Following is the speech on politics and morality delivered by Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Lt. Gen (Retd.) S K Sinha, (PVSM).
Govind Ballabh Pant was injured as a result of Police lathi charge when he was leading the civil disobedience procession in Lucknow. He was hit by a lathi on the neck. A nerve got incurably damaged. He now had a permanent disability of constantly shaking his head for the rest of his life. He was Chief Minister of UP at the time of Independence. The case of the Sub Inspector of Police who had led the lathi charge against him, came up for promotion to Deputy Superintendent of Police. His staff reminded Pant that he was the same person who had given him a lathi blow, during the civil disobedience movement. Govind Ballabh Pant without any hesitation, promptly approved that officer's promotion, saying that the officer then was only carrying out orders and doing his duty. He should not be penalized for that.
Lal Bahadur Shastri came from a very poor family. He gave up studies at College on the eve of graduation to join the freedom movement started by the Mahatma. He was enrolled as a full time party worker at Anand Bhawan in Allahabad. He was married and had a family to support. He was given a salary of Rs. 40 per month. Some months later his wife told him that she was saving Rs. 10 every month. Lal Bahadur took the money his wife had saved and returned it to the Party funds. He also got his salary reduced from Rs. 40 to Rs. 30 per month. Much later, when he was Railway Minister, a major railway derailment took place. Owning moral responsibility for the mishap he resigned.
Jayaprakash Narayan had become the idol of the Nation for his role in the Quit India movement of 1942. The Mahatma had referred to him as the great hero of that movement. After Independence he chose to opt for social service and not accept power, the sole motivating factor for politicians nowadays. Nehru repeatedly offered him the appointment of Deputy Prime Minister after the demise of Sardar Patel. He declined the offer which would have led him to become Prime Minister after Nehru. Much later in late Sixties he was offered the appointment of President of India which too he declined. In the Seventies, distressed at rampant corruption that had pervaded the political life of the country, he led a crusade against corruption and for restoration of democracy. The non-violent movement launched by him succeeded and democracy was restored but corruption was too deep rooted and Sampoorna Kranti could not take off. He died soon after and morality in public affairs now reached even lower depth.
I have been recounting some of the episodes from the lives of the political leaders of the Gandhi era to highlight how they upheld highest moral values while actively participating in politics. The Gandhi era is long over and we are now in an era of politicians devoid of moral values. The old emphasis on both right end and right means has been given up. Today dubious means to achieve dubious political ends appear to have become the order of the day. I am not criticizing any particular party or any particular individual. I must add that there are very few exceptions. Nevertheless, I feel I must focus on examples of the past which we need to emulate. I have heard it being said that in Gandhian era, we succeeded in gaining freedom despite the people as a whole being backward and steeped in ignorance. Yet they could be mobilised to become an irresistible force by great leaders who believed in high moral values. This led to the biggest Empire known to history bowing out. Politics was treated as a vehicle for serving a cause and for serving the people. It was not considered as a vocation of profit for oneself and for generations of one's family. Today, our human resource material has proved to be a power house of knowledge and economic entrepreneurship. India is shining and is all set to become a leading global power, in spite of our political leadership. How much more India can shine if our political leadership shows a greater commitment to moral values. No doubt, as I have stated earlier, there are exceptions among our political leaders, but they are so very few.
I have given various examples to illustrate how our leaders of previous generations upheld high moral values in politics to underscore the present degeneration in public life. We also need to consider how we can improve matters. I would like to touch on two important issues – elections and education.
Elections have become the fountainhead of corruption in our public life. It is pertinent to quote what in 1922 Rajgopalachari wrote, "Elections and their corruption, injustice and the power of tyranny and wealth and inefficiency of administration will make a hell of life as soon as freedom is given to us. Men will look regretfully back to the old regime of comparative justice and efficient, peaceful, more or less honest administration".
Within a year of Independence, Sardar Patel expressed his disgust at the craze Congressmen had developed for power. He said, "They run after Ministries as bees do for a drop of honey". A veteran Andhra Congressman, Venkatappaya wrote a letter to Mahatma Gandhi two weeks before his assassination, "Taste of power has turned their heads. Several MLAs/MLCs are following the policy of make hay while the Sun shines……….. The people have begun to say that the British Government was much better and they are even cursing the Congress". Gandhiji read out this letter at his prayer meeting. He proposed that front rank Congress leadership should adopt a self-denying Ordinance, keep out Government and entrust the running of the Government to the second line leaders. The younger ones to act under the guidance and supervision of elders. Gandhiji even drafted a resolution for the Working Committee to dissolve the congress Party and turn into a Lok Sewa Sangh. Before the Working Committee could consider this, Gandhiji had got martyred.
The crying need today is to work out electoral reforms to cleanse politics of corruption and criminality. A national consensus should be developed and there should be the political will to ensure implementation of the required reforms.
The other area requiring high priority attention is our educational institutions. Our temples of learning have become cesspools of politics and criminals. They have to be cleansed. Today many Universities are not able to hold convocations for several years. During the last ten years while I have been Chancellor of half a dozen Universities each in Assam and Jammu and Kashmir, we have been able to hold Convocations fairly regularly. I had an interesting experience last month. I was invited to deliver convocation address at the School of Governance at Maharashtra Institute of Technology, a deemed University in Pune. This School of Governance is the only institution of its kind in Asia, paternal after Kennedy School of Governance, in Harvard University. It runs a two year MBA course in Politics for students wanting to take to politics as a career. The syllabus provides for a detailed study of the Constitution followed by attachments to study the functioning of democracy at all levels- village panchayats, district panchayats, State Legislature and Parliament. They also do attachments with the Planning Commission, Finance Commission and Election Commission. Attachment for a month with House of Commons in London, European Union Parliament in Brussels and multilateral institutions in Geneva are also included in the syllabus. Top political leaders of leading parties in the country are invited for interaction with the students on this course. Morality in public affairs is also a special part of their syllabus. I was told that graduates from this school have got placements in political parties like congress and BJP besides business houses. Hopefully, this School of Governance will churn out political leaders well informed in politics and governance. In my Convocation Address to the graduating students at that institution, I brought out that there is difference between a statesman and a politician. The former thinks of several years ahead and the latter thinks only upto the next election. Today in India we need to have statesmen who feel they are servants of the State rather than politicians who feel that the State belongs to them. I exhorted the students that those who took politics as a career should think and act like statesmen. I told them that more civilizations have been destroyed as a result of internal corruption then external aggression and regimes have collapsed on erosion of their moral authority by deep seated and prolonged corruption.
It is a matter of great regret that Transparency International has declared my own home State, Bihar, as the most corrupt State in the country. I am aware that efforts are afoot to improve matters in the State. I hope and pray that these succeed and Bihar, the State of Rajen Babu and Jayaprakash Narayan, becomes the role model State of our country. That indeed would be a fitting tribute of the present generation to the memory of Dr. Rajendra Prasad. In conclusion, I would like to quote what Mrs Sarojni Naidu had said, "One needed a pen of gold and ink of honey to write about Rajen Babu".
The great poet Dinkar wrote-
Tum Ne Diya Rashtra Ko Jeevan
Rashtra Tumhe Kya Dega
Apni Aaag Tez Rakhne Ko
Naam Tumhara Lega.