Tuesday, 17 December 2013

What economic policies does India need to provide progress for the enormous mass of its poorest people?

A friend writes:

"What would you like to see in the manifesto of political parties on economic development in India?

"Can you lead a small team to help us articulate that, with a focus on the 75% of Dalits, Tribals, Minorities and BCs who are left out of the development processess and gains?

"On XXX (date) a group of about 100 dalit and tribal leaders are meeting at YYY (place) to discuss the way forward to the elections of 2014. Please support this initiative.

"If you are willing I'll set up the groupon Economis policy to work with you on this".

My response:

Dear ZZZ

The policies needed are simple:

1. Clean, efficient and just administration committed to encouraging development, not control (i.e. administration should stop interference in self-development efforts of the people, e.g. all impediments, such as the Foreign Contributions Registration Act, need to be revoked)

2. Good roads, drinkable water, basic health facilities, provision of an educational system that makes sense

3. A legal system that works (appointment of a sufficient number of *suitable* judges, committed to the values of the Indian Constitution - not people like the High Court judge of a Rajput caste who had to be ordered by a Court to release his 30-year old daughter from captivity because she wants to marry a Brahmin)

4. Liberalisation of economic activity (most of the licences, permits and registrations in our country are not only useless, they are counter-productive). A *very* few essential things need to be retained and those can easily be identified and agreed on.

The problem in our country is not "avidya" or lack of knowledge about what needs to be done.

The problem in our country is "paap" or sin (we knowingly do wrong things in order to benefit ourselves even if it results in great hardship for many other people).

We do not need more manifestos, we need clear commitment to undertaking actions. AAP and other such rule-of-law parties are coming together to create a national front. Let us support this new movement.

Congress and BJP are on their way out.

On that topic, I will send you an article, which is due to be published in the next edition of The International Indian magazine (Dubai).



Sunday, 1 December 2013

Interesting analysis of the configuration of India's political parties

Interesting point of view, that I haven't come across earlier:

1) The BJP, as is well known, is a front for the RSS, but it is now dominated by the Other Backward Castes, so the RSS wants the BJP to die as early as possible.

2) AAP is the other front organisation of the RSS. Kejriwal is a strong opponent of reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes & Other Backward Castes.

3) From the RSS point of view, Modi's candidature for the post of Prime Minister is not for the purpose of defeating the Congress-led UPA, but for the purpose of defeating the (possible) Third Front, and that is because the third front is also dominated by the Other Backward Castes.

That is an interesting caste-oriented analysis. I'm afraid I myself don't think much in terms of caste-conglomerations. As one of my friends said in a post today, democracy has gone from being "a government of the people, for the people, by the people" to being "a government of the winning cluster of voting people, for the winning cluster of voting people, by the guys who got their maths right about which was the winning cluster of voting people."

My own view is that, when everything is up for grabs, it is better, naively, to support anyone who is willing and seems remotely capable of delivering an honest government devoted to the welfare of India's citizens.

In Delhi, at present, that's Aam Aadmi Party for me.

I'm sorry, but all the "science" of the psephologists doesn't impress me too much about India's future right now.

Monday, 25 November 2013

ARVP reports from other parts of the country

Based on the vision of uniting India's backward and oppressed groups (who form 60% of the population), work is now underway in the following states:

1) Andhra Pradesh

2) Odisha

3) Chattisgarh

4) Jharkand

5) U.P

In U.P this month, there is going to be a padyatra in at least one constituency where 1000 to 2000 people will be walking from their village to endorse this vision.

We hope that we will be able to follow this up in the other constituencies in the month of December.

It has been a hard grind and continues to be a challenge, nevertheless we press on.

We solicit your support in this endeavour.

Meeting in Mumbai of Representatives of 60% of India's population, organized by Adarsh Rashtriya Vikas Party

The meeting in Mumbai was a continuation of the meeting that took place in Delhi on the 4th and 5th of September .

Based on the brainstorming that has taken place over several months, came the idea to focus on the core constituency most affected by bad leadership.

Though on a general level, bad leadership affects the most poor and marginalised: Dalits comprising Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and what is termed as the pasmanda or Dalit Muslims. The second group identified was the scheduled tribes excluding for the moment tribes located in the north east. The third category were the backwards.

The realization came that these 3 groups form close to 60% of the population and in-spite of these large numbers find themselves the most underdeveloped, discriminated against, and persecuted.

The vision of ARVP is to envision these groups to come together on a single platform unifying these groups based on their common victimhood. However, this platform needs to be led by people who embody servant leadership and integrity.

The meeting in Mumbai, had two groups represented the Dalits and the Pasmanda Muslims, and was chaired by Shri Mahesh Bhatt, Maulana Mustakeen Azmi, and Anand Raj Ambedkar. The meeting was called for and organized by ARVP. About 250 people were present. The presentation by ARVP had a huge impact on the people who came and speaker after speaker endorsed the need and the vision of ARVP. Mahesh Bhatt and Mustakeen Azmi were the most vocal on the issue and kept referring to the need for unity of these groups.

After the meeting, many leaders came forward to express their desire for another meeting between key leaders representing the two groups.

The meeting also had representatives from the Aam Admi Party who came as a group and requested that Aam Admi Party and ARVP should join hands. This was followed up by a telephone call by Mr. Mayank Gandhi head of the Maharastra Unit of AAP wanting to have a meeting on the 21st November in Delhi.

Many thanks to the efforts and hard work of Navin Tauro and Abraham Mathai, without whom the meeting in Mumbai could not have taken place.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Why neither Narendra Modi nor Rahul Gandhi will be India’s next Prime Minister

As some of my readers will know, I write a regular column in THE INTERNATIONAL INDIAN magazine (published from Dubai). This is titled "Guptara Garmagaram" and has been willing to publish views that none of the major Indian publications has been prepared to countenance.

Here is the latest of my columns, which will appear in the next issue of THE INTERNATIONAL INDIAN:

Supporters of both Narendra Modi (NaMo) and Rahul Gandhi (RaGa) have started campaigning intensely with a view to seeing their favourite made India’s next Prime Minister (PM). Actress Mallika Sherawat produced a birthday video for NaMo, and my cousin has just sent me singer Krishnan Sugavanam's “youth anthem” which praises NaMo - the lyrics describe his humble beginning as a tea vendor and go on hypnotically to project NaMo’s candidacy.

As for RaGa, many people have predicted that Congress will win inspite of the NaMo factor – whether RaGa then gets a shot at being PM remains to be seen.

The facts are that while BJP will certainly win around 130 seats (it holds 117 seats at present), there is no way that BJP can win more than 200 seats of the 552 in the Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha).

The Upper House is also important in terms of legislation, it has 238 representatives of the Indian States and 12 members nominated by India’s President for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social service – though the Upper House is not significant in terms of political control and rather balances the interests of India’s people as a whole by the interests of India’s States.

