Indian National Congress represents the progressive soul of India. Read here all the major achievements of Congress Party in India


 1. India launches 2011 biometric census, the largest census in the world, 2010
2. Longest rail (4286 km) of India, Vivek Express, is flagged off, 2011
3. Launched India’s first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, Agni V, 2012
4. Launched INS Vikrant, the first aircraft carrier built in India, 2013
5. Mars Orbiter Mission/Mangalyaan, 2013 - India became the first nation to reach Mars orbit in its first attempt
6. India's first all-women commercial bank, Bharatiya Mahila Bank, starts its operations, 2013
7. India declared 'polio free' by World Health Organization, 2014


1. Punita Arora became the first woman Lieutenant General of Indian Army, 2004
2. Bula Chowdhury became world's first woman swimmer to conquer five continents, 2005
3. Nathula Pass, sealed during the Sino-Indian War, re-opened for trade after 44 years, 2006
4. India became one of the few nations to return a craft (SRE 1) from orbit, 2007
5. Pratibha Patil sworn in as India's first woman president, 2007
6. Viswanathan Anand became the undisputed champion in World Chess Championship, 2007
7. India's first mission to Moon, Chandrayaan-1, launched successfully, 2008
8. Abhinav Bindra brings India’s first individual Olympic Gold, 2008
9. India sets a world record by successfully sending 10 satellites into orbit in a single launch, 2008
10. Sachin Tendulkar becomes the leading scorer and the first batsman to score 12000 runs in Test Cricket, 2008
11. Meira Kumar becomes the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha, 2009
12. India’s first nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, launched, 2009


1. Kerala became the first state to achieve total literacy, 1991
2. Satyajit Ray won an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, 1992
3. IMF ranked India as the 6th largest economy, 1993
4. Sushmita Sen became the first Indian to win the Miss Universe pageant, 1994
5. VSNL launched internet service for public, 1995
6. India became a WTO member, 1995


1. Smallpox was eradicated, 1980
2. Launched India’s first telecom satellite APPLE, 1981
3. National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) established, 1982
4. Dakshin Gangotri Antarctic research base constructed, 1983
5. Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian to travel in space, 1984
6. Bachendri Pal became the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest, 1984
7. India became 7th country in the world to possess a Fast Breeder Nuclear Reactor, 1985
8. Established Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, an idea conceived by former PM Rajiv Gandhi, 1986
9. Sunil Gavaskar became the first cricketer to score 10,000 runs in Test matches, 1987
10. India launched Asia's first remote sensing satellite IRS-1A in 1988
11. Kottayam in Kerala became the first fully literate district in India, 1989


1. Bajaj Auto rolls out its 100,000th vehicle, 1970
2. The Indian Navy destroyer INS Rajput sinks Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi, 1971
3. PIN code was introduced in India, 1972
4. Project Tiger - India's most successful animal conservation program, 1973
5. Smiling Buddha -  India detonated its first nuclear weapon in Thar Desert and became the sixth nation to do so, 1974
6. ARYABHATTA - first Indian satellite, launched, 1975
7. The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment or SITE launched - made available informational television programmes to rural India, 1975
8. Minimum age for marriage raised to 21 years for men and 18 years for women, 1976
9. Michael Ferreira won the World Billiards Championship in Melbourne, 1977
10. Nehru Planetarium commissioned, 1977
11. Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize, 1979


1. Milkha Singh became the first Indian to break an Olympic record, 1960
2. India piloted the first ever meeting of Non-Aligned Countries, 1961
3. India's football team won gold and reached its highest ranking at the Asian Games, 1962
4. Dedication of the Bhakra-Nangal Dam project to the country by Nehru, 1963
5. Sucheta Kriplani became the first woman chief minister, 1963
6. The first Indian jet trainer HJT-16 took flight, 1964
7. Border Security Force was formed, 1965
8. Rita Faria became the first Indian to win the Miss World crown, 1966
9. Pandit Ravi Shankar won India's first Grammy award, 1967
10 .Har Gobind Khorana won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1968
11. ISRO was established, 1969

India at 70

Freedom Movement

Extract from India Since Independence by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee and Aditya Mukherjee

The Indian freedom movement was perhaps the greatest mass movement in world history. After 1919, it was built around the notion that people had to and could play an active role in politics and in their own liberation, and it succeeded in politicizing, and drawing into political action a large part of the Indian people. Gandhiji, the leader who moved and mobilized millions into politics, all his life propogated the view that the people and not leaders created a mass movement, whether for the overthrow of the colonial regime or for social transformation. He added, though, that the success or failure of a movement depended a great deal on the quality of leadership.

Satyagraha, as form a struggle, was based on the active partipation of the people and on the sympathy and support of the non-participating millions. In fact, unlike a violent revolution, which could be waged by a minority of committed cadres and fighters a non-violent revolution needed the political mobilization of millions and the passive support of the vast majority.

It may be pointed out, parenthically, that it was because of the long experience of this kind of political participation by common people that the founders of the Indian republic, who also led the freedom struggle in its last phase, could repose full faith in their political capacity. The leaders unhesitatingly introduced adult franchise despite widespread poverty and illiteracy….

…. In a mass-based struggle, ideology and its influence plays a critical role. Yet, a mass movement has also to incorporate and accommodate diverse political and ideological currents in order to mobilize millions. Besides, it has to be disciplined and organizationally strong and united; yet it cannot afford to be monolithic or authoritarian.

Recognizing this duality, Congress, under whose leadership and hegemony the anti-imperialist struggle was waged was highly ideological and disciplined while also being ideologically and organizationally open-ended and accommodative. Representing the Indian people and not any one class or stratum, Congess could not be and was not ideologically homogenous. Widely different ideological and political streams coexisted within it. It is significant that at no stage did Gandhiji claim to have an ideological monopoly over it. Congress, therefore, succeeded in uniting persons of different ideological bents, different levels of commitment and of vastly different capacities to struggle together for some broad common objectives and principles.

Congress was able to achieve this task by functioning democratically. There was a constant public debate and contention between individuals and groups who subscribed to divergent political-ideological tendencies or paradigms, even though they shared many elements of a common vision and were united in struggle. The majority view regarding the strategic and tactical framework of the movement prevailed but the minority was not decimated. It remained part of the movement, hoping one day to have its approach accepted. Even groups and movements which were outside the Congress stream evolved a complex and friendly relationship with it. The communal, casteist and loyalist parties and groups were the only ones to adopt an adversarial approach towards the Congress.

The national movement thus bequeathed to independent India the political tradition of compromise, accommodation and reconciliation of different interests and points of view. Nehru worked within this tradition in evolving national policies after independence.

The highest norms of politics and political behavior were set by the movement. Its major leaders, for example, Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Lokmanya Tilak, Gandhiji, Bhagat Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru, Suhbas Bose, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari, Acharya Narendra Dev, Jayaprakash Narayan possessed moral integrity of the highest order. It was because of this moral authority and high moral standards of the leadership that the movement could mobilize millions. This was also true of the cadres, most of whom gave up their careers, their studies and their jobs, abandoned family life and devoted their entire lives to the movement. Also, judged in its totality, the movement was able to maintain harmony between means and ends. The movement was able to develop the capacity to evolve renovate and change with the times. Its programme and policies underwent continuous change and moved in a radical direction in response to the urges of the masses as they were awakened to political activity and to the changing policies of the colonial rulers. The movement was, therefore, in many ways highly original and innovative, keeping abreast with contemporary world thought, processes and movements.

The legacy of the national movement could be summarized as: a commitment to political and economic independence, modern economic development, the ending of inequality, oppression and domination in all forms, representative democracy and civil liberties, internationalism and independent foreign policy, promotion of the process of nation-in-the-making on the basis of joyous acceptance of the diversity, and achievement of all of these objectives though accommodative politics and with the support of a large majority of the people.

Independent India has as a whole remained loyal to the basics of the legacy of the national movement, a large part of which is enshrined in the constitution and incorporated in the programmes and manifestos of most of the political parties. The Indian people have tended to use this legacy as the yardstick to judge the performance of governments political parties and institutions.

A legacy, especially of a prolonged movement, tends to endure for a long time. But no legacy, however strong and sound, can last forever. It tends to erode and become irrelevant unless it is constantly reinforced and developed and sometimes transcended in a creative manner to suit the changing circumstances.

Extracts from the AICC Resolution, Karachi, March 1931

Mahatma Gandhi moved the resolution on the declaration of Fundamental Rights. The text was drafted by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru:

This Congress is of opinion that to enable the masses to appropriate what ‘swaraj’, as conceived by the Congress, will mean to them, it is desirable to state the position of the Congress in a manner easily understood by them. In order to end the ‘exploitation of the masses, political freedom must include real economic freedom of the starving millions. The Congress, therefore, declares that any constitution which may be agreed to on its behalf should provide, or enable the Swaraj Government to Provide, for the following:

Fundamental Rights and Duties

Fundamental rights of the people, including:

Every citizen of India has the right of free expression of opinion, the rights of free association and combination, and the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, for purposes not opposed to law or morality.

Every citizen shall enjoy freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess and practise his religion, subject to public order and morality.

The culture, language and script of the minorities and of the different linguistic areas shall be protected.

All citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of caste, creed or sex.

No disability attaches to any citizen, by reason of his or her religion, caste, creed or sex, in regard to public employment, office of power or honour, and in the exercise of any trade or calling.

All citizens have equal rights and duties in regard to wells, tanks, roads, schools and places of public resort, maintained out of State or local funds, or dedicated by private persons for the use of the general public.

Every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms, in accordance with regulations and reservations made in that behalf.

No person shall be deprived of his liberty nor shall his dwelling or property be entered, sequestered or confiscated, save in accordance with law.

The State shall observe neutrality in regard to all religions.

The franchise shall be on the basis of universal adult suffrage.

The State shall provide for free and compulsory primary education.

The State shall confer no titles.

There shall be no capital punishment.

Every citizen is free to move throughout India and to stay and settle in any part thereof, to acquire property and to follow any trade or calling, and to be treated equally with regard to legal prosecution or protection in all parts of India.

