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Editorials/Opinions Analyses For UPSC 27 October 2021

Contents

  1. Re-evaluating the neo-Buddhist movement
  2. Ease of Doing Business rankings controversy

Re-evaluating the neo-Buddhist movement

Context:

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh, which will help connect important Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Kushinagar is an important Buddhist pilgrim destination. However, the PM never acknowledged Ambedkar’s contribution in revitalising the Buddhist faith.

Relevance:

GS-I: History, Art and Culture (Ancient Indian History), GS-I: Indian Society (Population and its associated issues, Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. History of the Changes in Prevalent Buddhism
  2. “Alternative Buddhism” Movements for Dalits
  3. Neo-Buddhist Movement
  4. Propagation of Neo-Buddhism after Ambedkar
  5. Criticism of the movement
  6. Criticism

History of the Changes in Prevalent Buddhism

  • Buddhism originated in ancient India and grew after Ashoka adopted it.
  • By the 2nd century CE, Buddhism was widespread in India and had expanded outside of India into Central Asia, East Asia and parts of Southeast Asia.
  • During the Middle Ages, Buddhism slowly declined in India, while it vanished from Persia and Central Asia as Islam became the state religion.
  • According to Randall Collins, Buddhism was already declining in India by the 12th century, but with the pillage by Muslim invaders it nearly became extinct in India.
  • Efforts to revive Buddhism in India began in the 19th century, such as with the efforts of Sri Lankan Buddhist leader Anagarika Dharmapala who founded the Maha Bodhi Society. (The Maha Bodhi Society, according to Bhagwan Das, was not a Dalit movement however, because it mainly attracted upper-caste Hindus to Buddhism.)

“Alternative Buddhism” Movements for Dalits

  • The two Adi Dharma movements – those that rejected Hinduism in favor of Buddhism – were launched by Swami Achhutanand Harihar in Uttar Pradesh and Babu Mangu Ram in Punjab.
  • Born in an untouchable family, Achhutanand joined the Arya Samaj suddhi reform movement and felt Arya Samaj practiced untouchability in subtle ways, and subsequently left it to launch the socio-political Bharitiya Achhut Mahasabha movement. He called on Dalits to return to Adi-Dharma as the “original religion of Indians.”
  • Babu Mangu Ram who was also born in an untouchable family of Punjab joined the Ghadar Party and smuggled weapons from California to India in order to oppose British rule. Later, he shifted his focus onto Dalit freedom, launching the “Ad Dharm” movement and then later joined the Ambedkarite movement.
  • In 1898, Pandit Iyothee Thass founded the Sakya Buddhist Society – also known as Indian Buddhist Association – in Tamil Nadu. He presented Buddhism as a religious alternative to Hinduism for Dalits. Thass’s efforts led to the creation of a broader movement amongst Tamil Dalits in South India until the 1950s.

Neo-Buddhist Movement

  • The Neo Buddhist movement (also known as the Dalit Buddhist movement, Ambedkarite Buddhist movement) is a religious as well as a socio-political movement among Dalits in India which was started by B. R. Ambedkar.
  • It re-interpreted Buddhism and created a new school of Buddhism called Navayana.
  • The movement has sought to be a socially and politically engaged form of Buddhism.
  • It rejected Hinduism, challenged the caste system in India and promoted the rights of the Dalit community.

Major Deviations

The movement rejected the teachings of traditional Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions of Buddhism, and took an oath to pursue a new form of engaged Buddhism as taught by Ambedkar.

  1. Ambedkar and his idea of Buddhism defy many of the core doctrines of Buddhism. He saw many integral aspects of Buddhist practice as fraudulent and pessimistic. He was particularly against Buddha’s parivaja.
  2. The Buddhist tradition believes that the Buddha one day saw a sick man, an old man and a corpse in a linear sequence, then he left his palace filled with all the joys and riches to gain an insight into the origin of human suffering. According to Ambedkar, this idea corrupted Buddhism and transformed it into a religion dealing with metaphysics rather than the everyday problems of mankind. According to him, Buddha was a realist and practical man who left his palace in an attempt to bring about peace among warring tribes.
  3. According to Ambedkar, the Four Noble Truths are a “gospel of pessimism”, and may have been added into the scriptures by Buddhist monks of a later era. He considered the idea of Anatta (doctrine stating that human beings are soulless) problematic and asked his followers to disregard it.
  4. Nirvana, according to Ambedkar is not some other-worldly state of perfect life, highest happiness and salvation or liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. In Ambedkar’s view, nirvana is the socio-political “kingdom of righteousness on Earth” in which people are “freed from poverty and social discrimination and empowered to create themselves happy lives“, state Damien Keown and Charles Prebish.
  5. The Twenty-two vows or twenty-two pledges are the 22 Buddhist vows administered by B. R. Ambedkar, the revivalist of Buddhism in India, to his followers. On converting to Buddhism, Ambedkar made 22 vows, and asked his 600,000 supporters to do the same. It is believed by Ambedkarite Buddhists that these vows are the guidelines of the social revolution that motivates human instincts. These vows demonstrate both the social movement aspect of Navayana Buddhism, and demonstrate its core deviation from earlier sects of Buddhism. In India, these vows are taken as an oath by individuals or groups of people when they convert to Buddhism.

