Swadeshi: Philosophy of India

Posted on August 15, 2010

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“Where the mind is without fear & the head is held high

Where knowledge is free…..

Into that heaven of freedom, my father

Let my country awake”

– Rabindranath Tagore

While capitalism solely rests on Market and State as the twin socio-economic delivery systems, socialism primarily rests on the State as the delivery system. In contrast, the Swadeshi thought relies on the social institutional order, besides Market and State, as the socio-economic delivery system. This makes the Market and the State share the public space with family, community and society.

Family: The lowest socio-cultural economic unit of society in the Swadeshi view is not the individual but the family. This single institution relieves the modern State of extraordinary welfare commitments like old age benefits and unemployment doles which work out to over half of the GDP in many Western countries, like USA and Germany.

Community, Society: Swadeshi believes in the legitimacy of different social units. It believes that the unbridled and unbalanced individualism of the West is destructive of community living. The individual, for his free interplay, creative manifestation and progressive unfoldment, requires the mutually complimentary and interactive relationship of the community.

Religion – Balancing the family, Society and the Individual: The Western notion of individual freedom, which fragments and compartmentalises family, economy, culture and social values, is not acceptable to the Swadeshi approach. Individual freedom is tempered by the individual’s integration into the family and community. The State acts only to protect it from incursions, ‘Dharma’ sustains the whole framework and religion provides support and linkage to community living.

The Role of the Market: The Western notion of a global market does not fit into the Swadeshi approach. The market has to be an instrument and not the master of the people. The smaller the size of the market, the better it is as an instrument. The Swadeshi approach is to limit the size of the market and not to eliminate the market as communism does. The Swadeshi global view is “let a thousand markets bloom – and not merge into one global market”.

The Role of the State: Swadeshi approach sees the State as the primary instrument to protect the nation and its interests and a residuary instrument in respect of all intra-national matters. Its role is, as Bhishma said in Shanti Parva in Mahabharata, to protect the weak and to ensure that Dharma is adhered to. The state must defend the wealth and honour of the nation. Ordinarily, and except in order to protect national interests against foreign interests, the State must not be a trader; but must ensure that trade and commerce conforms to Dharma.

Arrangement between individual, state, market and community/society/family:Swadeshi looks upon the individual, State, Market and the Dharmic collectivities namely, family, community, religion and society, as a means to sustain the ‘Vyavahar’ (material life) consistent with the total and integral object of individual and collective life, namely, the Purusharthas. In the Swadeshi approach, all these institutions are delivery mechanisms as much for socio-economic purposes as for the higher purposes.

Swadeshi Life is based on Dharma:

Swadeshi believes that, mere rule of law is inadequate to lay the ground for social interactions. A higher order of life has been in practice in India; all non-official community and social transactions take place on this higher principle of life called dharma, even today. ‘Dharma’ – an ancient Indian concept, which has no English equivalent – means ‘that which sustains’. In its wider sense, it implies the nourishment of all aspects of life – individual social global. Swadharma forms the very core of Swadeshi; Swadeshi is the living tradition of India. Though buried under the veneer of the superficial West-centric Indian exterior it is still the largest sustaining force and the core of Indian society, economy and polity.

The essential ingredients of the Swadeshi thought may be summarised as follows:

  1. Swadeshi means that which is natural and native to a country and society, but allows scope for assimilation of wholesome and beneficial elements from the outside. This applies to economics as well as politics; culture as well as technology.
  2. It is the principle of preferring the neighborhood to the remote.
  3. It commands need-based life, and rules out unlimited consumption as an end.
  4. It renews and relies on family, community and society as socio-economic delivery systems. It does not substitute these traditional institutions by the State and the Market.
  5. It is not autarky; but a global alternative, which accepts only need-based trans nationalism.
  6. Swadeshi restores economics to its earlier definition which even now the dictionary meaning of economy indicates, namely, practical human needs, frugality, savings, thrift etc. and seeks to remove the latter-day distortion of defining economics as multiplication of wants and efforts to satisfy them, powered by greed.

Stated in simple terms, Swadeshi rejects materialistic and imperialistic homogenisation and aimless transnationalism of the Western assumption. Swadeshi is a multidimensional thought, embracing civilisational, political and economic aspects of human life and presenting an integrated vision of life in harmony with nature.

Goal & Objectives –

Creation of a just world order based on integral and holistic life vision.

– Ensuring national security, unity and integrity.

– Building a self-reliant nation – Nourishment of Bharatiya cultural values.

– Preservation of natural wealth.

– Balanced development of all regions and the society as a whole.

To achieve these goals, following objectives need to be fulfilledEnsuring satisfaction of the basic needs of all people within 10 years. Food, clothing, housing, education, health, drinking water, energy and transport be recognised as basic needs. Involvement in meaningful and productive work is the only guarantee for achieving basic needs. Therefore, ensuring proper employment to all eligible hands should be the first objective of national planning. Ensuring fulfillment of this objective in the next decade. Building Bharat as a world power in the next 25 years. Ensuring that income-inequalities remain within reasonable limits. Ratio of income of top 20 per cent and bottom 20 per cent should not exceed 10:1.Generally promoting national self-confidence and national pride by qualitative change in education, sports, media programmes, and conduct of public men. For achieving these important indices of national strength, pride and self-respect, the nation has to evolve a broad national consensus cutting across all differences. Swadeshi means creation of national wealth and power.

It is a mistaken notion that the need-based approach of the Swadeshi philosophy is against creation of wealth. The Swadeshi thought is merely an injunction against unlimited consumption; it is a mandate for conservation and preservation of national assets and resources; it is an emphasis on personal and family savings, it is an injunction against wasteful and needless expenditure. The tradition of Swadeshi alone made India one of the richest and prosperous nations in the world. That is why Columbus and Vasco-de-Gama set out to search for India. India attracted barbaric invasions because of its well-known prosperity. But prosperity was considered a social and national asset – not merely a personal asset. Wealth was not the sole or even the most important index of social respect. India was wealthy, without making wealth the arbiter of social interaction. Swadeshi is not anti-wealth. It is all for augmenting wealth and power.

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