Rebuilding India 6

Swami Vivekananda’s economic thoughts offer many valuable lessons

For every country, the central objective of economic principles should be the welfare and progress of all sections of people. The ideas, approaches and policies of each country should be based on its   fundamentals and ground realities. They should take into account the nature, background, experiences and potential of the people that comprise the nation.

It is all the more true for a country like India with a long history and unique backgrounds. But unfortunately the ruling establishment and the policy making circles are not aware of the realities and the functioning of the vast sections of our society. The elite and the educated sections coming out of universities know only the western concepts and theories taught to them in their class rooms.

The education system introduced by the British does not provide any scope to learn the background and functioning of our economy. As a result only those who have the practical exposure and knowledge about the unique functioning systems are able to understand the Indian economy.

Swami Vivekananda’s long travels across the nation and other parts of the world, his personal interactions with diverse sections of people and understanding of the history and functioning of societies provided him an opportunity to develop ideas based on the realities. His ideas and prescriptions are very useful to us even after more than a century. 

Swami Vivekananda believed that the well-being of the universe should be the guiding factor for all the economic activities of the government as well as the individuals. No economist in the world has ever prescribed such a noble motive as the basis for economic activities. To quote: “The Vivekananda doctrine is firm in the belief that the spirit of universal well-being should be the guiding force behind the economic actions of both the government and the individuals.” 1

As for India, Swamiji was very clear that improving the living standards of the masses was the top priority. He wanted development involving all sections of the society. He said:  "Let New India arise- out of the peasants' cottage, grasping the plough; out of the huts of the fisherman, the cobbler and the sweeper. Let her spring from the grocer's shop, from besides the oven of the fritter-seller. Let her emanate from the factory, from marts and from markets. Let her emerge from groves and forests, from hills and mountains." 2

Swami Vivekananda had original ideas for the different sectors of the economy. Take for example agriculture which is recognized as the primary sector in the economy. It is the basis for all the other economic activities, as it provides the most basic necessity of the human beings, namely food.

But unfortunately it is not given the required importance during the recent periods as modern economics assigns more emphasize to the other sectors. The financial and speculative fields dominate the economic discourse more than the productive areas. As a result the agricultural sector on which about sixty per cent of the population depends remains neglected.

Swami Vivekananda emphasized the importance of agriculture for India and underlined that the nation should not hesitate to make use of its strengths in the field.  Swamiji noted that “Indians must not shy off from the unique characteristics of being an agricultural economy.”3 Quoting Swami Vivekananda, Ghosh writes: “Few people in India sincerely think about this matter. This has happened due to our education system. But he thinks that proper development of agriculture is needed for the economic development of India.” 4

India has inherent strengths in agriculture, which other countries lack. She has a long history of superior performance and achievements. Nature has endowed the nation with rich lands, adequate water sources and sunshine throughout the year. Besides, we have hardworking population possessing generations of the traditional knowledge systems in the field. 

India is a huge nation with the second highest population in the world. Food security is very significant for the nation   in the contemporary context when one cannot depend on other countries for food. Besides, there is no other nation in the world which can provide food for one sixth of the humanity. Hence agriculture is very critical for India. Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts relating to agriculture assume importance in the present period, when thousands are farmers are committing suicides every year and it is   fast losing respect due to the wrong approaches of the policy makers over the years.

