Noted economist and Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council member V. S. Vyas on Monday called for giving an “ethical orientation” to the planning process by adopting moral principles common to all religions to ensure equitable growth and address distortions of the modern economic system.
Addressing a dialogue on “Ethical issues in planning and development” at Yojana Bhavan here, Prof. Vyas said Islamic economic principles could provide answers to some of the serious challenges of modern economy advocating limitless production and consumption which “invariably leads to poverty, deprivation and exploitation”.
“Among all religions, Islam has the most egalitarian system of equitable distribution of wealth to benefit the poor and the needy through Zakat and Sadaqat,” said Prof. Vyas, adding that this financial arrangement needed to be further explored to find out the scope for its adoption in the mainstream economy.
Prof. Vyas' remarks came as a pleasant surprise to the advocates of Islamic economy and banking who have been requesting the Union Government for a long time to introduce the system on an experimental basis for those unwilling to subscribe to the interest-based economy which is perceived as promoting usury and exploitation.
Zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, comprises alms giving of 2.5 per cent of one's possession every year as a welfare contribution to poor and deprived Muslims. Its payment is mandatory on four categories of items – farm produce, livestock, trade and commerce merchandise, and gold and silver. Sadaqat are voluntary charities over and above Zakat.
Prof. Vyas, who is also Deputy Chairperson of the Rajasthan Planning Board, said the ethics should be implemented at the macro level, going beyond individuals, to help the development paradigm include all marginalised groups of society: “We need to ensure that the [growth in] gross domestic product is actually reflected in the country's development.”
Policy planners, academicians, economists and experts attending the dialogue also examined the feasibility of “relative economics” propounded by the late Jain Terapanth scholar Acharya Mahapragya as an alternative model for providing a humane face to development. The model envisages sustainable development through equitable distribution of resources.
Jain Vishwa Bharati University Vice-Chancellor Samani Charitra Prajna said the “greed in various forms” was the main cause for deviation from ethical norms and the humanity could not progress without morality and moderation. These values should be taught to youngsters as early as possible in their lives for changing their hearts and minds, she added.
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