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The famous Patna Museum, started in 1917, turned a hundred years old this April. Today, it was shut down to move its wealth of national antiques moved to an autonomous museum by the government.

Detail of door of Patna Museum
Detail of door of Patna Museum

This had been coming and students of the neighbouring College of Arts and Crafts celebrated its centenary as well as fought tooth and nail to keep it alive as only the love of Art students used to haunting priceless treasures can. Speaking with several people fighting the government to keep a piece of Bihar's priceless heritage alive, I pieced together a story that to me, at least speaks of devastating loot, in the same manner is the ongoing privatization of many national resources from water to historical antiques.

In a state with an abundance of museums falling to disrepair for an alleged lack of funds,  and public infrastructure as well as citizens lacking basic amenities in large swathes of the state, and at a time when Nitish Kumar was busy touting Bihar's poverty, he also saw fit to give 17 acres of land and an estimated 500 crores for the construction of a "world class museum" that would run as an autonomous trust. The usual circus of corruption followed. Tenders through an opaque process, cronies on board, astronomical consulting fees and when challenged, plain ignoring the courts and delaying the case till the project became too big to fail in spite of the High Court judgment clearly saying that the Bihar Museum project was not in public interest (even though it refused to stop it because the project was nearing completion by the time the case concluded). If you're thinking this sounds like UIDAI and Aadhaar, you wouldn't be alone.

An important distinction here, is that the Patna Museum is a Government Department, while the Bihar Museum is owned and run by the Bihar Museum Society - which is basically an NGO with the board appointed by the government, but it is not a government body. It has no legislative backing as a government body. So, what is happening here is that the treasures of the state are being handed over to a privately run organization, while the government fudges this knowledge from people by calling it a "government museum". If it is a government museum, why is an autonomous body recruiting people for it? When was the transfer of the museum done from the Society to the government?

And a 100 year old museum that belongs to the people of Bihar - which amounts to a heritage treasure in itself, is being killed to fill the NGO's museum with world famous antiques and archaeological finds. Its most crucial and valuable exhibits, referenced by archaeologists worldwide in countless books - artefacts dating to before 1764 - will be transferred to the Bihar Museum. There is also fudging of legal process. For example, exhibits on loan from Archaeological Survey of India, Indian Museum in Calcutta and the Lucknow museum cannot be moved without their consent. They have not consented. The pieces are being moved anyway, illegally. Jaya Sankritayan, daughter of Rahul Sankritayan is furious> Her father, Rahul Sankritayan had given his finds of Buddhist and other artifacts from the 12th Century explicitly to the Patna Museum for display. In the event the museum closes, they would revert to the family, she is absolutely not consenting to them being moved to the Bihar Museum.

For those who don't know the difference between a Government Museum and one that is a registered Society, here's the part of Manual of Museum Planning: Sustainable Space, Facilities, and Operations that I found useful in understanding:

Differnet kinds of organizations of museums
Differnet kinds of organizations of museums
funds for private museum
funds for private museum

What this basically means is that the government gifted an entire museum to an NGO. But it also has other implications. While the Patna Museum can rely on the Bihar government for funds, the Bihar Museum may be eligible for funds, but it is the government's discretion whether it gives them and it must raise funds from its own resources and visitors. This pretty much guarantees that sooner or later, the fees for viewing the museum would be priced way higher than the Patna Museum in a state with large numbers poor people who wouldn't be able to view their own heritage - or the shortfall would be made up in other ways and it not being a government Museum, you wouldn't be entitled to answers from the Bihar Museum.

This means, it is vital for the Bihar Museum to be an economic success. And economic success in the armpit of a world famous museum that is a hundred years old would be difficult. The government of Bihar has come to the rescue by giving the Bihar Museum the exhibits of the Patna Museum and shutting down the Patna Museum instead of having to develop its own collection! If you look at what is going on here, you have an NGO that is being given government land, public funds and irreplaceable national archeological wealth to create and run a museum as a private entity. The question must be asked why give all this to an NGO then and why not let it belong to the people of Bihar?