Swamiji was also aware of the need for the development of the   industrial sector. With this view, he encouraged the promotion of industries in all possible ways. He discussed about industries in India with several persons on different occasions, both in India and abroad. Besides, he supported the small scale and cottage industries.
He urged the youngsters from the urban areas to go and learn the traditional and artistic work in the rural areas. He said: “Go, and see, even now in the distant villages, the old woodwork and brick work. The carpenters of your town cannot even turn out a decent pair of doors. Whether they are made for a hut or mansion is hard to make out! They are only good at buying foreign tools, as if that is all carpentry! Alas! That state of things has come upon all matters in our country. What we possessed as our own is all passing away, and yet, all that we have learnt from foreigners is the art of speechifying [sic]” 5
The essential requirement for a good economy is the overall development of different sectors and the existence of balance among them.  Swamiji realized the need for this balance.  Ghosh notes: “He was aware that in a developing nation, the primary need for a balance growth was to establish some sort of concordant relation between agriculture and industry.”6    
Swami Vivekananda emphasized the need to develop our own methods to solve India’s problems. He said: “Open your eyes and see what a piteous cry for food is rising in the land of Bharata, proverbial for its wealth! Will your education fulfill this want?  Never. With the help of Western Science dry yourselves to dig the earth and produce food-stuffs – not by means of mean servitude to others- but by discovering new avenues to production, by your exertion aided by Western science. Therefore, I teach the people of this country to be full of activities, so as to be able to produce food and clothing for themselves.” 7  
Swamiji advocated development based on Indian ethos and realities. To quote: “There, in Japan, you find a fine assimilation of knowledge, and its indigestion, as we have here. They have taken everything from the Europeans, but they remain Japanese all the same, and have not turned European; while in our country, the terrible mania of becoming westernized has seized upon us like a plague.” 8
Thus Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts on economics offer us many valuable lessons for rebuilding India. 
1.    Ghosh, Sarup Prasad, Swami Vivekananda’s Economic Thought in Modern International Perspective, The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkatta, 2010, p.526
2.       Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Vol. 7, No.1, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1992, p.327
3.    Swami Gamvirananda quoted in Ghosh, op.cit.,  pp. 52-53
4.    Ghosh, op.cit., p.53
5.     Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Vol.5 No.1, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1992, pp. 474-5
6.    Ghosh, op.cit., p.136
7.    Swami Vivekananda, op.cit., Vol.7, No.1, p.182
8.    Swami Vivekananda, op.cit., Vol. 5, No.1, p.372

 ( Yuva Bharati, Vol 41, No 5, Dec. 2013)

Making Education Nation-Centric

The strength of a nation lies in its education system. India remained a pioneer in the field of education since the ancient times. The traditional system of education was aimed at grooming the youngsters to grow in to matured citizens and contribute the maximum in their fields of activities. With the introduction of the Macaulay system during the 1830s, the course of Indian education took a reverse turn.

It is unfortunate that even after sixty seven years of Independence we follow a system that is completely alien to the ethos and functioning of this great nation. Contemporary studies reveal that the fundamentals and functioning of India are rooted in our unique social and cultural traditions. It is high time that we started making the education nation-centric, when India is fast emerging as a powerful nation at the global level.


The introduction of the alien education system resulted in cutting off the umbilical connections of the young Indians with their roots. As a consequence, the youngsters began to lose touch with their own backgrounds, people and surroundings. Rabindranath Tagore noted this as early as in 1903: “Our real ties are with the Bharatavarsha that lies outside our textbooks. If the history of this tie for a substantially long period gets lost, our soul its anchorage. After all, we are no weeds or parasitical plants in India. Over many hundreds of years, it is our roots, hundreds and thousands of them, that have occupied the very heart of Bharatavarsha.  But we are obliged to learn a brand of history that makes our children forget this very fact. It appears as if we are nobody in India; as if those who came from outside alone matter.”1

The position did not change even after independence. In spite of the wise counsels of the great personalities like Swami Vivekananda, Maharishi Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi and Tagore, solid recommendations of different committees,   suggestions of the higher courts and repeated appeals by the committed sections, concrete systems have not been put in place by the concerned authorities in this regard.  

School children want drastic changes

A survey on Indian education was earlier conducted by the International Foundation for India’s Heritage among school children studying between the ninth and twelfth standards 2. It covered more than 11,000 students spread across 21 different states of the country. It was the first study conducted among the children asking them to give their opinions. The study was later submitted to the central government during 2005.

The position, problems, difficulties and recommendations mentioned in the study are revealing. 91 per cent of children feel that they would benefit from learning the elements of Indian culture. Half of the students note that the education system is deficient in some respect. Majority of the students are not aware of the significance of even popular festivals such as Pongal and Holi. Their recommendations include reduction of the existing syllabi, less mechanical pedagogy, practical teaching, less book loads and lesser examination burden.

Higher education system has no originality

The position in the higher education system is equally alarming. The universities and colleges show little originality. They all try to imitate the western systems and implement the western approaches. As a result, the courses, syllabi and pedagogy are all invariably patterned after the west. Almost all the institutions try to prescribe the maximum number of text books written by the foreign authors. Even the remaining ones written by the Indian academics are mere carbon copies of their counterparts sitting in the distant lands.  

