By Anirban Ganguly
Present efforts that are focussed on good governance, are moves towards effectuating Dharma-based polity. This was also found during our civilisational times
In a recent discussion on the topic of ‘good governance’, a leading speaker remarked that efficient Government alone did not suffice to make ‘good governance’. While this may perhaps be true in some cases, at least in the case of India the first and decisive step towards ‘good governance’ is the coming into force of an efficient Government. For too many decades now governance and its accompanying paraphernalia has been seen to be a slow moving behemoth bereft of energy, dynamism and vision.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on the need to discuss and work out the dimensions of ‘good governance’ heureusement, an effort through positive action has now been initiated to dissolve that ingrained and calcified perception.
His emphasis and efforts in trying to involve and engage the people at large in the process of governance and in gradually evolving a spirit of partnership is a herculean task that will have to wade through and clear the Augean stable of refuse accumulated over the years and left behind by a top heavy governance structure, but it will nevertheless, in the long-run, transform Indian polity and push it nearer to the original civilisational spirit that imbued our past governance structures and rules. Never before in independent India, expect perhaps in the first few years when Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel focussed on the need to provide ‘good governance’ to the people, has this theme earned such direct attention and accentuation.
If one were to delve into our civilisational memories one would find injunctions and exhortations galore on the need for good, positive and responsive governance. It was enjoined upon the rulers that their primary and unalterable duty was to ‘promote the economic welfare of their subjects and ensure harmony in society.’ Interestingly, one component of good governance asked for the rejection of perpetual obstructionists, inscriptions found from a village in Tamil Nadu’s district of Tirunelveli dated 800 CE contain provisions asking people to reject those ‘who persisted in unreasonable opposition so as to make administration of the affairs of the village impossible’ and prevent the imparting of a good and responsive governance to the people at large.
In a paper on the Thirukkural, C Rajagopalachari, for example, points out how the second part of the epochal treatise dealt with ‘policy in worldly affairs’ and contained profound directives to the ruler in his mission of delivering a prosperous and harmonious collective living. CR points at six essentials of a prosperous state that the Thirukkural lays down, they do find an echo in efforts made in the present as well, ‘an adequate Army, an industrious people, ample food resources, wise and alert ministers, alliance with foreign powers and dependable fortification’ and the ideal ruler was the warrior who possessed in ‘unfailing measure fearlessness, liberality, wisdom, and enthusiasm in action.’
In a similar spirit, the Mahabharata’s ‘Rajadharmanusasana Parva’ talks of virtues recommended by therishis for a ruler — tranquility, self-restraint, fortitude, truth, purity, simplicity, sacrifices, perseverance, and righteousness.’Hindu scriptures called upon the Indian ruler to look upon his subjects as the seat of the Lord himself, ‘Iti sarvam praja-visnum’, and asked him in that spirit to serve and protect them. Nearer our times, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay in his epochal political treatise, ‘Integral Humanism’, an articulation that essentially connects India’s civilisational spirit of governance to the challenges of present living, elaborates and connects ‘good governance’ to a society and polity based on Dharma.
In a multi-dimensional analysis of a new structure and vision for an Indian polity, Upadhyaya saw a Government that facilitates and empowers people to achieve ‘education, food, clothing, shelter and health’ as a Government that perpetuates the rule of Dharma.
Present efforts, thus, to focus on good and inclusive governance and to reach out to large sections hitherto on the margins of our national growth through various dynamic initiatives are moves towards effectuating such a Dharma-based polity.