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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Reality of the Kali Yuga

The transmigration of individual souls, long derided as the most fantastic of Hindu beliefs, has in the last century been made irrefutable by the scientific discoveries of the matter-energy continuum and the genetic code. When a person dies the indestructible energy pattern of the body floats free and transports the unique soul to a new material form, much as a radio wave carries a human voice to a rightly tuned antenna around the world.

That leaves only one fundamental belief of Hinduism without a publicly argued rational explanation: the long four-stage moral cycle from a golden age of virtue to the dank corruption of the Kali Yuga.

This lack of argument should be seen as part of our general cultural amnesia, for our ancients never postulated anything without reason. Indeed, it does not require much analysis to reveal the rationale for the four yuga cycle.

The first phase, when virtue is “firmly founded on four feet,” harks back to the time when humanity was part of Nature and cultural behavior closely reflected the instinctive. Ideas of the “Noble Savage” and “primitive communism” reflect somewhat similar thinking in the West. This was the time when the Saptarishis, seeking peace among the many tribes of India, assembled all their sacred lore into the Vedas, thereby underlining large commonalities among the groups and creating a common object of veneration.

The second phase of reduced but still excellent virtue was the time of the Upanishads, when rishis in their forest abodes agreed on the existence of a Paramatma universally immanent as the Eternal Law (Sanathana Dharma). The idea that a firm and unbreakable chain of karmic causality controlled individual destiny countered the tyranny of the tribe and gradually reduced groups to vague caste identities associated with specialized functions in an interdependent society. 
As hunter gatherer tribes settled into agricultural existence a protective monarch became necessary; the Ramayana captured and promoted the ideal of that new political reality. The change caused a drop in virtue from the previous era because the concentration of political power and land ownership inevitably introduced a considerable measure of negotiation and thus guile into social relations.

The third era, the time of the Mahabharata, saw the lust for power explode into great imperial conflict. Sri Krishna, acknowledged as the only “purnaswaroop” of Vishnu’s incarnations, set right the growing imbalance of the age and, in the Bhagavad Gita, instructed the virtuous how to endure the Kali Yuga to come.

That final age of overweening corruption can be seen rationally as the shadow of material progress in the preceding Yugas.

The specialized division of labor and the freedom of individuals to make moral and economic choices – a combination that Adam Smith in 18th Century England would describe as the essential attributes of a wealth-creating free market – had made India an immensely rich country. Its luxurious products, ranging from spices that preserved food to fine cotton cloth and diamond jewelry, attracted traders from the far ends of Eurasia and further added to the country's fabled wealth.

As imperial power had corrupted older ideals of governance, so wealth and luxury undermined the spiritual value system founded on the teachings of the Upanishads. 
The tamasic qualities of greed, jealousy and anger unmoored “practical” men and women from the fine concern with the truth founded in concern for karmic consequences. As that phenomenon grew it led to a larger closing of the Indian mind, preventing the society from perceiving and responding to internal and external threats. The ineffectiveness of leadership resulted in things falling apart at the slightest challenge; every invader found Indian allies and collaborators.

Interestingly, India did not attract invaders just with its wealth; its religious concepts -- or rather, incomprehension of them -- were key factors stirring them into action.

Within India, the concept of a Universal Spirit was firmly anchored in the concepts of Dharma and Karma, both preventing any individual or group from setting rules on behalf of the Almighty. Those anchors were lost as monotheism made its way from India to the philosophy of Plato. and then into the first Greek translation of the Jewish Bible three centuries before the advent of Jesus.

Within the Jewish fold the loss of constraints on the concept of God had little negative effect because of the belief in Israel’s exclusive covenant with YAHWEH; but as the messianic faiths of Christianity and Islam advanced exclusive claims on God that delegitimized each other and all other religions, the result was unending conflict.

