XIth Generally Assembly of International Federation of Catholic Universities is now being held in new Delhi.
XIth Generally Assembly of International Federation of Catholic Universities is now being held in new Delhi. The Assembly was inaugurated by Mrs. Gandhi, the prime minister of India. Upon her arrival at Vigyan the Prime Minister was garlanded. After the opening remarks by the President of the Assembly Fr. Carrier Mrs. Gandhi addressed the delegates from 35 countries of North America, La in America, Europe, Africa and Asia. This is the second time that the Assembly is being held in Asia, The last Assembly had met in spain. There are 140 delegates attending the Assembly from outside India while Indian representation is 75. The foreign participants come from 27 countries.
Inaugurating the XI General Assembly of International federation of Catholic Universities,the Prime Minister, Shrimati Indira Gandhi, said here today:
It is a privilege to welcome this distinguished gathering of scholars and teachers of the International Federation of Catholic Universities from nearly sixty countries. I bring to you not only my own greetings and good wishes but those of the Government and the people of India.
You have come to a land where for thirty centuries and more, the people's highest respect has been accorded not to kings but to teachers and ascoties. These wise men, in turn, stressed the limitations of their own knowledge and taught our people to recognise that the roads to truth are many. This has helped us to offer to other religions and peoples the same reverence which were show to our own.
We are specially proud of the religious equality that our political system enshrines. We consider christianity to be as much as religion of india was those which originated here. Some of you may remember when His Holiness the pope visited Bombay some years ago, I was then Minister of Information & Broadcasting and it was one of my first tasks to arrange for the coverage of that visit by our media. I knew that His Holiness would be welcomed with reverence and respect. But even I was taken a back by the vast crowds of all religions which surged towards the airport making it almost impossible for the government and those who had invited him to welcome him. In fact, thousands of people w could only remain on the outskirts of the airport and not even have a glimpse. This shows the feeling of the Indian people.
We also appreciate the pioneering work done by Christian organisations in eduction, in public health and social service and the contribution of Christian scholars to the development of our languages. In many respects, it is they who have reminded us of much that we had forgotten about ourselves and our past.
It might not be appropriate for me to speak on education to an audience of educationist of repute who have expertise and experience. Moreover, you have asked me in you letter of invitation to give my views on population and development. In the broad sense of the word, education is inextricably linked with development. Our ancients regarded education not so much as what one learns but what type of person it helps one to become. It is not the accumulation of knowledge, but the ability to use knowledge with perception and compassion. It is a constant striving to stretch one's awareness and one's capacity to learn, to feel and 'to be'. This is indeed a high aim and we are nowhere near i?. but we in India have progressed in formal education. The number of children in schools has gone up form less than 20 million to now nearly 100 million. In college attendance, there has been a ten-fold increase - now 3 million.
Qualitative changes have also taken place, for education has reached out into areas and classes hitherto untouched. There has been expansion of education amongst girls and the underprivileged social groups. There is also a more practical orientation now. Our trained, high-level scientific and technical manpower is the third larger in the world. These bright young people are involved in development works here in India and also in helping programmes of modernisation in other developing countries. Agricultural education, research and our extension programmes have enabled us to double our agricultural production. Technical education has led to industrial growth and increase in self-reliance and defence potential.
You have already remarked that the Christian community in India Numbers about 16 million. This may seem small in the context od our 580 million people. But it is a large figure compared to the population of many independent countries of today's world. We as a government have made an effort to check population because we have felt that neither the land nor what it produce is enough to sustain the population at the rate at which it has been growing. But we have realised that this is a matter of persuasion. It is a matter of educating people, so that population control is regarded as a means to healthier and happier families. Our birth rate which was 42 per thousand up to 1965-66 is now 35 per thousand. Our aim is to bring it down to 27, even 25. Already it is lower than 30 in some states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, maharashtra and Punjab. This Shows that in places where there is greater progress in industry or in agriculture, there is a tendency to have smaller families.
I should like to detail some of our other achievements because in the last two years there has been persistent propaganda in India and abroad that we have not been able to deal with our economic problems.
