Modi and Integral Humanism

There have been many commentaries on Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral Humanism for a long time now. In fact there is a complete website dedicated to criticizing Integral Humanism point by point. Most of these commentaries can be summarized in one or two lines – “Integral Humanism is a confused man’s invention which is neither a well developed philosophy nor an inspiring series of lectures!” or “Integral Humanism is nothing but collectivism projected on the landscape of Hindu philosophy”.

There is some merit in criticism that it was not fully developed. In fact, Pandit ji gave these speeches in 1965 and he left his mortal body in 1968. Therefore, it could be surmised that it was being developed during this period. The task was left incomplete and there was no notable authority on such a topic that required deep uninterrupted study, theoretical structuring, theoretical analysis and application.

Vajpayee, Advani and Shekhawat – the trio that saw BJP’s rise – had a vision which could be called a subset of what Pandit ji described in Integral Humanism. Apart from some publications from outlets sympathetic to RSS, there has been not much that developed on this front after 1968. In fact, some researches even theorized that Pandit ji’s vision was essentially Socialistic despite ample evidence within his speeches and articles to prove otherwise. In today’s contemporary leadership, there isn’t much improvement but for one exception – Narendra Modi!

What Modi has been doing in Gujarat, what he has been speaking about in his speeches across India during the last 1 year has a very strong underpinning of Integral Humanism. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to even conclude that he has a very deep understanding of what Pandit ji meant in his speeches. Many free market enthusiasts and centre right sympathizers would disagree without a even blinking an eye lid. Most centre right supporters I had the opportunity to interact with during my time on twitter even conclude that “Integral Humanism is an elite concept which is practically useless!”. Modi proves them wrong.

For instance, in his speech addressing All India Traders’ Convention at Delhi on February 26, 2014, Modi made some interesting comments. Watch the following video from 20:07.

Heres what he said:

Why is common person (or consumer) moving towards branded products? Previously he used to buy turmeric and why does he now ask for packed turmeric. He lost his faith! He doubts that there could be some adulteration. He thinks company product may be better! He falls for it.

You tell me … there are so many of you here. Those of who are aged more than 50 years, did you ever see a board that said “pure ghee shop” in your childhood? Did anybody read such? Those of you who are aged more than 50 years ….

*no … we didn’t*

Now don’t you find such boards in every street – pure ghee shop? Why? Why did somebody have to write this on a board? Something went wrong (adulteration happened) and thats why you had to write it? If only pure (ghee) was sold, ghee would be just ghee – there would have been no meaning of pure – impure! Whoever brought this impure (business tactics), we business community have to keep them at bay.

One may not see anything profound in this. In fact to somebody like Rahul Kanwal, out of the whole talk, there was nothing except some sort of admission from Modi that he may be changing BJP’s position FDI in Retail!

But there is more than what meets the eye here. No doubt, this perception is a result of what we are seeing in our country today but more the solution he proposes is totally in line with Pandit ji’s vision – an enterprise with a character that is in concurrence with dharma.

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya talked about enterprises in his Integral Humanism speeches. To quote Panditji:

The Editor of Organiser, an English Weekly, had gone to U.S.A. for a visit sometime ago. Upon his return he related an interesting instance.

There is a factory which produces ‘Potato-peelers’, a device for peeling potatoes. The production of this factory outstripped the demand for the device. The management of the firm faced the problem of finding some way by which people might be induced to buy more potato peelers. They called a meeting of all the salesmen of the firm. Among the suggestions put forward, one was to make the colour of the handle similar to that of potato peel, so that along with the peel, the peeler may also be dumped in the garbage, often by mistake. Thus there may be greater demand. Also the product was offered in a more attractive packaging. Now this economic structure is not merely consumption-oriented but is clearly leading to destruction. Throw away the old one, and buy a new one! Rather than satisfying the need and demand of the people, to create fresh demand has become the aim of modern economics. Supposing that we need not worry about the limited supply of natural resources, there is yet the question of balance in nature. There is a cyclic relationship in different parts of nature. If one of the three sticks, which stand with mutual support, is removed, the other will automatically fall. The present economic system and system of production are fast disturbing this equilibrium of nature. As a result, on the one hand new products are manufactured for satisfying ever increasing desires, on the other hand new problems arise every day threatening the very existence of entire humanity and civilisation.

It is essential, therefore, to use up that portion of the available natural resources which the nature itself will be able to recoup easily. When the fruits are taken, the fruit tree is not injured; it may even be helpful to the tree. However, in the effort to take a greater harvest from the land, chemical fertilisers are used which in a few years’ time will render the land altogether infertile. Lakhs of acres of land lie barren in America due to this factor. How long can this dance of destruction go on?”

One of the key emphasis in Pandit ji’s vision is on a refined character at various levels – individual, social, organizational, entrepreneurial etc. In Pandit ji’s vision, the interaction between an enterprise and an individual was not merely a contract governed by some laws of the land. It was much more. He saw it as an interaction between individual, enterprise, society and nature. His emphasis was on refining character of individual, enterprise, society to meet the needs with complete and unperturbed attention to nature too.

What Pandit ji talked about in this part of his seminal lectures was in contrast to “Free Market” philosophy, yet it strangely is not against it! A free market enthusiast would have a very cogent counter to the example Pandit ji quoted – “market would wipe out such products because people wouldn’t buy peelers whose handle was of the same colour as potato peel”. Such a counter argument would even carry a lot of merit. But the essence of the example Pandit ji quoted cannot be refuted. Today, we see all sorts of tricks played at consumers to increase demand! Even a free market enthusiast would be lying if he didn’t accept that most of the corporations today – titillate and entice consumers into buying things that they may not even need; inflated prices; low quality simply because consumer may not even know the difference; and so on.

It is in this context that Panditji’s words of wisdom on enterprises make such a profound statement. For instance, the whole world is crying for low power electronics and electrical appliances today! This seriousness was not there before late last decade. Why? The enterprises which couldn’t achieve low power designs then are somehow able to do so now? No. The fact of the matter is market based economies didn’t account for power consumption because there was no tangible return in low power designs!

Climate change enthusiasts claim that changes in climate are a direct result of far too much of power consumption and go on to theorize that government must have some control on enterprises. As a direct effect, today governments across the world mandate that power consumption has to be controlled! Let us not sidestep to find who is right. But if you focus on whether or not it makes sense for enterprises to do this by construct, it would show you the true meaning of what Pandit ji said.

Governments across the world today emphasize on green energy and that puts extra pressure on enterprises. To enterprises, this is a new demand. However, enterprises could have been avoided this government intervention if they did what was right instead of what made money! Pandit ji’s vision was that the character of the organization itself should be such. It is not as though enterprises are entities separate from society. Enterprises too are made up of people. An enterprise that consists of people who have refined their characters would be able to build and lead enterprises that would have such a character. This is exactly the point where our country could lead the way and answer the problems that enterprises, and people in general, face today.

Modi has many times said that world is looking for answers for many problems and India has the potential to give direction and answers. Pandit ji’s vision of spirit of enterprise was not limited to RoI (like capitalism mandates). Pandit ji’s vision internalizes dharma completely and thereby stands as a proof of itself.

Modi’s emphasis on sustainable technology, renewable energy, organic farming, micro-irrigation, improvement of soil health, improvement of cattle health etc., clearly indicate that his understanding of Integral Humanism is quite deep and he certainly has a very practical outlook on implementing it too.

A detailed analysis of Modi’s work in Gujarat, his speeches would probably help in understanding and institutionalizing this aspect of Moditva!

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