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Forgotten Pledges; Broken Dreams - Yehi Hai India!

AUGUST 18, 2017

By Naresh Minocha, Consulting Editor

THE Prime Minister stated: "this pledge which we have taken today is not to be treated lightly. We lose our self-respect if we fail to live up to ourselves. If we cannot honour our pledge, we cannot do anything. Therefore, we have to take this pledge with full deliberations and with fullest sense of responsibility and to live up to its spirit."

This is not Rashtra Rishi Narendra Modi reminding masses about the significance of his New India Pledge (NIP) on the Independence Day. It was late Jawaharlal Nehru speaking about sanctity of national solidarity pledge (NSP). He administered NSP to the Nation on National Solidarity day (NSD) on 20th October 1963.

It would not be surprising if hardly anyone within the Government or outside is able to recall either NSP or NSD. It was conceived as resolve/event to be organized on 20th October every year to reaffirm our commitment to learn from our failures in 1962 Indo-China war.

Any entity can today tag NSD label to its event as was done by Indian Medical Association (IMA) that observed NSD on 17th January 2017 to protest increasing attack on healthcare staff.

Even Rashtrapati Bhavan has slipped on NSD. The then President, Pranab Mukherjee in message dated 13th May 2015 to the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Memorial Committee noted that the Committee was "organizing the 40th National Solidarity Day to commemorate the 110th Birth Anniversary of former President of India, Late Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed".

The sad plight of NSD is equally true of some of the great national pledges taken and forgotten over the decades. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has thus cashed in on this national amnesia to promote his NIP as a part of his amazing slogan-coining strategy. NIP, which also goes by the name Sankalp Se Siddhi (New India Movement 2017-2022), is actually an old wine packaged in new bottle.

This becomes clear if we recall what President Dr. Rajendra Prasad stated on 16th May 1952 in his maiden address to First Parliament of India as a Republic. He reminded all MPs: "You and I have taken the oath of service to this country of ours. May we be true to that pledge and dedicate our highest endeavour to its fulfillment."

Dr. Prasad added: "We have, therefore, to put an end to all tendencies that weaken that unity and raise barriers between us, the barriers of communalism, provincialism and casteism".

Modiji's NIP, among other goals, also focuses on banishment of communalism and casteism by 2022. It is pertinent to note that NDA Government is not the first regime to whip up 'Quit India' sentiments for eradication of social evils via NIP.

In August 2012, UPA Government too invoked 'Quit India Movement' to direct all public servants to take pledge to prevent sex selective abortion of female foetus and violence against Women on 9th August. UPA contended that this collective resolve would force this social evil to "Quit India for good".

Well, the evil is live & kicking – whose manifestation is dumping of newborn girls in waste dumping yard. Hey Ram!

Participating in the debate on Presidential address to Parliament during May 1952, P. Sundarayya, a communist MP, stated: "the Government during the last four years has been a Government of broken pledges". He cited Congress Government's backtracking on formation of linguistic provinces and abolition of intermediary interests in land.

If we recall all pledges including the ones scattered over documents such as the Constitution, Parliament resolutions, Independence Day speeches and official oaths one would get the shocker: We are a nation of shattered dreams and broken pledges.

The day is not far off when school kids would be told by their teachers that India was once known as land of milk and honey. It is now a land of broken pledges and dreams. Hey Ram!

This column would now deal with only forgotten pledges as elusive dreams were discussed in a column published during March 2017 (http://nareshminocha.com/index.php/polity/1800-dreams-unlimited-from-nehru-s-tryst-with-destiny-to-modi-s-new-india https://goo.gl/T7fkiE)

Before cherishing the forgotten pledges, it would be in order to complete the solidarity discourse.

The Solidarity pledge reads as: "I reaffirm the solemn resolve of our people to preserve the freedom and integrity of my motherland however hard and long the struggle and however great the sacrifices. I pledge to work with determination for the strength and solidarity of the Nation".

A day before administering this pledge to the Nation for the first time, Nehru stated: "If in a country, there is no solidarity, no proper solidarity, that country is doomed. It goes to pieces. It cannot fight the many dangers that beset it".

