Nothing in excess! Man is the measure of things!
Three Greek ideals!

SocratesThese are the lessons the momentous, historic visit once again brought home to us. A lesson I sought to learn more than half a century and yet only what I missed by chance so many years ago, in 1959-61 when I was at Oxford, I was able to fulfill only now!

Thanks to many favorable circumstances this visit, this July, was fulfilled only this time!

What once I thought, it was possible for some few pounds; say ten or fifteen bucks, as they say; now it cost a fortune! But what a historic perspective in which this opportunity came about!

So, the readers have to bear with some, preliminary reflections on what is raging inside my mind and intellect to get some momentum to come to the actual first-hand experience of our Greek encounter!

It is no exaggeration to say this. We, Indians are not known for our historic sense at all.
We have not had any such great history. All we have a certain type of Orientalist fantasies only. Even the British colonisation played role to dim our historic views. The learned classes in India believed the colonizers’ perspectives only. But the British ruling class, from the 17th century onwards, more so in the 18th and 19th centuries sought to appropriate the legacies of Greek and Roman civilizations and it is long history of learning and loot. The much sought after treasures, the incomparable sculptures, the priceless marbles, like the Elgin marbles and other such treasures had been stolen blatantly and the European museums and art galleries are full of the looted antiquities.

Along with the loot came the much sought after Grand Tours, the British ruling class appropriated for themselves in terms of education, culture and exposure to the world of high culture and the art of ruling. So, our visit from India, to classical Greece and Rome can be seen and I like to see as a historic turn to a hopefully new awakening of sorts. I invite readers to see our experience and arguments in this wider perspective.

Yes, it was a dream of more than a half century! The dream of visiting Greece and seeing the historic sites, the soil on which Socrates (469-399 BC), the first great thinker of the classical world walked! Yes, we did tread on his divine feet! The ancient Agora, the original 2,500 era market and public place where the ancient Athenians used to congragate, for both day-to-day affairs and also as a government to sit in this house. That structure had gone.”Where is the prison?”When I asked this question I noticed headquarters! The very soil is intact even now! Just the other side lies the Roman Agora, which the Romans occupied Greece and ruled as one of Roman provinces. The old Agora was the place where the first flowering of the idea of democracy originated. The very structure, a raised round platform still stands where the council of thirty, the cabinet met and deliberated. Many of the surviving structures are, we are told, functioned as governing offices, judiciary, treasure and even prison, also the portion where Socrates drank the poison and willingly died.

Why did he die? Where is the very spot? We asked the woman guide?”Yes, sir, it is here!”She replied matter of factly. She also showed a name board:”Simon’s House. Simon was Socrates’ close friend. Socrates used another person and young lady of course well-educated suiting not far from the place. I beckoned her. She came forward and told us that she is a staff of the American School of Classical Studies, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation that is carrying out the archeological investigations. There were the clay cups that were lying in the spot where other prisoners too might have been killed by serving poison in similar cups. So, the learned archeologist explained to us how the science of archeology reaches conclusions by such reasoning. Athens has had a very long history. It faced many invasions from the Persians. Modern Greece too faced many occupasions. The last was Ottoman occupation. Only in the 19th century Greece became independent. Modern Greece is a poor copy of the classical Greece, of course!

We visited Greece for a family holdiay, five members and for ten days! So we now know each nook and corner of the Athens city! I consider our visit historic! For some very historic reasons. I have to put the question in some broad and long historic context. Also when I look at the timing of the happening, from what I see from the future evolution of the India we are going to create as a great democracy and a great nation. Let us look back and also at the vision for India. By way of values of governance, institutions the values of a mass democracy, various freedoms of the citizens, the direct democracy practiced by the ancient Athenians!

The great general and statesman, Pericles (495-429 BC) said at the funeral speech at the end of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) education for the world. Our government is not of the few but of the many. That speech must be taught in all our schools. Let us connect with the march of civilization. My mind wandered, far and wide as I lost in my reflections. Why? Modern India, the first seventy years of India’s freedom, brought Indians many freedoms. But in my opinion the most cherishable freedom of awakening, an awakening of the civilization values, the modern ways of thinking, the many strands of new knowledge, philosophy, science and much of the other sources of knowledge, months, astronomy and medicine, to mention just a few sources, were all  the contributions of Greece, right?

