Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sardar Swaran Singh

Sardar Swaran Singh

One of my colleagues in the IFS has circulated an E-mail message of the daughter of Sardar Swaran Singh about interesting anecdotes pertaining to EAM Sardar Swaran Singh. I am a retired Ambassador of the IFS.  I started my career at the lower echelons of the service in the MEA in March, 1970 when Sardar Swaran Singh was the EAM. Before joining the service, I was a student in Jalandhar and as such had a glimpse of Sardar Sahib, a towering
personality and smartly dressed in white khadi, many a times at my native place Bootan Mandi where he used to stop at Seth Khushi Ram’s, a Congress leader, place on his way to his native village Shankar or on tour of his Jalandhar parliamentary constituency. I was impressed by Sardar Sahib’s personality. After joining the MEA, I met him briefly in the Parliament House sometime in the later months of 1970 along with Master Sadhu Ram who was the MP from Phillour. I often saw him coming to his office in the South Block where my office was also located.

I was attached to the Interpreters Cell of the MEA from 1970 to 1973. Interpreters often get the opportunities to work with the top leadership during the course of their duties as Interpreter. Some interesting encounters were often discussed in the Cell. I would like to narrate some such anecdotes relating to Sardar Swaran Singh. One of the Arabic Interpreters and Persian Interpreters narrated interesting anecdotes:-

Protocol Conscious EAM – Sometimes in 1971, Sardar Swaran Singh was on an official visit to one of the Arab countries. He was to call on his counterpart after lunch. He went to his room in the hotel for a siesta telling his aides that he would come down to the lobby five minutes before the scheduled call. But Sardarji did not turn up. They waited for another five minutes. There was no sign of the Minister. In panic the Interpreter went to the EAM’s room and belled. Sardarji opened the door quickly in a huff saying that he was sorry, he fell asleep. He picked up his untied turban (he was not in the habit of using already made turbans) and rushed out. He tied the turban while sitting in the car by using the car mirror. On arrival, he apologized to his counterpart and narrated the entire laps in a childlike simplicity. There was a big laugh. The second such incident was narrated by the Persian Interpreter. Mohammed Daoud, Special Envoy of Afghanistan Head of State King Zahir Shah, was in Delhi, sometime in the early 1970s. He was slated to call on EAM Sardar Swaran Singh in his South Block office. The Interpreter and the Protocol Liasion Officer were to bring the Afghan Envoy to the call from his Hotel. At the eleventh hour Mohammed Daoud refused to move stating that the Indian Minister should call on him as he was senior to him as the Presidential Envoy. What to do? These officers were dumb founded. The matter was reported to the Chief of Protocol. His intervention also could not resolve this protocol intricacy. The Interpreter was sent to EAM’s office to brief him appropriately on the protocol stance of the Afghani guest. Sardarji calmly listened and got up with a big laugh and said let us go. He was fully aware of the sensitivities of such trivial matters.

Cool-headed Sardar:- Sardar Swaran Singh was a cool- headed and soft spoken person with a demeanor of a seasoned diplomat. He was apt at maintaining his cool in the face of extreme provocations by his opposite side. He was often fielded to hold the fort where it was expected or desired that nothing concrete would come out of the talks and negotiations. He would carry on endlessly in the garb of seriousness knowing full- well that it was a sheer waste of time. After one such negotiations, one of his opposite numbers remarked that the Hon’ble Minister must be carrying a slab of ice underneath his turban. On reporting the matter to him, Sardarji had a hearty laugh and said that he was deliberately creating that ‘Bhambalbhussa” (bamboozlement).

In April, 1974, I joined the PMO, the then PM’s Secretariat, as Protocol and Hospitality Assistant and worked there till October, 1977. In that capacity, I had many more opportunities to see Sardar Swaran Singh in the meeting rooms of the South Block and also in the corridors of power in the PMO and the MEA as a humble functionary.