The economic and political fallout was heavy. As Islamic conquests around the Mediterranean cut off Christian Europe’s access to the Indian spice trade it inspired an ongoing search for alternate routes to India. Marco Polo skirted north of Muslim lands to China, and his book describing a return to Europe via India, gave Christopher Columbus the idea that another path to the Orient might lie across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, an old Phoenician legend recounted by Herodotus that Africa was an island led the Portuguese to explore a southward sea route. 
Six years after Columbus made landfall at Hispaniola, Vasco da Gama rounded the southern cape of Africa and a Gujarati pilot took him across the Indian Ocean to Calicut. A later Portuguese expedition to India was blown far off course by a storm off the western coast of Africa and landed up in Brazil. Within a matter of decades Europeans moved from belief in a flat earth to circumnavigating the globe.

I have described in an earlier post the horrendous consequences of European expansion for the people of the newly discovered regions. In India the European intrusions were preceded by those of Arabs, Turks and Afghans occurring as it were, in slow motion over the period of a millennium. There was no concerted response even though Guru Nanak went throughout the country seeking to spark a renaissance. It took the mass murder and dire poverty inflicted by the British to bring his efforts to fruition four centuries later.

As the country now looks to a period of sustained economic growth it is well to remember that the path out of the Kali Yuga must be essentially spiritual and that enormous challenges face us. Our political elite is sodden with corruption, our policing authorities are wolves, the intellectual leaders who should be helping India recover its true self are in the pay of our most bitter enemies, and even some of the leaders of our fighting forces, men who should value honor above life itself, have sold their integrity for that most pitiable of rewards, money.

I firmly believe that our exit from the Kali Yuga is unstoppable. The power of the bhakti of the great mass of Indians – certainly the only thing that has kept the country on an even keel through the worst disasters – will ultimately cleanse the elite. However, there is no predicting the pace of change. It will depend entirely on the moral conduct of younger generations. If they are committed above all else to personal integrity and sacrifice in the service of the country India can recover itself swiftly. If not, we could linger for generations in the current bewildered and weakened state at the mercy of brutal foreign forces.

There are many signs those forces are strengthening. The latest is the announcement of an Indian chapter of Al Qaeda, which has from its inception been under British control. I take it as an indication that the British incubus is readying like some real life Voldemort to return from the realm of the undead.

As with the evil Lord of the Harry Potter stories, Britain has a range of allies awaiting the return, from corporate leaders, media houses and poisonous advertising agencies to openly anti national A-list film stars and of course, the corrupt in every field with black money under British management.

Also, a slow coup d'etat seems to be gathering strength from within the civil service that runs everything from elections to our unconstitutional and out of control Intelligence Bureau. The death of a popular BJP politician in a car accident in Delhi, the fall that put another outspoken leader into a coma in Rajasthan, the attempt to tar the most active environmental activists in the country, and now the bid to bring the judiciary under bureaucratic control, are not incidental straws in the wind. .

They should put everyone on alert. In fact, everyone should be prepared for a 9/11 type attack that will justify declaration of an Emergency and suspension of civil rights and procedures.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Grand Strategy for India

A recent book review in The Hindu of “India’s Grand Strategy: History, Theory, Cases” presented such a muddle of views on the topic that I did some research and made the frightening discovery that our leading lights in the field don’t know what they are talking about.

India's best and brightest seem to think that “Grand Strategy” is some form of intellectual soup into which they can toss anything they fancy.

Some of the scholars even seem unable to distinguish the strategic from the tactical: one is the pursuit of lasting interests and long term goals, the other of the short-term and the immediate.

 A Grand Strategy takes stock of history, makes an assessment of national experience, encapsulates all vital interests, and looks to the future. It reflects national character, defines the nature of the State, and is accepted as a common frame by all shades of political opinion in the country.

 Indian civilization is the result of a Grand Strategy established by the Saptarishis and pursued over millennia by the country’s intellectual elite.

