According to the dictionary ‘to pledge’ means “to promise solemnly and formally”. Going by this definition, it is questionable whether the random set of facts recited every morning by students should even be called “The Pledge” in the first place. In case that you have forgotten what you mindlessly recited during your schooldays, it is as follows:
India is my country.
All Indians are my brothers and sisters.
I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage.
I shall always strive to be worthy of it.
I shall respect my parents, teachers and all elders and treat everyone with courtesy.
To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion.
In their well being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness.
While the entire pledge has always baffled me, the most ridiculous line is definitely the fifth one. Why should the fifth line of the national pledge arbitrarily define a personal code of ethics that has absolutely nothing to do with the nation as a whole? My courteous nature and the amount of respect I show to elders has absolutely nothing to do at all with my love for the nation. While most people might agree that respecting elders and teachers are good qualities, are they so crucial as to warrant their inclusion in the national pledge? I would even say that blind devotion and respect should never be considered good qualities. Doesn’t anyone remember the story of Eklavya? How did respecting elders and teachers work out for him? The concept of the state imposing morality on the common man is a feature of authoritarian regimes and should have no place in a democratic society. Furthermore, the word ‘devotion’ strikes me as a tad bit too strong. It seems to be implying the need to have blind faith and intense nationalism rather than rational and reasonable patriotism.
Secondly, the pledge falls far short of being ideal, not because of its random inclusion of respect to elders but because of its omission of the critical aspects of that define the modern Indian nation state. Where is the mention of Democracy and the rule of law? Why doesn’t equality and regional and religious harmony find a place in the pledge? Doesn’t it seem to be common sense that we should pledge to uphold democratic ideals and maintain religious harmony in India?
Lastly, the pledge is so badly drafted that the first three lines as well as the last line does not involve making any solemn promises at all! They are mere statements of fact which I don’t think should be included in a National Pledge. The inclusion of the ‘respect to elders’ line has also restricted its usage to schools and colleges. Rarely, if ever, is the pledge recited at any events like the Republic Day and the Independence Day celebrations. Hence, I think it is high time to consider replacing the Indian national pledge with a better phrased version. However, before that we also need to debate the underlying issue of whether we need to have a national pledge in the first place and does it serve any good purpose.
I think that the Singapore pledge would be a good model for our pledge since it is also a multi-ethnic society. The pledge of Jamaica is particularly interesting as it makes a promise to play a part in advancing the welfare of the entire human race. The pledges of some of the other nations of the world are -
SIERRA LEONE -
So, what do you think of the Indian national pledge? Do you think that it needs to be rewritten? If so, how would you rather have it? Please comment and share your thoughts…