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Peace and Development

Tuesday 8 May 2007, by K S Duggal


Born during World War-I and entering active life, after my University education, during World War-II, no wonder I felt virtually scorched. I have, therefore, cherished peace all my life. At one time a peace-campaigner as an activist of the Afro-Asian Writers Association, serving on the Editorial Board of Lotus, its literary organ brought out in English, French and Arabic, I have a sheaf of writings on peace as theme including a great deal talked about in a collection of Short Stories entitled Larai Nahin (War No More) which brought me the coveted Hindi Sansthan’s Gangasaran Award, by the President of India and the prestigious Soviet Land Nehru Award.

Be that as it may, there is no dearth of those who genuinely believe that conflict generates developmental activity, war ushers in development in a big way. For did it not introduce the nuclear weapon which brought an abrupt end to fighting during World War-II? Not only this, it has acted as a deterrent all these days, saving humanity from another catastrophic fighting.
Accordingly, there has been a rat-race among the developed countries for equipping their arsenals with nuclear devices. India, too, was not to be left behind. With the implosion at Pokhran, we gatecrashed into the exclusive nuclear club, notwithstanding our starving millions, rampant, illiteracy, utter want of basic amenities like water and sanitation. It is believed that the number of nuclear warheads stored in the world arsenals today can wipe out the universe many times over and render our planet inhabitable for good. And this can happen any moment. A freak, an accident, a misunderstanding can bring about the disaster. The entire humanity is at the mercy of the nuclear toy with which the modern man has started playing.

But why decry only a nuclear warhead? Did it need an atomic bomb to kill Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest soul of our times? An ordinary, country-made weapon did the abominable job.

All conflict is detestable. Man needs peace. Peace makes for genuine development. We deceive ourselves calling our War Office as Ministry of Defence. The other day Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was done to death by those designated for her defence.

No war. All conflict is abominable. Real development consists in peace and harmony. It elevates man, leads to lasting development in society. Ushers in the proverbial Ram Rajya.


LET me illustrate what I wish to say at a more subtle level, in the context of the life of Shri P. N. Haksar whose contribution in ushering in a resurgent India during Indira Gandhi’s regime is recognised in all quarters.
Principal Private Secretary in the Prime Minister’s office (PMO), it is believed in all quarters that Shri Haksar virtually guided the destiny of the nation as a confident of Mrs Gandhi. Then came their differences during the Emergency that Mrs Gandhi had ill-advisedly clamped on the country. These were precipitated because of the conflict between the Prime Minister’s son, Sanjay Gandhi, and Shri Haksar.

This conflict shattered the peace in the PMO and led to Shri Haksar’s transfer to the Planning Commission. It was in the Yojana Bhavan that I came across Shri Haksar for the first time as one of the Planning Commission Advisers.

Evidently the happening was highly ill-omened. I was known as having been hand-picked by D.P. Dhar whom Shri Haksar had replaced. Not only this. Mrs Gandhi whom he had alienated was said to be fond of me. She thought highly of my performance. Entrusted odd personal assignments to me. Haksar Saheb would have nothing to do with me. He doted on my predecessor who had been found wanting and shifted to another office. After taking over as the new Deputy Chairman, he met all the Advisers; my turn would not come. A stage came when it could be avoided no more. He sent for me and said, “You know I was looking after the XP Division once upon a time. I hardly need any advice in regard to Plan publicity. What I expect you to do is to keep the journalists away from me. No one should come to see me.” And my briefing session with the new chief was over. That was the only time I met Shri Haksar in his chamber.

As Adviser Information, I had my own concept of Plan publicity. I believed that people’s participation was the sanction behind a Plan. This had to be ensured. As a first step, I had the Fifth Plan Approach Paper translated into all the regional languages of the country and published for distribution in thousands. (Mrs Gandhi saw the set of 15 titles and was thrilled.) I organised a book exhibition on planning in AIFACS galleries inaugurated by D. P. Dhar, the then Minister, Planning. I proposed a planning ‘float’ for the forthcoming Republic Day parade (which Shri Haksar scotched after he took over). I persuaded Dr Bipin Chandra, the eminent historian, to write for us the history of planning in India. (This, too, was buried by the new Deputy Chairman.) I changed the format and even the colour of the Fifth Five Year Plan volume (Mrs Gandhi had a say in it). It no more had the look of a government publication. I had the then Ministry of Education revive Planning Forums in the universities and colleges throughout the country and arranged to feed them regularly with developmental publicity literature by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s Audio-Visual Publicity Unit. I planned a series of broadcasts by Akashvani and Doordarshan on the Fifth Five Year Plan, its targets and strategies for their achievement etc.

