Monday, February 6, 2023
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Certain forces using India’s diversity to pose a threat to its unity: Manmohan Singh

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At a Pranab Mukherjee Foundation event Saturday, Singh said saner elements in society must unite to fight these forces. Here’s the full text of his speech.

I deem it to be my privilege to address this august audience being concerned with peace, harmony and happiness of the humankind. I appreciate the Pranab Mukherjee Foundation and the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development for organizing this national conference on such an important theme which is not only having contemporary relevance but shall remain relevance for times to come.

I learn that the organisers have decided to organise a series of such conferences across India. In my opinion, deliberation and debate on this theme was long overdue. In fact there is a strong need to build a movement around the theme of the conference. This would be possible only by bringing this theme into public debate and discourse.

It is often said that happiness is a state of mind and there are numerous anecdotes in history which support this viewpoint. However, the state of mind and happiness are not independent of the socio-cultural, religious, economic and political environment. In the Indian context it is all the more complex as India represents an ancient civilisation and a composite culture.

Communal polarisation

The very idea of India is revolving around ‘unity in diversity’ and ‘diversity in unity’. The Constitution of India binds the citizens of India into a secular, liberal and democratic value system. It guarantees equality, liberty and freedom to every citizen of the country. It should always be remembered that India is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual country. However, there are certain forces which are taking advantage of such diversity and pose a threat to the unity of the country.

In a multi-religious society, communal harmony is very important for citizens to lead a life free from fear, anxiety and uncertainty. It reminds me one of Rabindranath Tagore’s famous poem (‘Where the mind is without fear’) from Gitanjali in which he wished to have a truly free country where every person is fearless and has a sense of self dignity. Attempts at communal polarisation create an atmosphere of fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

There are various types of economic and non-economic factors which give rise to fears, anxieties and uncertainties.

We must diagnose the underlying reasons behind such a scenario and move forward to translate the conflict and anger into peace, harmony and happiness. That would require transparency, honesty, probity and truthfulness in public life.

Tagore wanted a nation where people are truthful. Significantly, truth is fundamental to all the religions. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, says, “Truth is high but higher still is truthful living”. Mahatma Gandhi did not want any division among people based on their caste, creed, colour and religion or baseless superstitions. He firmly believed that communal harmony was essential for the freedom and growth of India. ‘Manas ki jaat sabhe eke pehchanbo’ is the underlying message of the Sikh religion.

Sir Muhammad Iqbal (widely known as Allama Iqbal) very aptly said, “Mazhab nahi sikhata aapas mein bair rakhna”. Mahatma Gandhi was convinced that masses do not want to fight, if the leaders do not.

Unfortunately, the use of religion, caste and other such factors by the political parties to advance their political interests and capture power can create an atmosphere of hate and division among religious and caste groups. Such an environment poses a serious challenge to the peaceful transition and transformation. It is in this context that the saner elements in the society need to unite and counter the evil designs of those forces that are bent upon to disrupt the peace, harmony and happiness.

Governance

The well-functioning institutions of governance are a necessary condition to maintain peace and harmony. Besides, the institutions must be impartial, objective and should function for the benefit of all sections of society. Unfortunately, integrity of major institutions faces many challenges.

The deterioration of the institutions adversely affects the functioning of various organs of the state and in eroding their credibility. Such a situation can create chaos in society, economy and polity. A nation without well-functioning institutions is bound to fail.

To maintain secular character of all the institutions (Judiciary, Executive and Legislatures) is a pre-requisite for peace and harmony and a violence free transition and transformation. Eventually, it is the responsibility of the political and religious leadership, civil society, intelligentsia and the media to uphold the Constitution and the integrity of institutions.

When the institutions start deviating from a just discharge of their constitutional responsibilities and knowingly or unknowingly fall prey to the extra-constitutional powers and non-state actors then there is a danger of violence entering into the process of transition and transformation.

In fact equality, liberty, freedom, fraternity and secularism are the vital pillars of Indian democracy. The nurturing and strengthening of these pillars is the necessary condition even for imagining a peaceful and harmonious transition to transformation.

Multi-pronged challenges

Indian society, economy and polity have experienced multidimensional tensions and strains since independence. The country has displayed a remarkable capacity to cope with these strains. The country is still grappling with multi-pronged socio-cultural and politico-economic challenges. Poverty, inequality, unemployment, illiteracy and malnutrition present serious challenges. It necessitates effective public policy interventions for the empowerment of the people for making them effective partners in development. This is because benefits of growth in a market driven economy do not trickle down automatically.

Economic growth and development is a necessary condition but not a sufficient one for having peace, harmony and happiness in the society. The problem arises when necessary condition has the seeds of promoting discontent and clash of interest among different socio-cultural and economic groups. Empowering the underprivileged and marginalised people with education, skill and good health is an important means to make the people partners in growth and development.