Propagation of Neo-Buddhism after Ambedkar

  • The Buddhist movement was somewhat hindered by Ambedkar’s death so shortly after his conversion. It did not receive the immediate mass support from the Untouchable population that Ambedkar had hoped for. Division and lack of direction among the leaders of the Ambedkarite movement have been an additional impediment.
  • The Buddhist revival remains concentrated in two states: Ambedkar’s native Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh – the land of Bodhanand Mahastavir, Acharya Medharthi and their associates.

Current Buddhist population in India

  • According to the 2011 census Buddhism is the fifth-largest religion in India and makes up 6% of the population of Maharashtra, but less than 1% of the overall population of India.
  • According to the last national population census, the Buddhists are one of the smallest minorities (0.7% of the total population) in India – majority of them are converted Dalits from Maharashtra.

Criticism of the movement

  • Critics have argued that Neo-Buddhism does not have a strong influence, especially after the death of Ambedkar, and the political force still does not have the power to bargain with dominant political parties.
  • Besides, even though the movement focuses on Dalits, it still lacks enough force to raise the awareness of the general public, to alleviate poverty and to make significant transformation of the society.
  • The movement also ignores other identities of the Dalits, and only takes caste identity as its main source of fighting, so it is still restricted in the Brahminical ideology even as that is what they try to fight against.
  • Some critics also argue that Neo-Buddhism deviates too much from traditional Buddhism.   

Criticism

  • The revolutionary promises made during Ambedkar’s historic Buddhist conversion would be fulfilled only if the polity is sensitive towards secularism and social justice.
  • Though it is vital to protect the autonomous cultural space that the neo-Buddhist intellectual class has developed, it is equally important to build a unified people’s movement to protect the merits of India’s constitutional democracy.
  • It is only by initiating democratic dialogue with other marginalised and struggling communities that neo-Buddhists can revitalise Ambedkar’s transformative project.

-Source: The Hindu


Ease of Doing Business rankings controversy

Context:

IMF MD Kristalina Georgieva is under scrutiny for her role in alleged rigging of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings when she was chief executive there.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Inclusive Growth, International Institutions and their reports)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Ease of Doing Business Report (EoDBR)
  2. Significance and Benefits of Ease of Doing Business Rankings
  3. About India’s Performance
  4. Concerns regarding the Ease of Doing Business Rankings
  5. What is the controversy around Georgieva?
  6. WB Group discontinuing its ‘Doing Business’ rankings

About the Ease of Doing Business Report (EoDBR)

  • Ease of Doing Business Report (EoDBR) is published by the World Bank.  In the EODB index, ‘higher rankings’ (a lower numerical value) indicate better, usually simpler, regulations for businesses and stronger protections of property rights.
  • The report was introduced in 2003 to provide an assessment of objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 190 economies on ten parameters affecting a business through its life cycle.
  • The World Bank Publishes this report Every year. The index has been created to evaluate the impact of the economic policies/reforms implemented by the government in the respective countries to promote and make it easier to do business.
  • Empirical research from government officials, lawyers, business consultants, accountants, other professionals is done in order to collect the data for the performance of these countries.