This is true for most of the subjects. As a result the Indian   university system has been outsourcing its knowledge from the western countries. Hence we are producing graduates and scholars who lack the proper perspective about our country, backgrounds and the functioning systems. This is causing serious damage to the functioning and development of our nation.

India is emerging despite the failure of educated sections

India was a poor and underdeveloped country at the time of Independence. The different sectors of the economy were in a very bad shape. About 45 per cent of the population was living below poverty line. The literacy rate was a little more than 18 per cent. People were tired of the alien domination for around thousand years. They had lost their supremacy, wealth, honor and energy due to the oppressive control of the Europeans in about two hundred years.

But the nation is fast emerging as a major power during the recent periods. It is already the third largest economy in the world. It remains the second fastest growing nation for over a decade. Indian businesses are already there in different parts of the world. All the predictions at different levels unanimously point out that India would emerge stronger in the coming years to reach higher positions at the global level.

 The emergence of India over the last six decades is one of the most successful stories of the contemporary world. It has happened in spite of the confusions and contradictions at the policy making levels.  The ruling classes have been consistently imitating only the western ideas and approaches after independence. It was socialism for more than three decades since the 1950s and it is the US driven capitalism from the early 1990s.

As a result, India is not able to fully realize her potentials and achieve the required results. Besides, there are serious problems that remain to be solved. The main reason for this situation is the lack of proper understanding of the nation by the educated sections.

Truth about India’s economic history known due to foreign scholars

India had a vibrant and prosperous economy since the ancient times. The advancements during the periods of the Indus-Saraswathy civilization and the subsequent centuries were due to the strong fundamentals. The first book on economics namely Arthashastra, was written in India about 2300 years ago. One of the major attractions of the alien forces towards India was the high level of prosperity and achievements of the country.

It is unfortunate that no Indian academic expert or an economics professor attempted to study India’s economic performance of the earlier centuries, after independence. It is the studies of a few western scholars in the foreign soils during the past three decades that give the position and status of the Indian economy over the past two millennia. The studies by Paul Bairaoch, Andre Gunder Frank and Angus Madission clearly reveal that India remained the most prosperous economy in the world for most of the period during the past two thousand years and the western countries entered the global economic map only about five hundred   years back.

The above studies have completely changed the global discourse on economics. They have established that India remained as the most powerful economy in the history till the Europeans intervened with the native systems and emerged as the leading performers. But even after the publication of the above path breaking studies, which are accepted by the rest of the world, the Indian universities are not using them and most of the academics from the concerned fields are not even aware of such studies till today.

Academics refuse to study the contemporary systems

Besides, the academics refrain from studying even the contemporary functioning systems. Different indicators show that the functioning of the Indian economy, business, social and cultural systems are much better than those of the western countries. This is the reason why the nation has been emerging powerfully, in spite of the repeated failures of the policy making classes and the many difficulties surrounding the lives of people. How many of us know that India’s growth rates after independence continue to remain more than those of most of the richer countries in the world?

The studies undertaken by the western experts in their countries reveal that their systems of functioning at the family, social, business and economic levels suffer from serious limitations and have been failing to a large extent. As a result they are looking for alternatives and find that many of the Indian methods are far superior. They openly admit that India has her own ‘business models’ and there is an ‘Indian way’ of functioning in the economy. As a result many of the western universities and business schools have started studying India. A few months back there was a big team of scholars from the Harvard institutions to study the Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad.

Field studies reveal strong fundamentals and unique systems

Field studies relating to the functioning of the economy being undertaken in different parts of the country from the Indian perspectives during the past two decades continue to reveal many new facts3. They show that India has strong fundamentals, with higher rates of saving and capital formation, lots of entrepreneurial abilities and distinct functioning methods. They also show that the families and societies play a larger role in shaping the functioning of the economy, with the women playing a crucial role.

Besides the studies reveal that the basic reason for the functioning of the Indian families, society, businesses and the economy remain the traditional and cultural strengths of our nation.  Further they show that the growth of nation has been due to the extraordinary efforts and native intelligence of the millions of people who are identified as the ordinary sections of the society.