This would require well-functioning public funded educational and health delivery systems. The government would also have to regulate privately owned educational and health delivery systems so that the benefits could reach to the people at the margin. This would have to be supplemented with effective public policies aiming at equitable distribution of benefits of growth and development.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Food Security Act and Right to Education Act are some of the initiatives taken by the government in the past for providing benefits to the people at the margin. More and more such measures, along with an effective implementation of policies and programmes are required so that the people at the margin could live a dignified and peaceful life. This would certainly improve their happiness index.

Ultimate goal

The sustainable development goals (SDGs), set by the UN for 2015-2030, are aimed at achieving peace, harmony and happiness for all and have a smooth transition to transformation. Happiness is the ultimate goal of mankind and it goes beyond the economic growth and development. The physical quality of life and UNDP’s human development index (HDI) is a reflection of this reality. It would be useful to prepare state wise indices of happiness in India.

Environment is another area which has a direct bearing on every aspect of life. However, the consumption-led growth model and ever-increasing human greed are giving rise to a reckless use and misuse of scarce natural resources. This, in turn, is posing a serious threat to environment and sustainability of growth and development and is resulting into an ever-increasing conflict between man and nature.

The growing incidence of natural calamities and disasters and their lurking fear are a constant threat to the happiness of mankind as it can disturb peace of mind and harmony.

Let me conclude by saying that if we wish that India remains liveable for our future generations then transition to transformation would have to be equitable, peaceful and harmonious.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. wow.. .good speech needs when its needed…. So kept ir ideas in ur Heart…. At ur term not even speak a single word And now ur just Given bad comments on NDA govt.. Shame sir…… At ur term so many corruption take place u and ur minister’s just serving favour to china and pak ……when our own coutry needed support from ur side u just ignored them…. Ya u did a Lott in our economic perspective but the our army want arms when u didn’t do anything… So just look upon first before pointing out finger to others …Jai hind

  2. MMS I m surprised that you r speaking now. While you were PM you slept over all scams, you did not utter a single word against your own ministers and secretaries who were looting the nation, National Herald happened under your nose, Vadra was offered land by Hussain free of cost, you kept quiet. Now why are you blabbering. You have shamed yourself and whole of India. You were taking orders from Sonia and were her sandal polishwalla, it was you who said that all resources belong to Muslims. We are ashamed of you to call you Evan as an ex PM who spoke always in a feeble voice and gave nation no direction and strength. bullet trains, roads, subsidy to accounts were not your priorities. Railway wanted modernization, Army wanted arms but you neglected. During your tenure Bombay attack happened. You have proved a NIKAMMA, even a NIKAMMA begs but you brought only shame and shame. When Rahul tore your GR, you should have been resigned. But a greedy person like you kept quiet and stick to the chair. You have no self respect and spine. How can we ever expect a person like you can be a good leader. Now for heaven’s sake retire and whatever life is left, spend it in reading Gurugranthasahib.

  3. I have very high regard for him as a very great expert in economic matters.yet in the probable event of UPA 111 coming to power will he bemade the PM That willl be very great moment for India. Yet in the unlikely event of this happening because the Madam may not allow that with her own son ,ghe Crown Prince of the fifth dynasty of the Nehru Family having been already coronated it will be sedition even to talk of that Just in case he becomes PMwill he be taking orders from the Family or act independently.Earlier the Crown Prince on one occassion publicly tore off the resolution approved by the party and the PM of the largest democracy rushed to apologise for no fault of his ,crounging and seeking pardon ?Will he be the same slavish PM or exhibit guts to act independently. If it were the the fate of India that they can even dare think of a person out side the Family to be our PM I think a sardarji like Amarider Singh with his great milary background would be a. far far better a substitute.But how dare a perrson think of a person think outside the Family resreved for the Nehru family.Oh I am lost in my fairy tales! A whole army of the Kudbudeen dynasty like Scindias, Pilots ,Diggies and Sibals will be on me

  4. The arguments are well stated and it is only in a society like India where there are many reliong and languages imposition of will by one group over the rest would tend to be harmful. Let all communities feel there betterment is the betterment of India The Caste system should be abolished. Everyone should have access to education and equal opporunity for employment. Segregated housing should also be discouraged.

  5. Interesting thoughts of contrasting political objectives . However congress has to have its blueprint for next 50 years of this country to help educate the younger lots as to what they intend doing differently and how and stick by the book for others to follow . That will be modern congress document for the milinials and will help the nation think positive and think for the future rather than dwelling in past bashing or living on the hopes of past leaders

  6. With his sins of ‘omission’ during his ten year stint as the PM of UPA, he no longer holds any credibility. What he says now in public (which mostly is only against Modi and his government) sounds like reading from a ‘given’ script ‘hand’ed to him.. He never upheld the principles and practices he is professing and preaching now, when that would have made a REAL difference between 2004 and 2014..He has forfeited the right to accuse this government.

  7. Dr Singh might wish to work on an economic blueprint to guide the government in case UPA III comes into being. The next government will inherit a lot of economic challenges. Merely promising farm loan waivers is not good enough. All the issues the Congress is raising during election campaigns, starting with jobs, will require resolute action.

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