It began with the Saptarishis assembling the sacred lore of all the tribes in the Vedas, which thus became a unifying object of common veneration. Intense discussion of the hidden meanings of the Vedas yielded the worldview of the Upanishads.

The consensus that emerged was that an immortal and changeless essence underlies the endless mutations of the Universe, holding it in order with the force of Truth (Satyam/Ritam/Dharmam).

As that essence exists in living things, our ancient Grand Strategists postulated that death is but a door to another life; they envisaged the individual soul, of the same substance as the Universal Soul (Paramatma), passing in a series of lives to the end of Creation. In that scheme of things tribal differences shrank into insignificance and allowed different groups to settle into interdependent castes.

 The Ramayana, authored by the low caste Valmiki and setting forth the ideal of a just King, Ramrajya, marked the next step in India’s ancient Grand Strategy. It promoted the evolution of caste federations into unitary kingdoms.

 The schema of the rishis foresaw society passing through cycles of corruption and virtue, and many millennia later, when the ideal of Ramrajya was trampled down in struggles for imperial power, the Mahabharata laid down the rules for the survival of the virtuous in a time of predominant evil.

Modern history covers the final phase of that age of predominant evil, with Mahatma Gandhi marking the turning of the tide with his opposition of racism in South Africa and colonial rule in India. With those he initiated the modern human rights revolution and the movement for national self-determination that transformed the world in the second half of the 20th Century.

 A Grand Strategy for India now must take up where Gandhi left off but our latter-day claimants to the role of rishis seem oblivious of the need for that continuity.

For instance, the Introduction to Grand Strategy for India: 2020 and Beyond, a book published in 2012 by the New Delhi based Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, makes no mention of Gandhi as it notes that India after independence had a role in world affairs disproportionate to its power. In fact, none of the 25 essayists in the book gives any indication of being aware of the traditional Grand Strategy that forged Indian civilization.

 The book reviewed in The Hindu does consider Gandhi, but wierdly. To quote the reviewer (Suranjan Das): “Siddharth Mallavarapu uncovers the Gandhian notion of grand strategy that proposes substitution of Western values with principles of truth, nonviolence and a decentralized polity that should convince other societies that India does not pose a threat.”

The broader background of Indian civilization is missing entirely from the IDSA book and makes a hunchbacked limping appearance in the other one (published by Rutledge). If the reviewer accurately reflects the views of the essayist (Swarna Rajagopalan), on the history of Indian Grand Strategy she relates our contemporary lack of a coherent world view to the “ancient Indian maxim that rulers were required to be driven by principles which were ‘context dependent’ and ‘not absolute in application’.”

Another essayist who looks to the past (Jayashree Vivekanandan) is equally whacky: she believes the Indian State’s “accommodative strategies” in meeting external and internal threats traces back to the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s policy as he expanded his domain.

The gaping omission in the IDSA book and the ludicrous theories in the other volume indicate a failure to make even the skimpiest historical connections, and it is scary that this disconnect extends to contemporary affairs.

 The IDSA book is, in fact, actively and massively misleading. In its Introduction, the editors (Krishnaappa Venkatshamy and Princy George) write that Europe’s role in our strategic thinking “has diminished in recent years … despite India’s strong relations with individual European countries such as Britain, France and Germany.”

The essayist on that matter (Dhruva Jaishankar), is described as urging “India’s strategic planners to recognise Europe’s potential as … a political partner with shared values, and leverage for building India’s relations with other countries, particularly China, Russia and the United States. Europe can also be a significant target for India’s multi-polar engagement strategy—one that does not bring with it the complications associated with India’s other bilateral relations, such as with the United States and China.”

 It is mind-boggling that anyone can think Indian relations with Europe are uncomplicated when we can look back on several nasty colonial encounters, more than a century of oppressive British rule, two European world wars, the cynical British manipulations that brought on Partition, decades of British-proxy Pakistan’s terrorist war on India and the European Union’s arrogant critiques of Indian policies on a whole range of issues!