Congress supporters think that they will definitely win 140 seats and may win many more (they hold 206 seats at present) – and some seem to think that, given developments in the last few weeks and those that can be foreseen before the elections, Congress may even win enough seats to form a government on its own (and certainly with the support of other parties). No wonder a Congress victory has been asserted as certain by Congress functionaries, ranging from RaGa himself to various minions.

On the strength of present surveys what we can definitely say is that neither BJP nor Congress seems at all likely to have an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. After the elections, therefore, it will be a matter of which party can gather enough other parties around it to form a majority in Parliament. That party seems extremely unlikely to be BJP, since everyone knows that Modi’s strength as well as his weakness is his dictatorial tendency; with him it is “My way or the highway”.

As a result of that, the most likely result is that Modi may end up in Parliament at best as Leader of the Opposition.

RaGa too has many weaknesses so, in my view, a Congress-led alliance willl only be possible at the cost of a compromise candidate – someone other than RaGa.

However, there is a wild card in these elections: entirely new political parties have begun to make their presence felt.

Morever, this is the first election where voters will have the option of voting for “None of the above options” in order to reject all the candidates contesting the election in a constituency.

What good that does in terms of having a result in an election is not clear: what happens if the majority in a constituency votes “None of the above”? Do all the parties then put up fresh candidates for a fresh round of voting? No doubt, we will come to that pass sooner or later – when it will be interesting to watch what happens.

The dates of the elections for seats in the State Parliaments have now been announced for Delhi, Rajasthan, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh – and these will be between mid-November and early December, though the votes in all these will be counted on a single day: December 8. That will provide an early indication of which way the wind is blowing for the national elections, though the Indian voter has been consistently canny in sending candidates from different parties to the State Parliaments as against the National Parliament.

Don’t be surprised if the new Parties sweep the board. For example, in the elections for the Delhi Legislative Assembly, a Party that did not exist only a few months ago, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is expected to take 18 out of the 70 seats, according to a poll by ABP News and Nielsen a few days ago (the last poll, a few weeks ago, gave AAP only 8 seats!).

My view is that, as we get closer to the elections, AAP will actually overtake both BJP and Congress to become the single largest party in Delhi - and may even win outright, specially given that its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, is already the most popular candidate for Chief Minister of Delhi. Thirty two per cent of the respondents preferred Kejriwal as the Chief Minister, while 27 per cent preferred the Congress incumbent Sheila Dikshit, and only 27 per cent were for the BJP’s Vijay Goel. Merely in the few weeks between August and the beginning of October, Kejriwal gained a whopping eight per cent over the BJP and Congress candidates.

AAP is, at present, contesting seats only for the Delhi Assembly. However, if it does well here, I have no doubt that it will rapidly spread its wings nationwide. A large number of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) who were totally disinterested in politics in view of the widespread corruption in both BJP and Congress, have become active supporters of AAP, many of them actually moving physically to Delhi to support the AAP campaign.

This is in addition to the increasing number of NRIs who, as can be seen on the AAP website, are supporting it financially – not to mention first-time Indian supporters of any party.

But the AAP is only one of the new parties. For example, there is the ARVP (Adarsh Rashtriya Vikas Party) which claims to bring together India’s OBCs, Dalits, Tribals, Muslims and other religious minorities. There is the Professionals’ Party of India (PPI) whose aim is to “improve the quality of life of every Indian”. In anticipation of the national elections, PPI has announced that it “has joined hands with like-minded eminent people, whose primary aim is Nation Building”. Its earlier “Core Group has been reconstituted to provide the party a nationwide support base and a National presence”. However, this is supposed to be “just phase 1” of its plan for more exciting development in the months ahead, during which it is “resolved to provide … the best possible list of candidates who, with your support, will make this nation proud”.

Though, for my taste, we have in our country far more talk of “pride” than is justified by our “work” and by our “achievement”, it is possible that such new, ethically- and nationally-oriented parties will come together to form a New Front in the months ahead, which would be a genuine national alternative to the two old and tired parties.

AAP has already said that it will support neither BJP nor Congress.

If this New Front persists in ethically-based behaviour, it has the best chance of taking the country forward – provided it is not merely ethically-based but also capable of actually delivering better infrastructure, better education, and a better quality of life.

One final fact: we have a new generation of voters that have become eligible to vote – 75 million of them. These young people have no necessary ties with either of the two old parties, and are unlikely to be influenced by their parents.

That is why I, who don’t usually bet, am prepared to bet that neither NaMo nor RaGa who will be the next Prime Minister of India, but an entirely fresh face.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

When a Dalit woman is dishonoured and her family's life threatened

A report in question is at http://newindianexpress.com/nation/NHRC-push-for-relief-to-disrobed-dalit/2013/09/15/article1785270.ece

Basically, the report says that the The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Sambalpur District Magistrate in Odisha to see whether any temporary relief can be provided under any welfare scheme to Subidha Buda, a BPL Dalit, who was disrobed and forced to stand naked in front of the public in Jayaghanta village on September 6 last year.

In fact, the woman was not only forced to stand naked, her hair was cut, she was insulted and beaten black and blue. Shrimati Buda, along with her son, a class V student and her daughter, both minors, left the village and took shelter at her elder daughter’s house. In the meantime, the house of the victim has been demolished.

My response:

"This is ridiculous!

"Does a District Magistrate or indeed any human being really need a request or order from any Commission to provide "temporary relief" to a woman forced to stand naked and beaten?

"If a District Magistrate lacks even such elementary human sympathy or sense of duty, should this kind of person be allowed to become or continue as a District Magistrate?

"It is worth asking whether such an event could ever happen in a District without the complicity of the local Magistrate? If not, how come he or she did not immediately swing into action against the culprits?

"Indeed, how come the Magistrate has not been disciplined by her or his superiors? Does this not indicate the complicity of the superiors in such matters?

"Of what use is a Commission if it cannot pose such basic questions?

"What is wrong with us Indians that we react only when middle-class women get raped in Delhi, but do not react when a Dalit's honour and even a whole family's life is compromised in our Districts?"

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Please consider signing Letter of Protest to India's Ministry of Human Resource Development, regarding their Notice to Professor Yogendra Yadav of the University Grants Council

I have received the following plea from a trustworthy fellow-academic. I am not aware of all the details of the case, but the details given below have satisfied me sufficiently to prompt me to sign the letter. I would request you to consider doing the same - if you wish to do so, please send an email to Shri Prashant Bhushan on prashantbhush@gmail.com OR to Prof. Anand Kumar at anandkumar1@hotmail.com

Here is the text of the letter of protest:


Dr. M. Mangapati Pallam Raju,

Minister of Human Resource Development,

Government of India.

