Empowerment - Nothing without Morality & Values

Only when the suppressed and the exploited begin to assert their rights and empower themselves “I have finished writing my article but I want to go through it again. When do I have to send it to The Indian Express?’’ K R Narayanan asked his close aide and former press secretary S N Sahu on October 26. Told he had time, the former President, who graciously agreed to contribute to the India Empowered series in this newspaper, told Sahu: “Leave it on my table. I want to have another look.’’ Three days later, Narayanan was in hospital. And on Wednesday night, hours after his death, Sahu called up The Indian Express to say that the article was on its way. “Another look” would be now reserved for our readers. In the piece, Kocheril Raman Narayanan captures the India that he wanted to see all his life. In his death, his own words, therefore, ring as the most eloquent tribute.

THE LATE K R NARAYANAN FORMER PRESIDENT OF INDIA

Empowerment has meaning and significance only when the dispossessed and the disinherited have access to the basic necessities of life and are given opportunities to play their rightful role as the citizens of our country.

The real empowerment of India began with the struggle for our independence at the centre of which remained ordinary people. Mahatma Gandhi harnessed their power to fight against the mighty British Empire. It was a remarkable example of empowerment of a disempowered people in a society riddled with social injustice and religious discrimination.

It is difficult to empower people unless we address the issues concerning equality and equality of opportunities for the vast masses of people who have to struggle for their daily existence. Empowerment thus means uplifting the unprivileged and making them partners and beneficiaries of nation building activities.

Empowerment means improving the status of women and treating minorities with care and concern. Therefore, any attempt to empower people must begin from below. The heroic struggle of Mahatma Gandhi, Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru bring to us the examples of landmark initiatives which aimed at empowering the people of India.

Harking back to the freedom struggle we find that people under foreign rule had no means of opposing their exploitation and demanding independence and democracy for their development. A completely subjugated and disempowered people suddenly found within themselves immense strength to confront the majesty and might of the British empire.

How did that happen? We all know that by removing fear from the minds of people and infusing among them moral strength and authority, Gandhiji transformed their outlook and wielded them as a powerful weapon in the non-violent struggle for independence. In that historical context, empowerment had a connotation which derived legitimacy from the moral ethos of our society.

After almost six decades of our independence, we have made tremendous material progress and consolidated our democracy. The whole of India and, in fact, large sections of the population are now empowered to take India forward. It has now been acknowledged by the world that India is fast emerging as a major economic power determining the course of human history in a manner which gives confidence that we will get back our rightful place in the comity of nations.

The talk of empowerment makes us feel confident about our future. But we feel disheartened to see the decline of standard of behaviour in our public life. Empowerment of India thus would mean to restore the moral dimension and values to our public life.

Without morality and values, the empowered India would be devoid of depth and content. Today, when the whole world exclaims of India’s ability in diverse fields and hails its emergence as a major power in the economic and scientific arena, we need to introspect and ask ourselves if we have lived up to the ideals bequeathed to us by our freedom fighters and the founding fathers of our Constitution.

An empowered India bereft of the respect for women, values of civilised existence and morality will collapse in the face of the disaffection and discontent of those who have suffered for centuries.

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