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 Post subject: Chadwick Tagore Lecture
 Post Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:35 pm 
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Chadwick Tagore Lecture
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, may I say how honoured I am to be invited to present this Chadwick Tagore lecture tonight. It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to conduct this highly esteemed and distinguished event at this venue of University Central Lancashire on this very special occasion of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Indian sub-continent.

Because I have a strict time limit, without a further do I wish to commence the Chadwick Tagore lecture with a poem of the great scholar and maestro himself the Rabindranath Tagore.

Where the mind is without fear and the head id held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, let our minds awake.

India is the epitome of British colonialism. India as it was during the colonial rule and in the history before that, now consists of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The next important country in the Indian sub-continent is Sri Lanka which was known as Ceylon during the British colonial rule and for several decades afterwards.

Independence was the yearned goal, exigency of the Indian sub-continent in the first half of the 20th century. The struggle for independence in India was marked by violence, bloodshed and peaceful negotiation as preached and practiced by Mahatma Ghandi. Independence is the realm of natural freedom that embodies emancipation from the feeling of oppression, suppression, exclusion, and the impacts of usurp by a foreign or alien ruler. On the other hand the benefits of infrastructure, economic and institutional development in the Indian sub-continent by the British colonial rule offset the social disbenefits undergone by the native populace. It is the antiquated economic policies that disregard the modern socio-economic values of equity, freedom, redistribution and resource allocation, that fail to strike a plausible balance of national economic benefits and the social disbenefits. Besides, colonialism stifles the national identity, language, religion and cultural values and aspirations. These cultural aspirations and values are the forces that drive the urge for independence.

What follows independence globally as manifested particularly in the African continent is tribal warfare, that retards the economy and debilitates the well-being of the nation. It is quite a precarious passage that independent countries have to steer in order to achieve economic goals while striving to maintain social harmony and cultural aspirations. The pious hopes of independence in harmony become a dream or a nightmare. In the British empire when the British granted independence and during the colonial rule, the British acted with a modicum of grace towards the minorities of these colonies. On this pious consideration, at the time of independence India became two nations and, Ali Jinnah formed Pakistan of Muslim minority of India. However, after several decades the political momentum for autonomy of East Pakistan geographically disjoined by India, flared into a war with Pakistan and led to the emergence of independent nation of Bangladesh. Considering the extreme ethnic diversity in forbearance, we can regard that India has experienced the least of post-independence trauma of warfare. The disturbance in Cashmere and the State of Assam are serious incidents of dissent and separatism.

In the neighbouring Sri Lanka the situation is unfortunately ominous and out of proportion to its size, than in the rest of the Indian sub-continent. Being a small island with a Tamil minority including the imported now naturalized Indian plantation labour force consisting of less than 15 percent of the island’s population, and many of them dispersed throughout the land, the community leaders of then Ceylon, campaigned for and received independence peacefully as one nation nurturing the values of democracy. However, since independence, despite high literacy rate enjoyed, partisan factions of Tamil minority in spite of the decentralized regional government democracy, disillusioned by post independence socio-political dynamics have taken up the tribal war path to reach their aspirations. A misguided faction of Sinhalese majority also has engaged in a campaign of terrorism and economic sabotage, facing evil consequences. This chronicle begs the debasing question, is independence a mirage or an oasis.

At this point I wish to digress into a topical theme of public health in the slums. In large cities nearly half the population lives in crowded shanties and slums. Overcrowdedness, filth and squalor pose a threat to the public health engendering a sanitary crisis. The pace of urban expansion and the accompanying public health risks in the developing world charcaterise the process from its historical precursor in Europe. Low agricultural prices, debt, flood or drought disasters, and ethnic war drive people off the land. Many squatter settlements are shanties and slums in crannies and nooks on the urban river and canal banks subject to flooding, and without sanitation, water supply and drainage.

Many of the deaths and disease in urban slums are associated with diarrhoeal disease and infections stemming from poor hygiene and sanitation. Dengue fever, enteric fever, malaria, filaria, and tuberculosis are endemic. Diseases of biblical scourge like pneumonic plague and others do linger.

The city of Calcutta founded by Charnock in the 17th century was the early capital of India. In Calcutta nearly 60 per cent live in only one room. About 75 per cent share lavatories with other families. In the slums only 2 per cent of the families have lavatories or tap water. Many of the migrants from rural areas, living in abject poverty in slums give birth to children who grow up, live, and die on the hard pavements, and are picked up with the garbage. Philanthropists like Mother Theresa and Father Laborde have strived in the ghettos not in vain.

In the garden city of Colombo the ghetto culture expands with self-help improvements. Busses are overcrowded, bursting and spilling through doors and windows, and myriad of these stifle the streets. While the cripple beg on streets, prostitutes take a nap on the pavements during the day. On a moonlit night on the bank of Beira lake near the central station I listened to the lively music of ghetto band in the early hours of morning entertaining a stranded crowd of passengers waiting for transport next day.

Note: This discourse is a theatrical monologue and not an organized formal lecture on the heading. It is a dramatised act as a part of an amateur gig company. Anand 1997.


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