Uday Kumar Varma
As the nation, we, the people of India, celebrate a 75 year long remarkable journey of considerable achievements and accomplishments, as also of formidable trials and tribulations, we are legitimately proud and elated. And yet challenges remain, impediments mount, newer varieties of
problems proliferate but so do the opportunities and the determination
to overcome them. One fundamental issue that must not escape our attention is the crisis of character so evidently displayed in our public and private conduct and comport. Perhaps it calls for a new resurgence, a renaissance, that of our moral and ethical temper and tendencies.
The nation is celebrating the 75th year of our Independence. There is energy, enthusiasm, involvement all around. Never before the festivities were so elaborate, the diversity and the innovation to appropriately mark the occasion never so brilliantly devised. We are determined to make our country the strongest, the greatest country in the world.
It behooves all of us, and most of all, the ones who habitually suspect everything and who are so concerned about the democracy, rights, entitlements, poverty and inequalities, minorities and many such complex issues in India, to participate whole heartedly and for once, shed their inhibitions aside, for, in the heart, the most passionate liberal is also an ardent nationalist. The two are not antagonistic, they are mostly similar and supplementary.
More than a Celebration
And yet, for India to emerge as the greatest country what is required is far more than a passionate display of enthusiasm and energy. It requires a resolution and determination much deeper in content and much stronger and durable than the festivities and celebrations, howsoever, grandiose and gratifying.
To become a great country, we need to think about the quality of our national character and the value system that we practice in our dealings with ourselves and each other. It is this ethical and moral dimension of our growth that demands urgent attention and consideration.
Alas! We seem to be far poorer and impoverished compared to material poverty in this respect. These are the intangible dimensions of growth, progress and strength.
A Case for Moral Renaissance
Is it the right time and occasion to talk about a moral or ethical renaissance of India? Will it dampen our enthusiasm if for a moment, we also review the prevailing standards of our conduct in personal and public life and ask ourselves whether the way we deal with our problems meet the basic test of morality or propriety? If we do not hesitate to offer a bribe to expedite things out of turn, if we find honor in flouting laws and processes merely to establish our superior station in life, if it is fashionable to get a driving license without undergoing the mandatory driving test and announce it as a symbol of one’s clout and not feel guilty about it even for a moment, if we want privileges we are not entitled to and which are due to others, if we usurp somebody else’s share without the least compunction, shall physical prosperity alone make our country great? Are huge GDP and high growth rates, a world class infrastructure and amenities enough and adequate to make our country the strongest or the greatest?
If such thoughts cross our minds and trouble us, even momentarily, I think we are seriously in the business of making our country great.
The festivities, the gaiety, the élan and the excitement is indeed laudable. Desirable it is in any case, but the occasion calls for something far more substantial than spectacular celebrations and impressive display of our pride and pleasure of 75 years of a remarkable journey.
Can we visualize an India where respect to women is an instinct and protection of our children an article of faith? where it is honorable to wait for one’s turn than to pay speed- money? where it is honorable to fail than to cheat? where one thinks of duties first and then of rights? and where the standing in the society is not so much on account of your wealth or authority but because of your contribution and sacrifices for the society? That will make India a great country.
It will take a generation, possibly two, to shape such an India because the moral and ethical resurgence will begin from the infants and children. It will be they who, when they grow- up, will transform India from an affluent nation to a great nation.
It may appear to some as perhaps a sobering thought, particularly around this time. Is it naïve, even foolish to think about this, let alone talk about it? Does the prevailing political discourse so corrosive, so divisive, so bitter and so self-centered subdues us into cynicism and pessimism?
A Future of Hope and Confidence
The address today of the Prime Minister from the ramparts of Lal Qila, while full of hope, optimism, faith, vision and confidence, offers a road map for the next 25 years of our journey. He seeks and beseeches people’s cooperation, help and blessings in his endeavors. We must respond with our whole-hearted and unreserved endorsement and support.
True patriotism and nationalism involves looking with objectivity at ourselves and being honest in admitting what plagues our national character. To overlook this basic challenge and to deny it Ostrich-like, may not be the appropriate redemption of a debt that we owe to the country that we claim to love.
The author, Uday Kumar Varma, a 1976 batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, was Secretary Information & Broadcasting, member of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and member of the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council, a self-regulatory body for general entertainment channels. As Secretary I&B, he spearheaded the nationwide digitisation programme.