This report is published after evaluating the performance of countries under the 10 parameters:

  1. Starting a business – Procedures, time, cost, and minimum capital to open a new business
  2. Dealing with construction permits – Procedures, time, and cost to build a warehouse
  3. Getting electricity – procedures, time, and cost required for a business to obtain a permanent electricity connection for a newly constructed warehouse
  4. Registering property – Procedures, time, and cost to register commercial real estate
  5. Getting credit – Strength of legal rights index, depth of credit information index
  6. Protecting investors – Indices on the extent of disclosure, the extent of director liability, and ease of shareholder suits
  7. Paying taxes – Number of taxes paid, hours per year spent preparing tax returns, and total tax payable as a share of gross profit
  8. Trading across borders – Number of documents, cost, and time necessary to export and import
  9. Enforcing contracts – Procedures, time, and cost to enforce a debt contract
  10. Resolving insolvency – The time, cost, and recovery rate (%) under a bankruptcy proceeding

Significance and Benefits of Ease of Doing Business Rankings

  • Based on the rank a country secures under EoDBR by World Bank- the image of the country in the global market improves.
  • The rankings are expected to act as a guide to investors to take/make decisions. Hence better the ranking in the report more the favourability
  • The rankings helped the countries measure domestic policies against global “best practices”. Many countries showcased improved ranking to signal market-friendly policies to attract foreign investments.

About India’s Performance

  • India was ranked around 130-140 in the EDB index, till 2014. However, India has registered remarkable growth to reach the 63rd position in the 2019-20 EDB index.
  • The ‘Make in India’ campaign, launched in 2014, seeks to raise the manufacturing sector’s share in GDP to 25% and create 100 million additional jobs by 2022 (later revised to 2025).

Concerns regarding the Ease of Doing Business Rankings

  1. Environmental concerns: The desire for better ranking in the index has encouraged countries to even slash down vital regulations which could have a detrimental impact in the long run. There are concerns that the index sidesteps the societal costs of deregulating pollution, worker safety, and health risks. Countries like Brazil, India, and the U.S. have slashed environmental standards which are making significant contributions to climate change and threatening the ecological stability.
  2. Worker safety: Slack business safeguards may prove to be detrimental to worker safety. The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh, the second deadliest industrial accident resulted from lackadaisical factory regulation.
  3. Labour rights: The states have been relaxing the labour laws to help attract higher private investment in their economies. However, the states seem to be neglecting workers’ well-being while considering changes to labour laws.
  4. Neglect of vital indicators: The survey neglects indicators like capital availability, availability of skilled workforce, infrastructure availability and entrepreneurship support systems which are as important as the other parameters in the doing business index.

How reliable are the rankings?

  • Even before this controversy, it was openly known that there are several gaps in the rankings.
  • For example, in India, which had registered a massive jump in the last few years, all the data to construct the ranking was taken from just two cities — Mumbai and Delhi.
  • Any ranking based on such a small sample ignored how remarkably the “ease” of doing business varied once one moved away from these two metros.

What is the controversy around Georgieva?

  • Georgieva is a Bulgarian economist who took over as Managing Director of the IMF in 2019 after serving as the chief executive of the World Bank group and the interim president of the WB group.
  • In 2018, the then chief economist of the World Bank told that the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) rankings were tweaked for political reasons. His comments and resignation kick-started a series of queries both inside and outside the World Bank about the integrity of EoDB rankings.
  • The World Bank then initiated a full review and an independent investigation.
  • These findings are particularly damning because China is the third-largest shareholder in the World Bank after the US and Japan, and it is being seen as manipulating its way to higher rankings.

WB Group discontinuing its ‘Doing Business’ rankings

  • The World Bank Group has decided to discontinue publication of its ‘Doing Business’ rankings of country business climates under its ‘Doing Business’ report after findings of data irregularities and ethical concerns in the 2018 and 2020 reports.
  • The index is vulnerable to doctoring as was reported by the study commissioned by the World Bank. Some countries seem to use their political heft to improve their rank. Instances of data manipulation brought to light by the independent investigating agency seems to vindicate such a view.
  • The EDB index lays emphasis on aspects such as minimal state interventions being a precondition for a free market to flourish. This might not be true in all scenarios. The index appears motivated to support the free-market ideal which might not be suitable for all nations.
  • The index is calculated from data from select cities and larger firms. This does not give a complete picture of the economy. Notably, there seems to be a wide disconnect between the stellar rise in EDB index rank and economic outcomes in some countries like India. This calls into question the efficacy of the index and gives rise to doubts on the theory underlying the EDB index and the errors in measurement and data.
  • The index has been weaponized to weaken labour regulations and their enforcement. The dismantling of official labour inspection systems and handing over law enforcement to employers by self-reporting compliance seems to have increased industrial unrest and accidents.

-Source: Indian Express

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