Caste lines in quake-hit Saurashtra villages, too

Times of India



JODIA, Jamnagar: On the northern tip of Saurashtra, caste and class divide among the villages of Jodia taluka has taken a somewhat different hue than what it has in Kutch. If village Jinjuda - whose residents still nostalgically remember its shipping glory - has been the victim of a division engineered by a minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, in other villages, the affluent persons from all main castes have preferred to move out by buying up land with the state government providing no-objection and non-agricultural land certificates at ease.

"What has happened here is the travesty of Modi's concept of Samras, which during the last panchayat polls had sought to keep entire village communities together," says social activist Achyut Yagnik, whose organisation Setu has been working with 5,184 quake-hit backward families in 41 Jodia taluka's villages. "If caste divisions existed all along, we see segregation of rural social groups taking shape in the wake of the quake. These divisions have taken place to the advantage of the political and economic elite," he adds.

In Jinjuda, state fisheries minister Purshottam Solanki - to create a political constituency for himself among the Kolis - got a two-hectare land approved from the government for the 119 fishermen families belonging to his community. He even inaugurated the new Solanki Nagar, and promised temporary shelter for Jinjuda Kolis only. The families moved out, lock, stock and barrel, and live in a temporary shelter provided by Setu with International Organisation for Migration (IOM) money. Original Jinjuda now has only Bharwads, Dalits and Muslims homes.

The situation is different with Jam Dudhai, a village which shot into prominence after Union home minister L K Advani, Union textiles minister Kashiram Rana, then chief minister Keshubhai Patel and other dignitaries stayed overnight to "take care" of the devastated villagers' plight within days of the quake. Here, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has ensured that 190 families, mainly Patels, along with some affluent persons from other communities, formed a separate village called "Ram Dudhai".

Now ready, Ram Dudhai would be "inaugurated" in a couple of months. A senior Central BJP leader is being identified. "Only those who could afford Rs 1 lakh decided to move to Ram Dudhai," comments Kara Maji Dabhi, a backward class resident of Jam Dudhai, who has "bought" a house in Ram Dudhai for his son, working as a government employee in Amreli. "The village was proving to be too small. Its population has risen sharply. What's wrong if some move out to form a new village?" he asks. "The VHP provides 50 per cent of the funding while the rest we have to pay," he adds.

Similar divisions have taken place in two other big villages - Amran and Kharachia. While a separate housing colony, 2 km away, is being built for Patels with well-planned plotting by the Gem and Jewellery Association members, Kharachia's Patels have moved out to a village about a kilometre distance from the original one. In the original Kharachia, all others - Darbars, Dalits, Kolis, Bharwads, Muslims - live. The new Kharachia site for Patels was identified by the Maharashtra Youth Congress people.

Says Vaghjibhai Patel, a resident of Kharachia village, "Originally, the entire colony was planned just for Patels. However, as some Harijans approached the district collector for their share, they too have been given 16 plots, though of a much smaller size." This is one place where Keshubhai Patel visited along with his main BJP rival Narendra Modi in last April, informs Vaghjibhai. "Each house costs Rs 90,000. We have contributed half," he adds.

Divisions have also come about in Balambha, where the poor village folk belonging to different communities have gone out to live in a separate shelter provided with IOM money, forming Setu Nagar, leaving the village for mainly Patel and Muslim elite. Yet another devastated village, Rangpar of Morbi taluka, has been divided into three different villages - Shaktinagar for Darbars, Shrijinagar for Patels and Viratnagar for the rest. It is still not known how the state officialdom looks at the divisions - abnormal, violating the concept of idyllic village community, or natural

Rally leads to traffic snarls

DSS urges govt to set up panel to categorise quota

DH News Service


The Karnataka Dalit Sangharsha Samiti (DSS) has urged the State government to set up a State commission to take up the task of categorising reservation for different SC/ST groups on the basis of their population.

Leaders of the Sangharsha Samiti made the demand while addressing a massive rally of over 10,000 DSS workers who gathered from all over the State at the Government Arts College in Bangalore today.

The protestors from different parts of the State gathered at Jakkarayanakere from where they organised a padayatra to Govern-ment Arts College, the venue of the public meeting.

In a memorandum submitted to Chief Minister S M Krishna, the Sangharsha Samiti urged the government to withdraw the demotion of SC/ST engineers effected following the 92nd Constitutional amendment, besi-des withdrawing the demotion of SC/ST employees in 84 government departments.

