Change is an idea in Chanakya's new manifesto (IANS Book Review)

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 23, 2013 06:50 hrs

Book: "Chanakya's New Manifesto: To Resolve Crisis Within India"

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Price: Rs 295

Pages: 244

By Madhusree Chatterjee

A changing India has been the thinking writer's cap powering the genre of non-fiction literature for the last two decades post globalisation.

Analytical overviews of a new and forward-looking India saw a breed of pioneers like Amartya Sen, Shashi Tharoor, Ramachandra Guha, Gurcharan Das and Mark Tully exploring this dynamics of transformation - from a fledgling sovereign nation in the first decades of Independence to a contemporary, vibrant and multi-cultural country that can hold its own in a rapidly changing world order and the players who shaped the destiny of the nation.

Former diplomat-turned writer, poet and now budding politician Pavan Kumar Varma adds to this rich repertoire with his formidable collection of India volumes like "Ghalib: The Man, The Times", "Krishna: The Playful Divine", "The Great Indian Middle Class", "Being Indian: The Truth About Why the 21st Century Will be India's", "Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution and Culture and Identity" and "When Loss is Gain".

Varma's new book, "Chanakya's New Manifesto: To Resolve Crisis Within India", is a journey through the ideological terrain of modern India striving to streamline governance, hone the democratic apparatus to make it more inclusive, purge corruption and instal foolproof security - key areas that continue to throw up fresh challenges 66 years after Independence.

The book is a reflection on ideas of change that the writer says is meant for youngsters - aged between 15 and 35 - to draw them into the functioning of the country and join the refrain against rot. The narrative is in the voice of one of the greatest thinkers and teachers in Indian history - Chanakya - as his response to the various crises that beset modern India.

Chanakya (380-270 BC) is known for his "Arthashashtra", a seminal treatise on governance, strategy and statecraft,.

"We have become intellectually inert. Ideas are orphans and books are destitutes till people read them. My book presents a blueprint for possible change," Varma says.

Simple, lucid and easy for the young to relate to, Varma presents his prescription for change in the form of a political manifesto - a point-wise analysis of the problems and their solutions. For example, his analysis of the plight of Indian democracy suggests a 87-point manifesto of corrections while a 111-point agenda on corruption deals

with a massive clean-up operation.

Analysing the "cancer ailing democracy", the book says: "A worrying development is the acceptance of the dynastic principle in our political milieu." While there can be no legal injunction on political leaders anointing their progeny to succeed them, such behaviour should be repugnant to anyone who believes in democracy, the book says.

The writer, in his manifesto on corruption says: "After careful consideration, it is suggested that our attempt to eradicate corruption be concentrated on five key areas."

"These include reforms of funding and financial accountability of political parties, and the political system; the neutral infusion of technology into as many areas as possible where the common man has to deal with the government; the elaboration and finalisation of a model legal framework ensuring transparency and fair play in all laws relating to the disposal or acquisition of national resources and government procurement processes..." The list flows on.

The book espouses the cause of effective governance saying: "It must be an overriding priority for any country." The nation must rise above narrow partisanship to collectively meet the challenges.

"We need to establish 'dandyaniti' (Chanakya had 'dandyaniti') - the nexus between misdemeanor, crime and exemplary punishment. We need to take action to keep the sanctity between crime and punishment," the writer says.

A thoughtful analysis of India in its current state for the inquisitive youth who believe in redressal and redemption.(23.01.2013 - Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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