Our Constitution

Granville Austin, The Indian Constitution – The Cornerstone of a Nation

"Democracy, representative government, personal liberty, equality before the law, were revolutionary for the society. Socio-economic equitableness as expressed in the Directive Principles of State Policy was equally revolutionary. So were the Constitution’s articles abolishing zamindari and altering property relations and those allowing for discrimination in education and employment for disadvantaged citizens."

"The founding fathers and mothers established in the Constitution both the nation’s ideals and the institutions and processes for achieving them… The new society was to be achieved through a socio-economic revolution pursued with a democratic spirit using Constitutional, democratic institutions…"

"The political structure of the Indian Constitution is so unusual that it is impossible to describe it briefly. Characterisations such as ‘quasi-federal’ and ‘statutory decentralisation’ are interesting, but not particularly illuminating. The members of the Assembly themselves refused to adhere to any theory or dogma about federalism. India had unique problems, they believed, problems that had not ‘confronted other federations in history’. These could not be solved by recourse to theory because federalism was ‘not a definite concept’ and lacked a ‘stable meaning’. Therefore, Assembly members, drawing on the experience of the great federations like the United States, Canada, Switzerland, and Australia, pursued the ‘the policy of pick and choose to see (what) would suit (them) best, (what) would suit the genius of the nation best... This process produced... a new kind of federalism to meet India’s peculiar needs."

India Since Independence by Bipin Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee and Aditya Mukherjee.

The decision of the Constituent Assembly to have federal constitution with a strong Centre was occasioned also by the circumstances in which it was taken. A strong central government was necessary for handling the situation arising out the communal riots that preceded and accompanied Partition, for meeting the food crisis, for settling the refugees, for maintaining national unity and for promoting social and economic development, which had been thwarted under colonial rule.

The constitution has also tried to minimize conflict between the Union and the states by clearly specifying the legislative powers of each. It contains three lists of subjects. The subject listed in the Union list can only be legislated upon by the Union parliament, the ones in the State list only by the state legislatures, and those in the Concurrent List come within the purview of both, but in case of a conflict between Union and state legislation, the Union law will prevail.

Panchayati Raj

Rajiv Gandhi on Panchayati Raj

Focus on Panchayati Raj', Rajiv Gandhi's speech (in Hindi) while inaugurating the Panchayati Raj Sammelan of Northern states, New Delhi, January 27, 1989

I am happy to attend this Sammelan. First, I wish to thank the Ministry for choosing such an appropriate day for this Sammelan, which falls between our 40th Republic Day and the anniversary of the martyrdom of Gandhiji. When we adopted our Constitution on the first Republic Day, we promised to give power to the people. Gandhiji fought against the British, the imperialist forces, for achieving this object. I am particularly happy that we have got an opportunity to discuss this seriously during the next two days. I have a complaint which I wanted to make in the end, but I am making at the outset. Bhajan Lalji has invited eight thousand people to come to Delhi but he has fixed only two days and one night for discussions. I am told that the entire time will be utilised if only two per cent of the invites speak for five minutes each. I feel that in such a short duration we cannot discuss these matters well. I hope Bhajan Lalji will extend the Sammelan by another two days, to enable at least double the number of speakers to express their views. I hope he will do so and will also extend the arrangements in the camp.

After Independence, we had promised in the Constitution, to strengthen the third level of our democracy. The first and the second levels which are governed from Delhi and the State capitals have been. Strengthened following several elections, and no one can weaken them. The third level, however, is weak, and it affects the first two levels also, because, people at the top level have become paper tigers and the structure has become hollow. This has to be set right by strengthening the Panchayati Raj institutions. To strengthen our democracy in Delhi and in the State capitals, it is essential to strengthen the democratic institutions at the Panchayat level. To gear up the development process, it is necessary to strengthen the Panchayati Raj institutions at district, block and village levels.

In the last one-and-a-half year we have done many things in this context. We began by organising discussions with the District Magistrates and Collectors. We talked to the Secretaries and the Chief Secretaries. There were discussions in our Party and in the Ministries. We have come to you after doing our home work. I hope we will help you and fulfil the promises we had made. Promises were made during the freedom struggle and in our Constitution but no one effectively implemented them. The people at the top level were busy strengthening their own positions in politics as well as in administration and completely neglected the federal institutions. Whenever elections to the Panchayats were held, they remained nominal. And for the last 10-20 years, mostly nominated members are running these institutions (Panchayats). This cannot strengthen the base level. The devolution of power to the grassroots level as promised could not be effected and whatever was done was generally in an arbitrary manner. In some States where devolution of power had been implemented a member was nominated to the local bodies by the administration or a Minister was placed there. What actually happened? The decision-making authority remained either with the State Government or with the administration, and it could not filter down to the base level.

In addition, sufficient resources were not made available for the upliftment of the rural population, and the meagre amount provided was not spent according to the needs of the rural people. In our development planning and implementation, the participation of the Panchayati Raj institutions was lacking. What was the net result? The result was that the power—which Gandhiji and Panditji wanted to be given to the people and for which our Constitution also provided—did not actually reach them. It meant that the plans and the schemes made, could not in reality cater to your needs. The development programmes which were worked out from Delhi and the State capitals could neither improve your conditions nor remove your difficulties. The result was that even after the completion of those schemes; their full benefit could not reach you.

Whatever economic development was achieved could not be effective because there was a vast gap between the preparation of the schemes and their implementation. The result was that even for the solution of trifling issues, the people looked to the Government. I can quote the example of my own constituency which I have known minutely as to how people come to me even with small problems. There must be some lacuna somewhere that MPs, MLAs and even Chief Ministers come to me with trifling matters: Those issues which can be tackled at the village level should be dealt with there. If the Central Government is involved in such issues, what requires to be done can neither done well nor in time. You know, there are many procedural requirements in the implementation of a project which involves many people, and these only create problems. When we attempt rural development from Delhi, we are unable to detect all the loopholes which only you can plug, being on the spot. The result is that you come with complaints that development schemes are not being properly implemented.

We must ensure that our people are not totally dependent on the Central Government or the State Governments for all types of development works. They should themselves have a feeling of participation in development programmes and the process of social change. This will require that the gap between the administration and the people be bridged. We have to see that people, whether they are in politics or in Government, should not rush to Delhi or State capitals for the redressal of every grievance. If development work can be planned at the district, block or village level it should be taken up there itself. If this is not done, schemes will be delayed and so will their implementation.

We wanted to remove social injustice and atrocities on the weaker sections but this task has not yet been completed. Even today atrocities are perpetrated on weaker sections, on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and on women. We want to involve people in nation building. We want everyone in the country to take initiative in such work. This, however, has not been fully accomplished and the result is that a system of power-brokers has emerged in our country, whether it is politics or the development process. For any work that is to be done, people have to please some power-broker. We have to break this system and to do this; we have to devolve maximum power to Panchayati Raj institutions. This was the desire of Gandhiji and Panditji. But that spirit got lost on the way. We will, however, try to give you strength on the lines Gandhiji and Panditji wanted.

It is essential to give power to the common people. We have to pay special attention to the weaker sections, the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women. We have also to take special care of linguistic and other minorities and protect them. We have also to keep a watch so that devolution of power to grassroots is not usurped by the rich and those who derive power from the caste structure. The Panchayati Raj system should ensure social justice to the poor, to the weaker sections. I would like to have your suggestions on these issues.

I want you to speak openly on these issues during the four days of the Sammelan. But you should remember that whatever system of devolution of power is evolved, it must ensure protection of the weak. The elections should be held in time and the weaker sections should freely participate in the elections. If need be, some sort of reservation could be evolved. You have to think how to fill the reserved seats or posts. Should these be filled by election or by nomination? Should we follow the procedure adopted in some countries where the candidate defeated with the minimum margin is also declared elected? Or should we adopt some other method? Every system has its own strong points.

There are various systems—each with its own weakness and strength. You have to consider these systems from different angles.You have to pay special attention to the weaker sections and tell me how they can be helped. Another method can be what was, at one time, in vogue for elections to the Lok Sabha, the system of multi-member constituencies. Yet another method could also be one of setting up social justice committees and special committees in areas inhabited by Harijans, Adivasis, minorities and other weaker sections.

You have to discuss seriously and evolve some kind of a relationship between Panchayati Raj institutions and the State Governments. You have to discuss it minutely because any mistake can stop the development process. You have to ponder over the relationship of Collectors and District Magistrates with Zila Parishads and their Chairmen. Again, you have to think which institutions would function under the Zila Parishad, under the block and at village level.

You must discuss how development schemes can he implemented most effectively. You should not be engaged in creating small kingdoms because these will only further weaken us. The relationship of municipal areas with Zila Parishads is an important factor, whether they should maintain equal status with Zila Parishads. or work within them or under them. Each system has its own strength and weakness. If a district government is formed, it will strengthen the Zila Parishad. Small towns within such a set-up will become focal points of development. On the other hand if Zila Parishads are kept outside the district administration it will focus greater attention on the development of rural areas. Both the systems are relevant in their own way. You have to find out a way so that a balance can be maintained. Today it is not sufficient only to plan for the development of rural areas. Educated youth are looking for a different type of employment and better facilities for which they migrate to small towns and cities. You must evolve a framework that draws upon the strengths of the alternative systems. You must evolve a system which accelerates the work of removing poverty. You must discuss what role can be played at the district, block and village levels in the planning process.

I have asked the Planning Commission to formulate plans from the district level for the Eighth Plan. They have assured that a beginning will be made. Constraints of time may not permit us to make a beginning on the scale we had envisaged but we will find a way out. I hope that by the second or third year of the Eighth Plan, this work will get off the ground well and that there will be co-ordination between the State Planning bodies and the Planning Commission.