The figures I give you are of the nine-and-a-half years during which I have held office as prime Minister. Naturally our fist first consideration was to improve agriculture because the majority of the indian people still live and will continue to live in the villages and on their work and effort all of us are dependent for our very lives.
The area under irrigation has increased from 31.7 million hectares to 4.3 million hectares, irrigation pumps from one million to 4.2 million. The number of villages electrified (which enables the energisation pumps as well as other facilities) has increased from 42,530 to 164,000, and fertilizer consumption from 0.8 million tonnes of Nitrogen to 2.6 million tonnes. If it has not gone up more, it is partly because of the acute shortage in the last two years and also the very steep rise in price.
The area high-yielding varieties of seeds, which was 1.9 million hectares in 1966, is new 25.5 million hectares. Foodgrains production has gone up from 72 million tonnes to around 110 million tonnes and the rate of increase in our food production is higher than our population growth.
There have been significant increases in production of items such as sugar, cotton and jute. We have made a special effort to expand rural credit and to have schemes to help what we call the small and marginal farmer. There is a close link between agriculture, it inevitably affects our industrial production as well. We have made spectacular advance in industry.We are now capable of designing, developing and fabricating machines and equipment for a variety of process plants and engineering units. We are currently producing mother machines and steel, chemicals, fertilizers, electrical and construction machinery. We have made rapid progress in heavy engineering, in heavy mechanical and industrial machinery including textiles, sugar cement; also machine tools, precision instruments, light mechanical and electrical industries, automobile, drugs pharmaceutical, chemicals, fertilizers industries which are of comparatively recent origin. There has been an impressive improvement in heavy electrical industry in range end in quality.
Until recently, there was much criticism about those undertakings or projects which were under the State control, - the public sector, as we call it. But in these also, performance has improved dramatically. In several, we have not only made up losses but are making profits and in others the losses have been greatly reduced.
Having said all this, I must admit that the last two or three years have been years of extraordinary difficulty. Some of these difficulties were shared round the world and some were our special concern. You have all heard of the trouble on the sub-continent which led to 10 million refugees coming here. That was the year, 1971, when we had managed to build up a buffer stock of 9 million tonnes, over and above the foodgrain that we needed for the entire population. But the events that followed depleted this buffer stock. After the problems, of a Bangladesh - of the refugees and the war that followed, the looking after of prisoners-of-war, nearly a hundred thousand of them-and the succeeding droughts, we were in trouble. And this was aggravated considerably by the global financial crisis and inflation, and finally the fuel crisis.
Like the rest of the world, we had inflation. We had inflation even before all this happened. But it was at a low level and all developing countries do have a certain amount of it. But with all these happenings, and Governments's expenditure on the refugees, on the war, on the feeding of people during the drought period inflation grow. I would like to remind you once more that no small problem in India in is small. In 1972, in the Maharashtra and Gujarat drought, we had to feed 9 million people free. We had what we call to relief works - that is giving employment to them on the land to enable people to buy form fair price shops - for 13 million people. So the expenditure on this alone was colossel and the total did put our entire economy out of gear.
Our inflation became what is known as 'galloping inflation" and it went up to as much as 30 percent. But last year, we took some very strong measures at the risk of our survival as a Government. But they succeeded and we have managed to bring down this inflation not only to zero but, as our Finance minister announced the other day, to minus 2 per cent.
While this was happening, there was tremendous economic hardship all around to every class.But when there is suffering those who are the weakest or the poorest have to bear the heaviest harden, whether in peace or in war. And this is what happened here. But it is not they who complained. Somehow in spite of all the hardship, they managed to retain hope and faith, they continued to work, to try and improve conditions. It is the middle classes, especially those with fixed income, whose tolerance, if I can call it that, is the lowest. So this period of economic hardship led to a period of political agitations.
There is considerable bewilderment abroad and amongst some of the people here about what has been happening in India in the last month or so. A crisis had been brewing, I would say, since 1969. That was really the logical beginning . But it took a more visible, tangible form in the last year and a half or two years. Perhaps it was out fruit. We felt that our people conditioned as they were to mahatma Gandhi's teachings, would realise the value of keeping the system going. But, as often happens, whereas it takes many people's hard work and labour to build up an edifice, a very few can destroy it in a very short time, and we suddenly discovered that this is what was happening in our country.
