How ancient India upheld democracy, kept corruption at bay

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Vyom, Dec 4, 2011.

  1. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

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    Team Anna's campaign against corruption may have caught the imagination of the nation, but what is perhaps little known is that though ancient India had a well-evolved democratic system that went down to the grassroots, its elected leaders had to adhere to well-defined laws that prescribed stiff penalties for those who swindled public money or indulged in improprieties.

    Aligarh Muslim University historian S Chandni Bi, who has specialised in epigraphy, the study of inscriptions, says around 1,000 years ago there was zero tolerance towards financial bungling. According to him, inscriptions in the southern state of Tamil Nadu clearly indicate how intolerant civil society was against corrupt practices and the violators of ethical framework.

    Chandni told IANS in an interview: "A well-evolved democratic system was functional, starting at the Saba level, between the eighth and the 16th century in South India, irrespective of the ruling dynasties: the Cheras, Cholas, Pallavas, Pandyas and Vijaynagar.

    "The members of a Saba were elected by the whole community of the village by a system peculiarly known as 'Kuda Olai' system (Kudam-Pot and Olai-Palm leaf). The village was divided into wards called 'Kudumbus', and every ward had to write the eligible person's names on the palm leaves. The bundle of palm leaves was emptied in a pot. The member was chosen by draw of lots."

    The most important point to note here was the issuance of strict guidelines by the rulers, inscriptions give fair indication of the clarity of thought and zero tolerance towards financial bungling.

    "Among the inscriptions three are very important which belong to the 10th century AD Two inscriptions are found in Vaykundanatha Perumal temple at Uttramerur, Kanchipuram district and another one is from Pallipakkam village of Tanjore in Tamil Nadu state belonging to the rule of Parantaka Chola Ist," Chandni explains.

    "The crimes committed by the members of the Saba are divided into three categories. The swindling of funds or public property and those who failed to submit their accounts have been considered as crime number two. Such members were not eligible to contest the Saba election for life long. Not only they but their relatives too could not contest elections, like children, in-laws, brothers and their children, grand -parents, grand- children, relations through wife etc, nearly for three generations. They were called as 'Grama Dhurogis'.

    "While murder of even Brahmins was considered pardonable, crimes like cheating or swindling public funds were unpardonable even by gods. Political crime was not pardonable but other crimes could be punished with penalties or performance of penance and charitable deeds, to become eligible for elections again."

    There were established codes of conduct laid down for the Saba members as found in an inscription from Mannur village of Tirunelveli district. Among them, the most interesting one relates to obstructing the political processes or functioning of the Saba deliberately. In such cases a penalty of five Kasu (Rupees) was imposed for every such act of mis-conduct, on such members. Yet they were permitted to stay and participate in the proceedings of the Saba. Generally, the Kings' orders were executed by passing in the Saba.

    To prevent political power getting concentrated in one family leading to dynastic tendencies, rules were framed. "According to this rule, the present members of the Saba cannot contest the election for next 2 to 10 years. In the same way none of their relatives should have contested for the past five years if one wanted to contest for membership of Saba. There is also a sub-rule to provide equal opportunity for everybody stipulating induction of two new members without any previous experience as members of the Saba."

    The Sabas had to be dissolved before the election of the new one and the elections were generally conducted by the village accountant and a judge called 'Madyasthan'. In the public services there were no holidays and therefore no one in authority could neglect public duty. "It was categorically mentioned that the elected members should provide their service for 360 days. The elected members' term of office was only one year and automatically should resign after completion of the term."

    They also actively practised the right to recall. "In those days if an elected member of the Saba committed a crime or violated law, he was immediately sacked. Such has been our rich and exemplary past. Let us bring it back instead of looking to the west for solutions," said Chandni who is teaching South Indian History in AMU.

    How ancient India upheld democracy, kept corruption at bay - Sci/Tech - DNA
     
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  3. KS

    KS Bye bye DFI Veteran Member

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    The pioneer of democracy/rule of law in India now having two of the most corrupt bastards competing for power :rolleyes:
     
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  4. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    Stiff punishments will remove corruption but the way our police works only honest people will get picked up.
     
  5. Defcon 1

    Defcon 1 Senior Member Senior Member

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    i don't think corruption is only india's problem, the actual reason we suffer more is because most people are illiterate and poor.....poor people don't usually stand up against these issues, look at anna hazare's campaign, most of the support he got was from middle class and there was a lot of support from netizens, which made it successful........as, people become more and more literate, the tolerance for corrupt politicians will decrease and leaders like nitish kumar & narendra will get higher support....
     
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  6. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    We need to have a unitary democracy rather than this federative nonsense. Every state works like a different country which slows national growth overall. One hand we have Gujarat going on to compete with China head on and on other side we have UP, NE, MP,Jharkhand etc still stuck in medieval era.

    If development has to take place evenly and rapidly, then unitary nation is the only method. US style democracy with unitary state.
     
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  7. Bangalorean

    Bangalorean Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    ^^ On the contrary, "unitary state" format is the worst possible solution for our nation. Our nation has too many differences in culture, language, etc. to make it "unitary". Federalism is one of the bedrocks of India. Don't fear it.

    And even if you have a unitary model here, the poorly performing regions will still remain poorly developed, the good performers will still perform well.
     
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  8. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Federalism is an absolute necessity for India. Unless you want to completely erase and "standardise" every culture in the subcontinent (have fun trying to do that), there is no chance of a unitary system working in the long run.
     
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  9. trackwhack

    trackwhack Tihar Jail Banned

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    :thumb: agree
     
  10. SLASH

    SLASH Senior Member Senior Member

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    I think the Central government should dictate all economic policies of the nation. This way resources will be shared and growth will be much even.
     
  11. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

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    I think he was talking in an economical sense, not cultural.
     
  12. Param

    Param Senior Member Senior Member

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    What do you think is happening now? What do you think happened for 40 years from 1949 to 1989 when we had a very powerful centre?

    Central govt dictation has nothing to do with growth.
     
  13. Param

    Param Senior Member Senior Member

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    He was talking in a political and economic sense.
     
  14. Bangalorean

    Bangalorean Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    That is a bad idea. Economic empowerment must exist at the lowest levels, even at the village panchayats. India is vast and gigantic. As it is we have enough troubles with the dinosaur-like bureaucracy. Good luck getting money released for local development from the central government.

    I can tell you from experience. Do you know that in Bangalore, whenever land acquisition is required for development projects such as road widening, metro, etc., it is a nightmare to acquire any land from the railways. The asinine organization is so hierarchical and centralized, every damn request needs to go to their top men, get approved, inspected, final approval, pass through an entire army of babus etc. etc. etc.

    Nations all over the world are moving towards decentralization of economic power, not the other way round.

    I don't think so - anyway, we'll let him clarify. :)

    And even economically, it is not feasible to have complete centralization.
     
  15. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

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    Why would anyone be bothered about seeking land acquisition from another institution? In a centralized framework all economic policies will be framed by the central government and implemented by its own wings or departments in the district level. Once a proposal is passed by a single authority body for say infrastructure development, it will be incorporated systematically by its own wings in the various states. They may have to liaison within their own intra-department colleagues but that would be much more streamlined and much more effective.

    I think there are wide benefits of this proposal. The greatest one being that we will raise the bar of accountability to a large extent. Another that it will make certain entities (read local parties who enter politics only to make money or power) irrelevant and they will slowly die out or have limited effect. Instead of the people of India being fractured in their attempt to get their work done from their respective state governments or losing focus from national to state issues, there would be a single window to look to, thereby securing even growth everywhere. Plus there won't be much room left for bias in policy making.
     

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