To do this, the 100 year old Patna Museum, which is owned by the state of Bihar and which could easily have been upgraded to "world class" for a fraction of the cost, was raped of its archaeological treasures, including the world famous Didarganj Yakshi sculpture estimated to be 2500 years old, a holy relic of Lord Buddha, Chausa bronzes and many other archaeological finds referenced in scholarly works worldwide. To understand the history of the Museum and how intertwined the creation and curation of the Patna Museum is with the assertion of the identity of the state of Bihar itself, read this loving article by Salila Kulshreshtha that makes it come alive. This Museum opened, in its current glory for the last time yesterday.

When I spoke with Dr. C. P. Singh, General secretary of Bihar Puravid parishad, his anguish 90% of Patna museum's antique exhibits being given to Bihar Museum was unmistakable. And why not? From the little I know, the priceless archaeological finds in a museum are its soul. Which well wisher of a museum would tolerate being forced to part with most of them? His concern was even greater that there wasn't proper infrastructure yet at the Bihar Museum to handle the precious cargo coming in. "Even if we move homes, we have to be careful about the furniture, over here we have world famous relics that need to be handled with care and documented properly". Another concern I heard from an activist was that the inventory was not properly documented. In the hands of a private organization, it would be impossible to say if priceless artifacts from Bihar's history vanished without trace. The cynic in me is fairly certain that this, to the Bihar government and Bihar Museum Society, is a feature and not a bug.

I am not a lawyer, but even to the most uneducated eye, what is going on is clearly a transfer of public assets and funds to private hands in the name of creating a modern museum. In other words, a scam. I agree with the students of College of Arts and Crafts, Patna and the Patna Sangrahalay Bachao Samiti (Save the Patna Museum Association) that the Patna Museum needs to be saved, its painstakingly curated collection of exhibits returned and its dignity that is so interwoven with the history of Bihar itself must be restored.

I hope better legal minds than mine will scrutinize this situation and assist the cause of those fighting an overwhelming war to save something precious.

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What happens when a shehari, concerned by disturbing reports of distress in the rural areas decides to ignore the lack of news and go see for himself? Something very interesting. What follows is a short account of one such trip taken by Shuvankar Mukherjee, who decided to find out for himself what was really going on in rural India after demonetisation. He is not a reporter, just an urban citizen and sadly, due to inexperience, he has made promises of anonymity to villagers who are worried about potential political consequences that he is not willing to break. However, even anonymized, this account from the eyes of one unfamiliar with rural India and yet cares deeply enough to make an effort to enquire after their well being - in person - is refreshing, for its candid observations.

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Ever since Demonetization started in India, my friends and I have been quite apprehensive about Government of India's preparation and fulfillment of its stated goals. Many people in Urban India are blissfully unaware of the disastrous impact of demonetisation on Rural India. Patchy news was coming through email and social media, but mainstream media (specially TV) lacked the spine to show the real picture to the people and to the government.

So I decided to do something about it. I decided to visit a village with no Bank or ATM.

Quite early this morning, I reached Sealdah Station at Kolkata. On the way, I saw poor people queuing up near banks near Sealdah well before banks open, but that's the familiar urban story now. At the Ticket Counter at the station, I asked if they were accepting old “Legal Tender” of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000? (Though I had none).

“Your fare is only Rs 30, We can't give you change of Rs. 970. At express train counter they are accepting those notes”  I was told. I had only asked to find out, so I got my ticket and boarded the train. The station was as full of the usual bustle as possible at early hours.

At 9:25 am, I reached my destination after crossing the deep-suburbia of Calcutta. No Hustle-Bustle like the Junctions of Sonarpur or Baruipur here. On the the other platform there were quite a lot of people waiting for the train to Calcutta. I asked a couple of villagers , if they were going to work in city. Ramu and Abdul both had same reply: “Going to Bank to exchange Old notes”

Before I could ask another person, the train came and all of them boarded.

So I went out of the platform, asked the station master: “Are you accepting old currency?”
“Only for Monthly and Quarterly tickets” came the measured reply.

I asked the shops at the station: “Where did you exchange your old notes?”
The Cigarette-Pan Vendor said, “The supplier took for a day, but doesn't accept now. My brother goes to town to exchange old notes. Some days he gets, some days he doesn't. I am having problems in buying goods to sell now”.

The adjacent tea-stall vendor asked if I was journalist and where my TV camera was. She is also having problems now. Breads, Biscuits are not coming as regularly as they used to. Her husband goes to town everyday to exchange notes. They are unable to pay for eggs (but the supplier has agreed to go on credit).