India-centric studies is the need of the hour

Hence it is important that we have to understand the functioning systems of our country from the true   perspectives. Without a clear knowledge about the ground realities, it is not possible to develop original ideas and frame policies. For this purpose, we require studies at different levels. They can be better undertaken only by those who understand the local backgrounds without the preconceived notions. Simultaneously the Indian concepts, knowledge systems and functioning methods have to be disseminated to the relevant sections and the student community at different levels. 

India’s emergence should be on her own terms and native strengths. It should be for the benefit of all sections of the society.  The rest of the world expects the Indian model to show a new way for them as well. As the great visionary Swami Vivekananda noted we have to see the Bharat Mata sitting at the throne in all her glory very soon. It is possible, as she has the required strengths and all the potential. The immediate step in this process is to make the Indian education nation-centric.


1.   Rabindranath Tagore in  ‘ The History of Bharatvarsha’,
2.   Michel Danino, ‘ A Survey of Indian Education’, International Forum for India’s Heritage, Submitted to the Govt. of India, New Delhi, 2005
3.   P.Kanagasabapathi, Indian Models of Economy, Business and Management, Third Edition, PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2012

(Excerpts of the presentation on “Making Education Nation-Centric”, during the two day National Seminar on ‘Value building is nation building’ organized by Swami Vivekananda 150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations Committee at the VIT University Campus, Chennai, Oct 4-5, 2013)

Swami Vivekananda’s Ideas on Economics

Swami Vivekananda remains one of the most influential personalities of India and the modern world. Though vast changes have taken place in the country since the beginning of the twentieth century, his influence continues to increase over the years. In fact many of his thoughts appear to be more relevant today.   

Swami Vivekananda is a great visionary, with a rare clarity on diverse aspects of human life.  His intimate knowledge of the Indian situation, wide experience across different countries, deep understanding of the civilizational backgrounds and keen intellect gave him a unique opportunity to develop new insights on different subjects, including economics.

Indian economy during the time of Swamiji

The Indian economy was at its worst period during the times of Swamiji. Dadabhai Naoroji calculated that the national income of India during 1867-68 was 3.4 billion rupees for a population of 170 million, with a per capita income of just 20 rupees1. Comparison of per capita incomes of different countries revealed that India’s income was very low; ‘even the most oppressed and mis-governed Russia’ was much better and it was believed that India was ‘the poorest country in the civilized world 2.’   

The European domination had made India, the nation with a long history of prosperity and superior achievements, a poor country.  The agricultural, industrial and business sectors were   destroyed. The replacement of the native education with the Macaulay system resulted in changing the entire course of education, apart from denying it to the larger sections of the society. The value based systems that governed the functioning of the society and economy since the ancient times suffered severe damages.

Swami Vivekananda’s insights into economic issues  

Swami Vivekananda acquired a deep understanding of the Indian economy due to his first-hand knowledge of the issues as an itinerant monk covering different parts of the country.  His experiences and interactions in the foreign countries provided him an opportunity to understand and compare the economic and social systems of different parts of the world. 

Though Swamiji was not a student of economics in the narrow   sense of the term, he was well-read in economics and was familiar with the works of political economists like John Stuart Mill. His expertise on economic concepts could be understood from the fact that he gave a lecture to the experts at the American Social Science Association in the United States on the ‘Use of Silver in India’ during 1893.  

Manifold contributions  

Swamiji proposed many new ideas in the field of economics at the global and the Indian levels. He emphasized the need for combing material prosperity with the spiritual values for the all-round development of people in different countries. When the western countries were accumulating wealth and involved in enjoying material pleasures, he told them clearly that it was necessary to imbibe higher principles for a meaningful life. The west is beginning to realize the meaning of his words only during the recent years, after suffering a lot.  

The western economic ideas revolve around the materialistic aspects only. The economic theories and models that they were advocating over the years are proving to be failures. It is only now that they have begun to understand that life is a complex process of which economics is only a part.

Swamiji’s thoughts for the Indian economy encompass different areas that are crucial to the functioning of the economic system.  He remains the one spiritual monk who emphasized the need for material progress of the society more than anyone else. This is the reason why he was called as ‘father of modern materialism.’3. He was not an arm-chair theorist, confined to standard sets of beliefs. His ideas cover diverse aspects necessary for the all-round development of different sections of people and the progress of the nation.   