Seasoned Diplomat: I saw Sardarji in action for the first time in April, 1974 in the protracted meetings and negotiations at the Tripartite meeting of FMs of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to address and settle the issue of repatriation of POWs and civilian internees. Sardar Swaran Singh, Aziz Ahmed and Kamal Hossain headed delegations of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh respectively. I was impressed by the statement of Sardarji at the opening plenary session and was privileged to be present in the conference room of
the PMO. One of the formulations of his statement still lingers in my mind when he said in a calm and cool manner, “let us forget the hostilities and confrontations of the past as a bad dream.” Our job was to look after the hospitality that is requirement of tea, coffee, snacks etc.  during the meetings. On the final day at the concluding plenary session in the evening when the protocol and agreement was to signed, I was standing outside the conference room along with my boss Vimla Sindhi, commonly called Behanji. The three FMs came out from the office of PM Indira Gandhi after an official call, situated on the other corner of the corridor, and walked towards the conference room. Seeing Behanji, whom Sardar Swaran Singh knew from her duties at the Teenmurti House in the staff of PM Jawaharlal Nehru, enquired in lighter vein “Han to Vimlaji, ab kya seva karogi? Humne bahut kaam kiya hai. Koi badiya cheez lana.” Vimlaji responded instantly and said, “Yes sir, Aaj bahut garmi bhi hai. Hastakshar hone ke baad, Faluda Kulfi serve kiya jayega.” Sardar Saheb smiled and muttered, “Han yeh theek rahega.” I learnt how Sardar Swaran Singh mastered the art of lowering the diplomatic temperature with his earthy wit.

Political Sagacity: Here is one more anecdote which may be of interest to see another facet of Sardar Swaran Singh’s personality. It is recorded fact that Sardar Saheb was not too happy with the imposition of emergency. His portfolio of MEA was changed. After a cabinet meeting, one day, he came out of the conference room along with some other Ministers. I was standing near the lift in front of the conference room. One of the Ministers asked Sardar Sahib the reason and logic for the change. Sardar Sahib responded curtly, but with his usual smile, and said, “She wanted young blood” in the MEA, probably referring to Y.B. Chavan who replaced him in the MEA. I liked Sardar Swaran Singh as a pleasing and amicable personality.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 10

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 10

Sant Surinder Dass Bawa:- I was at the residence of Prof. Balbir Chander, my brother-in-law (Jijaji) for a pre-marriage ceremony of my niece (Bhanji) Priya, on November 4. I met Sant Surinder Dass Bawa at the ceremony. Santji was invited to bless the family and invoke auspicious aura for the marriage scheduled for November 6. I may mention that Sant Surinder Dass Bawa is one of the educated Sants of the dalit community in the region who was a student of Prof. Balbir Chander at Doaba College in the early 1990s. Sant Surinder took to spiritualism as a young student under the influence of Dera Sachkhand Balan of Sant Sarwan Dassji, a prominent
social spiritual personality of the Doaba region. He got initiated and trained under the wings of Sant Garib Dass and Sant Ramanand and acquired and earned good recognition in the aftermath of Sant Ramanand’s assassination in Vienna (Austria) in a mindless shootout by some Sikh fundamentalists in May, 2009. He earned and attained further prominence in the following years as the chief spokesperson of the Dera and Chief Aide of the Dera Chief Sant Niranjan Dass. It is a common knowledge that Sant Surinder Dass was main adviser and executor of the Dera Sachkhand Balan in the run up to the pronouncement and propagation of Ravidassia Dharam in 2010-11. He is said to be one of the major contributors to the compilation and making of the Amrit Bani, the said to be holy book (Religious Granth) of the Ravidassia Dharam. But due to reasons not available in the public domain, Sant Surinder Dass Bawa fell from grace and was made to part ways with the Dera in the following years. Sant Surinder Dass Bawa now runs his own Dera in a village in the outskirts of Jalandhar. He resisted the unpleasant fallout but could not gain the confidence of Sant Niranjan Dass and his coterie. Though we knew each other somewhat earlier as well, in this meeting we could interact a bit more seriously. I enquired about the main thrust of his mission these days. He said of course it was to enlighten, unite and empower the weaker sections of the society as visualized by Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar. He said he was fully engaged, both in India and abroad, in spreading and acceptance of Ravidassia Dharam and the message of Amrit Bani for the good of the down trodden people. The accompanying Ragi Jatha of Bangar Brothers later while singing gave the audience the fore-taste of their mission – their unbroken allegiance to the Dera Sachkhand Balan of yore, Ravidassia Dharam and Amrit Bani as the new identity of dalits, congruity of the philosophy and mission of Guru Ravidas and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar etc. Currently the underlined theme of ‘Chamar Pride’ was a visible item on their agenda. Sant Surinder Dass started his discourse, after the singing of Banger Brothers on the lines of the above mentioned trend setters. I had to leave midway due to some other engagement and could not listen to him. Later my brother Paramjit told me that Sant Bawaji spoke about his untiring efforts to enlighten the community and carry forward the caravan of Guru Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar. He spoke very high of Prof. Balbir Chander and his alma mater, Doaba College in shaping his personality. I respect Sant Surinder Bawa as a well meaning Sant who has dedicated himself totally to the causes of the community. But I have my doubts and reservations on the need and desirability of the Ravidassia Dharam, the authenticity of the Amrit Bani as a holy granth, limited agenda of chamar pride, confining the total thrust of the agenda of the community to Dera Sachkhand Balan. I think, these things lead to disunity and generate animosity which is the anti thesis of the mission and philosophy of both Guru Ravidass and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