Dear Dr. Raju,

The news of the Ministry of Human Resource Development serving a show-cause notice to Prof. Yogendra Yadav, Member, UGC, to explain why he should not be removed from the UGC has shocked and dismayed the academic community. The notice mentions a conflict of interest, Prof. Yogendra Yadav being an active member of a newly registered political party, as the reason for such removal.

The UGC has a formal policy on Conflict of Interest and Code of Conduct for Members of the Commission which does not mention political activity as a potential conflict of interest. The University Grants Commission (Disqualification, Retirement and Conditions of Service) Rule, 1992 provides for specific grounds of disqualification which, again, does not include membership of a political party as a valid ground. It is evident that the decision of serving the show-cause notice stems from the fact that Prof. Yogendra Yadav chose to be an active member of the Commission who raised questions and recorded his objections in regard to several matters of national importance such as the introduction of the four year undergraduate programme in Delhi University, bypassing of the recommendations of the UGC committee in the notification of the API scheme, closing down of Centres for Social Inclusion and Exclusion, and the decision to set up a Centre on Teacher Education in a Technical University that does not even have a department of education. Prof. Yogendra Yadav’s persistent efforts to point out irregularities in the conduct of Commission meetings and recording of minutes also seems to have put some officials in an uncomfortable situation.

We believe that such active concern is precisely what should be expected from a member of a body of national importance like the UGC as this is what strengthens the working of such bodies. We are shocked that the Ministry, which, in a healthy democracy, should have given due importance to the matters raised, and should have encouraged such vigilant participation, has instead initiated the process of removing the member. Such a measure sends a strong message of intolerance towards all members who consider it their duty to express their opinions and threatens to severely erode the ethos of informed debate and fearless participation. It demonstrates an utter disregard for the autonomy vested in the institution of the UGC without which it cannot be expected to play its role as a regulatory body effectively.

We, the undersigned, therefore urge you to take immediate steps to withdraw the show-cause notice issued to Prof. Yogendra Yadav.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The History of Lord Ganesh

Following other interaction with Sharmaji, one of our scholars, I asked: "Ganesh is worshipped as the first god in all yagyas. I have been trying to find out: Since when this is the case? And why? He is not mentioned in the Rg Veda."

Sharmaji responded:

"Lord Ganesh is mentioned in Ramayan and Mahabharat. Rg Ved mantras are in praise of nature and deities that personify its different aspects. Later, priests used these deities for sacerdotal puposes and[i] devotees to begin their puja etc. Ganesh is Ganpati, the people's god for beginnings and ceremonies. [ii] My conjecture is that he became popular in epical eras. Ganesh is more for the denizens of Sansar; Indra and definitely Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, Mata Durga and other goddesses belong to the higher or other Loks, ethereal regions of devatas and rakshasa like bhasmasurs etc. Parvati is often shown to intervene on behalf of ordinary people in folklore and Ganesh is beloved son of Parvati. For him, going round his parents, Parvati-Shiva as the legend says,is the whole universe."

This response is fine as far as it goes, but I think you will agree that it does not really answer my question.

So I now open the question to all my readers, and will be grateful for any light that anyone can throw on it.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Role of Corporate Governance, Citizen and Employee in Fighting Corruption, Enabling Development

When the British East India Company (EIC) became Bengal’s dominant power in 1757, the geographical area which came to be known as India was divided into about a thousand kingdoms.

Whether Hindus or Muslims, whether Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains or whoever, our forefathers knew caste, kingdoms, and empires, but not one person in our vast land had the political vision of uniting warring kingdoms into a nation-state, because the idea of a nation-state was a foreign one (it was invented in 1648, on the basis of the renewed understanding of the Bible which emerged in Europe from the 13th century and resulted in the Protestant Reformation). From 1757, it took the British just about a hundred years to create the colony which went on to become the nation that is now known as India.

That entire enterprise was driven by economics and politics: the EIC was a private company which got itself entangled with politics, as large-scale private enterprise always does.

However, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the British did not see history as a process driven by blind accidents of meaningless history. They saw history as working out God’s vision for humanity: God’s standards of truth, law, justice, and mercy creating more and more collective good. Adam Smith’s invisible hand, in their understanding, was nothing other than the hand of God, who wants us to act with Him to build our social, economic and political structures on truth, righteousness and justice.

You may miss a lot when you read the Bible, but you can’t miss the fact that the Bible shows God as being intimately involved in the world’s history, for the purpose of punishing sin and redeeming the repentant, to guide human destiny to a renewed earth and heaven, where our ultimate enemy, death, will be vanquished and eternal life will be the norm.

Even though the majority of British colonists did not follow the Bible and were interested only in looting India, Bible-believing British people saw colonization as offering to Abraham’s spiritual descendants a God-given opportunity to play a role in fulfilling God’s purpose to bless India by making it a great nation (see, for example, Genesis 12:2-3 and 18:18).

The mission to make India a great nation required bringing our individual sinfulness as well as our socio-religious evils under the searchlight of God’s truth. That could be done only if the Bible was translated and published, and then applied to specific areas of institutionalized darkness such as idolatry, inequality before law, untouchability, infanticide, widow-burning, child-marriage, polygamy, mass illiteracy, corruption, and feudalism. It is only when our social evils encountered the teaching of the Bible that the nineteenth century social reform movement was triggered which is known as the Indian Renaissance (more correctly, the first Indian NAISSANCE, as there had been none earlier, at least not from a social point of view: Thomas the Apostle, for example, and Guru Nanak and others, had tried, but it had not till then resulted in any India-wide re-start of something old, which is what the word “renaissance” means).

Anyway, Bible-inspired efforts set India on course to become a great nation by nurturing and strengthening three essential areas:

1. cultivating love for truth and virtue through mass education, development of vernaculars, import and use of the printing press, and journalism;

2. creating a legal environment for development through land reforms, property rights, development of the penal code, of a modern judiciary, and a consistent monetary system throughout the country;

3. building a nation-wide infrastructure for administration, transportation, and communication.

Naturally, the British got many things wrong. But they also got at least a few things right.

However, since Independence, the influence of the Bible, most often mediated through Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Marxists and others, continues to inspire new developments that take us in the direction of truth and justice. At the same time, a rising generation who are committed to materialism, even if often sheltering under the garb of religiosity, has undone some of reduction in institutionalized evil (e.g. by corrupting education, administration, Parliament and law) and created new institutionalized evils – e.g. by scams and corruption of various new sorts.

So we now have in our country a patchwork of institutionalized good and institutionalized evil, and what we would like to discuss is the role of corporate governance in reducing institutionalized evil.