The speakers also urged the government to fill up the backlog posts reserved for the SCs/STs and to increase the reservation quota for SC/ST from the existing 18 per cent.

According to 2001 census figures, SC/ST comprise 23 per cent of the population in the country. Hence, both Central and State governments should formulate laws to give the SCs and STs their due right, the leaders demanded.

The Central goverment has also been urged to fill up the over 10 lakh vacancies reserved for SCs/STs, lying vacant in different departments. The protestors have also urged the government to provide reservation to the SCs/STs in the private sector also.

The rally was inaugurated by DSS State Convenor N Shivanna. Those who took part in the rally included former judge of Karnataka High Court Justice H G Balakrishna, DSS Convenor M Jayanna, former minister and litterateur B T Lalitha Naik and B Gopal, State President, Bahujan Samaj Party and others. There are 101 different categories under the SC/ST, for whose rights the Dalit Sangharsha Samiti has been fighting for a long time. The demands have been falling on deaf ears, the leaders complained.

A large number of protestors started a padayatra from the the tomb of DSS founder Prof B Krishnappa in Harihar on January 6 and reached Bangalore today to take part in the rally, covering a distance of 300 kms in 16 days. CHAOS: Normal traffic movement on several major roads in the City was affected thanks to the rally.

The worst affected roads were K G Road, Nrupathunga Road, Sheshadri Road, Hudson Circle area and Subedar Chatram Road. Traffic movement on most of these roads was reduced to snail's pace.

The Bangalore traffic police, which diverted traffic on many roads, when asked about their role in the inconvenience caused to the motorists had a ready answer. "Had we not done what we did, only God could have saved Bangalore," retorted DCP (Traffic) Narayan Gowda.

Mr Gowda is not ready to shoulder the blame as he says that the very selection of the venue for the protest by almost all organisations, close to the seat of power (Vidhana Soudha) is the cause for all the problems. "Why can't the protestors go to Jayanagar, Indiranagar and Malleshwaram areas and save so much of inconvenience to the public?" he asks. Only two days ago had the motorists been subjected to harassment when candidates for the Kanakapura by-polls along with their supporters visited the deputy commissioner's office to file their nominations. "The Deputy Commissioner's office is again close to Vidhana Soudha," argues Mr Gowda.

Kerala to prevent diversion of tribal development fund

PTI [ TUESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2002 9:59:38 PM ]

OCHI: The Kerala government has taken steps to prevent diversion of plan funds intended for the development of tribals and backward classes, State SC/ST Development Minister M A Kuttappan said on Tuesday.

Talking to mediapersons here, he said a study undertaken by the government had revealed that a large chunk of the nearly Rs 7,000 crore allotted by the Centre for the welfare of tribals, scheduled castes and tribes in the state during the past two decades had been diverted because of the absence of a proper implementation machinery for the purpose.

It had been decided to set up panchayat-level implmentation committees with representatives drawn from among the beneficiaries in order to ensure proper utilisation of the plan funds being released under the tribal sub plan and the special component programme of the Centre, the minister said.

DM orders hospitalisation of fasting monks

TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2002 12:25:01 AM ]GAYA: Alarmed by the medical report submitted by Gaya civil surgeon Latafat Hussain confirming deterioration in the condition of the monks of Mahabodhi temple on fast unto death at Bodh Gaya, Gaya DM Brajesh Mehrotra pressed the panic buttons and ordered for forced hospitalisation of the monks.

The monks' fast entered the eighth day on Wednesday. They are on an indefinite hunger strike in protest against their removal from the temple service and alleged high-handedness and unbecoming conduct of temple secretary Kalicharan Yadav.

In his report, Hussain is learnt to have recommended immediate hospitalisation of the fasting monks due to a distinct deterioration in their pulse rate and dehydration, and the blood pressure reading of one of the monks also indicated that he is suffering from acute hyper tension.

However, the fasting monks have so far resisted attempts to get them hospitalised. A piquant situation has been created as the monks have locked themselves inside their respective rest rooms, and breaking open the doors is proving to be ticklish due to the presence of the representatives of national and international media, including the electronic media, who are here in a sizable number to cover the ongoing Kalchakra rituals.

Magadh division commissioner Hem Chand Sirohi said that though on late Tuesday night the fasting monks agreed to voluntary hospitalisation provided they were given a few hours' time, in the morning they backed out and refused to be hospitalised. Sirohi admitted that the sacking of the Mahabodhi temple priests was ill-timed. The monks are yet to be hospitalised, thus adding to the anxiety of the officials.

