My Experience of Foundation Day

When I am asked to lay the foundation stone of a building meant to house a public utility department such as the Posts and Telegraphs, my immediate reaction is to accept such an invitation. On such occasions I feel happy, partly because they provide me an opportunity of studying and familiarizing myself with the systematic growth and development of the Government department over many past years, and partly because such an occasion is symbolic of the real progress of the department in question.

The decisions to have adequate and the right type of office accommodation, and to make the necessary budgetary provision for the same, are necessarily important landmarks in the evolution and growth of a department. When we think of the Posts and Telegraphs Department, a whole host of ideas and past associations rush up and jostle for expression, After the Indian Railways, it is the largest public utility service of the Government.

In point of time, the postal and telegraph service may be described as the first nationalized undertaking of the Government, because it was a long back as 1837 that the Government assumed the sole right of conveyance of mail and made the establishment of post offices within the East India Company’s territories necessary before that years, some kind of private postal system was in vogue. All this was banned in 1837, except a few services which ran under Government license.

Introduction of Railway in 1953

The introduction of the Railways in 1853 put the conveyance of mail on a proper footing. In fact, it marked the end of one epoch in the postal history of India and the beginning of another. As I said, the Posts and Telegraphs Department is the second-largest public utility service of the Government. Where the common man is concerned, no other Governmental activity functions as intimately and as extensively as this Department.

The punctual postman going on his rounds all around the year, the long red-colored letterbox standing guard at a familiar corner in a village, the modest hut which serves as a post office all these symbols have a peculiar meaning for everyone in an Indian village. From the earliest times, the postal service has been the most obvious Governmental activity in India.

It Provides banking facilities and thus encourages a sense of thrift among the public. Although conveyance of post was undertaken as a Government monopoly in 1837, it was in 1925 that the Department was commercialized. Till 1947, the year of our independence, the Department has taken long strides in its determinations to provide each village with proper communication facilities.

Experience of Post Office

Over 25,000 posts offices have3 been opened since August 1947, as compared with 20,240 which were already in existence in undivided India. This increase in the number of post offices, stupendous as it is gives, I believe, an idea of the progress that the Posts and Telegraphs Department has made during the last seven years. At present, every village with a population of two thousand or more has been provided with a post office.

Apart from this quantitative expansion in all directions, a good deal of progress has also been made in reducing the time lag and otherwise improving the general service for the benefit of the public. Whenever an occasion for a general review of national progress during the years of Freedom has arisen, I have heard our telecommunication services being mentioned prominently.

I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Communications and the P. and T. Directorate for the amount of goodwill and appreciation they have earned for themselves. The “All UP” Airmail scheme, constituting as it does a unique landmark in the history of mail communication in India; the institution of mobile post offices in urban are3s; the novel “Own Your Phone’ scheme, and the contribution that the Posts and telegraphs Department has made in popularizing the national language these are some of the things which have been greatly appreciated by the public.

The War of Cairo

The war could have been evaded a second time too during the Cairo meeting of the Arab nation.s There also it was possible, the discussions could have been led in that way. But again, the way the President of Egypt conducted the meeting all such possibilities were neutralized. That was about the 12th of August; at that time as I have said it was possible to avoid war.

It was again possible in January itself when the United Nations Secretary-General went to Baghdad and her meeting with both the Foreign Minister and Saddam Hussain. I do not know why his report was not made public then. This report clearly states that Saddam Hussain was willing to listen. And that was willing to listen. And that was my impression also.

Meeting with Saddam Hussain

When I met Saddam Hussain in August as well, I did not think that Saddam Hussain was inflexible. All those who now project that war was foreseeable all that time live in a world, that is far away from reality. All of those who were dealing with diplomacy at one level or the other were not only hoping but also believing that war could be avoided and the lingering problem could be sorted out peacefully. Now we see that it is the peaceful citizens who have suffered and are in the midst of misery. Saying this, I do not mean that in any way India at any stage condoned the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq.

We wanted Kuwait to be evacuated. We are keeping that this problem should be sorted over peacefully. That is why, even while voting in the United Nations every time we said it. The last time when I addressed the United Nations at the end of September, I insisted on it, I said that the problem could be and should be sorted out peacefully. The third aspect that persistently emphasized was that it should be possible to work out a solution to the entire problem of West Asia. This is the three-pronged policy.

Then there was a fourth dimension of it. That dimension was very close to our lists, it was the fate and lot of our fellow citizens living in Kuwait and in Iraq. It is urged here that the Security Council Resolution gave a full mandate to America and allied forces to wage a war against Iraq. That is not true. To go to war is at the bottom of the meaning of the Security Council resolution. In the Security Council meeting, why didn’t our country’s representative work and fight to the last to have peace in Iraq and Kuwait?

Operations Against Iraq

I am told sanctions that were operating against Iraq earlier were giving the result. So, they could have waited for six months another one or two years. It is a ghastly act to see poor children are being killed in Baghdad; there is no milk. Water is polluted, Mahatma Gandhi never thought of this, when at the Asian relations, conference in 1946 non-aligned movement got a new direction. This is a situation to which our representatives who are in the United Nations Security Council have brought this country. It is not correct to say that Security Council has given the mandate to go and finish Saddam.

I was shocked the other day when I heard Mr. Bush saying that Mr. Saddam must go. Has the Security Council resolution authorizing it? No. Coming back to the refueling question, it is really shocking. It is a very sad thing that India being a champion of non-aligned movement and peace, warplanes are allowed to be fueled in India when war has broken out and they are going to be used in the war. I was at Kanpur and I read in a newspaper that Mr. Akbar said that the V.P. Singh Government was responsible for allowing refueling of American planes. I was shocked.

The next day I found that Mr. Akbar said it was a joke. Some pressman asked what would have happened to India if Akbar would have been another Jehangir. I paused for a moment and said “look, come to Lok Sabha and see for yourself what would have happened to India.” This sort of clichés does not pay. Paying to the gallery and gimmicks frustrate the hopes of millions of people of India where non-alignment is their faith. We should be very serious. We should not start having politicking on matters which we all agree and which is our own faith and on which our image is likely to be furnished. I will just make a proposal.

Now a Hon’ble lady member said that Iraq has agreed to withdraw unconditionally. I am very happy if Saddam Hussain has really done it. 

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