None of the other writers in the book achieves quite that level of idiocy, but some come close, among them Manu Bhagavan who is noted in the Introduction as suggesting that the reform of the United Nations could lie in a return to Jawaharlal Nehru’s plan for “a global government to which all the world’s States would cede some of their sovereignty.”

 Many essays, especially those on Left Wing extremism and terrorism, civil-military affairs, and relations with neighboring countries, are not about strategy at all but tactics. Even the late lamented K. Subramanyan makes that confusion in noting that India in the first phase of independence had a Grand Strategy in Nonalignment and centrally planned development!

 These are not abstruse academic criticisms. If the best thinkers in the country on a whole range of critically important issues cannot tell the difference between strategy and tactics, it is small wonder that India is in such a discombobulated mess.

So, what should an Indian Grand Strategy involve?

 The groundwork has been laid in the Indian constitution; it is left to bring the directive principles to life and envisage a new role for India in world affairs. There must be four essential elements to that effort.

The first is to clear the cobwebs from our minds about industrialization. It is not progress. It is a deadly combination of false values, destructive policies and wasteful practices that is killing the planet’s life systems. Those eager to have India follow China as “workshop to the world” need to consider the pollution it will bring to land, air and water, and the consequent spiking of all degenerative diseases, especially cancer.

 Secondly, we need to be clear about the nature of international relations today. The world order has been intensely criminalized over the last seven decades because imperial European Powers have not given up their exploitative and oppressive policies but have merely taken to pretending that they no longer exist. Britain, primarily, has been responsible for building a global money laundering system and promoting every form of organized crime, including drug trafficking, terrorism and the illicit trade in arms.

 Thirdly, we have to be prepared for a wave of change over the next generation that will transform the world more radically than it was by the industrial revolution. The Internet, Worldwide Web and mobile telephone connectivity are only the thin end of the wedge: other new technologies will require us to reimagine manufacturing and trade. The age of carbon-based energy is over, and with it, the era of giant tankers, transcontinental pipelines and manufacturing for mass markets. The future belongs to off-grid renewable energy. With the capacity of small scale manufacturers to reach niche markets cost-effectively, the artisan can take on the factory and win; as 3 D printing matures a village craftsman can produce the same quality of product as the largest corporation.

Fourthly, the power structures of the industrial era are beginning to crumble. The old power elites cannot control the new information technologies without killing the creative power of their own societies and falling behind their democratic peers. Nor can they continue controlling the world through conflict if there is an effective effort to inform a global audience of their machinations. An Indian Grand Strategy must involve such an information effort, not through government propaganda but by seeking to promote a world order based on community-based networks. The goal must be peaceful transition to a prosperous world order protective of individual freedom and creativity.

The overall goal of ancient Indian Grand Strategy was unity in diversity.

Modern India must look not only for such a global dispensation but to the deeper unity captured by the term “global brain.”

System scientists say that the evolution of a supra consciousness is inevitable once global connectivity passes a certain as yet undetermined threshold of activity; it must be the overall aim of an Indian Grand Strategy to have it governed by our broadest ideals of Nara Narayana.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Real Butthead Commercial From Kohler

The boss at Kohler India must be a real butthead to okay an extreme British accent for the company’s “hands-free hygiene” commercial.

Doesn’t s/he know the mleccha reputation the Brits have here?

Or was the choice made with just that in mind?

Kohler’s designers must have surely noticed that shit splatters, usually, directly into the region of the toilet bowl where they’ve placed the “hands-free hygiene” spout.

Only the first person to use it after a cleaning will escape a shit douche, and that fortunate soul can expect to have his/her bottom singed with residual chlorine or acid product. 

There is also the larger philosophical question of whether a squirt of water can, in fact, clean your bottom or merely redistribute shit.

