- kewal sethi
‘restoring values’ is a compilation of ideas of resting values in society by twenty eminent persons. (sage publication - 2010– edited - e. sreedharan and bharat wakhlu). these persons include politicians like lal krishan advani and som nath chatterjee, technocrats like sreedharan, legal luminaries like j s varma, balakrishnan, administrators like gopal ganesh, krishnamurty, religious leaders like bhoomananda tirtha, and so on. it contains an article by president abdul kalam and by jay parkash narayan (though these and many other articles were penned at some other time than the conclave held for the purpose in 2008) . an educationist kunnukanal is also there. the common thread is that we have lost values in all sections of society. one of the contributors is k g balakrishnan, ex chief justice who is himself under a cloud because of unexplained assets of his relatives. he rightly asks the question - who will watch the watchdogs. he leaves it at that without answering the question. he is on one with the other contributors that it is an issue which must be addressed at all levels - the family, the work place and within the public discourse set up by the exact opposite of values - mass media.
one of the notable quotes is from jay parkash narain who reports gladstone as saying that it is the purpose of the government to make it easy for people to do good and difficult to do evil. our government do quite the opposite and the results are evident.
they all talk about decline in indian values and the need to restore them. hardly any one has a solution to offer. they are clear about the goal but no one is there to guide us towards that goal. the common thread overall is the lament about fall of standard of politicians every where but with few suggestions on what to do about it. exception is jay parkash narayan who talks about directly elected state leaders which should result in lesser need of corrupt practices in elections. the waywardness of these state leaders can be controlled by the centre. obviously the same solution would not work at the national level. he also talks about proportional representation with a threshold for eligibility of the political parties to name their representatives.
another common thread is that the election system leaves much to be desired and the solution is not in sight. the view is that in a winner take all system, the voters vote out of a sense of fear not with their hopes. the recent vote in delhi municipal corporation is perhaps an illustration of this. the people were afraid that the agitational tactics of kejriwal will never allow him or his party to be positive. obviously there was nothing to write home about the carrying out of functions assigned to municipal corporations and yet bjp not only saved its position but also improved it considerably.
it is the common belief of many of the writers that the first past the poll has resulted in disproportionate increase in the corrupt practices involving lots and lots of cash and other goodies. the promise of free lap tops etc, , of free electricity, or freedom from property tax is encouraged. these are, in short, an open attempt at bribing of the voters. there are no policy issues involved in these promises.
the misuse of power by the politicians also comes in for mention. there is nothing surprising about it. the controller and auditor general has pointed out that local area development scheme funds are not used for purpose for which they are meant. at its worst, it is source of ill gotten funds for the representatives and at its best a crude attempt to bribe the voters. (j s varma cji). recently the report of cag says that uttar pradesh government spent rs. 15 crores to distribute rs. 20 crores to the youth as unemployment allowance. the expenditure was on organising of melas where netas could pat themselves on their backs for launching such a scheme.
it is not surprising that all are united in thinking that education in values is a must for inculcating values in the people. it is also said that in sixty years (or whatever time has elapsed since independence when they wrote their piece) we have been unable to change the system of education. here is what one swami bhoomananda tirtha, head of an ngo -national value restoration movement - says ,"the education system is the crucible to mould and shape the citizenry at any time. but alas, even after sixty years of independence, we have not evolved a national value enriching educational process. kunnukanal talks about the india of constitution wherein he envisages what education commission has advocated ‘a united, secular india enriched with its pluralistic diversity’. it is clear that so long as we talk of diversity and fail to emphasize on unity, nothing is likely to be achieved. we must talk about unity, devotion to our ancient culture, enforced with exemplary behaviour of leaders. pratyush sinha also talks of constitutional values. but some other people limit it to talk of 'right' education but stop at that. the whole thing boils down to the question, who will bell the cat.
