Even Her Critics Recognise Her Patriotism, Staunch Secularism, Empathy for Poor: Sonia on Indira Gandhi


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Senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi on Saturday said former prime minister Indira Gandhi left an indelible mark on the country and even her critics recognise her commitment to “all-inclusive patriotism, her staunch secularism’ and empathy for the poor.

The former Congress president was speaking at an event to present the 2021 Indira Gandhi prize for peace, disarmament, and development. She said those who have received the award have exemplified the values Indira Gandhi cherished, the ideals she espoused, and the causes she championed.

The award was given to ‘Pratham’, a non-governmental organisation working for providing quality education to all children.

“Every once in a while institutions and organisations too are recognised for their contributions in areas very close to her (Indira Gandhi’s) heart. Today is one such occasion,” Sonia Gandhi said.

The prize was presented by former vice president M Hamid Ansari to the NGO for its pioneering work over more than 25 years towards seeking to ensure every child has access to quality education, for its innovative use of digital technology to deliver education, for its programmes to provide skills to young adults and for its regular evaluation of the quality of education and timely response in enabling children to learn during the Covid-related school closures.

“Indira Gandhi left an indelible imprint on our country. She continues to be applauded and admired for her numerous achievements.

“Even her critics recognise that there was an unchanging core to her personality, that defined who she was and what she did – that is, her fierce commitment to an all-inclusive patriotism; her staunch secularism; her indomitable courage and fortitude; her empathy for the poor and instinctive rapport with the people,” she said.

“Her unwavering support to self-reliance in all fields, especially in science and technology; her firm belief in the value of education as an instrument of social emancipation and empowerment; and her passionate conviction in environmental conservation and protection of biodiversity, even as India strove for a faster pace of economic growth,” the former Congress chief said.

Sonia Gandhi, who is the chairperson of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust and Chairperson, said Indira Gandhi would have been pleased that this prize for 2021 is recognising work done in the field of education.

“As she once said, ‘Education is a means to place at the service of common people scientific and other knowledge that is acquired, and not just a means of earning a livelihood’. Literacy, she stressed frequently, is not enough; she quoted Swami Vivekananda’s exhortation that what is important is not what one knows, but what one becomes, and I quote, ‘We must have life-building, man-making, character-making education.” “Right education transforms the small into the great,” Sonia Gandhi said, quoting the former prime minister.

She said ‘Pratham’ is a remarkable institution that in less than thirty years has made a name for itself in the field of education, not only in India but globally as well.

She said it has achieved much in making school education more meaningful and impactful. It has brought new thinking not only in pedagogy but also in monitoring and evaluating as an aid to improve learning outcomes, she said.

Its reports and analysis have influenced public discourse on primary and secondary education in different states where its engagement has offered a very productive example of public-private partnerships, the former Congress chief said.

“Indira Gandhi having spent a year at Shantiniketan herself was alive to the need for innovation in education, which she strove for during her tenure as Prime Minister. We are glad, very glad, in fact, that the prize is being received on behalf of Pratham by Dr Rukmini Banerji.

“I congratulate Pratham on behalf of all of you too and I hope the prize that celebrates Indira Gandhi will provide renewed impetus to the work of Dr. Banerji and her colleagues at Pratham in the future,” Gandhi said.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot were also present at the function, besides a host of other Congress leaders.

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