Mahashivaratri 2014

Mahashivaratri 2014

[An extract from my Autobiographical Memoir, On the Loom of Time Chapt. 27 (describing our visit to the Baidyanath temple, Deogarh, S.P. on the day of Shivaratri 1996)]

 

  ” Once  we went to Baidyanathdhama on  the occasion of Maha Shivtri said to be the Night of Shiva.  Some say that the Lord  was married  to Parvati that night, others say He  performed that the supreme cosmic dance (Tandava))  capable of creating, and also destroying, the cosmic order. It so happend that the   head priest of the great Shiva temple called on us to invite her to sing Rudrastakam, a poem  composed by  the great Tulsidas,  at 3.30 a.m. from the wide portico with a crowning dome  above of the main entrance providing engress into the sprawling quadrangle in which so many majestic temples had been built of which the Baidyanath Temple was the most famous. This entrace was called the Singh Darwaza (the Lion Gate) as massive lion images had been put on  both the  sides of the entrance.  She accepted the request.  When we ascended the portico we saw an ocean of humans in the campus abuzz with all sorts of devotional sounds in different tones, pitches and tenors. Most of them had come trekking over all the way from the bank of the holy Ganges at Sultanganj singing devotional songs. Once  she began singing, silence prevailed in the campus. It was still dark, and the electrical light created beautiful chiaroscuro effects. The sweet plenitude of her voice wove an environment  which could  be imagined, but not described in words.  She sang the  Rudrastakam which   recites the glory of God who is eternal and is all bliss. It begin with the melliflous shloka:

नमामीशमीशान  निर्वाण रूपं विभुं व्यापकं ब्रह्म     वेदस्वरूपम

निजं निर्गुणं निर्विकल्पं निरीहं  चिदाकाशमाकाशवासं भजेहं

 

We felt we were in paradise.”

 

 

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Polity, Politics and people’s Duty (by Shiva Kant Jha)

Polity, Politics and people’s Duty  (by Shiva Kant Jha)

                           The edicts on the walls of our Parliament underscore the sanctity and nobility of the society’s political pursuits compendiously called ‘politics’.  Krishna was Himself a great politician whose politics illustrate the best  in politics. Acharya Chanakya stressed on the egalitarian objectives  in  the  art of managing  public affairs. Aacharya Kautilya said in his Arthasastra:

प्रजासुखे सुखं राज्ञः प्रजानां च हिते हितम

नात्मप्रियं हितं राज्ञः प्रजानां तु प्रियं हितम

(  ” In the happiness of the subjects lies the king’s happiness, in their  welfare his welfare;   what pleases himself the king shall not consider good but whatever  pleases his subjects the king shall consider good.” from Message )

               ‘Politics’ becomes dirty when we  play dirty games.  Under our Indian tradition, ‘politics’ is the Rajdharma that casts  non-negotiable and non-shifting Duties on  the members of a democratic society to work for the weal of all by complying with  the demands of Rajdharma.   In the ‘Shantiparva’ (Chap. 66 ) of the Mahabharata, the great Bhishma tells Raja Yudhisthira what makes a king’s duties so great and good:  I render  his ideas from Sanskrit into English –

             “ The King gets hundred times of the dharma than what others get by following Ashram Dharma merely by protecting the people under the governmental care.” [rendered into English]

If  the ‘politicians’ of these days are feared and looked down upon, it is because our people have been constrained to judge them that way. They have been weighed, and found wanting. But we hope that better days are ahead.

