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India And The Challenges Of The Twenty First Century

4702 words - 19 pages


As the world awaits the dawn of the next millennium, India is poised for her next historic tryst with destiny. The 21st century means new hopes and fresh aspirations amongst people everywhere. For India, the 20th century was of momentous significance. We took giant strides that released the people and the country from the shackles of colonialism, which had not only squeezed the wealth of India but also fettered our freedom. The spirit of India, the genius of her people, we thought, had been released from subjugation and exploitation and we had assumed control over our destiny. It was a hard-won independence, the 50th year of which we ...view middle of the document...

In history, the 20th century will be recorded as a century marked by contradictions. Periods of optimism and hope were followed by despair and despondency. The past hundred years saw tremendous advances in science and technology and witnessed two global wars which caused sufferings of unprecedented proportions to humanity The century welcomed the triumph of liberation struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America vitiating the process of de-colonisation. We saw the end of social apartheid in South Africa and the awakening of progressive forces demanding the establishment of a democratic order based on the primacy of human values and socio-economic justice. We experienced the establishment of socialist governments and the creation of a socialist bloc, which at one point encompassed one-fifth of the world population. This tide that had swept through the world radiating outwards from the Soviet Union to China, Vietnam and far away Cuba seemed to recede. Rampant capitalism in the garb of essential economic structural re-engineering took over and plunged the Russian Republic into chaos. From the high point of hope, we witnessed the decline and the break-up of the Soviet Union and the socialist forces in the world received a major setback. I am hopeful that this situation will be altered in the early part of the next century. Fortunately, there still exist some socialist countries including China, the most populous country in the world. We have to closely follow their policies and developments and draw appropriate lessons. There is hope that disquieting trends will be reversed and a new situation will emerge in the next century.

The 20th century has been the story of a dialectical ebb and flow in the tide of human progress. Much of what we are expected to experience in the next millennium would be shaped by the developments of our century. The same paradigm is applicable to India, too. I would like to discuss the prospects of India in the next century and place them in the historical perspective of the present.

Any discourse on political leadership in contemporary India should focus on the role and contribution of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Along with Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and many others, he played a major role in the shaping of modern India. It is, perhaps, appropriate that I touch on some of his contributions at this address organized by the trustees of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund.

Nehru occupies a significant place in our history. Between 1947 and 1964, he, as the first Prime Minister of independent India, guided her destiny. Throughout the nationalist struggle, Nehru symbolised the left and secular forces within the Indian National Congress. His presidential address at the 1936 session, especially, inspired this country's youth. What singled him out was his intellectual ability to combine his commitment to the cause of national liberation with other progressive forces in world politics. His visit to...

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