Meanwhile, in a fax message sent to the Bihar government, Bhadant Surai Sasai, the Nagpur-based Buddhist missionary having Japanese origins, has accused former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav of taking the neo-Buddhists for a ride and threatened to expose him (Laloo) at the international level.


January 24, 2002

Doctors 'negligence' claims dalit's life

ANANTAPUR: Alleged negligence of doctors at the local Government Hospital has resulted in the death of 60-year-old woman Dalita Nagamma today.

The woman belonging to Kakkalapalli got herself admitted to the hospital for undergoing a cataract operation.

According to Nagamma?s son Veeranarayana, doctors administered anaesthesia to his mother and left the room. As soon as they left Nagama slipped and fell down from the bed. Though he immediately informed the matter to the doctors outside, they did not bother to attend her. Within half-an hour Nagamma died.

Meanwhile, a dharna was organised by the CPM, CPI and Struggle Committee against Caste Discrimination on the hospital premises condemning the negligence of the doctors. They demanded suspension of the ?erring? doctors and payment of Rs 1 lakh ex gratia to the kin of Nagamma.

They called off the agitation after the hospital superintendent assured to take action against the ?erring? doctors within 48 hours.


January 24, 2002

Dalit woman raped

THOOPRAN: A Dalit woman was allegedly raped by Vidyasagar, a store keeper in an industry at Bonthapalli in Jinnaram mandal of Thoopran sub-division on Tuesday night, said Jinnaram assistant sub-inspector Moulana.

The woman went to clean the store room in an iron industry in the morning when Vidyasagar committed the crime. Following a complaint by the victim, a case has been registered, the SI added.


January 24, 2002

Dalit Xians' lot being analysed at Parasuvaikkal meet

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ?Challenges of Dalit Christians, their discrimination by major Churches, denial of constitutional rights to them and the holistic ministry of the church? were discussed today on the second day of the four-day Dalit Christian leaders? national conference at Parasuvaikkal, about 25 km from here.

About 125 leaders from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattishgarh are participating in the deliberations. The conference has been organised by the exclusive Dalit Christian denomination called Bible Faith Mission headed by Rev Moses Swamidas. Speaking to The New Indian Express, Moses Swamidas said that this denomination had been founded by one Brahmin-turned Christian Rev C R Vedantachary of Madras.

He said that his Church had organised the conference with the aims of giving out a call to Dalit Christians to explore ways and means for their material and spiritual improvement without resting content by blaming others, creating an awareness among Dalit Christians of their discrimination by the Government, making other Christian denominations understand that the casteism practised by them was against the tenets of Christianity, highlighting the fact that Christian denominations, after having established educational institutions using Dalit members? help also, denied benefits to them, and driving home to the Government that though they had been given voting rights they had been denied political and constitutional rights. Today?s discussion on challenges of Dalit Christians was led by J I Stephen, a member of the Church of South India, by reading a paper on the topic.

The discussion on discrimination of Dalit Christians by major churches was led by CSI pastor Justin Charles. President of Scheduled Caste Christian Association of Kerala president Dhanaraj initiated a discussion on what he called denial of constitutional rights to Dalit Christians because of their religion.

Moses Swamidas introduced the topic of holistic ministry of the Church for an analysis. President of Hyderabad-based All-India Christian Council D?souza inaugurated the national conference yesterday.

Other States - New Delhi

Paswan's party to contest all seats

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, JAN.24. The Lok Janshakti Party president and Union Coal and Mines Minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, announced today that his party would contest all 134 seats in the forthcoming MCD polls. The party also passed a resolution condemning attempts to postpone the elections and impressed upon the need to conduct polls within the time-frame and not deprive Delhiites from exercising their democratic right.

The resolution, moved by the party vice-president, Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, at a public meeting organised at Patel Nagar here, said: ``Under no circumstances should the elections to MCD be postponed and Delhi Government should hold them on schedule". It also demanded that a separate Corporation should be formed for East Delhi but this should not be used as an excuse to postpone elections. It said the efforts of the Sheila Dikshit Government to take back-door control of the Corporation would not be allowed to succeed".

