INDEPENDENCE DAY AT RED FORT
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
The Prime Minister reaches the red Fort Delhi at 7.20 AM; he inspects the Inter-Services and Police guard of Honour; he reaches the ramparts and addresses the Nation for 40 minutes or may be more depending on the skies, says Jai Hind with the crowd of school children and goes home. The Media is in full attendance and they faithfully inform the countrymen of policy statements, if any. We all head home and look for a cup of hot tea brewed by the lady of the house. For most of us of the British Raj days the Independence Day means much more. It sends us down the memory lane and a sense of nostalgia sets in.
How can I not remember the Quit India movement of 1942 when as a young boy not yet in my teens, I came out of my classroom encouraged by bigger boys and headed for kutchery to shout slogans against the British Collector and others of his tribe “Quit India”. The mercenary police beat us with batons but undeterred we kept on saying “VANDE MATARAM VANDE MATARAM”. The big boys bled as they were badly beaten but held the tricolour high .IT WAS A SIGHT TO SEE AND ADMIRE. At the kutchery the senior students were arrested and sent to jail; we the junior ones were admonished and told to go home and have some mother’s milk. I had the inner satisfaction that I too told the foreign masters to quit our country. That they did five years thereafter. All Indians celebrated Independence with great gusto. Of course, the partition of Bharat Mata had left an emotional scar and a deep wound difficult to forget. Then as now, the main celebration was held on the ramparts of the Red Fort Delhi. Sad to say the enthusiasm of yester years has faded over a period of time. A true patriot feels bad about it but that’s the way it is.
Unbelievable but true it is that no Tricolour was hoisted by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru on ramparts of the Red Fort Delhi on 15 August 1947. That great day it was done in New Delhi. A day later Nehru went up the ramparts and hoisted the new National flag and fulfilled the wishes of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Indeed every Independence Day has been seeing the incumbent Prime Minister do this national duty with great aplomb. It would be interesting to recall various Prime Ministers do it a number of times, some just once and one not even once. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru walks away with the cake with a tally of 17. His daughter Smt Indira Gandhi is close behind with a total tally of 16 in two parts : 11 times in the first innings, was voted out of power, staged a political comeback and ascended the ramparts five times in the second innings. In between was Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri who unfurled the flag twice. An elevator was installed for him as he was forbidden to ascend the stairs on medical grounds. Now there are two to accommodate the growing number of sick but important people. Care has been taken to see that the walls of the elevator match the architecture of the fort so that it does not look like an eyesore. Now every Prime Minister uses the elevator to go up but some come down the ramparts using stair case.
A reader may be waiting with baited breath to find out the name of the Prime Minister who did not have an opportunity to perform this sacred national duty even once. It was Shri Chandra Shekhar. Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee did it six times and he is bracketed with Dr Man Mohan Singh.I recall that over these years Dr Man Mohan Singh’s Hindi has improved tremendously. Rajiv Gandhi and Narsimha Rao did so five times each, Morarji Bhai twice but he is in good company with Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri. Among those who just opened an account and returned to pavilion are: Chaudhary Charan Singh, Sarvashri Vishwanath Pratap Singh, H.D.Devegowda and Inder Kumar Gujaral. Indeed the list makes an interesting reading and speaks volumes about the party politics in Parliament. Of course, what they all said need not be mentioned separately for each. The bottom line in each speech was a Promise to the common man to ameliorate his living condition but not much was done thereafter. Some promise makers were dethroned as they descended the stairs; never to ascend again. Indira ji was a singular exception.
As a commentator I feel that the Prime Minister should not take too long to say what he does not mean. Some do not have the magic number to back their words, someone may not muster support within the party as other stalwarts treat him as an usurper of the throne that did not rightfully belong to him. A long speech does not go well with the audience on the spot who sit in the sweltering heat of August in Delhi or in torrential rain depending on the whim of El Nino. The global warming is mentioned in the passing but no need to fan it with a copy of the Independence Day programme printed on thin paper. Most of the senior bureaucrats who could not skip the ceremony and had to put in an appearance by order, just ignore the promises made by the Prime Minister. They know from experience that passing a law in Parliament is one thing and having it implemented just another. “The twain shall never meet”. Indian babus just echo Rudyard Kipling. Will education come within reach of an urchin on the street? Don’t be silly, so they say. Pray, what happened to the Act of Parliament banning child labour. Just go to any eatery in the national capital or NCR and the Truth will prevail over promises made from ramparts of the Red Fort. A Prime Minister who has blessings of the most powerful lady east of Suez will just recount names of Nehru, Gandhi(forget the mahatma) and think that he has earned his daily bread. Thus the gap between preaching, precept and practice is widening day by day. Perhaps a peaceful revolution is required to deliver the goods.The right to resent and protest against a government diktat is enshrined in the constitution and judiciary protects it like the assets of judges.
Lip sympathy is paid to victims of Islamic terrorism. The new economic terror factor is not even touched lest the vote bank is lost. Just preserve your place in power and worry not about the nation or the common man. Let them fend for themselves. Let the lentil be sold at Rs 100 per kilo; just announce from house tops that there is enough food stock in government godowns. Just exhort the state governments to use all laws against hoarding but allow the Food ministry to be the biggest hoarder. Let the finance people say that inflation is now zero or in minus, don’t worry if the prices of common vegetables and fruits render them beyond the reach of common man. Indeed paying lip sympathy to the common man pays rich dividends. So why bother about implementation of plans to ameliorate his condition. Let the plans remain on paper and save the Chair.
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