Friday, February 22, 2013

Chanakya's new Manifesto - to resolve the crisis within India

A non-fiction


Pavan K. Varma
Publisher : Aleph book company

We have exercised our franchise, voted them to power but many of us are not happy with the way our country is shaping up. Everyday, we read in newspapers about the ineffective governance in the form of dynastic politics, coalition government, corruption in the implemention of developmental policies, insecurity in the form of cross border terrorism, blasts, human outrage etc. and feel helpless and frustrated.

To counter this and take stock of the situation Pavan K varma a former IFS officer has proposed Chanakya’s New Manifesto. This 248 page book analyzes the many challenges our country faces and proposes clear and unambiguous solution to them.

The author clearly states in the prologue that this book is inspired by Chanakya’s s great work The Arthashastra, which he studied at length and spent considerable time thinking about the subjects he would tackle and approach.

His reason for the inspiration is that in the course of one life time, Chanakya groomed a king, deposed another, helped to throw the mighty Greeks united a fractious territory  and help consolidate the great Maurya empire. He crowned all these achievements by writing India’s  and perhaps the world’s first comprehensive treatise on statecraft called Arthashastra much before Machiavelli wrote ‘The prince’.

Along with that he cites several reasons for why he titled his book “Chanakya.” “He (Chanakya) was a man who was capable of exceptional clarity of thought and rigour of intellectual discipline. Firstly, he believed in understanding the problem in order to prescribe the right solution. Secondly, he believed in understanding, unsentimentally, the psyche of the people. Thirdly, he believed in leadership. Fourthly, he believed in spotting talent. Fifthly, he believed that no state is of any consequence unless it works for the welfare of the people. Sixthly, you must have, in order for a functioning state, a functioning treasury. Seventhly, analyze systems, not individuals. Lastly, he believed national interest has primacy for a nation.

To begin with  he discusses the crises that loom large in the first chapter’The Crisis’  and then the second chapter ‘1947 and after’, here he discusses the 5 legacies which our founders of our nation like MK Gandhi formulated after august 15,1947 like democracy, planned economic development like 5 year plan, secular society etc., and the next few chapters he segregates the current looming crisis which requires immediate attention. They are the Governance, democracy, corruption, security and the the building of an inclusive society. 

What would chanakya do if confronted with the above crises that beset contemporary India? Using this as the starting point, the  author begins each chapter  with a quote from arthashastra, and then the author with his experienced intelligence discusses each topic with the issues plaguing the part, supporting them with specific examples and statistics citing the names, details and dates precisely.  And thereafter bullets his manifesto which could undo the damage and suggests some possible and pragmatic solution which he believes could bring a change.

The book as the author humbly  claims is only a blue print for change to resolve the crisis and may not be flawless. It has to be debated and modified to suit our country’s best interest. But all the changes that it seeks is attainable within the four corners of the constitution.

What I liked about the book was firstly there are many of us who armchair criticize and find loopholes in the governance, very few offer panacea. This book offers one. Secondly the author illustrates each crisis with specific examples and statistics citing names and dates which sounds authentic. Some of the facts are startling and shocking. Thirdly, it is  not a very complex book and I had marked many places to quote here, but I find there were too many of them and the review is already lengthy.

This book is not a light read but an attentive and definite read for anybody who has a stake in India's future.
About the author: Pavan K. Varma studied history at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and took a degree in law from Delhi University. He has been press secretary to the president of India, official spokesman of the Foreign Office, director general of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and India’s ambassador to Bhutan. Having taken premature retirement from the Indian Foreign Service, he now seeks to be actively involved in public life.
He has authored several acclaimed and bestselling books, among them, Ghalib: The Man, The Times;Krishna: The Playful Divine; The Great Indian Middle Class; Being Indian: The truth about why the 21st century will be India's; Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity and When Loss is Gain. He has also translated into English the poetry of Gulzar, Kaifi Azmi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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  1. semma professionally written review :)

  2. Thanks for the info.. :) seems a well researched and analysed book :)

    1. yes it is anu, The book is worth the time and money.

  3. Very crisp and interesting review. Your reading tastes are very varied judging by the types of reviews you write.

    1. :) yes, my reading tastes are varied.

  4. its sounding something like chetan bhagat's book what young india wants.

    1. I have read bhagat's book and found only the theme similar in both books. The treatment to the theme in Pavan Sharma's book is very refined and this is inspired by Chanakya.

  5. A book which provides solution to India's issues and problems... it should be certainly read! A good review, Asha :)

  6. yes a book especially every politician, bureaucrat must read and implement. Thank you, Shilpa:)