Mr. Paswan said the party was totally prepared to put up candidates in 134 seats and urged the partymen to join hands to put up a good show. He said the country was presently in a crucial phase where terrorism has once again raised its head and threatens to tear apart the unity and integrity of the nation. He said anti-national elements were indulging in dastardly acts but this would only further strengthen the determination of the country to fight such forces.

Mr. Paswan said for any nation to progress, it was important that all everybody contributed and the menace of unemployment was eradicated. He stressed on the need to generate more employment opportunities.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Bidhuri said the Sheila Dikshit Government was trying to put the blame on the Centre for trying to delay polls. He said if the government was so much interested in holding polls on time, it should immediately issue the notification. Even in case the MCD was to be split, this should not be used as an excuse to delay the polls. The smaller bodies can be formed later without disturbing the present set-up, as was done in case of the new States.

Mr. Bidhuri said the people of Delhi would give a befitting reply to the Sheila Dikshit Government as it had failed miserably on all fronts. The Congress Government was neck deep in corruption and even its CLP leader and Ministers are involved in cases.

BSP may cut into Congress votes in Doaba



HANDIGARH: The Bahujan Samaj Party will be contesting 100 seats out of the 117 Punjab assembly constituencies.

How adversely will their presence affect the prospects of the Congress remains to be seen? Congressmen at present are happy with the results of some poll surveys, which have said that they have a decisive edge over the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD)-BJP combine.

Congressmen admit, though not openly, that the BSP can damage the party in Doaba region, which is considered to be a BSP stronghold.They could also extend their influence to a handful of other seats also, especially in Malwa. The Congress? apprehensions are not without reason.

In the last 1997 assembly elections, the BSP had won only one seat out of the 67 it contested. However, their performance there had been commendable. In the constituencies where it was in the fray, the BSP had secured the second or the third position in 55 seats.

The BSP had also gone into an alliance with Akali Dal (Mann), which did not have the desired effect on the party?s prospects. Assuming that the BSP vote bank has not swelled since, experts argue that the Congress could face an uphill task in Doaba, except in Kapurthala district and a dozen other constituencies. The arithmetic was simple.The BSP had secured more than 15,000 votes in 13 constituencies.

In eight constituencies, the party had got over 20,000 votes and at six it was first runner up. These facts not only suggest the BSP has the potential to win, but also affect the prospects of the Congress. Traditionally, the Doaba has been a Congress stronghold. However, its vote bank has been eroded since the mid-80?s. It gradually lost grip over the Dalit population, which comprises 40 per cent of the population of this area. The BSP?s gain was the Congress? loss.

Older Dalits still ??adore?? the Congress.The younger group between 25 to 40 years of age are Kanshi Ram loyalists. Congress? success in Doaba depends on how far it?s able to recapture its support base. Kanshi Ram has lost his initial sheen. Despite camping in Punjab since the last six months.However, the Congressmen are in high spirits and are hoping that the Dalits return to their fold. Good for the Congress, the Akalis are traditionally weak in Doaba region.

Even if the BSP gains a substantial share of votes, it may not affect the quality of electoral outcome though it may slash the victory margins. In Malwa, where it has pockets of influence, the BSP could play the spoil-sport. Other factors also figure in the electoral outcome in Malwa where the battle lines are clearly delineated.The contest here is expected to be fiercer than in Doaba.The BSP potential in Majha is limited. Also, it has a weak organisational base in Majha.

Nagzere tribals make their village alcohol-free



MUMBAI: Naushi bai, a Warli tribal, looked forward to the extra rupees she would earn from selling the liquor she brewed at home. She used the money to indulge in the only luxury she could afford -- buying new sudka and polka, the traditional Warli dress.

That was three months ago. Now, she has stopped making or selling alcohol. ``I refuse to make money this way. Sudka or no sudka,'' a determined Naushi bai says.

Prakash, from the same tribe, owned a liquor shop. He also kept kala gud (black jaggery) __ the raw material used for making alcohol. He earned two rupees on every kg of jaggery he sold and was doing well, until last year. Now, he sells ice-candy. ``All our people would spend their money on alcohol and leave little or nothing for their families,'' Prakash says. ``I decided to stop selling it myself.''

This freedom from alcohol movement is brewing in Nagzere, a small village nestled in the interior of Dahanu, Thane district, where Prakash and Naushi bai live.

In a short span of three months the entire village, comprising 120 families is alcohol-free. It's an impressive situation, considering that the tribals living in this village were once frequently drunk. For some, selling alcohol was an additional source of income. Most of Nagzere's residents travel away to find work and used to spend most of their money on liquor.

