Professor D.D. Poudel
The Founder of the Asta-Ja Framework
Asta-Ja is a theoretically grounded grassroots-based planning and management framework for conservation, development, and utilization of natural and human resources.
Asta-Ja means eight of the Nepali letter “Ja” [Jal (water), Jamin (land), Jungle (forest), Jadibuti (medicinal and aromatic plants), Janashakti (manpower), Janawar, (animals), Jarajuri (crop plants), and Jalabayu (climate)].
Asta-Ja promotes accelerated economic growth and socio-economic transformation of the nation.
It is a scientific, holistic, systematic, self-reliant, and multidisciplinary framework for the conservation, development, and utilization of Asta-Ja resources.
The eight elements of the Asta-Ja system are very intricately linked and strongly connected.
Hence, it is important to have sustainable conservation and development of each of the eight elements of Asta-Ja for better functioning of the entire system.
Asta-Ja Framework emphasizes community capacity building, self-reliant, and national, regional, and local level planning and development of environmental and natural resources for socio-economic transformation of the nation. Asta-Ja that constitute human and natural resources is the backbone of Nepal’s economy.
Therefore, the best governance of Asta-Ja is the ultimate goal of a government.
Human resources of a nation include all the knowledge, skills, talents, work force, capabilities as well as the attitudes, morals, values, and a sense community among individual people.
A nation rich in human resources prospers better, enjoys peace, and becomes a good player in global dynamics.
The overall development of human resources of a nation depends on many factors including socio-political setting, educational system, cultural backgrounds, economy, institutional development, scientific advancement, and national drive for the development of human resources.
A nation deprived of high quality human resources can never prosper.
The Vedic Heritage:
From ancient time, Nepalese society has been inspired by the teachings of the Vedas and Upanishads, Smritis, Itihas, Purans, Mahabharat, Ramayan, and other Dharmasastras.
Four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sam and Atharva), Shrimad Bhagavat Gita, highly controversial Manusmriti, and Kautilya Arthasastra are just a few Hindu Scriptures and treatises that have influenced societies across the Indian subcontinent until today.
The Vedas are eternal as they talked about the universal truth such as the nature, soul, the Creator, righteousness, love, salvation and eternity.
The pursuit of truth, happiness, personal growth, consciousness, peace and mokchhya in a natural and eternal way without any sectarian leaning or ideological divisions is called the Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism).
The Vedas put forward all-embracing principles of co-existence such as “Basudaiva Katumbakum” and “Sarve Bhanbantu Sukhina Sarve Santu Niramaya.”
Social Division of Labor:
Although the division of labor in ancient Hindu societies consisted of four professional classes of people based on their activities: Brhamin, Kshytriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudra, this social division later unfortunately turned into an obnoxious social hierarchy consisting of so-called “untouchable” caste with massive caste-based discrimination and violence in the societies.
There is no doubt that this highly regrettable social discrimination must end immediately. In ancient division of labor, Brahmins were those who got educated, they were knowledgeable of the scriptures and the society and took part in governance. Kshytriyas were strong and fearless people, warriors, and they took part in militaries.
Vaishyas were the businesspersons on the societies and Shudras were those who served Brahmins, Kshytriyas, and Vaishyas in their respective operations.
The division of society was based on the profession rather than through the birth. It was necessary to specialize on specific activities in order to excel well in any performance.
This professional classification helped in the specialization and development of necessary skills and knowledge for societal development.
According to Vedas, every person is born as Shudra and they achieve one of three classes due to their karmas or works. Vidur, a Sudra by birth, was the uncle of Pandavas and Kauravas and the Prime Minister of the Kuru Kingdom, but he attained the status of Brhamin due to his actions, wisdom, intelligence, and righteousness.
Valmiki Rishi was a thug and therefore Shudra, but later he turned into Rishis through his knowledge transformation and righteousness.
The social division of labor by King Jayasthiti Malla (1354-1395 AD) can be cited a clear example for the division of labor based on the professional classes in Nepal.
King Jayasthiti Malla (1354-1395 AD) used the model of the Division of the Society based on Profession and implemented in nation building.
