Wednesday, September 23, 2015

International Day of Equality – April 14, Birthday of Babasaheb Ambedkar

I wrote about the International Day of Equality in this blog earlier.
Babasaheb Ambedkar
With meager sources at my command and disposal, I have been carrying this proposal to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality for about two months ever since I wrote to EAM Sushma Swaraj on the subject. In the process, after my letter to EAM Sushma Swaraj in June 2015, I wrote and requested understanding and consideration of Shri Charanjit Singh Atwal, Speaker of Punjab Legislative Assembly who is a member of the High Powered Committee to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar.  My letter to EAM has been acknowledged by the UN Division of MEA. Meanwhile, I also informed and sent copies of my letters to important Ministers and MPs/MLAs cutting across the party affiliations namely, inter alia, Ram Vilas Paswan, G.C. Gehlot, Vijay Sampla, Mayawati, Sonia Gandhi, P.L. Punia, Santokh Singh Chaudhary, Udit Raj, Harinder Khalsa, Sadhu Singh, Rajesh Bagha, Pawan Tinu and others. I also hosted the proposal on social media like Facebook etc. and also wrote to some of the dalit media organs like the Ambedkar Times, Appni Mitti, Bheem Patrika, Begumpura Sehar, and Samayak Bharat with a view to gather support for the proposal. During my public interaction in these months, I spoke at the Annual Meet of the Punjab Chapter of All India SC/ST Employees Federation at Jalandhar and the Annual Meet of the Punjab Chapter of the BAMCEF at Ludhiana in the month of August, 2015 and solicited the understanding and support of the intelligentsia of the community. I write with pain and anguish that response from the political class of the community remained negligible. On social media, it is satisfying to note, there has been good response and a good number of people liked and supported the proposal to honour the worthy son of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

With a view to carry the proposal to the top echelons of the Government and political circles, I decided and wrote to PM Narendra Modi and Vice President of the Congress Party Rahul Gandhi on September 11, 2015 well before the forthcoming address of PM Narendra Modi at the UNGA. The letter to PM has been acknowledged by OSD (Appointments) at PMO. Let us hope the proposal to declare April 14, Birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in its 125th Anniversary, which will be celebrated by the Government of India as a special event, is considered positively and the greatest Indian is celebrated and honoured in a befitting manner. I append below the following letters for information and all possible support:

Letter to EAM Sushma Swaraj –

Dear Madam,
I am one among the IFS fraternity. After retirement in December, 2010, I have come back to my roots in Jalandhar. As post retirement activities, I engage myself in educational and social matters pertaining to the socially and economically weaker sections of the society. I am a dalit and a humble follower of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. After the Government’s decision to observe 125th Anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar, I wrote to Foreign Secretary Dr. S. Jaishankar (copy enclosed for kind perusal) and offered my services with regard to the programmes to be made and conducted by the MEA in this regard.

The purpose of this letter is to make a humble suggestion for your kind consideration. PM Narendra Modi’s government, particularly you as the Minister of External Affairs, has given due weightage to India’s “Soft Power” in diplomacy. The latest feather in your cap is the International Yoga Day under the aegis of the UN. With a view to honour Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, one of the greatest sons of India, by celebrating his 125th Birth Anniversary, the Government has taken a right and laudable decision. It will go a long way in assuaging the ruffled feelings of millions of poor and socially backward followers of the great leader. My humble submission is that it will only be appropriate if India makes yet another proposal at the next UNGA in September, 2015 to declare 14th April, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as International Day of Equality. You would agree, Madam Minister, that it would not only carry forward the UN goals of “Empowerment” of the weaker sections of the world population but also instill the democratic values of “Equality, Liberty and Fraternity” in the world order. These democratic and humane values were dear to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and his spiritual Guru Mahatma Buddha, the greatest son of India.

I am confident that this decision and action of the Government will be much appreciated by the weaker sections of the society. It will also be a befitting tribute to the memory and legacy of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, messiah of the under privileged and neglected sections of humanity at large.