But then this awakening couldn’t come to India owing to, again in my opinion, to the sort of education that came to India much later to the British education, the contribution of Macaulay who decreed that Indians are good only for a clerical education. So, the original contributions of Greece and Rome remained confined only to the British youngsters. The cream of the ICS fraternity remained only with the British cadre. The so-called Bengal Renaissance with all its brilliance also remained in my view only confined to the British contributions. What we lost I like to get connected with the great civilization links.

Our education must incorporate the best of the Greek and the Roman contributions to mankind. Teach courage, moral strength and politics that are truly democratic and teach citizens all the practicalities of the Greek citizenship ideals. How the Greeks had that strength to raise the Parthenon (447BC) the acropolis, the giant pure white marbles? It is so staggering and so majestic. It rises on the acropolis hill and shines in such lighting overlooking the city of Athens down below!

Words fail to recreate the emotional outburst first-timers have to climb and struggle to stand up and raise our eyes! To fully describe is impossible. On a vast hill space of two and half hectare spread three temples stand for the past 2,500 years.

So, we have to initiate a big vision for India, Indian thought processes. The many names that we would narrate later and they are too many in all branches of knowledge and practical affairs, in Greek ideal, you as an individual are both a thinker and a practical man; Socrates had participated in a war! Classical Greece in all its full bloom arises before us. That is a priceless gift to mankind!

Yes, they are expelling thousands out of jobs
IT biggies gone underground! Why IT leaders remain tongue-tied?

chairmanThere are reports almost daily that hundreds and thousands of mid-career IT professionals with families and school-going children, loans on housing to repay etc. are asked on a daily basis, as soon as they enter their offices in the morning, they are called in and asked to sign a resignation letter and quit the job at once!

What sort of compassionate capitalism men like Narayana Murthy who had cultivated an iconic public face cultivated for him are talking about? What are the opinion-makers, columnists and others in the policy making business doing?

No one, we don’t want to utter names and create controversy for controversy sake, is coming out and create public confidence in such a basic industry like the IT. What are the sorts of public opinion we help to build and enlighten the people? So, IT is another illusion or what future likes ahead?

They made fat profits, built large structures and let us hope common sense says that many of this dream structures don’t become ghost structures sooner than later! Certainly, responsible people, be they political leaders or IT biggies soon collect themselves at the high table and come out with some public statement reassuring others at least in the jobs right now and let us create a confidence in our own society and turn things around so that  we have a sort of public policy in place. Surely, the public anxiety and why even anger, as we talk too many in the jobs, don’t lead to some untoward explosions.

The IT companies, the big among them have a great moral duty and moral commitment to create a contingency fund, call it by any name you like, like the Corporate Social Responsibility, and work out a policy of rehabilitating those who are very much affected by rude expulsions!
This duty is cast on firms like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and other larger entities. It was moved when Mr.Anand Mahindra, the head of the Mahindra Tech, publicly came along and expressed an open apology on the TV screens where the first news of such great distress was flashed across the country. He is truly a great gentleman who had the moral gusts to appear before the people. We salute him.

Now, the curse of the new techs, yes, we have to call it like that only, the new techs like AI and automation and others are surely upon us and no one cries over them. But we need to re-skill the talents available and why not the government and the industry leaders take the initiative to revamp the curriculum in the IITs and engineering colleges to the level of the new requirements?

Please do this at once and let us not wait for the government in a sort of slumber, see how the HRD is coping with the many current issues in education, both the higher and the lower ends.

Who says education is a soft option. Not anymore now, please understand. As our motto we once again repeat: education is a public cause, not a private profit! Unfortunately, it is right now. It can’t remain so for long!

70 per cent are small and marginal farmers with less than one hectare of farm land!

arun jaitelySo, what sort of farm policies you make for these unviable farmers who easily resort to the only option to deal with mounting debe4ts?
Suicide and that is what needs to be address.

How do you do this?

