SV Economics

Swami Vivekananda was a multi-faceted personality whose philosophy was much ahead of his times. He was well aware of the problems facing the humanity. He traced the problems through the cause and effect method and provided solutions which served beyond immediate relief and farther into the future.

Exploring Swami Vivekananda’s vision of economic development: A few thoughts
Prof.(Dr.)G.k.Roy *

Swami Vivekananda was a multi-faceted personality whose philosophy was much ahead of his times. He was well aware of the problems facing the humanity. He traced the problems through the cause and effect method and provided solutions which served beyond immediate relief and farther into the future.

On the occasion of a commemorative function to mark the 120th anniversary of the historic voyage of Swami Vivekananda to Chicago from the Bombay port, President Pranab Mukherjee called upon fellow citizens to have inspiration from the vision and life of Swami Vivekananda to build a strong India. He further reminded of things that we need to do urgently and in a sustained manner for the progress of our nation.

Swami Vivekananda had an extraordinary vision of total humanistic economic

evelopment through a holistic approach with basis of society, education and business. He combined ‘sanyasa’ with social work, ’bhakti’ with ‘shakti’,-devotion with strength and patriotism with an international outlook.
Foreign investment and foreign aid
Swami Vivekananda was not in favour of getting aid from outside for amelioration of poverty and enhancing the standard of living of his countrymen as it was against self respect especially for a spiritually-rich country like that of ours. He had understood that mere charity can be very demeaning and take away human enterprise and initiative. This would also not be a sustainable and permanent way of solving this problem. He was clear of the fact that material prosperity and spirituality had to go hand in hand. He remarked that from several hundred years India has beaten many other countries in the point of fertility and commerce. Swamiji thus wanted the economic development on a strong foundation of spirituality. For him, this spiritual self realization led to people realizing their own potentiality. This was quite essential in the context of a colonized society like that of India in the closing years of the nineteenth century tantamounting to people to locate greater self confidence in themselves.

The above economic philosophy of Swami Vivekananda is quite relevant even to-day when the leaders of modern India look towards the West for foreign direct investment (FDI) and aid in stead of strengthening the internal economy. The present-day leaders may try to justify their action with that of Swamiji’s receiving western aids. The foreign aids received was then primarily used to educate the mass for a social rising-up in India. While speaking at Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary talk on “Vivekananda’s socio-economic thoughts for sustainable development of Bharat”,the noted economist and Swadeshi Jagran Manch co-convener S.Gugumurthy asserted that India is set to emerge as a major economic power in the coming years. In a similar approach as that of Swamiji he debunked wide spread projections by economists on the need for investment from other countries in India saying,”India is too huge a country to be developed with the help of other economics. Of the total investment made in the country between 1991 and 2011, foreign investment accounted for only 1.8 percent while the remaining 98.2 per cent was generated from within.”

Economic inequality-a social evil
In course of his journey along the length and breadth of the country before his participation in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 and thereafter, Swami Vivekananda had acquainted himself with the basic problems of the common mass. He was deeply moved by the inequality that prevailed in the-then society. At the same time, he was confident of bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. The present social fabric is not very much different from what it was then. Today, the top 20% of Indians generate and control 85% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 20% generate and control a mere 1.5% of it.

Swamiji believed in raising the condition of the ‘have-nots’ not by charity from the rich, but by empowerment of personality with a view to building their own destiny. All that he wanted the ‘haves’ in the society to do was to create an environment wherein the poor could raise themselves up without sacrificing their self-esteem. Bringing in equity in the social sector for him was not by bringing down the rich by social revolution but by pushing up the poor through an economic evolution. This has a contemporary relevance. Presently a sizeable portion of our country covering more than two hundred districts has been affected by violence- a consequence of economic inequality, which has prompted the unprivileged ’have-nots’ of the society to take recourse to violent means to bring social equity. This sort of a situation was correctly predicted by far-sighted Swamiji in those concluding years of the nineteenth century who had understood that people would not sit and tolerate the inequality for long. He had remarked many a times that a social up-rising is inevitable. As a solution to this futuristic problem, he had proposed that the assistance to the ‘less- fortunates’ should be in a way such that they would be raised once for all and would not have to depend either on a benevolent government or on a philanthropic society.

