Monday, December 25, 2006

The Great Indian Renaissance. Written by Dr Manmohan Singh

Here is an excellent writing by the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh. This article was orginally published in "The Week" Magazine. You can read the orginal at: http://week.manoramaonline.com.



I am delighted that THE WEEK is celebrating its silver jubilee. I am also happy that you have chosen for your anniversary issue the theme 'Indian renaissance'. India has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the last 25 years. After the initial burst of energy and enthusiasm in the early years after Independence, during which India broke decisively from over a century of lack of development and progress, the country passed into nearly two decades of crisis and slower growth.

Taken together, the 25 years during which THE WEEK has been in print have been a period of great creativity and enterprise in our country. This has been so not just on the economic front but also on the social and cultural front. The enormous growth of the media in these 25 years is just one instance of the burst of creativity and energy at home. New businesses, trade, arts and crafts have come up. And so have new social and political trends and tendencies.

Today, in two vastly different spheres of human activity we see a new India. One is the world of business and the other the sphere of civil society. Few of the top 100 business groups in the country today existed in 1981. As I observed recently at a media event, not only were none of the awardees for excellence in business in two different businesses 25 years ago, but even their lines of business did not exist as an area of business activity 25 years ago. Thus, we have seen a renaissance of sorts in the important area of creativity and enterprise.

The second striking phenomenon of the past quarter century is civil society activism. India has become the NGO capital of the world. Across the length and breadth of the country, I find highly motivated and talented young women and men engaged in a wide range of social and developmental work through NGOs. Many of them have had good education and could have pursued highly remunerative careers not just in our major cities, but in some of the biggest cities of the world. Yet, they chose to work in distant villages, educating and empowering Dalits, tribals, women, children and other oppressed or disadvantaged sections of society. Many others have taken the benefits of modern science and technology to remote areas, economically empowering marginalised groups.

These two vastly different phenomena, in two very different walks of life, have given India a new visibility in two different worlds-that of the world economic forum and that of the world social forum. The reality of India is captured by this diversity.

The 'Indian renaissance' is also reflected in the burst of intellectual energy that we find in the world of literature, art and cinema. India publishes more books than most countries in the world. It was not, therefore, surprising to see India being the toast of the World Book Fair in Frankfurt earlier this year. Indian cinema has made its mark and so have Indian artists whose works are selling at rising prices the world over.

All this symbolises the new energy of a new India. However, there is a long road ahead. The backlog of poverty, ignorance and disease continues to hold India and Indians back. We have to invest more in education, health care and labour-intensive sectors that generate employment, and so on to bridge the development divide in India. No nation can boast of a renaissance, much less a resurgence, if half the population is illiterate or semi-literate.

Our dreams of building a 'knowledge society' will come to nought if all our children are not in school, do not get a healthy meal and do not have the opportunity to improve their economic lot and social status through education. Universal and modern education, based on what Pandit Nehru used to call a "scientific temper" and the values of liberalism and pluralism, is therefore a necessary precondition for a more broad-based renaissance.

We must also pay more attention to the social and political causes of violence and lack of social peace in our neighbourhood. India cannot develop and move forward if it lives in a region of economic and social backwardness. India's destiny, as indeed India's heritage, is shared with its neighbours. The values of liberalism, pluralism, the rule of law, equality of all ethnic groups, religious communities and linguistic and social groups and, above all, a rational outlook based on a modern and scientific temper must pervade all of south Asia so that the region as a whole can prosper and live in peace.

What has truly contributed to India's social and cultural development is the pluralistic nature of our open society and economy. As a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, India has created a wide space for the full expression of human creativity and ingenuity. It is in this diversity, this plurality and the inherent unity of the Indian psyche, so brilliantly captured in the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam [the world is one family] that we find the roots of the Indian renaissance.

I hope THE WEEK is able to convey this idea to all its readers through its columns week after week. I wish you success in your noble endeavours and wish all your readers a Happy New Year.

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