Our moral universe is shrinking: Sonia Gandhi

Friday, November 19, 2010

NEW DELHI - Congress president Sonia Gandhi Friday promised a “new architecture of social provisioning” for India and emphasised the need to address some paradoxes where businesses and economy were thriving but graft and greed were also on the rise.

“We are right to celebrate our high rate of economic growth. We must do all that we can to sustain it. However, let us not forget that growth is not an end in itself,” Gandhi said at the start of the 10th Indira Gandhi Conference evocatively titled An Indian Social Democracy: Integrating Markets, Democracy and Social Justice.

“Our economy may increasingly be dynamic, but our moral universe seems to be shrinking. Prosperity has increased, but so has social conflict. Intolerance of various kinds is growing. Graft and greed are on the rise,” she said in her address to a select audience on the verdant lawns of Teen Murti House, that is now the Nehru Museum and had been the residence of the nation’s first prime minister.

Gandhi, who was speaking for the first time at a public function along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since the Supreme Court remarks on the spectrum allocation corruption scandal, lamented at the deterioration of values at every walk of life.

“The principles on which independent India was founded, for which a generation of great leaders fought and sacrificed their all, are in danger of being negated,” she said at the event, coinciding with the 93rd birth anniversary of late prime minister Indira Gandhi, her mother-in-law.

Gandhi, accordingly, called for a coherent social democratic agenda based on rights and entitlements, and not charity.

“The Right to Information, The Right to Work, the Right to Education, and the proposed Right to Food Security, represent a landmark shift in our approach to issues of welfare and human development. A new architecture of social provisioning is being put in place (by the government).”

Gandhi said no social democracy was possible without a thriving and dynamic business sector generating wealth and hoped the swelling ranks of India’s wealthy will inspire others to follow their example.

“There is a new spirit of entrepreneurship, a new awakening of enterprise in India, it needs to be encouraged. But surely, it is in the interest of business to be a major partner in promoting social objectives and caring for the environment,” she said.

“Some corporate leaders stand out for their dedicated engagement in purposeful and meaningful philanthropy,” she said and urged the increasing rank of India’s millionaires to try and follow their example to bridge the country’s social inequity.

Gandhi, who is also chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), said the issue of fairness was equally important in any democratic society, with equal opportunities in education, health care and skills.

“This is not a matter of choice. It is a known fact that unequal societies cannot achieve their full potential or even sustain a high level of growth indefinitely. In other words, islands of prosperity in a sea of deprivation can only give rise to storms of conflict and instability,” she said.

“But the story of India’s contrasts is well known: Ability, aspiration and achievement coexist with injustice, inequity and inequality. We have more millionaires than ever before, alongside millions who struggle for two square meals a day.”

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