The impact of the Bible has meant that, except for a few diehard feudalists found in the RSS and BJP (and even in those organizations, their influence is less than it once was – though it may rise again if Modi delivers electoral victories) – as I said, except for a few such diehard feudalists, all the public discourse in our country honours concepts of inclusive growth, secularism, equality, liberty, fraternity and democracy.

The problem in our country is that our culture divorces sound from meaning, and imposes a gap between what is said and what is done, as well as between appearance and reality.

How does our culture divorce sound from meaning? Take “Aum” for example. It is a very powerful sound in our culture, and you will find people discussing the healing and other qualities of the vibrations of that sound. But what does Aum mean? Well, it means whatever you want it to mean, from nothing to everything: I have heard at least 50 different explanations of what it means. The fact is that you can come up with your own interpretation, and if people like it, then it becomes an acceptable or even the most acceptable explanation. That is why the role of PR is so important in our country. Our culture does not emphasise what is real, what is true, so all that we are left with in our dominant culture is propaganda - which is why Modi hires so many hundreds of people in Bangalore and other centres to pump out his propaganda in every major newspaper and radio and TV station in India, and now even abroad.

Not only does our culture divorce sound from meaning, our culture also imposes a gap between what is said and what is done. How often have you heard a statement similar to: “Sahib ek minute lagega” (when the speaker has no idea of how long it will take, or even knows that it will take half an hour). Of course, part of the explanation is our Indian concept of “politeness” (which actually means an inability or unwillingness to tell the truth) and part of the explanation, in this particular case, is that our culture has no concept of the importance of time, because the kal that has gone (yesterday) is the same word as the kal that is to come (i.e. tomorrow): the lack of the importance of time is structured into our language, into the way we think. If this life is only one among innumerable births, then why is time in this life important? The time that is given to us in this world is only important if this is the only life we have and if, after this life is completed, we have to give an account to Somebody of how we have spent each minute and each second. But these are ancillary matters, the key point that I would like us to keep in mind is that, whatever the reasons, our culture has a deep and profound gap between what is said and what is done. Of course that is part of a universal human tendency, but one’s culture can either reinforce that tendency (as in our own culture) or it can struggle against it, as in Protestant cultures (e.g. of Northern Europe).

So our culture divorces sound from meaning, and it accepts a large gap between what is said and what is done; how does our culture split appearance and reality? Well, we could discuss at length the notions of izzat and shaan versus the real quality of relationships in the home, or even the real quality of life in the home. If I am willing to murder an unborn child or my grown-up daughter for the sake of izzat, what kind of izzat is that? Is it not an attempt to preserve an appearance, for the sake of which people are willing even to eliminate the reality of the life of our own flesh and blood?

In our culture, we have to struggle against the gap between appearance and reality (Mat 7.15); we have to struggle against the gap between sound and meaning by letting our Yes mean Yes (Mat 5.37); we have to struggle against the large gap between what is said and what is done by being people who, once we have said something, will do it even if it is to our disadvantage (Psalm 15.4).

If these are some ways in which evil is institutionalized in our country, what are some ways in which good is institutionalized? Well, consider our Constitution. Clearly it institutionalizes counter-cultural values such as democracy, freedom from hunger and education for all. But it is for you to tell me to what degree we actually have liberty, equality and fraternity in our country. Do we have the rule of law or has the law itself been turned, at least in many places and occasions, into becoming itself an instrument of exploitation, for example by the police on the road?

We may have good laws but, even those good laws, such as panchayati raj, can become a means of oppressing the lower castes (and that is the case even when a lower caste person becomes the Panchayat Sarpanch, she or he is simply manipulated by the upper castes and if the person refuses to comply has been known to have been beaten up, raped or even killed). Of course such malpractices do not mean that the institution of Panchayati Raj is somehow wrong. No. Malpractices mean rather that citizen power is required to identify malpractices, report malpractices, and pursue malpractices through the institutions of redress till wrongdoers are identified, judged and punished. Every case of a wrongdoer being punished is a blow for the right, and a demolition of the culture of injustice in our country. Exactly for that reason, every instance of the honouring (for example by a Prize or Award or Padma Bhushan or whatever of a person who has done something good) should be celebrated because it strengthens the kingdom of Right. Of course a Padma Bhushan or Award or Prize might be given to someone unworthily, and then it is our duty to expose that and to correct it.

However, the human tendency is to talk too much of the negative and not enough of the positive. As the Bible puts it: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things". We should focus our minds on such things - because if we don’t do so, it is too easy to become depressed, to become apathetic and withdrawn from the effort to build up our country, our people and ourselves.

Of course, governance is not only about where we should focus our attention, or about values. It is also about creating the right structures. That is why, at the highest levels in our political structure, we have a division of powers between the legislature, the executive, and the courts. And that is why our founders also institutionalized the freedom of the press. Of course, evil always tries to subvert each of these, and it is up to us to use the instruments offered to us by all these to fight against what is wrong, and to fight for what is right. You may have noticed that China has detained Xu Zhiyong, the prominent lawyer known for his support of human rights and greater government transparency, merely on suspicion of “gathering people to disturb public order in a public place”. Though India also has somewhat similar incidents occasionally, they are unconstitutional in India whereas they are entirely in accordance with the law in China. By contrast, if an IPS officer is doing something wrong in India, you have the right to gain access to that officer’s superiors or, if even that person refuses to act rightly for any reason, you have the right to gain access to the courts – you certainly have the right to gain access to the press – as well as the right to have access to the public, to organize a mass protest. Of course, all these may not be enough, and we may be defeated by evil in particular cases, but followers of the Light are called to rise again and fight again, in spite of defeats and reversals, whether in terms of their own personal and family lives or in terms of social and political life. Perhaps you also noticed that Zhang Xiaoming, China’s top representative in the Chinese colony, Hong Kong, met pro-democracy lawmakers this week for the very first time since the territory was taken over by China in 1977. This would be simply incredible in India, where we have had talks right from the start, perhaps not as often as would have been desirable, with separatists in the south, north-east and north of our country.

To continue with the theme of the right structures for corporate governance in our country: these include not only those of the Constitution at the highest level, or exalted things such as the separation of powers but, more recently, quite down to earth things such as Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and Right to Information (RTI) and Right to Education (RTE) and now the Right to Food (RTFood). Naturally, not everything is fine with these, let alone their implementation, but you and I need to be active and help to implement the system that is envisaged, and then identify how best to improve the operation of the system, whether in its implementation or even in the way it should be organized.

