Sunday, November 26, 2017

Greetings on the Constitution Day

Greetings on the Constitution Day

Today, November 26, is the Constitution Day, the third, since its inception in November, 2015, as one of the events to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar, father of the Indian constitution. The constitution of India was finally adopted, enacted and given to the people of India by the
Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 which came into effect on January 26, 1950 which we observe as the Republic Day. The day was earlier commemorated as National Law Day, after a resolution by the Supreme Court Bar Association, a lawyers’ body, in 1979. Some of the interesting facts of the making of India’s constitution are:

9 December 1946: The Constituent Assembly started its first session.
11 sessions: Number of sessions the Constituent Assembly had to complete the Constitution.
17: Number of committees formed in the Constituent Assembly.
299: Number of members of the Constituent Assembly.
284: Number of members who finally signed the Constitution.
15: Number of women in the Constituent Assembly.
165: Number of days for which the Constituent Assembly held meetings.
2 years, 11 months, 17 days – The time it took to finish the Constitution.

The Indian government of the day should ensure that the Constitution Day is observed and commemorated with all seriousness and solemnity as an important day in the calendar of events. It was, to begin with, that the nodal Ministry for the purpose will be Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It was perhaps correct as the event was being observed as a tribute to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar during the 125th birth anniversary of the great leader. I think now the nodal Ministry for the Constitution Day should be changed either to Ministry of Law and Justice or to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs or the Parliament of India in the joint care of Vice President of India, as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The Constitution Day should not be left and considered as a vote bank stance because of Dr. Ambedkar, who no doubt played a seminal role in the making of the constitution, but should be commemorated as a day concerning the whole country. It must be underlined that today India is India only because of its dynamic and functional constitution which we gave to ourselves on November 26, 1949. It should be celebrated and observed without fail not only in the parliament of India and the state legislatures and municipalities but also by all the universities, colleges and schools appropriately. The idea is to instill a sense of adopting and adhering to constitutional means to address and solve all matters of concern and interest by the people of India as visualized by our fore-fathers and makers of our constitution. It will help to ward of the dangers of “Grammar of Anarchy” as warned by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly before the constitution was finally passed on November 26, 1949.

When I say that India is India because of the constitution of India, I mean it. India is the biggest functional democracy of the world. Change of guard takes place smoothly in the system of adult franchise on the basis of ‘one vote one value’. The often raised question “Who after Nehru?” was fully addressed under the constitution. One of the strongest PMs Indira Gandhi was unseated by verdict of a judicial court. Resenting and protesting the imposition of emergency, people in a popular vote defeated PM Indira Gandhi and brought in new dispensation of PM Morarji Desai. PMs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were removed from the scene in senseless violence. Indian polity stood its ground and managed the crisis under the constitution. These are not small achievements and could become possible only because our constitution is fully functional and aptly competent to meet the challenges. We should be proud of this.

After 67 years of smooth functioning of our constitution since January 26, 1950, we need to take a fresh look at the current situation. We need to make an objective assessment with regard to the core values and fundamental structures of the constitution. The lofty ideals of democracy, secularism socialism under the dictum of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” as enshrined in the preamble of the constitution need to be protected and ensured. It is all the more important in the visibly growing tendencies of narrow nationalism and intolerance. The vision of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar to transform political democracy into a social and economic democracy is yet to see the light of the day. We have come a long way in the development and progress of our country and have perhaps arrived but still we are to go a long way to reach. For this, we need to learn to follow and safeguard our constitution as PM Narendra Modi said in November, 2015 “Let us always uphold the ideals & values of our Constitution and create an India that would make our founding fathers very proud.” He further said, “No mention of our Constitution is complete without remembering the stellar contribution of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. I salute him.”

