Our thought has sound notions of the roles of the State as the agent of common good – Raj Dharma, which now may be designated Rajya Niti or Rajya Dharma
Many thinking citizens have come to the conclusion that Bharat is facing an extraordinary crisis today. One main reason for this crisis is more or less continuation of the British Colonial Administrative System. It is said that there has not been a thorough and/or adequate debate on the path and process of development before the independence achieved in 1947. Even after that, the Governments of the day have, in general, not made very serious efforts to initiate, conduct and objectively respond and participate in such a debate.
It seems that we have not imbibed lessons from our past history regarding the limitation of the role of state, decentralisation, peoples’ initiative etc. We cannot just transplant alien institutions and expect miracles. The institutions have to be grounded in our own ethos and new material has to be suitably adapted in tune with core values. The changes in the dominant thought in the global space have influenced the nature of the dominant thought in our national space – democracy since 1940s, statism from the 1950s to 1970s, liberalisation in 1980s, and globalisation in the 1990s. But, the exploration of Dharma has been ignored.
Governance, both Political and Administrative, is one of the major national instruments to carry out the essential activity for the sustenance of society. It is essential that we should take an integral view of development and administration in light of the principles of Ekatma Manav Darshan (Integral Humanism) and the requirements of today as well as future.
Proper governance is one of the important prerequisites for national development. Any thinking on development starts with fixing of the goal and the right path to achieve the same. The goal comes out of your philosophy – individual or national as the case may be. This has to be further shaped to according the vision of future.
Development can be defined in general terms as ‘meaningful progress towards the chosen goal’. We cannot just copy and make progress on the right development path. We will have to have our own development path viz. Samyak Vikas.
The philosophic structure that we so desperately seek today was evolved by the ancient Hindu sages who had studied the inter-relationship between all forms of creation-animate or otherwise. Dharma is rightly translated as law. Though, as stated above, Dharma is more than law, for it is what underlies and creates law in the universe. Dharma does not mean certain rituals or prayers or modes of worship or a certain set of beliefs as is popularly believed.
The two oft-quoted definitions of Dharma are: ¹f°ffZ A·¹fbQ¹fd³fßfZ¹fÀfdÀfdðX: Àf ²f¸fÊ:Ü (the arrangement which enables and encourages man to control his desires and create within himself the competence to realise the Divine Essence or the Eternal Reality even while enjoying a rich material life, is dharma.) ²ffSX¯ff°fÐ ²f¸fÊd¸f°¹ffWbX: ²f¸ffZÊ ²ffSX¹fd°f ´fiþf:Ü (which means that the power which brings individuals together and sustains them as a society is called dharma.)
A combination of these two definitions shows that the establishment of Dharma means the building of an organised social life in harmony with nature wherein each individual comes to realise his oneness with others in society and is imbued with a spirit of sacrifice to make others’ material life richer and happier, and develops spiritual strength which leads to the realisation of the Ultimate Truth.
Bharatiya thought has sound notions of the roles of the State as the agent of common good – raj dharma, which now may be designated Rajya Niti (not Rajaniti) or Rajya Dharma. The State should be above partial interests and should regulate all activities according to dharma.
In general, the purpose of the Hindu state was to reinforce the moral codes of society and to ensure justice, thereby guaranteeing the individual free opportunity to develop him within the framework and recognise goals of his own Dharma.
Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya said: “Let us understand very clearly that ‘Dharma’ is not necessarily with the majority or with the people. ‘Dharma’ is eternal. Therefore, it is not enough to say, while defining democracy, that it is the Government of the people. It has to be a Government for the good of the people. What constitutes the good of the people? It is ‘Dharma’ alone which can decide. Therefore, a democratic Government (‘Jana Rajya’) must also be rooted in ‘Dharma’, i.e. a ‘Dharma Rajya’. In the definition of Democracy viz. “Government of the People, by the people and for the people, ‘of’ stands for independence, ‘by’ stands for democracy and ‘for’ indicates ‘Dharma’. Therefore, the true democracy is only where there is freedom as well as ‘Dharma’, ‘Dharma Rajya’ encompasses all these concepts.”
Those who have an allergy for the term ‘Dharma’ should note that Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru who criticised and saw no value in the concept of ‘Dharma’ for nation-building, came to realise its importance in the last phase of his life. For example, writing a ‘Foreword’ to a book by Shriman Narayan from the Circuit House of Dehradun on May 25, 1964, he wrote, “In India, it is important for us to profit by modern technical processes and increase our production both in agriculture and industry. But, in doing so, we must not forget that the essential objective to be aimed at is the quality of the individual and the concept of ‘Dharma’ underlying it.”
There can be no single model of democracy applicable to all countries. The democratic system has to necessarily reflect the cultural ethos of a given society. After independence, we have opted for the democratic system and we have to imbue this system with our cultural ethos.
In the past, the Dharma was the law for the state. In present times states are governed by the Constitution. Many scholars have pointed out that there is a good amount of congruence between the Government of India Act of 1935 and the Indian Constitution of 1950. But it will not be correct to assume that our constitution is thrust on us by Britishers, as the drafting committee and the constituent assembly members have debated and accepted it. The constitution has generally served us well during the last 60 years. It continues to hold our country together without any towering leader or powerful party in the turbulent times.
Thus total wellbeing of society—material, moral and spiritual—has to be aimed at, for which spiritual orientation, consultative consensus, cooperation, and decentralised representation can be the guiding principles.
Ravindra Mahajan (the writer is President of Centre for Integral Studies & Research, Pune)