MLA Chaudhary Surinder Singh: - Though we nodded at each other on a couple of public occasions earlier as well, yet I had a chance encounter with MLA Chaudhary Surinder Singh at the marriage of my nephew (Bhanja) Kamaljit yesterday, December 3, 2017. I introduced myself and exchanged usual courtesies and niceties. Chaudhary Sahib was harmoniously responsive. I introduced my brothers Krishan Lal and Paramjit and Chaudhary instantly responded that they were no strangers and he knew them already. He came on the invitation of the girl’s side. I informed him
that it was the marriage of my Bhanja. He was happy to know and congratulated me and my brothers. Saying that since there were many more people waiting in the wings to meet him and say hello, I will not like to engage him further and wished to meet him some other time. He humbled me by saying that don’t worry on that count and added that he was pleased to meet me as an important person of our community. I found Chaudhary Surinder Singh a well groomed and cultured personality. His grounding and upbringing in an important dalit family of Punjab, Master Gurbanta Singh, who made a good and positive contribution to the polity and society was clearly demonstrated in a few minutes of our interaction. Surinder Singh is the grandson of Master Gurbanta Singh, a Congress leader who remained a Minister in various governments in Punjab. Surinder Singh is the son of Chaudhary Jagjit Singh who stepped into the big shoes of Master Gurbanta Singh and added many feathers to the family’s turban and handed over the baton to his younger brother MP Chaudhary Santokh Singh. Chaudhary Surinder Singh is a first time MLA from his family’s bastion, Kartarpur Assembly segment. Sometimes it may happen that one carries a false image of someone just on the basis of misinformation or disinformation.  I must write that it was so with me in the case of Chaudhary Surinder Singh. I was told that he was an alcoholic and was not a serious politician. It was wrong. My brief encounter with the scion of Master Gurbanta Singh’s family changed my impressions of Chaudhary Surinder Singh completely. I close this with hearty compliments and all the best wishes to the upcoming leader of the community. It is rightly said:
बद से बदनाम बुरा !

The significance of December 6:- I was to post this blog on December 6, death anniversary (Mahaprinirvan Diwas in 1956) of Babasaheb Ambedkar and the date of demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 on December 6 but could not do so because of technical reasons. The Hindustan Times of November 4, 2017 carried a well articulated article by Shashi Shekhar, Editor -in- Chief of the paper under the heading ‘The significance of
December 6’. The Supreme Court also started the hearing of the Babri Masjid case on December 5, on the eve of the 25th year of the demolition.  Shashi Shekhar has raised a valid question in his article.  He argues, “The date has a special place in the pages of Indian history. In 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished on this date and in 1956, Bhimrao Ambedkar breathed his last in Nagpur (There seems some inadvertent mistake. Actually it was in Delhi) on the same day. Why I am connecting Ambedkar with Ayodhya, you may ask in surprise. From the outside, these two appear unrelated but the threads of the Indian survival instincts connect the two.” He added, “Don’t be surprised, if within the next two years, you see the temple and the mosque being built at the same time. If that happens, as Indians, we can again proudly declare that our model of coexistence is timeless, eternal, and indestructible. If Ambedkar’s life struggle and teachings drive home the message of social harmony, why can’t the city of Ayodhya become a symbol of our coexistence?” Shashi Shekhar has given us ‘food for thought’ underlining the significance of December 6 in the larger national interest to ward of the lingering dangers to the social and constitutional fabric of India.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 9