In the commercial sector, we have the proposed governance norms for all publicly traded companies produced by SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India), which are actually tougher than corporations face in more advanced economies. For instance, the CEOs in only about half of India's top 50 listed companies still double as chairmen, and they will be required to split their roles (those that want to continue combining the roles will need the explicit approval of their shareholders). Further, SEBI wants to require companies above a certain size to appoint at least one independent director from among small shareholders. Still further, SEBI is apparently going to require independent directors, who resign their position, to publicly disclose the reason(s) for their departure - and "personal reasons" won't be considered a satisfactory answer if directors are only giving up one of multiple directorships. Till recently, Company founders in India have been happy with eager-to-please boards: you may recollect the way "independent" directors of Satyam Computers rubber-stamped the former CEO's desperate attempt to cover up fraud in December 2008.

Of course, changing the rules is no guarantee of future good behaviour. Even boards that boast of independent leadership can do better. Infosys Technologies, the only Indian entry last year in CLSA's selection of 20 large Asian companies with best corporate governance, lists KV Kamath, a former banker, as a non-executive chairman. But a former Infosys CEO holds the position of executive co-chairman. Meanwhile, Kamath continues to be "independent" chairman at ICICI, even though he was its founding CEO. So there are all kinds of holes and challenges, but the fact is that the web of corporate governance is gradually becoming more and more tight, and that is the case not only in India but also globally.

Let me summarise. Corporate governance, whether at the level of an NGO, a company or the country as a whole, has three dimensions: the dimension of whether the right values are embedded and nurtured, the dimension of whether the overall structure helps or hinders, and the dimension of the individual initiative and willingness to sacrifice one’s own time and energy and money and interest that is required in order to fight corruption and enable development. Due to limitations of time, I have focused on how these dimensions are essential to fighting corruption, but I am sure that you can see how these three dimensions are also necessary to enabling development.

Thank you.

On Generosity in Indian tradition versus other traditions

Re-reading the Kural this morning, I am struck by how different the emphasis in our own (Indian) traditions is, compared to other traditions, regarding who should be grateful, for what, and in what manner.

In the Koran, for example, the emphasis is on human duty to God - and it is God Himself who seems to be grateful to humans when they do right (which I find strange, but then there are elements that appear strange to me in all systems of belief including those in philosophy, science, psychology, medicine, economics, and so on).

For the Jews (and therefore for followers of Jesus the Lord, whether Hindus or others) the emphasis is on God's generosity to humans for the gifts of life, abilities and talents, food and shelter and air...so: humans ought to be generous to other humans because of gratitude to God, which should motivate us to want to love God, and motivate us to become like Him. We should be generous because generosity is God-like.

However, in the Kural, it is the human being who receives from other humans who ought to be grateful, totally and forever ....

In other words, the Biblical view is that the recipients of God's love and grace (that is, all human beings) ought to be so grateful that they long for God, and long to be like God - and, therefore, in turn, become generous.

In the Kural, the emphasis is on humans who have received anything (however small) from other humans, feeling a sense of indebtedness to those who have been generous - a sense of indebtedness to a donor that should last forever.

The chapter on gratitute in the Thirukkural has the following ten couplets only (presented at http://www.kural.kalyanam.ca/kcha011.html from the book: TIRUKKURAL with translations in English by Rev Dr G U Pope, Rev W H Drew, Rev John Lazarus and Mr F W Ellis Published by The South India Saiva Siddhantha Works Publishing Society, Tinnevelly, Limited. India (1982):

Kural-101 Assistance given by those who ne'er received our aid, Is debt by gift of heaven and earth but poorly paid. (THE GIFT OF) HEAVEN AND EARTH IS NOT AN EQUIVALENT FOR A BENEFIT WHICH IS CONFERRED WHERE NONE HAD BEEN RECEIVED.

Kural-102 A timely benefit, -though thing of little worth, The gift itself, -in excellence transcends the earth. A FAVOUR CONFERRED IN THE TIME OF NEED, THOUGH IT BE SMALL (IN ITSELF), IS (IN VALUE) MUCH LARGER THAN THE WORLD.

Kural-103 Kindness shown by those who weigh not what the return may be: When you ponder right its merit, 'Tis vaster than the sea. IF WE WEIGH THE EXCELLENCE OF AN BENEFIT WHICH IS CONFERRED WITHOUT WEIGHING ITS RETURN, IT IS LARGER THAN THE SEA.

Kural-104 Each benefit to those of actions' fruit who rightly deem, Though small as millet-seed, as palm-tree vast will seem. THOUGH THE BENEFIT CONFERRED BE AS SMALL AS A MILLET SEED, THOSE WHO KNOW ITS ADVANTAGE WILL CONSIDER IT AS LARGE AS THE PALMYRA FRUIT.

Kural-105 The kindly aid's extent is of its worth no measure true; Its worth is as the worth of him to whom the act you do. THE BENEFIT ITSELF IS NOT THE MEASURE OF THE BENEFIT; THE WORTH OF THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED IT IS ITS MEASURE.

Kural-106 Kindness of men of stainless soul remember evermore! Forsake thou never friends who were thy stay in sorrow sore! FORSAKE NOT THE FRIENDSHIP OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR STAFF IN ADVERSITY. FORGET NOT THE BENEVOLENCE OF THE BLAMELESS.

Kural-107 Through all seven worlds, in seven-fold birth, Remains in mem'ry of the wise. Friendship of those who wiped on earth, The tears of sorrow from their eyes. (THE WISE) WILL REMEMBER THROUGHOUT THEIR SEVEN-FOLD BIRTHS THE LOVE OF THOSE HAVE WIPED AWAY THEIR AFFLICTION.

Kural-108 'Tis never good to let the thought of good things done thee pass away; Of things not good, 'tis good to rid thy memory that very day. IT IS NOT GOOD TO FORGET A BENEFIT; IT IS GOOD TO FORGET AN INJURY EVEN IN THE VERY MOMENT (IN WHICH IT IS INFLICTED).

Kural-109 Effaced straightway is deadliest injury, By thought of one kind act in days gone by. THOUGH ONE INFLICT AN INJURY GREAT AS MURDER, IT WILL PERISH BEFORE THE THOUGHT OF ONE BENEFIT (WHICH WAS FORMERLY CONFERRED).

Kural-110 Who every good have killed, may yet destruction flee; Who 'benefit' has killed, that man shall ne'er 'scape free! HE WHO HAS KILLED EVERY VIRTUE MAY YET ESCAPE; THERE IS NO ESCAPE FOR HIM WHO HAS KILLED A BENEFIT.

What caste after love marriage?

A friend has drawn my attention to the following question posted on a chat site and asked for my answer.

Here is the question:

My girlfriend and I are from different castes. My girlfriend would like to continue in her own caste, and I don't have any objection to that. Is it possible for her to continue in her own caste after marriage? And, if we have children, is it possible for them to remain in the mother's caste?

Here's my answer:

In our country, there is a huge difference between what is said and what is done, what the law says and what happens in reality (to a certain extent, this is the case everywhere but, generally, Protestant countris have the least gap between these, while "non-Protestant Christian" countries have a larger gap (and non-Christian societies have the biggest gap). That is not to say that, in the modern world, Christians as individuals are better than others - they may be or they may not be. My point is about the societies and nations that have been created by the different religious philosophies or ideologies).