``We would wake up in the morning to the sound of people fighting with each other,'' says Kamal bai, one of the many women of the village who fought against the addiction. Her husband, Bhiwa, like several other men from the village, admit that life when they consumed liquor was all about quarrels and poor health.

The situation was so bad that even when activists held meetings to draw their attention to their rights, the villagers would be too drunk to understand much. ``They would disrupt meetings and it was difficult communicating with them,'' says Priyadarshini Sreenivasa, an activist with Kashtakari Sanghatna. The organisation played a key role in helping these tribals defeat their addiction.

``There were health problems too because of excessive drinking,'' says Pradip Prabhu, activist with the Sanghatna. He adds that the scarcity of the mahua flower that traditionally was used to make alcohol has led to black jaggery and ammonium chloride being used instead. ``Both are harmful and have a serious effect on health. There was a growing incidence of paralysis in the tribe,'' he says.

The Sanghatna had been pressing molasses sales to be halted. The substance was banned several years ago from being used for alcohol production and is sold as cattle feed. Last year, the state government banned its sale for some time and the lives of the villagers showed a perceptible change.

The sanghatna then organised a `daru-mukti' morcha, or freedom from alcohol campaign, on October 16. Ever since, hundreds of individuals from villages like Nagzere, Baripada, Dongarpada, Vanay, Chandranagar, Bandghar and Sensari volunteered to stop drinking liquor in their homes and villages. The goal seemed distant then, but Nagzere is already an alcohol-free village.

The women showed tremendous grit and determination when they stopped making alcohol at home. Rani, for instance, was beaten up by her husband, Antun, when she stopped brewing liquor. Antun has the dubious distinction in the village of still consuming liquor, which he obtains from outside because his wife has stopped making it. Nevertheless, his drinking has decreased recently.

Saying no to alcohol was perhaps a difficult decision for the Warlis, and other tribes like Koknas, Koli, Kataris, from whom drinking was among the primary leisure activities, notes Mr Prabhu. ``Moreover, liquor is a part of their every ritual __ be it a wedding or a death,'' he says. He said that it was only because the villagers themselves realised what alcohol was doing to them and their lives that they decided to quit.

So, the bhatti that was used to brew liquor and was an essential part of every household, is now being used to store food grain and water. The bottles are being used for storing different spices. Ask Ishwati bai where her bhatti is and she utters two words,``Daru band.''

Rid SC/STs of grievances, says Jaikishan

Staff Reporter/New Delhi

Senior dalit leader and the ex- member of the Delhi Legislative Assembly Jaikishan in his letter to the Delhi Chief Minister Ms Sheila Dikshit on Thursday has demanded early removal of grievances which the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes are facing in the Capital.

Mr Jaikishan has called for an immediate implementation of the 20-point programme which was initiated by the BJP Government in 1998 for the welfare of the SC/ST's of Delhi. This programme Mr Jaikishan claims has been lying in cold storage for quite some time.

Mr Jaikishan has further demanded an early restoration of land to the Dalits which had been taken away from them due to the consolidation of land by the Delhi Government.

Private sector should adopt social policies: Narayanan

In a significant socio-economic statement, President K R Narayanan on Friday asked the private sector to adopt social policies that are progressive and more egalitarian for uplift of deprived classes from deprivation and inequality in the 'present economic system and of the future'.

"This is not to ask the private enterprises accept Socialism, but to do something like what the Diversity Bill and the affirmative action that a capitalist country like the United States of America has adopted and is implementing," he said in his address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day.

In his last Republic Day address before he lays down office later by the middle of the year, Narayanan said, "With attention to problems of the masses, the country would be strong to pursue the policy of peace and co-existence and that will be our democratic answer to the evil phenomenon of terrorism that we in India and the world in general are facing today."

"Alongside, we will have to build up the economic strength and the defensive capacity of our country to its fullest potential," he said.

In his five-page address, devoted to social issues, Narayanan talked about child welfare, Panchayat Raj and the recurring 'illtreatment and atrocities' on women.

Significantly, the president did not refer to issues like security and the current Indo-Pak tensions.

Narayanan said the problem of women in India was symbolic of the inequalities and injustices in society in general.

"Even today it is amazing that we have not become an inclusive society in spite of the political triumph of our democracy. The discrimination being suffered by women, the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes is a crying denial of the democracy that is enshrined in our Constitution."