Democracy is important not just as an ideal, but because in a country of India's size and vast diversity it is the only system in my view which can keep the country together. But for democracy to work, or for that matter for any system to work, there has to be discipline and the people's participation. This discipline we had allowed to be eroded and it had eroded at all levels, amongst our industrial workers, amongst our peasants, amongst our students, amongst our administration, amongst our political parities. Suddenly we had a vision of this country going towards what can only be called anarchy.
Elsewhere I have quoted prof. Galbraith, the noted American economist, as saying that India is not really a democracy, it is a functioning anarchy. But this was years ago, this was not recently. But actually we found that even the functioning was gradually becoming unfunctioning. The action we took as a friend was saying the other day, it was not the beginning of the crisis, it was an effort to end the crisis which was growing out of all proportion and threatened to get out of control. We have done things which we would not normally do and, quite frankly, which I didn't like doing. But it was a question of that or of allowing this anarchy. Every we saw in the press news of violence, and I think this is what you have read about India had we not taken the action which we did take.
None of these problems suddenly erupted. Each one of them was growing in different ways, in different directions. From many years there was the movement of certain very narrow-minded chauvinistic organisations who didn't call themselves political, they were supposed to be cultural, but they believed in violence, they believed in what we can only think of as fascist methods. They did not believe in the sort of tolerance to all religions and beliefs which has been India's creed for centuries and which I mentioned at the beginning. In fact, their leader has said in a written document-it is about other minorities also, but I will only mention what he said about the said about the Christians of India -- that "the Indian christians are not only irreligious but anti-national." They have been specially against those minority communities which allow conversion into their religion. In spite of the fact that the Christians, as indeed the Muslims and other minorities, have taken full part in our national struggle, have got the highest awards for courage and gallantry in times of warm, such statements were made. This sort of poison, sometimes very subtly, sometimes very overtly and openly, was spread amongst the people. Even about population control programme a huey and cry was raised in parliament and outside that the minorities were going up in numbers and therefore it is they who should be forced to have this programme and not the majority community.
I mentioned earlier the visit of His Holiness the pope, to India. I had to face a barrage in Parliament as to why we were giving any facilities, why was the Radio covering this visit and so on. This was the mentality of this group. And their method was to infiltrate into our services -- in the administration and everywhere. I do not know what they expected to do once they had really got there in large numbers.
There was a very genuine demand -- not from the minorities alone but from a large proportion of the majority community -- that such organisations should be banned. But somehow there was a lacuna our laws and we were not able to do it. Every year the question was reopened, but we were not able to do it.
Then came the political agitation. And suddenly we found that people came to the front, who in themselves may be good people and may not believe in intolerance or in violence, but they said certain things which I would like to share with you, not just what was said recently but what was said long time ago. Today it is claimed by many newspapermen and others that Mr. Jayaprakash Naryana is a Gandhian. He has been in the Independence movement. He has been off and on close to Mahatma Gandhi. But at the same time he never really fully supported him and there was often even bitterness in their exchanges. In his newspaper, the Harijan, Mahatma Gandhi wrote in January 1940 about Mr. Narayan that he had and I quote- "no faith in either the constructive programme of the leadership" (meaning himself). And he wrote again that he himself (i.e mahatma Gandhi) "could never hope to lead the sort of any army that Mr. Narayan had in view to success". Again he said -- and I quote - "Shri Jayaprakesh Narayen would have the students come out of their colleges and schools and workmen lay down their tools. This is a lesson in indiscipline. If I had my way, I would invite every student to remain in his school or college... I should give similar advice to the workmen."
This is precisely the situation which we faced. Schools and colleges where not functioning. Examinations were not being held. And if they were held, there was widespread cheating. But because of a few aggressive, violent students nobody dared to stop them. If somebody did, then the supervisor or whoever it was beaten up.
Democracy is important and we lay stress even on the trappings of democracy. Trappings are not more important than the essence, but there is a need for the trappings also. But what had happened to the trappings of democracy? In our State of Gujarat there was an agitation.
