Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Shudra of the Modern World and the Lokavidya

The protagonists and the apologists of the modern science and technology in our country have had very unique habitual indulgence- very tall claims of their own contributions in the realm of science and technology. They love to believe in their claims because it gives them sustenance notwithstanding the naked TRUTH that stares at their face that there has not been any contribution by them worth the name in the world of science and technology that puts India on its map. Nothing brings out this point more succinctly than the stark fact that India, as a modern state, continues to import technology through the process of either collaborations, one time purchase or business agreement. The situation is so pathetic that from design & manufacture of as simple a thing as sewing needle to ink pens, fan blades to any electronic gadget, power plant equipments, any state of the art machinery to the sophisticated medical equipments, etc., etc., nothing, just nothing has a stamp of Indian genius on it. This community has had only tall claims to make to bewilder an outsider to such an extent that these self styled scientists and technologists are held in awe by everyone and anyone.

The Grand failure:

The National Science & Technology Policy Document, 1975, among other things laid emphasis on Self-reliance and Self-sufficiency in scientific and technological pursuits. This document was brought out under the leadership of late Prime Minister, Smt. Indira Priyadrshani (Nehru) Gandhi. Prior to this document were the Five Year Plans that laid the foundations for the pursuit of modern science and technology in our country.

These were not just hollow words, but the intentions were made quite visible by the kind & quantum of spending the respective central governments took upon to help establish premier scientific laboratories, institutions, and infrastructure for pursuing science and technology development. This was done on the basis of the plans submitted by the ‘leading scientific minds’ of every generation and era ostensibly to fulfill the aims & objectives set forth in the aforesaid mentioned Policy Document and the Five Year Plans.

The resulting outcome was 1) buying of large chunks of real estate at prime locations in premier cities of India that definitely caused displacement of traditionally productive populace & on retrospect, a complete and total halt to any kind of productive activity, 2) building of huge laboratories equipped with the then state of the art equipments and duly air conditioned wherever required, 3) residential accommodations for the ‘brilliant’ minds who were to put India on the world map of Science & Technology, and 4) clubs and recreation avenues, parks, hospital facilities for health care, schools for emerging thinkers ,markets and what all you have!!

The enterprise stopped with large/medium scale recruitment of supporting staff and the scientists, technologists, etc. The biggest question that remained to be answered was- what to do with the established infrastructure and man-power? This question still remains un-answered, even though huge investments continue to be made in ‘indigenous’ ‘research & development’ activities.

Unable to relate themselves with the requirements of the Indian state, the manufacturing sector, the health services, the energy requirements for the near and distant future, etc., the natural outcome was a decent, quiet, and deep burial of the ‘self-reliant’ part of the National Science & Technology Policy.

Now onwards the catch word was to be ‘self-sufficiency’ and this meant never ending ‘assimilation’ of collaborated technologies and the so called R&D centre, big, medium, and small sized manufacturing units were to only absorb the manufacturing processes and churn out products that were bound to lose quality and market competitiveness and become stale –over the years- because of technological obsolescence. The classic examples are the Ambassador & Premier Padmini cars. The bankruptcy of Indian entrepreneur was overwhelmingly highlighted when LML Vespa (a two wheeler) was marketed with side indicators. Until then this feature of a two wheeler was incomprehensible to the native ‘entrepreneur’.

The affordable units went in for new collaborations whereas the lesser ones ended winding up their enterprise.

While all this happened before the era of ‘Globalization & Liberalization’ the engineering & scientific elite in the ‘premier’ institutions- christened as ‘… of Science & Technology’ or ‘Engineering’ remained as mute spectators to the whole scenario and never ever any worthwhile effort was made at a purposeful collaboration between Indian enterprise & institutions to tackle the issue of non-up-gradation of technology (manufacturing processes) by collective application of minds.

The Era of Globalization and Liberalization:

This era witnessed over flooding of Indian markets with technologically innovated products. Indian scientific and engineering community had long lost the race and that tantamount to colossal betrayal of the National aspirations enumerated by the then political leadership in the National Science & Technology Policy Document, 1975.

During the intervening one and a half decade the character of political leadership had also undergone a kind of metamorphosis in that it had no continuity with the leadership of the yore. The collaboration between the politicians of the day, the self proclaimed entrepreneurs and academicians was so innate and expedient that all the pretensions of product oriented research and development were divorced and the Indian markets were thrown open to multinationals. The Indian scientist, engineer, and technologist by virtue of their deeds over the decades in post independent India found themselves confined to the dustbin of history with no role to play in the modern ways of economic development except to implement the design of their masters for whatever their labour was priced at. The indenture labour was resurrected, in a seemingly dignified way though.

However, the ‘Temples of Modern India’ that lay in ruins had to be continued with for the reason that, it generated cheap manpower for the multinationals and their Indian caricatures to tap; its employees constituted a dominant and respectable section in the middle class; and the younger generations continued to aspire to join them as post training they would gain respectability from the society they belonged to. Therefore the character of these institutions underwent a wholesome change in that instead of project related technical reviews material budget reviews occupied the center stage because the governments of the day decreed that a basic minimum amount had to be spent on research and development activities. This led to expansions in terms of infrastructure; induction of more man-power, etc., etc,. The question “To What Use?” lost relevance as winning the race for spending the allocated funds was the new born aim and it got directly related to tax rebates. This vicious cycle of spending public money and misleading the very public is going on without inhibitions- no questions asked; none answered. The undocumented colossal waste of public money is going on unquestioned.

The major and most significant contribution of the era of Globalization and Liberalization lies in the classification of modern societies in to two castes: the Shudra and the Brahmin; the Brahmin personifying the Knowledge and Shudra the multitude of hands to perpetuate the dominance of Brahminical world view. The Brahmin originates from Europe & US while the Shudra is our own scientist, engineer and technologist.

The Lokavidya:

Quite contrary to the pampering of ‘emerging’ scientists, engineers and technologists of modern India by the governments of the day over the last 67 years, the native Brahmins (the owners of the knowledge of traditional science and technology) were all through treated as Shudra (ignorant, unknowledgeable and deep steeped in ‘superstitions’) deserving of contempt and ever usable as available commodity in the service of the new emerging class. What is strikingly remarkable, though, is that the designated Shudra (owners of Lokavidya) has managed to retain his productivity with the help of his Lokavidya against all odds and ever hostile conditions whereas the pampered ones languished in unproductiveness only to be relegated to a Shudra in the modern world.

Herein lays the difference between the two in that the owner of Lokavidya has survived all the onslaughts since the year 1757; has shown the capability to fight (within his means) injustice and oppression meted out to him; and is now trying to regroup to fight the predator in the garb of economic reforms that is threatening to deprive him of all his possessions; whereas the modern Shudra remained a rootless entity unable to identify with the modern ways, devoid of any spirit of ownership and therefore ever ready to capitulate for his survival. While the owner of Lokavidya draws his strength from his capability for independent enterprise, the modern Shudra is ever dependent on his Brahmin for survival.

Whereas, the designated Shudra has a valid claim over knowledge production, the modern Shudra can afford no such claim because the process of economic reforms has thoroughly exposed him. Lokavidya has roots in the soil of this land, whereas the modern Shudra’s knowledge system has roots in the alien lands; that is the reason why Lokavidya is here to stay.

Lalit K Kaul

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