient nation that was newly liberated. No great civilisation has developed well without a long-term vision. At best the early governments fed on woolly headed Fabian Socialism could think of five-year plans controlled centrally by a powerful central government. This killed the innate vibrant spirit of entrepreneurship that had seen India rule global economy even as late as the 1850s. This resulted in a crawling rate of growth insultingly labelled ‘Hindu Rate of Growth’.
The advent of Modi and a break from the Past:
If you look at PM Modi’s actions carefully, he is focused on working on Indian political economy in line with ‘Chiti’ of this nation. He has invoked various symbols that have awakened a sense of connecting with ancient Indian culture and a sense of pride that will inspire people to act with the good of the country as the guiding light. Fortitude with which citizens have borne the difficulties after demonetization shows that this spirit of larger good of the society and optimism has inspired them to behave this way.
Modi’s actions are so far in line with Integral Humanism:
Demonetisation should be seen in the light of these projects as the next logical step where poor is not disadvantaged because he/she cannot rise because of lack of access to resources that corrupt people corner. With dishonesty under a tight leash, poor can expect somewhat level playing field. This is the reason people from the lower economic strata, in spite of all the difficulties, are supporting PM Modi wholeheartedly.
People understand that demonetization is not the ultimate solution to stop corruption but it is a bold beginning that will be sustained with more action. Ultimately, corruption benefits the rich and the powerful at the expense of the poor. One doesn’t keep one’s toilets or gutters choked because they will get choked again.
Modi’s policies and programmes are all in line with his understanding of Integral Humanism that he has imbibed through life. For the first time, in the times of peace, not war, we find citizens willing to sacrifice something for the nation - gas subsidies earlier and now their own time and energy standing in queues to support the eradication of corruption.
It is a long journey, no doubt. It requires us all to break the vicious cycle of corruption feeding on us. We are also part of this cycle. Only we can break the chain, honest and sincere government can only enable us to do so.