I have been listening to this speech and reading the text again and again – and getting goosebumps every time! For me, this must be one of the great speeches of all time!
I know a lot of blame for all the ills in this country is always being attached to Nehru, but just for a few minutes, calm down, take a deep breath and think of those years before and after independence….
Can you imagine what must have been going on in the country during those tumultuous years? What was the environment in which the country was going through the excruciating pangs of rebirth? Take for example, the British occupiers and their Machiavellian conspiracies to divide and destroy India, the bitter and murderous fury of communal divisions and the savagery of the Partition, the burgeoning problems of population and poverty, illiteracy, religion and caste, the need to provide employment to a largely unskilled population, the trepidation of an unknown future, the egos of so many towering personalities with no experience of leading such a vast and culturally diverse population. Gandhiji was assassinated just six months after independence. Do you realize what that event alone did to this fledgling nation?
This is just a tiny, tiny fraction and totally inadequate description of the challenges confronting the nation in the 40’s and 50’s. For a moment ponder how overwhelming and insurmountable these obstacles must have seemed at the time.
This was what Nehru and his team faced. Maybe some of their decisions may seem wrong now. Socialism, state control and public enterprise was the prevalent global thinking of those times. Only America was different. The countries of Europe, UK and the USSR were all socialist at that time. Why should India have thought differently and experimented? America could afford to do that because it was a brand-new nation, an idea being implemented from scratch. We were an ancient nation, trying to be reborn as an independent people after hundreds of years of being invaded and conquered, subjugated and enslaved, pillaged and raped of its riches without mercy by utterly ruthless masters. The British had quite deliberately torn us apart, divided us, crushed our spirit, smashed our institutions and almost bankrupted us. We had no data, no experience, no businesses worth the name.
Today, we are a relatively prosperous nation, fifth in GDP size, with a young and skilled population. We have good foreign exchange reserves and are able to produce surplus goods and export a lot of it. Our youngsters are known all over the world for their technical skills and the country provides back office services to numerous other countries. We have super computers, technology and data to make instant and far reaching decisions and also implement them across the length and breadth of the country immediately. And yet, look at the mess we are in! We talk of all that is going on in this country now and feel sickened by the mess that is actually totally of our own making. Our numbers are dropping on every index. Our society is riven by division and hatred and our politics is petty and bitter. Our politicians are unable to rise above their differences and instead spend their time sowing anger, resentment and disunity among the people. The populace have been left to reap the harvest from that poisonous seeding.
Why then do we think this generation of politicians would have fared better those chaotic and turbulent days after independence? Gosh, we can’t even manage our problems now after so many years of independence and national experience and with so many resources and advanced technology! How can we even THINK of blaming that generation for the ills of the present?
Be fair and impartial and forget your political affiliations for a few minutes and read this speech. In all that chaos and confusion and fury and fear, this man was thinking not only of India’s future, not only of its place in the world but also about India’s global responsibility, of the earth and of humanity in general. The sheer range of vision and forward thinking is unmatched. He was thinking far ahead of his times.
Nehru and his team guided this nation through that troubled time and navigated us, if not expertly, at least resolutely, keeping a volatile nation united and together through all those dark years. For that alone, leaders like Nehru and Gandhi and Patel and so many others deserve this country’s unstinting respect and honor.
Saluting that vision, those memories and the birth of this nation on its birthday today.