Then, there is the major problem of resources. You must ensure proper utilization of resources. I feel that if we keep on giving resources we are doing today, that will not lead to proper development. You will keep on asking for funds and nobody will see whether work is being carried out properly or not. For the most part you do not keep in view your actual requirements when funds are made available from very far away and programmes are also made at some distant place. You have your eye on what is surplus with the Government and what you can get from it. The other point is that these funds are not linked with raising resources. That is why you must find out whether at the district and lower levels some resources can be raised. Whether you can be given some powers to raise revenue and in what way could these be given.

You will also have to discuss how power will be devolved. When the Panchayati Raj system was initiated, the responsibility of giving power to local bodies was with the States. Often power given by one hand was taken away by the other. This should not happen again. How should the power be given to you? Straight from the Centre or from the States to the local bodies? No one should be able to take this power away from you. Should the Constitution be amended and in what manner and to what extent? What is the minimum amendment required and what is the maximum that should be done? At the very minimum, timely elections to panchayats must be ensured and these bodies should not be dissolved without valid reasons. If for some reason they are dissolved, there should be a provision for their re-election as is the case for our Lok Sabha or State Assemblies. This is the minimum requirement. There can also be much more. You must reflect which is the best middle path and how we can reach it. We do not want to give you Panchayati Raj institutions as they were. We want to renew and strengthen the institutions that we give you, so that elections are held in time and real power is in your hands. We have also to learn from the past 25 years of experience, what we could achieve and what we could not, where the weakness lies and how it can be remedied. Responsibilities should be well defined and resources should be properly allocated to you. Above all we must ensure that weaker sections are protected and that they are not weakened by this system but in fact gain strength from it.

I hope this new system will cater to the actual needs of the people. It must ensure that past mistakes are not repeated. I hope that democracy will reach the grassroots. To achieve this object, we have to break the hold of power-brokers and give real power to the districts, blocks and villages—to the people who, live there.

Even a four-day period for such discussions is not sufficient and therefore, a questionnaire has been given to you. I hope you will study the questionnaire seriously, complete it and return it to us. I assure you that we will go through the questionnaires filled up by you, thoroughly and try to incorporate your suggestions.

I hope that I shall be with you again on the fourth day and for a longer period. I have kept two and a half hours apart to be with you. I have spoken a lot today, but on that day I will speak less and listen more to you. And I hope that you will speak openly without any reservation.

I see that only a few women are present here. I hope Bhajan Lalji will see to it that women delegates get full opportunity for expressing their views. In the end, I welcome you to Delhi, and I hope that the arrangement made for your stay here is comfortable, inspite of the chilly weather. If there are any shortcomings, do please let us know and we will try our best to remove these. I saw you sitting in two blocks yesterday in the Republic Day function. I am sure you must have enjoyed the parade.

It is appropriate that you visited the Samadhi of Gandhiji before beginning your deliberations. You have before you very significant work—work linked with the thoughts and ideals of Gandhiji and an integral part of our freedom struggle, which in a way was left out and must be completed now. I give you my good wishes for the success of your discussions. When I meet you on the fourth day of the Sammelan, I hope to get from you good and solid answers to the questions which I have posed before you.

Combating Corruption

Shri Rahul Gandhi’s speech on Lokpal issue, 26 August, 2011

Madam Speaker,

I have been deeply distressed at the developments of the last few days. Many aspects of the situation have caused me anguish. We are all aware that corruption is pervasive. It operates at every level. The poor may carry its greatest burden but it is an affliction that every Indian is desperate to be rid off. Fighting corruption is as integral to eliminating poverty as is Mahatma Gandhi NREGA or the Land Acquisition Bill. Yet it is equally imperative to the growth and development of our nation.

Madam Speaker, we cannot wish away corruption by the mere desire to see it removed from our lives. This requires a comprehensive framework of action and a concerted political program supported by all levels of the state from the highest to the lowest. Most importantly, it requires firm political will.

Madam Speaker, in the past few years I have travelled the length and breadth of our country. I have met scores of countrymen, rich and poor, old and young, privileged and disempowered who have expressed their disillusionment to me.

In the last few months, Annaji has helped the people to articulate this same sentiment. I thank him for that. I believe that the real question before us as representatives of the people of India today is whether we are prepared to take the battle against corruption head on? It is not a matter of how the present impasse will resolve, it is a much greater battle. There are no simple solutions.

To eradicate corruption demands a far deeper engagement and sustained commitment from each one of us. Witnessing the events of the last few days it would appear that the enactment of a single Bill will usher in a corruption-free society. I have serious doubts about this belief. An effective Lok Pal law is only one element in the legal framework to combat corruption.

The Lok Pal institution alone cannot be a substitute for a comprehensive anti-corruption code. A set of effective laws is required. Laws that address the following

critical issues are necessary to stand alongside the Lok Pal initiative:

government funding of elections and political parties,

transparency in public procurement,

proper regulation of sectors that fuel corruption like land and mining,

grievance redress mechanisms in public service delivery of old age pensions and ration cards; and continued tax reforms to end tax evasion.

We owe it to the people of this country to work together across party lines to ensure that Parliament functions at its optimum capacity and delivers these laws in a just and time bound manner. We speak of a statutory Lok Pal but our discussions cease at the point of its accountability to the people and the risk that it might itself become corrupt.

Madam Speaker, why not elevate the debate and fortify the Lok Pal by making it a Constitutional body accountable to Parliament like the Election Commission of India? I feel the time has come for us to seriously consider this idea.

Madam Speaker, laws and institutions are not enough. A representative, inclusive and accessible democracy is central to fighting corruption. Individuals have brought our country great gains. They have galvanized people in the cause of freedom and development. However, individual dictates, no matter how well intentioned, must not weaken the democratic process.

This process is often lengthy and lumbering. But it is so in order to be inclusive and fair. It provides a representative and transparent platform where ideas are translated into laws. A tactical incursion, divorced from the machinery of an elected Government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of Parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy.

Today the proposed law is against corruption. Tomorrow the target may be something less universally heralded. It may attack the plurality of our society and democracy.

India's biggest achievement is our democratic system. It is the life force of our nation. I believe we need more democracy within our political parties. I believe in Government funding of our political parties. I believe in empowering our youth; in opening the doors of our closed political system; in bringing fresh blood into politics and into this House. I believe in moving our democracy deeper and deeper into our villages and our cities.

I know my faith in our democracy, is shared by members of this House. I know that regardless of their political affiliation, many of my colleagues work tirelessly to realize the ideals upon which our nation was built. The pursuit of truth is the greatest of those ideals. It won us our freedom. It gave us our democracy. Let us commit ourselves to truth and probity in public life. We owe it to the people of India.

Lowering of Voting age

“India is an old country but a young nation…I am young and I too have a dream, I dream of India Strong, Independent, Self-Reliant and in the front rank of the nations of the world, in the service of mankind.”

Rajiv Gandhi

Madam Speaker,

I have been deeply distressed at the developments of the last few days. Many aspects of the situation have caused me anguish. We are all aware that corruption is pervasive. It operates at every level. The poor may carry its greatest burden but it is an affliction that every Indian is desperate to be rid off. Fighting corruption is as integral to eliminating poverty as is Mahatma Gandhi NREGA or the Land Acquisition Bill. Yet it is equally imperative to the growth and development of our nation.

Madam Speaker, we cannot wish away corruption by the mere desire to see it removed from our lives. This requires a comprehensive framework of action and a concerted political program supported by all levels of the state from the highest to the lowest. Most importantly, it requires firm political will.

Madam Speaker, in the past few years I have travelled the length and breadth of our country. I have met scores of countrymen, rich and poor, old and young, privileged and disempowered who have expressed their disillusionment to me.

In the last few months, Annaji has helped the people to articulate this same sentiment. I thank him for that. I believe that the real question before us as representatives of the people of India today is whether we are prepared to take the battle against corruption head on? It is not a matter of how the present impasse will resolve, it is a much greater battle. There are no simple solutions.

To eradicate corruption demands a far deeper engagement and sustained commitment from each one of us. Witnessing the events of the last few days it would appear that the enactment of a single Bill will usher in a corruption-free society. I have serious doubts about this belief. An effective Lok Pal law is only one element in the legal framework to combat corruption.

The Lok Pal institution alone cannot be a substitute for a comprehensive anti-corruption code. A set of effective laws is required. Laws that address the following

critical issues are necessary to stand alongside the Lok Pal initiative:

  • government funding of elections and political parties,
  • transparency in public procurement,
  • proper regulation of sectors that fuel corruption like land and mining,
  • grievance redress mechanisms in public service delivery of old age pensions and ration cards; and continued tax reforms to end tax evasion.

We owe it to the people of this country to work together across party lines to ensure that Parliament functions at its optimum capacity and delivers these laws in a just and time bound manner. We speak of a statutory Lok Pal but our discussions cease at the point of its accountability to the people and the risk that it might itself become corrupt.

Madam Speaker, why not elevate the debate and fortify the Lok Pal by making it a Constitutional body accountable to Parliament like the Election Commission of India? I feel the time has come for us to seriously consider this idea.

Madam Speaker, laws and institutions are not enough. A representative, inclusive and accessible democracy is central to fighting corruption. Individuals have brought our country great gains. They have galvanized people in the cause of freedom and development. However, individual dictates, no matter how well intentioned, must not weaken the democratic process.

This process is often lengthy and lumbering. But it is so in order to be inclusive and fair. It provides a representative and transparent platform where ideas are translated into laws. A tactical incursion, divorced from the machinery of an elected Government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of Parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy.

Today the proposed law is against corruption. Tomorrow the target may be something less universally heralded. It may attack the plurality of our society and democracy.

India's biggest achievement is our democratic system. It is the life force of our nation. I believe we need more democracy within our political parties. I believe in Government funding of our political parties. I believe in empowering our youth; in opening the doors of our closed political system; in bringing fresh blood into politics and into this House. I believe in moving our democracy deeper and deeper into our villages and our cities.

I know my faith in our democracy, is shared by members of this House. I know that regardless of their political affiliation, many of my colleagues work tirelessly to realize the ideals upon which our nation was built. The pursuit of truth is the greatest of those ideals. It won us our freedom. It gave us our democracy. Let us commit ourselves to truth and probity in public life. We owe it to the people of India

Voting rights for all

Excerpts from President K R Narayanan's speech on the Eve of the 52nd Republic Day

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. The system 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 overemphasise 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....

