The State of the Nation

Dr. Karan Singh
Politician, Diplomat and Scholar

Dr. Karan Singh, politician, diplomat and scholar of great standing, delivering the First Prem Bhatia Memorial Lecture on “The State of the Nation”, at India International Centre in 1996 said August 15, 1947 is a critical day but it is crucial because we chose democracy. For 50 years we have worked a vibrant democratic system and it is a major achievement. Dr. Karan Singh split the subject under four sections – political, economic, social and foreign affairs. He said 50 years of the independence we are going through a period of tremendus turbulance. Vast segments of the society which submerged, vast areas which were margilanised have been drawn into the mainstream of Indian politics. Today wherever you go the people of India are aware of their rights. They have their demands, they want their roads, their electricity, their schools, their dispensary, they are alive and they are awake. However we have found that the political delivery system particularly the party structure, has fragmentated. We have entered an era of coailation and that is an entirely legitimate form of political organisation known throughout the world. We have to devise new mechanism, we have to proceed with electoral reforms including compulsory voting as it exists in Australia, it would give an accurate portrayal of the will of the people. Complimenting the supreme court and the election commission, he said these two institutions tried to prevent gross abuse of power.

Our mixed economy played an important role at one time, but unfortunately it degenerated largely into statism, red tapeism, bureaucracy, unaccountability, inefficiency and corruption. The theory of public sector was to insulate it from political interference and give the Managers the opportunity to develop freely. But this was very seldom followed and there was more political interference in public sectors than in Government department. He praised the former finance minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh for liberalising the economic policy. Under the new change India needed a safety net for the vulnerable section of the society.

The greatest failure of the Indian system has been the inability to prevent the population growth. We need to have a technological break through in population control. We need to assert that the contraception is the best development.

Adopting secularism despite the trauma of partition was a matter of great significance. India is a land of many religions and countless number of sects. We have been able to ensure a system, there by equal respect for all religion.

On foreign affairs Dr. Singh felt it was meaningless any longer to continue harping on non-alingnment, the time has come when we free ourselves from semantic traps, that are outmoded and obsolete formulations. The first set of problems to sort out are our neighbours. We can not look upon any country permanently as an enemy. We must keep our doors open and our mind, open. We should be giving energy to SAARC to ASEAN, we have to give energy to new power centres that are emerging in Japan to Europe and to America.