 

My Life and Times : An Overview (by Shiva Kant Jha)

My Life and Times : An Overview (by Shiva Kant Jha)

‘The Fragrant Years’ broods over what could be the best in love that suffused my early years the fragrance of which has continued in mind to save me from the torrents of negative feelings, and to sustain me even when life cast me in some sort of gas chamber. Those moments have spread before my mind’s eyes the rich rose petals on which I have read and enjoyed the lyrics which my Destiny composed. ‘A Cog in the Machine’ appears to me the years when, like the Earth, I had two movements at the same time: one trying to bear the heat and burden of the Revenue Service of our country, and the other, attempting to study men and manners, laws and morality, the earth and the galaxies, myself, and my maker….. During this period of my life, I was enriched on seeing life in the raw: I felt my several illusions stood pricked. Delight and distress came in varying proportions. I experienced enormous joys, and deep distresses. I shared the agony when my heart broke both literally and metaphorically. The slings of misfortune pierced often most unkindly making me realize the relevance of what Dante said in his Divine Comedy (Inferno V.121): “There is no greater grief than to recall a time of happiness when in misery”. ‘Illusion and Reality’ traps me in the continuous intercourse with realities, rough and inclement. I had many

moments when ‘illusions’ seemed ‘real’, and ‘reality’ turned ‘illusive’. The Bhagavada Mahapuran tells us (in Canto 11) how Krishna sat in silence under a peepal tree. He was struck by a hunter’s arrow. It is difficult to think what verdict he might have passed on his life in those final moments. But whenever I

reflect on my life with fidelity, I get absorbed counting my life’s yellow leaves, some fallen, some yet to fall, some severed from the twigs but still dancing in the breeze before acquiring rest on the soil. I have marked their beauty and rich poetry. I have my reasons to marvel, and to get amazed, at my Destiny’s choreography of my life. I have enjoyed many pursuits but what has delighted me most is that ‘noiseless sound’ of the cavalcade of events about which I have written in this Memoir. When I hear this ‘noiseless sound’, I recall the words of Keats in his poem ‘I Stood tip-toe upon a little hill’:

A little noiseless noise among the leaves,

Born of the very sigh that silence heaves.

[You will find the above stated ideas developed in the Second edition of my Memoir,  On the Loom of Times: The Portrait of My Life and Times]

I suggest that time has come to Restructure our Polity (by Shiva Kant Jha)

I suggest that time has come to Restructure our Polity  (by Shiva Kant Jha)

 

“It is high time for the citizenry of this Republic to think about the restructuring of our polity to achieve the objectives of our Constitution; and to provide ways for the eradication of corruption. I suggest for the consideration by my fellow citizens two sets of ideas: (a) to improve the present party system; and (b) to go in for partyless government. It is worthwhile to consider prescribing the following as mandatory requirements:

 

(a) Only the persons really domiciled in a constituency be selected to stand for election from that constituency. It would reduce election expenditure as the people of the constituency would not require a propaganda to make people aware of the worth of the candidates, and their views on matters of public

interest. Secondly, such candidates will always be under the electors’ critical gaze. Thirdly, such candidates would have better sense of attachment with people amidst whom they lived. Fourthly, they would be subject to socio-cultural pressure from the people of their areas. Fifthly, they would

hesitate in resorting to unfair means as they would be under their own men’s scanner, and they would hesitate in amassing ill-gotten wealth as they would shudder at their humiliating plight after being found out.

 

(b) The people of the constituency electing its representatives must have ‘right to recall’ their representatives if they have acquired ill reputation, or have betrayed people’s trust. This procedure underscores the fact that the ‘sovereignty’ lies with the people. This procedure would not let the representatives forget the people whom they represent. This procedure would inhibit the lobbyists of the corporate world from trying to subvert our institutions for their unworthy ends. No foreign powers or lobbyists would be able to get things done to their heart’s content by bribing, or persuading

our representatives through pressure and persuasion.