Let us remember, it is under the flexible and spacious provisions of our Constitution that democracy has flourished during the last 50 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 today is adjusted 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 civilisation 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 biotechnology 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 today 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 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.

Progressive values

"I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”
--- Mahatma Gandhi

"The ambition of the greatest men of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over. And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments."
--- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Tryst With Destiny speech August 15, 1947

"It is the prime responsibility of every citizen to feel that his country is free and to defend its freedom is his duty."
--- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

“Even during the days of the freedom struggle, the Congress organisation had broadly indicated that the society which it envisaged after achieving independence was not the conventional type of society but a progressive one based on the modern concepts of social, political and economic equality and justice."
--- Thiru K Kamaraj

"When your own government ensures an environment of peace and harmony , there is development in every direction, then only there is prosperity .., Every section of the society should move forward together... shoulder to shoulder. This is India’s secular culture ... and foundation of governance."
--- Smt Sonia Gandhi during her speech in Barmer district, Rajasthan on September 22, 2013

Equal Economic Opportunity

Shri Rajiv Gandhi at the ILO, 17 June 1985

It is a pleasure to be with you this morning. The International Labour Conference brings together governments, workers and employers. The ILO champions the rights of those who through their labour create wealth for their nations and peoples. I am grateful for the special honour you have done me in asking me to address this Session. I also thank the Canton authorities of Geneva and the Federal Government of Switzerland for their gracious welcome.

The underprivileged, the poor and the disinherited have won many an important victory, but the struggle must continue. Millions of poverty-stricken people in Asia, in Africa and in Latin America are denied fulfilment of basic human needs. Even today starvation is a stark reality in some parts of the world. The ravaged faces of men, women and children seeking food are an indictment of the existing world order. The great moral paradox of want amidst plenty is yet to be resolved.

It is in this larger perspective that we have to consider the role of the ILO. What we do here must relate to the major issues of our time, else our work and our achievements will not endure.

The basic objective of the ILO is to secure social justice and peace through international co-operation. Just as the ILO was the response of the international community to the exploitation of labour, the UN system as a whole was a response to the utter futility of the methods devised earlier to preserve peace and to promote a just world order. We had hoped that the hour of international co-operation had come.

And so it seemed for some time. Although armed conflicts did not disappear, and the theme of development did not always have an easy passage, the belief in the positive force of collective action through multilateral institutions gained strength. The ideals of the UN Charter were the source of inspiration for several international organisations and specialised agencies. Many crises were overcome. World opinion was mobilised for a vast co-operative effort to banish the scourges of war and want.

Today the very idea of joint international endeavour for peace and prosperity is under challenge. We are witnessing a retreat from multilateralism. Doubt, discord and dissension are gnawing at the system. There are pressures for conformity. There is reluctance to consider the wider effects of a policy that small groups of countries may wish to pursue to meet the world economic crisis. The theme of interdependence is publicly professed, but diluted in practice. The dialogue to create understanding is encountering serious resistance.

Forty years after the end of the second world war, the dark and lengthening shadow of a nuclear holocaust lies across the future of mankind. The crushing burden of armaments grows. Scarce resources are earmarked for the engines of destruction, while development falters for want of funds.

Are there no exits?

We in India believe that crisis of our age can be resolved only through a renewal of commitment to the principles of the UN Charter. The ILO, the oldest representative of international co-operation, is an appropriate forum for us to reaffirm that faith on which the United Nations was founded. We have to hold fast to the vision of a future for mankind at peace with itself and dedicated to the progress and prosperity of all.

India, which is a founder member of the ILO, has pursued these objectives in its national policies. We won our independence through a mass movement in which industrial labour and rural workers played a notable part. When we drew up our Constitution, we proclaimed that the State should make "provision for securing just and humane conditions of work" besides ensuring "a living wage and a decent standard of life to all workers, agricultural, industrial or other". These form important articles in the chapter in our Constitution outlining the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Over the last thirty-eight years, we have endeavoured to achieve these objectives through the process of planned development. The concept of planning grew as part of our struggle for freedom. Jawaharlal Nehru roused the Indian social consciousness to recognise that exploitation of labour was inherent in underdevelopment and that underdevelopment itself was the product of colonialism. The struggle against colonialism was simultaneously a struggle against the deep-rooted causes of India's poverty. That is why the protection of the rights of workers has formed an integral part of our design of development. I am glad to say that our trade union movement, which has zealously guarded the rights and interests of workers, has been an enthusiastic participant in the wider process of development.

The wider process of development raises a number of issues which demand urgent attention. The ILO's tripartite social contract between organised labour, employers and governments has made a notable contribution in advancing the cause of social justice. However, if the ILO had remained circumscribed by that limited but important gain, it would not have been the focus of aspirations of the developing world that it is today. We know that the ILO has travelled beyond that to face the wider challenge of world poverty. The Philadelphia declaration recognised that "poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere". This was said in 1944. This noble objective has yet to become an international reality.

The pioneering work of the ILO in the field of labour legislation has certainly produced impressive results. The basic concepts behind the ILO standards are unquestionable and universally shared. The living and working conditions of labour have improved significantly. But we are still only talking about those who are employed, and only those among the employed who are organised. What about the unemployed? What about those who are unorganised, as the vast majority of workers in developing countries are?

We must remember that in developing countries, organised labour forms a small part of the total labour force. In my country the earnings of organised labour fall within the top decile of all income-earners. Ninety per cent of all Indians earn less than the organised workers. These are the millions spread over our countryside who work as landless labour or as contract labour on building sites, in quarrying, road construction and in service trades, all at low income levels. In addition, there are millions who can find no work or who are grossly under-employed. My question is: What more can the ILO do to make these segments of labour a major focus of its activity?

I should like to tell you what we in India are doing to improve the conditions of unorganised labour. Since the mid-seventies we have implemented a series of special programmes aimed at alleviating acute poverty and increasing rural employment. These include schemes for integrated rural development, for training youth for self-employment, special programmes for hill regions, drought-prone areas and deserts, and schemes for guaranteed employment to landless rural labour. We have also paid attention to the specific needs of women workers, the physically handicapped, and the socially disadvantaged sections of society. These anti-poverty programmes have given the poor an opportunity to be productive and have aroused tremendous enthusiasm.

The results speak for themselves. Fifteen million families below the poverty line have been helped in the last five years under the integrated rural development programme. More than three hundred million man-days of additional employment are being generated under the rural employment programmes annually.

We have still a long way to go. But where earlier there was despair, there is now hope for a new life. New skills, assets and incomes have been generated. A valuable base now exists to go forward.

In the Seventh Plan, which we have just launched, the thrust for social justice will be continued with greater vigour. We have learnt from experience that to achieve a significant reduction of poverty, simultaneous action is needed in several key areas.

We have to restructure our educational system to relate it meaningfully to employment opportunities. Our youth have to be trained to use new technology in all areas, especially agriculture, where it matters most. Modern advances in genetics and bio-technology have to be brought to the doors of our enterprising and hard working farmers. The more than five hundred thousand villages of India have to feel the beneficial impact of the new communication and information technologies. New horizons are opening up in the field of non-conventional sources of energy, in the spread of new knowledge to areas of subsistence agriculture and in agro-industry. All this cannot happen without significant, indeed revolutionary, changes in our education system.

The economic and social emancipation of women ranks high on our agenda. The totality of their welfare, equal access to education, equal wages, maternity and child benefits, special health care, the ending of socially discriminatory practices, all this will claim our attention and resources, and will raise their social status.

Above all, we shall proceed to tackle earnestly and systematically the problem of burgeoning population. This will involve measures to reduce infant mortality, ensure child survival, improve mother and child care, improve health services and provide education for responsible citizenship.

Poverty alleviation is the core of our strategy for development. It is not only a function of growth. It also requires conscious State intervention. But in the ultimate analysis it is faster growth that provides us the means of intervention. We have been able to mount anti-poverty programmes precisely because we had struggled hard to build the foundations of a self-reliant and dynamic economy. In the Sixth Plan, the Indian economy grew at an average annual rate of over five per cent. For faster growth in the Seventh Plan, technological change will have to be qualitatively higher and swifter. Workers in India can look forward to greater opportunities of contributing to progress and sharing it.

We are creating a policy environment conducive to faster growth, to the infusion of modern technology and to higher productivity. This has been a process of evolution. Policy changes were initiated in the early eighties. We are integrating them in a framework consistent with our philosophy of planning. And we are accelerating their pace to galvanise the vast productive forces of our society for the welfare of the poorest sections.

These are the issues that will dominate the transition to the twenty-first century. An enormous range and complexity of issues are inherent in the management of the dramatic changes in technology for the welfare of the poor in developing countries. The development process and what it does to those without the protective umbrella of organised action must increasingly claim our attention. I trust that the work that the ILO has initiated for the weak, the unemployed and the unorganised will be further enlarged.

We should not overlook the danger signals. Some developed countries are trying to solve the problem of unemployment through reducing or shutting out imports from developing countries. Protectionism in the developed world is growing just when developing countries are being enjoined to liberalise their trade regimes. Sometimes the concept of fair-labour standards is invoked for perpetuating protectionism. But protecting employment in this way is bound to be a short-lived affair. If the developing countries cannot export, they will not be able to import the goods and services produced by the developed countries. And the fastest growing markets are in the developing countries. Thus protectionism has wider ramifications. It concerns not only foreign trade policies, but the basic issue of the livelihood of millions in the poor countries. Therefore, it deserves to be discussed internationally in terms of its long-term impact on employment, both in the developed and developing countries.

Friends, we Indians are an ancient people. Our history goes back 5000 years. Our culture has endured through the vicissitudes of time. Always we have shown the capacity to absorb and to synthesise. Different races, cultures and religions have mingled in India to produce the rich diversity of our life. And now, after the end of colonial servitude, our young nation is showing afresh the vitality of endeavour to build a new, fuller life for our people. Our workers and peasants are in the forefront of this struggle—demanding but very rewarding struggle. And we are struggling not only for ourselves, but for all those who are in chains everywhere else. We must wipe every tear from every eye.