So the facts in relation to your question are the following:

1. There is no legal reason in modern India why a wife cannot retain her maiden name.

2. There is also no legal reason why the children cannot take the mother's family or caste name.

3. If the motivation for the move on your girlfriend's part is to retain the favour of her community, that is a very good motivation but, in order for it to work as intended, she needs to talk to her parents and her community leaders to see if this would be an acceptable compromise. If they agree, then there is no reason to avoid proceeding with this arrangement.

4. However, if the motivation is to avoid caste slurs from members of your wife's caste on your children, this may or may not work. That is because, in our society, inter-caste marriages are always "out-caste" from both castes, as are the children. Generally, if any society does not follow the rule of casting out mixed-caste marriages, the caste that does the accepting is the lower caste. However, you need to be aware that since India's independence, caste is becoming less and less strong. However, if BJP comes to power in the next elections, it is not clear whether casteist forces will regain official momentum, as they have been regaining some momentum in some parts of the country since the last spell of NDA rule from 1998 to 2004

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Astronomy and the dating of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana

Following some discussion on a thread re Valmiki and the Dating of the Ramayana, my view was asked for, following this contribution:

“Sometime ago I read a book "80 Questions to Understand India" by Murad Ali Baig - something I picked up for airplane reading while browsing at a bookstore in India. Now Murad is not an historian - just that he studied history at St. Stephens college. A lot of what he has written seems implausible but it does give a fresh perspective on a lot of things that we read in our history books. Here is some of stuff that he wrote (and this is from my recollection of things I read a few months ago):

" 'The Ramayana was set in present Kryghistan/Uzbekistan around 1400BC. The Mahabharata happened near and around the time of Troy. These epics which were passed on through the oral tradition and may have traveled to India with the Vedic spread eastwards and got "localized" over time. Hinduism which is touted as one of the oldest religions of the world may actually be less than a 1000 years old. It may have started around 300 AD and got established over the next 3 or 400 hundred years mostly by the destruction of Buddhist shrines and their replacement with Hindu temples and the forced conversion of Buddhists to Hinduism by Brahmins who were trying to establish their control (as advisers to various rulers). Hinduism as we know it today may have been established by Shankaracharya around 8th centurey AD and defined in its present form by Raja Ramohan Roy in the early 19th century. Of course if you include the Buddhist and Vedic parts then it is over 5000 years old.”

My response:

“I am honoured to be asked to comment:

“Scholars must always keep an open mind for their current views to be modified or even falsified, so I always try to look at all new evidence possible, in order to see what is really before me as evidence, and not be prejudiced by my own thoughts or theories…

“I have not read Murad Ali Baig’s "80 Questions to Understand India" – would you recommend that I read it?

“As for the theories that you cite from that book:

1. There is no consensus among scholars about the location of the Mahabharata War (archeological evidence shows that a war certainly took place in the Kurukshetra region, but then wars took place in many regions – the archeological evidence at Kurukshetra does not indicate a war on anything like the scale that the Mahabharata describes; this is not to say that no such great war as described in the Mahabharata took place in India - it may well have taken place, but at present we have no incontrovertible evidence of it).

2. Nor is there any consensus about the date of the Mahabharata. Estimates vary from roughly five thousand BC to the 9th century BC

3. Calculations based on the astronomical references in the Mahabharata itself, range from roughly 5,500 BC (P N Oak & P V Vartak, who differ slightly on the exact date), to 3143 BC (P V Holey), to 3067 BC (B N Achar) to 2559 BC (S. Balakrishna) to 1478 BC (R. N. Iyengar). My conclusion: the astronomical references are clearly too vague, if they allow such scholars to arrive at dates 4000 years apart.

4. As for Murad’s view that the War took place in Kryghistan/Uzbekistan, it is possible, given that so much of the Vedas originate somewhere in Central Asia (please note: I am *not* saying that our Mahabharata was written there, only that much Vedic material, in its oral form, came from somewhere in Central Asia, and that might have included tales of a great war there, which may then have become conflated with a local war in India some millennia or at least centuries later)

5. Baig’s view of the start of “Hinduism” in AD300 or so, probably comes from the fact that that is when murti-puja started in our country, as a result of Greek influence (Alexander the Great and all that) – almost certainly, we had no murtis before that. Most of the gods we worship today start after that date, and are then “read back” into the Vedas; a huge number of gods who are prayed to in the Vedas have disappeared in our consciousness, thought and practice so that no one worships them now - this is not as astonishing as first appears to people unacquainted with India – we have had massive transitions in our religious thought and practice just in our own lifetime – consider Ganga-Puja in Varanasi!!! Ganga Mata was never earlier worshipped at Varanasi, only at Haridwar (and possibly at Gangotri – though I have not been able to establish that); or consider the changes in Durga Puja even in Bengal – but Sandip is able to tell us much more about that than I can…

6. Shankaracharyaji’s impact was huge, and he certainly put in place many of things that we now associate with mainstream Hindu thought and practices.

7. It is too much to say that Raja Ram Mohan Roy “defined Hinduism in its present form”; what is true is that Roy *and* the Bengal Renaissance as a whole formed what are the different streams of Hindu thought and practice today. For example, the idea that all religions are “the same” or “lead to the same end” does not exist in India before Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa came up with this idea in the late 19th century. The Brahmo Samaj, the Arya Samaj, the Prarthana Samaj, the Ramakrishna Mission were, each of them, like so many others (and the number has only multiplied with time, down to the Brahma Kumaris and ISKCON and Osho and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and all our new gurus) are all reform movements, new movements – movements to *change* the traditions that were established up to the end of the 19th century. In that sense, it is correct to say that “Hinduism”, as we see it today, only goes back a century or so. However, as we all know, there is no such thing as “HinduISM”, there are many Hinduisms; and that gives us the liberty to say that Hindu thought and practice goes back 5000 years (or 7000 years or whatever).

8. Buddhism is a different matter. Buddhism and Jainism were anti-Vedic. The anti-Buddhist (and, by the way, anti-Jain) movement culminated in Shankaracharyaji’s inclusion of Buddhist and Jain ideas into Hindu thought and practice. For example, vegetarianism and reincarnation are not Vedic ideas (the Vedas relish meat-eating! I should say that I am a vegetarian...). Vegetarianism and reincarnation are originally Jain ideas (Buddhism does have a version of reincarnation, but we did not accept the Buddhist version, we accepted the Jain version); Buddhism was originally NON-vegetarian – the Buddha himself ate meat – which, by the way, is the reason that Tibetan Buddhists, Thai Buddhists, and so many other Buddhists (including IN India) are non-vegetarian, whereas you are far less likely to find a Jain who is non-vegetarian, even today…

9. Buddhism and Jainism date from around the 6th century BC, though Jainism claims antecedents going back to Rishabha (claimed to be, by various people, as long back as perhaps the 8th millennium BC).

