Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×



By Gaurav Sharma

The annals of Classical or early phase of Indian history is replete with literary master-pieces. Contrary to popular belief, not all of these ancient Indian texts sermonize religious doctrines or philosophize spiritual truths.

Some works focus entirely upon reality as is seen by the naked eye. The Arthashastra, is one such unique piece of Indian literature that is brutally honest in its approach towards life, as visualized within the ambit of power.

The pragmatic treatise on the art of statecraft and governance, summarily shatters that Western cliche that Indians were primarily a bunch of ethereal spiritual thinkers in neglect of their material existence.

While focussing solely on worldly matters, the Arthashastra puts forth a comprehensive and ruthless strategy for achieving power.

The strategies for achieving power include the four great pillars of dealing with neighbouring powers, a mixture of : appeasement(Saama), gift or bribery(Daan), division or split(Bheda) and reward or punishment(Danda).

Such a strategy not only provided an unprecedented wealth of detail about early India but was also instrumental in inspiring the Nationalists or freedom fighters of India to establish a realpolitik for an aspiring India in the 20th century.

“The discovery of the Arthashastra was crucial in building the consciousness of Indian nationalists, in constructing a sense of India’s past and in setting the tone for what modern India can stand for”, says Indian diplomat Shiv Shankar Menon to BBC.

Authored by Chankaya, also known as Kautilya and Vishnu Gupta, the Arthashastra is a treatise that was written somewhere around the 4th century BC.

A historical Sanskrit play called Mudrarakshasa narrates the fascinating role that Chanakya played in the ascent of Chandragupta Maurya into power. The play’s literal meaning, the “The Signet of the Minister” signifies the cunning tactics through which Chanakya changes the landscape of the Indian subcontinent.

It is believed that after being ridiculed by the of the Nanda dynasty, Chanakya untied his Shikha or lock of hair, considered as the symbol of discerning intellect, and vowed not to tie it back until he crushed the Nanda kingdom.

Indeed, through his guile and wit, Chanakya devises a shrewd political strategy of isolating his enemy’s allies. By using a deadly concoction of spying and deceit, Chanakya is gradually able to force Rakshasha, the last minister of the Nanda dynasty to surrender.

The conception of usurping power, as laid forth in the Mudrarakshasa and the Arthashastra, as a whole, bodes much lesson for the modern day geopolitical and diplomatic warfare that each country is inextricably involved in.

Many compare the Arthashastra with Machiavelli’s The Prince, a 16th Century political treatise which disrupted the western moral and religious beliefs by propounding harsh political pragmatism.

Max Weber, a German sociologist however opines such a comparison as naive.

“Truly radical “Machiavellianism”, in the popular sense of that word, is classically expressed in Indian literature in the Arthasastra of Kautilya: compared to it, Machiavelli’s The Prince is harmless”, says Weber in his essay Politics as a Vocation.

Comparing with different accounts of power and politics, such as Aristotle and Plato, in the same historical era, finds a unique perspective in the Arthashastra.

Merciless instructions such as, “An arrow released by an archer may kill a single person, but a strategy unleashed by a wise man, kills even those still in the womb”, are some of eccentric prescriptions that distinguish Chanakya’s doctrine from popular notions on power.

Chanakya describes a king or a ruler as someone who desires to conquer or yearns for power. For expanding power the king must hold a great deal of wealth, yet he stops short of advocating a free market.

In fact, Chanakya is deeply suspicious of traders. He explicitly warns the kings to be vigilant to the practise of under-invoicing, a tactic undertaken by traders to avoid custom duty.

When caught under-invoicing, Chanakya proposes a strict penalty of eight-times the custom duty. He goes a step further, by advising the ruler to keep all economic activities under check, closely reminiscent of the socialist model of governance.

On corruption, Chanakya describes more than forty ways of embezzlement and advises the ruler to keep a watchful eye on the state officials.

In a splendid simili, the master political strategist encapsulates the impossibility of detecting corruption: Just as a fish moving inside water cannot be known when drinking water, even so, officers appointed for performing work cannot be known when appropriating money.

Employing another imaginative analogy, Chankaya brings to fore the dubious ways in which officers might be working: It might be possible to know trace the path travelled by birds, but not the ways of officers moving with their intentions concealed.

The need for the ruler to establish smooth relations with the ruled, is given paramount importance in Kautilyan governance.

The guidelines for ceding mistrust and uncertainty among the populace include creation of an aura of miraculous power, making liberal use of illusions and manipulations through spies.

In the unlikely event of exposition of the wrongs committed by the king, a hefty punishment is to be meted out to the reprobates. These include whip lashes, scorpion bites, burning joints, heating in the sun for days, stroking with cane among other tortuous measures.

To eliminate the risk of assassination, the ruler can and should use a double, a preventive act already employed by politicians of the modern age.

Chanakya’s conception of power can be compared to a giant banyan tree which towers above as a shining beacon of majestic power but the whose roots lie embedded in an intricate web of secrecy, manipulation and constant spying.

This is very much how governments function in today’s day and age. There is a visibly pretty side of diplomatic dialogues and peace talks with a dark underbelly of spy networks which perpetually monitor the citizenry and other power structures.

In a broader context, Chanakya visualized and solved the same problems that we are facing today: A multi-polar world comprising of a complex mixture of bureaucracy, citizenry and diplomacy, all seething with an underlying current of vicious power.


Popular

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Central Vista- the new builddesign of Government of India.

