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Systems reforms for a better world
Posted on June 17, 2010 | Author: Arun Maira | View 138 | Comment : 4

The time has come for the reform programme to move away from sectoral focus to overhaul of the system itself, taking into account the interconnectedness of the different sectors.

Speaking to members of the Planning Commission at the first anniversary of UPA-II, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called upon them to reform the role of the commission.

The commission should be a ‘systems reform commission' to address the systemic problems of the 21st century, he said. Not only India, but the whole world is facing systemic problems that are endangering the sustainability of economic growth and human development.

These systemic issues cannot be resolved with prevalent, non-systemic and compartmentalised approaches to planning and policymaking. Indeed, these approaches have contributed to the growth of systemic problems.

A systemic approach requires fundamental changes in the way we think and act. A cartoon to teach systems' thinking shows a boat whose one end is sinking into the water with the other end lifting into the air. Some people are bailing furiously in the sinking end. In the other end, two men are gloating: 'Thank goodness the hole is not in our end of the boat!'

'No man is an island entire to itself', poet John Donne said. We cannot be safe within our man-made compartments because systemic problems cross state and national boundaries.

Climate change and terrorism cross national boundaries. The rich cannot be secure within their gated enclaves when there is poverty around.

They cannot be smug about the future if only their children are well educated and well fed when hundreds of millions of poor children are not. Because those masses of children are supposed to give the demographic dividend on which the country is relying to sustain its economic growth.

Another cartoon makes another point about systems' thinking. The essence of systems is that many things are interconnected in ways we may not realise. The cartoon shows a man sitting securely on a chair, and also shows what the man cannot see. He confidently pushes away a slab on his left that is about to fall on him.

With his pushback that slab will fall onto another behind it, which will drop on to yet another in a long circle behind the man, ending with a slab on his right which will then drop on him. He has solved an immediate problem, but has set in motion a chain of events which will hurt him later.

In a rush to solve problems, without appreciating interconnections, trains of events can be set off that can create even worse problems. The US Army's gung-ho dash to Baghdad detonated a series of political problems from which the US has still to extricate itself.

Systemic problems require many causes to be addressed simultaneously. They are not amenable to ‘silver bullet' solutions. For example, child malnutrition in India cannot be addressed only by nutritional supplements when children also suffer from disease and diarrhoea which washes out the nutrition. Many ministries and specialists must cooperate to make a difference.

A new set of gauges is required for systems reforms. India's economy has weathered the global economic crisis better than most countries, and could be looking ahead to double-digit growth. However the condition of India's sociopolity is causing concern.

Human development indicators are not improving fast enough. And the so-called Maoist cancer is spreading. Policymakers know that economic growth is not sustainable in these conditions. Therefore they must develop a more holistic approach to development and a dash board in which GDP growth is not the only indicator of how well the country is doing.

Rajni Kothari and several other contributors to Economic and Political Weekly forecast in 1991 that economic reforms would make Indian industry collapse or become indentured labour to MNCs. They also claimed that accepting patents in the Uruguay Round would destroy India's pharma industry.

Events soon proved them economically illiterate and intellectually bankrupt. Kothari moaned in 1989 that India had moved from self-reliance to Reliance. He could not even conceive that it would be a change for the better!

Nimai Mehta of American University makes a separate point. Nehru and other Indian leaders did not have an inferiority complex, he says. Rather, they had a superiority banias complex with respect to their own citizens — shudras and lower castes — whom they regarded as lesser mortals requiring a guiding hand from great minds.

"The trade of ordinary Indians, whether in gold or food grains, was suspect from the start. In this sense, Nehru perhaps was equally infected by what Hayek has termed as socialism's fatal conceit — the belief that others should live their lives as per his wishes."

Mehta is right. Nehru and Co felt that Indian Brahmin-intellectuals were superior to whites, but also that Indian marwaris and banias were inferior. Their superiority complex on the moral and intellectual plane co-existed with a deep inferiority complex on the business plane.

Their solution was to go for central planning. This approach assumed that benevolent planners knew better than producers or consumers what should be produced or consumed. The licence-permit raj asserted that people were best off when they had no power at all to decide what should be produced or consumed — that was best left to the rulers!

But this was more than what Hayek called the fatal conceit of socialism. Their socialist conceit was compounded by caste conceit. India's high-caste leaders could not stand the marwari and refused to believe that any economy could thrive if it gave marwaris more freedom than Brahmins.

Let me quote a telling passage from Nehru's Autobiography.
"Right through history, the old Indian ideal did not glorify political and military triumph, and it looked down upon money and the professional money-making class. Honour and wealth did not go together, and honour was meant to go, at least in theory, to the men who served the community with little in the shape of financial regard."

(Readers, please note this was Nehru's own Brahminical viewpoint: non-Brahmins like Shivaji and Jagat Seth would have disagreed.) “The old culture managed to live through many a fierce storm and tempest, but though it kept its outer form, it lost its real content.

Today it is fighting silently and desperately against a new and all-powerful opponent — the bania civilisation of the capitalist West. It will succumb to the newcomer, for the West brings science, and science brings food for the hungry millions.

But the West also brings an antidote to the evils of this cut-throat civilisation — the principles of socialism, of cooperation, and service to the community for the common good. This is not so unlike the old Brahmin idea of service.

So there you have it from the horse's mouth. Nehru himself says that socialism is a form of casteism, one that rightly puts the bania in his place. Will today's socialists please own up too?

