In the final paragraphs of the Arthashastra, The Science of Wealth, one of the volumes in The Story of Indian Business series (edited by Gurcharan Das), Thomas R Trautmann reflects on the relevance of the ancient text by Kautilya to the modern world. He writes:
“What remains constant over the long run is the need for government to hold the balance among overlapping and sometimes conflicting ends, performing functions the market does not: a treasury adequate to the tasks of the state; an army sufficient to defend the people; social order; prosperous people with effective means of peacefully settling disputes; assistance for those who are harmed by the economic process and the rapid social change it entails.
“What the Arthashastra teaches us that is of use today is that the economy and the polity are intimately related, indeed that they are inseparable. The economy cannot exist independent of the state. The state is essential to the economy. It has the important task of making the economy work for the good of all by finding a balance among different interests. It can carry this out well or poorly, and the people must see that it is carried out well.”
Now, amidst the global crisis, each of those interests seems to demand even greater attention. Finding the balance, therefore, has turned much harder. We saw the state governments struggling with exactly that in the last few weeks and months. How do we help, nudge, force the government to find the balance—even as we fight the coronavirus—is one of the biggest challenges of our times.
Have a great day.
In our latest Sounding Board column, Meeta Sengupta takes us through the costs and benefits of doing an MBA now with the pandemic raging. One of the factors she would like us to consider is the value of physical presence in B-school education. She says:
Presence has a unique value in an MBA. Now your presence means your engagement in the classroom, your engagement in projects with corporates, your internships, and the way you engage and build your peer networks, because these are going to be your career networks for life. How you work with your cohort depends so much upon your physical presence, and how you exude and enable and work with that. That's going to be a bit iffy for sure in the next year or so. I would actually count that as a cost and not a benefit at this stage.
Watch Meeta Sengupta’s video
Read her column
Create livelihoods, not just jobs
In The Hindu, Ashish Kothari, founder-member of Kalpavriksh, shares some inspiring stories from rural India that highlight the true meaning of self-reliance—revitalising livelihoods with its close linkages to life, social relations, and culture. Kothari writes:
“In Kunariya village in Kutch, Gujarat, sarpanch Suresh Chhanga was able to set up a crisis management team, use social media to raise awareness about the pandemic, and organise a full health survey. The villagers ensured that 316 needy families received all basic necessities with the help of panchayat funds and local donations. When I phoned Chhanga, he excitedly recounted how the village keeps its children busy. ‘We realised that they are stuck at home, bored or even sometimes facing the aggression of anxious adults, so the panchayat has encouraged elders to teach them whatever special skills they had—music, crafts, cooking, traditional technologies, gardening.’
“All this became possible because Chhanga has enabled Kunariya villagers to achieve greater participation in local governance. He has helped build bridges between villagers and government authorities, and ensured that schemes and laws such as MGNREGA and the National Food Security Act are implemented, budgets kept transparent, and women’s voices strengthened. Now they are figuring out how to produce over 200 items of consumption locally, rather than spend Rs 40 lakh a month buying them from outside.”
Push for transparency
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