Greetings on the Constitution Day to my fellow countrymen.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Indira Gandhi - A Humble Tribute

Indira Gandhi - A Humble Tribute

Today, November 19, is the birth centenary of PM Indira Gandhi (November 1917-October, 1984). I have read two excellent write ups today on Indira Gandhi by my very seniors in the IFS – K. Natwar Singh, As I Please in The Tribune and Salman Haidar, There Will Never Be Another Indira Gandhi in the Hindustan Times. Both of them worked with PM Indira Gandhi in the PM’s Secretariat at senior positions and as such handled important and
With PM Indira Gandhi in the Committee Room attachd to her office
substantive work. I, a lowly official in the MEA, also got the chance to be around in the corridors of PM’s Secretariat, from April, 1974 to October, 1977, as a Protocol Assistant in the Government Hospitality attached to a lady officer Vimla Sindhi popularly called Behanji who was a retainer from PM Jawaherlal Nehru’s staff at Teenmurti House. My duties pertained to protocol during the meetings, particularly with foreign dignitaries and of the cabinet, held in the committee room and conference room and to maintain these rooms. Behanji, my boss, enjoyed some sort of personal and direct access to Indira Gandhi because of her service at Teenmurti House with Jawaharlal Nehru, though some of her colleagues and senior officers had doubts. Indira Gandhi used to call her Vimi. Indira Gandhi had a keen eye on small details like flower arrangement, upholstery of furniture, paintings, stationary, snacks to be served and even ash trays etc. In this regard, I had numerous opportunities to speak and interact with her along with Behanji and alone. I left for my posting to Peking (Beijing) in October, 1977 and returned in December, 1981. Indira Gandhi had come to power again. On joining the MEA, I was posted to PMO as Protocol Officer to man the same desk as Vimla Behanji was retiring from service. I was reluctant to go there because of the nature of work but Joint Secretary (Administration) refused to listen to me as clearance and approval of PMO (PS to PM R.K. Dhawan) of my name had already been obtained. I was destined to work with PM Indira Gandhi again, it seemed – my good fortune. During the course of my humble work, I had many personal encounters on small matters with Indira Gandhi, a great personality and human-being par-excellence. I will narrate here in brief only two of these.

Sometime in the summer of 1975, my younger sister Kamla, after her school graduation, came to be with us in Delhi from Jalandhar, my native place. One day, she came to see my office. Vimla Behanji asked her whether she will like to meet the PM. Obviously, she jumped with joy. Indira Gandhi used go to her residence for lunch. Vimla Behanji took us out and made us stand near the stairs from where PM was to pass. As usual Indira Gandhi came out and moved towards the stairs. Vimla Behanji nodded and Indira Gandhi stopped near us. She introduced Kamla to PM Indira Gandhi and added that she had come from Jalandhar to meet, pointing towards me, her brother who was working with her. Indira Gandhi chatted with my sister for about 4-5 minutes standing in the corridor of her office. I, a young lowly official, was touched and impressed by Indira Gandhi’s humility and human touch in her demeanor to deal with common people.  Kamla was, of course, immensely delighted. Indira Gandhi was great. The second story will indicate how much Indira Gandhi cared for small niceties. It was in 1976, I think. One of my colleagues in MEA, Sudha Jain, was a good painter. She painted a portrait of Indira Gandhi. One day she came to see me in my office. She talked about her painting of Indira Gandhi and expressed her wish to gift it to her. Vimla Behanji facilitated the gifting exercise. On a convenient day, we kept the painting on one of the sofas in the corridor of PM’s office near the stairs. As usual PM was going for lunch. Vimla Behanji invited her attention to her portrait and introduced Sudha Jain. Indira Gandhi slowed for while and commented why she made portraits only. Sudha replied that she was painting otherwise also. Indira Gandhi started moving and Vimla Behanji said that Sudha wanted to gift this to you. She stopped for a moment again and said thanks and advised to send it the residence. Both Sudha and I were humbled to see her magnanimity and grace in dealing with common people. In a few days time, there was a letter of thanks from the office of PM and information on the institution to whom the portrait was further given for appropriate use somewhere in UP. I duly passed on the letter to Sudha. She must have kept the letter as a treasured possession. Indira Gandhi was great by her own right.