The local Barber was also present at tea-stall and he said he is having a tougher time than others. People are skipping the haircut and the shave. Besides, he has had to visit 3 days to a exchange a meager 2,500 rupees in old notes.

The cycle-stand boys wondered whether if all their complaints were known to the world, they could face the wrath of political workers. I assured them that their name and place will not be disclosed. It is to honor this promise that the article is published without photographs and real names.

Although banks and ATMs are not present, schools are present in this village. The headmaster agreed to talk after some hesitation. They had faced problems with attendance of school teachers. "Today almost everybody is present. You see most of us stay in Kolkata or suburbs. So, if you go to the bank, you'll have to take the day off from work. But we adjusted the classes." he said. I asked about the attendance of students. "Some had to miss classes as one parent is working, and the other has to go to the Bank."

"Are you getting funds for the mid-day meal?" I asked.

"I'm afraid, we don't have sufficient funds. We had cash in old currency. Rice, pulses and oil are coming from the government. So we are making khichudi. Vegetables and eggs we are getting on credit but supply is infrequent. So we are rationing the mid-day meal for now. We usually give a better meal to the students."

It was the same story in the other school also. But they added that the panchayat is helping them get food supplies for the mid-day meal.

So off I went to the local panchayat office. “How are you dealing with old money being canceled?”

An angry question came back from a young man: “Do you think this village has black money?”

I had to reply with an honest “No”. I haven't seen any four-wheeler there, rode cycle-rickshaw and at most saw few motor-bikes. The brick-houses are all single-storied. Tallest build was 3 storied school.

A farmer standing nearby shared, “Our vegetables are not selling is right price, so we are giving them to schools on credit. We have no cash to plant more vegetables ”. Another Farmer chimed in with “Or plan for next winter crop”. The angry young man, now mollified, said that it was the same for the chicken farmer, man with the fruit garden and the local fisherman.

“How about NREGA work?” I asked. “We have no cash to pay for NREGA work now. People come to work at NREGA for regular cash only. Our leader has gone to get this thing fixed....”

“We had taken loans to make these vegetable farming. We have to pay that to them too” it was the first farmer again.

“Which bank?" I asked. "You have Banks in this village?”

“In Next village, by the big road (highway)... there's the Grameen Bank (Rural Bank)”
“How far is it?”
“8-12 kilometers away”

But the others had caught the train to go to the city. “Why isn't everybody going to that bank?”

“Many go, but that bank caters to 7 or 8 villages -about 4 lakh people. They can handle about 200 people a day and then the cash finishes for the day. Going to the city or nearby town is better ” the farmer explained. The young man added, “Half of the village has gone to nearby towns and some even to Kolkata to exchange notes. Now hear that if they get money, they will have ink on their fingers, even to exchange 2000, 3000 rupees only (the limit stated by the government is at 4,000 rupees). One person exchanged from Kolkata. He got a 2000 rupee note. Now he can't purchase anything here with that note. We tease him a lot about it.”

The young man showed me the village market nearby. From the fish-seller to butcher to vegetable-seller all were still waiting for the customers that rarely come, if at all. Usually this market is would to be sold out by now. The grocers are having a tough time too. They had to give a lot of goods in credit and they still had old notes to exchange. Local seed and fertilizer sellers had same story too.

A subdued environment all-around. Helpless people were asking “Why is it happening to us?”

Although a resolute one replied, "We are still on a railway map. You should go and visit villages that are not connected by rail or highway someday.”

Just after noon, as shops started closing, I took the rickshaw back to the station and hopped on to a lazy near-empty train to Calcutta. From one nightmare to another. I landed in Sealdah to see serpentine queues in front of the Banks and  ATMs.

Rural and Urban India - Now all is a Demonetized Hell.