India’s downfall due to exploitation

Swamiji had a clear understanding of the background of the Indian and Western economies during those times. He was aware of the higher performance of the Indian economy till the eighteenth century. He was one of those who understood that the primary source of wealth of the Europeans was the Indian resources.  

Swamiji noted: “Indian commerce, Indian revenue and all are now in the possession of the English; it is therefore that they are foremost of all nations now. …. That India, the India of the “natives”, is the chief means and resources of their wealth and civilization, is a fact which they refuse to admit, or even understand.4”  

Detailed research studies during the recent decades prove the above statements. The noted economic historian Angus Maddisson has established the supremacy of the Indian economy at the global level since the beginning of the Common Era5. Economists such as Andre Gunder Frank reveal as to how the western historians were engaged in projecting a wrong image of the West over the years 6.

Wanted India to develop on her own   

 During those times, two noted economists Naoroji and Romesh Chandra Dutt were producing works and arguing that the exploitation of India should be stopped forthwith.  Even at that time, Swamiji went many steps further and stated that India had to evolve her own economic policies for all round development without imitating other countries.

He was worried that the western countries were getting rich with the Indian resources, while Indians remained unaware of the opportunities. He said:  “In this country of abundance, the produce of which has been the cause of the spread of civilization in other countries, you are reduced to such straits!  Your condition is even worse than that of a dog ….. People of foreign countries are turning out such golden results from the raw materials produced in your country, and you, like asses of burden, are only carrying their load. The people of foreign countries import Indian raw goods, manufacture various commodities by bringing their intelligence to bear upon them, and become great. 7”  

Inclusive economics was his vision  

Swamiji’s vision of economics was concerned with the wholesome development of all categories of people in the country. He strongly advocated what the economists in the recent periods call as ‘inclusive economics.’ His priority was the removal of poverty and uplifting the poorer and downtrodden sections of the society.  He wanted all sections of the country to progress. His emphasize was on the weaker sections and women. He underlined that education and basic facilities be provided to all.  

Indian agriculture is unique

Basically India is an agricultural country. As a true visionary, Swami Vivekananda was fully aware of the importance of agriculture and noted that “Indians must not shy off from their unique characteristic of being an agrarian economy 8”.  He wanted India to adopt modern scientific practices to improve agriculture. He was particular that the small farmers need to be encouraged. 

His emphasis on agriculture remains true even in the present context, as about 60 per cent of the population still depends on agriculture and rural activities.  We are witnessing as to how the neglect of agriculture after independence is resulting in suicides and the younger generations leaving farming activities. This is not good for the future of the country. India has inherent strengths in agriculture, which the other countries lack. Besides, there is no other nation in the world that is capable of feeding our population, which is one sixth of humanity.

Swami Vivekananda advocated the development of the   industrial sector for economic progress. He gave much importance to the promotion of a vibrant industrial sector.  He was clear about the nature of industrialization also. He wanted Indians to take steps to make the required items without depending on foreign countries. His discussions with Jamshedji Tata during his voyage to Chicago in 1893 reveal his vision for the development of the industrial sector.  Swamiji’s emphasize on domestic production instead of imports has become very important for India now, as the country has been facing the heat at several fronts due increased imports in different sectors during recent periods.

Entrepreneurship and promotion of traditional works

Swamiji was aware that India could be built only by developing the entrepreneurial talents of people.  Hence he encouraged self-employment activities at different levels. He was concerned that the art works of the village communities were neglected and wanted them to be taken up by those in towns. Swamiji underlined the need for the cottage and small scale units, as he was aware of the negative effects of the big industries.  

Emphasize on Science and Technology

Swamiji emphasized the use of modern science and technology to solve India’s problems. He wanted India to develop into a scientific and technological power. In this connection it is necessary to remember that it was the suggestion made by Swamiji to Jamshedji Tata that led to the establishment of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science.

Swamiji wanted Indians to learn Western science and adopt them in India. He said: “With the help of Western science, set yourselves to dig the earth and produce food-stuffs – not by means of servitude of others – but by discovering new avenues of production, by your own exertions aided by Western science 9.”  

