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ADDRESSES ON THE OCCASION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDIA

A function to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Republic of India was held on 27 January 2000 in the Central Hall of Parliament House. The function commenced with the playing of the National Anthem. Subsequently, the Speaker, Lok Sabha, Shri G.M.C. Balayogi released the Special Commemorative Plaque brought out by the Lok Sabha Secretariat. The Plaque carried the logo of the 50th Anniversary of the Republic and a replica of the Parliament House. Later, the Speaker, Lok Sabha also addressed the distinguished gathering.

The Lok Sabha Speaker then requested the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee to release the calligraphed copy of the Constitution of India in Hindi. The calligraphy of the Hindi version of the original Constitution was done by Shri Vasant Krishan Vaidya and elegantly decorated and illuminated by Shri Nand Lal Bose. Later, the Prime minister, Shri Vajpayee released the calligraphed copy of the Constitution of India in Hindi and also addressed the gathering.

Excerpts from the historic speeches of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were then relayed along with the visuals.

After that, the Minister of Communications, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, requested the Vice-President of India and Chairman, Rajya Sabha, Shri Krishan Kant to release the Special Commemorative Stamp designed by the eminent cartoonist, Shri Ranga and brought out by the Ministry of Communications to mark the 50th Anniversary of our Republic. The Special Commemorative Stamp was then released by the Vice-President, Shri Krishan Kant who subsequently addressed the gathering.

Thereafter, the National Song Vande Mataram was sung by Smt. Sudha Raghunathan, a renowned classical singer and Shri Hariharan, a versatile vocalist.

The Minister of Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports, Shri Ananth Kumar then requested the President of India, Shri K.R. Narayanan, to release an album of Jana Gana Mana comprising VCD/CD and a booklet brought out by the Department of Culture. Thereafter, the album of Jana Gana mana was released by the President, Shri K.R. Narayanan who also addressed the gathering.

The function concluded with the singing of the National Anthem by a group of music maestros. The entire programme was telecast and broadcast live throughout the nation.

On this occasion a booklet titled 50th Anniversary of the Republic of India–Select Proceedings of the Constituent Assembly relating to the Adoption and Signing of the Constitution was also brought out by the Library and Reference, Research Documentation and Information Service (LARRDIS) of the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

We reproduce below the texts of the Addresses by the dignitaries at the function.

—Editor

ADDRESS BY THE SPEAKER, LOK SABHA,
SHRI G.M.C. BALAYOGI

Respected Rashtrapatiji, Respected Upa-Rashtrapatiji, Honourable Pradhan Mantriji, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I consider it a distinct honour to be here to welcome you all on this historic occasion. May I take this opportunity to express our thanks to Respected Rashtrapatiji, Upa-Rashtrapatiji and Pradhan Mantriji and other distinguished guests for being with us this morning. Our thanks are also due to the Ministers of Home Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs, Communications, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports and Information and Broadcasting and to the Leaders of Opposition in Parliament, my fellow Presiding Officers in both the Houses, and to the Leaders of various Parties and Groups in Parliament for all their cooperation in organising this function today.

It is indeed a moment of pride for all of us I would say, another milestone, in the long march of the nation. Fifty years ago, on
24 January 1950, this majestic Hall of our Parliament was witness to a very unique and historic occasion. It was here, on that day, that the members of the first sovereign representative body of the people of free India, a whole generation of our nation’s leadership, represented in the Constituent Assembly, appended their signatures to the newly-drafted Constitution for India. Two days later, this Constitution came into force and India thus formally declared itself to be a Republic. That meant the culmination of a process set in motion on the 9th of December 1946, when the Constituent Assembly first met in this very Hall to deliberate on the task of drafting a Constitution for Free India.

The deliberations of the Constituent Assembly are now an integral part of the history of our country. The members of that Assembly were united in their purpose to provide for the whole country the basic philosophy and the institutional framework which were to guide its socio-economic and political life in the days to come. The Constitution of India, the fundamental law of the land, was the final result of the nearly three years’ dedicated labour of that august Assembly.

Today we have a duty and moral obligation to pay our respectful homage to that generation of our nation’s leadership—our real pathfinders—whose sagacity, vision, imagination and collective wisdom had gone into the making of our Constitution and into the creation of a new Republic. It was their lot to toil for our Freedom, making innumerable sacrifices, and later to lay the foundations of a new Republic.

In the early years of the Indian Republic, it was a challenge before the national leadership to come up with a viable system of government. Through the collective efforts of the leaders and the people, we have met that challenge effectively. Today, having successfully gone through thirteen General Elections and numerous elections to the State Legislatures and local bodies and having experienced fairly stable political life for over fifty years, we can be legitimately proud of the viability and acceptability  of the institutions created by our Constitution and about our own ability to work a democratic system in the country.