I do not want to go into the reason for it, because that would take too long and I have spoken about them on many occasion. For some reason they felt that the majority party, which was our, should resign, and that the Assembly should be dissolved. To achieve that end individual members of the Assembly were intimidated and were forced to resign. Ultimately, in order to save the situation from further violence we did dissolve the Assembly. But it solved none of the problems which they had said would be solved.
In the very recent elections in Gujarat. They were held in June- we won 41 percent of the vote and emerged as the single largest Party. The combined Opposition naturally was bigger and we allowed them to form a Government. But they went to the people - in one particular area they went to the Christian settlement - and said "For whom have voted?" when they said they had voted for the Congress, their houses were razed to the ground.
This is not democracy, neither the essence nor the trappings. And this is the situation which we were facing. They threatened to start a similar type of programme all over the country. Obviously, they did not say that houses would be burnt. They said it would be non-violent, but we have experience that these non-violent programmes invariably did become violent not because any particular leaders wanted them to be so, but because other elements joined in. Our complaint against Mr. Jayaprakash Narayan and some of the other senor leaders is not just about what they said, but that they gave shelter and respectability to such groups and that the control of this coming agitation was put in the hands of the leader of another very chauvinistic party called the Jhana Sangh. He was to be in charge of running this movement. That party also does not believe in tolerance, does not believe in good neighbourly relations. They have always thwarted any move we have made, whether it is friendship with Pakistan, or even an agreement with a country like SriLanka. It was in the hands of a leader of this party that this movement was entrusted.
Another respect leader, who has been a colleague of mine in the past,he is reported to have said in an interview to an Italian journalist on June 25 and I am only quoting it to ask whether this is any part of democracy.
"We will topple her, we will force her to go, for ever. That lady will never survive our action. Thousands of us will surround her house to hinder her going out or receive visitors and remain day and night and shout at her".
Another leader of the Jan sanagh said that this war had to be fought out in the streets. So this was the situation which were facing.
Today a great many people who have been friends of India write to me that they can understand some aspects of the Emergency, but cannot understand the censorship of the press. This again is something which nobody would do willingly here in India, although I am told by many that censorship is not stricter here than it is in many countries of the world, specially in Asia and Africa. But what has been the stand of the Press - our press or foreign press? A large section of them have supposedly held special standards for India. India should be non-violent, it does not matter whether other countries are or not. We do believe in non-violence but not to the extent that if we are attacked, we do not defend ourselves. Other countries can make nuclear bombs and stockpile them and that is of no concern to the world. But if India has one peaceful experiment, then India has opened the doors to nuclear warfare in the world. We Had a problem in one of our States - Sikkim. In exactly that week, whom the people of Sikkim elected their own Assembly and chose to have closer connection with india, in that very week, Pakistan annexed a State called Hunza. No election. No popular will. But hardly any newspaper mentioned it. Whereas Sikkim was spoken of for a whole month all over the world and even in some of our own papers.
I have given some of the background for you to enable you to study the question in greater depth. I am very happy that this conference is being held here in India because we have found that people tend to regard Europe and America as the entire world end the rest of us as being only on the fringes. Many conferences have been held on development, on various economic matters. Many conference have been held on development, on various economic matters. Many good resolutions have been passed. But there has been very little positive result that we can see. We are aware of our own mistakes and if I criticise the better off nations of the world, I am fully conscious that the better off section of the society in India do exactly the same as regards the weaker sections. So it is not with any spirit of fault-finding that I made this remark, but I wish to draw attention to the problems which have to be solved and we have to solve them within our country. So the more affluent countries have to think about how to solve them on a global scale.
The time has come when the very progress of science and technology is demanding a new type of human being. It is pointing out in a myriad way that we must preserve and replenish this "our only earth", that we can no longer wage ??? the kind of rapacious competition which was an offshoot of the industrial revolution. This means more serious and sincere attention to the problems of the have-nots, a more equitable distribution of the world's goods and services.
Today's challenge is not to a nation or a continent, but to all mankind and the endeavour to meet it must be by men and women of all races and all religions. For this they must be enthused and feel.