Not postponing issues and only when the trickle develops into a flood you resort to only steps, use police to fire at the “unruly” crowd of farmers and also you politicise the issues to the extent that where big politicians like Digvijai Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia sit at dharna with laughs and jokes that get wide newspaper headlines!

Farmers’s agitations and political responses! The agriculture minister is nowhere seen nor we hear any of his concerns, his statements or his deputies are whwere to be seen.

You see, there is lack of seriousness from the governments and the Opposition parties!

There are widespread farmers’s agitations in major states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, UP and why even in Tamil Nadu. The causes for the agitations might have been different but the outcome is the same.
Now, the very orchestration from every state has come down to one and it seems only demand, namely, farmers’s loans write-offs.

Can the states resort to this sort of large scale write-offs?

And predictably, the Union finance minister, Mr.Jaitley has openly said that the Centre can’t bear the burden, each state has to find the funds for such scale of write-ff.

Okey, fine. How long such demands can go on and also how long the governments can’t adopt such a simplistic solutions.
The PSB banks   are the ones to face the music and already the NPA issue is dogging the central government.

Now, the questions to be asked by everybody are: is this all to agriculture issues?

Agriculture, as a profession, has to be carried on. It is a life-giving activity; agriculture is like our very borthy. But who then brought the issues to this end?

The most tragic part of the story is that no one, certainly, the central government, why, like the very predecessor government, never took the agriculture sector very seriously. The general assumption is that agriculture is the least serious, it is the least politically important, farmers can be fooled to vote this or that way and so farmer don’t constitute the most sensitive vote-bank.

Also, as noted now by many observers, most recently in a new book, Superfast Primitive, Ultimate Nation, The Relentless Invention of Modern India,2017 by Adam Roberts, published in Great Britain by Profile Books, London is the latest narrative of India of the India under Modi after three years!

The book has some new insights and observations. Now, yes, the voter’s population had bulged to the extent of a billion. While in 1952 it was just 173 million. You see voters have all become non-farm persons, who are interested in urban pursuits. Agriculture is losing all its attractions, even a sense of social status, so it becomes difficult to retain farmers in the profession.

More and more villages are becoming empty as most youngsters go to the nearby or far-off towns for productive work; even construction work is the most profiting.

So, we all know that agriculture is becoming a losing activity and yet our agriculture policy making is as good as none. It was all a throwback of the Nehruvian leftist orientation.

Land reforms today means what? You retain an absentee landlord and also an absentee tenant. Both don’t work or invest a penny in the land and so both help to pauperise the farming activity.

So, what basic approach needs to be change?

In our firm view make first farming an attractive job. Give the owners the land they need. Relax the land reforms laws. Relax the tenancy laws. You own the land or you leave the land, you sell the land.

So, the whole farming scenario becomes more farm-friendly. Then only, you can retain farming as a profit-driven activity.

Once you agree to this point of view then only farming can improve.
If the governments for voters’ illusions promise the moon then, it is farmer’s doom further.

One can go on and on. Is the agri minister listening?

PM’s candidate is welcome!
What are the issues, if any?

meirakovind-1498155254Opposition leaders had met the Government representatives and the common candidate is unlikely. If the past practice is any guide, there would be a Government candidate, possibly a BJP veteran or someone who could win the majority vote which is likely to gather momentum as the date nears.

But then there are certain issues of the Presidential candidates, if we draw lessons from the past. All the past Presidents went through their own tensions and compulsions and each one earned the goodwill or otherwise depending upon their own acts, good, bad and indifferent!

Fakhrudin Ali Ahmed signed the Emergency Declaration  without checking whether the Cabinet approved of it. It is a blemish and we are studying it as a warning even now. So too others like Sanjeeva Reddy and yet the President followed his recommendation and dissolved the Lok Sabha. Singh did recommend while he himself avoided facing the Lok Sabha trust vote.

I remember traveling all the way from Bangalore to Ananthapur to meet Reddy in retirement. He gave me a mini lecture on what he did.

You see the President in office might look gravitas all about, while once you see them after office they are like you and me. Mere ordinary men and women.