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 9

Kashmir Issue – Kashmiri leader Farooq Abdullah is grabbing the headlines these days for his said-to-be provocative and anti-national statements on POK. Farooq Abdullah is of the view that Pakistan is a stakeholder in the Kashmir issue and it should be discussed and settled. He also inserted that POK, under the given circumstances and history of the issue, belonged to Pakistan and India-held J&K belonged to India. Both the claimants, India and Pakistan, did not have the wherewithal to change the status quo even after 70 years of the dispute, he further asserted. He believed
that this may settle the matter and bring peace in the region. Obviously, these provocative statements were criticized widely, particularly by the BJP and its allies. Without going into the history of the Kashmir issue, which is well documented, let us consider and analyse the point of view of Farooq Abdullah dispassionately. No normal and easy solution is possible, it is almost certain. The status quo is difficult to change with force or by military means, given the nuclear status of both India and Pakistan and also direct or indirect involvement and strategic interests of China and other powers. Too much damage and harm has already been inflicted on India and her people. A viable solution has to be found, sooner the better. The time has come, I think, to try, explore and find an “Out of the Box” solution through political and diplomatic means to address the issue. The governments of the day with involvement of civil societies on both the sides should forge national consensus on the issue and move ahead with an attitude of “Give and Take”. Otherwise, there will be no peace in the region and people will continue to suffer. Some hard but realistic decisions need to taken by the leaderships.

Democratic Hypocrisy – We observed the Constitution Day on November 26, the day we gave ourselves the constitution in 1949. It was a low key affair as the government did not pay much attention. It was noted and I term it as democratic hypocrisy by the vested outfits and by the so called extra-nationalists. I have two immediate instances on hand to prove my assertion. One, the needless controversy on the film Padmavati spearheaded by the Rajputs and some narrow minded Aasthawadis. The film has not been cleared and certified by the competent authority that is CBFC. Not only some street-smart leaders but some people occupying positions of responsibility are making a hue and cry without caring for the law of the land and also established norms of democratic behavior. They are threatening the producer, the actors and supporters of democratic rights, such as freedom of expression, as stipulated in the constitution.  Unfortunately, the governments are
seen as silent spectators. The leaders of Bhim Sena, an outfit of dalits having no social and economic clout, are languishing in jails and the leaders of Karni Sena and their associates are calling the shots from the roof tops. Is it not a democratic hypocrisy? The second is rather more bizarre. Whether Rahul Gandhi is a Hindu or something else? The crony media is hosting debates on the issue. Both the BJP and the Congress are jumping on each other on the recent visit of Rahul Gandhi to the Somnath Temple which has created a controversy on the religion of Rahul Gandhi. Non-Hindu visitors are required to register their religion in the register of the temple as required by the temple authorities? Common people are not interested in the religion of Rahul Gandhi. Yes, the politicians are interested. Are we secular as enshrined in the constitution? Nobody has raised any objection to the discriminatory and communal practice of the Somnath Temple. Is it not a democratic hypocrisy on the part of Rahul Gandhi who did not set the things in their right perspective once and for all?  And on the part of his opponents who raised uncalled for controversy by flagging the religion of Rahul Gandhi in so-called secular India? Are we heading towards “Grammar of Anarchy” as warned by Babaseheb Ambedkar?