 

                             How the procedure to give effect to these suggestions would work should be considered, discussed and devised so that proper balance between stability and change is ensured. A People’s Tribunal can be set up in every constituency which can consider serious allegations of omissions or commissions by our representatives, if made on affidavit signed by one-fourth of the voters of the constituency. The Tribunal’s decision can be overseen by an Appellate Tribunal, presided over

I suggest that time has come to Restructure our Polity (by Shiva Kant Jha)

I suggest that time has come to Restructure our Polity  (by Shiva Kant Jha)

 

“It is high time for the citizenry of this Republic to think about the restructuring of our polity to achieve the objectives of our Constitution; and to provide ways for the eradication of corruption. I suggest for the consideration by my fellow citizens two sets of ideas: (a) to improve the present party system; and (b) to go in for partyless government. It is worthwhile to consider prescribing the following as mandatory requirements:

 

(a) Only the persons really domiciled in a constituency be selected to stand for election from that constituency. It would reduce election expenditure as the people of the constituency would not require a propaganda to make people aware of the worth of the candidates, and their views on matters of public

interest. Secondly, such candidates will always be under the electors’ critical gaze. Thirdly, such candidates would have better sense of attachment with people amidst whom they lived. Fourthly, they would be subject to socio-cultural pressure from the people of their areas. Fifthly, they would

hesitate in resorting to unfair means as they would be under their own men’s scanner, and they would hesitate in amassing ill-gotten wealth as they would shudder at their humiliating plight after being found out.

 

(b) The people of the constituency electing its representatives must have ‘right to recall’ their representatives if they have acquired ill reputation, or have betrayed people’s trust. This procedure underscores the fact that the ‘sovereignty’ lies with the people. This procedure would not let the representatives forget the people whom they represent. This procedure would inhibit the lobbyists of the corporate world from trying to subvert our institutions for their unworthy ends. No foreign powers or lobbyists would be able to get things done to their heart’s content by bribing, or persuading

our representatives through pressure and persuasion.

 

                             How the procedure to give effect to these suggestions would work should be considered, discussed and devised so that proper balance between stability and change is ensured. A People’s Tribunal can be set up in every constituency which can consider serious allegations of omissions or commissions by our representatives, if made on affidavit signed by one-fourth of the voters of the constituency. The Tribunal’s decision can be overseen by an Appellate Tribunal, presided over

by at least two High Court Judges. In case the final decision is to recall a sitting member of a legislature, the order must be given effect.”  [ quoted from Shiva Kant Jha’s Autobiographical Memoir, On the Loom of Time   pp.   338-339]

The Prime Minister, the Sun or the Cipher (by Shiva Kant Jha)

The Prime Minister, the Sun or the Cipher  (by Shiva Kant Jha)

                                          As the British constitutional history shows, the Prime Minister always tried to increase his powers, and role. The monarch had his own reasons to be support the Prime Minister. My study of the British constitutional history proves that the culture of the executive government, whether in the 17th century or in the 21st century, has been the same:  to acquire great powers by means fair or foul.  Historical circumstances helped  the Prime Minister emerge very powerful and domineering person. The institution of the Prime Minister even  become autocratic as the  parliament  failed to realize, and assert, its powers.  

              He  could  become  imperious by threatening the  dissolution of the House forcing the members to go to the hustings to try their luck again. In normal course there  is nothing to fear facing again and again own people. Frequent elections are often good as people have better knowledge of the political systems at work, and also as the representatives are made more accountable and responsive to people. Besides, if someone is good and deserving in the eyes of people,  there is no reason to get worried in  facing fresh elections. The real reason is their  fear psychosis as they are not sure to get re-elected as they know they have  not endeared  themselves to their people. In this game of self-preservation,  the  persons belonging to different political, otherwise at  loggerheads, shake hands to come together!  But,  why should they tremble to face re-election ? why should elections require money, and that too so much? I have suggested  a model for selecting persons for elections where expenditure would be just zero   

                Why has our Parliament failed in controlling the ‘cabinet’ effectively? Why should we allow situations to emerge when the  great institution of parliament becomes  non-functional.  Things are bound to become worse if we allow the  ‘corporations’ to dominate. It is not difficult to see how the Big Business is so happy with the executive government.  The dominance of the executive government helps the mighty international investors, and sharp operators to have their ways.  Democracy languishes, and ‘constitution’ is made a mere  scarecrow.  We  must realize that we  all are on trial before the Bar of History: let us see what judgement we deserve. 

