I had the opportunity of having a close look at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru addressing the vast audience that filled the ground from Jama Masjid on the left to Chandni Chowk in front and the road leading to Kashmiri Gate on the right.
The vast audience used to be spellbound by Prime Minister Nehru, who dwelt on the tasks that lay ahead for the country, relations with our neighbours, international events, and told the audience, which was the whole nation, what to expect from the government and what he expected from the people.
Many years later, I had the privilege of watching Prime Ministers who followed Jawaharlal Nehru, some from atop the ramparts of the Red Fort, and others in various parts of the country where I was posted. The Independence Day speech of the Prime Minister continued to be an occasion when the Prime Minister would reveal the major policy directions of his government in the coming year.
As Principal Information Officer and later as Information Advisor to the Prime Minister, I had a closer look at how different Prime Ministers prepared themselves for their address to the nation on Independence Day.
One had the impression that Jawaharlal spoke spontaneously. Indira Gandhi prepared herself carefully before addressing the nation. Her Information Advisor, H.Y. Sharada Prasad used to fine tune her address. The practice of sending points for the speech of the Prime Minister from different departments evolved over time during those years.
V.P. Singh came forth with his reservation policy in his Independence Day speech.
When I was Information Advisor to late P.V. Narasimha Rao, the Prime Minister's Office had submitted a draft to him. He had to deliver the speech in Hindi and the draft had trickled down to me for translation. Before getting it translated, I had asked Narasimha Rao to have a look at it and approve the same. His reaction was, the draft was 'chalk', colorless and odorless. Over the next hour, I had the privilege of marking out some significant portions and draft future policies.
Narasimha Rao needed no translation. And, his Independence Day speech marked him out as someone who would provide stability to the nation at a crucial time.
Things have changed from the days when Jawarhalal Nehru addressed the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort. The crowd in front is much smaller. During some years, the chairs in front were not occupied and the Ministry of Defence had to make arrangements to fill the chairs.
Tomorrow, Dr. Manmohan Singh would have an opportunity to indicate to the nation what he proposes to do in the next one year. He has had the opportunity to lead the country for nearly a decade and maintain the unity and integrity of the country. It has not been a small task. And, he should stray away from the 'chalk' submitted to him from different departments, and share his feelings with the nation.
By: I. Ramamohan Rao, former Principal Information Officer. Govt. of India. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
--ANI (Posted on 15-08-2013)