Abu Dhabi/Dubai: Expatriates from India in the UAE turned out in their hundreds yesterday to celebrate the nation’s 64th Republic Day.
The Republic Day commemorates the adoption of the constitution of India in 1950. January 26 stands for the day in 1930 when the Declaration of Indian Independence was passed.
The official celebrations saw M.K. Lokesh, India’s ambassador to the UAE, unfurling India’s Tricolour to the tune of the national anthem and consul general Sanjay Verma hoisting the Indian flag in Dubai, at the Indian High School.
Both the events began with the diplomats extending their greetings to all Indian expatriates and reading out the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to the nation on the occasion, followed by cultural programmes.
In his speech, Mukherjee said it was time for the nation to reset its moral compass. “On our 64th Republic Day, there may be some reason for concern, but none for despair,” he said alluding to the rape and murder of a young medical student that shook the nation’s collective conscience, about tensions along the Line of Control and about violence by Maoist rebels.
Outlining India’s achievements over the past six decades, Mukherjee said the economic growth rate has more than tripled and the literacy rate quadrupled, in addition to significant reduction in the incidence of poverty. India had also become a net exporter of foodgrain after attaining self-sufficiency and made big strides in terms of gender equality, he said.
He also highlighted the role of education in eliminating the gaps that lead to social inequality.
Addressing the gathering in Dubai, consul general Sanjay Verma called on the expatriate community, especially the youth, to play their part in the nation-building process. “India is going through great social, political and economic change. The change is going to be faster than ever before, which means we have more to do in the coming years, we have to be a part of the nation-building process,” he said.
Verma urged youngsters to read the Indian constitution to understand what the nation hopes to achieve and also to take pride in what they represent.
Expatriates also found the occasion just right to focus on some of the main challenges India faces today, including the protection of women’s rights and the need to root out corruption.
“Corruption is the most worrying issue for me. Corrupt politicians should be kept out of the election process, and should never be allowed to be part of our governing bodies,” said Stany Gonsalves.
Vidya Ram also urged action on corruption. “It should be stubbed from the grass root levels,” she said.
Kiran Furtado spoke about the need to shed pretences. “We have lots of hypocrisies which we should get out from. We say we are a democracy, but are we? We talk about women’s rights, but do we have them? We say we have the best educated, but do these brains stay in India? We speak of religious tolerance, but how much of this do we see in our society?” she asked. “Once we get out of these hypocrisies, we can identity what we really want to achieve and set a direction for the youth to follow.”
Protection of women was the burning issue for Anurag Tiwari. “Education alone can guarantee better rights for women across all levels of the society,” he said.