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Inaugural Address – Pandit Nehru

ON 16-09-1960

inaugMr. Chairman, Your Highness, Chief Minister and Friends.

I think it was Dr. Benjamin just speaking, who mentioned a case of a doctor who sent him a letter offering a patient for this institute. Well, more or less I was in the same state of blissful ignorance as to what the institute was. In fact coming here even this morning I tried to enlighten myself by enquiring about it.

When I promised to come here I promised to do so because well, I am interested in this fight against tuberculosis. At the same time there was nothing exciting about it. But when I heard the real purpose of this institute, then it struck me that this was as has been said, something unique and something far more important. If I may say so, than some institute or a hospital for treating patients. And now that you have established it, it seems the obvious thing to have done, to approach this question this way rather than picking up cases here and there and trying to treat them.

One of the speakers-was it – Dr. Mani, I think said that it is impossible to treat millions of cases, hospitalize them, that way, obviously so. You have to adopt some different techniques, some different strategy of approach. Now when you deal with vast numbers of people that strategy must take into consideration two factors. One is, first thing of course is, to have a strategy. The second, trained people understanding that strategy who will carry the message to others. The third is, and it is very important, the mass of the people co-operating with that – large numbers, not, apart from your trained people, I mean, large numbers of the people in the country co-operating with that in some measure. If they are in a sense, if you like, just opposed to it, then all the trained people in the world would not do much good. If, as is more likely, they are just inert, not opposed to it, but not enthusiastic about it, then progress will not doubt be made, but slowly. Therefore the question comes of roping them in, if I may say so, making them understand that it is something worth while and for their good. To use a phrase which I do not quite like, it is the public relations approach. I do not think of it in the normal public relations way. But nevertheless it is a very important approach that if you go and sit in a village, that the village elders and Panches and the Panchayats should understand what you are doing and co-operate with you and explain it to the other village folk. That applies to any major undertaking, to get – when you tackle big social problems – you must get, well, to some extent the approval and the co-operation of large masses of people. Otherwise you are simply functioning in narrow spheres.

Now, in someone’s speech, mention was made,. I think it was Dr. Benjamin’s, about the Community Development schemes, That is to say there was some hint about getting co-operation from the Community Development movement. I was glad to hear mention that because this Community Development movement, as you perhaps know, is a very wide spread movement covering today – I get the exact number – but certainly over 3000,000 villages in India, out of about 550,000 about 60 percent of the villages and the population is covered today. I do not mean to say that is covered in as good a way as it should be. They vary ; some do it well, others are not done well, and others are right at the beginning. But there is at any rate an organization spread out to get over large parts of the country and which will, not doubt, cover every village in the course of the next few years. Now, if you get the support of that organization not at the top, I mean, but rather on the village level immediately you get something which you cannot duplicate. You cannot obviously have any kind of thing working all over India and every village. And further something that is happening in India today, again, which is of high importance is the shift, an attempt to shift authority, to the village councils, the Panchayats and the like and they are likely to become pivots of all kinds of activities, in the village. Now if you can get hold of the Panchayats again you have got something very important, for through them you can approach the public generally. This applies to rural areas chiefly. So I would submit for your consideration that apart from the specially technical work which you do, for which you have been trained and for which this institute will train people, that this approach of getting people to co-operate with you in masses through these existing organizations or those that are coming in to being that is the Community Development movement and the Panchayat movement both of which will touch every village in India becomes highly important. You have got fine drugs, and all that, and yet as some one said this morning, ultimately, probably, it is a question of good feeding and sanitation which will go a very long way, which is feeding and sanitation will be the foremost foundation, Then, again, I am very glad to note that not only the World Health Organization but UNICEF is taking an intimate part in helping this. Because I do feel that whatever we can do, we should do, in various sectors of our population. But I think more and more attention should be paid to child, and if you pay that attention after all you are paying attention to tomorrow’s grown up. While if you do not pay attention to the child today well, you have the problem being repeated every time as he grows up, he grows up may be in an unhealthy state, bad habits bad this and that. So I am glad UNICEF is there to remind this organization of the importance of the child. We all, in a sense of course, realize that. Well, every family, every mother, every father, realizes it. But realization is coming gradually. There is a little more reference to it I think, in the drafted Third Five Year Plan than there was previously, because I do attach great great importance to this because if you teach the child good habits and try to create an environment, good food and all that, then you have struck a fatal blow at disease. Then again, I am not sure what they are doing in the State of Mysore about children in schools. But in the neighbouring State of Madras, they have got a wonderful scheme called – a school improvement scheme or (mi-day meal) – mid-day meal, has extended into school improvement – much bigger now. It really is an amazingly find scheme which started giving mid-day meals to children, now they given all kind of things, other things too – and largely through public co-operation, the whole basis of the scheme is public co-operation. Governmental help of course. You cannot do these things in a big way without large scale public co-operation. That fact has to be remembered in whatever thing one may undertake. In fact, we go a little further and try to push out the Government official, from many of the things that are being done like the Panchayat which just do not want the Government official to try to boss it, like the village co-operative. We don’t want the Government official even though he may be competent to come and boss it, Because we want to develop the feeling of doing things for themselves, self-reliance – they may make mistake and all that – but they grow in the process. Of course, the Government official or the expert is there to advise them and to help them but not to boss over them as normally he tends to do it himself quickly instead of allowing others to argue about it, not to do anything. Nevertheless we have come to this definite conclusion that the Government official should be kept at arms length, wherever possible and should only be allowed to advise, to help and we are prepared to take the rick of the Panchayat or the co-operative going wrong occasionally. We will try to sent it right afterwards, than for it never to know how to go wrong or right. Because we want to develop this spirit of self-reliance and co-operation. I know very well that people in villages or for the matter of that people in very high circles, have a tendency to quarrel amongst themselves. That is unfortunate. Nevertheless, they can only get over it by trial and error.

So I welcome this, this institution, this new institute that is being started. And it is, if I may say so, with all deference, exactly the kind of thing which vaguely I had thought of, without knowing the people who know much more about this were actually going to do it. And so I welcome it all the more and wish it success.