The financial year is reckoned from Diwali to Diwali in the Hindu tradition. The idea, perhaps, was that Diwali falls at the end of the monsoons, therefore, it would be possible to assess the financial situation in the coming year and plan the government budget accordingly. Our government, however, has adopted the British system of reckoning the financial year from April to March.
Now, the Central government is actively considering shifting the financial year from the current British system to the American system of January to December. This realignment makes sense because America is the global economic leader therefore we may please American multinationals by adopting their system.
The disjoint between the calendar year and the financial year will also be removed and make life simple. The underlying philosophy is to align our calendar with the international practice. Hope is that American multinationals will invest more in India. However, this would be an opportunity lost to move to a more productive and our own homegrown Luni-Solar Calendar.
The calendar we use for administrative purposes is based on movement of the sun. The calendar calculates a year of 365 days (12 months x 30 days = 360 days, - 2 days for February, + 7 days for months with 31 days). The earth takes a little more than 365 days to go around the sun. The small difference between the calendar year of 365 days and the time taken by the earth to go around the sun is adjusted by leap years when February is made of 29 days.
This calendar aligns the months with the seasons which follow the position of the earth around the sun. The month of June, for example, will always fall when the northern hemisphere of the earth is closest to the sun. Thus, June will always be the hottest month. It therefore becomes possible to accurately predict when the crops of wheat and paddy will be sown and harvested and the government can plan its incomes and expenditures accordingly.
The present calendar from April to March helps assess the status of the winter crop of wheat and help the government plan its financial activities. The proposed change to January-December stays within this solar calendar. The year will continue to be reckoned on the basis of the movement of the earth around the sun and there will be a match between the seasons and months of the calendar.
Further, it is not timed with the two major crops of wheat and paddy, hence, not suitable from this standpoint. However, the role of agriculture in our economy is receding. It now constitutes less than 20 per cent of our GDP against 50 per cent at the time of Independence. Hence, the proposed change from April-March to January-December does not hurt much.
The question is whether we must make the cosmetic change of from April-March to January-December while remaining within the solar calendar or consider a more basic change from solar to lunar or luni-solar calendar. The lunar calendar, which Islam follows, reckons the year according to the movement of the moon which takes 30 days to go around the earth. 12 months make for 360 days.
Thus, the month of June will advance by 5 days every year; or by 180 days in 36 years and fall in the coldest season after this many years. The seasons and the months become disjoint and it becomes difficult for the government to plan its income and expenditure. This is the negative of the lunar calendar. However, the moon has a huge impact on the minds of human beings and the behavior of plants and animals.
For example, it is believed that crops sown during the phase when the moon is moving from dark to full moon provide higher yields. The lunar calendar, therefore, is more ‘productive’ for the people. It enables them to align their activities with the phases of the moon; but it is less productive for the government which finds it difficult to match its income and expenditure with the seasons.
The luni-solar calendar used by the Hindus and Jews tries to tread a middle ground. It reckons the year by 12 rounds of the moon around the earth totaling to 360 days. But it adds an extra month when the months have drifted about 30 days. In this way is realigns the months with the seasons every few years.
This calendar is productive for the people since it enables them to align their activities with the phases of the moon; and it is also productive for the government since it enables a match of income and expenditure with the seasons though not as accurately as the solar calendar.
The government is planning to make a pro-America move within the solar calendar which is primarily useful for the government in aligning its income and expenditure with the seasons but harmful for the people because it does not allow them to align their activities with the phases of the moon.
The alternative is to move to the luni-solar Hindu calendar which is highly useful for the people because allows them to align their activities with the phases of the moon but is slightly harmful for the government because it causes a mismatch of about 30 days between the year and the seasons.
The present BJP government aims to uphold Hindu culture. The stress on Sanskrit language and cow protection are the most visible manifestations of this philosophy. It is surprising that Hindu culture appears to take a back seat in the policies of the government when it comes to the interests of American multinationals.
The government appears to think that the foreigners alone will be saviours of our economy just as our leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy had though few centuries earlier. Needless to say, such foreign-focused thinking is the despicable side of Hindu culture.
The attempt to change the calendar from the present April to March is welcome for two reasons. One, it is not linked with the monsoons. Two, the share of agriculture in the economy is receding. But instead of changing the calendar to January to December solar calendar which is harmful for the people but beneficial for the American multinationals; the government must change it to Diwali to Diwali luni-solar calendar which is beneficial for the people. Author was formerly Professor of Economics at IIM Bengaluru