TO THE NATION BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN, THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, ON THE EVE
OF REPUBLIC DAY-1999
JANUARY 25, 1999
citizens, Friends, In a few hours from now, we will be completing 49 years
as a Sovereign Democratic Republic. And we will enter the golden jubilee
year of our Ganatantra. It is with the greatest joy and a sense of pride,
that I extend to each of you, whether residing in India or abroad, my
warmest greetings and felicitations. Our thoughts turn to-day to that
glorious hour on January 26, 1950 when the Indian nation gave to itself
a Constitution. In an exquisite balance of various streams of ideas and
in language that is poetical, the Preamble to the Constitution pledged
to secure for our people "justice, social, economic and political; liberty
of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status
and opportunity, and to promote among them all fraternity assuring the
dignity of the individual and the unity of the Nation." It was in pursuit
of this composite ideal that we have built up, during the last half-century,
an edifice of political democracy that is to-day the envy of many other
nations. Political freedom in India to-day is vibrant and unconfined,
but the pursuit of social and economic freedom is still on, and the nation's
efforts are focussed on "justice, social and economic" envisaged in the
Preamble, the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of the Constitution.
We have to endeavour with sincerity and seriousness to remove every injustice,
every discrimination from every quarter, and as the Father of the Nation
has put it, "wipe every tear from every eye". Speaking in the course of
the debates in the Constituent Assembly, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar observed: "On
26th January, we are going to enter a life of contradictions. In politics
we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality.
In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and
one vote one value. In our social and economic life we shall by reasons
of our social and economic structure continue to deny one man one value".
And he then asked: "How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?
How long shall we deny equality in our social and economic life?" Republic
Day is an appropriate occasion for us to evaluate the facts of our society
and our economy, and to examine our hearts to find out how far we have
succeeded in overcoming these contradictions in our minds and in the objective
conditions of the life of our people. We recall to-day with pride our
accomplishments since those early days of the Republic.
First and foremost
in a land where famine stalked periodically and life for the common man,
was to use the words of Gandhiji "an eternal trance or an eternal vigil",
we have brought about, thanks to the Green Revolution, self-sufficiency
of foodgrains. It is no mean achievement, my friends, to be able to feed
a population now nearing one billion mark without having to depend on
the mercy of others. India to-day ranks among the major economies, advanced
in modern industry and occupying the forefront of scientific and technological
development in the world. We have given rise to an enterprising middle
class the size of the entire population of India at the time of independence.
In this era of liberalization they have become a potent force imparting
momentum to the developmental process and to the wheels of commerce. India
to-day is looked upon as one of the largest and enticing markets of the
world. Our GNP is one of the biggest in the world and our growth rate
and other economic parameters have been affected only marginally by the
economic crisis in other parts of Asia. This emphasizes the basic strength
of the Indian economy and the validity of the policies we have pursued.
But in the midst of these remarkable economic achievements we have to
recognize that economic disparities in the country have also increased.
For example the number of people living below the poverty line is estimated
a little larger than the size of India's population at the time of independence.
There is a consensus in the world to-day that economic development is
not all and the GDP is not necessarily a measure of progress of a society.
India is one of the countries which has traditionally attached importance
to the development of man including spiritual development. The leaders
of the Indian renaissance and the Indian nationalist movement had given
capital importance to the social transformation and modernization of this
ancient land. Following independence we have passed many laws emancipating
and investing women, the deprived sections, and workers and peasants with
social and economic rights. These are laws and policy measures of which
the country can be proud, though they did not go far enough and were often
frustrated in the process of implementation. Some of the very basic measures
of far-reaching significance that we have taken of late are the constitutional
amendments establishing Panchayati raj and local self-government and giving
one-third representation to women in these grass-roots democratic bodies.
These have made a creative stir in our society and mark an important step
in the participation of the ordinary people in local government and development
and in the empowerment of women. The government and all political parties
are committed to the idea of reservation for women in Parliament and State
Legislatures. I do hope that India will enter the new millennium with
our women folk unchained and empowered. And yet we are witnesses to the
sorry spectacle of the suppression of women, Dalits and other deprived
sections of society - denials of rights granted to them by law, violence
and crimes committed against them, molestation of women in the barbarous
practice of eve-teasing, dowry killings, and gang ra