Warm regards


Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Nazis created the myth of the Aryan super race of the past, and sold that fiction to the naive German populace...a similar thing is happening in India (of course like in Germany of the past, there are still many Hindus that question this nonsense)

The title (above) is from the latest message sent by a correspondent of mine, who is interacting with me on the subject of whether India was leagues ahead of other countries in technology before "the British destroyed our civilisation".

Here is an excerpt from my last mail to him:

It is difficult enough to understand how a rich and highly populated land like India could have come to be ruled by foreigners, even assuming parity in technology.

If one asserts that Indian technology was actually that many leagues better, then the difficulty becomes insuperable – or rather the moral turpitude of our ancestors becomes even more incredible, as the only reason we would have lost would have been betrayal by insiders.

In that case, we may have been technologically superior, but we were all the more morally inferior – and our own history should be a standing illustration of the fact that all the technological superiority in the world is of no use when there is lack of honesty, morality and loyalty.

So the preeminent factor in civilizational longevity or success is not technology but morality.

And if our culture BEFORE the foreigners came was not able to build a sufficient morality or ethics, then what is the use of trying to revive that culture?

Does our ancient culture not need to be supplemented by ethical and moral values from a different source?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Unleash the power of your pen!: FORWARD Press seeks applications from interested candidates for appointment as Correspondents at divisional, district and sub-divisional headquarters

Appointees will be paid at the rate of Rs. 5 maximum per word (conditions apply) for their published reports, as well as attractive commission on advertisements secured by them.

The minimum qualifications and other conditions for these positions are as under:

Should have enthusiastic commitment and missionary zeal for working for the deprived sections of the society as a journalist.

Should have a confident and outgoing personality. Should be able to interact with top politicians and administrative officers.

Must be able to work to tight deadlines.

Must be comfortable working on computer - via internet.

Must be “forward thinking” and in broad agreement with magazine’s vision and values.

Those having experience in Hindi or English journalism and having wide social contacts in Dalit-OBC communities would be given preference.

The appointments will made only at centres where FORWARD Press has at least 100 subscribers and the magazine is available at local book stalls. Otherwise, appointments will be made only if the candidate can assure that s/he has the capacity to enroll the required number of subscribers in the area.

Everything else being equal, preference will be given to Dalitbahujan (OBC/SC/ST) candidates.

Apply with CV to: info@forwardmagazine.in

Thursday, 9 May 2013

If there is a crisis of India's soul, what has caused it?

A friend writes: What do you think of this from Gallup and others who have less credibility?: http://businessjournal.gallup.com/content/161930/india-having-crisis-soul.aspx?utm_source=email&utm_medium=052013&utm_content=morelink&utm_campaign=newsletter

My response:

"This is usual Deepak Chopra rubbish, half-true and half-false, with some intuition into what is happening, but attempting to compensate for lack of analysis with a scattering of facts.

"I am surprised that Jim Clifton allowed his name to be linked with Chopra's.

"The simple question that arises for any half-intelligent person from the article is: if there is a crisis, what caused it?

"Since Chopra and Clifton do not even begin to hint at what caused it, the article cannot be taken seriously.

"Actually, the crisis is caused by two things:

"(1) the civilizational crisis in the USA (which has impacted all other countries, since the US is still the world's lead economy), and

"(2) the political and administrative paralysis in India itself, with the rise of a generation of selfish and manipulative leaders (of all parties) following the decline of Biblical as well as nationalistic influence in the country."

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Who was it that buried the stupa and temple associated with the Buddha's death?

The Parinirvana (or Parinibbana) Stupa is one of the four holy places declared by the Buddha to be places fit for pilgrimage.

Near the site of the Buddha's death, the stupa possibly housed one-eighth of the Buddha's relics.

No one knows when the stupa and nearby temple were built, but it could have been as early as immediately after his death.

In any case, it was, presumably a centre of pilgrimage during the heyday of Buddhism in India. However, with the "disappearance" of Buddhism, all trace of the stupa and the temple disappeared.

When the remains of the Parinirvana Stupa and Parinirvana Temple, were rediscovered (something like 500 years after they vanished from history), they were apparently buried in a 40 foot high mound of bricks within a dense and thorny forest.

Time covers many things, but it is usually with dust, not bricks. And coverage by bricks does not happen by accident.

I cannot discover any reference to the time when the stupa and temple were buried, to the name of the person who ordered it done, or to any reason why the burial was in 40 feet of bricks rather than in 30 feet or in 60 feet or in any other number of feet of bricks.

Not only were the stupa and temple buried, the whole surrounding area seems to have been declared a "No go" area by means of taboos and superstitions, so that a jungle grew up (or was perhaps even started?) around the sites.

In any case, do these actions not show a deep desire on the part of certain very powerful people to cover all trace of the site and to make it as difficult as possible to reach or even discover?

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Financial Times: full text of my letter to the Editor, following the letter by John Godfrey, on Indian philanthropy


John Godfrey (Letters, February 2) may be pleased to hear that I started work, last Autumn, on a history of Indian philanthropy from Vedic times to the present, examining the historical impact of Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, and Hinduism as well as the contemporary impact of secular modernity. That work is what led to my initial letter on the subject (published in FT on 19 January 2013).

In addition, another study is expected to be published in the next few days by Coutts; still another study is forthcoming in the next few months from Sage, written by three North American academics. So studies of Indian philanthropy do appear to be emerging.

However, there is a question of how various studies define the subject: do we wish to include donations in India, whether from the poor or from the rich, to temples and priests, or do we to we wish to confine ourselves to donations that are actually philanthropic? It was just this week that a report was published by a religious organisation in India announcing donations of the equivalent of over half a billion dollars to that organisation in the last year alone! While it is true that some temples and religious organisations have started philanthropic work as a reaction against Christian influences over the years, it is unclear how much of the money received by these temples and religious organisations is now devoted to philanthropic causes.

Outside the world of temples and religious organisations, I agree that genuine philanthropy has increased, though a lot of it, perhaps inadvertently, ends up strengthening the gap between the rich and the poor.

In fact, it is not clear how much Indian philanthropy has even attempted to address the real problems of the country or to ameliorate in any systematic way the lot of the masses – India has more poor people, more uneducated people, and more people dying from preventable diseases, than any other country. Indeed, India apparently has one NGO for every 400 people: so, while Mr Godfrey is undoubtedly right about the scale of aspiration in the area of philanthropy, one is perplexed about how to understand, evaluate or remedy the relative lack of impact. Though I remain cheered by Mr Godfrey’s belief that India’s bureaucracy might be able to regulate and support the growth of Indian philanthropy, it is clear that India’s poor taken as a whole are benefiting at best only marginally both from the expansion of India’s economy and from the growth of Indian philanthropy.