The bitter fact is that India lacks solidarity in daily life. This was amply demonstrated the other day by West Bengal: It has opposed the Centre's suggestion that students at all educational institutions take NIP. Such defiance ought to be condemned by all including Supreme Court and Inter-State Council.

Reacting to Centre's letter to States for schools to organize Independence Day (ID) celebrations including students taking NIP, the West Bengal Education Department instructed all schools to stop all Centre-advised preparations and observe ID in normal fashion as in the past.

Modi Government is not the first one to advise States to administer national pledge to students. Way back in 1964, Nehru Government advised the States to implement a recommendation made by the Emotional Integration Committee regarding the pledge of loyalty to Nation twice a year at the beginning of each term.

The pledge reads as: "India is my country, all Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country, and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of it. I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect, and treat everyone with courtesy. I shall be kind to animals. To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. In their well-being and prosperity alone lies my happiness".

The God knows how many schools including madrassas & gurukuls currently administer this pledge to students.

The inspiration for this pledge was drawn from the United States where every American school student took The Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag every morning during that period.

The fifties & sixties can be considered as golden decades of pledges. A pledge that deserves special mention deals with environmental protection. Started in 1957 as part of Wild Life Week celebrations every year, the pledge reads as: "Born and bred in the land of Buddha and Gandhi I give my solemn pledge to protect our country's forests and their voiceless denizens from wantron and wasteful destruction ".

Only Lord Buddha would know how many times and how many citizens violated this forgotten pledge.

In 1955, Nehru Government decided to faciliate distribution of Ambar Charkhas to "villages and institutions whose residents or members take a pledge for exclusive use of Khadi for their requirements."

A national pledge that has been beaten blue by the public at every given opportunity is the pledge for non-violence. In September 1962, the then Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri suggested to States to launch on 2nd October a campaign for every citizen to sign a pledge for resolving issues through peaceful means.

The pledge is: "I, as a citizen of India, affirm my faith in the universal principle of civilized society, namely, that differences should be settled by peaceful means; and, I hereby pledge myself, having regard to the need for emotional integration among the people, never to resort to violence in any dispute relating to religious linguistic, regional, or other public issue".

The politicians' penchant to treat pledges as food wrappers can be gauged from the way they have forgotten Parliament' unanimous resolution to mark Golden Jubillee of Independence deserves recall.

The resolution dated 1st September 1997 affirms MPs' resolve as: "Do now solemnly affirm our joint and unanimous commitment to the issues hereinafter mentioned, and we also do solemnly resolve and direct that they be adopted as minimum tasks, constituting our 'Agenda for India' on this historic occasion".

It is a great agenda that is very much valid today. It is much comprehensive than NIP. And it is just a mouse click away from digitally-savvy Modiji.

Yet another pledge that almost all political parties agree is empowerment of women. This pledge is often incorporated in official documents such as United Front Government's common minimum programme, committing 33% representation to women in Parliament and State Assemblies.

The list of pledges and oath is long and varied. We have thus a national pledge for fair elections. There is one for organs donation. Another and of course Modiji's creation – the Swachhta Pledge, which is ignored with vengeance by millions of stakeholders, excluding their weakness for photo opportunities.

Then there are occasional event-driven pledges administered by dignitaries. A case in point is the oath administered by ex-President late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on

4th March, 2007 to children and parents who called on for Holi festivities.

The five-point Oath is: "Give flowers to a person who is recovering from sickness in your neighbourhood. Visit a hospital and give sweets to some of the inmates.You can help a visually handicapped person to cross a road or listen to him about his problem. Call and talk to a person who is a relative or a friend whom you have not talked to for a long time.Take a decision to always smile from now onwards ".

We also have institutions-specific pledges/oaths. Then there is wealth of pledges mooted/invoked in legislative debates and speeches. Mr. Nehru, for instance, invoked the word 'pledge' 11 times in his speech on Kashmir in Lok Sabha on 7th August 1952.

Well, he himself gave a pledge for plebiscite, which he back tracked later, thereby turning Kashmir from deemed crown on India's head to a garland of thorns & woes. Hey Ram!


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