Monday, April 25, 2011

Why is ‘The Pledge’ so weird??

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 -


We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.


Before God and All mankind.
I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart
The wisdom and courage of my mind,
The strength and vigour of my body
in the service of my fellow citizens.

I promise to stand up for justice,
Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively,
To think generously and honestly, so that,
Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship
and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare
of the whole human race.


I pledge my love and loyalty to my country Sierra Leone;
I vow to serve her faithfully at all times;
I promise to defend her honour and good name;
Always work for her unity peace, freedom and prosperity;
And put her interest above all else.
So help me God.


I pledge to Nigeria my country
To be faithful, loyal and honest
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory
So help me God.

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…


  1. //To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion.
    In their well being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness.//

    Today, the well-being and prosperity of one's country is not really enough to keep him happy.

    //I shall respect my parents, teachers and all elders and treat everyone with courtesy.//

    Let alone the fact that this is not worthy of being mentioned in the pledge. It is not worthy of being mentioned anywhere else too, because it doesn't really happen. This should be mentioned as a cause to work for, rather than a term to pledge.

  2. Indian politicians and leaders have a habit of making things wordy when they are using english language because they want to show how well their command in that language is and also use english to act like elitists and differentiate from the rest.
    Just look at our constitution....its the longest in the world.....whereas the country from which the language used to write it originated has the shortest constitution........
    So I guess the makers of the pledge just got carried away while writing it without realizing the true meaning of the pledge

  3. While I agree that the Indian politicians have a habit of making things wordy, I am not so sure about your claim of them using English to act elitist. In my experience most politicians except for the PM, Chidambaram and Abdullah Omar, prefer using Hindi or other regional languages instead of English. Anyway, I would not mind them using English because I think that it is as much an Indian language as any other. See my earlier post in this regard - English is an Indian Language.

    Anyway, this I think is a moot point because as far as I know, the pledge was penned by Swami Vivekananda who was not a career politician. However, I am not very sure about this. Wikipedia and some other pages on the internet claim that he is the author of the pledge but I have not been able to confirm from any official source. Please do let me know if you are able to find out for sure who exactly is the author of the pledge and when exactly was it written.

  4. Haha...I see Sarthak touched a sensitive nerve there but no denying that politicians still prefer regional languages and I see no harm in it because after all its the people they are representing...people of a country where the majority cannot comprehend English well.
    And getting back to your post...interesting read as always. We can always trust you Sagar to find something controversial and debatable out of the most banal of issues...(case in point: i have not met anyone else who cares so much about the Indian pledge ;) ) Good work!

  5. Hi Sanchita!

    In my defence, I am not the only person who discusses banal issues. We live in a country where the news channels spent an entire day showing a boy who had fallen in a ditch and I hope that you shall at least agree that the issues I raise are more interesting than that idiot Rakhi Sawant choosing a fiancée which half the nation wasted their time watching.

    By the way, you still havent explained where do you stand... Do you think that we need a pledge in the first place? Or is it too banal for us to bother with... What do you think about the pledge that we have in comparison to others like Jamaica and Singapore?

    Lastly, no, Sarthak did not touch a sensitive nerve; I just wanted to give a link to my previous post ;) That is because I do not know anybody apart from Sarthak who makes they outrageous claim that Indian politicians use English to 'show off' and to act elitist. Like you said, they use regional languages and they should because they can connect best with the voters that way.

    Anyway, Feels good to see a comment from you after a long time! Thanks for reading! :)


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