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The Budget-2021 Series: Pillars 3,4 & 5: The Philosophy & Praxis

This article will try to cement pillars 3, 4 & 5 (Inclusive development, Human capital and Innovation & R&D).


As I was perusing the aforementioned pillars, an ancient Indian thought sparked my mind. It was Kautilyan advise to the king- "In the happiness of the people, lies the happiness of the state". The next logical question popped up- Is India a happy state? Are "The People" happy?


The Philosophy

The idea of happiness has kindled thinkers/scholars since time immemorial. Having painted several shades of happiness, most of them trace the roots towards some universal, immutable and transcendental values (Human dignity, Equality, Justice, Freedom etc.) which forms the ideational bedrock of the above pillars (sources of happiness).


Immanuel Kant propounded the moral conception of human rights in which human dignity remains the categorical imperative. Real happiness can be derived from a virtuous life where human dignity is treasured. Thus, the ideas of inclusive development (None to be left behind), human capital and innovation should be an end in itself.


Equality, if not more, is equally important, yet a distant dream. The ancient Greek scholars, especially Aristotle found equality as the best practicable way of organizing societies. The idea was further unravelled by Ronald Dworkin, to whom it was the sovereign virtue. However, a recent analysis presented in the book Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty shows that the inequality virus has been infecting humans historically, sustained by the dominant ideologies and institutions of their times. Today, the virulence has intensified with the hyper-capitalist mode of production. What we need is the BIG RESET to hinder the hindrances where all stakeholders are empowered and taken on board.


The idea of Justice is synonymous with the idea of Equality. One of the great scholars, John Rawls regarded Justice as the "first virtue". To him, Justice as fairness has to be based on the inviolability of human dignity. Therefore, to maintain the social equilibrium, he suggested the idea of Distributive Justice where the greatest benefit should trickle down to the least advantaged.


Similarly, Feminist scholars argued for Gender Justice. They criticized the problem with NO NAME (Patriarchy). What was personal became political, arousing the need for Differential Justice/Equality.


As we enter the Anthropocene epoch, Environmental Justice cannot be sidelined. Specifically, it deals with the disproportionate and unequal environmental burdens that certain communities face. The renowned ecofeminist scholar Vandana Shiva, is profoundly critical of forces like globalization which offers limitless potential to exploit the Global Commons, further marginalizing the vulnerable. Hence, she proposes the idea of EARTH DEMOCRACY, based on the Indian philosophy of Vasudeva Kutumbakam (Earth as one family). This idea rests on the harmony between three pillars- Economy, Environment and People. This model, if adopted in its' truest sense can facilitate inclusive development.

Moreover, it is pertinent that politics be at rest and the implementation of Common but Differential responsibilities in global climate negotiations take action. The West has to shed away the hesitancy of the past and ought to do more!


Coming to Freedom. Freedom is the ability to exercise one's own choices. Freedom is the absence of necessities. Freedom is to participate in social and political affairs. Besides worldly connotation, Freedom has a spiritual significance. According to Rabindranath Tagore, Freedom is the enrichment of soul through self-realization. Despite, much yearned virtue, Freedom remains a long walk. In today's world, in the words of Rousseau, "a man is free but everywhere in chains". Gradually, the authority has been shifting from man to machines and people are getting alienated from themselves.


To find a way out, Amartya Sen suggests "capacity development" to tackle the "Unfreedom". Here, Human Development (Human Capital) plays a pivotal role. Providing universal health care, education, better skill development & employment opportunities will act as a catalyst in liberating people.


The Praxis

This year's Economic Survey and Budget delve upon some of the aforementioned issues. If anything innovative, the survey comes out with the Bare Necessities Index which quantifies the access to bare necessities viz., access to clean water, housing, sanitation, micro-environment and other facilities. The index indicates that the poor and vulnerable have disproportionately benefitted in the access to bare necessities (Period: 2012-2018) which is laudable. The survey attributes this success to initiatives viz. Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP), Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY), Saubhagya, and Ujjwala Yojana. However, it warns of existing, wide disparities across states, income groups and rural-urban landscapes for which it suggests empowering the local governments and better targeting mechanisms. This will help India to push itself towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The Budget, clearly emphasizes the idea of environmental justice by promoting renewable energy, sanitation & hygiene and sustainable agricultural practices. Further, it tries to secure market freedom for farmers by strengthening the e-National Agricultural Market and the mandi system.


To bridge the urban-rural divide, augmenting rural infrastructure and capacities have been given priority in this budget. This shall facilitate channelization of investments and provide employment opportunities, empowering 69% of the Indian population.


It was evident during the COVID-19 crisis that the architects of the urban-industrial cities, themselves were dismembered. The reverse migration reflects the inability of our cities to provide the bare necessities to the people living on margins. Hence, to ensure food security and portability the One Nation, One Ration initiative, as mentioned in the budget is gaining traction. For our labour brethren, the social security gaps are being partially addressed through the Labour codes which shall take care of minimum wages, security for platform and gig workers, skill development and a conducive working environment.


Reinvigorating Human capital, the Budget enlists certain provisions to execute the most ambitious National Education Policy 2020. Besides, there has been greater thrust on Skill India programs to meet the market demands.


The current status of India's R&D efforts is not encouraging: R&D as a percentage of GDP is low relative to the world and dropped from 0.84 per cent in 2008 to 0.69 per cent in 2018. Corresponding figures in the US and China are 2.8 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively. Then, India fares poorly on the number of researchers per lakh of the population (15 vs 423 in the US and 825 in Israel, as per the 2017 Economic Survey), and also lags in the number of patents produced, and quality and quantity of scientific publications.


To revive the innovation ecosystem, the budget earmarks Rs 50,000 crores for the next five years. Alongside, the Economic Survey urges the private sector to contribute more which currently contributes a meagre 37% of total investments as against 68% in the top ten economies.


Inclusive development, human capital and innovation can act as a force multiplier for India to enjoy the real freedom i.e. Atmanirbhar Bharat. It is well said that no state can triumph by dwarfing its citizens. If India aspires to be the Chakravartin Samrat (global leader), it has to follow the Gandhian ideals of Sarvodaya and Oceanic circles where "no one is to be the first and none the last".


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