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Essence of freedom: India’s choice of left, right or in-between

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By Sagar Sethi

More than thousands of tri-coloured souls assemble at Red Fort every year on the fifteen of August to satiate their nationalistic spirits. This Independence Day wasn’t any different, but what if, by some ‘tryst with destiny’ one of us could go back in time for a short while; say, for five minutes, and exchange a few words with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru after he raised the Indian national flag for the first time above the Lahori Gate of the Red fort?

Apart from what this person could ask Nehru, one thing that he should not, would be about the leader’s ‘socialism’. Nehru would not have given you a straight answer. In his autobiography, Nehru himself referred to his socialism as something not floating in air, but as a resolution which even “a capitalistic state could easily accept”. A socialism which could serve the interests of the ‘rich and powerful’ in this country while aiming at a substantive redistribution of resources, belonging to the rich and powerful, among all the citizens of an India which was, and still is, predominantly poor; seems too unrealistic in the first place.

Why did Nehru choose ‘democracy’ for India?

Perhaps one could ask him, why he picked ‘democracy’ for a country which at the time of Independence was not a developed economy, neither industrialized and nowhere close to ethnic homogeneity, the three stipulated preconditions for an electoral democracy?

JNU Professor Jayati Ghosh in an NDTV panel debate stated that we are ignoring Nehru’s vision at our own cost. She further added that there are three Nehruvian strategies that are very relevant today.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Grace M. Morley standing under the Mandapa in Wood Carving Gallery of the National Museum

Firstly, the Nehruvian model of a mixed economy where the government controlled public sector would co-exist with the private. His model of planning with a vision (referring to the Planning Commission), and lastly Nehru’s continued emphasis on creating centers of excellence like IIT.

In the light of these strategies, it becomes very clear that Nehru insisted on installing democracy in India as an instrument to accomplish his socialist goals and aspirations.

The focus then must shift to the Nehruvian concept of socialism.

Was Nehruvian Socialism different from actual Socialism?

While some argue that Nehruvian socialism was concrete in idea, but vacillate in practice. There are others who claim that it was not socialism at all, rather it was Nehru’s realism in the garb of socialism.

While these criticisms arise from general notions that the Nehruvian concept of socialism did not prove successful in India, there is an eminent writer Atul Kohli who begs to differ.

He writes in his The Success of India’s Democracy that ‘the political impact of these twin tendencies’ (and by that he refers to the rhetoric of Nehru’s socialist redistribution, and the conservatism behind its practice), ‘may well have been benign, strengthening democracy.’  

The reason, he says, is that this kind of socialism was able to serve the interests of the powerful – be it propertied classes, or political factions – while including the poor in its political processes activated by a democratic setup. But is democracy not a valued end in itself? Then how did Nehru expect it to bring about socialism? The resolve to this quandary may lie within Nehru’s decision to embrace bureaucracy, as warned by German sociologist Max Weber, turned Nehruvian socialism into a form of stifling statism – a scenario where the State excessively dominates the politics of the country.

It is at this juncture that we must remind ourselves of the poor socio-economic situation that prevailed in India at the time of Independence and how difficult it may have been to communicate socialist ideals to the people at large.

Moreover, his views on socialism were deeply imbued by some tenets of Buddhist philosophy.  Savya Sachi in Nehru’s Conception of Socialism opines that Nehru’s views on socialism were based on the Buddhist idea ‘of the sense and dignity of man.’ Many political theorists have agreed with this contention when they argue that Nehru’s dignified humanity was what prevented him from coercively implementing his socialist plan.

It then seems possible to conclude that Nehru was a socialist in heart, and maybe his limbs operated democratically in reverse.

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Low Cure Rate For Childhood Cancer in India: Experts

On International Childhood Cancer Day, the hospital organised a ‘Sit and Draw competition’ with pediatric patients and rewarded the winner

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Health insurance covers only for hospitalization and doesn’t necessarily cover the medical expenses incurred for the treatment of major illnesses. flickr

Childhood cancer comprises almost 3-5 per cent of the total cancer cases in India, experts said here on Friday, expressing concern over the low cure rate due to lack of available data.

“The disturbing reality is that the cure rate of pediatric cancer is almost 80 per cent in the developed countries. When we see the data from major cancer centres, it actually can match up to the Western standard but this data is not enough,” Haemato-Oncologist Vivek Agarwala said at an awareness programme conducted by Narayana Superspecialty Hospital, Howrah.

According to the Indian Council for Medical Research, cancer in children constitutes approximately 3-5 per cent of the total cancer cases in India.

Agarwala said a large portion of the incidence of childhood cancer in society is still not addressed.

Cancer survivor. Flickr

Also, a large section who don’t have access to premier institutes are often diagnosed late due to financial crunch and that is why the overall treatment rate in India is low.

“Probably, the government and society at large are not considering it a big problem as it is just around 5 per cent. We are always campaigning for breast and cervical cancers,” Agarwala said.

“We must remember this 5 per cent of cancer is majorly curable if given proper treatment,” he said.

Leukaemia and retinoblastoma (a form of cancer where children have a white eye) are the two common forms of cancer in children.

Also Read- Push-ups Can Lower The Risk of Heart Diseases

Talking about awareness and symptoms that parents need to watch out for, he said: “Symptoms are different for different cancers, but children who have cancer have poor growth, poor weight gain and decreased appetite. One must get their children evaluated on seeing these symptoms”.

On International Childhood Cancer Day, the hospital organised a ‘Sit and Draw competition’ with pediatric patients and rewarded the winner. (IANS)