Yours sincerely,

(Ramesh Chander)
Smt. Sushma Swaraj,
Minister of External Affairs,
South Block, NEW DELHI - 110011

Letter to Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal –

July 15, 2015

Dear Sir,
I am taking the liberty of writing to you on an important matter of mutual interest that of an immense significance to the community at large. You are aware that Government of India has decided to observe the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar as an official celebration. You are a member of the high power Committee appointed for the purpose.

I have made a proposal to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. Ambedkar, as International Day of Equality. PM Narendra Modi may take up the matter appropriately at the next UNGA in September, 2015. In this regard, I have written to EAM Smt. Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Secretary Dr. S. Jaishankar. I am enclosing a copy of my letter to the Hon’ble Minister for your kind perusal. I am confident, Sir, your support and intervention in the matter will make a definite dent in taking a favourable decision by the Government. I may inform you that I have sent copies of my letter to Hon’ble Ministers T.C. Gehlot, Ram Vilas Paswan and Vijay Sampla.

I will be grateful, Mr. Speaker, if you could kindly consider and pursue the matter not only in your capacity as a Member of the High-Power Committee headed by the Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi but also as a recognized leader of the community and follower of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. You would appreciate, Sir, that time schedule is of essence to prepare for PM’s address at the UN and include this idea in his address. I would, therefore, request you to kindly make a suitable approach to the Committee at the earliest.

With regards,

Yours sincerely,
(Ramesh Chander)

Shri Charanjit Singh Atwal,
Speaker of the Punjab Legislative Assembly,

Letter to PM Narendra Modi –

September 11, 2015
Dear Sir,
At the outset, let me say, Sir, you are one of the pro-active leaders of India who understands the pulse of the Indian masses. It is a well deserved compliment and rightly so. As PM of India, you have done well and have initiated many good ideas and programmes for further progress and prosperity of India. I take this opportunity to wish you and your government all the very best and all success.

I am writing this to invite your kind attention to an important matter of public interest. You are aware, Sir, under your able leadership, GOI has decided to celebrate and observe 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. It is a good decision which has found universal appreciation. It is a befitting tribute to the memory of Dr. Ambedkar, the greatest son of India in contemporary times. I thank and congratulate you and your government for this commendable gesture.

You would agree with me, Sir, that Dr. Ambedkar was such a personality that limiting his contribution and legacy to India alone will not do justice to the greatest son of India. Some of the foreign universities and other political and social fora have duly recognized the great contribution and work of DR. B.R.  Ambedkar in bringing about the world order where the principles of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity would be the cardinal fundamentals of governance. We Indians are proud of this. With a view to fete Dr. B.R. Ambedkar as a world leader on his 125th birth anniversary, I made a humble proposal to EAM Smt. Sushma Swaraj and requested that India under your stewardship shall make a demarche to UNGA to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality.  A copy of my letter to Hon’ble EAM is enclosed for your kind perusal. My letter to her has been duly acknowledged by the Joint Secretary (UNES) in the MEA vide his letter dated August 6, 2015. Subsequently, I endorsed copies of my letter to the concerned Ministers and BJP MPs and also wrote to Shri Charanjit Singh Atwal, Speaker of Punjab Legislative Assembly who is a Member of the High Power Committee to celebrate 125th Birth Anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar under your able Chairmanship with a view to seek their support and understanding.

You would agree with me, Sir, that if GOI under your leadership approaches the UNGA and you kindly consider and make this proposal to declare April 14 as International Day of Equality in your forthcoming address to the UNGA, it will be a befitting tribute to the worthy son of India, Dr. Ambedkar on his 125th anniversary. I need not add, as you very well understand and know, Sir, how it will be appreciated not only by the under-privileged masses not only of India but also by the suffering humanity the world over crying for their empowerment. You are aware that Empowerment and Equality are the cherished fundamentals of the aims and objectives of the UN. Dr. Ambedkar remained the champion of these lofty ideals to establish an equitable world order. The dalit communities and followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar in India and abroad would appreciate and support you in this regard. Obviously, the social and political dividends in this regard would be considerable which would further strengthen you and your resolve in taking India to further heights.