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Just look around and you will realize the state of affairs in our country. All of our villages have roads and there are plenty of vehicles that run on them carrying modern fertilizers and hybrid seeds. Tractors have reached villages and farmers in remote areas are capable of modern cultivation. Watching TV, we keep abreast of whatever happens anywhere in the world. We can contact a person anywhere on the telephone through the satellite. Science has made all this possible to the villagers. However, with all these facilities made available by science, the villagers in Maharashtra, slaughter, every year, 5 to 7 lakh goats and innumerable chicken in order to fulfill their superstitious vows. Among them are a number of educated people who do not feel what they do is not in accord with their education. It is a well-known fact that to be possessed is a psychic condition, a kind of mental illness; and yet in all Navaratri festivals, on full moon and new moon days and in village fairs, women are possessed by some deity and dance vigorously, oblivious of them. People worship these noisy humming and dancing women taking them to be the deities that possess them. They gleefully exploit the products of science but refuse to adopt the scientific outlook. We use the latest computer; and perform Satyanarayan pooja to inaugurate the computer service. Using the computer and the performing pooja are mutually inconsistent. But we do not mind it because we want to use science but not adopt scientific way of thinking.

Scientific Outlook in the Past

Some people claim that this scientific outlook is not at all new to India; it has been there for ages. What existed in our country in the ancient past is, in fact, a matter for anyone to imagine the way he likes. A reference to the Pushpak Yan in the Ramayan means that we had aeroplanes and Brahmastra means the existence of atom bombs in those days. One does not need to refute these claims because it is more important to analyze why we are in such a dire state today if we had all these technologically advanced appliances in the past? Later on we can examine whether it is sheer imagination or things really existed as is claimed by some. But one thing is clear. We did not have any philosophy in the past that can be compared with what is called scientific outlook today. What we did have was rough estimates, assumptions and lengthy studies based on careful observations and genius of our people in the past. Whatever significant contribution India did make has been recognized by the world. The zero, for example, that has removed a big mathematical obstacle, is an Indian invention. It is attributed to Bhaskaracharya. Another scientist of acclaim, in those days was a chemist, Nagarjun. He invented the process of combining silver and gold with copper. Amarsinha classified the animal and plant kingdoms. Varahamiheer knew that the sun is a star and not a planet even in those days. Copernicus known for the Copernican revolution, that changed the center of the world from the earth to the sun, had said, ‘ the sun seems to be revolving round the earth, but in reality it is just the opposite of it. The sun is the center while the earth revolves round it.’ Aryabhatta initiated this concept in the 5th century, in India. We have honored him by naming our first satellite after him. (Incidentally Aryabhatta was not a Bhatt, i.e., a Brahmin but a Kshatreeya.) People ridiculed his idea. They argued, ‘If the earth revolves, as you say, how do we who, stand on it and perform all sorts of activities not fall off as the earth moves? Again how is it that the birds that leave their nests in the morning can find them on their return in the evening, when the earth has moved ahead?’ The point here is that we did have a process of critical thinking in the 5th and 6th century AD. This wisdom we had attained through observation, experience and discussion and were important and useful. However this process of acquiring knowledge cannot be called scientific outlook. In the next ten to twelve centuries the tradition of critical thinking also almost disappeared. A few good kings, eminent philosophers and littérateurs were born during this period, but no scientists. All debate centered on trivial matters such as who should and should not dine with whom; how should one wear the sacred and mundane dhoti; how many strands should there be in the sacred thread; should one eat onions and garlic during the four sacred months of the year; how drinking cow’s urine and brushing one’s face with its tail give you merit and emancipate your soul and so on. The rest of the world was following a different path. The Portuguese brought the revolutionary art of printing into Goa in 1550. It saved huge time that was required to copy manuscripts by hand. Spreading knowledge would have become very easy, but it took nearly three hundred years for this invention to reach the rest of India.

