Onam: Hope for Good Governance!


Onam, festival celebrated by Keralites across the world, has significance in today’s context, not just because it is a festival that is being celebrated by one and all and other interesting festivities associated with it. Its message needs to be identified and meditated upon each year. Onam commemorate more than anything prosperity of Mahabali Kingdom!. That prosperity was the result of good governance, rather than anything!

Good governance is the result of many factors. Good policies, transparent administration, faith of the people in the government and commitment of the rulers to the nation. One could attribute many other aspects too. Most important aspect that emerges is the commitment of the rulers to the nation. For King Mahabali, people of his State, ‘Kerala’ was his commitment and priority. Their welfare, prosperity and happiness was his ultimate motive.

Businesses could operate freely. People had faith in each other, as the governance apparatus had faith in the people. King Mahabali had faith in people surrounding him too. And more importantly, he never wanted to take anything home. No question of corruption and bribe from King’s side or from the side of officials, bureaucrats and those in the local government offices. There was a planning commission too! But all those who were working in the Planning Commission of Mahabali Kingdom, including the Deputy Chairman and other secretaries were trained locally. Though there were applications from many foreign educated youths, he never had faith in them, it seems. King himself took interest in providing and ensuring good training to his officials in the matters of administration.

Mahabali Kingdom was very keen on carefully executing existing rules. King never wanted to introduce new rules and burden his kingdom with unnecessary complications called “reforms”. Ethical business practices were the rule for businesses and that happened without much regulatory apparatus.

King Mahabali could of course demand ethical business practices from the side of traders and businessmen. And traders and businessmen never had any problem in conducting business in an ethical manner without cheating. They never had to pay bribes to people in the government. Planning commission was more focused on understanding people’s problems, challenges of traders & business houses, agro-farm entrepreneurs and further making the lives of people easier. No favoritism was acceptable in the affairs of policy, planning and economic management. Documentation and keeping of records was so perfect that never files used to go missing! And that system was so transparent too! Any failure or in the slightest of it, King used to take very strong action.

When Keralites celebrates Onam this year, Kerala is busy discussing an “alleged” fraud committed by team Solar. At the national level of course there are much larger cases, scandals and frauds. From 2 G and Coal Gate to CWG scandal! And thousands of land and real estate cases and allegations involving those close to the highest political and policy bosses! There is no limit to scandals, scams, corruption cases in this time while we celebrate Onam.

If the entire government is corrupt, its regulatory agencies, tax authorities and policy planners are biased and follow practices of favoritism to those who bribe them, and papers and files move only when money is paid, how could government expect business houses voluntarily follow social responsibility guidelines and CSR guidelines, which are part of new company law!

There is a greater concern on environmental issues these days. Devastation caused in Uttarakhand was at least in part due to environmental degradation of fragile mountain slopes and thoughtless commercialization, there is a general consensus. But unfortunately those who are at the top policy planning and advisory levels think differently as “green issues impede development”. When they visit modern Mahabali Kingdom, i.e., Kerala, from Indraprastha, they preach their ‘imported ideas’ that in modern Kerala, paddy fields should be leveled and Kerala should construct buildings instead of cultivating rice and vegetable. Kerala should forget about agriculture, they say! They oppose infrastructure investment for developing public transport, as they opposed clearance to Cochin Metro project, for instance. Better public transport system would probably negatively impact car sales and automobile imports from EU and other countries in the long run, so obviously they have to protect those interest groups and plan and advocate for better financial management while crying out loud about fiscal deficit and blaming subsidies! This is called the art of planning and economics by UPA government!

This indeed calls our attention to the need of policy makers having local knowledge, commitment to people & nation, which Mahabali could ensure, thereby prosperity! Mahabali policy and practices need to be understood and we must go more deep into it!

It is often said that we get leaders that are appropriate to us! We then blame ourselves for the plight of corruption, bad governance and red-tape etc. However, when we have ethical, truthful and sincere leaders at the helm affairs that get reflected in the administration and through that there would be overall welfare and prosperity! Again only if, they rule for the people of this country and their allegiance is to the people of this country and if they are committed to this nation’s prosperity and fighting unemployment and poverty! There is no secret other than that to the problems of today in the economy.

Prosperity won’t come and can be created just like that by any government! In Mahabali kingdom, there was a good entrepreneurial eco-system. Agriculture& farming enterprises used to thrive as well as businesses and traders! People had jobs. There was no unemployment. So people had no reason for involving in burglary, stealing and robbery. There was no cheating as there was no reason for it. People had faith in each other, in government and in businesses! Market system worked so perfectly! There was no place for advocates of foreign interests at the policy making, planning as well as at the government.

But at the end of it, as all of us know, King slightly deviated from his initial approach. His leniency to a foreigner caused the whole damage! But the good governance system established in Mahabali Kingdom is a lesson for us. Basic to prosperity and growth is good governance where at the core of the governance, people with integrity, truthfulness and commitment to their own nation!

Wish you a happy Onam!

Image (c)


More by :  Dr. P Koshy

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