Rajiv Gandhi's Legacy to the nation development
It would not be an exaggeration to mention that during the end of the 20th century India witnessed the advent of many luminaries. Among them Rajiv Gandhi was the most radiant one. He became the Prime Minister of India at the age of 43, and left a deep imprint and impact in the world politics. As a PM he gave a new shape to India and made himself known to the world politics. As Mahatma Gandhi had a vision of India, with the realisation of Swaraj in its all manifestations, the appearance of Ram Rajya (a just state), so had Rajiv Gandhi as well. Rajiv Gandhi had a vision of India of the 21st century which would ensure the fulfilment of bare minimum needs of food, clothing and housing for all. People would enjoy peace and would remain free from internal broils, hunger, political crimes, corruption, terrorism, etc. He had a vision of India where there would be no discrimination between the rich and the poor. All should live together happily and with communal harmony. A self reliant India would lead the world. Rajiv Gandhi had an inner zeal of doing his capacity best for his nation and her citizens. This led him to imagine a 21st century modern India which would be worked up with the engines of prosperity, equality and a sense of egalitarianism. In Rajiv Gandhi, nation was fortunate to avail a leader who believed in the future as worked up with a sense of direction and in the process led politics out of the dark rooms of seclusion to include everyone in it and broke every limit. The sacred desire of doing his best was disrupted only by his sad and cruel assassination. His unfortunate demise led to a political vacuum in the country. The country lost a leadership who had an imagination for the 21st century India, a India which we still feel is growing and has yet not realised its full capabilities.
Rajiv Gandhi knew well that education is the bed-rock of democracy. Illiterate people cannot understand properly the democratic norms and its functioning. Illiteracy makes democracy to run as wishes of mob and ultimately transforms itself in tyranny. Only well educated can help in the sustenance of democracy. Therefore Rajiv Gandhi emphasised on education which would impart a high quality of political acumen to its people.1 According to Rajiv Gandhi masses must be competent enough to understand the importance of voting right and elect their political representatives wisely. They must know how to discuss the political issue and devise ways and increase to solve the burning problems of the day. It is possible only where people are educated.
Hence there is a need of compulsory education. Only through a decent quality education the character of the citizen may be made good. This would impart in them an awareness of their rights and duties. The aims and objectives are to make a man good, to awaken him and make him responsible and create confidence in him.2By this, a sense of discipline is imparted. Education creates a man who is proud of his heritage and secularism.
The speech of Rajiv Gandhi on the occasion of the golden jubilee ceremony of the Doon
Social Justice Weaker Sections, Women Empowerment and Rajiv Gandhi
a. Social Justice
Social justice loosely means that there should not be any discrimination among the citizens on any basis and it must result in the growth of capabilities and similar and equal opportunities for development. It must be realised through the establishment of a social order which is marked by a sense of equality of opportunity which should be ensured by legislature and executive. Thus justice is inherent in any society which foregoes any division and discrimination based on birth, caste, creed, colour, sex, wealth, religion, etc. and every individual is provided with an equal right. According to the political scientist Harold Laski, social justice implies providing equal social rights.
Rajiv Gandhi assessed the meaning of social justice by the inclusive development of all the classes and sections of the
society. He wanted that every individual should experience development regardless of their caste, birth, religion, colour, etc. While responding to the discussion on the Presidential Address in Rajya Sabha on 23rd January 1985 he remarked that, “Congress is representative of different ideologies, struggle for social justice, struggle for self- reliance, against the centralisation of wealth, secularism, decent public undertakings which are for the welfare of the people and policies of non-alignment and peace.” 5 While participating in the debate over the 7th plan in Rajya Sabha on 17th December, 1985 he again stated, “We have not changed our preferences in the 7th plan. Our fundamental preferences remain poverty alleviation, establishment of social justice and founding of an independent and selfreliant economy.” 6 In the same way on 18th December 1985 while throwing light on the 7th plan while speaking in Lok Sabha he repeated the preferences and focus over the poverty alleviation and tenets of social justice.
Rajiv Gandhian social justice meant that each and every poor individual should be taken care of until their tears are wiped off and they are alleviated from their unjust living standards to above poverty line while managing at least the bare minimum. While responding to the responses on debate over the Presidential Address in Lok Sabha on 27th February, 1986 he told, “Today’s question is: Can we move forwards with a faster velocity? How can we work more and harder for poor, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women, children, minorities and backward classes? We have prepared our plan for these sections only. It will require national service and sacrifice. Honourable President stated in his speech that ‘Nations are made from those generations who for a better future sacrifice their present’, this is the same which we have to do today.”
b. Weaker Sections
Rajiv Gandhi knew that welfare of the weaker sections, exploited, backward classes, Scheduled Castes, Schedules Tribes and others can be done only through education. While addressing the National Development Council meeting regarding education policy in New Delhi on 29th April 1986, Rajiv Gandhi showed his concern by admitting that education has not reached among few sections of the society as was desired. These sections were, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and a few other backward classes. According to him there development would only lead to an egalitarianizing of the society.