This can be achieved best when nations pool their efforts and work in unison. The United Nations Charter and the constitutions of ILO and other international organisations embody a vision of global peace and prosperity. We must prevent the erosion of the United Nations system. As a popular song on the travails of the African people puts it, "We are the world, we are the children". Mankind is one. Let us not break it up by narrow domestic walls.

Building Social Equality

Women's Empowerment

“To be liberated, woman must feel free to be herself, not in rivalry to man but in the context of her own capacity and her personality.” (Smt Indira Gandhi, ‘True Liberation of Women’, at the inauguration of the All-India Women's Conference Building Complex in New Delhi, India, March 26, 1980)

Our Constitution that came into force in 1950 gave women a new charter for emancipation and empowerment. Women were given the right to vote in the very first national elections in 1952.

India’s remarkable success in women’s political emancipation lies in the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) and Municipalities. Shri Rajiv Gandhi will be forever associated with their political empowerment at the grassroots. He said "It is women who undertake much more than half the economic activities in rural India. It is women to whom are entrusted the welfare and, often, the finances, of the household. It is the women of rural India who are the main repository of India’s great cultural traditions, of the moral values which are fundamental to the survival and efflorescence of our civilisation. Should we not begin the process of reservations for women at the lower tier in the hope that it might in due course expand upwards to the higher tiers"?

With the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment brought in by the Congress in 1993, 33% seats were reserved for women in the three tiers of local government. Today, 1.2 million elected women representatives, including women from the most deprived and disadvantaged communities have taken their place alongside men in the councils of rural self-government. Long-established power equations are now changing.

The Congress is committed to Women’s Reservation in legislatures and has displayed our conviction by getting this passed in the RajyaSabha. We hope to build political consensus on the issue and ensure that women have a greater participation in our highest democratic institutions.

Since Independence, a number of significant legislations aimed at protecting women from exploitation and violence have been enacted:.

In 1950, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s government ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Persons and Exploitation of the Prostitution of others.

In 1956, under the Parliamentpassed the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act (SITA). This was amended in 1986, when Shri Rajiv Gandhi was at the helm, to the Immoral Prevention of Traffic Act.

In 1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act was passed, which aimed at suppressing the practice of dowry, which was an extremely crucial element of patriarchal exploitation.

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and the Commission of Sati (Prevention)Act, 1987 (No. 3 of1988) were also passed during Rajiv ji’s tenure.

At the UPA’s initiative, Parliament passed the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed on 26 February 2013.

Preventing Caste-Based Exploitation

Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion denies them.”---Dr B.R. Ambedkar

Caste-based Reservations:

Reservations had been provided even in British India, under the Communal Award introduced in 1932, whereby seats were reserved in the legislature for depressed classes and minority communities. But the system didn’t serve any purpose as only people from the depressed classes were allowed to vote for candidates from the same category.However, after Independence, it was felt that caste hierarchy can be neutralised only if people from higher castes vote for candidates belonging to the depressed classes, or if employees from the former category work under the leadership of someone belonging to the latter in government departments. Hence the government reserved seats for people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the legislature, in government jobs as well as in government-run educational institutions.

Reservation for OBCs: Realising that there were sections, such as people belonging to castes which were backward,did notfall under the SC category, were being left behind, the United Progressive Alliance government in 2006 decided to reserve 27% seats in educational institutions for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

In 2012, the Congress-led UPA took another significant decision by providing a quota for SC/STs in promotions in government jobs. It was felt that government employees belonging to these categories weren’t being able to rise in the ranks as much as they should in the normal course of their careers.

In 1955, Parliament passed the Protection of Civil Rights Act to “prescribe the punishment for the preaching and practice of Untouchability and for the enforcement of any disability arising from it”.The legislation was nothing less than revolutionary at that time. For, even a much older democracy like the United States had been unable to provide civil rights to a section of its citizens, sparking the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1970s and 1980s, there was a spike in the violence with massacres taking place in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Recognising the gravity of the problem, Rajiv ji promised a legislation to check the atrocities during his Independence Day address on 15 August, 1987. It was Rajiv ji’s assurance that led to the passage of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Rules for the Act were framed and notified in 1995.

In 1993, at the initiative of the Congress government, Parliament enacted a legislation banning the practice of manual scavenging. This was the most inhuman practice that arose out of the caste system, as it refers to the removal of human waste/excreta from unsanitary, “dry" toilets by people belonging to lower castes. In February 2013 the Congress government in Delhi announced that Delhi had become the first state to eliminate manual scavenging. Other than strict implementation of the law, the elimination of manual scavenging required doing away with dry toilets and the construction of sanitary latrines. Abolition of Privy Purses

The demand for abolition of privy purses first came up during the Nagpur Congress Session in 1959. Moved by a group of young Congress leaders committed to Socialism, the resolution was carried with a majority of 17 votes to 4.

After Smt. Indira Gandhi nationalised private banks in 1969, it was but natural that the abolition of privy purses should be the next step to be taken. In September 1970, the move to do away with privy purses was initiated in Parliament. Though it sailed through in the LokSabha, with 336 members voting for it and 155 against, it was defeated in the RajyaSabha by “a "fraction of a single vote".

But the people of India gave their stamp of approval to Indira ji’s socialist policies as she won a resounding victory in the 1971 general elections. Enjoying a comfortable majority in both the Lower and Upper House of Parliament, Indira ji proposed the 26th Constitutional Amendment on 28 December 1971, recommending the abolition of privy purses to erstwhile royals.

Introducing the Bill in Parliament, Smt Indira Gandhi said: “The concept of rulership, with privy purses and special privileges unrelated to any current functions and social purposes, is incompatible with an egalitarian social order. Government have, therefore, decided to terminate the privy purses and privileges of the Rulers of former Indian States. It is necessary for this purpose, apart from amending the relevant provisions of the Constitution, to insert a new article therein so as to terminate expressly the recognition already granted to such Rulers and to abolish privy purses and extinguish all rights, liabilities and obligations in respect of privy purses. Hence this Bill.”

Women’s Reservation

Congress President Sonia Gandhi speech on Women as Agents of Change at Commonwealth Lecture 2011: 17 March 2011, London, UK

Introductory Remarks Prime Minister, Chairperson of the Commonwealth Foundation, Secretary General, Distinguished Guests, I am honoured to deliver the fourteenth Commonwealth lecture on the theme of women as agents of change. It was an invitation I could not refuse for two reasons – first, my own personal involvement in the cause of women’s empowerment, particularly that of Indian women who constitute some 60 per cent of all the women in the Commonwealth; and second, my family’s close association with this organization.

India and the Commonwealth The modern Commonwealth owes much to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It is ironic that a man imprisoned for so many years by the imperial masters of his country should have become so crucial for the survival and evolution of the Commonwealth.

During the long years of India’s freedom struggle, membership had been widely opposed, implying as it did dominion status and allegiance to the Crown. Yet, in the aftermath of Partition and the polarised world scene, Nehru, the student of world history, saw that the Commonwealth could be a bridge between the dying world of Empire and the new post-colonial world being born. Nehru, the statesman, saw merit in an institution that sought to build bridges at many levels between countries and peoples.

Indira Gandhi valued the Commonwealth in a less idealised way than her father. She shared a personal bond with the leading Commonwealth figures of her time and brought to it a special focus on the development needs of its members.

I accompanied my husband Rajiv Gandhi to successive Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings and remember some of the colourful episodes that took place behind the scenes. To give you just one example, at the 1985 CHOGM in the Bahamas, the issue of sanctions against South Africa dominated the discussions. Margaret Thatcher stood out in solitary opposition to the rest of the Commonwealth’s call for sanctions against the apartheid regime. At the weekend retreat, Shridath Ramphal put together a three-member team to talk informally to Mrs. Thatcher and persuade her to relent. They were Rajiv Gandhi, Brian Mulroney of Canada and Robert Hawke of Australia, selected by him apparently as much for their looks as their political weight.

In private, he jokingly told them: ―She will not be able to resist the three best-looking men of the Conference‖. The Iron Lady was unmoved and the handsome threesome failed either to charm or to persuade her. Thus was the stage set for the most heated political confrontation in the Commonwealth’s history.

At the subsequent Vancouver CHOGM in 1987, Rajiv Gandhi pledged India’s support to the establishment of the Commonwealth of Learning, which has played such a significant role in improving the quality of distance education in our country. India has always been in the forefront of important cooperation initiatives launched by the Commonwealth and I am sure will continue to be so.

I am particularly glad about the theme for this lecture. Women are disproportionately vulnerable in our world, even today. The global economic downturn of recent years has hurt them hardest. Similarly, climate change and environmental degradation exact a greater price from women, who have less access to resources, technology and credit. Conflict and warfare impose their own terrible toll. And it bears repeating that in many countries a girl is less likely to go to school, get adequate healthcare and social protection, or be given the chance to make her own life-decisions.

But on the positive side, we also know that investing in women is the highest-return venture. It’s not just about improving things for them, it is as vitally about letting women improve things for themselves, their families, their communities and the world at large. Even a small investment in women has great economic, political and social reverberations.

Women and Change: The Global Context Women as agents of change is an idea that seems self-evident in the Commonwealth. The two most influential women personalities of the twentieth century - Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher -- were both Commonwealth leaders. Margaret Thatcher changed Britain. Indira Gandhi changed India.

Indira Gandhi was described as the only man in her cabinet, much as Margaret Thatcher was in Britain – the assumption being that it is only men who shape our destinies and alter the course of events. There are other vivid examples of women who overturned such conventional wisdom. Rosa Parks’s refusal to give up her seat in a bus to a white man triggered the civil rights movement in America, leading to the end of racial segregation. During Nelson Mandela’s long imprisonment, Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu and the Black Sash Movement, led by Jean Sinclair and Sheena Duncan, along with others, kept resistance to apartheid alive within South Africa. And there is Aung Saan Syu Kyi in Myanmar whose sacrifices have become the focus of the democratic cause in her country.