हज़ारों साल नरगिस अपनी बेनूरी पे रोती है,
बड़ी मुश्किल से होता है चमन में दीदावर पैदा!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Doaba College Jalandhar

Doaba College Jalandhar

Doaba College Jalandhar is one of the leading educational institutions in the Doaba region of Punjab. It recently celebrated its platinum jubilee after 75 years of its existence. The management of the college is steered by Chander Mohan, scion of a famous media and social personality Varinder of the erstwhile Partap group of newspapers, under the aegis of Arya Shiksha Mandal. Currently, since 2008, Doaba College is run under the stewardship of Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman, a renowned Sanskrit scholar and an able
Principal Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman
educational administrator as Principal. The UGC has declared Doaba College as “College with Potential for Excellence” The College has an in-house community radio station called “Raabta” and a centre for “Remedial classes for SC/ST/OBC students as an affirmative measure for the empowerment of the weaker sections of the society. Some of the leading lights, from the cross sections of  society, are the proud alumni of the college which, inter alia, include – Lord Swaraj Paul, business magnate and parliamentarian in the UK, Yash Chopra, doyen of Indian cinema as a producer and director of films in Bollywood, Prem Dhumal, politician and former CM of HP, Anurag Thakur, politician and MP, Manoranjan Kalia, politician and former Minister in Punjab, Gurpreet Ghuggi, a famous standup comedian and actor and a number of players of national and international standing.

Having associated myself with educational and social activities after my retirement from diplomatic service, it is a matter of satisfaction for me that I could establish good contacts and relationship with some of the premier educational outfits of the area such as Sant Baba Bhag Singh University where I serve on the Board of Management, D.A.V. College Jalandhar, my alma mater
Ambassador Ramesh Chander at DAV College Jalandhar
which invited me on several occasions to honour and speak, HMV College where I participated in a panel discussion on Live-in-Relationship, B.D. Arya Girls College where I gave a talk on ‘India’s Foreign Policy – An Overview”, D.A.V. College Dasuya where I participated in a seminar on “Gandhian Thought and International community, Shiv Jyoti School, a leading Higher Secondary school of Jalandhar honoured me to be the Chief Guest at one of their functions, among others. Doaba College was on my wish list. My wish was granted on November 7, 2017 when I was invited to deliver a talk on “India’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and opportunities” to an enlightened audience of students and teaching faculty. It was a gratifying experience and indeed an honour to be at the esteemed Doaba College Jalandhar.

·       The talk on the theme “India’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and Opportunities” was arranged jointly by the Post Graduate Departments of Political Science and Geography which was very well organized and attended. Principal Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman in his welcome address was too generous and spoke high of me which humbled me further. He made very candid observations about the qualities of a diplomat and said good diplomats did not
Ambassdor Ramesh Chander
succumb to the glitter of praise and lavish hospitality and say their mind as clearly as possible. I found Dr. Dhiman as an astute educational administrator and a man of learning. Dr. Daljit Singh, HOD of the Geography Department made a good and informative presentation on “Geo-politics and Foreign Policy” particularly with relation to India’s borders with Pakistan and China. Prof. Dr. Rajan Sharma, of the Political Science Department of the college termed in his well prepared speech as ‘Modification of the Foreign Policy” referring to the PM Narendra Modi’s intensive involvement in the formulation and execution of the policy. I have been meeting Dr. Rajan Sharma on various academic and educational events. He impressed me with is scholarship and pleasant personality. I as a lead speaker and so called Chief Guest; based my talk on historical perspective including the sterling role and contribution of Chankya or Kautilya, evolution under Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and others and came to the basic determinants and current elements of India’s foreign policy under PM Modi’s government. Quoting PM Narendra Modi from his speech at the Raisina Dialogue, “
नो भद्रो : क्रत्वो यन्तु विश्वत” - Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions, I mentioned about PM Modi’s initiatives to intensify his interaction with his international counterparts for integrating India’s foreign policy objectives with that of the world community. I brought to fore the important aspects and formulations of the foreign policy as pronounced by PM Modi, saying “Our strategic intent is shaped by our civilizational ethos of:
यथार्थवाद (realism), सह-अस्तित्व (co-existence), सहयोग (cooperation),तथा सहभागिता (partnership).”
Stating that diplomacy was a continuous process, I reiterated the famous dictum, “There were no permanent friends; there were no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.” And said that India’s foreign policy and its executions were fully geared to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities in the years to come and quoted an Urdu couplet of Alhama Iqbal:

जो है पर्दों में पिन्हा; चश्मे-बीना देख लेती है,
ज़माने की तबीयत का तकाज़ा देख लेती है
It was followed by a very interesting and intense interactive session of question and answers both from the students and the faculty which Principal Dr. Dhiman termed as the most informative and rewarding exercise. Prof. Balbir Chander, a simple but down to
Prof. Balbir Chander
earth academic and a teacher of standing by his own right and HOD of  Political Science Department of the college, thanked the speakers and the audience for making the seminar a grand success and that they look forward to more of such functions for the benefit of young students. The function was ably conducted by Prof. Puneet Kalra as Master of Ceremonies. Principal Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman graciously treated us on a piping-hot luncheon delivered from the mess of one of the college hostels situated in the college complex itself.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ambedkar College at Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar

Ambedkar College at Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar
 The residents of Bootan Mandi, my native place, and also that of the other nearby areas have been clamoring for a girls college in the vicinity of these localities which is predominantly inhabited by socially and economically weaker sections of the society. Most of them are the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar and as such they would be happy if the proposed college is named after Ambedkar. The proposed location i.e. the plot of land for the purpose is available which is currently called Chara Mandi. It is an ideal
location for the college dedicated to the memory of the greatest son of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar – near the Ambedkar Park at Bootan Mandi, on the Ambedkar Marg (Nakodar Road), near the historical residence of Late Seth Kishan Dass where Dr. Ambedkar stayed in 1951, not far off from the Ambedkar Bhawan and one of the busiest crossings of the city, Ambedkar Chowk. The Seths of Bootan Mandi tried to have a college in Bootan Mandi in association with the personalities like Sufi Singer Hans Raj Hans but these half-hearted and insincere efforts failed as expected. The successive governments of the Congress Party and of Akali-BJP alliance promised the college at the site several times over the last two decades. MOS Vijay Sampla of the BJP also broached up the subject towards the end of 2016 in the run up to the early 2017 elections. These things remained in the media without any result. I wrote about this earlier in my blog:
With concerted efforts of some of the youngsters headed by Jagdish Disha, Vari Klair, Parshottam Klair, among others, the proposal has seen light, it seems. Ministry of Education, on advice of the Education Minister Aruna Chaudhary, has informed the District Collector of Jalandhar of the decision to establish a college in Bootan Mandi and has written to him to prepare a case and identify

and acquire land for the project. Congratulations to all concerned activists who were fighting for the college and those politicians namely MP Chaudhary Santokh Singh, MLA Sushil Rinku and others. The ball has been set into motion but the game has to be played by us. Let us not lower our guard till something concrete happens. There are many slips between the cup and lips. We should convince the Hon’ble Minister of Education Aruna Chaudhary to complete all procedural requirements in this regard so that the foundation laying ceremony of the college could be held on April 14, 2018, the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. It will be a befitting tribute the great leader.
Babasaheb Ambedkar’s dictum – “Educate, Agitate and Organise” is as potent as it was and it will remain so in the years to come for the empowerment of the marginalized and weaker sections of the society and the nation at large. People are getting educated slowly but surely. The agitation for the college at Bootan Mandi clearly
demonstrates that people are getting agitated for the right causes and that under constitutional means as propounded by Dr. Ambedkar. They are to get united and organized to achieve their legitimate goals in the run up to establish a fair and just order in the society. People have succeeded in convincing government for their just demand in a democratic way. It is a matter of satisfaction.
I wish the Sarv Samaj Sangarsh Committee set up for the purpose all success in the days to come.
जिंदगी की असली उड़ान   बाकी है;
इरादा हो तो अभी इम्तिहान बाकी है!