On 6th January 1988 while addressing in Kadmath Amini Rajiv Gandhi emphatically added that, “One of the strong sides of our perspective is that weaker sections- Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should be empowered and thus their development can be broadened. We have seen that how from centuries they have remained exploited in the past, and now after independence we have attempted to rectify the situation by focussing more on the development of SCs and STs. Though much has been done, but still their problem survives.”
c. Women Empowerment
Rajiv Gandhi knew this very well that women have a significant role to play in the formation of any social order. They are the
genuine founders of the society. The Rajiv Gandhi’s view was “Women in any society are the conscience of the society and they bind the society in unison. In the developing nations, women are active in all walks of life and they have reached to the top in politics also. Unfortunately we have failed to deliver them the liberty to walk a free at the bottom level. We have failed to assist them in the ways in which they can succeed in breaking free from the discrimination and thus challenge the centuries old bias of male dominance.”10 He also added that the development and prosperity of any society can be measured in the terms of the development of the other half of the population (women). If a society has to develop rapidly, then one cannot exclude and ignore the half intelligence, half capabilities. Women in every field, whether it is spiritual aspirations or political thought are equal to men and historically too, there has been no division when it comes to sacrifices and bravery. He also added that the contributions of women whether in home or in workplace have never been weaker or lesser than men, but still enough opportunities of education and employment are not being provided to women even today. That is why we need to take steps to empower women and let them realise their strength fully. They will have to contribute equally in the making of the nation.
Rajiv Gandhi while emphasising the contributions of women also added that when we look towards farm fields, the maximum labour participation is provided by women only. The hard labour in the farms is also done by women, but neither is they given any reward for it nor is any achievement mentioned. No importance is underlined for their contribution. The various processes in cultivation and harvesting involve the work force of the women but their remuneration when compared to men is badly and unjustly placed. This is very unfortunate.
Rajiv Gandhi and Political Defection Act Political defection had been a relatively new but a devastating feature of the Indian politics. This had brought instability in the political currents of central government, but more in the states. After the general elections of 1967, there was no single party rule in the country, and governments in state usually get too formed with coalition. Consequently many parties started forming governments in coalition. But the MLAs who did not get opportunities to be Ministers, usually used to mingle with opposition to make way for the crisis for government.
MLAs changed parties so frequently that in a matter of few months many governments came and went. The situation in these states worsened so much that President’s rule has to be proclaimed in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, etc. The circumstances playing in this situation became worst enough that ex Chief Justice of India Gajendra Gadkar while addressing the convocation at Osmania University in Hyderabad on 21st December, 1967 warned that, “Defection is a devastating practise on an ethical ground in a democracy.”
Rajiv Gandhi as soon as coming to power took an appreciable step in this direction, and consequently by placing the 52nd amendment of the Constitution of India, prohibited the political defection. While responding to the debate on the political defection in Lok Sabha on 30th January, 1985, Rajiv Gandhi stated that, “We prioritised this over others simply because it is that are of the public life which demanded cleanliness.... We have promised that we will take the opposition along with us while making the call, and Speaker Sir, I am elated in informing the House that most of the parties are on the same ground with an exception of one or two.” While speaking in Rajya Sabha on 31st January 1985 he informed that some factions wished that if 50% members of a party are segregating then it should not be called defection but party division. Some factions wanted only 25% to be called party division but then with a consensus it was decided to fix this to 33% of the members of the party if segregate, then it will be called a party division.12 Under this amendment, modifications were made under Article 101, 102, 190 and 191.
Rajiv Gandhi made some landmark contributions to the making of the India of 21st century. A man of a vision, he represented the ideology of a mix baggage of socialist principles and forward looking changes in the world as well. He understood the essentiality of social justice, pro-poor orientation, women empowerment on the one hand, but was equally rooted in the modernisation of technology, facing the challenges of the capitalist global order and conscious of the difficulties of the foreign policy. A true dreamer weaver, he proved his abilities to realise those dreams for his people and leading them in the changing times. Today the achievements of science and technology, Information Technology revolution, telecommunication, inclusive development and a resilient effort towards social justice is Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy to the developing India. We, the people of India were quite unfortunate to have lost such a leadership of vision, clarity and dynamism so early and that too so tragically. Had Rajiv Gandhi survived, we must have been witnessing a different kind of political and social order today. The modernising wand of his politics was always dedicated to take out the politics from the dark chambers of self interest and let it function for the welfare of the people, and people alone. His commitment towards the socialist and secular democracy of India is a lesson for us and a guiding light to fight against the communal and Fascist powers.