February 27, 2024

Stepping onto the ‘Third Way’: Ingenuity for Aatm-Nirbhar Bharat.

In his 1998 book ‘Third Way’, RSS ideologue Dattopant Thengadi had made a moral case for an Aatm-Nirbhar Bharat.
Keywords: Self-Reliance | PM Modi | Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) | Swadeshi | Dattopant Thengadi | Third Way | Dharma
Listen to article
File Photo of Shri Dattopant Thengadi and his book “Third Way”

COVID-19 global pandemic has revealed a tragic tableau of the world exposing failures of health infrastructure, governance systems, and geopolitical conflicts across the world which have triggered new frictions within and between nations. In this situation, India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was able to limit its adverse impacts to a great extent. Yet India’s population is beset by the fall of economic growth and by the unprecedented migration of labourers and workers in the unorganized sector today, but, as many economic experts have argued, it would be wrong to aver that India will not restore its economic growth rate of previous years. 

In this situation, Shri Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), while addressing Swayamsevaks (RSS volunteers), made it clear that dealing effectively with this pandemic is possible only through the collective exertions of all Indians. He said from north to south, from east to west, all Indians will fight collectively against COVID 19, and, thus, the RSS’ view is mutually consistent with PM Modi and the organisation will wholeheartedly support all the government efforts. He also urged all Indians to multiply their efforts focusing on indigenous resources and self-reliance. 

PM Modi said, “Today, India is moving towards self-reliance, but it does not mean that India is talking about being self-centred which is a different concept”. 

PM Modi, in his address to the country on May 12, 2020, stressed on creating a “self-reliant India or Aatm Nirbhar-Bharat“. He further explained the significance of ‘Aatm Nirbharta’ and asserted that “When the world is in crisis, we have to make a pledge which is perhaps bigger than this global crisis. We must make [every possible effort] to make the 21st century  India’s century and the way to do so is by making the nation more self-reliant”. 

PM Modi said, “Today, India is moving towards self-reliance, but it does not mean that India is talking about being self-centred which is a different concept”. 

In his view, the idea behind the Third Way was neither rooted in the individualistic ethos of capitalism nor in the collectivist urge of communism, rather it outlined a vision in which society acts collectively to maintain a balance between material and non-material needs.

The term “Swadeshi” or Indigenousness in “Aatm-Nirbhar Bharat” and its cruciality has been described in detail by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue who was perhaps its most persuasive economic theorist. Dattopant Thengadi, a Sangh ideologue was also the founder of the Swadeshi Jagaran ManchBharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. In his seminal book the ‘Third Way‘, he stated that the spirit of Swadeshi is the outward and practical manifestation of patriotism. Patriotism, for him, was in no way against internationalism. He wrote that patriotic entreaties for national self-reliance are not incompatible with international cooperation, provided that the latter is on equal footing- with due regard for the self-respect of every country. The significant argument of the book suggests an alternative path to revitalize economic growth which has no, overt or covert, relation with the pre-existent theories of capitalism and communism. Thengadi argued that world communism had virtually collapsed and that capitalism was on the decline. But its demise was being delayed. He wrote that knowledgeable circles have started their search for ‘a third alternative’. He further added, “no material objective transformation can be efficacious unless it is preceded and escorted by an appropriate subjective, psychological transformation”. 

Thengadi outlined a path to sustainable economic growth by contrasting the principles of Hindu Economics and those of  Marxism.  

In his view, the idea behind the Third Way was neither rooted in the individualistic ethos of capitalism nor in the collectivist urge of communism, rather it outlined a vision in which society acts collectively to maintain a balance between material and non-material needs. In the same outline, Thengadi further argued in the book Global Economic System: The Hindu View, ‘…it is inevitable to abandon the current version of Eurocentric history, which is devoid of a sense of proportion, and initiate a new phase of historical investigation…a new framework, new terms of reference, a new scale of values, which would facilitate globalization”. He also stressed that the Hindu principle of Dharma could serve as the best guide to design an economy emphasizing on the ideal of collective happiness and not just relentless, competitive race to material prosperity. 

Thengadi delved deeper into the philosophical underpinnings of ‘dharma’ thereby stepping onto the third way beyond the ideas of Communism and Capitalism.

Another significant concern raised by Thengadi was about the risk of smaller nations being exploited by advanced countries. He wrote, “…some of the advanced countries (perhaps the developed nations or ideological leaders) do not want to co-operate with the efforts for ecological balance but only dump their pollution in the courtyard of developing countries. But this strategy cannot avoid much longer the global environmental catastrophe which would not spare the northern countries themselves. The is One World, and adversity would, in the long run, destroy prosperity everywhere”.Thengadi outlined a path to sustainable economic growth by contrasting the principles of Hindu Economics and those of  Marxism.  In this perspective, his views were quite similar to what Fredrich Engels, co-founder of Marxist theory, wrote in 1890. In his letter published in Der Sozialistiche Akademiker on 15th October 1895, Engels wrote “according to the materialist view of history what is in the last instance decisive in history is the production and reproduction of actual life. Other than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. But when anyone distorts this, to read that the economic factor is the sole element, he alters the statement into a throwaway, abstract, absurd phrase. The economic condition is the basis, but the various rudiments of the superstructure- the political forms of the class-contests and their results; the constitution- the legal forms; and also the reflexes of these actual contests in the brains of the participants, the political-legal, philosophical theories, their religious views- all these exert influence on the development of the historic struggles, and in many instances determine their forms”. 

The world must acknowledge the power of religion, as acknowledged even in the Communist analysis, but as no more than as an ‘opium’. Pointedly, on the other hand, Thengadi delved deeper into the philosophical underpinnings of ‘dharma’ thereby stepping onto the third way beyond the ideas of Communism and Capitalism. Therefore understanding Thengadi’s vision could help combat this pandemic and its deleterious consequences and realize the actual philosophical value of PM Modi’s call for ‘Aatm Nirbhar Bharat’. 

Add comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prashant Barthwal

Prashant Barthwal is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Delhi.

View all posts