TO THE NATION SHRI K.R.NARAYANAN, THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, ON THE EVE
OF REPUBLIC DAY - 2001
NEW DELHI, THURSDAY, JANUARY 25, 2001
Fellow Citizens, On the eve of the 52nd Republic Day of India, I have
great pleasure to extend to all my brothers and sisters living in India
or abroad my greetings and good wishes. To the millions of kisans and
mazdoors, teachers, doctors, scientists and technologists, who have laboured
hard to build up New India, I offer my gratitude and greetings. And I
salute the valiant personnel of our armed and para-military forces who
have sacrificed so much and who stand ready to safeguard the territorial
integrity and the honour of the motherland. Friends, we are concluding
to-day the Golden Jubilee celebrations of our Republic and entering the
52nd year of the Republic. The emergence of India as an independent nation
and as a sovereign democratic Republic was a major event in the history
of Asia and the world.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru articulated a new vision
of India when he stated that the word Republic meant not only political
freedom but social and economic democracy for India. To-day India has
been acknowledged as a great democracy – indeed the largest democracy
in the world and the Indian Constitution as the embodiment of the political,
social and economic rights of the people. At the heart of our democracy
is the right of the universal adult suffrage. It was an audacious and
revolutionary act by the founding fathers, to have introduced in one go,
the right of the vote to every adult citizen, a right for which the countries
of the West had to struggle for almost a hundred years. And that too when
the country was in a state of abject mass poverty and mass illiteracy.
This act of faith by the founding fathers meant that the governance of
this vast country was not to be left in the hands of an elite class but
the people as a whole. It also meant, logically, that the voice of the
people will be heard in the affairs of the State and their representatives
will be elected directly to the legislatures and Parliament.
of universal adult franchise also facilitated a dialectical process on
the political scene out of which could emerge a consensus in the midst
of all our differences and diversities. The founding fathers had the wisdom
and foresight not to overemphasize the importance of stability and uniformity
in the political system. As Dr. Ambedkar explained in the Constituent
Assembly, they preferred more responsibility to stability. That is why
they consciously rejected the system of restricted franchise and indirect
elections embodied in the 1935 Government of India Act. It required a
profound faith in the wisdom of the common man and woman in India. To-day
it is necessary to look back to this faith when we hear voices pleading
for a system of indirect elections. We may recall that in Pakistan, Field
Marshal Ayub Khan had introduced an indirect system of elections and experimented
with what he called basic democracy or guided democracy. It would be an
irony of history if we invoke to-day in the name of Mahatma Gandhi, the
father of the nation, the shades of the political ideas of Field Marshal
Ayub Khan, the father of military rule in Pakistan. Let us remember, it
is under the flexible and spacious provisions of our Constitution, that
democracy has flourished during the last fifty years and that India has
achieved an unprecedented unity and cohesion as a nation and made remarkable
progress in the social and economic fields.
India to-day is adjudged as
one of the fastest growing economies of the world. We have managed to
accommodate the globalisation process without losing our distinctiveness
as a culture and a civilization and without compromising the independence
we secured after a long and heroic struggle. Through our Green Revolution
we have achieved self-sufficiency in food grains for our one billion people.
And our White Revolution has made us the largest milk producing nation
in the world underlining our food sufficiency with an important element
of the nutritional revolution that we are seeking to bring about. We have
emerged as one of the scientifically and technologically important nations
of the world. In the field of information technology and bio-technology
we have made spectacular strides. In human development we have achieved
significant successes. It is a measure of our human development success
that the average expectation of life of an Indian is to-day 61 years raised
from 27 years at the time of independence. Of course, we have yet to abolish
illiteracy and poverty from the land, but we are confident that with the
new tools of science and technology we have developed and the determined
efforts of the Government and the people of India we would be able to
conquer these problems also. We have to do this by keeping ourselves in
step with world developments. It seems for every stage of economic and
technological development there are policies and programmes that are appropriate
to that stage.
In the 1960’s there was demand in the United States of
America for change in India’s basic economic policies as a pre-condition
for aid. A group of Harvard economists advised President Kennedy on aid
to India. They wrote in their report, "There are situations in which development
must already be established, before it is reasonable to expect private
enterprise to take primary initiative, for pushing it forward. In such
situations insisting that investment must be wholly or largely privately
administered from the start, may prevent preconditions for private investment
being established". Indeed it is the growth of the public sector in India
that made it possible for private sector to expand and flourish later.
What we have done is to keep pace with world developments. While making
necessary changes in our policies it is important to recognize the contributions
made by India in its earlier stage of development and that it is standing
upon the shoulders of our earlier policies and their results that we are
to-day liberalizing and globalising our economy. Friends, India in this
21st century will be predominantly a young country. According to the 1981
Census, people in the age-group of 15 to 35 years constituted one third
of the population and in 1991 nearly 34% of the population. By 2000 almost
two-third of the population belonged to this young age group. Youth power
is manifesting itself in various fields of human activity.
growth of the Information Technology is largely the achievement of the
youth of India. To-day it is youth organizations that are launching movements
for preservation of the environment, of literacy, etc. in the country.