Development of Scientific Outlook

Scientific outlook was not developed in our society. Since it is essential to have such an outlook, Indira Gandhi amended the constitution. Till then only the rights of a citizen were mentioned in the constitution. With the amendment of 1976, along with the rights, a citizen’s duties were also included in the constitution. One of these duties is, ‘Every citizen should endeavor to spread scientific outlook, critical attitude and humanism in the society.’ The core content of the ‘new education policy’ of Rajiv Gandhi included ‘inculcation of scientific attitude’. Scientific attitude is an important part of our life. Is it something very serious, quite difficult to understand and meant only for a few people? No not at all. All of us use it in our normal life. ? No not at all. All of us use it in our normal life. If I want to go to Bhandara from Satara, to attend a function, I would ask a friend as to how to go about it. He tells me, there is a train from Satara that will take me to Bhandara. When I ask him, on what basis does he say so, he tells me that he remembers having seen it in his dream six months ago. Another friend told me that I would have to go to Pune and take a train from there. When I requested him to substantiate his information, he said, he had heard someone telling his friend, two months ago, at Pune railway station, that he went to Bhandara by a train. A third friend told me that I need not go to Pune since the Maharashtra express can take me directly to Bhandara. ‘How can he ascertain this information?’ I asked him. He replied that 15 days back he had been to Satara railway station where somebody was telling this to somebody else who wanted to go to Bhandara. A fourth friend told me that one has to go to Nagpur by the Maharashtra express, then go to the bus terminus and take a bus going to Bhandara that will reach me there in about two and half hours. I asked him how can I be sure of what he told me, he said he had been to Bhandara for some work by this route only a couple of days back. Now out of these four friends whom should I rely on, the most and on whom the least? The least on the one who saw something in his dream, six months back; may be, a little on the one who heard someone telling about it to another person; I can rely on the third friend a little more who heard about it at the Satara railway station fifteen days ago and the most on the fourth friend who himself had been to Bhandara, just two days ago. We rely to the extent we have reliable evidence. The same practical criterion that we all commonly use is the basis of Scientific Outlook.

We rely to the extent we have reliable evidence. The same practical criterion that we all commonly use is the basis of Scientific Outlook.

Method of Verifying the Evidence

How does one verify evidence? The process of scientific thinking is the method that is used for doing this. The factors that constitute this method are: Observation, Logic, Inference and Verification (this is of three types, viz., direct, repeated and universal), followed by experiment. What comes out of this is the scientific outlook. All the discoveries made so far are the result of some observation. We are taught in school about steam energy discovered by James Watt. The story goes thus. James Watt was engrossed in his thought. A kettle was boiling by his side. When enough steam gathered in the kettle its lid fell off. James put the lid back on the kettle. It fell off again after a little while. A few repetitions set him thinking about the reason for the lid coming off. He did not imagine a ghost in the kettle. He reasoned that since the lid comes off again and again, there must be something inside that pushes it out. This reasoning resulted in the discovery of energy contained in the steam, which led to the industrial revolution in Europe. Another example: we celebrate 28th February as National Science Day, because C.V. Raman’s discovery of ‘Raman effect’ was published in world-renowned magazine ‘Nature’. Later he won the Nobel Prize for it. How did he discover it? He was going to England in a liner. Every day he used to go to the deck and see the deep blue sky above and the deep blue sea below. He was curious to know why. Now he could have praised God for creating the beautiful blue sky above and the beautiful sea below. But, he did not do that. He started reasoning and discovered a novel scientific truth. Thus, scientific outlook starts from observing phenomena and asking oneself the question ‘why’.

Now one cannot expect to prove everything by observation. Suppose you have lost your way in a jungle in the evening. You need to reach some small settlement before night. Since you do not know where such a cluster of hutments can be found, you would not know which way to go. Then if you see some smoke going up at a dozen places by the side of a hill, you think this may be an indication of a settlement and you take the path towards it. What is the basis of your choice? You have not seen any men or a settlement or their fireplaces. But you know that wherever firewood is used for cooking, there is smoke and in the jungle, firewood is used for cooking. Evening is the time for cooking dinner and if food is being cooked in every hutment, there would be a dozen places from where the smoke can rise. So you deduce that there must be people living there and they are preparing their dinner. On the basis of this logic you proceed in that direction and your deduction turns out to be correct. Scientific outlook consists of firstly observation, secondly reasoning (or logic) where observation is not possible and thirdly inference. Let me explain the third constituent, inference. A friend of yours, who is a late riser, suggests that you accompany him for a walk at sunrise next morning. He promises to come to your house very early next day. Since you know he is incapable of doing this, would you argue with him, ‘Oh, you want to go for a walk at sunrise, but how are you sure that the Sun will rise tomorrow?’ No you won’t. But how does one know that the Sun is going to rise tomorrow? When we give appointments several days in advance, how do we know that those days are going to break on this earth? We deduce this from our knowledge that the Sun has been rising regularly in the morning for the last 460 crore years. It has not taken any leave at all. If it does that even for a day, it can cause a permanent “leave” for all the living things on earth. Since the Sun has been rising regularly so far, you infer that it will do so even tomorrow and plan to go for a walk in the morning. This is inference.