There is the further question, which I will raise in my lecture at the National University of Singapore later this month, of whether the newly promising forms of Indian philanthropy, as they follow in the wake of developments in the USA, may also end up strengthening the trend towards crony capitalism in India as they appear to be doing in the USA, or whether a more positive outcome in India might be in view.

Lastly, I am not aware of any assessment of the historical and contemporary role and impact of Indian philanthropy as a whole (which is partly what I am aiming to do through my book), and any comments on that from your readers would be particularly useful.


Sunday, 24 February 2013

According to the Yajur Veda, how wise was Jesus the Lord?

The Yajur Veda says: "Realising bodiless vast and all-pervading Atman dwelling within impermanent bodies, the wise do not grieve" - Yajur Veda, Katha Up. I, ii, 22

But, on hearing of the death of his friend Lazarus, and before raising him to life again, "Jesus wept" (John 11.35).

Friday, 15 February 2013

Renunciates, Kural, Jesus and the Roman Church

"The (Indian) scriptures exalt above every other good the greatness of virtuous renunciates", says the Thirukkural (Kural 21).

I am not aware of a greater renunciate than Jesus the Lord.

Nor am I aware of many people who, while claiming to be renunciate, are more NON-renunciate than the Popes, Cardinals and Princes of the Roman Church. Though I guess some of our gurus (such as Osho) may not have been far behind; others, even now, may not be far behind. Of course, there are true renunciates, including in the Roman Church, and among our gurus and swamis...but many renunciates may not be recognised as renunciates, because: who can look through appearances to see the realities of the human heart except God?

Monday, 28 January 2013

The god Shiva - in the Vedas?

"Namah Sivaya is the most holy name of God Siva, recorded at the very center of the Vedas" writes one of our sages in a text written possibly ages ago but received by me today.

Unfortunately, the facts contradict him.

There is no reference to Shiva in the Vedas at all.

However, it is believed by many that Shiva has a sort of "hidden presence" in the Vedas in the form of Rudra.

Shiva is a much later god, who was, even later, retrospectively identified with Rudra.

If you have an emotional preference for reading Shiva back into Rudra, it is worth keeping the following fact in mind: even Rudra is not "at the very centre of the Vedas".

The earliest mention of Rudra occurs in the Rig Veda, where only three hymns are devoted to him, out of the more than 1000 hymns contained there.

Altogether, there are merely about seventy-five references to Rudra, usually within a long list of gods who are addressed - and that's just 75 references in the more than 10,000 verses of the Rigveda.

If one wants to work out how important a god Rudra is in the Rigveda, you can work out a mathematical representation of that by dividing 10,000 by 75.

Friday, 11 January 2013

How can one become a sannyasin?

There are various answers in Indian traditions ("sannyas" is to renounce the world).

The problem with all answers that I know of is well illustrated by the statement below, that I have just seen: "Young, unmarried men of the Hindu religion may qualify for renunciation, called sannyasa diksha, which may be conferred by any legitimate sannyasin. But the most spiritually potent initiation comes from a satguru."

On first sight, that seems clear and understandable. But it raises key questions: what are the criteria for determining a "legitimate sannyasin"? Who is qualified to set the criteria? How do we know? What if the diksha (conferment) is done by an "illegitimate sannyasin"?

Or: Why is initiation "more potent" if it comes from a satguru? What does "more potent" mean?

Or: What are the criteria for determining who is a legitimate satguru? Who is qualified to set the criteria? How do we know?

If sannyas is something "conferred" by someone, is there a right way of conferring it which would be different from wrong ways of conferring it? Presumably the "conferment" has no "potency" if "conferred" in a wrong way? Who decides? Or how could we possibly know if it is being done right or wrong?

And what is all this about "young" and "unmarried"? I thought our traditions and scriptures were quite clear that we should all become sannyasis AFTER we have been grahasthya (householders, and therefore married) and in fact reached the age of "retirement"?

Thursday, 10 January 2013


I provide some basic information below.

All reactions, responses, criticisms and suggestions are welcome!

Several of the interviews have already taken place; others are proceeding apace...

Many thanks for any help that you can give me: a book may have only one author's name on it, but s/he needs the support of many people for that book to be any good!


Indian Philanthropy: A Portrait




Chapter 1: First Impresssions (Stories from my childhood – and those of others)

Chapter 2: Great Heights (Does one’s view of the world change from the perspective of success?)

Chapter 3 Subtle Realities (The varying motivations, personally and as families, for philanthropy)

Chapter 4: Apples and Pears (What did we give to, traditionally, and has that changed?)

Chapter 5: Means and Ends (What channels did we give through, and have those changed?)

Chapter 6: I and We (Individuals, Families, Firms, Institutions, Adventure)

Chapter 7: When One is Young (Is philanthropy changing with the generations?)

Chapter 8: Towering Ambitions (Indian philanthropy in social transformation, in government policy, and in the globalising world – and the limitations on those ambitions)

Chapter 9: Looking Forward (Some conclusions regarding philanthropy, not only in India, examining the relationship of philanthropy to culture, to law, to policy, to free markets, and to the possibility of creating minimum human conditions of life, equity and justice for everyone)




Examples of Individuals, Families and Organisations that have been or will be approached for the content of the book:


Alliance Magazine

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen


Lucy Bernholz

The Birla Family

Matthew Bishop

Richard Branson

Steve & Jean Case/ The Case Foundation

Center on Philanthropy

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy

Charities Aid Foundation India

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Clinton Foundation

CSR Wire


The Doshi Family


The Foundation Center DC

Foundation Centre New York

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Global Philanthropy Forum

Global Philanthropy Group

The Godrej Family

GuideStar USA

IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland

Indian Philanthropy Forum

Indiana University


Institute for Philanthropy

The Jain Family

The Koticha Family

The Mittal Family

The Monitor Group

Narayana and Sudha Murthy

The Nadar Family

National Center for Family Philanthropy

The Nilekani Family

One Percent Foundation


Philanthropy Action

Philanthropy Australis

Philanthropy Journal



The Premji Family


Nadathur S. Raghavan

Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy

Schwab Foundation

Skoll Foundation

The Social Stock Exchange

The Tata family

The Templeton Foundations


Twitter Good

The United Nations Foundation

World Economic Foundation

ALSO: Family Offices, Wealth Management Offices of the largest Financial Institutions, Authors, Journalists, Researchers/ Consultants/ Publishers, such as Bain & Company.

Other suggestions welcome… ENDS