Book review: Gunjan Pradhan Sinha, Dharma in Governance: Towards a Welfare State

Date01 December 2019
Publication Date01 December 2019
AuthorRuchi Tyagi
SubjectBook Reviews
962 Book Reviews
Gunjan Pradhan Sinha, Dharma in Governance: Towards a Welfare State.
New Delhi, India: Aditya Prakashan, 2018, 214 pp., US$23.98 (Hardcover).
ISBN: 978-81-934621-5-7.
DOI: 10.1177/0019556119873446
Gunjan Pradhan Sinha, through her study entitled Dharma in Governance:
Towards a Welfare State, has made an attempt to weave Indian ethics into the
domain of public policymaking and implementation. It is suggested that if a
welfare state is the goal, then ethical policy is a necessary condition for its success.
While asserting for a central space of ethics in discussions on public policymak-
ing and the conduct of business (commercial and non-commercial) in recent
times, the author has asserted that dharma was a part of formal conduct of state
affairs in the ancient era also. To trace this interaction of public policy and ethics
within the fabric of Indian classical thought and conclude its bespoke relevance in
current times, the author’s work examines certain philosophical concepts embed-
ded in the Mahābhārata, Arthashāstra, Buddhist and Jain literature and Mahatma
Gandhi’s interpretation of the Bhagavad Gitā. It maintains that whatever be the
conceptual apparatus adopted within philosophy, the trinity of jñāna, bhakti and
karma serves as a backbone for effective policymaking and implementation.
This study shows that if welfare programmes refer to state-funded activities
aimed at increasing the access of resources as well as opportunities to the deprived
sections of society, welfare entails political, economic and social development of
human beings and is linked to development ethics for minimising the disparities
of market-driven economies. The distinction between ‘welfare’ and ‘well-being’
has also been described. While ‘welfare’ refers to the adequate availability of
resources and a reasonably healthy and comfortable living, ‘well-being’ reflects
a state of satisfaction. Welfare involves devising the public to influence the well-
being of a nation and its people. Ethics as a discipline deals with the concepts of
‘ought’, ‘right’, ‘good’, ‘virtue’ and ‘duty’ and public policy expounds them in the
context of welfare. Indian philosophy encompasses all of them under ‘dharma’,
asserting that welfare is not merely material welfare, but also the holistic develop-
ment of individuals.
Dharma and dandaniti in the Mahābhārata serve as means to the promotion of
material well-being. The term Rājadharma encompasses both duties and obliga-
tions relevant to political and administrative affairs, abandoning renunciation for
the policymaker and the executor. Virtue, wealth and power are considered essen-
tial precursors for a king to establish the welfare of subjects. Striving for dharma
(virtue), artha (profit), kāma (pleasure) and moksha (salvation), dandaniti is
expected to maintain, promote and ensure their practice in society. While compar-
ing the king with Plato’s ‘philosopher king’, the author has presented the king in
Shāntiparva as a seeker of knowledge of truth. At the same time, cultivation, prac-
tice and habituation of virtues have been found parallel to the ‘Aristotelian system
of virtue ethics’. Representing complex realities of society, this study refers to
diverse interpretations of dharma. While Yuddhisthira perceives dharma as truth
and morality, Lord Krishna considers wisdom in pursuing the path of dharma, but
allows compromise in standards of morality for the cause of dharma itself. On the

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