The August 15, 1947 speeches remain beacons to desired future

Alok Prasanna Kumar
August 15, 2021

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Jawaharlal Nehru made his famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech late in the night on August 14, 1947. It was delivered during one of the most momentous sessions of the Constituent Assembly, one that is well-known and well-recorded. Apart from Nehru’s speech itself, the presentation of the national flag, the singing of the national anthem, the taking of the pledge by all the members of the Assembly at the stroke of midnight are all well-known. Many evocative accounts of that moving day, by members and observers, are present and easily accessible.

But the session did not end there. The Constituent Assembly only adjourned to the morning of August 15, 1947. This day, when Nehru flew the Indian flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort, saw speeches by Governor-General Louis Mountbatten and Rajendra Prasad, in his capacity as the president of the Constituent Assembly. The speeches are revealing about the immediate circumstances in which India became independent -- what was said being as important as what was left unsaid.

The day began with the reading out of congratulatory messages received from nations far and wide. Mountbatten was then invited to speak.

The bulk of Mountbatten’s speech covered the events leading up to independence, specifically his role in the whole process. No doubt he played a key role in the exercise, but one notices not only a certain level of self-congratulation, but also self-exculpation. Self-congratulation for having advanced the date of independence from July 1948 to August 1947, when everyone thought that even June 1948 was too early. Self-exculpation for the failings that resulted from such a hasty withdrawal.

Mountbatten gave himself credit for the idea behind implementing Partition (“the leaders agreed to discuss a paper which I had laid before them on the administrative consequences of Partition”) while also subtly telling us who to blame for things that went horribly wrong (“To the ministers and officials who have laboured day and night to produce this astonishing result, the greatest credit is due”).

Prasad’s speech was almost a riposte to Mountbatten’s, focused as it was on the future, and has no mention of the speaker himself. Prasad, in this vein, outlined an almost utopian vision for what he hoped India would become.

He said: “Let us resolve to create conditions in this country when every individual will be free and provided with the wherewithal to develop and rise to his fullest stature, when poverty and squalor and ignorance and ill-health will have vanished, when the distinction between high and low, between rich and poor, will have disappeared, when religion will not only be professed and preached and practised freely but will have become a cementing force for binding man to man and not serve as a disturbing and disrupting force dividing and separating, when untouchability will have been forgotten like an unpleasant night dream, when exploitation of man by man will have ceased…”

While articulating this utopian idea, Prasad also mentioned the important task at hand -- the making of the Constitution. Even while the draft Constitution was still being framed, Prasad articulated the hope that it “will enable the people’s will to be expressed and enforced, and that will not only secure liberty to the individual but also reconcile and make that liberty subservient to the common good.”

Mountbatten’s and Prasad’s speeches were a neat contrast of old and new, of personal and societal, of individual and institutional. Where Mountbatten looked to the past, his own role and the parts played by specific individuals in getting India to independence, Prasad looked to the future -- of what independence would bring, of what the society and nation would look like, and what individuals could hope to achieve in the new country.

Both viewpoints are, however, valid. It is good to remember that India’s independence came about in hasty, confused and, eventually, bloody circumstances that continue to haunt us to this day. Yet, it was also infused with hope for a better future -- one that we have made progress towards but are a long way from achieving.

 

(The author is Co-founder, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, uses his legal training to make the case that Harry Potter is science fiction and Star Wars is fantasy)

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Agencies
July 1,2022

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New Delhi, July 1: India imposed a ban on many single-use plastics on Friday in a bid to tackle waste choking rivers and poisoning wildlife, but experts say it faces severe headwinds from unprepared manufacturers and consumers unwilling to pay more.

The country generates around four million tonnes of plastic waste per year, about a third of which is not recycled and ends up in waterways and landfills that regularly catch fire and exacerbate air pollution.

Stray cows munching on plastic are a common sight in Indian cities and a recent study found traces in the dung of elephants in the northern forests of Uttarakhand state.

Estimates vary but around half comes from items used once, and the new ban covers the production, import and sale of ubiquitous objects like straws and cups made of plastic as well as wrapping on cigarette packets.

Exempt for now are products such as plastic bags below a certain thickness and so-called multi-layered packaging.

Authorities have promised to crack down hard after the ban -- first announced in 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- came into effect.

Inspectors are set to fan-out from Friday checking that no suppliers or distributors are flouting the rules at risk of a maximum fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,265) or five-year jail sentence.

Around half of India's regions have already sought to impose their own regulations but as the state of rivers and landfill sites testifies, success has been mixed.

Firms in the plastics industry, which employs millions of people, say that alternatives are expensive and they have been lobbying the government for a delay to the ban.

Pintu, who earns his living hacking the top of coconuts with a machete and serving them to customers with a plastic straw, doesn't know what he will do.

Switching to "expensive paper straws will be tough. I will likely pass the cost to the customers," he told AFP in New Delhi.

"I've heard it'll help the environment but I don't see how it'll change anything for us," he added.

GlobalData analysts said small packs with plastic straws make up 35 per cent of soft drinks volumes, meaning manufacturers will be "badly hit".

"(The) price-sensitive masses are unable to foot the bill for eco-friendly alternatives," Bobby Verghese from GlobalData added.

Jigish N. Doshi, president of industry group Plastindia Foundation, expects "temporary" job losses but said the bigger issue was firmed "which had invested huge capital for machines that may not be useful" after the ban.

"It's not easy to make different products from machines and the government could help by offering some subsidies and helping develop and purchase alternative products," Doshi told AFP.

Satish Sinha from environmental group Toxics Link told AFP that "there will be initial resistance" as finding replacements may be hard but it was a "very welcome step".

"There will be difficulties and we may pay the price but if you're serious about the environment, this is an important issue that needs a concerted push," he said.

One young company trying to be part of the change is Ecoware, which makes disposable bio-degradable products at its factory outside Delhi.

Chief executive Rhea Mazumdar Singhal told AFP that the appalling state of landfills and widespread plastic consumption inspired her venture.

"We've seen plenty of bans before, but as citizens the power lies with us," Singhal said. 

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News Network
June 21,2022

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Male, June 21: Police in the Maldives used tear gas and pepper spray to control a crowd of people who disrupted a yoga event organised by the Indian High Commission, or embassy, in the capital Male on Tuesday morning, an organiser said.

The crowd stormed a stadium where more than 150 people, including diplomats and government officers, were taking part in an event celebrating International Day of Yoga, attacking participants and vandalising the property, one of the organisers, who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to speak with the media, told Reuters.

Earlier, the protesters brandished placards proclaiming that yoga was against the tenets of Islam.

Islam is the state religion in the Maldives, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean with a population of about half a million.

Police responded with anti-riot measures and later used pepper spray and tear gas to control the crowd and secure the area, Superintendent of Police Fathmath Nashwa told Reuters.

Six people have been arrested in connection with the incident, Nashwa said.

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said a police investigation into the incident had begun.

"This is being treated as a matter of serious concern and those responsible will be swiftly brought before the law," Solih said on Twitter. 

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News Network
June 29,2022

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Mumbai, June 29: Uddhav Thackeray resigned as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra on Wednesday night. 

Thackeray (61), who headed the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, resigned after a rebellion from his own party members, headed by Eknath Shinde, triggered a political crisis in the state.

Thackeray also resigned as member of Maharashtra Legislative Council. 

After the Maha Vikas Aghadi government collapsed, Uddhav said that he would start sitting in the Shiv Sena Bhavan and rebuild the party. 

According to sources, the BJP is expected to form government in Maharashtra on July 1.

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