The highs and lows we can discuss for whatever be the purpose. My view is that India is very successful democracies in the world and our Constitution, the largest written Constitution in the world and it had stood the test of times. You have to see the neighbours in our own region and see how many times Constitutions failed and broke down and how many times the Constitutions have been written and re-written.

So, we Indians seem to have some inner qualities of minds and heart, we seem to be a sort of peaceful people, peace-loving people, though we are also prone  to certain other weaknesses like corruption, why unabashed corruption in public life.

With the recent accumulation of more such cases, we seem to be also facing some other dangers. How long the courts would take time to dispose of high corruption, high criminal charges?

The cases involving senior political leaders like L.K.Advani, you see, had spoilt their chances to lead the country as possible Presidents. The best politically experienced persons must get the space to engage and lead the country through sagacious paths.

Also, our current political practices, like the bitterness we witness between the ruling and the Opposition establishments, we lose the great opportunities to tap the b4est talents in the service of our people. The wise persons, the best qualified persons, why even the rarest genius we leave out for the simple reason of the egos of the most unsuited persons who reach the offices of the party presidents! See the list of such people who end up in such difficult situations, in prison to outside with charges of many offenses.

Merely because you manage to put your own choice of favourites at the Rashtrpathi Bhavan, it doesn’t mean that you have served the country to the best possible manner.

We have to resort to criteria other than best quality of mind and heart, no less intelligence and even a sense of sacrifice and detachment so that the country, we mean the hapless mass of the poor and the disadvantaged to be served by the best of the talents.

These are some of the thoughts when we think of the recent past when the most unsuited persons were nominated for the high office and who brought much disgrace to the high office.

So, political parties too must change. Party presidents too must follow some norms of limited periods of office; there is a whole sense of democratic norms, that as a nation we learn to conduct ourselves with some sense of moral commitments. Democracy means not a dynasty, right? So too party office is not a right to abuse powers, right?

Also, public funds, be it party funds or some other funds that come into your hands and you can arbitrarily spend, right?

Yes, we want to take the opportunity of the current situation to ask some questions, however inconvenient and yet in the largest good of the people. Politics is all about ethical exercise of power, right?

So, we have a duty as citizens to ask such questions, right?

Let us hope our great Constitution gives India its great gifts of great roles for leaders to show their true strengths, both morally and constitutionally.

What can be done, both in the short and the long-term?

seed2Short-run solutions are obvious. Give farm loans waiver! Easy to say, difficult to implement! This demand and also conceding the demand is now  more a political decision and it is for the Prime Minister, more than for anyone to take a final decision. Farmers stir in Madhya Pradesh

As we are based in the  South, it is rather unclear how the  farmers stir in Madhya Pradesh, widely seen as a model BJP-ruled state in which 12% growth  is “touted” as the model for the obviously BJP-ruled other states, has taken this sudden violent turns. The police firing in Mandsaur left five farmers died and  the issues seemed to have got out of control.  From 2010 onwards, it seems, there had been farmer’s agitations in one form or other.

A BJP sarpanch was killed by police firing and the compensation rose from Rs.5 lakh to crore! The RSS seems to have led the stir and to this extent the farmers struggles could taken on more complex forms. Suicides by farmers of more than 7,5000 make one suspect that this can’t be only owing to the Congress misrule in the past. Between  Nov.2016 and Feb.2017 alone that 287 farmers and farm labour had committed suicide. So the farmers stir in such a supposed BJP strong hold must raise issues for more decision makers at various levels. Half the death occurred in the Nimar-Malwa region, a hotbed of the RSS movement.

There is more politics to the farmer’s struggles in MP than outsiders can suspect. This signals more ill-will for the ruling party and one doesn’t know at this point of time how the farmers agitations in other states, from UP, Maharashtra to Gujarat and other states and the rising crescendo of demand for farm loans waiver will play out.

Anyway, political apart, there are agriculture issues per agriculture sector related issues alone.

As the agriculture crisis developed more owing to drought and the failure of timely rains, it is not man-made but nature induced. However, the present crisis is like one of a seasonal and even historic  crisis. India  had seen many crises of this time, more famines and more human miseries.