Although the women’s movement has already transformed the way in which we look at society in each of our countries, the search for equality is far from finished. History, culture and economics still remain weighted against women. In my own country, most worrying of all is the declining sex ratio of females to males. The age-old preference for sons, coupled with the development of sex-selection technologies, has given an alarming demographic twist to gender bias. That this is happening in regions of substantial economic prosperity within the country is even more disturbing. I should add here, however, that in the recent Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, young women from these very regions won the most number of medals. In a poignant interview, one of them recalled that her parents had wished her to be a boy -- but reconciled themselves after she developed her sporting prowess.

Among all the challenges facing humankind in the 21st century, few are more pressing than climate change and global warming. Unfortunately, as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has pointed out, most of the climate debate has so far been gender-blind.

Yet women have played a special role in raising environmental consciousness. Some may remember only Julia Roberts in the Oscar-winning role of Erin Brockovich. But there have been others in an earlier era who blazed a whole new trail. Rachel Carson’s book ―The Silent Spring‖ published in 1962 was a watershed and led to the banning of DDT. Indira Gandhi herself, at the UN Stockholm Conference on the Environment in 1972, powerfully expressed the link between poverty and environmental degradation, an issue which continues to shape the current debate.

The Chipko movement in the Himalayas in the 1970s, in which village women hugged the trees to protect them from being felled, gave a new meaning and momentum to environmental activism in India. In other parts of the world too, women have taken an inspiring lead in protecting the environment, such as Wangari Maathai in Kenya, Rigoberta Menchu in Guatemala and Marina Silva in Brazil, to name just a few.I sometimes wonder whether women’s greater empathy with nature and concern for their children’s future might not help the world to find a new, more sustainable, less consumerist path of development.

In 1989, the Commonwealth became the first major international organization to publish a landmark scientific study on the devastating effects of climate change. Commonwealth Heads of Government also agreed on a Climate Change Action Plan in 2007, where, among other things, they called upon the support of women to ensure effective action.

How can such support be extended if women’s voices and concerns hardly figure in the global climate negotiations, or in national and local climate management plans? Perhaps it is time for a fresh Commonwealth initiative to help the world bridge this gap. Such an initiative could suggest ways to bring women’s participation and perspectives more squarely into the global negotiations. We need climate justice not only between countries, but also between genders.

Enhancing the role of women in protecting the environment is necessary. But what about protecting women themselves? Economic growth is leading to mass migration to cities. Disturbingly, this is being accompanied by growing violence against women. If urbanization is the world’s future, we must design urban environments and services in ways that will give women greater security, and educate and involve citizens in this cause. A Commonwealth initiative bringing together our great cities to collaborate on this issue would be timely.

So these are two areas – climate change and urbanisation – where I hope that the Commonwealth can do more for women. At the same time, I do recognize and appreciate the gender work it is already doing, such as building women entrepreneurs and leaders, and drafting laws which meet women’s needs.

Women and Change: The Indian Scene Now this evening you will appreciate that my own experience equips me better to focus on the importance of women's issues in India, which is what I now turn to. In order to understand where Indian women are today, let me first tell you where they once were.

In the late 19th century, during the Raj, a section of educated Indian women looked to Queen Victoria for relief from oppressive customs, hoping that as a woman she would intervene on their behalf. Alas, Her Majesty showed them no gender solidarity!

Women in Europe and America too, had to struggle to be educated. In India, however, the opposition to female education was far more intense, grounded as it was in millennia of patriarchy -- even though Indian culture has very prominent female deities, including a Goddess for Learning. In the west, the argument was that women did not need to be educated. In India, the argument was that women should not be educated, that education would ruin women’s character and their traditional submissiveness and subvert the very basis of Indian culture. Dr. Anandibai Joshee,who later became India’s first woman doctor, described her experience of going to school in the relatively progressive city of Bombay in the late 1870s as follows and I quote:“When people saw me going with books in my hands, they put their heads out of the window just to have a look at me. Some stopped their carriages for the purpose. Others walking in the streets stood laughing, crying out derisive remarks so that I could hear them…. Some of them made fun and were convulsed with laughter. Others, sitting respectably in their verandahs…did not feel ashamed to throw pebbles at me. The shopkeepers and vendors spat at the sight of me, and made gestures too indecent to describe.”Unquote.

As if the gauntlet of public hostility on the street was not enough, women had also to endure hostility within the family. In 1889 Kashibai Kanitkar, the first major woman writer in the Marathi language, described the stigma attached to women’s literacy as follows and I quote:“If a woman picks up a paper, our elders feel offended, as though she has done something very shameful. If she receives a letter from her relatives, all the family feels dishonoured. If a woman’s name appears in a newspaper, if her essay is published, if she stammers out a few words at a women’s gathering, she is certain to be slapped with a gigantic charge of having tarnished the family’s honour!”Unquote.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the emergence of a number of outstanding social reformers. But it was Mahatma Gandhi who brought about the first real and nation-wide wave of emancipation through his mass mobilization of women into the freedom movement. Unusually for his time, he believed that India’s economic and moral salvation lay in women’s hands. He condemned the traditions of child marriage, female seclusion, dowry, enforced widowhood, and the lack of education that had shackled Indian women for so long. He urged women to fight injustice and inequality and become masters of their own destiny. Women came out in their millions to participate in the civil disobedience movement, profoundly changing their outlook. Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation, can perhaps also be called the Mother of Indian feminism.

Our Constitution that came into force in 1950 gave women a new charter for emancipation and empowerment. Women were given the right to vote in the very first national elections in 1952. Actually, the Congress Party had promised universal female franchise way back in 1928 when many developed democracies were still debating the idea. Like elsewhere in the world, and especially in India, it has not been easy to carve a direct solidarity among women. Their concerns are divided by class, by community, by caste, by culture. But through the 1970s and 80s, the women’s movement in India flowered, banding together on issues like dowry and violence, household labour, discriminatory customs, property rights and wages. These campaigns resulted in the enactment of radical new laws.

A visitor to contemporary India will be impressed by the prominence of women in all aspects of life. India’s President is a woman, as are the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House of Parliament. The Chief Minister of India’s most populous state is a woman from a section of society subjected to discrimination for centuries. Women are Presidents of four of our major political parties. Women are prominent in the judiciary, the higher civil service, the professions, academia, the corporate world, the media and every branch of civil society. At the time of Independence, women accounted for less than 10 per cent of enrolment in higher education—they will soon be on par with men. And it is not by government action alone that this silent revolution is taking place. Today, women in India are becoming agents of change through their own initiative, their energy and enterprise. Through individual and collective action, they are transforming their own situations and indeed transforming the broader social context itself.

Let me give you some examples of where and how women—ordinary poor women—are beginning to make a difference with far-reaching implications for our country as a whole.

Self-Help Groups The first is the growth of women’s Self-Help Groups which are changing rural India. Groups of women pool their savings on a regular basis and secure loans for a variety of activities that help them increase their incomes. There are now about five million such groups, averaging 10-15 members each. Last year, they secured bank loans worth more than two billion pounds.

This expanding network has had enormous impact. By giving poor women access to credit (and I might add, with a repayment record far superior to that of well-heeled borrowers!), these groups are helping to blunt the harsh edges of poverty and destitution. But women are doing more than getting loans. They are actually taking on a variety of functions on behalf of government departments. They are, for instance, buying rice and maize from farmers for sale through fair price shops. They are distributing old age pensions and scholarships. They are managing primary health centres. And in this pub-loving country, it may surprise you to know how successful they have been in forcing the closure of village liquor shops to combat male alcoholism, domestic violence and the drain on household finances.

But there is something even more fundamentally revolutionary about this movement. It cuts across caste divides. It gives women a new voice, a new self-confidence, a new assertiveness. Attending a meeting of these women is an uplifting experience. When once they dared not open their mouths even within the family, let alone voice their concerns before outsiders, they are now vociferous in discussing personal and family problems as well as a whole range of community issues.

Women’s Reservation The second arena where women have emerged as catalysts of change is politics, especially at the local level. In 1993, India amended its Constitution to provide 33 per cent reservation or quota for women in rural and urban local bodies throughout the country. There was cynicism, resentment and even anger – from powerful men, predictably -- when the idea was first mooted. No longer. Today, 1.2 million elected women representatives, including women from the most deprived and disadvantaged communities, have taken their place alongside men in the councils of rural self-government. Long-established power equations are now changing.

But I am less than happy to admit that at the national level we have not yet been successful. Women’s representation in Parliament has hovered between 9 and 11 per cent, a figure that is considerably lower than in many other democracies. Legislation for a 33% quota in Parliament and state assemblies has been passed by the Upper House. We shall persevere in our efforts to get it approved by the Lower House as well.

Civic Activism The third area where women are leaving their distinctive imprint as harbingers of change is social activism. Over the last few years the language of rights has entered the mainstream of political discourse. Thus we now have a right to information, a right to work, a right to education and soon, a right to food security. What is remarkable about the rights debate and how it has progressed is the leading role women have played as its champions and advocates. Thanks to their passion and commitment, governance has become more open and accountable and public policies more caring of the poor.

Environmental activism too is something in which women are prominent. This is not surprising because, in essence, the issue of environment in India is an issue of livelihoods, of public health, of access to forests, of water security. What is particularly noteworthy about this form of environmental activism is that it is spontaneous in nature and is not driven by any formal organization. A spark is lit and a movement begins.

The fourth arena of impact is enterprise. The most visible may be women who lead some major Indian corporations, businesses and NGOs. But, perhaps even more significant are the unsung majority -- who make up over 90 per cent of all working women in what we call the informal or unorganized sector. For years, they enjoyed no pension, health insurance or maternity benefits, something that our government has begun to Collective action by women has taken different forms. Thus, India, once the world’s largest importer of milkfood, is now its largest milk producer. This White Revolution, as we call it, has proceeded in parallel with the Green Revolution. And it is millions of women in thousands of villages who have been the backbone of these milk cooperatives. There are many other instances such as Lijjat, producer of those poppadums so loved by British diners in Indian restaurants here. Founded by seven Gujarati housewives with a capital of about 7 pounds, it now has 42,000 owner-producers with a turnover approaching 70 million pounds.

