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Will The Ram Rajya Be Created By The Ruling Elite? – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Will The Ram Rajya Be Created By The Ruling Elite?

Arun Kumar

In its broadest conception, it would require justice for all to enable a civilized existence. Equity among genders, castes, and communities would have to be created.

The prime minister said on January 22, 2024, “After centuries…our Lord Ram has arrived.” Had he gone? Has he returned because a Bhavya temple has been built for him? Could Ram have gone away because his temple was supposedly destroyed by Babar? Does the temple have to be bhavya to please Ram or is it to appease our ego that we can build on a grand scale? Would Maryada Purushottam Ram approve of such an extravaganza, when hundreds of millions of Indians live in uncivilized conditions, far from any conception of ‘Ram Rajya’?

Who does not want ‘Ram Rajya’? It has been a national goal. M.K. Gandhi proposed a plan for achieving it. Rulers are again talking about attaining this goal.

The delay is attributed to “a legal battle continued for decades over the existence of Lord Shri Ram”. The fight was over the location of a temple and not people’s belief in Ram. If he is an incarnation of Vishnu, does he not reside in every ‘kan’ and therefore in all of existence, including every human being? So, does the destruction or the construction of a temple by humans change anything regarding his existence and abode? The prime minister expressed “gratitude to the judiciary which preserved the dignity of justice”. Has the judiciary brought back the omnipresent Ram? Further, if he is in all of us and pervasive, why did ‘Ram Rajya’ end?

Is the destruction and the construction of a temple not a human act for a political purpose? For consolidating one’s power through propagating one’s politics using religion?

Conception of Ram Rajya

Ram, it is believed, whether as an avatar or a mortal king, established a just society during his time. What was that conception of ‘Ram Rajya’? How did society stray away from that conception in the land where he has been revered? It could only be the result of societal dynamics. If Ram Rajya is to be revived, society would need to produce the change. If the existence of temples could bring about change, there are innumerable Vishnu and Ram temples that should have made this happen.

Ram’s times were simple – only a few basic things were required for existence. Can the nation return to that? Will people be willing to give up the huge number of products available for consumption in a modern economy? The earlier simple division of labor has given way to enormous specialization, which even a small country cannot produce. Further, Ram was a king while today there is a parliamentary democracy.

In a globalized world, global influences have been willingly embraced by Indians. Skilled Indians and youth are migrating abroad in large numbers and rich Indians are taking out their capital from a country that is short of capital. The ongoing globalization has made Indians consumerist, self-centered, atomized, greedy, and amoral. Therefore, the rulers see nothing remiss in the subjugation of the weak and the marginalization of the marginal. This cannot be the basis of a just society or Gandhi’s idea of ‘Ram Rajya’. Will faith in Ram change the ruling elite’s entrenched basic thinking?

Can there be Ram Rajya just in India, irrespective of the global trends of consumerism and climate change? Earlier this debate was regarding communism in one country.

After placing complete faith in Ram by saying, “Ram is not fire, Ram is energy” and the “embodiment of human values and highest ideals”, the prime minister wavered and appealed to people, “The grand temple of Shri Ram has been built, what next?” He exhorted, “We have to lay the foundation of the India of the next thousand years”, and we “should rise above the self. …The grand Ram temple will become a witness to the rise of grand India, a developed India.”

In other words, Ram Rajya will not automatically come about because “Ram is all-pervasive, the world, the universal soul”. The project will require a huge societal effort.

In its broadest conception, it would require justice for all to enable a civilized existence. Equity among genders, castes, and communities would have to be created. At a minimum, there has to be employment at a living wage for all, high-quality education and health for all, and a clean environment. Today, India is even regressing from this ideal.

Would a Maryada Purush have ever accepted the current state of affairs in the nation, with the rulers showing indifference to the plight of the vast majority of people? The government controlled by the ruling elite can change this trajectory. If the bhavya ayojan (grand event) had any impact, it should have been on the elite attendees – since they can bring about social transformation by changing their behavior and actions.

Essential change

Can big business, and there were plenty of its representatives, change its exploitative nature and reduce its greed to make businesses more ethical? Like checking monopolistic and oligopolistic pricing, which would lower prices for all. They exercise enormous control over the political leaders and the parties. So, while themselves stopping the generation of black incomes, they could influence the leadership to check its growth. This is the single biggest cause of policy failure since expenditures do not lead to outcomes.

It reduces tax collection, resulting in a shortage of funds for essential services (like education and health) that could lead to a more civilized and peaceful society. They could pay their workers a living wage to raise their living standards. They could stop advertising targeted at children which turns them into consumerists and stop selling products that are harmful to children, like cold drinks and junk food. They could open hundreds of schools and colleges for free education.

Personalities from the world of entertainment were present in large numbers. Through advertising, they promote sales of jewelry, cold drinks, junk food, dodgy financial products, etc. By refusing to promote them, they could dent consumerism which would help socially as well as environmentally. They could also refuse to act in films that create social discord or promote violence and act only in socially sensitive films.

They could also use their public image to exhort people to take a stand on pressing social issues and injustice. Many of them have bought expensive properties in Dubai, London, New York, etc., that drain national resources. Could they bring their money back? Further, they could also refuse to accept black payments for their films and advertisements, whether in India or abroad.

The members of the judiciary and bureaucracy present at the event could emulate Maryada Purush and uphold their independence in implementing rules rather than bending to diktats from above.

The political leaders present at the program could choose to fight honest elections, not take tainted money, and not practice caste and community vote bank politics. They could stop making false promises, disband their troll armies, and stop spreading falsehoods about their opponents. They could stop pressuring the bureaucracy to bend rules. Can the rulers emulate Ram in how he respected criticism and cared about minority opinion, even at great personal cost, as the dhobi episode illustrates?

Conclusion

Establishing Ram Rajya is in the hands of the Indian ruling elite. But it will not happen by simply invoking Ram. They would have to rise above the self. Then only will a “foundation of the India of the next thousand years” be laid. Then only “the grand Ram temple will become a witness to the rise of grand India, a developed India”. There have been many false starts in the last 75 years; let this not become another one.

Arun Kumar retired as a professor of economics, at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is the author of Understanding Black Economy and Black Money in India.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organization.

The article was first posted in The Wire as “The Ruling Elite Can Create Ram Rajya. Will They?” on 28th January 2024.

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Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Vamsi Gokaraju, a research intern at IMPRI.

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