About the author:
Pavan K Varma is an acclaimed Indian author whose chosen niche is non-fiction. He is at present the ambassador of India in Bhutan. Some of his other works are Ghalib: The Man, The Great Indian Middle Class, The Book of Krishna and Being Indian. He has also translated poems of Gulzar, AB Vajpayee and Kaifi Azmi into English.
My thoughts on the book:
Non-fiction is not my favorite genre, but sometimes a book comes along that would merit attention and make sense. Chanakya’s New Manifesto is a book that speaks of change, and how the nation needs it very urgently. The book brings ideas to the fore as to what must be solved in order to progress quickly, for the present and for the future. Like the blurb at the back says, “We cannot continue as we are, and must gather resolve to bring in effective governance, a true democracy, a corruption free State, a security conscious nation and an inclusive society.”
The author calls upon the ancient treatise Arthashastra written by Chanakya and takes from that some ideas that youngsters can imbibe to stop the reverse progress. That change needs to happen in 1) Governance, where he says the coalition form of governance cannot help progress because to each person, each faction in the coalition looks at themselves and puts the coalition’s decisions at a knife’s edge. Such decisions taken to keep the coalition happy would put the nation at risk because the people elected to manage crucial agendas would not be those who are actually having expertise in that area. 2) Democracy, where we as people who elect those who govern us, must start to question the way they are governing us. So far we’ve accepted the way they are, and lived with it, though we know it isn’t right. 3) Corruption, which can be stopped if we force the governments to, if we step up and say that it is possible and tell the government they must be willing to act on that change. 4) Security, the present state of which in our country is lax. It’s time now to enforce a vision and start a system that can respond quickly and efficiently when breached.
The book proposes strong ideas that if taken up and acted upon by us can bring about change in the constitution of India. The voice the words project is strong, and it brings our attention to it. Not that we don’t already know of it, but the book pushes it in, makes us want to act on it. What the book does is bring the points we usually disregard into focus, and tell us what can be done to remedy it.
Personally, I feel that change in any country depends not just on the people at the helm, but also on the people, and in no meager proportion either. Whereas the book does tell that it is we who must change too, it also puts it on a level of English that even I might need a dictionary at the side to refer to. If the book could have put it on a simpler level, then it would have catered to a much wider audience. I would also think the security lax is more inward. We as a society have let ourselves down more often. The book speaks of Kargil, lack of offensive and defensive armory, nuclear power etc. but the inclusion and strengthening of that would be protection from external attacks; that would stop the rot from coming in, but what about the internal rot, the security we can’t give to ourselves? Even that needs focus. I couldn’t find anything on that.
The book is strong on what can be done when it comes to governance and military at the helm. Perhaps this is indeed what might have transpired if Chanakya would be alive today and devising an updated treatise for the country. It’s a good book for seeing what is wrong, and what needs to be made right.
Title: Chanakya’s New Manifesto
Author: Pavan K Varma
Genre: Non Fiction
Publishers: Aleph Book House
Price: INR 295
(February 21st, 2013)