The largest collective of women in India's informal sector is SEWA—the Self-Employed Women’s Association, also founded by a woman. Its achievements within the country to provide a social security net for its members and add value to household enterprise have been widely recognised. But one of its most recent endeavours is particularly noteworthy—a programme in war-torn Afghanistan to train women, especially war widows, to acquire skills, set up food processing enterprises and initiate ecological regeneration. A similar programme is the Hand-in-Hand project in two provinces in Afghanistan based on the experience of our self-help-groups. In a true spirit of sisterhood, they are contributing to women’s empowerment in that country.

Such initiatives demonstrate the role women’s enterprise can play in regions ravaged by violence and conflict. Within India as well, these groups have taken the lead in mediating, peace-building and reconciliation in areas of strife.

Finally, technology is proving to be a powerful tool for reducing gender inequalities. In the sunrise IT sector women already comprise close to one third—a million strong--of its workforce. There is a proliferation of knowledge-based enterprises, run by women in rural areas, such as village information centres and IT kiosks for accessing government services. Their ripple effect is growing. This is beginning to impact age-old prejudices. Independent livelihoods are enabling women to stand on their own feet and resist pressure for early marriage. They are also being viewed as less of a liability by their parents.

Concluding Remarks Ladies and Gentlemen, few things give me greater optimism about my country’s future than the amazing resilience of our women, their fortitude and courage, their capacity to overcome every obstacle, their readiness to grasp every opportunity. India is at the cusp of a ―demographic dividend‖ due to its young and increasingly educated and skilled population. Imagine, what might happen when this demographic dividend is multiplied by a ―gender dividend‖. It will, I believe, yield enormous economic gain and lead to profound social transformation.

Mahatma Gandhi saw women as the future leaders of human evolution, bringing compassion and morality into public life. As always, what he said is memorable, and I quote: “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then indeed is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she is not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater courage? Without woman, man could not be.” Unquote.

It could be argued that the progressive victories of the women’s movement, their achievement of the right to vote and other rights, were the 20th century’s seminal contribution to human advancement. It has been a long journey. I fervently hope that the 21st century will take this to its logical conclusion. May this be, not the century of any particular country, but the century when women finally come into their own, the century when representative democracy is re-imagined to give women their due share, the century when the vocabulary of politics and culture is re-engineered fully to include that other half of mankind.

Thank you

The Temples of Modern India

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at Bhakra Nangal July 8, 1954

I have occasion frequently these days to participate in functions marking the inauguration of some new work or completion of some other. Today, you and I and all these persons have gathered here on one such occasion. I want to know from you what you think and feel in your minds and hearts on this occasion, because in my heart and mind there is a strange exhilaration and excitement, and many kinds of pictures come before me. Many dreams we have dreamt are today drawing near and being materialized. For the materialization of these dreams, we may praise one another, and those who have done good work should be praised. But how many can be praised when the list runs to thousands, nay, lakhs?

Let us give praise where it is due. The work which we see today, and in the inauguration of which we are participating, is much bigger than our individual selves. It is a tremendous thing. I have told you that I, and undoubtedly many of you, have frequent occasion to participate in various functions. A foundation stone is laid somewhere; a building, a hospital, a school or a university is opened elsewhere. Big factories are going up. Such activity is taking place all over the country because Mother India is producing various kinds of things. Among them, Bhakra-Nangal has a special place—Bhakra Nangal where a small village stood, but which today is a name ringing in every corner of India and in some parts of the world too; because this is a great work, the mark of a great enterprise.

About fifty years ago, an Englishman came here and for the first time had the idea that something could be done at this place, but the idea did not materialize. The matter was raised many times. Some rough plans were made but they were not pursued. Then India became free. In the process, the Punjab suffered a great shock and a grievous wound. But despite the shock and the wound, freedom brought a new strength, a new enthusiasm. And so with the wound, the worries and calamities, came this new enthusiasm and new strength to take up this big work. And we took it up. I have come here frequently. Many of you also must have come and seen this slowly changing picture and felt something stirring deep within you. What a stupendous, magnificent work—a work which only that nation can take up which has faith and boldness! This is a work which does not belong only to the Punjab, or PEPSU or the neighbouring States, but to the whole of India.

India has undertaken other big works which are not much smaller than this. Damodar Valley, Hirakud and the big projects of the South are going on apace. Plans are being made every day because we are anxious to build a new India as speedily as possible, to lead it forward, to make it strong and to remove the poverty of its people. We are doing all this, and Bhakra-Nangal in many respects will be one of the greatest of these works, because a very big step in this direction is being taken here today after years of endeavour. Every work we complete in India gives fresh strength to the nation to undertake new tasks. Bhakra-Nangal is a landmark not merely because the water will flow here and irrigate large portions of' the Punjab, PEPSU, Rajasthan and fertilize the deserts of Rajasthan, or because enough electric power will be generated here to run thousands of factories and cottage industries which will provide work for the people and relieve unemployment. It is a landmark because it has become the symbol of a nation's will to march forward with strength, determination and courage. That is why, seeing this work, my courage and strength have increased, because nothing is more encouraging than to capture our dreams and give them real shape.

Just before coming to Nangal, I was in Bhakra where the Dam is being built. I stood on the banks of the Sutlej and saw the mountains to the right and left. Far away, at various spots, people were working. Since it was a holiday, there was not much work going on, for all the people had come here. Still there were a few persons working. From a distance they looked very small against the mighty-looking mountain through which a tunnel was being bored. The thought came to me that it was these very men who had striven against the mountains and brought them under control.

What is now complete is only half the work. We may celebrate its completion but we must remember that the most difficult part still remains to be done—the construction of the Dam about which you have heard so much. Our engineers tell us that probably nowhere else in the world is there a dam as high as this. The work bristles with difficulties and complications. As I walked round the site I thought that these days the biggest temple and mosque and gurdwara is the place where man works for the good of mankind. Which place can be greater than this, this Bhakra-Nangal, where thousands and lakhs of men have worked, have shed their blood and sweat and laid down their lives as well? Where can be a greater and holier place than this, which we can regard as higher?

Then again it struck me that Bhakra-Nangal was like a big university where we can work and while working learn, so that we may do bigger things. The nation is marching forward and every day the pace becomes faster. As we learn the work and gain experience, we advance with greater speed. Bhakra-Nangal is not a work of this moment only, because the work which we are doing at present is not only for our own times but for coming generations and future times.

Another thought came to my mind when I saw the Sutlej. Where has it come from? What course has it traversed to reach here? Do you know where the Sutlej springs from? It rises near Mount Kailash in the vicinity of Mansarovar. The Indus rises near by. The Brahmaputra also flows from that place in a different direction, reaching India and Pakistan after traversing thousands of miles. Other rivers rise from places near by and flow from Tibet towards China. So the Sutlej traverses hundreds of miles through the Himalayas to reach here and we have tried to control her in a friendly way. You have seen the two big diversion channels. At present the whole river has been channelled through one canal. After the rains we will divert the river completely in the two channels so that the dam might be built there.

I look far, not only towards Bhakra-Nangal, but towards this our country, India, whose children we are. Where is she going? Where have we to lead her, which way have we to walk and what mighty tasks have we to undertake? Some of these will be completed in our lifetime. Others will be taken up and completed by those who come after us. The work of a nation or a country is never completed. It goes on and no one can arrest its progress—the progress of a living nation. We have to press forward. The question is which way we have to take, how we should proceed, what principles, what objectives we have to keep before us. All these big questions crop up. This is not an occasion to tell you about them but we have to remember them always and not forget them. When we undertake a big work we have to do so with a large heart and a large mind. Small minds or small-minded nations cannot undertake big works. When we see big works our stature grows with them, and our minds open out a little.

5 Year Plan

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Speech speaking in the Lok Sabha on Perspective Planning on August 22, 1960

This Draft Outline is only an outline, but it covers the whole progress of the Indian nation. I shall try to deal with some major aspects of this plan, particularly what could be called its strategy.

Although a great deal of thought has been given to it by the Planning Commission and the Commission has consulted advisers, experts and others in this country and from outside, we do not approach this question with any sense of finality or with any desire to appear rigid in our approach.

There is, however, certainly some rigidity about the ideals we aim at, because there must be some fixity. If we want India to progress, if we want India to be prosperous and if we want to raise the standards of India, we want a socialist society in India. There is no lack of firmness about that. But we do not aim at any rigid or doctrinaire form of socialism.

So far as this particular Plan is concerned, it flows from and is a projection of the Second Plan which itself came after the First. The Second Plan was roughly double the First Plan. And the Third, again, is much larger. Most of the objectives mentioned in this Plan will be found to be mentioned in the Second. Therefore so far as our objectives are concerned, they have been consistently placed before this I louse and the public. Very briefly they are: a rise in the national income of over 5 per cent per annum; achievement of self-sufficiency in food grains, and increased agricultural production lot industry and export; expansion of basic industries like steel, fuel, power and machine-building; utilization of the manpower resources of the country and expansion of employment opportunities; reduction of inequalities in income and wealth and a more even distribution of economic power.

The Third Five Year Plan, in fact, has become for us not some kind of a book to read but a picture of a vast nation advancing forward in certain pre-determined directions to pre-determined goals. Planning therefore consists in having an objective—not only an immediate objective but a more distant objective. We cannot plan only for tomorrow; we have to plan for years, and in the case of a nation we have to plan for generations. Therefore planning means perspective planning.

A country which wants to progress wants to progress in a hundred ways. We have therefore to take into consideration the order of preference—what is first, what is secondhand what is third. There are so many things we want to do in India, and we want to do them quickly and passionately. The question of finding the proper way to reach a certain goal becomes important. Suppose you want to build a steel plant. You can buy it, of course; but even so you have to train the people who have got to run it.