India to be built on Indian methods

Swamiji was particular that India should be built on her own methods. In this context, he quoted Japan to admonish Indians who imitate the West. To quote:  “There, in Japan, you find a fine assimilation of knowledge, not its indigestion, as we have here. They have taken everything from the Europeans, but they remain Japanese all the same, and have not turned European; while in our country, the terrible mania of becoming westernized has seized upon us like a plague. 10

Swamiji was perhaps the first personality who suggested an Indian model of economic development, even when the country was under the colonial rule.  Ghosh notes: “The uniqueness of the Vivekananda doctrine lies in the fact that whatever remedies it suggests for India’s economic, political and spiritual regeneration derives from Swamy’s practical experiences of life. He used to meet the common Indian’s directly whenever he went to different places. This made him confident that India has to develop an economic model for herself which will take the peculiarities of her social life into consideration.11”   

India as the Jagat Guru  

After the rise of the West in the global arena, the entire world was made to believe that their economic models are the only solutions for progress.  Now after the global economic crisis during 2008, people have realized that the western ideologies cannot solve the basic problems even in their own countries.

Studies undertaken by experts at different levels during the recent periods clearly reveal that India need not follow the western models, as her fundamentals and functioning systems are unique. Many western scholars acknowledge that there is ‘the Indian way’ due to the peculiar social and cultural backgrounds of the country. 12 Our experience shows that India has failed to realize her full potential as the policy makers have been blindly following the western approaches.

As a pioneering thinker, Swamiji underlined the need to develop India on the national lines. He said: “My ideal is growth, expansion, development on national lines. 13” There is no doubt that if we frame our policies with the nation- centric approaches, India has the potential to emerge as the Jagat Guru, as Swami Vivekananda had envisioned.


1.    Naoroji, Dadabhai, Poverty and Un-British Rule India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, New Delhi, 1996, p.II
2.     Quoted in Bipan Chandra, The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India, Anamika Publishers and Distributors (P) Ltd., New Delhi, 2004, p.17
3.    Binoy Kumar Sarkar quoted in Santwana Dasgupta, Social Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkatta, p.459
4.    Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Vol. VII, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, Sept.1992, p.358
5.    Angus Maddison, The World Economy – A Millennial Perspective, Overseas Press ( India) Ltd., New Delhi, 2003
6.    Andre Gunder Frank, ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age, Vistaar Publications, New Delhi, 1998
7.    Swami Vivekananda, op.cit., Vol. VII, p.145
8.    Swami Gamvirananda quoted in Ghosh, Sarup Prasad, Swami Vivekananda’s Economic Thought and in Modern International Perspective: India as a Case Study, The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkatta,  2010, p.53
9.    Swami Vivkenanda, op.cit.,  Vol. VII, p.182
10.                        Ibid., p.372
11.                        Ghose, op.cit., p.526
12.                       Peter Cappelli et al., The Indian Way: How India’s Top Business Leaders are Revolutionizing Management, Harvard Business Press, 2010
13.                       Swami Vivekananda, op.cit.,  Vol. III, p.195

(The Vedanta Kesari, Vol.100, No.12, Ramakrishna Mutt, Chennai, Dec.2013, pp.605-619)

Rebuilding India – 5

Swami Vivekananda wanted India’s economic growth on the national lines

India was probably in her worst phase of history during the life-time of Swami Vivekananda. Dadabhai Naoroji had calculated that the national income of British India during 1867-68 was only 3.4 billion rupees for a population of 170 million, with the per capita income being just 20 rupees.1 Besides he noted that huge wealth was being taken out of the country to England.  He declared in 1905 that about “34 million sterling or Rs.515 million were being drained out of India every year.”

The country had also been witnessing large scale famines on a continuous basis with millions of people losing their lives. Digby mentions the situation during the last quarter of the nineteenth century: “In the last twenty-five years of the past century more than one million of people died from famine and its effects on an average every year in a British –ruled country –that is two each minute, 120 each hour, 2880 each day; and, during the past ten years, the average has been nearly four each minute, 240 each hour, 5760 each day.” 2

Swami Vivekananda was a witness to the sufferings of the people. He interacted with them and the different sections of the society directly during his days as an itinerant monk in different parts of the country. Later during his visits abroad he learnt about the economic and social systems of the other countries in detail. His unique experience of moving with diverse groups of people across the country and outside, and his keen intellect provided him an opportunity to develop original ideas on different issues concerned with the lives of people, including economics. 