The National Cadet Corps, the Bharat Scouts and Guides, the National Service
Scheme represent the active youth of the country engaged in promoting
national development. In the field of sports, Indian youth are making
their mark. The world championship in Chess gained by Viswanathan Anand
is an inspiration to all young people in India. Our young women have also
come to the fore in international sports and beauty contests, projecting
a new image of Indian womanhood of beauty as well as personality and intelligence.
Our children caught in hazardous situations have shown dauntless courage,
winning bravery awards of the nation. The story of Sunil Singh and Mukesh
Kumar of Kashmir who picked up the gun from his murdered father and kept
firing at the militants until they fled, is a heart-warming story.
the pleasure of receiving these brave children and other award winning
children at Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday. Youth power is breaching the
old barriers and expressing itself to the admiration of the whole country.
It was Swami Vivekananda who said that by playing foot-ball you will be
nearer to God and that you will understand the Upanishads better by playing
foot-ball. We should applaud and encourage the new spirit of Indian youth,
for, they are our pride and our future. We, the older generation, owe
it to the youth that we set an example to them. My fellow citizens, we
have declared the year 2001 as the year of women’s empowerment. The pages
of history unfold the fact that all social and political movements and
even great revolutions, had bypassed women. Gandhiji was the first leader
in the world who brought women to the centre stage of a national movement.
To-day woman power is a hidden treasure that we are discovering and utilising
for the benefit of the nation. Once when Smt. Sarojini Naidu submitted
to the British rulers a petition for granting political rights to Indian
women, she was asked a poignant question: "Will Indian men support your
demands?" To-day the men of India are supporting, the movement for women’s
empowerment. We have already empowered women at the Panchayat, block and
district levels. Already there are nearly one million women in local level
democratic institutions. They have made an impact on the working of our
democracy at the grass-roots and have made a stir in the society. It is
only logical to carry forward this process of empowerment of women to
the State legislatures and to the Central Parliament.
of the men of India in this matter is clear and unavoidable. The empowerment
of women in politics might well be a decisive factor that will purify
and save the democratic politics of India from the deterioration of standards
and values it is experiencing to-day. The awakening of the women and the
youth of India is something that gives us hope. But the march of development
is having different kinds of impact on different sections of our people.
It tends to widen the existing inequalities and create new inequalities.
The already marginalised sections, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes, are the greatest sufferers in this process. Referring to the tribals,
Dr. Ambedkar had said: "Civilizing the aborigines means adopting them
as our own, living in their midst and cultivating fellow feeling, in short
loving them". But the developmental path we have adopted is hurting them
and threatening their very existence. It is well known how the large river
valley projects are uprooting the tribals and causing them untold misery.
The mining that is taking place in the forest areas are threatening the
livelihood and the survival of many tribes. It is through enlightened
developmental policies that we can resolve such dilemmas of development.
One pre-condition for the success of developmental projects in our extensive
tribal areas is that we should take into confidence the tribals and their
representatives, explain the benefits of the projects to them, and consult
them in regard to the protection of their livelihood and their unique
cultures. When they have to be displaced the resettlement schemes should
be discussed with them and implemented with sincerity. This could avoid
many critical situations, and we will be able to carry the tribals with
us. We have laws that are enlightened and which prohibit the transfer
of the tribal lands to non-tribals, private bodies and corporations. The
Supreme Court has upheld these provisions through its judgments. We cannot
ignore the social commitments enshrined in our Constitution. In eastern
India, the exploitation of minerals like bauxite and iron ore are causing
destruction of forests and sources of water. While the nation must benefit
from the exploitation of these mineral resources, we will have also to
take into consideration questions of environmental protection and the
rights of tribals.
Let it not be said by future generations that the Indian
Republic has been built on the destruction of the green earth and the
innocent tribals who have been living there for centuries. A great Socialist
leader has once said that a great man in a hurry to change the world who
knocks down a child commits a crime. Let it not be said of India that
this great Republic in a hurry to develop itself is devastating the green
mother earth and uprooting our tribal populations. We can show the world
that there is room for everybody to live in this country of tolerance
and compassion. Friends, India has always thought of the world and the
happiness of others, especially our neighbours. It is in this spirit that
sometime ago our Prime Minister declared a unilateral cease-fire in Kashmir.
It was a bold and imaginative measure that has attracted the attention
of the world and gladdened the hearts of the people of Kashmir suffering
from the acts of violence by militants and terrorists. On this Republic
Day, let us think of peace and work for it sincerely and tenaciously so
that we can get rid of the scourge of terrorism from this land. Let us
persist in the belief that the people at the other end will realise the
futility of their hostility and respond to our gestures of peace and friendship.
I have no doubt that through the firmness of our determination and through
the exercise of our traditional tolerance, India will triumph in the end.