Time We Decolonized Our Paradigms of Governance, Economy, Education, Judiciary and Cuture

By Giridhar Mamidi

Giridhar Mamidi
British gave us self-rule but left us colonized

As our nation marches ahead on the canvas of time, we have to keep pausing and looking back and learning lessons so we can recalibrate the contours for our future. To quote the famous Spanish philosopher George Santayana, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Seventy years in the life of any nation is not much. It is still its childhood. In the life of a culture or civilization seven decades is but just a fleeting moment. Introspection and course correction would help in our journey. The current Prime Minister being the first PM to be born after Independence, the nation has many expectations from him and is seriously looking to him to help us move on and unshackle the chains of the past.
We did achieve some good
A lot has been achieved and it is obvious that as a nation, as a people and as a civilization we have managed to survive, maintain peace and achieve steady progress. We have built many institutions which have survived in large measure, albeit with some challenges and misuse at times. When we compare our story to that of our conjoined twin Pakistan, majority of our Governments changed guards peacefully and largely reflective of the will of our people unlike the sham democracy of Pakistan.
We have largely forgotten the pains of separation and the pangs of birth of a free nation. We have completely assimilated the migrants from the break-away parts of our erstwhile unified land, except those that migrated to Jammu & Kashmir. We have made progress in many fields like education, employment generation, economy, modernization of industry, transportation and telecommunications, though most of these have been maintained and carried forward from the British legacies.
Where did we falter till now?
This is a question all of us, as Indians and as a nation, have to ask ourselves and debate in all seriousness if we are not to repeat our old mistakes. While the list of issues we failed to succeed can be big, let us look at two major areas where we could have done lot better.
Governance and Policy making
The colonial and subservient mind-set of the post-Independence governments led us to follow the path of governance and policy making models imposed on us by our colonial masters. We requested the colonizers to “guide” us in our initial days, assuming we had no experience of governance and needed their guidance well after we were free. The lack of trust in our own abilities, lack of pride and self-esteem alone would have made us ask Lord Mountbatten to be our first Governor-General and General Rob Lockhart as our first army chief. The lack of understanding of our core nature and cultural groundings resulted in blindly copying the colonial structures, rules, processes and ideologies without tempering them with our own nativity and indigenous flavours. In a way, for the common man, there was not much of a difference between pre and post-Independence experience in terms of his interaction with the State and its wings. It was as if one set of rulers was replaced with another set, just that they were of the darker skin shade.
The very motivation for the Governance model of the colonial masters was to control, subjugate, colonize and exploit their colonies to the benefit and enrichment of their own country. By following the same model, our initial leaders made a big blunder in perpetuating the very core nature of exploitation – just that the exploiter has changed from the colonizers to neo-colonizers. The sweeping powers that the administrators exercised earlier, continued and such powers have been misused, abused and exploited in large measure in the past few decades. The discretionary powers the colonizers arrogated to themselves, continue to exist even till date and have been the biggest cause of political motivation, power and corruption.
Even to this day, the highest administrative officer of a district is called the Collector. This designation was used by the erstwhile rulers to clearly define his role as that of a revenue collector for them. Since most of such positions were reserved for the colonizers, they also vested them with magisterial powers as not to have additional judicial resources to handle such issues. We have continued this set up even to this day and still call him Collector and District Magistrate. Why could we not call him as say Chief District Administrator or something which correctly reflects his role? Why should we vest him with magisterial powers when we have the luxury of a fiercely independent and capable judiciary? Even to this day, the strings of the government finances are vested with this Collector and not in the hands of our communities and villages.
It is a well-established fact that our Indian administration was much matured, stable, well experienced and very localized. Each village and town had its own administrative structure and was largely self-sufficient before the British came and destroyed our village economy and administration. A feeble attempt was made in the name of Panchayat Raj but the fear of losing control over financial discretion ensured that it never succeeded. Only lip service was done by successive governments and the dream of self-governance of our basic administrative unit of village remains just that, a dream.
Instead of bottoms-up model based on community control and responsibility adding up to the national level, we chose the top-down model of the colonizers where the Central Government or the State Government decides what the village will get without bothering to know what they want or what they actually need. The entire bureaucracy has ended up largely serving their political masters and not their real masters, the People of India.
The people who manned all the important positions in the policy making levels were all people educated in the western models of socialism or capitalism and had very little or no understanding of ground level nature of policy requirements of India. The entire five-year plans were a very arbitrary system of doling out resources to State governments by the lordship of the Central government at their whims and pleasures. Depending on what the political masters wanted to hear, the policy makers dished out schemes after schemes with the purpose of serving their vote banks or to help them win the next elections. The focus on real issues was ignored and brazened out.
The west and colonial inspired models did yield some temporary results for the politicians to shout from the rooftops but in the long run, the general lot of the common man has not changed significantly and the pace of poverty alleviation and economic justice to all has remained just a distant dream even after seven decades. This cries for urgent and significant overhaul of all the major models of governance and policy making to reflect the nature of Indian civilization, culture and way of life of its people rather than some western models that don’t have any relevance to us.
Education system