The Restructuring our polity: The Gram Sabha-centric village Panchayats (by Shiva Kant Jha)

The Restructuring our polity: The Gram Sabha-centric village Panchayats     (by Shiva Kant Jha)

          History tells us that the decentralization of powers makes a polity participative, accountable and shared. The best way to organize our polity is  by an amalgam of the right measure of  ‘decentralization’ through the rural republics that the Panchayati Raj aims to establish, and by the legitimate and purposive centrality through our federal structure: both to be  integrated to work symbiotically with the strong central government, itself  under strong  constitutional restraints. It is easy to see  how this model of political restructuring is in tune with our people’s genius, and our long and rich traditions. The structure of our polity should be so designed as to make our villages the grass-root matrix of our economy, and the effective units in our democratic organization. Gandhi had told us in course of our Struggle for Freedom:

                     “Independence must begin at the bottom. Thus, village will be a Republic or panchaayat having full powers. It follows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world.” ( Harijan 1-7- ’47)

This vision was expressed by our Constitution in: its Article 40 says —

                                “The State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.”

              The Gram Sabha of the villages, and the Lok Sabha of our country, are essentially ‘deliberative’ assemblies’. The skill that can be learnt from the right functioning of the Gram Sabhas would surely stand us in good stead when our representatives go to function in our Parliament, and in other similar bodies. The Panchayat would provide a close and inter-active world for integrated cordial actions, where the participants can themselves see that what they reap are  only the consequences of what they do.

           The ‘decentralization of powers’, through Panchayats, would establish nearness between the wielders of power, and the people under their care. The absence of such a close bond between people and the government would always imperil ‘democracy’. J. Bronowski had aptly said in his The Ascent of Man (p. 435):

              “We must not perish by the distance between people and government, between people and power, by which Babylon and Egypt and Rome failed. And that distance can only be conflated, can only be closed, if knowledge sits in the homes and heads of people with no ambition to control others, and not up in the isolated seats of power.”

If the Panchayati Raj works to set up vibrant village republics, great socio-psychological changes would be brought about under our polity and governance. The possibilities of this great experiment in the decentralization of powers were recognised early. Our leaders had great expectations from these indigenous and village-centric political experiments. Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze have rightly noticed that the ” implicit belief, expressed in some writings, that government interventions are, by and large, guided by the demands of social progress is surely a gigantic folly.” They have recognised what can be done best: to supplement ‘reforms’ with a more active programme of social change going “hand in hand with an expansion of public initiative and social movements aimed at more widespread literacy, a stronger political organization of disadvantaged groups, and a more vigorous challenge to social inequalities, they would represent a real opportunity to transform village politics in rural India.” It is possible to develop good education in the villages only after involving the grass roots level institutions. I would endorse the view of Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze: “In most states, teachers are accountable to the Education Department, not to the village community. Official complaints have to go through complicated bureaucratic channels, and are particularly difficult for parents to understand…..”   “Reforming the chain of accountability, and bringing the levers of control closer to the village community, are important means of improving teaching standards.” Socio-economic measures can work better if they are conducted under the local vigilance, supervision, control and audit. The authorities at the higher structural levels should only help, and supervise.

              This system would make the Right to Know, granted under our Constitution, more effective. Besides the participative political process would give our people the satisfaction of discharging public duties, and would also help them develop their skill better. We find in our villages many persons illiterate, but they are not unwise. I feel it is the time to trust our villagers’ wisdom. They are loyal to our country, and are patriotic: they are under no temptations to steal our country’s wealth to carry that to the tax havens and other dark destinations abroad. Let us structure our polity by giving it a creative touch best done by reposing trust in people