Comments (4)

Education is the way forward for India. Educate the poor and those below the poverty line. From here we can begin improving, uplifting, and building better systems. Indians are realizing the value of education and education for all is the need of the day. Above this we require ownership and honesty in the people, ministers and systems.

Posted by Preet Lamba,Technical Writer at Freelance|18 Jun, 2010

This is what I have been talking about for the last more than adecade.The holistic total is incomprehensible. So we compartmentalise totality and try for total solution which is difficult. The leader should have a holistic view/feel of totality and then try for a total solution. This is a new paradigm. Materialist Spiritualist Mission Trust has been addressing this issue since inception i.e.2003. Since the govrnment is cornered on all fronts like social, political, governance, justice etc there seems to be an openess now.Pl see the following article on HOLISTIC WELLNESS which addresses the issue adroitly.See other articles and speech material given in website: for a scholastic view.

Holistic Wellness

Wellness is an important aspect from childhood to death. Without wellness the individual doesn’t see much in life. The purpose of education, training, property, planning, social intercourse etc, are meant for getting wellness on a sustained basis through out life. Holistic wellness comprises all aspects of wellness namely materialist, spiritualist and lateral. Holistic wellness comprises of-- holistic wellness at individual level and holistic wellness at societal level which are interconnected.
Holistic wellness at individual level covers such subjects as the general well being, happiness and fulfillment in life. Most individuals are trained from childhood through education by acquiring required knowledge and skills in various aspects of life. They include basic education, professional education, professional fulfillment, marriage, children, family , upbringing of family, sleep, rest. recreation and hobbies. During the course of life every individual encounters materialist issues such as proper and hygienic food, sanitation, health care and so on. Here issues such as unadultered and hygienic food, impact of environment, herbs for healthcare, herbs for beauty care, medicines for beauty care & medicines for health care, hospital care, naturopathy etc. are involved leading to fulfilling holistic materialist wellness.
Holistic wellness at spiritualist level involves proper orientation in thinking, harmony from within and outside, peace from within and outside, prayer or surrender to god and/ equanimous bent of mind. Each culture has its own methods to address these issues. However yoga, meditation, lateral thinking, out of box thinking and laughing at oneself, will help the individual himself to adapt within and outside for harmonious holistic wellness at spiritual and societal level. At societal level,holistic wellness involves all the above aspects of the individual level applying at family level, community level, state level, national level and global level. All education imparting knowledge and skills in various faculties, national planning, production of goods and services indicated by GDP and per-capita income, local security, national security and global security are for Holistc Wellness at societal level from materialist angle, spiritualist angle and lateral angle.
The present day world is addressing h olistic wellness more in the materialist angle. There is substantial need to address issues at spiritualist level. Though spiritualism is an old subject, there is muddling confusion between symbolisms .There is a need to understand soft/ spiritual angle leading to harmony and peace from within and outside for individuals and groups including at national level. This involves mental hygiene at individual level, family level, national level and global level on an aggregate. Issues of prayer, surrendering before God or equanimity of mind / thought or spiritual innovation- need to be addressed at all levels for achieving synergy, peace, harmony, justice and development every where. Holistic wellness is an all comprehensive concept, impacting everybody individually and severally. By addressing the issue of holistic wellness, all issues at individual and societal level in all spheres namely economic, business, political, governance, justice, cultural, science, spiritual etc, will be add ressed.We need to have a re- look at ourselves from the past prism, present prism, and the innovated prism for achieving holistic wellness of all. So, holistic wellness is a huge business for ever.
Materialist Spiritualist Mission Trust has been addressing the above issues and sufficient research has already been done.
please visit

With regards
C.Venkataramanaiah BE(Gold Medallist),MBA(IIM-B,74-76)

Posted by Venkataramanaiah Chekuru,CEO at CVR SYNERGY MANAGEMENT SERVICES|17 Jun, 2010

Indian planners and policy making politicians should develop systems thinking capacity. The system concept that the whole system is more than the sum total of its subsystems when applied to a nation would mean that every individual born and brought up in it as sub-systems creates the overall character of the nation. In a successful system, the synergy at total system level produces the effect that 2+2 is not 4 but more than that. But why we failed in our planning so far was because, we treated India as a system with many castes, religions, political parties etc as subsystems. India as total system should mean Indians at total population level covering even the remotest tribal and adivasis. Every indian at individual level is a sub-system. Uniform development of the indivdual ...See More sub-system is mandated in the Preamble to the Constitution of India. Health, prosperity and peace at individual level is the criteria for the development of the Republic of India and this ought to be the work of the planners. If only politicians are aware of this system philosphy!

Posted by George Varuggheese,President at Godimages Good Governance Society|17 Jun, 2010

India needs improvment in the systems and a proper system to monitor implementation. it is high time that we change the outdated systems whether it is in education, taxes, adminstration or any where else. we need change, we need systems, we need proper monitoring mechanisms, excuses cnnot be acceptable, whether it is ministry or any other departments, the new generation of people want thcange and without change and commitment the country cannot move forward, and if country does not move forward the politicians will not be excuused. if the politicians understand this earlier the better it will be for them and for the country.

we have to come out of vote bank politics and come to system oriented politics with accountability.

Posted by n gopalakrishnan , Vice President - Marketing at Perfect House Private Limited, Mumbai. | 17 Jun, 2010

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