Adampur Airport to be named after Guru Ravidass – The Punjab Legislative Assembly has done well by passing a Resolution to name the Adampur airport after the name of Guru Ravidass, a great Guru who stood against the torturous caste system and propagated the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity which later became the core values of the constitution of India.  I fully support and endorse the decision of the Punjab government which has already been communicated to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in Delhi. I am confident that the central government of PM Narendra Modi will accept the recommendations of the Punjab
Legislative Assembly and also the wishes of the millions of followers of the great Guru who live in the Doaba region and beyond not only in India but abroad also. Naming the airport after Guru Ravidass will go a long way in providing impetus to affirmative actions of the government and the society at large to empower the weaker sections of society by giving them psychological and moral support on one hand and will also be considered a befitting tribute to the social and spiritual icon Guru Ravidass.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Greetings on the Constitution Day

Greetings on the Constitution Day

Today, November 26, is the Constitution Day, the third, since its inception in November, 2015, as one of the events to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar, father of the Indian constitution. The constitution of India was finally adopted, enacted and given to the people of India by the
Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 which came into effect on January 26, 1950 which we observe as the Republic Day. The day was earlier commemorated as National Law Day, after a resolution by the Supreme Court Bar Association, a lawyers’ body, in 1979. Some of the interesting facts of the making of India’s constitution are:

9 December 1946: The Constituent Assembly started its first session.
11 sessions: Number of sessions the Constituent Assembly had to complete the Constitution.
17: Number of committees formed in the Constituent Assembly.
299: Number of members of the Constituent Assembly.
284: Number of members who finally signed the Constitution.
15: Number of women in the Constituent Assembly.
165: Number of days for which the Constituent Assembly held meetings.
2 years, 11 months, 17 days – The time it took to finish the Constitution.

The Indian government of the day should ensure that the Constitution Day is observed and commemorated with all seriousness and solemnity as an important day in the calendar of events. It was, to begin with, that the nodal Ministry for the purpose will be Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It was perhaps correct as the event was being observed as a tribute to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar during the 125th birth anniversary of the great leader. I think now the nodal Ministry for the Constitution Day should be changed either to Ministry of Law and Justice or to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs or the Parliament of India in the joint care of Vice President of India, as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The Constitution Day should not be left and considered as a vote bank stance because of Dr. Ambedkar, who no doubt played a seminal role in the making of the constitution, but should be commemorated as a day concerning the whole country. It must be underlined that today India is India only because of its dynamic and functional constitution which we gave to ourselves on November 26, 1949. It should be celebrated and observed without fail not only in the parliament of India and the state legislatures and municipalities but also by all the universities, colleges and schools appropriately. The idea is to instill a sense of adopting and adhering to constitutional means to address and solve all matters of concern and interest by the people of India as visualized by our fore-fathers and makers of our constitution. It will help to ward of the dangers of “Grammar of Anarchy” as warned by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly before the constitution was finally passed on November 26, 1949.

When I say that India is India because of the constitution of India, I mean it. India is the biggest functional democracy of the world. Change of guard takes place smoothly in the system of adult franchise on the basis of ‘one vote one value’. The often raised question “Who after Nehru?” was fully addressed under the constitution. One of the strongest PMs Indira Gandhi was unseated by verdict of a judicial court. Resenting and protesting the imposition of emergency, people in a popular vote defeated PM Indira Gandhi and brought in new dispensation of PM Morarji Desai. PMs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were removed from the scene in senseless violence. Indian polity stood its ground and managed the crisis under the constitution. These are not small achievements and could become possible only because our constitution is fully functional and aptly competent to meet the challenges. We should be proud of this.

After 67 years of smooth functioning of our constitution since January 26, 1950, we need to take a fresh look at the current situation. We need to make an objective assessment with regard to the core values and fundamental structures of the constitution. The lofty ideals of democracy, secularism socialism under the dictum of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” as enshrined in the preamble of the constitution need to be protected and ensured. It is all the more important in the visibly growing tendencies of narrow nationalism and intolerance. The vision of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar to transform political democracy into a social and economic democracy is yet to see the light of the day. We have come a long way in the development and progress of our country and have perhaps arrived but still we are to go a long way to reach. For this, we need to learn to follow and safeguard our constitution as PM Narendra Modi said in November, 2015 “Let us always uphold the ideals & values of our Constitution and create an India that would make our founding fathers very proud.” He further said, “No mention of our Constitution is complete without remembering the stellar contribution of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. I salute him.”

