Thursday, November 8, 2012 - , , , , , , 0 comments

Size and Diversity of the Indian Landscape Adds to the Difficulty of Finding Solutions - Vice President

The Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said that the size and diversity of the Indian landscape adds to the difficulty of finding solutions. A population of 1.25 billion dispersed over 4,635 communities 78 percent of whom are not only linguistic and cultural but social categories. The human diversities are both hierarchical and spatial.‘The de jure WE, the sovereign people is in reality a fragmented ‘we’, divided by yawning gaps that remain to be bridged.’ Around 30 per cent of our people live below the official poverty line and the health and education indicators, for the population as a whole, despite recent correctives, leave much to be desired. Delivering the Annual Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture on ‘Physical Integration and Emotional Inconsonance’ organized by All India Radio (AIR) here yesterday, he said that there are, in addition, problems arising out of Naxalism and insurgency in some areas where the writ of the State runs in name only, demands for a better deal for the States of the Union, as also for tribes, dalits and most of the minorities within them. Each of these also relates to the requirements of fraternity and the achievement of national integration. 

He said that hard issues agitating the public mind in different regions have come to the fore and seek acceptable solutions. B.G.Verghese has rightly observed that ‘as India’s multitudinous but hitherto dormant diversities come to life, identities are asserted and jostle for a place in the sun.’ He lists among these issues of majority and minority, centre and periphery, great and little traditions, rural and urban values, tradition and modernity and concludes that ‘this management of diversity within multiple transitions is a delicate and complex process aggravated by inexorable population growth.’ 

The Vice President opined that one obvious reason for this is the ripening and deepening of the democratic process in the country, the awareness generated by it, and the terms and shape of the dialogue propelled by it. Another is the failure of the State to comprehend the dimensions of change and the resultant failure to respond appropriately, without undue procrastination, and adapt existing mechanisms to newer requirements. As a result, the immediate has taken precedence over the remote; the obvious over the less obvious. There has been a shift of focus, perhaps a narrowing of the vision, with the national receding behind the regional or local. This is also evident in the domain of foreign policy where complex questions of national interest are involved and should not be impinged upon by transitory considerations.

He suggested that a beginning can, and must, be made with the loadstar of our national destiny, the Constitution. Experience shows that its provisions have been used creatively to expand the area of rights, to redress grievances, to allow greater space for federal units in specific areas. The need of the hour is to reinvigorate this process, to explore and make better use of existing constitutional provisions; above all, to ensure better delivery. Prescriptions of despair, unwise or impracticable, do not help the process. 

Shri Ansari said that a conceptual framework of the degree of sophistication would obviously require a comprehensive endeavour by the State and the society to ensure its implementation on an ongoing basis. It has to become part of the social discourse and of the educational curricula aimed at making the citizens imbibe the virtues of integration and eschew the vices emanating from its absence. Such an effort has to be to move beyond the presumed Indian-ness in cultural terms or its spirited display on special occasions on which national integration and national solidarity are most obvious – in the face of an external enemy (1961, 1965, 1971 and 1998), a celebratory occasion like success in an international sporting event, an achievement of note by an Indian citizen or person of Indian origin, or a social or religious festival; above all, and on a fairly continuous basis, success stories in the film industry. 

He emphasized that it is therefore essential to have a re-look at the basics of our methodology and of the contours within which it has worked. Our ground reality is a plural society; our operating radius is a democratic polity and a secular state structure, both based on a Constitution aimed at seeking justice, liberty, equality and fraternity for all citizens within a single political and juridical entity whose federal structure provides for separate legislative and executive powers for states but stipulates uniformity in civil and criminal jurisprudence, a single judiciary, a common All India Civil Service, a common armed forces, a common market, and a constitutional provision on sharing of financial resources between the centre and the states. The assumption was that political and administrative integration of the state would lead to an integration of hearts and minds of those who may speak a different language or follow a different faith or come from a different region, but would subscribe to and believe in a common Indian identity in which all other identities would be subsumed and also flourish at the same time. 

The Vice President said that the conclusion is unavoidable that the process of emotional integration has faltered and is in dire need of reinvigoration. A corrective is imperative and would lie in reaffirmation of the democratic process bequeathed to us by the founding fathers, adherence to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, rejuvenation of the institutions beginning with the Parliament and State legislatures, and reaffirmation of the sanctity of dialogue. These principles need to be imbibed and implemented at all levels of the polity and particularly in educational policy, in the workshops of the mind that mould the thought process of the citizens of tomorrow. 

He said that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s contributions were manifold; above all, history and generations of Indians will remember him as the man who presided over the process that resulted in the integration of the Indian States following the end of British rule and the termination of the “vague and undefined” relationship that princely States (together constituting 40 percent of the Indian land mass) had with the United Kingdom as the paramount power. The process of integrating 554 large and miniscule States was complex. It involved intricate negotiations on political, administrative and financial matters as also those relating to the armed forces of these units. It was almost completed by the time the Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. 

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