The next factor is verification. We have already seen that it consists of three parts: verification, repeated verification and universal verification. What is verification? Adi Shankaracharya had said, even if hundred wise men tell you that fire is cool, will you believe it? No, you will not. If those hundred wise men say, ‘not only do we say it, but it is also written in the book’, you would reply, ‘I do have a lot of respect for all of you but the direct evidence, my own experience, tells me that if I put my hand in fire it will burn.’ Verification by direct experience is an important part of scientific outlook. Now we will see what is repeated experience. Someone tells you that using a certain enchanted ring will secure employment for the user within one month. You ask him to give you proof. He then says that he had used it and later his neighbor had used it and both got jobs within a month. What you should argue with him, is that if the same experience is repeated a large number of times, then we should make ten thousand such rings and distribute them among ten thousand unemployed youth. If they all get jobs within a month then we can accept that this ring does have some supernatural power of securing jobs for the unemployed. We cannot draw conclusions from just one or two examples. For drawing conclusions you need a very large number of such examples. This is the crux of the scientific outlook. Again this experience or verification has to be universal. It cannot be science without being universal. If you say that only the residents of that particular city will get jobs on using the ring, it will not be acceptable as scientific truth. If the ring really is capable of getting a job for the user, any body anywhere should get a job within a month on using it. If a medicine is developed for a particular disease, it will cure any person suffering from that disease any where in the world. When the law of gravitation was proved, it could be applied anywhere in the world to verify it. Thus scientific outlook is founded on direct verification that is repeated in very large number and is universally applicable.

Experiment is the last important constituent of scientific outlook. Anybody should be able to verify scientific truths by conducting required experiments. Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade. It means that water will boil at this temperature anywhere in the world, be it Bombay, Calcutta, London or Madras. If it boils at a lower or higher temperature at any place, you have another universal law that explains why and to what extent the boiling point of water rises or drops. It is not that water will boil at 90 degree centigrade in Mumbai and save fuel because the residents of Mumbai are very religious, while the residents of Moscow being atheist water boils there at 110degrees centigrade. One can verify it by experiment. So observation, the question ‘why so’ based on the observation, then reasoning or logic where observation is not possible, followed by inference and verification and lastly experiment are the steps that build the scientific outlook. There is a lot of value content too in the scientific outlook. It tells how a human being should look at life in general. The value content dwells in the method of scientific thinking.

Independent Movement to Eradicate Superstitions

Every body feels that with the spread of science education and modernization, superstitions will automatically disappear by and by. No special efforts are needed to do that. Say, for example from a totally dark room we cannot dig out the darkness. Just light a candle and the darkness will vanish. A petromax will make it brighter, while a tube light will make it brighter still. When the day breaks out and as the sun reaches the zenith the room is flooded with light from all sides. Darkness has no room there. Superstition means the darkness of ignorance. So it goes without saying that with the light of knowledge and science the darkness of ignorance i.e., superstition will simply melt away. Had this concept materialized, we would have been the happiest people for, in that case, such a huge movement would not have been necessary at all.

Originally published by Dr. Narendra Dabholkar on antisuperstition.org. It has been republished here to propagate rationalist thinking and as a mark of solidarity with his beliefs. Do visit the site for more thought provoking rationalist commentary.

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Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7

Being a foreign power, the British did not trust the colonized people. Therefore many checks were introduced, mostly unnecessarily. This practice also continues today. This leads to a huge amount of paper work, in addition to every government form (and those of semi-government organizations as well) asking (as mentioned earlier) the names of father/husband/guardians of individuals, as though all adult Indians are in fact less than adults and need someone else to be responsible for his/her behaviour. I have been told by a number of senior managers/officers in the public sector industry and government that the amount of money, for example, that is spent to check possible cheating on medical bills is far greater than the amount of money that could be cheated, given the ceiling on such expense.

Adult Indians as individuals also demonstrate this ‘non-adult’ assumption. If trains run late, daily passengers squat on the track and disrupt the entire railway operation in that sector. It stems from some kind of a covert assumption that the powers that be actually do not care for the people and therefore the only way they can be made to take steps to remove people’s difficulties is by disrupting administration. This kind of behaviour also seems to be based on the unconscious assumption, illustrated earlier, that there is an unexamined belief in an alien power governing the country even though they are people’s representatives

It is an open question as to what extent these people’s representatives – those who get elected to the parliament and the various state legislatures – also unconsciously act as though they are aliens with power to rule over the country’s population.