I am confident, Sir, my submissions would find due consideration at your hands. Your office may like to visit my blog to know my views and thinking on various issues of interest and concern:
With personal regards,

Yours Sincerely,
(Ramesh Chander)

Shri Narendra Modi,
Prime Minister of India,
New Delhi.

Letter to Vice President of Congress Party Rahul Gandhi

September 10, 2015
Dear Sir,
I am writing to you on a matter of public importance. You must be aware that Government of India has decided to celebrate 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.  In this regard, I wrote to Minister of External Affairs and proposed that GOI shall consider and make a demarche to UNGA to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality. I enclose herewith my letter to EAM for your kind perusal. The letter has been duly acknowledged by the Joint Secretary (UNES) of the MEA vide his letter dated August 6, 2015.

The purpose of writing to you is to solicit your understanding and support in the matter. I don’t think the government has taken the proposal seriously. Your support and voice to the proposal can flag the issue and in turn would provide considerable political mileage to you and the Congress Party. You very well understand the importance and relevance of the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar not only now but also in the years to come. You may be aware, Sir, on the initiative of the UPA government in 2007-08, 2nd October, birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, was declared as the Internal Day of Non-violence by the UN.

You know that time is of essence. PM is scheduled to address the UNGA in two weeks time. Your articulation of the proposal appropriately, either by writing to the PM or supporting it publically at the forthcoming rally in Bihar (I read in the media that Congress Party is considering to call it Ambedkar rally), to declare April 14 as International Day of Equality will go a long way in assuaging the ruffled feelings of the dalit community and all followers of Dr. Ambedkar irrespective of their party affiliations.

I am confident, Sir, my proposal will find due consideration at your hands.  You may like to visit my blog to know my views and thinking on various issues of relevance:

With personal regards,
Yours sincerely,
(Ramesh Chander)

Shri Rahul Gandhi, MP,
Vice President,
Indian National Congress Party,
New Delhi.

Copy to:

i)                   Smt. Sonia Gandhi, MP, President of Indian National Congress Party, New Delhi
ii)                 Chaudhary Santokh Singh, MP, Jalandhar.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Buddhism and the World Today

In these days of strife and conflict, relevance of Buddha and Buddhism immediately, and rightly so, comes to mind. The Buddhist thought is as relevant and potent today as it was in the past and will remain so in the future. The world at large has to follow Buddhism, if it is to survive. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Buddha and Buddhism was re-launched and revived in the recent years in India by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar by himself embracing Buddhism in October, 1956.

