On the evening of August 13 at an Iftar party hosted by Ram Vilas Paswan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the diners on the eve of our Independence Day. This is the full text of the speech to members of Congress and other secular parties who attended the dinner.
|MMS: "Crisis of confidence"|
Namaskar on the eve of the 66 th Independence day of this great country! This is a special night for me. Exactly eight years ago, in May 2005, I accepted my appointment as Prime Minister by Smt. Sonia Gandhi. I promised you a PM who is not isolated from the people, who feels your pain, and who shares your dreams and who draws his strength and his wisdom from you.
During the past eight years I've spoken to you on many occasions about national concerns, the energy crisis, reorganizing the government, our nation's economy, and issues of terrorism and especially black money. But over those years the subjects of the speeches, the talks, and the press conferences have become increasingly narrow, focused more and more on what the isolated world of Delhi thinks is important. Gradually, you've heard more and more about what the government thinks or what the government should be doing and less and less about our nation's hopes, our dreams, and our vision of the future.
Few days ago I had planned to speak to you about very important subjects – energy, terrorism, illegal immigration, black money, corruption, scams, quotas, unemployment, farmer suicides, rail accidents, airline crisis, Assam violence and Azad Maidan violence. For the fiftieth time, I had described the urgency of these problems and laid out a series of legislative recommendations to my High Command. But as I was preparing to speak, I began to ask myself the same question that I now know has been troubling many of you. Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve any of these problems?
It's clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper -- deeper than kerosene lines or power shortages, deeper even than secularism or recession. And I realize more than ever that as PM I need your help. So I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of India. I invited to the PMO people from almost every segment of our society -- business and labour, teachers and preachers, governors, mayors, and private citizens, all represented by five eminent media personalities. And then I left 7RCR to listen to other Indians, men and women like you.
It has been an extraordinary five days, and I want to share with you what I've heard. First of all, I got a lot of personal advice. Let me quote a few of the typical comments that I wrote down.
This from the Kerala Governor: "Mr. PM, you are not leading this nation -- you're just managing the government. Some of your Cabinet members don't seem loyal. There is not enough discipline among your disciples. Don't talk to us about politics or the mechanics of government, but about an understanding of our common good. Mr.PM, we're in trouble. Talk to us about blood and sweat and tears. If you lead, Mr.PM we will follow."
Many people talked about themselves and about the condition of our nation.
This from a young woman in Panchkula: "I feel so far from government. I feel like ordinary people are excluded from political power”. And this from a young man from Chinchpokli: "Some of us have suffered from recession all our lives. Some people have wasted energy, but others haven't had anything to waste." And this from religious leader of the Church: "No material shortage can touch the important things like God's love for us or our love for one another."
And I like this one particularly from a woman who happens to be the mayor of a small oil rich Assam town: "The big-shots are not the only ones who are important. Remember, you can't sell anything on Dalal Street unless someone digs it up somewhere else first."
This kind of summarized a lot of other statements: "Mr. PM, we are confronted with a moral and a spiritual crisis."
Several of our discussions were on energy, and I have a notebook full of comments and advice. I'll read just a few. "We can't go on consuming 40% more energy than we produce. When we import oil we are also importing inflation plus unemployment. We've got to use what we have. The Middle East has only 5% of the world's energy, but Reliance has 24% of India’s oil." And this is one of the most vivid statements: "Our neck is stretched over the fence and Bangla Desh has a knife."
And the last that I'll read: "When we enter the moral equivalent of war, Mr. PM, don't issue us mobile phones."
These few days confirmed my belief in the decency and the strength and the wisdom of the Indian people, but it also bore out some of my long-standing concerns about our nation's underlying problems. After listening to the Indian people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can't fix what's wrong with India. So, I want to speak to you first about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to Indian democracy. I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of India, a nation that is at peace this morning everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of India. The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the 15th of August.
It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else -- public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of India. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We've always believed in something called progress. We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in Gandhi, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.
The symptoms of this crisis of the Indian spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next two years of UPA will be worse than the past eight years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of Indian workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Indians to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the African world. As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for ministers and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.
We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Phoolan Devi. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of China. We respected the PMO as a place of honour until the shock of Coalgate.
We remember when the phrase "16 anna sach" was an expression of absolute dependability, until five years of inflation began to shrink our rupee and our savings. We believed that our nation's onions were limitless until 2008, when we had to face a growing dependence on Pakistani aid. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.
What you see too often in New Delhi and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress party twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.
Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don't like it, and neither do I. What can we do? First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to India is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Indians.
We've got to stop crying and start sweating, stop talking and start walking, stop cursing and start praying. The strength we need will not come from 10 Janpath, but from every house in India. We ourselves are the same Indians who just this year won our best Olympic medal haul. In little more than seven years we've gone from a position of billion dollar reserves to one in which almost half the dollars we use comes from Dubai, at prices that are going through the roof.
What I have to say to you now about terrorism, illegal immigrants and energy is simple and vitally important.
Point one: I am today setting a clear goal for the terrorism policy of the India. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more commandos for VIPs than we did in 1977 -- never. From now on, every new addition to our VIP security will be met by the VIPs themselves.
Point two: To ensure that we meet legal immigration targets, I will use my authority to set quotas. I'm announcing now that for 2012-13 and 2013-14, I will forbid the entry into this country of one single illegal immigrant more than my party’s goals allow.
Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop India's own alternative sources of fuel -- from rocks, from water, from dead trees, from unconventional gas, from the moon.
Point four: To make absolutely certain that nothing stands in the way of achieving these goals, I will urge Congress to create a high-powered board which, like the Waqf Board, will have the responsibility and authority to cut through the red tape, the delays, and the endless roadblocks to completing key projects.
Our nation must be fair to the poorest among us, so we will increase aid to needy Indians to cope with rising energy prices. We often think of conservation only in terms of sacrifice. In fact, it is the most painless and immediate way of rebuilding our nation's strength. Every watt of power each one of us saves is a new form of production. It gives us more freedom, more confidence, that much more control over our own lives.
You know we can do it. We have the natural resources. We have more money in Swiss Banks alone than several Pakistans. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We have the world's highest level of technology. We have the most skilled work force, with innovative genius, and I firmly believe that we have the national will to win this war.
I do not promise you that this struggle for freedom will be easy. I do not promise a quick way out of our nation's problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an all-out effort. What I do promise you is that I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act and I will speak more often.
I will continue to travel this country, to hear the people of India. You can help me to develop a national agenda for the 2020s. I will listen and I will act. We will act together. These were the promises I made three years ago, and I intend to keep them. Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources -- India's mines and spectrum, India's secular values, and India's confidence. I have seen the strength of India in the inexhaustible resources of our people. In the days to come, let us renew that strength in the struggle for a secure nation.
In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our neighbours. With Soniaji’s help and for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in India. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the Indian spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail.
Thank you and wish you a Happy Independence Day in advance.
Note: This is a work of fiction and imagination. The speech is rephrased/parodied from the 'Crisis of Confidence' speech by former US president Jimmy Carter which can be read here.