The impact of the colonial hangover manifested in terms of adolescent behaviour, and its opposite, treating adult Indians as adolescents by the powers that be can be seen in everyday life if one cares to reflect upon one’s experience.

There are regular media reports of people, for example, attacking employees and breaking up furniture and machinery in electricity supplying sub-stations if there is a failure in electrical supply during an important cricket match that was being shown live in a television channel; attacking hospital employees and breaking up equipment if one believes that a patient has died due to negligence and so on. The assumption that there is no legal recourse to set them right could also be true to a great extent, perhaps because the powers that be also feel that they are, in fact, ruling aliens. And the prize here goes to Kolkata, earlier known as Calcutta. All over West Bengal college students (who are all adults) and sometimes their parents (who pay the fees) run amok destroying college properties to force the authorities to dilute the standard of intellectual content in Kolkata. In addition, educated and moneyed people who drive four-wheelers and two-wheelers not only break traffic laws whenever they are in a hurry, but also start a serenade of motor horns every time there is a traffic jam and also, as soon as the traffic signal turns green. It is a phenomenon of not even adolescent behaviour, but infantile behaviour. It is the greedy child’s show of temper tantrum at its inability to postpone gratification.

Like the greedy child interprets adult behaviour as ‘getting away with their gratification’, in Kolkata the adults who actually get away with their gratification are the police, the army, many government officers and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Their vehicles routinely break traffic laws with impunity by driving up one way streets in the wrong direction, parking vehicles in no parking areas and sometimes even driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid a traffic jam when they have a red light attached to the car – a phenomenon that one Kolkata based newspaper had termed ‘the red menace’.

Then Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, perhaps leads the rest of the state in taking law unto itself. Whoever has the contextual power, as the legacy of its colonial history where those who had contextual power i.e., the colonial masters, whether they were Greeks, Turks, Pathans, Mughals or British rulers, has scant regard for laws of their own making when it comes to their self-interest.

During the British colonial era, a great Maharashtrian leader of freedom fight had said ‘What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow’ to highlight Bengal’s contribution to the struggle for independence. If that saying becomes true once again, the Republic of India may come in for a lot of rough weather. One has to read one’s daily newspaper thoroughly in order to look at some of the evidence of that scattered all over India.

References

For a comprehensive bibliography of K. P. Chattopadhyay’s publications see Essays in Social Anthropolog y, Kshitish Prasad Chattopadhyay, with an Introduction by Andre Beteille, K. P. Bagchi & Company, Calcutta and New Delhi, 1994, P.549-556.

Bion, W. R. Experiences in Groups and other papers, Tavistock Publications, London, 1962.

Chattopadhyay, Gouranga P. Managing Unconscious Process: The Family, the Organisation and Beyond, Chapter 2, Eureka Publishers, Calcutta, 1998.

Chattopadhyay Gouranga P. ‘Invader in the Mind.’ The Economic Times, VII, 137 & 138, Bombay,
Delhi and Calcutta, 1981.

Chaudhuri, Sukanta ‘From enclave to empire’, The Telegraph, November 5, 2009, Calcutta, 8.

Mitra, Ashok ‘Cutting the Corner’, The Telegraph, March 30, 2009, Kolkata.

Paramahamsa Niranjanananda, Yoga Darshan: Vision of the Yoga Upanishads, Sri Panchadashnam Alakh
Bara, Deoghar, Bihar, India, 1993.Colonialism-in-the-Mind

Biographical Note

Gouranga Chattopadhyay is Emeritus Professor of HR of the Academy of Human Resources, Ahmedabad and an independent OD consultant, executive coach and personal counsellor. He can be contacted at gipisi2@gmail.com.