Swamiji’s ideas relating to economics place him as a true visionary. His thoughts for the economic systems at the Indian and global levels were far ahead of his times. Naoroji and Romesh Chandra Dutt, the two prominent economists, were conducting detailed studies and producing evidence to show as to how the Indian economy was being decimated by the British. Justice Ranade was the other notable personality who presented the economic issues before the people.  

While the economists and freedom fighters wanted the British to stop their exploitation, Swamiji went many steps ahead and argued for economic policies along the national lines for the development of the country. He said: “My ideal is growth, expansion, and development on national lines.3” Swamiji was perhaps the first leading personality to speak along such lines decades before independence.

After the ascendance of the West in the international scene during the eighteenth century, they saw to it that their ideas got prominence over the others. The concepts and practices of the ancient economies such as India and China were neglected. For this purpose, Europe developed its own set of historians and wrote a new history for the world.  As a result, the concepts and practices that sustained the Indian economy (as well as that of China and others’ also), for centuries as the most prosperous nation since the earlier periods lost their significance.

Hence for around two hundred years since the nineteenth century, the world was taught to believe that there were only two economic ideologies, namely communism and capitalism. Both of them are products of the West, conceived and developed in their part of the world, based on their own views and approaches towards life.  So the rest of the world had to sail with their ideas, concepts and practices, as the west was dominating the world.

But all these have changed in a period of just two decades. The communist ideology collapsed during the late 1980s with the breaking up of the Soviet Union into several pieces.  The global economic crisis during 2008 showed that market capitalism, the other economic philosophy of the West, has also failed. 

Hence it is now being realized that there could be different methods for economic development. Even the multilateral agencies openly acknowledge this as fact. So the attention is shifting towards exploring alternate economic thoughts and systems. In this connection, the Indian concepts, ideas and systems are gaining prominence.  

India is one nation that remained as a sustainable economic power since the ancient periods, till the time the Europeans began to dominate her. It is the same nation that has been emerging as a powerful economy after independence, in spite of the wrong approaches of the policy makers continuously for over six decades. Besides, India remains as one of the very few countries least affected by the global crisis.

The United States and many of the European economies are unable to find out the solutions to the problems faced by them even after five years of the melt down. Hence the rest of the world has started questioning them. Earlier before the meeting of the World Economic Forum during 2013, the Telegraph reported that the developing countries were bracing to tell the western leaders that their economic model has failed.4 

Different studies, including the few conducted by the top international agencies and institutions, clearly indicate that India has her own methods of functioning, aided by the strong fundamentals and unique social and cultural backgrounds. So even the western experts and practitioners have now begun to speak of the Indian ideas and approaches.

Swami Vivekananda underlined even while India was under the British rule that India need to develop her own systems for the development of the economy. He wanted India to progress based on our own strengths and methods, without imitating and depending on other countries. As a pioneering thinker, he advocated an Indian economic model for our country, as he must have had a clear understanding of the economic fundamentals of India and the western world. That was long before the world witnessed failure of the western models and the emergence of India at the global level after independence. 

Sarup Prasad Ghosh notes: “The uniqueness of the Vivekananda doctrine lies in the fact that whatever remedies it suggests for India’s economic, political and spiritual regeneration derives from Swamy’s practical experiences of life. He used to meet the common Indian’s directly whenever he went to different places. This made him confident that India has to develop an economic model for herself which will take the peculiarities of her social life into consideration.5    


1.   Dadabhai Naoroji, Poverty and Un-British India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, 1996
2.   William Digby, A Prosperous British India: A Revelation From Official Records, University of Michigan Library, 1901
3.   Swami Vivekananda,  Complete Works, Vol. III, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, Sept.1992
5.   Sarup Prasad Ghosh, Swami Vivekananda’s Economic Thoughts in Modern International Perspective: India as a Case Study, The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkatta,  2010

( Yuva Bharati, Vol 41, No 4, Nov. 2013)