Colonial Footprints in Administration-Undoing the Work
The India that we experience today is arguably a product of millennia of histories in myriad aspects, but in terms of the most prominent characteristics of “India”, its colonial past has majorly shaped the country into what it is today. Often credited with the complete turn-around of the nation with respect to developmental advancements, the British Raj seems to have been forgotten for plundering the sub-continent with its invasions: economic, social, and cultural. The ignorant may misbelieve that the colonial masters took India to greater heights, but they remain unmindful of the depths of the roots India already had. To the British rule’s credit, the Indian region was administratively unified; but such unification did not come without a price.
A thriving region that India was before the British invasion, and self-sufficient and self-sustained, a very brief instance is how water resource utilisation was decentralised in the way water was managed in times of excess: when the river swelled in its season, numerous canals branched out of the river and carried the excess water to far and wide reaches where water was scarce. Agriculture was practiced with a variety of local crops. The idea of consuming locally produced food has only recently started gaining ground after it is realised that food culture across the India, particularly in the big and “developed” cities is largely homogenised and that food culture has significantly switched to one that is an imported idea. Be it diet fads like resorting to non-native sources of protein, or reducing consumption of common rice when a major part of India has rice-eating societies, the concept of growing and consuming local and seasonal food diminished strikingly .
In the self-sustained India of the past, lives and livelihoods stemmed from and revolved around agriculture. This was not just an economic pursuit, but an engagement that had a massive social impact by way of defining societies based on their agricultural practices. Since jobs pertaining to farm lands did not require migration the way people now migrate to far off places for work, families lived together as a basic and often large unit. As social dynamics changed, family units broke up and nuclear families became more common, the source of labour and labour management also diminished in the absence of man power that existed as large families. Young children were looked after by the elderly of the family, leading to a system of indigenous social and value education that is qualitatively distinct from the system of present-day formal education which rests on rote-learning. Popular studies in the West have now come to emphasise the positive impact on the young that comes from regular interaction with the elderly. As cities developed and people moved away from farmlands and engaged in non-agriculture works, people remained self-sustained but not self-sufficient. Dependency on agriculture for food remained but now with a different orientation. Commercialising agriculture became important and so with that, the gradual changes in the original system led to the present situation where local food production begs for revival.
Further, as colonial ways gained a stronger foothold in the sub-continent, the British manner of industrialisation garnered greater space. The British-introduced industrialisation was clearly consumerism-based and giving something to the land from which it extracted all its resources was never a concern for the white lords. Yet, in today’s date, remaining with the colonial model of industrialisation is a requirement due to lack of suitable alternatives. If industrialisation is to be equated with expansive development and technological advancements, these parameters did exist in the older indigenous methods across India. But its distinctness is that these progressive steps were implemented with a view of value addition to the existing resources—a feature conspicuously absent in the British model of industrialisation that measures growth in quantitatively instead of qualitative terms. As is the phenomena globally, economic growth is seen from the perspective of the economy and pertaining social and other concerns come secondarily. In the Indian context since antiquities, economic growth was rather an outcome of the overall well-being of the society.
Talking about the ancillaries of the economy, and bearing in mind the concept of value addition to the existing resources that are tapped and exploited, the western method of industrialisation has resulted in the dreaded climate change. The amount of toxins released in the environment in the name of development hover over countries, peoples, and their governments, reminding them of the grave perils of unholistic approaches to development. A holistic approach to development means one that does not give disproportionate amounts of emphasis to any one aspect of growth and development, but instead, suitably emphasises on all aspects of administrative concern with the ultimate goal of enhanced overall well-being, as was the original Indian model of economy.
Culturally, India has witnessed the dimming of several of its traditional practices and has been overshadowed by first British and then Western methods owing to the strategically sown seeds of doubts and disbelief in its indigenous ways. Be it the native ways of living or education or dressing or eating habits, emulating foreign ways comes justified as moving with the times. But it is the direction of such movements that calls for attention. Evolving with times is inevitable, but changing to emulate foreign ways, the original intention of which only to suppress and even eradicate the thriving native ways, amounts to being led by the pied piper only to meet with one’s own unfortunate end.
Certainly, it is time to reorient and restructure the notions of development and growth and shift it from the definition that suits the targets of capitalist honchos to that which will genuinely contribute to the well-being and aspirations of the common, unnamed Indian.