The reason hygienists advise people to lower the toilet lid before flushing is that the usual gush of water sends a spout of microscopic shit particles up to eight feet into the air.

Then there is the clincher: if you got some shit on yourself would you clean it with a squirt of water or scrub it clean with your hands?

Finally, where does Kohler come off trying to disassociate play, share, joy, and love from the genital area?

As some of my friends from Brooklyn would say, ... well, perhaps that's better left unsaid!

 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A New Planning Body for India

The government has asked for suggestions from the public on how to replace the Planning Commission. Herewith my two paise-worth:
 
 I suggest the government replace the Planning Commission with an open-ended national roster of experts from which it can select panels of 7 to undertake specific time-bound tasks.
 
 The Roster should include individuals with a wide range of interests and capacities, ranging from businesspeople, lawyers and scientists to economists, political scientists and journalists. State governments should be able to nominate experts to the roster. There should also be a facility for qualified students to apply for internships.
 
The tasks assigned to panels should be in two generic categories:
 
  •  Producing background documents that set out issues with clarity;
  • Consulting stakeholders on the conclusions of the documents above and arriving at agreed recommendations for action.
The panels should have short deadlines for completion of work.
 
To facilitate consideration by parliamentary and assembly committees the reports should normally be published on the Web once the consultative work is done.
 
 The Saptarishi Program (as I suggest this effort be named in honor of the earliest guides of Indian civilization), should have a secretariat capable of fielding up to 50 or 60 7-member teams at  a time and it should issue a monthly webzine reporting on developments.
 
 The Prime Minister should present an annual overview and progress report in parliament.
 
 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Two Weird Incidents

 Haven’t had a creepy crawly incident in some time, so these came as a surprise.

The first was about two weeks ago, about 7:30 on a dry dark monsoon evening. I was riding my bicycle to the Magsons Superstore about a mile or so from home when, on an unlit stretch of road, a boy, about 12 or 13, grabbed the bike and hopped on to the rear carrier.

 I let out an outraged shout and told him to get off.

From my glimpse before he scurried into the darkness it was a well-dressed middle-class kid.

I told two men walking just ahead of me on the road why I had shouted and continued on my errand.

 It occurred to me that if I had not reacted loudly and instantly, the situation could have easily got out of hand: in the prevailing supercharged Indian atmosphere on sex crimes a strange boy on the back of my bicycle in the dark could be interpreted half a dozen creepy ways, and the two men ahead of me on the road were well-positioned to do just that.

 In some ways, the fact that the creeps are down to attempted character assassination is heartening, for it began four years ago with attempts at serious bodily harm; and all for just one sin (as far as I can see), writing what's on my mind!

My firsthand experience of having no ready avenue of appeal against official highhandedness has been eye-opening. It is a serious flaw in our democracy and a potent danger.

 In 2013 I tried to file a law suit, only to find the lawyers I approached had been intimidated and would not take up the case.

After that, I sent a note on the hairy things that had been happening to the Governor of the state and its Chief Secretary, but did not receive an acknowledgement from either; however, one must have acted, for the incidents stopped -- until now.       

The second recent incident did not seem creepy initially: an email from a supposedly radical American web site asking if I would do a podcast on my blog item on The Real First World War.

The owner of the website was to call me early this morning but did not.

I chalked that down to the “active call redirect” to which my phones are subject and was going about my business when, about three in the afternoon, a call came in from someone in London who said he was going to record the podcast from there.

 The American joined the conversation after a few minutes and gave every indication of not being a radical of any kind. In fact, he was politically illiterate. Even after a correction he continued to explain BRICS as “Britain, India, Russia, China, South Africa.”

 I’ve had more informed political inquisitors in chance encounters on Indian trains.

 When I broached the topic of the British Empire resuscitating itself as the money-laundering system that sustains the global criminal underground, he got cold feet very fast and declared my views not good enough for a podcast.