We cannot, however, afford to be complacent about these achievements of the past fifty years. There are still very many serious challenges before us. We have to go a long way in achieving the kind of socio-economic progress our Founding Fathers had visualised for the country, in ‘wiping away the tears’ of the poor, as Mahatma Gandhi had dreamt; in making ‘our political democracy a social democracy as well’, and promoting a way of life which recognises liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life, as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had envisioned; and in bringing about the ‘emotional integration’ of the diverse people of our country, as Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had visualised for us. Striving earnestly towards the realisation of the lofty vision of our Founding Fathers is our collective responsibility.

Today, on this historic occasion, let us all resolve once again to live up to the ideals enshrined in the Constitution and to be ever vigilant to guard the Republic, its Constitution and the institutions created by it.

Thank you.

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ADDRESS BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA,
SHRI ATAL BIHARI VAJPAYEE

Respected Rashtrapatiji, Upa-Rashtrapatiji, Honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Yesterday India celebrated the Golden Jubilee of Republic Day. Today we have gathered here to commemorate this historic occasion. Fifty years ago, in this very Hall, our Constitution was adopted.

That event was a culmination of our people’s long suppressed aspiration for freedom; of an arduous, protracted struggle for self-governance.

The journey of the creation of our Constitution has closely paralleled the journey of our Freedom Movement in the early half of the last century.

Members will recall the ‘Commonwealth of India Bill’, prepared by Indians in 1924, was an important initial milestone. This was followed by the preparation of the ‘Swaraj Constitution’. A new dimension was added to that effort with the Fundamental Rights Declaration in 1931.

Following many ups and downs, the Non-Party Conference prepared a comprehensive Constitutional scheme in 1944-45. Unfortunately, that was nipped in the bud. At last, the Constituent Assembly was set up.

Thereupon, the Constitutional Advisor to the Constituent Assembly prepared the Draft Constitution. The Draft was subjected to a clause-by-clause consideration in Committees–headed by Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, and other luminaries.

From the discussions in the Drafting Committee headed by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar to the deliberations–as intense as they were intensive–in the Constituent Assembly as a whole, it was one unbroken quest for perfection.

Indeed, it was a saga. Even as they were being lashed by riots, killings, oppression and imprisonment, our leaders kept at the task decade after decade.

To read the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly and its Committees even today, even after 50 years, is to be overwhelmed by:

*    The earnestness with which they approached the task;

*    The insight they brought to bear on each Article;

*    The farsightedness with which they anticipated the situations and problems that were likely to arise;

*    The singular touchstone by which they judged every provision—always guided by the interest of our country and our people;

*    How, engulfed as they were by the aftermath of Partition, by riots, by an invasion, by the urgent task of integrating the States–how they would abstract themselves from this tumult, gather in this very Hall, and weigh, and deliberate, and fashion, and refashion, clause after clause.

We are beneficiaries of their sacrifices: we would never forget that.

We are heirs to that legacy—of exclusive, overarching devotion to the national interest; of reasoned, civil discourse; of harmonising disparate views.

We should never forget that.

There is one great test for a Constitution, for any system of governance. It must deliver and it must be durable.

Our Constitution has stood this test. And one reason it has been able to do so is that it embodies a masterly balance: between the rights of the individual and the requirements of collective life; between the States and the Union;  between providing a robust structure and flexibility.

Our Constitution has served the needs of both India’s diversity and her innate unity. It has strengthened India’s democratic traditions.

But even in the mightiest fort one has to repair the parapet from time to time, one has to clean the moat and check the banisters. The same is true about our Constitution.

Five decades after the adoption of the Constitution, India is faced with a new situation. The need for stability, both at the Centre and in the States, has been felt acutely.

The people are impatient for faster socio-economic development. The country is also faced with a pressing challenge to quickly remove regional and social imbalances by reorienting the development process–to benefit the poorest and the weakest.

That is the purpose for which a Commission to review the Constitution is proposed to be set up. The basic structure and the core ideals of our Constitution, however, will remain inviolate.

Let us not forget that in the end a Constitution is only as good as the ones who work the institutions which it has set up.

Participating in the Constituent Assembly debates, Dr. Ambedkar had said:

“I feel however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics.”

There is widespread apprehension today that our institutions are not working as the Constitution intends, that the conduct of those of us who run them is not what the proper functioning of those institutions requires.

Let this be our resolve today:

   We shall leave institutions—above all, our Parliament and our State Legislature—for the coming generation in a condition vastly better than the condition in which we found them;

   In discharging our duties in them, our conduct will be such as would have done the Founding Fathers proud.

That would be a fitting way to repay our debt to them. That would be the one tribute worthy of them.

Thank you.