The immediate provocation to write this is that one of my
friends and fellow BootaMandian, Harmesh Jassal, gave me a small booklet “Buddhism and the World Today” – a lecture by one of the devout Buddhist scholars , Dr. R.L. Soni,  who chose to migrate to Mandalay, Myanmar in the late 1920s. The lecture was delivered to an audience of army personnel at Maymyo in Myanmar in 1946 on the Veshakha Day, the day of Birth, Enlightenment and Pari-Nirvana of Lord Buddha.  A quote from the biographical sketch of Dr. R.L. Soni written by his worthy daughter in Mandalay, Sujata Soni is enough to say something about Dr. Soni. She further quotes from a weekly which described Dr. Soni in 1956 “Dr. R.L. Soni is a remarkable personality: physician by profession, philosopher by inclination, scientist by training, scholar by interest, writer by hobby, humanitarian by nature, internationalist by contact, leader by aptitude and profound Buddhist teacher through understanding.” One can understand why Dr. R.L. Soni was a friend of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. After their meeting in Mandalay in 1954, Dr. Ambedkar, in his thank you letter to Dr. Soni which has been appended to the booklet, said inter alia, “India needs you and particularly your own Province, the Punjab.” As regards the booklet “Buddhism and the World Today”, it is a philosophical warning to the world at large that only the teachings of Buddhism as enshrined in the Eight Noble Paths, Four Noble Truths and Panchsheel (Five percepts) can save humanity from the holocaust of war and violence. Dr. Soni called Lord Buddha a “Great Spiritual Physician” and said, Lobha, Dosa and Moha (Greed, Hatred and Delusion) are the “three infections of the human mind” and added, “These are the ultimate germs that eat into the vitals of human happiness and create causes which bring about conflicts in personal, social and national relations.”  Dr. Soni raised a question, “Is it possible to disinfect life of these noxious bacteria?”  He answered himself and said ‘Buddhism was simply unique in that direction and will make a substantial contribution towards the cure of the world ills of today by the Love it teaches and the Truth it holds.  In the Introduction, Dr. Soni said that the importance of an individual is supreme in Buddhism. Buddhism is essentially devoted to personal culture through which it endeavors to improve the personal relationship between man and man. The crux of the matter is, to my mind, Buddhism remains a potent force to bring about the atmosphere of general well-being of mankind.

Now let me write a few lines about Harmesh Jassal, the publisher of the booklet “Buddhism and the World Today”. Harmesh is an educated and dedicated Ambedkarite and also a staunch Buddhist. After his retirement from Indian Airlines/Air India a couple of years ago, he engaged himself with his first love ‘Publishing’ under his own banner “Malind Prakashan”.  Harmesh’s experience of working with the Bheem Patrika, one of the oldest weeklies dedicated to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Lord Buddha under the able Editorship of the veteran Lahori Ram Balley and the Kirti, a Punjabi weekly devoted to the common causes of the socially and economically weaker sections of the society, came handy to launch Malind Prakashan. Malind Prakashan, over the years has done a good job in bringing out more than ten publications and almost the same number of publications are, as informed by Harmesh Jassal, being processed to present in the months to come. I take this opportunity to wish Harmesh Jassal and Malind Prakshan all success.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Teachers Day

Today, September 5, the birthday of President Sarvepalli
Radhakrishnan, is Teachers Day. I have written many a times in the past on this day and shared thoughts and anecdotes in my blog. It is a good day to remember our teachers and pay respect to the current lot and also to rededicate ourselves to the traditional wisdom to place the teacher (Guru) on a high pedestal as enshrined in Gurubani:

गुरु गोबिन्द दोउ खडे काके लागूँ पाँय

बलिहारी गुरु आपने गोबिन्द दियो बताय

This time I write on this day from a different perspective. I would like to share some of my thoughts with regard to teachers, education and educational system, role of the government and the society in this matter. A teacher plays an important role in shaping the society as PM Narendra Modi rightly said yesterday while addressing the students, teachers and educational administrators that ‘Mother gives birth and Teacher gives life.’ The observations which I like to make are:-

i)                  The quality and standard of teachers, particularly at the primary and middle levels in government schools, are miserably poor. I saw media reports recently in this regard which were awfully worrisome. The educational administrators should pay due attention to this aspect. It seems that this is the direct result of alleged corruption in recruitment of teachers.

ii)               The provisions of the RTE Act require to be enforced strictly. The educational institutions, which claimed and are enjoying the facilities and concessions offered and extended by the government, have become totally commercial. Neither they pay due remunerations to the teachers for their work nor provide seats to the economically and socially marginalized students. The vested interests tend to flout these provisions in one way or the other.