Any nation that frees itself from the yoke of its oppressive occupiers, would logically jettison the imposed narrative of its colonizers and restore its own model of education to reflect its own identity and existence, but we in India did just the opposite. We did not just retain the education system and model of our colonizers but have denigrated, ignored or dismissed our own ancient wisdom and core culture in favour of such imposed narrative.
It is an established fact that Sir Thomas Babington Macaulay had famously said in his speech of 2nd February 1835 in para 34 that “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, – a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” This was the core of the entire British model of education that was imposed on us.
In that very speech in para 10, he says “I am quite ready to take the oriental learning at the valuation of the orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education.”
In Para 11 he further says, “…when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same.”
These were the bases on which the native languages were relegated to an insignificant position and English was promoted as the sole language worth perusing. English became means of employment and source of sustenance and governmental functioning. This has churned out several generations of “Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” We as a nation have become colonized and subservient to our erstwhile colonial masters for generations after they left us and are still continuing to produce more of the same for future generations.
See the example of Turkey which had largely adopted Arabic in its governmental conduct during the years of its rule by the Calif, but switched over to Turkish language in all government and religious matters after General Kamal Ataturk took over dismissing the Calif. Such a switch over instilled pride and respect for Turkish language, culture and brought back self-belief among its people. Contrast that with India. We still believe that anything that is progressive, modern, rational or scientific of any value comes from the west only and that our own native languages, literary works, discoveries and scientific temper are all primitive and at best works of inferior nature.
Our entire education system has so far been producing people disconnected with India and who had no attachment or respect for it. This resulted in India losing its soul and its far superior wisdom to much inferior western narratives. How can a nation get counted as a respectable and proud nation on the high table of international power stage if its people do not respect it and do not think it has any worth at all? The best of Indian educational institutions like the IITs and IIMs are just churning out a head-count of willing servants to western corporations but are unable to produce leaders, entrepreneurs or knowledgeable politicians.
Unless respect for what is unique to India is not restored in its academia, we cannot hope to become a strong nation in the future. This would logically call for overhauling the entire education system to walk away from the factory type of production line and to stop producing information dumps. Instead, we have to focus on bringing back the respect and pride of place to native languages and through them impart all modern scientific and technological knowledge like how the Chinese, Germans, Turks, French or the Japanese do using their native languages.
In conclusion, we can say that it is important that we decolonize our Indian governance, economic models, policies, education system, judiciary and cultural aspects if we have to restore the glory of India and to count among the respected, knowledgeable and matured nations. Without our soul and core DNA we will be just a functioning robot and nothing more. The answer to the question “Can we turn the wheel away from the current slavish path towards self-respect and glory in the coming decades?” will decide the destiny of our future.

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