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ADDRESS* BY THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF INDIA AND CHAIRMAN, RAJYA SABHA, SHRI KRISHAN KANT

Honourable President, Shri Narayanan, Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Honourable Speaker, Lok Sabha,
Shri Balayogi, Friends and
Distinguished Guests:

The postal stamp brought out and released today by the Union Postal Department to mark the Golden Jubilee of Indian Republic, brings to surface a unique truth about our history, geography and culture. The outlines of Gandhiji’s body and India’s geography merge into each other.

Gandhi was India. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose called him the Father of the Nation. Gandhi is India and will remain India. The soul of India found utterance through his very breath. As Gandhi himself said, “I will not escape to the Himalayas leaving the people behind. I will continue to speak even from my grave.”

We may ask why is the Republic Day observed on 26 January, while the Constitution was signed by the members of the Constituent Assembly earlier, on 26 November, 1949. This is because, 26 January is a milestone in the history of India’s National Movement.

On 31 December, 1929, at Lahore Congress, in the Punjab Kesri Lala Lajpat Rai Nagar, Gandhiji had the resolution for Poorna Swaraja passed by the Congress, in which the demand for dominion  status was given up in favour of our resolve for marching towards full freedom. In the midnight of the same day, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, unfurled the tri-color on the banks of Ravi and tossed the fragrance of the resolve of ‘Poorna Swaraja’ in the nation’s emotional atmosphere. From that year onwards the people of India repeated the Pledge, prepared by Gandhiji, each year on 26 January, till we attained Independence. On 26 January, 1930, in Punjab and several parts of the country, a patriotic song was sung. It read:

When Jawaharlal Unfurled

The flag on the Ravi bank.

“We must become free”

He proclaimed.

The people of India and Punjab

Took this oath collectively

“We will embrace the gallows

With the song of the nation on our lips

We may lose our life

But will never renege on our promise”

The practice of not taxing common salt traces its origin to this chapter of our National Movement. Gandhiji had been forcefully speaking since 1908—Hind Swaraj days—against levying tax on common salt, which was a primary necessity of the Indian people.  Gandhiji gave a call for the Salt Satyagraha from the 12 march, 1930, and himself embarked on the Dandi March, which shook the foundations of the British rule in India. It was a fight of right against might in a non-violent manner. This thought was there in the mind of Gandhiji right from 26 January, the day of pledge and he wrote to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru about it. Pandit Motilal Nehru likened the Dandi March to Lord Shri Rama’s triumphant journey to Lanka. Subhash Chandra Bose compared it with Napoleon’s Paris expedition. Bapu called it equivalent to a pilgrimage to Badrinath and Kedarnath. All these programmes drew their inspiration from the Pledge drafted by Gandhiji for the 26 January, which day we have sanctified now as our Republic Day—then called Independence Day.

The Fundamental Rights, which are the keystone of our Republic, were passed by the Karachi Congress Session in 1931 as moved by Gandhiji.At that time twenty points were mentioned. Some of the points mentioned therein were for India of the future and are now included in our Constitution as the Directive Principles. At the Karachi Session of the Congress, Gandhiji had moved the Resolution on Basic Rights, which also included the neutrality of the state between Faiths. Our Constitution reflects this spirit in its provisions.  Poet Nazir Banarasi has sensitively portrayed that spirit of love and goodwill among people in his poem on Gandhiji called “The Old Gardener”....

            Human relations are far superior

            To the relations of faith;

            In life and in death, O’ friend

            It is good to be together.

            We may lose our life but, O’friend

            Let us not lose our relations.

            The flowers strung together

            In the garland

            By the Old Gardener

            Should not be allowed to break.

Let us take the pledge today that we will never allow this garland of flowers, strung together by Gandhiji, to be broken.

 

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ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA,
SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN

Honourable Vice-President of India, Honourable Prime Minister of India, Honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Honourable Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen :

It gives me great pleasure to be here amidst you at this solemn function to mark the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the birth of the Indian Republic and commencement of our Constitution. The establishment of the sovereign, democratic Republic of India was obviously, a significant and glorious event for India, for the freedom and welfare of the hundreds and millions of its people. But it was also a world event of far-reaching significance. People talk about the triumph of democracy in the world against other forms of Government. For that triumphal outcome, democracy in India has had a meaningful part to play not in the way of taking part in the ideological Cold War, but in the sense of setting an example, overpowering example to the world.

What Sir Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister of Britain, said at the time of the emergence of Indian Republic is relevant in this context. He said, “Of all the experiments in government, which have been attempted since the beginning of time. I believe that the Indian venture into parliamentary government is the most exciting. A vast sub-continent is attempting to apply to its tens and thousands of millions a system of free democracy..... It is a brave thing to do so. The Indian venture is not a pale imitation of our practice at home, but a magnified and multiplied reproduction on a scale we have never dreamt of. If it succeeds, its influence on Asia is incalculable for good. Whatever the outcome, we must honour those who attempt it.”

