Friday, 17 February 2012

The Four People's Principles

The Four People’s Principles
by Justice Markandey Katju
Chairman, Press Council of India
(former Judge, Supreme Court of India)


I wish to thank Dr. Gauhar Raza for inviting me to this International Conference organized by CISR on Science Communication for Scientific Temper.
When we discuss science we must ask: What is the purpose of science? The answer, to my mind, is that its purpose is to make our lives better and happier. Science is that knowledge by which we understand nature and harness it for our benefit.
Some people may oppose this view by saying that the atom bomb destroys lives, and that science has created terrible weapons of destruction. It is true that scientific knowledge can be misused, but it can also be used to benefit mankind, whereas without science we will be living precarious, wretched lives.
It can also be objected that it is only the applied sciences (technology) which benefits people, but not the fundamental sciences. Now it is true that a scientist doing fundamental research does not care whether his discoveries are of any utility or not. Newton and Einstein never bothered to know whether their discoveries would benefit mankind. However, the fundamental sciences benefit mankind in the long run, even though not immediately.
Today our country India is facing huge problems, and I believe that only science can solve those problems. 80% of our people are living in horrible poverty, with massive unemployment, skyrocketing prices, massive problems of healthcare, education, housing etc. 48 farmers have been committing suicide on an average every day, and 47% of our children are malnourished, a figure which is over 10% higher than in countries of sub-Saharan Africa e.g. Ethiopia and Somalia.  
Our national aim must be to abolish these evils and make our country highly prosperous for all our citizens.

To address the nation’s problems I am propounding the Four People’s Principles (following Sun Yat Sen’s Three People’s Principles) which should be our guiding principles for solving India’s problems. These are:
1.                   Science 2.Democracy 3. Livelihood, and 4. Unity of the People
When our country was on the scientific path it prospered.  With the aid of science we had built mighty civilizations thousands of years ago when most people in Europe (except in Greece and Rome) were living in forests. We had made outstanding scientific discoveries e.g. the decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine, etc. We had solved the problem of town planning 5000 years earlier in the Indus Valley Civilization, with covered drains, sewage system, etc (something which is lacking even today in most cities in India). However, we subsequently took to the unscientific path of superstitions and empty rituals, which has led us to disaster. The way out for our nation is to go back again to the scientific path shown by our great ancestors – the path of Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, Sushrut and Charak, Ramanujan and Raman.

I will give just three examples of our scientific achievements in ancient times.
(1)       The decimal system was perhaps the most revolutionary and greatest scientific achievement in the ancient world. The numbers in the decimal system were called Arabic numerals by the Europeans, but surprisingly the Arabs called them Hindu numerals. Were they really Arabic or Hindu? In this connection it may be mentioned that the languages Urdu, Persian and Arabic are written from right to left but if you ask any speaker of these languages to write any number e.g. 257 he will write the number from left to right. This shows that these numbers were taken from a language which was written from left to right and not from right to left.  It is accepted now that these numbers came from India and they were copied by the Arabs from us.
I would like to illustrate the revolutionary significance of the decimal system. As we all know, ancient Rome was a great civilization, the civilization of Caesar and Augustus, but the ancient Romans felt very uncomfortable with numbers above 1000. This was because they wrote their numbers in alphabets, I standing for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50, C for 100, D for 500 and M for 1000. There was no alphabet expressing a number higher than 1000. If one would have asked an ancient Roman to write the number one million he would have almost gone crazy because to write one million he would have to write the letter M which stands for millennium (or one thousand)  one thousand times. In the Roman numerals to write 2000 we have to write MM, to write 3000 we have to write MMM, and to write one million one has to write M one thousand times.
            On  the  other hand, under our system to express  one   million   we  have just to  write  the  number  one  followed   by  six  zeros.  We  could   thus   express astronomically high numbers by simply adding zeros. Thus, if  we  keep   adding 2 zeros  to  1000  we  get  lac, crore, arab, kharab,  padma,   neel,   shankh,  mahashankh,   etc.  On  the  other hand, in  the Roman numerals there is no zero. Zero  was  an invention of ancient India and progress was not possible without this invention.
2.         5000 years ago in the Indus Valley Civilization we had created the system of town planning, with covered drains, sewage system, etc., something which is absent even today in most cities of India.
3.         Plastic surgery was invented in India as early as the 6th Century B.C., while the Westerners discovered it only about 200 years ago.
I am not going into our other great scientific achievements (for details see ‘Sanskrit as a Language of Science on the website I have only referred to it to prove that there is nothing inherently inferior in us.
However, today there is no doubt that we are far behind the Western countries in science, and that is the real cause of our poverty and other social evils.
We must therefore spread science on a massive scale to every nook and corner of our country. And by science I do not mean physics, chemistry and biology alone. I mean the entire scientific outlook. We must spread rational and logical thinking among our masses and make them give up backwardness and superstitions. The entire mindset of our masses, who are presently steeped in casteism, communalism and superstitions must be changed, and made scientific.