to digress a bit, why do we keep on insisting that the cherished values are different from religious values, and we talk of national values. are the national values different from religious values? probably yes, because we keep on including secularism, respect for constitution, scientific temper etc. etc. in so called national values. first, the word secularism has evolved since independence into strange connotations. its correct meaning in indian context is appeasement. so much so that a prime minister had to declare – ‘minorities have got first right on national resources’. secondly it must be stated why respect for the constitution is not a value. constitution is a creation of a body of men and is not sacred. it is obviously not infallible. it is supposed to evolve with time. that is why it has been amended so often ( the constitution had its first amendment in its very first year of existence). and 123rd amendment is being considered right now). this either means that it is not perfect or in other words defective or else, to be diplomatically correct, our wisdom dictates that we keep on improving it to conform to change in circumstances. but the values, the basic values, are not subject to change. third point - what exactly is meant by scientific temper. why do we not simply call it the spirit of enquiry. one must keep on exploring for perfection, for better understanding of our spiritual nature and physical nature. as such. just learning the few tenements of science literature is not making of a scientific mind. the broader term should have been used and pursued.
to give a quote from the book, consider the words - gandhi was an intensely religious man but his religion was all embracing. what does it mean? it is explained in these words - he respected all faiths. now faith is a composite word. it includes a particular vision of nature, the ultimate reason for man being there, and the ultimate goal of mankind. but the different faiths have different reasons to be there especially the proselytising religions. they believe in the truth of their religion and consider all other religions to be obnoxious. how does one respect such faiths? one can respect their way of worship but not their ideal which is diametrically opposite to that of other religions. this applies not only to the persons of other faiths but also rational persons from within such a faith itself. the only way is to expand the religion of vasudev kutumbumum to include such persons and replace their view of reforming or destroying other faiths. once that is done the idea of man being a single parivaar, a single family will be realised. we must work towards that. to that purpose the hindu religion must give up its being contained in itself and should take up proselytising, not to destroy other faiths but to include them within its fold. some basic tenets of hinduism will come in but the way of worship of newcomers will be accepted as their own. it has happened in the past and it can happen again.
how to inculcate the values in the minds of our citizens. upsc introduced a new subject for examination for all india services. it is a test in ethical values. what purpose does it serve. is it supposed to check the moral build up of the persons who aspire to become officers in the higher echelons of government? will it ensure the keeping to the straight and narrow for the officers throughout their career? perhaps the theory is that the corrupt practices and immoral acts start from the top and percolate down to the lower levels. (please do not say that it should begin with politicians. we are talking of bureaucrats here). as is well known, the man in the street is less bothered by the high rank corruption. for him it does not matter if a particular person caused a loss of 176,000 crores to the exchequer or a politician pocketed 4000 crores of public money. or that an officer, declared by his colleagues as the most corrupt, could amass property worth 455 crores. he is more concerned with the hundred rupees he had to shell out to get a certificate which was his due. he is more concerned with fifteen hundred rupees he had to pay to jump the queue to get his license. it is the street level dealings that make him sad and angry and ultimately rebellious. will the moral fabric of the officers (assuming the test ensures it) also mean better moral fabric of the lower level of government machinery.
or will they introduce a similar test in ethical values at the lower level also to ensure that government recruits only the honest. there is a surfeit of instruction books on all subjects in the market for those who sit for the competitive examinations. will this new subject produce a similar outflow of material on moral and ethical values? through their contacts these entrepreneurs would find out exactly what answers the examiners want from the candidates and instruct them accordingly. i cannot imagine what would the examiners and the persons in charge of the arrangements for the examination would do in such a scenario. it will be a competition between them and the entrepreneurs to devise new questions and the likely questions which can be thought up. where will it end? perhaps in a totally irrelevant test. most people start with ideals. many succumb to the temptations that present themselves while many are able to resist them and uphold the values they started with.
