15th August, 1947 – When India achieved its political freedom, it was based on relentless discharge of a value called ‘Social Responsibility’ by each and every profession of our nation. The lawyers, doctors, teachers, scientists, writers irrespective of their functional identity realized their real state of existence – the identity of an Indian citizen. Afterwards, though we understood the meaning of the functional designations, we could never understand the meaning of the word ‘Citizen’ and its associated values.
Though India had seen republic during the times of Buddha, it was still ruled by the upper class of the society. In that sense, 1950 was the year when India saw herself on the path to become a true republic where every person on the land had a say in the system. Irrespective of castes, creeds, religions, and wealth, we had complete control of the country. Then, as has been our wont, we faltered. The only thing we understood about becoming a citizen were the ‘Rights’. Duties became absolutely irrelevant! We were a little sapling in 1950, and we are still a very young plant on the soil of democracy. Sadly, we have been shaking the plant from its roots all these years. The plant that we see today is extremely fragile, weak and insecure.
Beyond the courts of law that exist in our country, we as Indians have committed a national sin in the court of humanity. In the eyes of the national spirit of India, we have committed an act of treason post-independence. We achieved political freedom, and we started fighting for our individual rights in complete isolation from a value called ‘Social Responsibility’. The society soon turned into a mob, inflicting chaos on the very fabric of our country with loud, shrill noise of just one word – ‘I’! We sowed the seeds of selfishness, we are reaping them now. The sorrowful paradox of this kind of Indian cultivation is that we have not learnt our lessons and continue to sow the same seeds even today. A phenomenon of simultaneous sowing and reaping has boomed in as we blind ourselves from the perilous crops of disharmony, hatred, red-tape, and a defunct democratic society. If we restrict the discussion to the governing and administrative class of our nation, we will make a suicidal mistake of directing the hose to the superficial flames whereas the root of this humongous fire is our ignorance of an enlightened citizenship. A bottom-up approach, this must be or else we are not going to achieve anything.
Swami Vivekananda writes in his letter1 – “So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every person a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them!”. As we become citizen of a nation, with our rights comes social responsibility. Freedom without Responsibility is dangerous. An ignorant citizen – put him on any functional position, will never be able to perform. The only thing he has known is himself. So we see people pursuing every functional designation for money. However, a person in political or administrative life has greater visibility and scope for his work and hence when he fails to do that, it becomes a social spectacle. Small countries like Japan, Holland have exemplified administration and governance because of an enlightened sense of citizenship. A responsible human being might be a clerk at an office or the head of a state. He will perform because he has nurtured a system of values. The corruption of character can take place in any position. The need of the hour is to build strong characters who won’t fetter even at the greatest of danger. Mountains might crumble and the world might go completely against such individuals but such people will hold on to their values.
Ideally, national development should require three things.
- Technical Knowledge
- Capital for implementation
- A National Character
We have made no progress on the third and that leaves the first two obsolete. Hence, we see great divides of rich and the poor, literate and the illiterate, privileged and the common mass. Mal-governance, ill administration create a vacuum and that vacuum is occupied by the anti-social forces. The creation of Taliban was a result of this vacuum; the ISIS of the Middle East and the Boko-Haram of Africa are our own doings. Our country faces a great challenge today. The vacuum has become so huge that for every thing people are forced to come out on streets. The establishment invariably fails us in times of need and we take to streets for justice because we the people of free India, do not have a choice. The citizens have started delivering on the promise of social responsibility but the ruling class still sleeps.
One great example that we find is of Rajarshi Manu. A king who was also a sage. A king without values is no good, rather he is pernicious to his own people and is capable of destroying any civilization. Today our leaders are completely disconnected from the Rishi (sagacity) aspect of their personality. According to the legend, when the world was to be destroyed on doomsday – Manu, without thinking about his own life, made sure that specimens of every species are saved to restart the world. This is a great lesson in the story of our civilization. Even in the book of genesis, Noah carried out a similar task of sacrificing his own self for the good of the world.
We refer to ourselves as one person and not as two legs or a pair of eyes. When we go to the external from this individual identity, we start differentiating – castes, religions, states, countries, surnames, colors and all such distinctions start having meanings for us. As we look further and gain the consciousness of this universe, we become one again and refer ourselves as one earth. These two stages of oneness make no sense if we don’t exercise that value of oneness in the phase that is sandwiched between these two. We lose out on the concept of One-Humanity in between.
What Krishna tells Arjun should serve as the formula for the entire political and administrative class –
Saktaah karmnyavidwaanso yathaa kurvanti bhaarata |
kuryaat vidwaan tathaa asaktah chikeershuh loksangraham ||2
“As the unenlightened, attached to work, acts, so should the enlightened act, O descendent of Bharat, but without attachment, desirous of the well-being of the world.”
We can spend umpteen number of days in counting the evils in the society, like that philosopher from the story of a drowning boy and the lecturing philosopher. The boy cried – “Take me out of the water first!” Our country is the drowning boy and all of us have become lecturing philosophers. Can we first take the boy out of water?
Swami Vivekananda in his response to welcome at Madras on his return from America – ‘My Plan of Campaign’ said3 –
“Love opens the most impossible gates; love is the gate to all the secrets of the universe. Feel, therefore, my would be reformers, my would be patriots! Do you feel? Do you feel that millions and millions of the descendants of Gods and of sages have become next door neighbors to brutes? Do you feel that millions are starving today, and millions have been starving for ages? Do you feel that ignorance has come over this land as a dark cloud? Does it make you restless? Does it make you sleepless? Has it gone into your blood, coursing through veins, becoming consonant with your heartbeats? Has it made you almost mad? Are you seized with that one idea of the misery of ruin, and have you forgotten all about your name, your fame, your wives, your children, your property, even your own bodies? Have you done that? That is the first step to become a patriot, the very first step.”
Let us bring governance and administration into mainstream discourse. A healthy competition must exist, not of power but results. It is possible only when the youth participates in the democratic set up of this country. The vacuum needs to be flooded with multitude of conscious youth. From the streets of agitation, they have to be airlifted and brought to the work-desk. That is the place for their talent and energy. We can do that only when we perform our duties, set examples and then train them in the art and science of value based administration. Centers of education have to be at the forefront of this revolution because they already have the raw materials to actualize the dream of a value-centric society. Universities must tap the aspirations of young men and women who will take these first steps of principled public life. The ones on the political and the administrative scene must have the spine of values, and why only them, it lies on all of us, in whatever function we exist, to keep this country standing upright on values.
- Letters of Swami Vivekananda– Page No – 145, written to Alasinga Perumal, Chicago, 1894. Published by Advaita Ashrama. 2nd New Edition, 24th Reprint, December 2013.
- Universal Message of the Bhagwad Gita Volume 1– Page No – 293, Swami Ranganathananda, Verse 25, Chapter -3, The Yoga of Action. Published by Advaita Ashrama. First Edition, Second Reprint, March 2002.
- The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda – Volume 3, My Plan of Campaign, Page – 225, Published by Advaita Ashrama, 9th Edition, 23rd Reprint, December 2011.