May 8, 2024


Has Hindu economics helped India?

The world economy has been going through an interesting and uncertain phase over the past few years. Apart from the recovery from the pandemic, Russia invaded Ukraine, which threw a spanner in the works, and climate change is as dangerous as ever. Countries have scrambled to grow sustainably, as there was talk of a looming recession.

India, according to many people, has been called something of a diamond in the rough. We’ve seemingly been able to stave off the worst of the global economic shocks while continuing to deal with challenges like inflation and unemployment. But, we’re supposedly far better off than others. Has Hindu economics played a role in that?


Last December, the Rajya Sabha discussed the state of the Indian economy. It went on for several days, with speakers across party lines voicing their concerns and satisfaction with India’s economic performance. It followed the predictable script – the opposition cornered the government on unemployment, inflation, and inequality, and the government retorted with GDP and stock market growth.

BJP member Sudhansu Trivedi used the term “Hindutva rate of GDP growth”. This shouldn’t be confused with the “Hindu rate of growth” introduced by economist Raj Krishna to describe the country’s slow growth rate. The Hindutva rate of growth includes, among other things, structural reforms, digitisation, poverty reduction, and inflation control.

He quoted a Sanskrit shloka, which roughly translated to money only brings happiness when it’s spent in accordance with dharma. He said we no longer live in times when the Indian economy was made fun of for being unable to grow beyond 2%. He even cited this as the ‘Hindu rate of growth’.

Trivedi argued that India’s economic growth over the past decade is closely tied to Hindutva. He said it was the era in which the Nehruvian economic model fell.

You could chalk this down to Hindu Economics or, as some call it, the ‘Third Way’. The latter was coined by Dattopant Thengadi, while the former is attributed to Dr MG Bokare. According to Bokare, Hindu economics is the manifestation of the Holy Vedas in economics, which mentions markets, supply, demand, and other economic terms.

This Third Way is essentially a rejection of the Western model of traditional capitalism or Marxism. It’s not following the path of Adam Smith or any Keynesian principles. The interesting thing here is that Thengadi and Bokare were ideologues on opposite sides of the spectrum. However, they both believed that the Hindu economic system and democracy are coherently synchronised. Bokare has even written about how Indians have been brainwashed due to early exposure to Western economists. For many, Hindu economics is an independent school of economics like Marxian or Keynesian economics. It subsumes conflicting ideologies like capitalism and socialism.

In the broader Indian economic context, has Hindu economics helped India over the past decade-plus?

VIEW: Hindu economics deserves credit

Hindu economics, it must be said, is an approach and not a destination. This Third Way isn’t entirely detached from some of the government’s policies. In 2020, when the government announced its plan to make India self-reliant, it took a leaf out of this Third Way approach, which called for a self-reliant India, or as many people know it, Atmanirbhar Bharat. It’s perhaps the signature policy proposal the government has enacted that follows the path of Hindu economics.

Atmanirbhar Bharat is another plan right out of the RSS’ Hindu economics playbook. If we’re not going to be inherently capitalistic or socialist, then this approach was the way to go. However, it isn’t isolationism since self-reliance and international cooperation are compatible. The pandemic was a wake-up call for India as global supply chains were affected. We didn’t have to rely on countries like China if we could make things here.

Many Western economists have recognised the failures of the Western model of development. The collapse of the Soviet Union and a declining Europe and the US have shown that capitalist and Marxist development models aren’t all they’re cut out to be. For many, the balance of power, economically and otherwise, is shifting away from the West. India, with some of its successful policies over the past decade, is ahead of the curve.

COUNTERVIEW: It’s not all good news

A major critique of Hindu economics is that there isn’t a structured body of knowledge. It’s not clearly outlined other than being in opposition to Western models of capitalism or socialism. Post-independence, the Indian economy grew significantly thanks to Western models of development. The same could be said for the drastic changes made in the early 1990s with liberalisation. Thengadi’s dismissal of India’s post-independence economic model was off base.

The concept of Hindu economics, as described by Thengadi, is concerning. He blamed the spread of “internationalism” and the global model for the destruction of caste and religion being removed from people’s lives. Another tenet of Hindu economics, as written by Thengadi, was the concept of the state as a patron. He cited examples of mining during the Mauryan period. A few years ago, the government announced the launch of commercial mining to allow private companies to mine with little oversight.

The concept of a self-reliant India was mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi but the details were murky and left to the Finance Ministry to sort out. Another example is the Atma Nirbhar Uttar Pradesh Rojgar Yojana, to distribute toolkits to traditional traders. This scheme, in many ways, incentivised and sought to consolidate the basis of the caste system. It was described by Thengadi as the organisation of occupational trade groups.

Reference Links:

  • How Modi govt’s push for self-reliance is inspired by RSS model of swadeshi economics – The Print
  • An obscure book holds the key to the RSS view of the economy – Forbes
  • Right Word | Hindu Economics: ‘Third Way’ is only way to permanently avert global economic crisis – Firstpost
  • Why political parties need to start talking about ‘Hindu economics’ – Moneycontrol
  • Scriptural Economy – The Caravan

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Hindu economics has helped India.

b) Hindu economics hasn’t helped India.


For the Right:

Reducing inequality isn’t a ‘dangerous game’

For the Left:

‘Res Judicata’: End of EVM debate