Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao
You would probably not expect an unsung hero from Indian politics, but Narasimha Rao is truly a forgotten leader and someone who laid the foundation for modern India as we know it. Congress, blind to everything but loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family, does not seem to have done justice in celebrating this leader.
When he became the Prime Minister in 1991, India was in dire straits with alarmingly low forex reserves which would not have lasted for a fortnight. Airlifting 47 tonnes of gold to IMF as guarantee was not particularly a high point in Indian history. In need for bold steps, Rao introduced the industrial delicensing, reduced import duties, liberalized foreign investments and a host of other steps. The rest as they say is history! He appointed Dr. Manmohan Singh as the finance minister and shielded him from all political pressure for what needed to be done was not in alignment with Congress’ principles. In fact, he is also famous for his outburst against Congress leadership when they wanted to elect Sonia Gandhi as party chief in the aftermath of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.
“Why should the Congress party be hitched to the Nehru-Gandhi family like train compartments to the engine?”
While his economic reforms and financial liberalization of India are much talked about, there are also other less spoken facts that make him a true hero.
1. He appointed Dr. Subramanian Swamy as as the Chairman of the Commission on Labour Standards and International Trade, who was an opposition member at the time. This is the only instance where an opposition party member was given a Cabinet ranking post. Political affiliation was secondary to PV, a meritocrat. He also sent Atal Bihari Vajpayee, an astute statesman but belonging to the opposition party to represent India at a UN meeting.
2. He is also credited with being a major influence for the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests and doing so against pressure from the US. Speculation also has it that the tests were planned during his term in 1995.
3. Militancy in the state of Punjab was resolved under his reign. KPS Gill who was appointed the state police chief appreciated Rao’s understanding of Punjab and non-interference in police activities.
4. The Look East policy was developed under his administration which sought to establish India as a heavyweight in Southeast Asia where China already had a strong foothold strategically. The Modi administration has only taken this forward which Modi dubbing it as an evolved “Act East” policy. It’s just testimony to Rao’s foresight.
5. Outside of the political spectrum, Narasimha Rao was also a highly regarded intellectual and scholar. He spoke 17 languages. He was the editor of a weekly Telugu magazine and along with a cousin contributed articles under the pseudonym Jaya-Vijaya. He was put in charge of getting feudal landlords to distribute their land holdings to landless peasants by Indira Gandhi as part of the Land Reforms Act; he gave up most of his inherited estate as well.
It was Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination which got Narasimha Rao back into the limelight; he had almost retired in 1991. Not only is he an improbable hero; but also an unsung one.
Have you seen him? On TV? On DD1? On Tarang?
Do you reminisce anything about him?
Meet Arvind Gupta: The IIT Kanpur Engineer Who Quit His Job At Telco And Began Teaching Science To The Children Of India
When Arvind Gupta quit his job, his mother came to his defence stating ‘good, now he will do something noble with his life’. A prophetic statement from a woman who never had a day of formal education in her life but ensured that her four children excelled academically.
For almost 30 years now, Arvind Gupta has been taking his love for science and learning to the young minds of your country. Gupta has travelled to over 3000 schools, demonstrating captivating science experiments to wide eyed children. What sparks their imagination further is that Gupta uses only everyday garbage as the building blocks of these experiments.
“All teaching aids we use are hand-made. It‘s important for children to see that you don‘t need fancy materials. Science can also help you look critically at materials that are often considered trash, there is a lot of learning in that itself”
An empowering lesson for his pupils who are of limited means. They watch him as he explains phenomenon like light and its laws of convergence & divergence with only used up ball-point pen refills, rubber slippers or empty tetra packs! He also distributes CD’s packed with massive collections of e-books and videos to the schools he visits. Often, these are the only teaching aids they have ever received or used. The keenest minds of our country might be hidden away in a broken down municipality school, in a town we have never heard of. A tryst with Arvind Gupta could open their eyes to endless possibilities and give them the chance to dream, despite their limiting environment.
Gupta’s dedication, perseverance and brilliance have not gone unnoticed. He has been recognized by organizations such as UNESCO, UNICEF, International Toy Research Association, Boston Science Center, Walt Disney Imagineering and Research.
He has received a special award given by the National Association for the Blind for designing teaching aids for pre-school blind children and the Ruchi Ram Sahni Award for science popularization, among others.
“I have an enduring passion for my work because it allows me to reinvent myself. Every child has a dream in their eyes, and each of them instills a hope in me about the future”, he shares.
Thus, not every day do we come across good Samaritans like Gupta who would give their all for the betterment of the society!
In true Gandhian spirit, Gupta signs off all his communication with the words ‘with love and peace’. He certainly lives by them.
Please watch his TED-talk:
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