So, the Prime Minister as the top political authority must take a pragmatic stand and also a more humane and more democratic  stand. Some states are prone to more crisis than others. So a uniform demand for crop loan waiver is not a sensible  policy decision. In some surplus states which like MP and other states, we need to ensure price assurance and also some one or two more immediate decisions to maintain the farm prices stability.

Price stabilisation funds wherever feasible have to be created and adequate government procurement and storage facilities have to be created on war-footing. It is for the more mature and more experienced administrators, both officials and experts as well as for political leadership to play their responsible role and responsible behaviour.  The PM must ensure such an environment of confidence and manageability to prevail.

As for other ,more of a political and all -India level decisions, yes, we need to offer some immediate relief in debt waivers. This again is a decision that the PM and the FM and the banking sector has to  decide things.

As things stand there seems to be indecisiveness and a certain air of unreality that marks  the functioning of the  government machinery.
Regarding the basic approach to agriculture and the rural economic  stability and growth, we need a great deal of realism.

Agriculture as of now is really becoming an unviable activity. We are more comfortable to say what the ground level reality is ,rather than what needs to be done at the macro level.

At the grass-roots, the average holdings of the small farmers is becoming unviable every day. Also, if you look at the realities deeply, there is a great deal of burden for the average Indian farmers  to merely survive. There is the obvious debt burden. Bank loan, co-operative loans  and loans from private money lenders.

Another form of misery for the Indian farmers, we mean here both the tenants and the land owners, there is the existing complex web of land owner-tenant law tangles.

Each farmer is a litigant, you know?

If you enquire a little more deeply you will find such court cases are pending and prolonging for more than 30 or even more years!
In some states, the situation has reached to an impossible level that for every acre in legal dispute the revenue courts, another name for petty officials, to fix bribe terms of the acres of land involved!

So, there is more a negotiation than a legal fight is going on, all unnoticed and uncared for by the political class.

In some states, we all know who/what these states are  and where the politicians themselves have grabbed lands of vast extents and such litigations are unlikely to see the light of the day very soon.  The point here is that we have to think afresh about the possibility of the rejuvenation of farming as an economic activity. It is now no longer an economic activity.

We have to free the land owners from so many clutches. Otherwise, we have to resort to Marxian phraseology, pauperisation of the rural peasantry if perhaps an inevitability!

What are our solutions? Based on our own long-time observations?
There are many but we can’t put them all in black and white!  But certain basic issues need to be attended. One, we have to reduce all-pervasive corruption, as we find in states like TN.

This requires some drastic steps. We have to bring to an end the existing corruption cases, both the political, criminal ones and also the administrative ones. How can you reinstate a Chief Secretary whose offices were aided and he was arrested and kept in custody. Now, released on bail and he is again re-instated!

This cause demoralisation in the whole administrative chain and also the current incumbent Chief Secretary is divested of her portfolio of Anti-Corruption Wing! And the whole country is watching and the state has still only a part-time Governor!

What is the logic of these decisions or half-hearted decisions, if they are to be called decisions at all!

It is for the central government to take a call on the very deteriorating administrative scenario. May be in other states too such administrative failures prevail. We are not sure.

It is here some other related developments also need to be looked into. The judicial delays is another aspect of the accumulating of more pending cases.

How a normal citizen would have to conduct himself or herself?
Also, in states like Karnataka, there is the present of the Lok Ayukta. That gives some confidence for the average citizen.

In other states, again TN is an example, certain issues like the former CM’s niece walks into the Poes Garden residence and wants to  occupy it. The police, the private security stand watching helplessly.

There was a debate on the TV channels as to whether one can file an FIR and with whom? Who can file that and who can’t!

These sorts of public affairs reflect how on the central government image?
Now, regarding one or two issues pertaining to agriculture,  we are told that Indian can explore and export more of our agri products, food products etc.

As of now we are the 7th largest  agro-products exporter. Our agri exports stand at 33.38 billion dollar in 2016-17.Why not set a target for ,say,100 billion agri/horti  exports!

Let us aim for an ambitious goal! Draw new strategies and activate  the related sectors. A new strategy at the high level to intensify our agro products  exports  might give more stability and coherence to our agri sector.

There are of course other related issues as for the future of our rural development strategy. These are all waiting for some urgent attention.