If mathematical tools are indeed so useful that they can calculate just about anything, then they can perhaps measure something as nebulous as morality and righteousness? Well it appears that they can and sometime earlier this year, a tool appeared under the auspices of the venerable financial news powerhouse Dow Jones & Company. The company has launched new “dharma indexes” to track the stocks of companies that observe the values of dharma-based religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.
The Dharma index is no joke. Review committees of religious leaders and scholars will screen companies’ environmental policies, corporate governance, labour relations and human rights, among other measure. By upholding the premise of dharma, companies will demonstrate conscientious practices about the groundwork of wealth and in turn support equally conscious investing.
While Shariah based indices and investment practices have been around for a while, largely stemming out of roots in the Islamic banking, they are somewhat easier to implement, since Islamic law is codified and therefore relatively black and white in its interpretation. But codifying and then tracking righteousness and the concept of ethical duty in a dry, mechanical way and making business decisions would be an interesting path to follow.
May be one day some one will replicate and customize this tool for nations to use and mirror themselves against a code. Rating agencies like Standard and Poor would then regulate Indian notions like rajdharma and raajneeti and Ram Rajya and then rate them from time to time with regular reviews and assessments. In a world and time that measures the GNP and GDP and of late, the human development index; this would be a fascinating development in a very materialistic world.
The closest tool there is today that resembles any thing like the Dharma Index, is Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index, which acknowledges that it takes a lot more than wealth to create and generate happiness and has been measuring the happiness of its people for years even though it has never become really popular.
As a parting shot, if India, the nation that is – and not just the entity often called India inc. were to be assessed on the Dharma index, where would it find a place ? On the higher echelons or the lower? Furthermore, every day here we find news that the Sensex is plummeting new depths. Would it be true of the state of Dharma in the country too, were the Dharma index to track it?