After a brief stay in Rajasthan, I went back to Mumbai and then to Nagpur, Maharashtra. Almost at every place, my thoughts kept turning optimistic and pessimistic. Almost every field where government continues to play a role, continues to suffer, most notably the civic amenities, the environment, and security. Just read a news story in Economic Times that 2008 was perhaps the best year ever for Indian sports with spectacular success in cricket, olympics, and many other sports. Wherever and whenever Indians can perform with their skill without the red-tape of the government, they have outperformed their rivals.
However, one major disappointment continues to be the environment. During the wedding ceremony that I attended, I saw unbelievable amount of wastage of food and plastic. After 12 years of stay in the USA, I naively wanted to recycle the plastic water bottles, only to be disappointed not to find even a garbage can. Sometimes, the train platforms had blue trash cans which I mistook for recylcing bins! Of course, littering continues to be a birthright of every Indian. Another birthright is to break every law while driving. Coming back to garbage generation and disposal, in 1960s and 1970s, the Western countries also had extremely polluted cities and rivers, but with tougher laws and active civic participation, they successfully cleaned their cities and rivers. Alas, India and China are making the same mistakes of early Western countries which Infosys co-founder has also noted in his latest bestselling book "Imagining India" but what he has missed is the situation with the agriculture and farmers. He criticizes Indian farmers for using outdated practices. However, I think that the traditional farming practices of India will be the future for farmers not only in India but even in the West. Soon, both the top-soil quality and even the quality of the food grains will be judged by the kind of farming practices. I visited the Ashrams of Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave, at Vardha and Pavnar, both near Nagpur. At both the places, there are dozens of NGOs inspired by their visions of Agriculture as the backbone of Indian life and economy. All these NGOs use traditional farming such as organic fertilizers and prohibition of chemical fertilizers. It is these traditional Indian ideas that the West is just waking upto. In November, Bill Moyers, the anchor at the PBS, the "national" TV channel in the USA aired a major interview on the evils of Industrial farming in the USA. Sadly, I also found that the Indian big farmers elsewhere also use the similar Western agricultural practices that were adopted by Indian "green revolution". It seems like the perfect time to take the U-turn to traditional farming...
Some of us in the West wonder whether India will be able to sustain itself during this global recession. But everywhere I went in India, the first question people asked me was about the American recession and its cause. My answer was simple, one of the reasons for American recession was the "Chaarvak" habit of misusing the money taken on loan/credit/debt. Since most Indians even today spread themselves only within the bounds of their limitations, India will be able to sustain itself much better than the USA where even government has broken all past records of blowing the budget with huge debt and deficit. And nobody is talking of changing the lifestyle of the people and the government of spending within the means. On the other hand, Obama has generated optimism about USA even among Indians acknowledging that he has no magic wand.
Coming to Indian economy and its ability to match the growth of China, I think, India should NOT join the rat race of rapid growth. Instead of going for the rapid Chinese growth model, which leads to butchering of the environment and growing discontent among the farmers and other neglected sectors, India would do better to develop its own indigenous growth model which must be sustainable (based on the green technologies) and inclusive (where every part of its population shares the fruits of the economy). Of course, it is easier said than done, but wasn't Gandhiji had such a vision for India once? Unfortunately, the ecological disaster and attacks on Indian elite locations, once again highlights the mistakes India has made in its urge to imitate the West. The sooner India realizes that it must not become a mini America of the 1960s and 1970s, better for itself...
I will soon post my answers to the questions from Banswara children under the comments to the previous posting...
Teaching and researching religions, languages, literatures, films, and ecology of India: http://philosophy.unt.edu/people/faculty/pankaj-jain
Dr. Pankaj Jain
Pankaj Jain पंकज जैन
- Dr. Pankaj Jain is the author of Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities: Sustenance and Sustainability (May 2011), which won the 2012 DANAM Book Award and the 2011 Uberoi Foundation Book Award. His 2nd book is Science and Socio-Religious Revolution in India: Moving the Mountains (Routledge 2017).He is co-founder of American Academy of Indic Studies (www.AAIndicStudies.org) and is the editor of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Springer).He is Associate Professor in the department of Philosophy & Religion. He has published articles in journals such as Religious Studies Review, Worldviews, Religion Compass, Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Union Seminary Quarterly Review, and the Journal of Visual Anthropology. He also contributes to the Huffington Post, Washington Post’s forum On Faith, and Patheos.
His research has been supported by the Fulbright fellowship and by the Wenner Gren grant. His teaching interests include Religion and Ecology, Indian films, and Religions and Cultures of South Asia and South Asian Diaspora in North America. Before joining UNT, he taught at North Carolina State University, Rutgers, Kean, and New Jersey City University. Interested in connecting ancient practices with contemporary issues, he is exploring the connections between religious traditions and sustainability in Hindu and Jain communities in India and the Indian diaspora. He serves as a research affiliate with Harvard University’s Pluralism Project, as scholar-in-residence with GreenFaith, as a board member of the Society for Hindu Christian Studies, and as a board member of the Executive Advisory Council of Hindu American Seva Charities, an NGO working with the White House Office for the faith-based initiatives. He has presented his research at Columbia University, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, University of South Florida, Florida International University, University of Toledo, Texas Christian University, High Point University, Lancaster University (UK), Andhra University (India), Univ of Rajasthan (India), and several conferences, high schools, radio and TV stations, temples, churches, Yoga centers, and other community centers.
He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and an M.A. from Columbia University (both in Religious Studies). In his “previous life” he had also earned a B.S. in Computer Science from India and had worked as a software engineer in India and in New Jersey. Dr. Jain is an active member of several academic and community organizations, is fluent in several Indian languages, and has published poems in Hindi. He was born in Rajasthan and had also lived in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Karnatak (in India) and in New Jersey, Iowa, North Carolina, and Texas (in the USA). Some of his papers and articles are at:http://unt.academia.edu/PankajJain/Papers and videos are at http://www.youtube.com/pj2017. The Facebook page for his book is at:https://www.facebook.com/DharmaAndEcology
Friday, December 26, 2008
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