iii)            The educational standards and facilities in the government schools are awfully neglected. Obviously, there is no comparison between the end results of the government schools and private schools. It not only widens the educational gaps but also creates social and economic disparities which run against the very concept of democracy. Urgent attention is needed on these aspects of education particularly in the rural areas. If there is a political will, the government can do it. The Kendriya Vidyalayas run by the government are doing very well from the day one. It was gratifying to see it yesterday at the interaction of PM Narendra Modi with students. The students of Kendriya Vidyalayas delivered and performed well. Some guidelines, issued by the UP High Court recently with regard to the education of the wards of government functionaries etc. in government schools, appear to be in order but how to implement them and make these binding in a free society is a big question. Nevertheless, educational facilities in the government schools ought to be augmented.

iv)            It is the duty and responsibility of the government to provide for good education in government schools. Education is an important sector which needs attention. Why doesn’t the government think of nationalizing the education sector up to the school levels? Like in the banking sector, there could be private schools too. It will help not only in bringing about uniformity in educational standards but also will act as a much needed social leveling.

v)               It is gratifying to note that PM Narendra Modi pays due importance to the subject by interacting with students and teachers on Teachers day. President Pranab Mukherjee also took a class of young students at the Rashtrapati Bhawan and taught them political history. Students get a sense of elation and confidence in the process. It will be good if PM broaches up some of the important subjects like cleanliness, environment, casteless society, corruption etc. as theme subjects in such interactions with teachers and students. The thought process on these important issues of concern coming from the top will trickle down to the young minds and their guides. It will help in cleansing the society of the evils which are gnawing away at the vitals of the system like a moth.

With this, I pay my tributes to President Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishanan and greet the teacher’s community on the Teachers Day.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Question of Reservation

The question of reservation for SC, ST and OBCs in India is an important issue which tends to remain in the news in one way or the other. The recent Patidar Anamat Andolan of Hardik Patel in Gujarat has brought the issue in focus once again. Many opponents of reservation are likely to come around and argue against reservation. The Jats of Haryana and UP, the Gujjars of Rajasthan, the Marathas of Maharashtra, Brahman World Federation and many more like the VHP, and may be RSS, also will jump onto the anti reservation bandwagon. If I may say so, as an early warning to dalits who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of reservations, that it is the beginning of an end of reservations but with definite repercussions both for the polity and also for the society. The polity, as envisaged and visualized by our founding fathers particularly Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, could not be transformed from political democracy to social and economic democracy. The society could not be reformed by abolishing the brahmanical social order and establishing a casteless society. The two basic conditions of fair social and economic order and availability of equal opportunities in education and business including land holdings could not be met even after 68 years of independence. These conditions were the major considerations for providing reservations to begin with.  The anti reservations lobby demands to abolish caste based reservations and the demand is likely to get shrill in the days to come. The likely scenario, in the wake of these developments, will be worrisome and may be termed as “Grammar of Anarchy” as warned by Dr. Ambedkar. I can see a political turmoil on the one side and endless social strife on the other. God forbid, it may not turn out to be bloody. I personally stand for reservation for SC and STs as originally provided in the constitution. Obviously, these temporary provisions are required to be phased out in due course. We should think and work towards that goal. One basic point which I may make in this regard is that these reservations and concessions to the depressed classes were not given voluntarily by the so called upper castes but were obtained by sheer struggle, led by Babasaheb Ambedkar and many others, in the face of endless and mindless opposition by the vested interests. Mahatma Gandhi’s life was at stake. In the wider national interest, Dr. Ambedkar signed Poona Pact in 1932 providing for reservations to dalits. Later, these provisions were formalized in the constitution of free India. These facts of history cannot be ignored.

 It will be in order, therefore, all political parties, all social
organizations, all economic and financial bigwigs should sit and think as to how we can bring about social and economic democracy in the country and also establish a casteless society. It is a must before we address the issue and think of doing away reservation for SC & STs as provided in the constitution.. We may ignore this ground reality at our own peril.

PS: I append here a photo from Facebook postings for information and consideration of my friends who oppose reservations. I will also be grateful if friends who stand for reservation for Sc & STs kindly send me a few points in support of their case for my own education.