Even more meaningful was the opinion expressed by an American Constitutional authority, Prof. Granville Austin who wrote that, what the Indian Constituent Assembly began was “perhaps the greatest political venture since that originated in Philadelphia in 1787.”

Mahatma Gandhi had visualized the new Constitution of India in terms of universal values applied to the specific and special conditions of India. As early as 1931, he had written:

“I shall strive for a Constitution which will release India from thraldom and patronage. I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice: an India in which there is no high class or low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability. We shall be at peace with the rest of the world neither exploiting nor exploited. All interests not in conflict with the interests of the dumb millions will be scrupulously respected whether foreign or indigenous. Personally, I hate the distinction between foreign and indigenous. This is the India of my dreams for which I shall struggle.”

At the core of our Constitution lies the essence of this Gandhian dream in the form of social justice and social democracy. Prof. Granville Austin has described the Indian Constitution as, “first and foremost a social document”. He further explained that, “the majority of India’s constitutional provisions are either directly arrived at furthering the aim of social revolution or attempt to foster this revolution by establishing conditions necessary for its achievement.” The very same point was elaborated in eloquent terms by Dr. Ambedkar and Pandit Nehru. What makes our Constitution relevant to the conditions and the problems of India and the developing world as a whole is, in fact, the socio-economic soul of it. Its uniqueness is that it has combined this harmoniously with the liberal rights and freedoms as conceived by the Western democracies.

It is after deep thought and considerable debate that the Founding Fathers adopted the philosophy and the form of Government for India. Speaking on the draft Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar claimed that, “It is workable, it is flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country together both in peace time and in war time. Indeed, if I may say so, if things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we will have to say is that Man is vile”. Today when there is so much talk about revising the Constitution or even writing a new Constitution, we have to consider whether it is the Constitution that has failed us or whether it is we who have failed the Constitution. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, as President of the Constituent Assembly, had pointed out, “If the people who are elected are capable men of character and integrity, they should be able to make the best of a defective Constitution. If they are lacking in these, the Constitution cannot help the country”. I believe these are wise words which we should pay heed to.

The form of Government, the parliamentary democratic form, was chosen by the Founding Fathers after deep thought and debate. In the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Ambedkar explained that the Drafting Committee, in choosing the parliamentary system for India, preferred more responsibility to more stability, a system under which the Government will be on the anvil every day. He said that accountability was still difficult to obtain from day to day. Thus, the parliamentary system was a deliberate and well-thought out choice of the Constituent Assembly. It was not chosen in imitation of the British system or because of the familiarity with it that India had acquired during the colonial period. Gandhiji while acknowledging our debt to Britain with regard to parliamentary Government had observed that the roots of it were present in India in the age-old system of the village panchayats. Dr. Ambedkar explained in the Constituent Assembly that the Buddhist Sanghas were parliamentary type of institutions and that in their functioning, modern parliamentary devices like resolutions, divisions, whips, etc. were used. These elements in our heritage made it possible and easy for India to adopt the parliamentary system of democracy. Besides, as Dr. Ambedkar told the Constituent Assembly, this system was chosen because they preferred more responsibility to stability. Another factor to be borne in mind is the immensity of India, the perplexing variety and diversity of the country, the very size of its population and the complexity of its social and developmental problems. In such a predicament, described by one writer as one of “a million mutinies”, there must in the body politic be a vent for discontents and frustrations to express themselves in order to forestall and prevent major explosions in society. The parliamentary system provides this vent more than a system which prefers stability to responsibility and accountability. Our recent experience of instability in Government is perhaps no sufficient reason to discard the parliamentary system in favour of the Presidential or any other form. In my opinion we should avoid too much rigidity in our system of government, as in a very rigid system there is the danger of major explosions in society taking place. The possibility and the facility of a change in government is in itself a factor in the stability of the political system in the long run because then the people will be more inclined to tolerate a political situation they do not approve of or find difficult to cope with for long. At any rate, as Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, the shortcomings in the people entrusted with running the Government cannot be obviated by constitutional changes or provisions.

Amendments to the Constitution are a different matter. The Founding Fathers deliberately made the amendment process of the Constitution easy so that the shortcomings and lacunae in the Constitution can be rectified by the Parliament without too much difficulty. There are other changes that can be brought about, like changes in the electoral law or the functioning of the political parties. Whatever we may do, and we have a right to bring about necessary changes in the political and economic system, we should ensure that the basic philosophy behind the Constitution and the fundamental socio-economic soul of the Constitution remain sacrosanct. We should not throw out the baby with the bath water and like the tragic character Othello in Shakespeare has to lament later “Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away—Richer than all this tribe”.

Jai Hind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Originally delivered in Hindi