In his model, King Jayasthiti Malla increased the existing four Barnas and 18 Jats to 725 Jats. He established 10 Jat from Brhamin (5 Panchgaud and 5 Pancha Dravid).
Newar was divided into 36 upajats, Jaypu’s 32 upajats, Kumal, Kasai and Nail cutters 72 upajats, Khas 64 upajats, Banda 4 upajats, Kusulya 4 upajats, and Pode 4 upajats.
Then, he assigned activities according to Jats. For example, Brahmin for Yajamani (Purohit), Kshyetriya for Governance, Chitrakar for drawing god and goddesses pictures, Mali for floriculture, Kasai for killing animals for meat, Nau for hair cutting, Kumal for earthen pots, Gwala for cattle farming, Baidhya for health and medicine, Josi for astrology, Sikarmi for wood works, Kasat for bronze works, Tamot for cupper works, Banda for gold and silver works, and Dome for dhola beating, etc.
We still find many Jats with these surnames in our societies.
This is a clear example of how the division of society was done historically for economic activities and growth of the society.
The division of the society was horizontally done as everybody was born as Shudra and then turn into other three classes as they earned their qualifications to fit into them.
However, the professional classification system received the dimension of verticality overtime with a hierarchy of castes within these four professions as well as between those fours casts in the superiority of Brahmin, Kshytriyas, Vaishya and Shudras, and eventually turning contemporary Hindu society into a society of caste discrimination, violence, poverty, and disharmony.
Abolition of the Caste system:
The tragic Caste system, which was legally abolished by the 1963 Constitution of Nepal banning all caste-based discrimination including the “untouchability” in the country, is still prevailing in the society.
Dalits, the lowest in the social hierarchy of the caste system, still cannot sit together and eat with higher caste people, cannot enter into the temples, touch higher caste’s drinking water, and cannot marry people with higher castes.
We frequently hear caste-related social discrimination, rapes and killings across the country.
The 2015 Constitution of Nepal, Part 3 Fundamental Rights and Duties, Article 24 Rights against untouchability and discrimination, bans any forms of untouchability and discrimination on the grounds of the person’s origin, caste, community, profession, occupation, tribe or physical condition.
Similarly, Part 3, Article 40 Rights of Dalit, grants rights to Dalits in participating all bodies of the State based on the principle of proportional inclusion and requires the development of special provisions for empowerment in public services and other employment.
According to these clauses, the State shall provide free education with scholarships from primary level to higher level for Dalit students, guarantee health and social security, provide land and arrange settlement for Dalit communities.
The 2015 Constitution of Nepal Article 255 establishes National Dalit Commission to promote Dalits Rights and help Dalit communities in their progress and participate in the mainstream of national development.
Simply writing Dalit’s rights in the Constitution, making laws against discrimination, reservations, or proportional representation in the House of Representatives will not make much difference on this centuries long deeply rooted social malady. Caste system has systematically affected Dalit communities in their psychological, social, economic, educational, and communal fronts.
A multifaceted, coordinated and comprehensive approach must be taken for its abolition. Immediate implementation of nationwide programs targeting Dalit communities for the production of goods and services leading to entrepreneurship development, business activities, employment opportunities, and income generation are necessary.
It is necessary to design holistic and system-based strategies and measures and implement them correctly in order to solve this very complex social problem.
Additionally, it is important to understand the fact that the issue of caste system resides in the minds of both the so-called “upper caste” and the “lower caste” people. In order to fight this social disease, it is very important to remove the concept of the caste from the minds of so-called “upper caste” people first.
Human resources development is a long-term process.
Various factors including nation’s political, social, economic, law and order, environmental conditions, cultural and religious setting, administrative system, policies and programs, and attitudes and motivation among the general population for knowledge, skills, arts, music, language, and education affect human resources development of a country.
Experience gained by the administrators, doctors, engineers, technicians, academicians, scientists, security forces, lawyers, politicians, diplomats, teachers, businesspersons, and all other individuals in the society is another critical component of human resources, which needs to be promoted and utilized.
Brain drain results in the loss of human resources from a nation, which Nepal is experiencing in a massive scale in recent years. Stopping brain drain is one of the major challenges of the Government of Nepal.