As Advisor Information I used to plan developmental publicly on a quarterly basis for the entire country, including Central and State media publicity outfits. These proposals were discussed with the Information and Broadcasting media heads at a meeting presided over by the Minister, Information and Broadcasting. Finally the outlay was put up to the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission for his blessings and then circulated for implementation. For the forthcoming quarter that year I decided upon nationwide publicity for Mrs Gandhi’s Twenty-Point Programme. The proposals were discussed as usual in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry meeting, finalised and put up to the Deputy Chairman. Normally it didn’t take more than a day for the file to return to me. Here, a week, ten days had passed and the file was still on Shri Haksar’s table. It was no use my reminding his Private Secretary whom I found tight-lipped ever. My direct telephone line with the Deputy Chairman lay silent on my table. Shri Haksar never used it ever since he took over, nor had I ever the need for it. It was nearing the time when the proposals had to be circulated for implementation during the forthcoming quarter and there was yet no news about the file. Then I learnt being whispered in the corridors of the Yojana Bhavan that the Twenty-Point Programme was not a Planning Commission Programme, we had nothing to do with it. I never saw the face of my Twenty-Point Programme publicity proposals file.

A few days later a communication came from our Mission in Rome inviting a delegate from India to participate in an international seminar being held in Milano on people’s participation in developmental activity. The office asked my consent to participate in it. I had no objection. In fact Shri D.P. Dhar wished me to visit a number of countries in Europe to study the techniques of developmental publicity when I was to accompany the Planning Commission delegation to Moscow. The proposal had to be dropped because our missions in Europe could not make arrangements for my visit in time and I went with the delegation to Moscow direct. The office linked the invitation from Rome with the earlier proposal and put it up to the Deputy Chairman for his approval. Shri Haksar took not a moment to turn it down. The file was on my table for my information when I returned after lunch.

I had, as a matter of fact, already superannuated during D.P. Dhar’s regime. He, however, insisted that since my performance as Adviser Information had been “outstanding”, I should be given extension for a year, Mrs Gandhi was too pleased to agree.

With no work for the Adviser Information in Yojana Bhavan, fortunately the period of my extension was drawing close and I decided to quit.
There was an elaborate farewell which the Deputy Chairman could not attend due to preoccupation. I met all the members of the Planning Commission individually and took their leave. Every time I asked for a meeting with Shri Haksar, I found him busy. Eventually, I left the Yojana Bhavan for good without seeing the chief.


SEVERAL years passed before I came across Haksar Saheb, courtesy my friend Rashpal Malhotra. It happened that as the Chairman of the Centre for Rural and Industrial Development, Haksar Saheb was not happy with the get up of its quarterly journal Man and Development. He wanted someone to redo its look. As I had served as the Director, National Book Trust, Rashpal invited me to help. I suggested changes in its format, character and display of lettering of the title cover, change in fonts of the text and even the monogram which had the look of a spider. When my proposals were shown to Haksar Saheb, he was delighted and, except my suggestion regarding change in the Centre’s monogram, he accepted all that I had proposed. As regard the monogram, he is said to have remarked, “Nobody changes one’s identity because of its looks.”

As a member of ‘Rashpal’s Institute’, as the CRID came to be known, I came close and closer to Haksar Saheb until a stage came when I was treated like a member of the family. My wife, Ayesha, and I visited him occasionally. We asked him over for a dinner. He was too glad to come and spent an evening with us along with a galaxy of Punjabi intellectuals and eminent journalists like Nikhil Chakravartty, V. N. Narayanan, the then Editor-in-chief, The Tribune and others. Towards the close of his life, Haksar Saheb developed trouble with his eyes. Nevertheless he was determined to record his memoirs. He had already dictated a good bit. He gave me the typed script and asked me to have a look at it before he sent it to the press.

I was too glad to do the needful. I enjoyed reading about the early days of his struggle in life, his surreptitious meetings with the lady who was destined to be his wife and the rest. This assignment brought us much too close. We met in his Shanti Niketan house frequently.

Then one evening as I handed over to him the final instalment of the TS, he said, “But Kartar, where were you during my Planning Commission years?” I heard it with moist eyes. Peace is bliss indeed. n

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