we can look at this innovation in another way. if the test for the ethical values can be introduced at the higher level and would, most probably, come down to the lower levels, why should it not come to the college and the school level. after all the foundations of all knowledge is laid down at these levels. an introduction of tests at these levels will prepare the students for facing the test later in life. thinking of this, it can then be introduced as a subject at these levels. now that will a pose another problem. are there levels in ethical values. some lower ones can be taught in the schools and advanced levels in the higher classes. one will have to be really a genius to devise a curriculum for such a subject.
there was a book by robert fulghum called ‘all i really need to know, i learned in kindergarten'. it says that one is taught team spirit at that level, a cooperative effort at that level, a creativity urge, an urge to help people and so on. it is at this level that the foundations of conduct are laid down which is further strengthened at school level. it follows that the ethical values and the moral values should be taught at the school level and the pre school level, in the house and in the kindergarten.
can these be taken up as a subject? that will be reducing them to be one more subject to be mastered and cleared. should the alternative of weaving it in the various subjects be tried. one can think of only language literature in this context. the stories of great men remind us of the ideals by which they lived and, sometimes, died. who will write these stories? the trouble has been that hero of one community is villain of another. faced with this dilemma, those in authority dictated that these stories should be altogether cut out from the books. they also dictated that history books should also refrain from mentioning any divisive stories. it is is this attitude that started the decline of the ethical values in the society. in an attempt to create cohesiveness in society, we destroyed its moral fabric. we neither gained cohesiveness nor retained moral and ethical values. as they say dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghat ka. the pity is that though every politician, every teacher, every leader rues the decline of moral values, none is willing to take the blame for the decline and therefore does not want to go to the root of the problem. it is like the alice in wonderland where they planted white roses instead of red roses and started to paint them red to avoid the anger of the queen. the move to have the national anthem at the end of the movies is an instance of this. the national anthem, though a piece of veneration, is not a lesson in ethical values. it is a poem of praise for the country and its unity. there is also a proposal to start the office day with national anthem. who knows where it will end. this line of thinking is what prompts the move to have examination in ethical values.
so what is the solution? to let common bond of society grow from the root level, from the schools, from the streets. stop propagating so called constitutional values and start propagating human values. make a start with daily prayer in the schools. an invocation to god to help make our moral fabric strong. the second step is to have a drill the first thing in the morning wherein all students participate. the rhythmic exercises produce their own aura of cohesiveness . in japan, they do it in the offices also which will be a little more desperate attempt for india and can be postponed but the idea can bear some thought.
the well-meaning leaders keep on propagating that all religions teach same moral values but seldom include them in books with examples. the history books are doctored to propagate so called constitutional values. this gives a go by to the first principle of moral values - satyam, the truth.
time to state the values which india cherishes. manu has mentioned ten values which are must. these are
धृतिः क्षमा दमोऽस्तेयं शौचमिन्द्रियनिग्रहः।
धीर्विद्या सत्यमक्रोधो दशकं धर्मलक्षणम।
धैर्य] क्षमा] संयम] चोरी न करना] शौच (स्वच्छता) ] इन्द्रियों को वश मे रखना] बुद्धि] विद्या] सत्य] और क्रोध न करना य ये दस धर्म के लक्षण हैं।).
forbearance, forgiveness, self control, non stealing, cleanliness (in thought and action), control of senses, intellect, knowledge, truth, and non anger – these are the ten attributes of dharma. (he does not exclude other virtues)
it is to be noted that the method of worship or even the belief in god in not mentioned in the list. for this reason, even for the die hard secularists, these should not pose problems. these attributes or qualities are essential for a meaningful life. it is necessary to empathise these values right from the beginning. the text in the language books should be built around these values, by biographies of our heroes, wherever possible. it has to be emphasized that there no distinction should be made on account of religion or language or region. oneness of the nation has to be the cornerstone of the educational policy. the fake notion of unity in diversity has to be curbed. it does not mean a single language, a single mode of dress, a single text in all the books. it only means that the stress should always be on the oneness as a nation standing by its age old values. only then we can think of restoring values, not in conferences of learned persons inside a room.