Intro: “The ideal of all education, all training, should be man-making. But instead of that, we are always trying to polish up the outside. What use is polishing up the outside when there is no inside? The end and aim of all training is to make the man grow.”
—The Powers Of The Mind, Lecture by Swami Vivekananda at Los Angeles, California, January 8, 1900, Vol 2, CW
‘Reform’ and ‘Good Governance’ are the buzzwords today. Some are talking of structural reforms while others are talking about institutional reforms to ensure good governance. Make in India is the slogan to boost the manufacturing sector. PM Modi in recently held workshop has rightly said that Government has to shun the 'ABCD' culture, where A means Avoid, B-Bypass, C-Confuse, D-Delay and suggested to move towards culture of ’ROAD' where R stands for Responsibility, O-Ownership, A-Accountability, D-Discipline. All this is encouraging and one hopes that the systemic distortions would be set right to make India more prosperous and powerful to guide the world. But if one asks what has rotten the Indian system with ABCD, what has prevented this great civilization from realising its real potential, what forces talent in India to chase the American dream instead of cherishing the Indian vision, and why we are still talking about basic amenities like clean water and toilets after 67 years of independence, the answer is, we never tried to build concepts and we were hardly ‘Indian’ in our thinking.
Take the concept ‘good governance’ for instance. Why suddenly ‘governance’ with the adjective of ‘good’ is a popular coinage? In 1990s, the World Bank and IMF brought this concept with their neo-liberal agenda. We blindly accepted the concept and never asked about the process to install the software for delivering so called ‘good governance’. Unfortunately, good governance is made a ‘fit to all’ concept and we never devised the nation specific parameters of the process. For instance, the war and oil driven economy has led to prosperity in the US while many West Asian economies flourished under the autocratic rules. The question is, what is to be considered as the better model of governance if development and GDP are the only parameters. The key questions of societal values and its impact on structures of government is missing in this quest for governance for ‘common good’.
Similar problem lies with ‘reform’. Mere change from one law to another is not a reform unless one is clear about the objective. For instance, in the talks of ‘labour reforms’ freeing industrialists from the clutches of ‘Unionism’ is the main agenda. In the process, what about the structural unemployment generated by such reforms? Holistic thinking, the content and intent part of it, is missing in the reforms process.
The reality is, since independence, no real attempts were made to Indianise the systems of governance. Colonial structures and thinking were retained and justified. We forgot that it is the virtuous people that make the structures and processes effective. Delivery systems can improve with technology but ultimately it is the man making exercise taken place through education and socialisation that delivers the results. Training and utilising human resource in productive activity as envisaged by Kautilya is the key in real reformation and governance. After doing away with the centralised institution for planning, one hopes that instead of providing fruitless guarantees of income, NITI Ayog will focus more on ‘man making’ exercise for ‘nation building’ based on Indian thinking.