India is at a crossroads. There is rising debate and discussion on development, about aspirations and the virtues of entrepreneurship. In the last two decades, the global exposure of the average Indian has increased, and people are becoming increasingly impatient about the state of affairs in India vis-à-vis other nations, particularly the West. The neo-enlightened globe-trotting Indians are fascinated by the glitz of modern economies and strongly believe India should follow them. Some of the more enlightened, armed with Ivy League degrees, tend to sermonize about the virtues of capitalism, free market, economic right philosophies, libertarianism et al. Some, like this writer, disagree with this popular rhetoric borrowed from West and peddled by the neo-economically enlightened class as the panacea for India’s poverty.
Of course, the neo-enlightened are sincere and want India to prosper and end the misery of the impoverished millions. But they are borrowing models that have already failed. Capitalism as practiced in the so-called advanced economies is in crisis. It has turned into imperialism and tyranny of fiat money backed by military might. It steals others resources by deception and protests are silenced with brute force. The majority of citizens of these advanced economies also suffer from this systemic deception and tyranny though in a different way, being forced into wage slavery to either state or corporation.
The model dislikes interference of any other institution between state, corporation and citizen. Laws are made to discourage strong family or community bonding, to increase mistrust among citizens and between professions. Though the standard of life is made high with borrowed prosperity, insecurity is all-pervasive. The system won’t let people save or live independently. The giant corporation is omnipotent and omnipresent with limited space left for self-employment. The farm, the city, the house, the work space is directly or indirectly at the mercy of the corporation.
In recent years, glaring holes have surfaced in the corporate capitalist model that can no longer be hidden. The lifeline of this model is material innovation to create new markets for business and growth. The model managed to flourish for little over a century with new product innovation, beginning with mechanical gadgets followed by a revolution in electrical and electronics engineering.
Currently, the pace of innovation is coming down and is limited by current knowledge. It seems humanity has not progressed much in core physical knowledge for over half a century, and any further progress is unlikely to create big markets. The unlimited product innovation and market creation to satisfy perennial hunger of corporations is no longer guaranteed.
So, the big corporation has turned its eye on appropriating nature, its flora and fauna. Nature has created and evolved the most inert elements for the life to flourish and progress. The big corporation wants to muddle the equilibrium to appropriate in the name of intellectual property rights. It wants to engineer the seed of life in the name of genetic modification. Corporates can’t bear to see anything on the planet as a free gift of nature to life. They are addicted to measure everything with money. The fiat money they have created now dictates that they control life itself.
This is a brief summary of the capitalistic model that enamours neo-enlightened India. How can India prosper if it adopts this failed model?
India has to prosper and can prosper without compromising its timeless priceless institutions like family, community and dharma. It has to evolve a system rooted in dharma and natural justice. The model is not new; India lived with real prosperity for millennia following dharma. It worshiped all the elements of its prosperity from rivers, mountains to flora and fauna. The secret of its perennial prosperity was its love for the divine nature. The Indic civilisation begged Mother Nature for milk, never tried to draw blood. Its innovation was to facilitate and nourish life; it was more concerned about how to innovate and cause more rain for life than about manufacturing the intercontinental ballistic missile.
How can we adopt this model of dharma in the present scenario; does dharmanomics mean going back into an obscure past and shunning modernity? The answer is no. Many enthusiasts of the neo-economic right in India try to project any alternatives to their borrowed economic model as statist and regressive. Dharmanomics is about blending natural economy and natural justice to the modern situation.
India can’t live an isolated economic and cultural existence. It has to engage with the contemporary world on its own terms. For that it needs to be at par with rest of the world in technology and military strength. Military strength is linked with the best technology and high-end manufacturing. Research and innovation in these areas have to be encouraged. If private and foreign investment can help such innovation it should be facilitated. High-end manufacturing clusters can be established on wastelands along the coast. Some clusters could emerge into mega cities.
But can these urban manufacturing centers be allowed to dominate the whole economy? If India is successful in hi-tech manufacturing, will that ensure prosperity? Real prosperity means good food, clean water and air, a comfortable home, a profession, good health, good family and social life. If the land gives enough food, the rest can be achieved with proper organization of society. Food economy is the root of prosperity. In other words, balancing the food economy and high-end manufacturing is critical for prosperity and to defend that prosperity from external threats.
India’s food economy and manufacturing should complement each other. City-states can be centers of modern manufacturing and economic organization while a decentralized panchayat structure could support life with all its diversity. The city capitalist or corporation shouldn’t be allowed to monopolize the food and rural economy. Farmland should not become an instrument of investment for profit. Only working farmers must be allowed ownership of farmland and the community panchayat must certify him as a farmer. This protects the farmer and as a consequence rural life gets a boost, along with small manufacturing and services. The model optimizes self-employment.
The farm economy has to be self-organized to optimize food production and must be allowed to fix the prices of the produce. The farmer can be taxed like any other profession. Gujarat restricts farmland ownership by non-farmers and rural economy here is self-organized.
Modern India needs its own plan for prosperity. Borrowed models can’t fit its numbers, geography, social and spiritual temperament. Fortunately, the Indian population is so huge that it can support diverse economic models. The traditional system can co-exist in harmony with modern organization without one preying on other. Harmony of self and environment is the essence of Dharma and the possibility of such harmony in economy is Dharmanomics. – Vijayvaani, 9 May 2013
» Krishnarjun is an engineer and political observer from Andhra Pradesh. His twitter handle is https://twitter.com/krishnarjun108