I must clarify that by science I do not mean the natural sciences alone, I also include the social sciences. Today a worldwide recession is going on – infact the Second Great Depression after the first one from 1929 t0 1939 – and this can only be solved by knowledge of economic theory, not by knowledge of natural sciences or engineering.
The second Great People’s Principle is Democracy.
In this connection it is interesting to note that when King Ajatshatru of Magadha was planning to attack the Vajjian democracy he sent a messenger to the Buddha for his advice. Instead of speaking to this messenger, the Buddha said to one of his disciples “Have you heard Anand,  that the Vajjians foregather often and frequent the public meetings of their clan? So long, Anand, as the Vajjians so foregather and so frequent the public meetings of their clan, so long they may be expected not to decline but to prosper.
Similarly in The Avadan Shatak, a Buddhist Sanskrit text of the second century A.D it is mentioned that a group of merchants went from North India to the Deccan and were asked by the Deccan King as to who was the king who ruled over North India. The merchants replied”Deva, kechit deshah ganadheena, kechit rajaadheena, iti” which means “Your Majesty, some regions are under democratic rule, while others are under kings”
This shows that democracy is nothing new to India.
The method of shastrarthas was developed in ancient India, which permitted free discussion in the presence of a large assembly of people. This resulted not only in tremendous growth in philosophy, law, grammar etc but also tremendous growth in science including medicine, mathematics, astronomy etc.
Some people say that democracy is not good for India. I totally disagree. The problem in India is not that there is too much democracy but too little. We need more democracy, not less, and that means educating the masses, raising their cultural level, and involving them actively in the task of national reconstruction.
It may be mentioned that democracy and science go hand in hand. Scientific growth requires certain supportive values viz. freedom to think, to criticize, and to dissent, tolerance, plurality, and free flow of information. These precisely are the values of a democratic society  
The third great people’s principle is livelihood for the masses.
Today 80% people in India are poor, and there is massive unemployment, lack of healthcare, housing, good education, etc.
What we have noticed in the last 25 years or so is that the rich have become richer, and the divide between rich and poor has greatly increased. The economic growth in India has benefited only a handful of people. Unless this trend is stopped it will be disastrous for the country.
As the great French thinker Rousseau wrote:
“It is obviously contrary to the law of nature for a handful of people to gorge themselves on superfluities while the starving multitudes lack the necessities of life.”  (Rousseau: Discourse on the Origins of Inequality)
We must, using our creativity, find out ways of raising the standard of living of the masses. Ultimately, that is what matters. Whether the system we adopt is called capitalism or socialism or communism or any other ism, the real test is whether the standard of living of the masses is going up under that system or not. Surely a system in which a quarter million farmers commit suicide in the last 15 years and vast masses live in abject poverty is totally unacceptable.
Before the Industrial Revolution, which began in Western Europe in the 18th Century, there was feudalism everywhere, and in the feudal system the methods of production (the bullock in India and the horse in Europe) were so primitive that very little wealth was generated, and so only a handful of people could be rich while the rest had to be poor. When the cake is small obviously few people can eat it.
In contrast, modern industry is so powerful and so big that enough wealth can be generated to meet the basic needs of everyone. This being so, now no one need be poor. And it is the duty of the state to ensure that no one today remains poor, unemployed, sick, illiterate or homeless.

Unity of the people

India is a country of great diversity having a large number of castes, languages, religions, ethnic groups, etc., because it is broadly a country of immigrants (see the article ‘Kalidas Ghalib Academy for Mutual Understanding, and the video ‘What is India’ on the website So the only policy which will work here is secularism and giving equal respect to all communities. This was the policy of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar, who was really the architect of modern India. It is this policy which was continued by Pt. Nehru and his colleagues who created our secular Constitution.
In 1947 religious passions were inflamed, and Pakistan had declared itself an Islamic State. There must have been tremendous pressure on Pt. Nehru and his colleagues to declare India a Hindu State. It is not easy to keep a cool head when passions are inflamed, but it is the greatness of our leaders that they kept a cool head and said that India will not be a Hindu but a secular State. It is for this reason that we have relatively more stability in India than in our neighbouring country.
Powerful vested interests are trying to destroy our unity and make us fight each other on the basis of religion, caste, region, language, etc. It is the duty of all patriotic people to expose these nefarious designs and maintain the unity of the people, for without that we can never progress.


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  3. Great Sir. Very good suggestions from Justice.

  4. Sir, I totally agree with you. But we are behaving like fool and just doing what western countries are doing.