Greetings on the Constitution Day to my fellow countrymen.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Indira Gandhi - A Humble Tribute

Indira Gandhi - A Humble Tribute

Today, November 19, is the birth centenary of PM Indira Gandhi (November 1917-October, 1984). I have read two excellent write ups today on Indira Gandhi by my very seniors in the IFS – K. Natwar Singh, As I Please in The Tribune and Salman Haidar, There Will Never Be Another Indira Gandhi in the Hindustan Times. Both of them worked with PM Indira Gandhi in the PM’s Secretariat at senior positions and as such handled important and
With PM Indira Gandhi in the Committee Room attachd to her office
substantive work. I, a lowly official in the MEA, also got the chance to be around in the corridors of PM’s Secretariat, from April, 1974 to October, 1977, as a Protocol Assistant in the Government Hospitality attached to a lady officer Vimla Sindhi popularly called Behanji who was a retainer from PM Jawaherlal Nehru’s staff at Teenmurti House. My duties pertained to protocol during the meetings, particularly with foreign dignitaries and of the cabinet, held in the committee room and conference room and to maintain these rooms. Behanji, my boss, enjoyed some sort of personal and direct access to Indira Gandhi because of her service at Teenmurti House with Jawaharlal Nehru, though some of her colleagues and senior officers had doubts. Indira Gandhi used to call her Vimi. Indira Gandhi had a keen eye on small details like flower arrangement, upholstery of furniture, paintings, stationary, snacks to be served and even ash trays etc. In this regard, I had numerous opportunities to speak and interact with her along with Behanji and alone. I left for my posting to Peking (Beijing) in October, 1977 and returned in December, 1981. Indira Gandhi had come to power again. On joining the MEA, I was posted to PMO as Protocol Officer to man the same desk as Vimla Behanji was retiring from service. I was reluctant to go there because of the nature of work but Joint Secretary (Administration) refused to listen to me as clearance and approval of PMO (PS to PM R.K. Dhawan) of my name had already been obtained. I was destined to work with PM Indira Gandhi again, it seemed – my good fortune. During the course of my humble work, I had many personal encounters on small matters with Indira Gandhi, a great personality and human-being par-excellence. I will narrate here in brief only two of these.

Sometime in the summer of 1975, my younger sister Kamla, after her school graduation, came to be with us in Delhi from Jalandhar, my native place. One day, she came to see my office. Vimla Behanji asked her whether she will like to meet the PM. Obviously, she jumped with joy. Indira Gandhi used go to her residence for lunch. Vimla Behanji took us out and made us stand near the stairs from where PM was to pass. As usual Indira Gandhi came out and moved towards the stairs. Vimla Behanji nodded and Indira Gandhi stopped near us. She introduced Kamla to PM Indira Gandhi and added that she had come from Jalandhar to meet, pointing towards me, her brother who was working with her. Indira Gandhi chatted with my sister for about 4-5 minutes standing in the corridor of her office. I, a young lowly official, was touched and impressed by Indira Gandhi’s humility and human touch in her demeanor to deal with common people.  Kamla was, of course, immensely delighted. Indira Gandhi was great. The second story will indicate how much Indira Gandhi cared for small niceties. It was in 1976, I think. One of my colleagues in MEA, Sudha Jain, was a good painter. She painted a portrait of Indira Gandhi. One day she came to see me in my office. She talked about her painting of Indira Gandhi and expressed her wish to gift it to her. Vimla Behanji facilitated the gifting exercise. On a convenient day, we kept the painting on one of the sofas in the corridor of PM’s office near the stairs. As usual PM was going for lunch. Vimla Behanji invited her attention to her portrait and introduced Sudha Jain. Indira Gandhi slowed for while and commented why she made portraits only. Sudha replied that she was painting otherwise also. Indira Gandhi started moving and Vimla Behanji said that Sudha wanted to gift this to you. She stopped for a moment again and said thanks and advised to send it the residence. Both Sudha and I were humbled to see her magnanimity and grace in dealing with common people. In a few days time, there was a letter of thanks from the office of PM and information on the institution to whom the portrait was further given for appropriate use somewhere in UP. I duly passed on the letter to Sudha. She must have kept the letter as a treasured possession. Indira Gandhi was great by her own right.

