The character of a person or an organization is formed in the early years. As the Congress celebrates its centenary, we should remember that for nearly two-thirds of the period it was a party of struggle. Its toil and sacrifices in the years of struggle earned for the Congress the trust of the people of India.
Since 1947 the Congress has held office at the Centre except for a brief interval and also in many of the States. It has devoted itself to giving form and substance to the objectives that it had placed before the people as the ingredients of freedom.
Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi always reminded us that our work will not be over until we fulfilled Mahatma Gandhi?s ambition of wiping every tear from every eye. So the struggle of the Congress continues. It will continue well into our second century. We can affirm that we now have the inner strength to eradicate poverty. To achieve success we still have to hone our instruments ? the people?s organizations as well as the bureaucracy.
While overall development of the economy will benefit all sections, the problems of the weakest sections cannot be solved through this process of percolation. There is need for direct programmes of poverty alleviation. These programmes were strengthened when the party was re-elected in 1980. They will acquire greater force and focus in the next three Plans. By A. D. 2000 we should be able to ensure for all a minimum of nutrition and health, a minimum level of education, and a productive job for at least one person in every family. By then we must also being our rate of growth of population under check.
Poverty eradication is a necessary but not a sufficient criterion of progress. If that were the only test of a nation?s achievement, then the economically developed countries should be paradises-which they suffer from social tensions, from the stresses of an industrial society, from a sense of loss of direction, from alienation and from the environmental degradation. Man does not live by bread alone. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi knew that the removal of material poverty was not enough, important as it was. It was even more important to remove meanness of spirit. It is well-known that affluence by itself does not necessarily bring contentment.
In India we have always spoken of economic and social development. The Congress has been a great vehicle of social reform. The Congress has always fought against the difficulties and discriminations suffered by people of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, by religious and linguistic minorities, by women, and by all weaker sections as a whole.
Development in the larger sense means developing the inner person, so that the human being lives in harmony with other human beings, with Nature and with the rest of creation. Side by side with the battle of quantity should be waged the battle for quality.
Fathoming the future is an old human pastime. Today understanding the future and drawing blueprints for meeting the challenges of the future have become a science. Even as economic activity demands an estimation of future demand, the wise management of the earth?s resources needs a fuller inventory of the material and intellectual needs and possibilities.
The last two hundred years have witnessed an explosion of inventions and discoveries. Many of these had been foreseen by men of genius of earlier ages. But many discoveries were long neglected before their potentialities were rediscovered. Often, scientists are not able to appreciate fully the consequences of findings in their won fields. Lord Rutherford had asserted that the atom could never be harnessed. C. V. Raman had praised astronomy as the one science which could never be misused by man. On the other hand, economists had predicted that India would never be able to attain self-sufficiency in food. How wrong all these forecasts have proved.
Not all the changes of the future can be foretold. History is not preplanned or programmed. Events take a turn because of the decisions of individuals and by the inventions and innovations of scientists. An Einstein unlocks the key to the relationship between matter and energy. A Lenin, a Gandhi, a Mao and a Ho Chi Minh lead revolutions. A Jawaharlal Nehru breathes his own democratic impulse into a whole nation. The impossible becomes possible.
Empires which has appeared invincible a hundred years ago have now become extinct like the reptiles of prehistory have witnesses exhilarating spectacle of a hundred countries emerging into the sunlight of freedom. Nations which were at the bottom of the table have risen in the economic ladder through education and hard work or through the fortuitous find of area or minerals in demand.
So the future is not wholly predictable. That does not mean that we can escape the chain of cause and effect. Gandhi and Nehru have taught us to remember that ends and means are inseparable. The greatest threat today is that of nuclear weapons. If confrontation is not avoided, there may not be any future at all for humankind, for life itself. The chances of averting such a holocaust will increase to the extent we can make nations and peoples realize the importance of co-existence. Co-existence is not merely a morally desirable value; It is a political imperative. It is not enough just to accept the proposition that the other person may be right. We must be ready to accept that even if he is wrong. He has a right to exist.
The Congress, as the party which won freedom and built up independent India through non-violence, must continue to work for the larger acceptance of non-violence within the country and in the International Community.
The work of improving the quality of life of our people, of safeguarding Indian unity and communal harmony and of strengthening peace and cooperation the world over will keep the Congress busy for year.
This is our agenda for the next century.
[System Update: Date not available]