He referred to the Bhopal Declaration issued at a conference of Dalit and Tribal intellectuals and activists recently, which demanded 'representation' for these communities in private corporations and enterprises that benefit from government funds and facilities in the present era of privatisation.

"Indeed in the present economic system and of the future, it is necessary for the private sector to adopt social policies that are progressive and more egalitarian for these deprived classes to be uplifted from their state of deprivation and inequality and given the rights of citizens and civilised human beings," the president said and cited the American model.

He said, "I have talked to you about these social questions because if our great democracy is to remain great and relevant to the problems of the masses, we will have to pay heed to these crying socio-economic issues."

Narayanan said one of the clearest indicators of the development of a society is the position and status women enjoy in that society.

"Even though women's rights are recognised as human rights and they are considered as best of human resources and central actors for development, their standing in our society is deplorable", he said.

Recalling how Mahatma Gandhi had mobilised ordinary women in large numbers for the cause of the country's independence, he said 70,000 of them participated in the Salt Satyagraha.

Stating that 2001 was observed as year of women's empowerment, Narayanan said several important measures have been taken to elevate women from their present status.

"It is uplifting to see the ordinary and poor women actively participating in movements and campaigns, for constructive action such as the right to information, river revival programmes and rain water harvesting and watershed management schemes", he said.

The president said the election of almost one million women to Panchayati Raj institutions and their activities in such bodies have brought about a strategic shift in many developmental activities at the grassroots level.

The president said while women's movement is gaining momentum and gathering pace and reaching one milestone after another, 'the illtreatment and atrocities on women are recurring in regular and brutal manner. No day passes without reading and watching gory incidents in print and electronic media'.

Holding the dowry system responsible for snuffing out lives of women at a very young age, Narayanan said it was also responsible for the growing incidence of female foeticide in the country.

"Incidences of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment at work places and trafficking of women have increased many folds. Half the number of women killed in India are killed in their bedrooms. Rise in cases of sexual harassment by 40 per cent, dowry deaths by 15.2 per cent and smuggling of girls by 87.2 per cent in 1998 are indicative of their traumatised existence. No place is safe for them, not even in their mother's wombs. They are put to death even before they are born", he said.

Quoting Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's poem, he said, "in every panchayat Draupadi is robbed of her honour."

"She is today not only dishonoured in panchayats but also in the city transport buses, in the city streets and even in her own homes. It is high time we got rid of this inequality and indiginity to women in our country. The success of women movements at the grass root level in India shows that it is possible for us to do so," he said.

Emphasising on the need for proper development of children, Narayanan said, "The future of India will depend on the development of this human wealth. It indeed depends on the health and welfare of our children."

He said growth and proper nourishment of children remain at the root of human resources development and the progress of the society and the nation.

"With the largest number of children in the world, India has a large reservoir of human wealth," he said, adding that it was encouraging that the country had had some success in the welfare and development of children.

"India has the largest Integrated Child Development Programme in the world for extending nutrition, health and educational facilities to the children of our country. We have adopted the Pulse Polio Programme that now covers the entire country. Mass immunization programme has achieved remarkable results. If all these programmes together with children's education are implemented we can look forward to a bright future for our children and our country. A poet has said the cry of a child by the roadside mars the harmony of the universe," he said.

Narayanan touched upon issues ranging from building up of democracy and a stable system of government for this vast country to 'real decline in illiteracy in absolute numbers' and the doubling of life expectancy.

Narayanan said it had been acknowledged that the greatest achievement of India since independence has been the building up of democracy and a stable system of government for this vast country.

"But what has not been fully realised by the world and even by ourselves is the magnitude of this achievement in a population of one billion people, belonging to almost all the religions of the world and with diversities of every kind that is imaginable. It was not by force and compulsion, by blood and iron, that this achievement has been brought about, but by peaceful means, by tolerance and willing acceptance of differences and diversities," he said.

The president said it was the product of the ancient philosophy and culture of India, which taught that humanity is one and the whole world is a single nest.

"The renaissance of India in the modern period through non-violent struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi was an event of historic importance," he said.

Appreciating the recent bill making education a fundamental right for children between the age of 6 to 14 as 'a great step forward', he said there is need for extending the facility of free and compulsory education to the entire age group up to 18 years so that illiteracy is banished from the land.

"Let us commit ourselves today as a nation to find ways an means to realise this cherished dream," he said.

Fulltext of the speach is available at

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