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7

There are other kinds of evidence too of the colonial hangover in various aspects of life in India. One of those is some kind of a belief about a ‘Centre-State relationship’ that has not been consciously articulated, and therefore some of its deeper implications remain unexamined. Here ‘Centre’ is represented by the national government with its seat in Delhi (New Delhi to be accurate). In reality, this government, headed by a Prime Minister and his cabinet, is authorized by the adult population of India. This is because the process is one of election to the Loksabha (the Lower House of the parliament) based on adult franchise every five years (unless the mandate gets withdrawn earlier through various constitutional processes). There is also the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) with limited authority. The President of the Indian Republic, who is authorized to hold that office by the people’s representatives to the Loksabha and the Rajya Sabha, holds tremendous power based on the Constitutional authority. Then there are the various state governments that are also headed by people’s representatives, through election. So, since both the central government and the state governments are run by the representatives of the adult population of India, and the Republic’s Constitution spells out the nature of centre-state relationship, any dispute or difference occurring between the center and one or more states, logically requires resolution through constitutional process that also allows legal action.

However, there are all too many instances of the political parties, including the one in power in a state government, to give call for a general strike against certain decisions taken at the centre that is experienced as negatively affecting the state or the entire nation. Only, such general strikes are called bandhs (literally closure or a dam) and in character have little or no difference from general strikes. This usually happens when the party in power in a state sits on the opposition bench in the parliament. It then becomes an absurd situation of opposing a decision taken by people’s representatives at the centre by a political party that controls the state government, also run by people’s representatives. To that extent the state government covertly supports the bandh. I am calling it absurd because it becomes a fight between two sets of office holders, both of whom derive their authority from the people of India. My hypothesis to explain this absurd phenomenon is that this too is a colonial hangover. Delhi has been the seat of power held by foreigners from 1206 when the Turks conquered parts of northern India and started ruling from Delhi. This process ended only on August 15, 1947, when the British had to part with their Indian empire, that got divided in to present day India (Bharat), Pakistan, Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan), Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) and Sri Lanka (erstwhile Ceylon).

In the unconscious of the Indian psyche, it seems, the central government still remains as some kind of a ‘foreign’ power that gives ‘legitimacy’ to the conscious part of the psyche of the dominant political parties that form the state governments to call bandhs. The parties in the opposition in different states too then follow this model and organise bandhs to oppose decisions taken by their respective state governments. That such bandhs are destructive of the country’s economy or that it is the poor – the daily wage earners, small shop keepers and other small businesses, as also those who deal in such perishable products as vegetables, fish, fruits etc. that are sold daily in municipal markets – who are the worst sufferers, seems to be of no concern to the bandh organizers. It is as though like in the colonial days, political parties assume that great sacrifices are required by the people to shake off the foreign imperial power!

The adolescent aspect of these bandhs is indiscriminate vandalisation of both private and public property to express one’s anger against the powers that be. Once again, it is as though state owned property is not created out of people’s money, but from the ill-gained money of some foreign imperial power and therefore it is ‘good’ to destroy them.

This seems to be truer for West Bengal than many other states because, I further hypothesise, the seat of British power in India was originally Bengal with Calcutta as the capital of British India. Much later, it was shifted to Delhi (New Delhi). So the psyche of the Bengalis holds the idea of power being taken away by those who rule from Delhi and therefore bandhs are called in West Bengal almost at the drop of a hat!

It is also well known that little or no change has been made to the manuals of various all-India civil services like the I.A.S., the I.P.S. etc. During several occasions when I ran workshops at the IAS academy in Mussoorie, I was intrigued to find that this institution continues to start life in the morning by giving riding lessons, as though IAS officers posted in India’s vast rural areas, even today, are required to ride horses like their predecessors – the ICS – who had to ride horses in the absence of motorable roads in British India. While the British police academy in UK today have a training schedule of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for five days of the week, the police academy in Hyderabad runs the punishing schedule of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week that was introduced by the British Raj. They also continue to follow the schedule of alternate weeks of indoor lectures and outdoor physical exercise of various kinds. When I went to run workshops on two occasions at the police academy, I was told by some senior police officers, who were on the teaching staff, that this schedule is followed even though at the beginning of every week of indoor work many participants fall asleep in the class room from sheer exhaustion. Further, when the probation period ends, the load of paper work, (also a legacy of the British administration) is such that the IPS officers get little time for physical exercise. After the punishing physical activities of the academy, this leads to obesity among young IPS officers. Yet the old colonial practice is mindlessly followed.

Concludes in Part 7

Biographical Note

Gouranga Chattopadhyay is Emeritus Professor of HR of the Academy of Human Resources, Ahmedabad and an independent OD consultant, executive coach and personal counsellor. He can be contacted at gipisi2@gmail.com.