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre, within three days, on a plea challenging a notification for change in land use, which would deprive residents of Delhi a vast chunk of green space in the Central Vista area.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before a bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar that he will seek instructions from the government. He added since the Prime Minister and Vice President's house is coming up there, therefore it would not be possible to have a recreational area in the vicinity.

After hearing arguments, the bench, also comprising Justice C.T. Ravikumar, posted the matter for further hearing on Friday.

The plea, filed by social activist Rajeev Suri, who had earlier challenged the project earlier citing an illegal change in land use and absence of environmental clearance, through advocate Shikhil Suri, contended that the Centre did, mala fide, issue a notification dated October 28, 2020, notifying the change in land use, which will deprive residents of Delhi a vast chunk of highly treasured open and green space in Central Vista area available for social and recreational activity.

The plea argued that this notification stands against Article 21 (Right to Life) in the right to the enjoyment of wholesome life. "Since the subject plot no 1 takes over spaces of a children's recreational park and bus terminal for public transport, heightened judicial scrutiny is required to cut through the well-disguised illegalities and infirmities to reach the violations of statutory laws," said the plea.

The plea sought the top court to issue directions to call records and quash the notification concerned issued by the Centre, through the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and, also to prevent loss equities by staying activities such demolition of buildings, cutting of trees, excavation of land and other actions which may be irreversible.

The Central Vista redevelopment project, which covers a three-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens' Delhi, at the cost of Rs 20,000 crore, where several government buildings -- including the Parliament House and ministry offices, will be rebuilt.

In January, this year, the Supreme Court had cleared the decks for the Central Vista project by upholding the environmental clearance and the notification for change in land use. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Government, Central Vista, Supreme court of India.


Photo by Pixabay

Kerala a part of UN-backed ‘Race to Zero Campaign’.

Health Care Without Harm, the official Race to Zero healthcare partner, on Monday announced that over 50 healthcare institutions collectively representing more than 11,500 healthcare facilities in 21 countries including India's Kerala, are part of the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign.

In joining the Race to Zero, these organizations commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. They become part of the largest ever alliance outside of national governments committed to delivering a zero-carbon world in line with the Paris Agreement.

The healthcare organizations in Race to Zero include institutions ranging from individual, public and private hospitals and health systems to entire provincial or state government health departments. In recent weeks several large health systems have signed on to this vital commitment.

These systems include the Directorate of Health Services in Kerala, the international private healthcare and insurance system, Bupa, and CommonSpirit Health in the US.

They demonstrate global leadership in the healthcare sector by committing to net zero emissions and taking immediate climate action.

"It's exciting to see the momentum of healthcare organizations worldwide join the Race to Zero. All health organizations, large and small, can accelerate the transition to a healthier, sustainable, and more equitable world," said UN High-Level Climate Champion Gonzalo Muoz.

"At a time when Kerala is facing unprecedented climate events, the state Health Department has shown its commitment to climate resilience and pledged to achieve net-zero healthcare by signing up to the Race to Zero program. This initiative brings health facilities of the state on track to being low carbon and climate-resilient," said Kerala Minister of Health and Family Welfare Veena George.

"As a global healthcare company, we are very conscious that people's health depends on a healthy planet and we believe we can continue to deliver high-quality healthcare while mitigating our impact on the environment. We can't do this alone, that's why we are so incredibly proud to join the Race to Zero campaign with Health Care Without Harm, setting our ambition to become a net-zero business by 2040 and joining leading healthcare companies that are also committed to driving change for a healthy people and healthy planet," said Nigel Sullivan, Chief Sustainability and People Officer, Bupa.

In the lead-up to COP26, Race to Zero healthcare leadership is part of a diverse and growing global health sector movement for climate action.

National government ministries are making high-level commitments to healthcare decarbonization and resilience, while more than 45 million health professionals have called for aggressive action to protect people's health from climate change.

Health sector decarbonization is critical to reducing global emissions.

Health Care Without Harm's 2019 report shows the sector's climate footprint is equivalent to 4.4 per cent of global net emissions, with the majority originating from fossil fuels used across facility operations, the supply chain, and the broader economy.

To guide the sector's decarbonization, Health Care Without Harm's Global Road Map demonstrates how implementing seven high-impact actions can reduce global emissions by 44 gigatons over 36 years, equivalent to keeping more than 2.7 billion barrels of oil in the ground each year, and potentially saving more than five million lives by the end of the century. (IANS/JB)


Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Manisa Mitpaibul on Unsplash

The R&D team at ITC Savlon, shares some tips to maximize hygiene and ensure germ-free cleaning this Diwali.

With Diwali comes the yearly ritual of disinfectingand deep-cleaning our homes. However, your basic cleaning ritual might not be sufficient to the changing needs of the environment we live in. If the deadly viruses around us have taught anything, disinfection should be as much a goal in our regular cleaning, rather than just the basic visible cleanliness. Therefore, it becomes necessary to know the right way of cleaning and disinfectinghomes that lends itself to a responsible celebration. While we plan to welcome Goddess Lakshmi by cleaning and decorating our living spaces inside out, we should be aware of those corners that are prone to infections, diseases and require our special attention.

The R&D team at ITC Savlon, shares some tips to maximize hygiene and ensure germ-free cleaning this Diwali:

Clean your Kitchen
As the excitement builds for us to be able to open our houses to guests and have the kitchen work overtime to put out scrumptious meals, do spend a moment on considering thorough kitchen disinfection. Bear in mind that the multiple ways in which we use our home kitchen carry with it the burden of microbes that can cause infections.

Keep reading... Show less