Chanakya is widely regarded as the father of political science and economics in India. As the author who penned Arthashastraand Chanakya Niti, he created some of the most enlightening treatises on statecraft and military strategy. His works have been compared to the likes of Niccolò Machiavelli and Sun Tzu.
Apart from being the royal advisor to Emperor Chandragupta and helping the latter establish the Maurya Empire in ancient India, Chanakya was also a thinker and economist. His philosophies on social welfare and international relations are applicable even in the current scenario and have been hailed by many an economist and strategist as being timeless and progressive.
Chanakya on governance
Chanakya elaborated, in great detail, the numerous ways in which a leader must lead by example. Although he advocated a free market, he still maintained that agriculture was the driving force of the economy. This line of thought is applicable even today since the agricultural sector, along with fisheries and forestry, accounts for almost 50% of the total Indian workforce.
Chanakya proposed efficient land management not just for boosting agricultural output, but also for upping natural resource development. It was imperative, he stated, for the leadership to keep a check on illegal land occupation by landlords.
The statesman was also a beacon of societal progress. For one, he maintained that laws should be the same for all, including women. This stands out because women in many parts of the world were and are still subjugated because they don’t enjoy all the rights their male counterparts do.
When it came to taxation, Chanakya endorsed that kings must collect just enough taxes to sustain the state instead of burning a hole in the pockets of subjects, making them more likely to indulge in tax evasion. Along the same lines, he stated that a king is a servant of the people, not their ruler. Those in positions of power, so to speak, must therefore use their designations to be of the people, for the people. A Rajarshi or a virtuous king, in his books, was one who:
– Practiced non-violence
– Was a master of time management
– Oversaw regular reports on revenue, expenditure, and defence
– Entertained public audiences to address the grievances and queries of citizens
– Devoted enough time for contemplation, personal growth, and encouragement of the arts and sciences
Chanakya on management
Chanakya held that a good manager was resolute, patient, and fearless enough to drive people to make his well-laid plans their own. He also stressed the need to groom and nurture young talent for the betterment of society.
As an advisor, he encouraged the need for conducting background checks before hiring people – not just on those in ‘junior’ positions, but on individuals in the upper levels as well. Furthermore, he also championed the cause of the workforce by saying it is the common man who is the asset of any kingdom.
To sum up
Chanakya’s tenets of self-discipline, social welfare, and management apply to one and all, not just politicians and executives. Although his works reflect his dream of a perfect India, Chanakya was someone who could be termed a ‘pragmatic idealist’. His emphasis on practicality and shrewdness as the need of the hour rather than altruism alone helped shape not just one of the most successful empires in the world, but also the way some of the most dynamic leaders think.