Industrialization- compatible to socio-economic need
Mahatma Gandhi used to say, ”If you opt for industrialization, you will perish.” Bharat Ratna Sir Visweswaraiya- the great Indian engineer and contemporary of Gandhiji had declared, “ If you don’t go for industrialization,you will perish.” Both were right in their vision; while one gave more importance to human values, the other to physical and materialistic development. On the other hand, Swami Vivekananda wanted an amalgamation of the above two philosophies and had opined that India should be leading in every field like industrialization; but it should not sacrifice eternal values of life and culture. Views of Gandhiji and Visweswaraiya which appered contradictory, were thus coordinated and balanced by Swamiji who had realized that, for all round growth of the country both the thoughts were relevant.

Swami Vivekananda had also emphasized the upliftment of the rural sector at par with that of the urban one in the context of national development as, ”Immortal India pulsates not in the cities but among the millions living in the villages. Therefore, it is not that the villages have to brought to the cities for development, rather development should reach their huts.” This was clearly as endorsement of Gandhian philosophy of promotion of the cottage and small scale industries as an important supplement along with the establishment of large scale ones-an integral approach to industrialization in the context of economic development for a country like that of ours. The concept has rightly been adhered to in the context of our industrial development and the M-S-M (Micro-Small-Medium) scale industries are being promoted primarily in the rural sector through Khadi and Village Industries Commission under the ministry of rural development, Government of India. This has not only made significant contribution to the economic development of the rural sector, but has also strengthened the national economy through the earning of valuable foreign exchange. As per a 2012 statistics under the banner of KVIC, three lakh units of village industries employed 11.8 million people to produce annual products priced 19000 crore of rupees with expected foreign exchange earning worth of about 400 crores.

Globalization and export promotion
Globalization needs a globally acceptable icon like Swamiji, who not only travelled across the world extensively, but also understood the nations- their people, history, culture, ideals and hence their wants. Today we talk about globalization but Swamiji spoke of globalization more than a century ago.

The present leaders and the leading economists are of the opinion that we should engage in global economic exchange rather than being confined to a closed economy in keeping with the interaction which Swami Vivekananda had with the outside world. While emulating Swamiji’s global-interaction philosophy in trade and commerce, the appropriate step would be to engage in an equally-oriented global trade as far as practicable.

Swami Vivekananda was a champion of export. He emphasized that export to economically advanced countries can not only bring money, but can also contribute for the promotion of domestic industries. He was confident that many Indian manufactured goods can have a ready market in the West. While at Belur, he had once suggested to a disciple to start trading Indian goods like cloth (e.g. Varanasi-made saris) ,towels, bamboo work and other indigeneous products. What Swamiji visualized then, has been a reality as many of the products manufactured both in the large and the M-S-M sectors find an excellent outlet in the world market to-day. There has been a good contribution of the products of village and cottage industries under the banner of KVIC with respect to foreign exchange earning too.

“The main cause of India’s economic slow own is poor governance. Long spells of indecisiveness leading to policy paralysis, failure to deal with corruption and inaction on macroeconomic issues have lead to GDP growth dropping to its lowest level in the last decade.”-so said B.Dholakia-Ex-Director,IIM-Ahmedabad recently. Swamiji had once remarked,“To-day we need synchronization of ‘Vedanta’ and western science. We should have faith and self-confidence should be generated in us.” If one comprehends the full development of thought processes and scientific discoveries, the need for an integral view of the life becomes very obvious. The great challenge before the policy makers and leaders of our country is to adopt a holistic and socialistic approach for the economic development in the lines of Swami Vivekananda where there will be equal space for Materialism and Spirituality. In course of his first tour of the U.S., Swamiji had once told a group of journalists in the university of Michigan,” This is your century, but 21st century is India’s century”. With the current trend in India’s economic growth, the prophetic words of Swami Vivekananda is going to be a reality in the not-too-distant future .
*Retired Director and Professor of Chemical Engineering, National Institute of Technology, Rourkela
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