Friday, March 1, 2013

Invoking the past master

Invoking the greatest teacher and classical thinker to provide the ideological underpinnings for ‘a manifesto for change’ reflects deep concern of the author to remain optimist when bad policy and inept governance has reduced the democratic structure into an arena for political maneuvering by the corrupt and their henchmen.

Chanakya may have lived through similar times 2,300 years ago to devise unparalleled administrative strategy to overthrow one king, crown the deserving and pave the way for establishing one of the greatest empires in the east. Pavan Varma doesn’t harbor any such intentions and restricts his insightful narrative to articulate a new vision of governance with the innate hope that the country, with its rich past, can reinvent itself yet again. ‘Chanakya's New Manifesto: To Resolve Crisis Within India’ is both prescriptive and suggestive with an actionable agenda to streamline governance, hone the democracy apparatus to make it more inclusive, purge corruption and install foolproof security – five pillars that have been weakened to the core.

Though Pavan Varma has been nowhere close to the 6,000 shlokas and sutras that Chanakya could dish out in Arthashashtra, his painstaking call for action is nevertheless insightful and visionary. The solutions he proposes are substantive, achievable within the existing constitutional framework. Having been part of the bureaucracy for over a quarter of a century, Varma is both practical and pragmatic in prescribing a role for every one of us in forcing the government to act.

Former diplomat, accomplished writer and now budding politician Pavan Varma provokes the reader to question the pathetic quality of life a vast majority is leading in the country today. Can change be postponed or avoided? To expect that the government will act on its own could be one of the greatest dreams because governments rarely act of their own volition. Manifest within ‘Chanakya’s New Manifesto’ are ideas of engagement for people from all walks of life.

Though the author proclaims that the book is meant for discerning youngsters - aged between 15 and 35 – the first and foremost challenge would be to make them read the ambitious manifesto in the first place. It has right intent but converting intent into action could be daunting. Varma doesn’t resist saying that unless there is unflinching resolve, conviction and courage, the idea of ‘New India’ may remain an idea only.

Pavan Varma’s reform agenda is comprehensive but readable only in parts. It may appeal to those who have already propelled themselves to make a real tryst with destiny. However, it is indeed an opportunity for the author, who has now plunged himself into active public life, to take the ‘manifesto’ to the people. No less ambitious but ‘Chanakya’s New Manifesto’ could well be the modern-day Arthashastra for transforming what most of us consider a ‘given’ situation....Link

Chanakya’s New Manifesto
by Pavan K. Varma
Aleph, New Delhi
248 pages, Rs 295

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