There wasn’t a peep from the man in London the whole time, and thinking of that led to my decision to write about the experience, just in case my voice should appear in some reconfigured manner somewhere and implicate me in unseemly matters.

Consider this an advance alibi.

 I would love to know what a quiet retirement feels like!

 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Paying for Pucca Housing for all Indians & 100 Smart Cities

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan comes across on television as the savvy voice of financial street smarts but his 11 August speech in Mumbai on “Finance and Opportunity in India” showed him to be confused and out of touch with Indian realities.

The first sign of that was his observation that because life expectancy in India was lower six decades ago “it is safe to say that most Indians born just after independence are now no more.”

 It is not safe to say that at all.

Life expectancy is an average heavily weighted by high infant mortality in developing countries; it is not a measure of the actual longevity of those who survive.

 That conceptual misstep is perhaps forgivable, but not Rajan’s explanation of why poor Indians keep re-electing corrupt politicians.

“Their “tolerance for the venal politician is because he is the crutch that helps the poor and underprivileged navigate a system that gives them so little access.”

“While the poor do not have the money to “purchase” public services that are their right, they have a vote that the politician wants. The politician does a little bit to make life a little more tolerable for his poor constituents – a government job here, an FIR registered there, a land right honoured somewhere else. For this, he gets the gratitude of his voters, and more important, their vote.”

 A footnote in the text crediting that view to an American writer in the early 20th Century underlined how vaguely it relates to India; our corrupt politicians endure not because they help the poor but because they exploit the prevailing dynamics of caste, community, illicit funding and venal mass media.

Given that broad misreading of Indian reality it is not surprising that Rajan’s argument for financial inclusion is dicey.

He believes that giving the poor money instead of public services such as subsidized food, public schools and hospitals will be “liberating,” freeing them on the one hand, from the corrupt politician, and on the other hand, allowing them to “patronize” private providers newly respectful of their financial clout.

Rajan discounted the fears of some NGOs that cash transfers will be misused and noted several other problems that might crop up. However, he ignored the most likely outcome of a cash transfer system: that as with any other public service for the poor, corrupt politicians will steal much of the money and cut deals with private providers to cheat the intended beneficiaries.

 His take on what cash transfers will achieve was rosy: they would “help the poor out of poverty and towards true political independence.” Credit and advice “to the entrepreneurial amongst the poor,” and giving households “the ability to save and insure against accidents” would free them “from the clutches of the moneylender” and “set them on the road to economic independence, thus strengthening the political freedom that good public services will bring.”

I don’t quite understand how political freedom will be strengthened by giving the poor - some 60 per cent of the Indian population - “unique biometric identifiers” linked to bank accounts into which the government makes regular transfers. In fact, such a system is likely to make the poor incapable of resisting official pressures on any issue and that could tip the country quite easily into a bureaucrat-controlled fascism.

Those concerns were accentuated by the clarity with which Rajan stated the interest of the corporate elite in the whole matter. There “should be profits at the bottom of the pyramid … the government should be willing to pay reasonable commissions punctually for benefits transfers, and bankers should be able to charge reasonable and transparent fees or interest rates for offering services to the poor.”

 It is amazing that this regressive proposal has been unveiled at a time when there is a clear alternative, the democratization of the financial sector through crowd-funding.

So far, the only action the RBI has taken on crowd-funding has been to limit participation to Internet users who have demat accounts (perhaps in a bid to protect people without experience in investing). But there is need for much more pro-active action to realize the potential of changes that will transform all economic realities and put traditional financial institutions on the path to extinction.

To see what must be done, consider a concrete situation: achieving Prime Minister Modi’s vision of housing and proper sanitation for all Indians.

Those goals cannot be met in a country as poor as ours if we rely on conventional mortgage/public financing but are well in reach with innovative crowd-funding policies and mechanisms.

 How?

 I suggest the government establish a web-based National Housing Lottery and appoint a Commission to oversee the operations of a portal segmented by region, district, city and town.

