Book Review : Chanakya’s New Manifesto
At the stroke of the midnight hour, in August 1947, when India became a free nation, little did the founding fathers of this democracy imagine that the country would come to brink of a crisis in less than a century, and the very ideals on which this great nation was founded, would be challenged by politicians with vested interests, just to stick to their thrones. Six and a half decades have passed and India still battles poverty, hunger, communalism, social malaise like discrimination based on caste; the economic structure of the nation is in shambles – crony socialism and sham capitalism has led to the nation being pushed to the walls. The people of this nation have lost faith in the leaders, thanks to rampant corruption, and i daresay, hardly any office-bearers in current ruling class display any statesman-ly quality. The sorry state of the nation reminded me of a poem by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, and i quote few lines from it:
Thy eagle pinion is chained down at last,
And groveling in the lowly dust art thou:
Thy minstrel hath no wreath to weave for thee
Save the sad story of thy misery!
What then can rescue this great nation and put her back into reckoning as a world power, restore the lost ideals of democracy and imbibe a confidence among the people for the state? Ace writer Pavan K Varma tries to find the answers to India’s current problems in the Arthashastra. There is a popular misconception that Arthashastra, conceived by Kautilya (or Chanakya, the advisor to great Mauryan King Chadragupta), deals only with economic policies. But as the author argues, the book is a treasure trove of governance and politics.
“The Arthashastra consists of about 6000 shlokas and sutras. It deals systematically with the subjects of effective governance, the welfare of people, economic properity, the qualities of a king, the competence of his ministers, the duties of its officers, administrative acumen, civic responsibility, the importance of the rule of law and an efficacious judicial system, measures to effectively curb corruption, dandaniti or the policy of punishment for wrongdoers, the conduct of foreign policy, war planning and preparedness, the strategy of alliances and the supremacy of national interest above anything else.”
Pavan K Varma, after a brief description of the crisis at home, takes up areas that need immediate attention and fixing and goes on to list out the measures that can help in carving a better nation for ourselves. The areas discussed were – Governance, Democracy, Corruption, Security, Inclusive Society – as we can see these encompass almost the entire spectrum of the duties of a ruler. I choose not to discuss the measures suggested by the author, in order not to spoil the pleasures for others, when they read the book for the first time. A seasoned bureaucrat that Mr Varma is, it is not unexpected that he does justice to the cause he espouses – his suggestions, although one might not agree with at times, do have a solid bearing on your mind.
History they say is written by victors. But it is always opportune to delve into the past and seek answers from experience to build a better future. Indian history is a myriad of experiences. Chanakya’s acumen in governance and politics is beyond doubt, thanks to the caliber with which he foiled Alexandar’s invasion and sought his revenge with Dhanananda and instated Chandragupta as the king. Hope the charter of suggestions that Pavan K Varma has assembled in his new book, attracts the attention of those who yield power and India casts this spell of idle, static, absent governance away.
My Rating for Chanakya’s New Manifesto – To Resolve The Crisis Within India : 3.5/5
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