Advance in technology means a general advance in such training and education as are necessary for-the purpose in a widespread way. It is not a question of putting up a plant here or there; it is a question of building lip from below a nation used to thinking in terms of technical change and technical advance. It becomes a problem of mass education. The countries which had the Industrial Revolution had perforce to go in for free and compulsory education; not that they liked it. They were forced to go in for it because they could not support the structure of industrialization without mass education.

We have to industrialize our country and introduce new techniques both in industry and in agriculture. We can do it, in a way, by buying machines and technical experience from abroad and asking the experts to put up the machines and work them here. This has been the normal method. That is how, for example, the railways came here a hundred years ago to change the face of India. This is all right in the beginning of a process but if we want, to do it steadily, we have to do it ourselves and not always buy from America or Russia either the skills or the machines. We have to build up the skills and we have to build up the machines here.

I confess that we lost a good deal by not putting up a steel plant under the First Five Year Plan. We did not have the courage to take that burden then but if we had shown a little courage, it would have been well for us in the Second Plan and now. In the Second Plan therefore we wore forced to have three new plants, which have been a tremendous burden on us. We have borne it, and of the three plants, two are completed and the other is nearing completion. There are also some other heavy plants that we have put up, particularly the machine-building plant which is gradually taking shape.

The beginning of industrialization really can now be seen in India. A number of textile mills in Ahemedabad or Bombay or Kanpur is not industrialization; it is merely playing with it. I do not object to textile mills; we need them; but our idea of industrialization will be limited, cribbed, cabined and confined by thinking of these ordinary textile mills and calling it industrialization. Industrialization produces machines, it produces steel, it produces power. They are the base. Once you have that base, it is easy to build. But for a backward country, even to build that base is a difficult task. We have not finished building the base but we have put a good part of the base and we can now look forward with some confidence to a more rapid advance which could never have happened without that base, however much we might have built the smaller industries.’ We would always have to depend on outside aid. Indeed we have had troubles in regard to foreign exchange and they are likely to continue. We can never get rid of the foreign exchange troubles without having heavy industry in our country. Unless we start from the base, we cannot build the third or fourth storey. We can advance in minor sectors of the economy, but if we do not build the basic structure, it will not make any difference to the hundreds of millions of our people. The strategy governing planning in India is to industrialize, and that means the basic industries being given the first place.

Having laid great stress on industrialization, we have to look in the direction of agriculture. We shall find that this industrial progress cannot be made without agricultural advance and progress. The fact is that the two cannot be separated. They are intimately connected because agricultural progress is not possible without industry, without tools, without the new methods and techniques. There is no question of giving priority to agriculture. Everyone knows that unless we are self-sufficient in agriculture we cannot have the where:- withal to advance in industries. If we have to import food, then we are doomed so far as progress is concerned. We cannot import food and machinery.

Inevitably, whether it is agriculture or industry, training of personnel counts. It is the trained human being that makes a nation-not all the machinery in the world. It is he who makes the machines-not the machine die man. So we have to have general training and specialized technical training.

We cannot live on iron and steel. We have to produce other commodities. For this purpose, we have to encourage, in every way, the small and medium industry. I am glad to say that in spite of our concentration on basic industries, small and medium industries arc spreading fast in India. This is of considerable importance.

We do not put forward the Draft Outline as something perfect. We may change it here and there. I think hon. Members here and most people outside readily accept the strategy of the Plan and even most of the details. The real problem before India is one of implementation and not one of laying down policies. It is important not merely to lay down policies but to have satisfactory audits of performance. The real thing is not the spending of money but what that has produced.

The record of the first two Plans, even though sometimes criticized, is a fairly remarkable record of achievement. It did not, in some matters, come up to what we wanted it to be but it is nevertheless a very creditable record, whether it is transport, communications, steel, fuel, power and scientific and technological research. In fact the whole of Indian economy has arrived at the threshold of accelerated growth. It can grow much faster if we keep it pushing. In a moment like this, if we slacken at all we shall lose all the advantage we have gained.

As you know, our population in 1961 would presumably have gone up by about 70 million compared to 1951. Why has it gone up? Because we are a much healthier nation. The expectation of life ten years ago was 32. Today it is 42.

As you know, our population in 1961 would presumably have gone up by about 70 million compared to 1951. Why has it gone up? Because we are a much healthier nation. The expectation of life ten years ago was 32. Today it is 42.

The national income over the First and Second Plans has gone up by 42 per cent and the per capita income by 20 per cent. A legitimate query is made: where has this gone? To some extent, of course, you can see where it has gone. I address large gatherings in the villages and I can see that people are better fed, better clothed, they build brick houses and they are generally better. Nevertheless, that does not apply to everybody in India. Some people probably have hardly benefited. Some people may even be facing various difficulties. The fact remains, however, that this advance in our national income and in our per capita income has taken place.

We have to avoid and prevent too much accumulation of wealth. If, after all this additional income, only five per cent or 10 per cent of the population have benefited by it and 90 per cent have not, that is not a good result. We cannot of course even it out. That is not possible. But it is desirable to make the benefits spread.

Some people may say, “Why such a big plan? Have a small plan.” There are certain minimum objectives that we have to reach. There is no escape from them. As a matter of fact, there used to be some people who criticized our planning on the ground that it was ambitious. Hardly anybody says that now. The realization has gradually come about that by the compulsion of events and circumstances and our own needs, we must plan in a relatively big way. Even the toughest and the most cautious of people in the Western world have come to the conclusion that our Plan is not ambitious; it is rather on the low side.

Though from the point of view of the advancement of India the Plan is not very big yet from the point of view of our resources it is big undoubtedly, and it requires a tremendous effort on our part to raise these resources and to work hard to achieve our aims. It is proposed that almost the least that we should have is an advance in the national income of five to six per cent per annum. It should not go below five. And the rate of investment should be stepped up from 11 to 14 per cent. All this requires social development.

Take education. It is proposed in the Plan to spread out education—free and compulsory education—to all boys and girls of the age-group 6 to 11. Under our Constitution it should have been up to 14 years and it should have boon done within the first ten years. But we have been unable to do that, although the spread of education has been vast. At the present moment there are, I believe, 45 million boys and girls in the schools and colleges in India. It is a very ’large figure.

If we could do what we intend to do in regard to education in India, we would have 100 million teachers and taught in India. That is about 25 per cent of the total population!

The charge is often made: you talk about socialism and yet you permit grave inequalities of income; you want to put a ceiling on land holdings and yet you oppose ceiling on urban or other incomes. There is that contradiction, I admit. But if we try to remove that type of contradiction, we put a stop in many ways to the type of progress we are aiming at. If you are not prepared to change completely the whole basis of society, you have to leave enough incentive for people to work. You can, by taxation, etc., reduce disparities. But enforcing ceilings on urban incomes may well result in a slowing down of the process of development and it is of the utmost importance that this process of development and production should not come down.

Take the much-talked-of private sector and public sector. Obviously, most persons who believe in a socialist pattern must believe in the public sector growing all the time. But it does not necessarily mean that the private sector is eliminated even at a much later stage.

In regard to the private sector and the public sector, I think the criteria should be basically two. One is to have as much production as possible through all the means at our disposal and the second is prevention of accumulation of wealth and economic power in individual hands. If we have only the first one, it may lead subsequently to unsocial, undesirable and harmful consequences. Therefore we must aim right from the beginning and all the time at the prevention of this accumulation of wealth and economic power.

To draw the line may be sometimes difficult. If, by any step that we take, production goes down, then we arc cutting at the root of our advance and progress. If, on the other hand, private monopolies are built up, then we are encouraging a process which will cone in our way badly and be harmful now and later. It will take us away very far from any kind of progress towards socialism. In other words, we must encourage production, and at the same time, the social motive. Incentives arc necessary; I agree but there are many types of incentives, some incentives that are good to society, and some that are bad to society. A society in which the main incentive is acquisitiveness is getting out of date everywhere. I do not want to encourage acquisitiveness in India beyond a certain measure.

Our whole object in the Third Plan is to arrive at a stage when we do not depend upon outside countries for any kind of help, whether financial or mechanical. That is what is called, broadly speaking, the take-off stage. But even at this stage one would have to depend somewhat on supplies from outside, whether they arc machines or financial help by way of loans or credits. We are grateful for the help we have got from various countries, from the U.S.A. most of all, from the Soviet Union a good deal, and from a.-number of other countries. They have been generous.

But what is more important is what we have to do in our own country- -our domestic resources. They are going to place a very heavy strain on us. There is no escape from it and we have to face it, whether it is heavier taxation, public loans or savings.

In all these matters, the question of price policy comes up. It is an exceedingly difficult question and an exceedingly important one. It is not a party matter. In fact, in the whole Plan our approach is not a party approach except in so far as you might say that we are committed to a policy aiming at a socialist pattern and socialism. It goes without saying that it is of the utmost importance that prices should be under control. But a price policy is not separate from the rest of economic activity. It cannot be separate from fiscal or monetary or commercial policy, and it might well involve controls. In certain essential articles, if necessary, it may involve all kinds of approaches including controls.

Now I should like to say a few words about Community Development. I have attached great importance to it and often praised it. I have no doubt that in spite of all that has happened, and our numerous slips, the Community Development scheme has changed and is changing the face-of rural India. And that is more important in the final analysis than any number of factories. More particularly, recent developments in the direction of giving more power to the panchayats -what is called panchayati raj—I feel, is going to make a revolutionary change. I should like this House to appreciate it because it is a very important part of our Plan especially in regard to the rural areas and agricultural production.

There is then the question of co-operatives. For some odd reason the word “co-operative” rather frightens some people. I have tried in all humility to understand the other person’s point of view, and to some extent I succeed in it. People sometimes accuse me of looking at things from both points of view! I have tried hard to understand the view-point of those people who have started expressing themselves in pain and sorrow about the co-operatives. When -co-operative farming is mentioned the pain becomes intense. I have not been able to understand this in spite of every effort. Co-operatives are the one and only way for agriculture in India. Co-operative farming or joint farming is the right method for Indian agriculture.

It has b