The portal would allow owners and developers to present housing units as prizes in lotteries. Each property would have a fixed number of tickets for sale, enough to reimburse the owner/builder and cover the costs of the lottery itself.

Such a system would finance a robust house building sector at no cost to the exchequer. Winners of the lottery would get housing for the price of a ticket, which should be set at no more than ten rupees each.

Those who win properties they do not want to use should be free to put them back into the lottery and get a fixed lump sum. That should ensure the continuing popularity of the lottery and also attract an international clientele: in effect, the entire world would be crowd-funding the Indian housing sector.

For the scheme to succeed, it will be essential to develop strict building standards and impose rigorous inspections for properties put up as prizes. Inspections should be left to a new business sector of small and medium enterprises operating within the framework of regulations set by the Lottery Commission. A zero tolerance policy on corruption, encouraging whistle-blowers and banning offenders from the lottery for life should help maintain high standards.

Overall, the scheme will send the national GDP growth rate into the stratosphere and provide millions of new jobs at all skill levels.

Housing & Smart Cities

The rapid buildup in housing should dovetail with the government’s proposal to build 100 “smart cities” over the next decade, with policy-makers deciding on the look, feel and nature of development to suit location-specific human and natural environments.

This does not mean massive urban planning. On the contrary, it means little more than formulating a local consensus on the aesthetics of development and providing the relevant institutional framework for growth.

What will that entail?

To answer that question it is necessary to look at the profound impact on urbanization of the ongoing IT and connectivity revolutions.

Over the last four centuries, the growth of cities was driven by the need to realize industrial economies of scale: factory production required large volumes of raw materials (brought in by road, ship or train), plentiful and cheap energy, a large enough workforce and the ancillary services necessary to sell to mass markets.

All those factors are irrelevant to the urban areas of the Information Age. Silicon Valley in the United States, one of the most important economic hubs in the world, has little in common with America’s old “rust belt” manufacturing centres. Similarly, the giant film industries of India and the United States have no need for most industrial era infrastructure. Neither does tourism, now the world's largest "industry."

In creating our 100 “smart cities,” the government might need to do no more than decide on an overall plan in areas where it will offer enhanced support and incentives to attract a range of preferred economic enterprises, including orchards, farms, flower gardens and entertainment complexes.

The detailed planning and building of the necessary infrastructure could be left to corporations, domestic and foreign, that have the necessary expertise and capacities. The government role should be to prevent corruption and ensure that contractual goals are met. (Any public finance necessary could be derived from small adjustments in the pricing of units in the housing lottery.)

Achieving clarity on where the country should develop what kind of smart city should be a high priority on the agenda of the new brains trust that is to replace the Planning Commission.

 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Essential Hindu

It is often said, even by Hindus, that Hinduism is "a way of life rather than a religion."

It would be far more accurate to say that Hinduism is a religion that has shaped a way of life.

In a land of great diversity it has provided a unifying framework that encapsulates the highest philosophy as well as the popular culture of folk tales and traditions.

As that unifying drive has been its primary impetus, Hinduism's powerful core beliefs have not been enunciated with clarity.

Essentially, a Hindu is one who believes that God exists as universal Truth (Dharma), manifest in human affairs as the law of causality (Karma).

All else in Hinduism is explanatory.

Our gorgeous philosophy, our wonderfully humanized universe of legend and fable, our colorful customs and rituals, our view that all living things are "God's family;" the whole amazing superstructure of our tolerant and humane culture, has been a flowering of those beliefs.

Evil exists in Hinduism not as the opposite of the Good, but as a falling away from Truth and the values required to express and safeguard it.

Bad karma is rooted in delusion; sin springs from moral confusion.

Good karma is to see the Truth clearly and live by its dictates.

As India marks on the 15th of August its release from a destructive and demeaning period, let us celebrate the core beliefs that have made a people of endless diversity a nation.