Thoughts that stir me in the Indian context

By G. L. Batra, ST Guest Columnist, Writer & formerly Addl. Secretary, Indian Parliament and Chairman, Public Service Commission of the Indian State of Haryana

Change is the essence of life. What we are today, we were not in the past, and will not be in the future. The past is memory and experience; the present is felt and visible; the future is unpredictable. The past, though history, is a great treasure which cannot be cast aside lightly. We learn from our mistakes of the past and seek inspiration from its glory. The question is only of sifting the grains from the chaff.

India has a great tradition of saints, philosophers, preachers, scientists, educationists, patriots and leaders of eminence, who contributed in their respective fields towards building India, and imbibed in us great values of the human race. Our leaders from various fields dedicated their lives to make India a free nation. When it came to the freedom struggle, they fought, struggled hard and suffered. It would truly be unfortunate if we forget the contribution of those men of prominence to make India a free and great nation. Today, the present generation, is forgetting all those great men, especially Mahatma Gandhi and his principles.

Today we are passing through a period of turmoil and a confusion of two cultures – the Indian and the western. Our forefathers, the framers of our Constitution, gave us a valuable document, drafted in a way that the interests of each section of the society was looked after. They bore in mind that every person, who is born in India, should be equally placed in every way, especially before the law. They debated every provision of the Constitution in detail, and prepared one of the longest written Constitutions in the world.

Our Constitution is a glorious document. It may have some shortcomings or gaps, but like any other Constitution, its success or failure depends on the people who govern us and how best they can implement the Constitution.

Today, it is essential to keep up with progress around the world; the top priority is economic development. However, a nation is built on the character and morality of its people. In the absence of that, even economic progress can adversely affect a nation’s character. Firstly, we ought to see that economic development, however rapid and glorious it may be, is not creating a divide among people by making the rich richer, and the poor, poorer. The poor today are afforded opportunities, but whether they are capable of availing these opportunities, whether these opportunities actually reach their doorstep, is a moot point.

In many parts of India, there are people who are not aware of their rights, nor do they have the knowledge of their opportunities or the ways and means to pluck the fruits of these opportunities. Millions still live in thatched houses and have no access to even two square meals in a day. There are people who do not even have a hearth to cook their meals upon. Their survival still depends on the brotherhood of the village. Should there not be a fool proof system to oversee the schemes which are evolved for the benefit of these nameless, faceless and poverty-stricken millions? What is being done to ensure that these schemes are implemented in their true spirit? In reality, less than twenty per cent of the benefit of such schemes actually reach the people the schemes are designed and implemented for. This happens because of corruption because the persons engaged in implementing these schemes often lack integrity and dedication.

Today, the glamour world and the media have created and promoted an immense lust for money and material comforts in society. These aspirations are beyond the reach of many, and such compelling ambitions make man vulnerable. He is instigated to attain and achieve material comforts by any means, — legitimate or illegitimate. This results in a degeneration of moral values and ultimately, of the character of man. It leads to criminalization of the mind and breaks the fiber of family, friendship, brotherhood and neighbourhood, upon which our community and society rests. Character building should be our top priority today. We must realise that in the context of today’s world, earning money is good, but making money, is evil.

What we need today, is a curriculum of study for our students, which instils in them, right from the beginning, the ordained duties of life, and imbues them with the qualities of our forefathers, the lessons from their lives and the sacrifices they made. They should be given to understand that what we are today is because of our forefathers and their sacrifices, their determination, their values and their character.