हज़ारों साल नरगिस अपनी बेनूरी पे रोती है,
बड़ी मुश्किल से होता है चमन में दीदावर पैदा!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Doaba College Jalandhar

Doaba College Jalandhar

Doaba College Jalandhar is one of the leading educational institutions in the Doaba region of Punjab. It recently celebrated its platinum jubilee after 75 years of its existence. The management of the college is steered by Chander Mohan, scion of a famous media and social personality Varinder of the erstwhile Partap group of newspapers, under the aegis of Arya Shiksha Mandal. Currently, since 2008, Doaba College is run under the stewardship of Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman, a renowned Sanskrit scholar and an able
Principal Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman
educational administrator as Principal. The UGC has declared Doaba College as “College with Potential for Excellence” The College has an in-house community radio station called “Raabta” and a centre for “Remedial classes for SC/ST/OBC students as an affirmative measure for the empowerment of the weaker sections of the society. Some of the leading lights, from the cross sections of  society, are the proud alumni of the college which, inter alia, include – Lord Swaraj Paul, business magnate and parliamentarian in the UK, Yash Chopra, doyen of Indian cinema as a producer and director of films in Bollywood, Prem Dhumal, politician and former CM of HP, Anurag Thakur, politician and MP, Manoranjan Kalia, politician and former Minister in Punjab, Gurpreet Ghuggi, a famous standup comedian and actor and a number of players of national and international standing.

Having associated myself with educational and social activities after my retirement from diplomatic service, it is a matter of satisfaction for me that I could establish good contacts and relationship with some of the premier educational outfits of the area such as Sant Baba Bhag Singh University where I serve on the Board of Management, D.A.V. College Jalandhar, my alma mater
Ambassador Ramesh Chander at DAV College Jalandhar
which invited me on several occasions to honour and speak, HMV College where I participated in a panel discussion on Live-in-Relationship, B.D. Arya Girls College where I gave a talk on ‘India’s Foreign Policy – An Overview”, D.A.V. College Dasuya where I participated in a seminar on “Gandhian Thought and International community, Shiv Jyoti School, a leading Higher Secondary school of Jalandhar honoured me to be the Chief Guest at one of their functions, among others. Doaba College was on my wish list. My wish was granted on November 7, 2017 when I was invited to deliver a talk on “India’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and opportunities” to an enlightened audience of students and teaching faculty. It was a gratifying experience and indeed an honour to be at the esteemed Doaba College Jalandhar.

·       The talk on the theme “India’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and Opportunities” was arranged jointly by the Post Graduate Departments of Political Science and Geography which was very well organized and attended. Principal Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman in his welcome address was too generous and spoke high of me which humbled me further. He made very candid observations about the qualities of a diplomat and said good diplomats did not
Ambassdor Ramesh Chander
succumb to the glitter of praise and lavish hospitality and say their mind as clearly as possible. I found Dr. Dhiman as an astute educational administrator and a man of learning. Dr. Daljit Singh, HOD of the Geography Department made a good and informative presentation on “Geo-politics and Foreign Policy” particularly with relation to India’s borders with Pakistan and China. Prof. Dr. Rajan Sharma, of the Political Science Department of the college termed in his well prepared speech as ‘Modification of the Foreign Policy” referring to the PM Narendra Modi’s intensive involvement in the formulation and execution of the policy. I have been meeting Dr. Rajan Sharma on various academic and educational events. He impressed me with is scholarship and pleasant personality. I as a lead speaker and so called Chief Guest; based my talk on historical perspective including the sterling role and contribution of Chankya or Kautilya, evolution under Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and others and came to the basic determinants and current elements of India’s foreign policy under PM Modi’s government. Quoting PM Narendra Modi from his speech at the Raisina Dialogue, “
नो भद्रो : क्रत्वो यन्तु विश्वत” - Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions, I mentioned about PM Modi’s initiatives to intensify his interaction with his international counterparts for integrating India’s foreign policy objectives with that of the world community. I brought to fore the important aspects and formulations of the foreign policy as pronounced by PM Modi, saying “Our strategic intent is shaped by our civilizational ethos of:
यथार्थवाद (realism), सह-अस्तित्व (co-existence), सहयोग (cooperation),तथा सहभागिता (partnership).”
Stating that diplomacy was a continuous process, I reiterated the famous dictum, “There were no permanent friends; there were no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.” And said that India’s foreign policy and its executions were fully geared to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities in the years to come and quoted an Urdu couplet of Alhama Iqbal:

