The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, chaired the first meeting of the National Committee for the Commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, at Rashtrapati Bhavan today (May 2, 2018). The Committee has a total of 125 members, including 116 from India and encompasses the President (as chair), the Vice-President, Prime Minister, Union Ministers, former Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers, senior MPs and political leaders from across party lines, and eminent Gandhians, social thinkers and activists representing a cross-section of Indian society and regional diversity. The Committee also has nine international members, including two former Secretaries General of the United Nations – Mr Kofi Annan and Mr Ban Ki-moon – and Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former US Vice-President Al Gore. Today’s meeting was attended by 82 members of the Committee, including two from abroad. [Lists of Committee members and of those who attended are attached.
The meeting began with introductory remarks by the Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh, who said that the focus of the Commemoration should be to present Gandhian values and principles both to the people and through the people in a contemporary idiom. He then invited the President of India to address the meeting.
In his speech, President Kovind stressed that Mahatma Gandhi does not belong to India alone. He remains one of India’s greatest gifts to humankind and his name finds resonance across the continents. Mahatma Gandhi was the most influential Indian of the 20th century. He was the inspiration for our largely non-violent, inclusive and democratic freedom struggle. He remains the ethical benchmark against which we test public men and women, political ideas and government policies, and the hopes and wishes of our country and our people. His legacy is so rich and so wide that we cannot do justice to it if we were to meet for a few days, let alone a few hours.
The President said that the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is more than a celebration of a great life and a remembrance of history. Gandhiji himself would have wanted it to be a moment of renewal, of making a fresh commitment to the goals of a just, honest and fair society – at home and abroad. The Mahatma is our past, he is our present and he is also our future. So many of the themes and ideas he spoke and wrote of – some of them far ahead of their time – are even more relevant today.The President said that when we work for an India free of caste and religious prejudice, we invoke Gandhiji. When we strive towards Swachh Bharat, and a cleaner and more hygienic India, we invoke Gandhiji. When we speak of the rights of women and children and of civil liberties of small and disadvantaged groups, we invoke Gandhiji. When we talk of the health and well-being of the Indian farmer and the Indian village, we invoke Gandhiji. When we strive for energy access for the last village and the last home, we invoke Gandhiji. When we build capacities in solar and renewable energy, we invoke Gandhiji. When we battle climate change and promote green, eco-friendly living, we invoke Gandhiji. And what is sustainable development if not an expansion of Gandhiji’s simple mantra: “The earth has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.”
The President said that it is for this reason that the 150th Birth Anniversary Commemoration has world-wide meaning. Let us elevate this to a global celebration, using platforms such as the United Nations and other multilateral organisations. The focus should not just be on events, but on tangible, actionable legacies that will make a difference to the lives of ordinary people – wherever they may be.
The President then called upon those present to share their ideas and suggestions on how we may commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Following the President’s address, several Committee members, including Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and others, made suggestions on how the Commemoration – which will run from October 2, 2018 to October 2, 2020 – could be planned. Suggestions ranged from welfare programmes and specific measures to help farmers, to travelling exhibitions and creating infrastructure and linkages in specific locations and states associated with Mahatma Gandhi.
Since it would not be feasible for the entire National Committee to be convened frequently, the meeting resolved to set up a smaller Executive Committee, headed by the Prime Minister, to take forward the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji.
Encapsulating the sense of the meeting, the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, thanked various members of the Committee for their constructive suggestions and recommendations. He said it is important that this occasion be celebrated in a manner that ensures Mahatma Gandhi continues to be an inspiration for future generations. Globally as well, this occasion should serve to increase awareness about Gandhiji, he said.
The Prime Minister stressed that all programmes associated with this celebration should be designed around the theme of “Karyanjali” – or “Gandhi in action”. He expressed happiness that the suggestions received today were mostly action-oriented. The Prime Minister said that Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings are timeless. He said that Mahatma Gandhi can become a mechanism for people around the world to understand India. He felt that solutions to several contemporary problems could be found by following the path shown by Mahatma Gandhi.
The Prime Minister emphasised the need to use technology in the celebrations, so that the whole world can take note and participate. He called for the celebrations to move beyond government events and take the shape of a mass movement – or Jan Bhagidaari. He also urged all state governments to have similar consultations and draw plans at the state level.
Please click here to access the Speech of the President
Please click here to access the list of Committee members
Please click here to access the list of Participants