National Solidarity Day by Shastriji

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The following speech was delivered by the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to the nation on 19th of October 1964, exactly two years after the Sino-Indian War.

“Tomorrow the country will observe the National Solidarity Day. It was exactly two years ago that our northern borders were attacked. This was a surprise sprung on us quite suddenly. But in that hour of peril, we saw an upsurge of patriotic feelings throughout the country. Differences of State, caste, creed or language, which had often seemed superficially to divide us, disappeared in a moment.

It was a visible demonstration of the fundamental unity of our people, which has preserved the integrity of India through the ages. The farmer in the field, the worker in the factory and indeed people from all walks of life came forward to make their own contribution in order to defend the country’s freedom. On the borders our soldiers fought with valour and with determination. So many of them made the supreme sacrifice and gave their lives so that the country might live. The whole nation remembers them with feelings of admiration and gratitude. We have, however, to remember that we should not be satisfied with what happened in the past. We have to realise that preservation of freedom and the territorial integrity of the Motherland calls for incessant effort, vigilance and alertness. The problems that we face today are serious indeed. The Chinese are trying to build up a mighty war machine and to create fear in the minds of all. China has gone a step further and has recently exploded an atomic bomb. We are thus confronted with a nuclear menace in Asia, something new for this peace-loving continent. These are serious developments and we must take due notice of them. Even otherwise, in recent days, we have seen events of greater significance taking place in other parts of the world. Within the country, we are going through a period of difficulties. The production of food is still inadequate. Harvesting of rice has begun and the new paddy and rice will be coming into the market. This will ease the situation in respect of rice for the present. The farmers are aware that the Government is very particular that they should get reasonable and remunerative prices for their paddy. I hope they are aware of the fact that the producer’s prices have already been fixed and announced. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to expect that the Kisans will come forward to sell their paddy or rice to the Government at fixed prices also; if they do not resist the temptation to sell it quietly to others in order to get a higher price, it will only cause misery to their own kith and kin. In the present situation specially, their responsibility is great. I am sure they will go all out to cooperate in the vital task of feeding the people. The sowing of the rabi crop will start soon. Let us try to produce much more of wheat than we did in the year 1962, which was a normal year. It is essential that the district administration should help in the supply of adequate seeds, manure and similar other facilities, water for irrigation purposes is the most important item. The problem of water-logging has greatly increased in recent years. Every effort should be made to see that areas liable to water-logging are provided with necessary drains. Besides major irrigation projects, minor and medium schemes should also be taken in hand. All tanks and ponds should be deepened. I am told that the construction of tubewells sometimes diverts attention from the existing irrigation works and even leads to avoidable duplication. It should always be borne in mind that new investment in tube-wells should not make the older investment infructuous, nor should it result in the neglect of the existing works.

These are some of the reasons why the irrigated area in a number of States has not appreciably increased in spite of considerable investment. The district administration has to be much more alert and active to give all encouragement and assistance to the Kisans with a view to increasing the production of their rabi crop. While wheat is important, there must be greater production of pulses also. The shortage of pulses has considerably added to our present difficulties. I know we all understand and fully realize that the solution of all our present-day food difficulties lies in increased production. It is, therefore, essential that Government officials in the districts and others at the State or Central level as also the farmers should work hand in hand to produce a much better result. Let us show to the country that we can tackle our problems effectively by our own efforts and perseverance. The question of distribution has also assumed great importance. The cooperatives and the fair-price shops have helped to a considerable extent in the present situation. With improved methods and with more effective supervision they can do still better. Moreover, if consumer cooperatives can be organised by local initiative, they can be of much assistance in ensuring supplies to the consumers at steady prices. I am sorry to say that grain dealers do not seem to have fully realized the gravity of the situation. This has led me to serious thinking and it now seems essential that Government must make some radical changes in the present system of distribution. I do not say that the alternative system will be hundred per cent good. It has, however, become essential to ensure by all possible means that every man gets the necessary quantum of food at a reasonable price. We may, therefore, have to adopt new measures. However, I would not like to take any new steps till we have consulted the Chief Ministers. Luckily they will be here in the last week of this month and I propose to have a full discussion with them. Let me assure my countrymen that there is no cause for dejection. Our food position, as I said earlier, will surely improve on account of the new paddy and some other crops. Besides that, we will be getting wheat from the United States of America. We will also try to get it from other countries. We will, therefore, not be short of stocks so far as essential supplies to our countrymen are concerned. I am, however, keen that in the coming few months, while we should try to produce more, we must necessarily build up a better machinery for proper and equitable distribution. In the long run, the economic conditions of the country will improve only if we plan our economy in a rational and scientific manner. We are in the midst of preparing our Fourth Five Year Plan. Agriculture is bound to get a high priority. Industry is equally important and the combination of industry and agriculture alone will take the country out of the morass we are in and present a cheering picture before our people.

This is thus a period of travail and of hard labour. We have to make a determined effort as a people to raise ourselves above poverty and misery. It may be obvious, but often we seem to forget that it is not the endeavour of a few people but the hard work of the many that makes the country great and prosperous. We are passing through a new and revolutionary phase in our history and all the people should stand united as one man, as they have done before in the hour of peril. Let us then resolve this day to meet the challenge of our time with fortitude and determination and with a sense of national unity and national purpose. While we must be prepared to meet any situation or to deal with any eventuality, we must not allow our faith in peace and peaceful methods to be dimmed. In fact, peace is of fundamental importance to a country like India that is trying to build herself up economically. But peace is of even greater importance from the point of view of humanity at large. We cannot ignore the real truth that war has ceased to be an event between one country and another; war hereafter will engulf the whole world. Some days ago, I was in Cairo attending the Non-Aligned Nations conference. The basic theme of that Conference also was peace and peaceful co-existence and there we did our best to promote these noble objectives. On this day I invite all my countrymen to join together as brothers and sisters in this great and challenging task of building up a new, awakened and strong India. I ask you to pledge yourselves anew to the dedicated service of our Motherland.”

–By Then Prime Minister of Bharat – Lal Bahadur Shashtri on 19th of October 1964.

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