जो है पर्दों में पिन्हा; चश्मे-बीना देख लेती है,
ज़माने की तबीयत का तकाज़ा देख लेती है
It was followed by a very interesting and intense interactive session of question and answers both from the students and the faculty which Principal Dr. Dhiman termed as the most informative and rewarding exercise. Prof. Balbir Chander, a simple but down to
Prof. Balbir Chander
earth academic and a teacher of standing by his own right and HOD of  Political Science Department of the college, thanked the speakers and the audience for making the seminar a grand success and that they look forward to more of such functions for the benefit of young students. The function was ably conducted by Prof. Puneet Kalra as Master of Ceremonies. Principal Dr. Naresh Kumar Dhiman graciously treated us on a piping-hot luncheon delivered from the mess of one of the college hostels situated in the college complex itself.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ambedkar College at Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar

Ambedkar College at Bootan Mandi, Jalandhar
 The residents of Bootan Mandi, my native place, and also that of the other nearby areas have been clamoring for a girls college in the vicinity of these localities which is predominantly inhabited by socially and economically weaker sections of the society. Most of them are the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar and as such they would be happy if the proposed college is named after Ambedkar. The proposed location i.e. the plot of land for the purpose is available which is currently called Chara Mandi. It is an ideal
location for the college dedicated to the memory of the greatest son of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar – near the Ambedkar Park at Bootan Mandi, on the Ambedkar Marg (Nakodar Road), near the historical residence of Late Seth Kishan Dass where Dr. Ambedkar stayed in 1951, not far off from the Ambedkar Bhawan and one of the busiest crossings of the city, Ambedkar Chowk. The Seths of Bootan Mandi tried to have a college in Bootan Mandi in association with the personalities like Sufi Singer Hans Raj Hans but these half-hearted and insincere efforts failed as expected. The successive governments of the Congress Party and of Akali-BJP alliance promised the college at the site several times over the last two decades. MOS Vijay Sampla of the BJP also broached up the subject towards the end of 2016 in the run up to the early 2017 elections. These things remained in the media without any result. I wrote about this earlier in my blog:
With concerted efforts of some of the youngsters headed by Jagdish Disha, Vari Klair, Parshottam Klair, among others, the proposal has seen light, it seems. Ministry of Education, on advice of the Education Minister Aruna Chaudhary, has informed the District Collector of Jalandhar of the decision to establish a college in Bootan Mandi and has written to him to prepare a case and identify

and acquire land for the project. Congratulations to all concerned activists who were fighting for the college and those politicians namely MP Chaudhary Santokh Singh, MLA Sushil Rinku and others. The ball has been set into motion but the game has to be played by us. Let us not lower our guard till something concrete happens. There are many slips between the cup and lips. We should convince the Hon’ble Minister of Education Aruna Chaudhary to complete all procedural requirements in this regard so that the foundation laying ceremony of the college could be held on April 14, 2018, the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. It will be a befitting tribute the great leader.
Babasaheb Ambedkar’s dictum – “Educate, Agitate and Organise” is as potent as it was and it will remain so in the years to come for the empowerment of the marginalized and weaker sections of the society and the nation at large. People are getting educated slowly but surely. The agitation for the college at Bootan Mandi clearly
demonstrates that people are getting agitated for the right causes and that under constitutional means as propounded by Dr. Ambedkar. They are to get united and organized to achieve their legitimate goals in the run up to establish a fair and just order in the society. People have succeeded in convincing government for their just demand in a democratic way. It is a matter of satisfaction.
I wish the Sarv Samaj Sangarsh Committee set up for the purpose all success in the days to come.
जिंदगी की असली उड़ान   बाकी है;
इरादा हो तो अभी इम्तिहान बाकी है!