The Tribune - Spectrum

Special Issue
Views of eminent experts and thinkers on the occasion of Republic Day of India.

Hari Jaisingh

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

M.V. Kamath

D.C. Pathak

S.D. Muni

Barjinder Sodhi

A.P.S. Chawla

V. N. Sharma

Ujjal Dosanjh

Gurcharan Das

J.N. Dixit

Yash Pal

I. K. Gujral

Arun Jaitley

Jaipal Reddy

Prakash Karat

Sunday, January 26, 2003
Tribune special

“India can be a major power if it improves the standard of living”
Prabhjot Singh

Ujjal Dosanjh
Ujjal Dosanjh

"NUCLEAR weapons alone can neither make India a superpower nor get it respect or status in the community of nations", says Ujjal Dosanjh, a former Premier of British Columbia (the first Indo-Canadian to hold the post). "What can make India a real superpower is its socio-economic development.

"I agree that possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent is important. It has its own value but in terms of getting respect and earning the status of a superpower in the community of nations, it does not work.

"Those nations which are economically sound and have a strong social fabric with high standards of quality of life not only get respect but also face no threats from other nations," feels Dosanjh, currently on a visit to India.

Dosanjh, who hails from Dosanjh Kalan, near Phagwara, and moved to Canada as a teenager, is a lawyer by profession and headed the NDP Government in British Columbia. After the last provincial elections a couple of years ago, he quit politics and joined the law practice of his two sons.

He says his experiences of visiting his motherland in 1977, 1985, 1993 and 1999 have been "varied" and "nostalgic". "I strongly feel that we have a dishonest or numb society which does not react to growing dirt, filth, social inequalities and corruption.

"Unfortunately, there is no one who has come forward to fight these battles for the countrymen. The other day, I was reading a book by an American author about the contributions being made by certain NGOs in fighting battles against dirt, filth, illiteracy and corruption.

Symbols of greatness


"I am a Gandhian by belief. In my opinion, India has to focus on quality of life indicators to improve the standard of living in the country. It is these social indicators which made the UN declare Canada as the best country to live in. You have multiple problems of poor sanitation, inadequate healthcare, poor or non-existent education system and rampant corruption. These indicators of quality of life have to be moved upwards. Once India is able to do that, it will be a superpower to reckon with.

"I am convinced that India does not need much from the outside world. It has got so much of its own. We have enough of natural resources. We are second to none. If we are not a superpower as yet, it is because we have not done what we should have done in the past 55 years," he adds.

Dosanjh, who was one of the recipients of Pravasi Bharati Samman presented by the Prime Minister in New Delhi on January 9, remarked in a lighter vein that most of the Indians whom he met during his present visit, wanted the Indian diaspora to also play a role in making India a superpower.

"It is time for India to launch its second struggle for Independence or freedom. This time it has to get freedom from corruption. They tell us that even when the Indians were fighting the British, the Indian diaspora played its role. They recall the role Mahatma Gandhi, the Ghadar Movement or others who returned from abroad to fight for the country's Independence.


"Rooting out corruption is a huge task. I do not know from where you have to start. Still, my priorities would be to make policing, the judiciary and criminal justice system effective, free and fair.

"Once you have a credible criminal justice system, it will instil a fear in the minds of wrong-doers. If an average citizen gets justice, the battle against corruption is half won. But if you have inefficient and corrupt policeman under the influence of politicians, things cannot improve. I had been Attorney-General for four years. I could not tell a policeman what to do. But on the roadside, a policeman could always tell me what to do. That is the difference between India and Canada.

"Fighting or alleviating poverty is not that serious as you have every opportunity to grow and come out of it. You can live with poverty.

"Instead of looking outwards for help, Indians must look inwards and do introspection. They have everything. They have to take pride in themselves. I strongly feel that unless the people rise and say 'no more' to problems like corruption, things will not change. We are responsible for the political system we have. If we decide to elect the right people for the right positions, things will improve. And change has to start from the top as change from the bottom would be too difficult and painful," concludes Dosanjh, who does not rule out the possibility of his return to politics, this time at the federal level.