Wednesday, 23 July 2014


The ten days I spent in Paris constituted the most exciting period of my 17-month stay outside of Mauritius. Not merely because I had the opportunity of going round sumptuous Versailles, of spending a day at the Louvres or of rambling in that enchanting city where history keeps staring the visitor in the face but because I could see for myself what le génie français and all that it stands for means. I had also the opportunity of coming to grips with the grandeur of French culture about which I used to hear a lot in Mauritius and of which I saw so little. Another thing which impressed me still more was the tremendous amount of work done by Roman Catholic institutions in several fields.

Three weeks before leaving London for Paris, quite unexpectedly I got a letter from Mrs. Renson. It was really an unexpected letter because when I read the name of the éxpediteur I could not make out who it was for I had never met nor written to any Mrs. Renson before. In her letter, Mrs. Renson explained that when she was in India in January 1957 she met an Italian friend of mine who gave her my London address and mentioned to her that I would be visiting Paris on my way back home; consequently, she had written to me enquiring about the exact date of my arrival in Paris because she wanted to be of some help to me. I could not ask for more and I wrote back giving all details. Mrs. Renson then wrote again saying she would come to pick me up at the station and "comme signe de ralliement pour me trouver, je porterais ostensiblement à la main, la revue Match".

When I alighted at the that Gare due Nord I looked for a lady ostentatiously carrying a copy of Paris-Match but there was none. Thinking that she might have been late I decided to wait but hardly had I waited for a few minutes when a young priest smiling winsomely greeted me: "Vous désirez quelqu'un M'sieur?" he asked and I replied that I have just arrived from London and was expecting to be met by Mrs. Renson. "Parfait", he said and explained that Mrs. Renson was late and that soon she would be with us. After some time Mrs. Renson arrived, apologising profusely for not being on time and we immediately drove to Jean-Bart Hotel in the quartier latin where she had a room booked. At the Hotel she showed me the programme she had drawn up for me; a crowded programme indeed but it was the best I could expect.

The first evening, the evening I arrived, was reserved for the young priest, l'Abbé Terrien, who came to see me at the station. The second day was kept free for any personal business which my hosts presumed I would have to attend to but as from the second evening I had to be at their entire disposal. On that second evening Mrs. Renson hosted a party when I was introduced to some of her friends who had previously agreed to take me round Paris. The party was indeed overwhelming: there was no barrier between my hosts and myself, neither my name nor the shade of my skin nor my nationality mattered, what actually mattered was that I was a friend of theirs. I could hardly believe that I was the subject of everybody's attention and I marvelled at the kindness lavished upon me by people I had never met nor known before. I could not but feel humble at the surge of spontaneous friendliness and goodwill that flowed towards me. Was it not a revealing experience for me, an Indo-Mauritian, to be so cordially received and treated on an equal footing by genuine French people, people from the very centre of Paris?

As agreed with my new friends, on my third day in Paris I began going out with them and thus I visited Versailles, le Panthéon, Les Invalides, la Tour Eiffel, le Palais de Chaillot, le Louvre, le Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame, la Sainte Chapelle and a host of other important places of historic or religious interest. The programme also included a visit to the two cafés of Boulevard Saint Germain, Aux deux magots and Café Flore which are supposed to be the meeting place of dabblers in literary and artistic pursuits. Afterwards I was told that those two cafés were regularly visited by Jean-Paul Sartre and his followers which explained the fact that they attracted quite a number of snobs. One morning, at two, I was taken to the quartier des halles, known as le ventre de Paris, where vegetables and fruits and other products are brought from other parts of France and sold wholesale to Paris retailers. Were also included in the programme two visits to the Théâtre de France where, in company of a student from the Sorbonne, I saw Moliere's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Kafka's Le Château. Apart from all this, arrangements were made for me to visit la Maison de Christian Dior, the offices of l'Action Catholique, the Société des Amitiés Francaises à L'Etranger, l'Institut Pasteur, Institut Economie et Humanisme, the Unesco headquarters and last but not least, Monsieur l'Abbé Pierre.

I do not know much about the Institut Economie et Humanisme nor have I read enough which would allow me to speak authoritatively about it. But from what I was told by Rev. Father Lebret the promoter of this movement and his secretary, Melle Roret, Economie et Humanisme represents a new, fascinating trend of thought. On the face of it, it looks like a philosophy evolved to counter communism but on going deeper into it one finds that it does not spare capitalism either. Father Lebret told me that he and his fellow workers had come to the conclusion that in its quest for physical well-being, an aim absolutely conditioned by economics, society was losing sight of the human side of the problem. He was of the opinion that both economie and humanisme were essential to the survival of society and as in many countries there had been an economie bereft of humanisme, he was trying to evolve a line of thought aimed at the eventual synthesis of economics and humanism.

Meeting l'Abbé Pierre on the eve of my departure from Paris is an experience I'll never forget. When I rang him up before going to his office he told me that he was completely taken up by unexpected visitors from Switzerland and consequently would ask me for lunch as that was the only time he could spare; he added that Charles Moulin who had visited Mauritius would be in for lunch and suggested that it would be interesting to be together with him. So, at 1 p.m. I called on him and we drove to a restaurant where Charles Moulin was waiting for us. Charles Moulin was excited to hear that he was to meet a Mauritian and was banking on me to give l'Abbé Pierre an eye-witness account of his lecture in Mauritius; but when I told him that I was not in Mauritius when he gave his lecture his enthusiasm abated and he preferred to concentrate on his meal leaving l'Abbé Pierre and myself to ourselves. L'Abbé Pierre is a very impressive personality indeed; he symbolizes charity and modesty and breathes kindness. He is gentle beyond description and the way he speaks is fascinating. But behind his gentleness and calm demeanour, there is a compassionate heart guided by a stable and straightforward mind. Just by talking to him one can easily discern that he is not a man who would compromise on his ideals or his faith. If he is convinced that a certain thing is evil he is not prepared to bow down. What was the motive force, the guiding principle of his movement? I asked. He believes in God; and in his service to his downtrodden fellow countrymen l'Abbé Pierre is serving his Master who is the very basis of his existence.

In what circumstances did he start his movement? He could not stand the sight of people, owing to their circumstances beyond their control, digging the dustbins of the highroads for a morsel of food; he refused to believe that when a section of the population was comfortably fed and housed others should seek shelter from the cold and rain under bridges. What could have happened to such people? He thinks that such people have fallen victim to despair. The divine spark in them is about to be smothered by utter desperation and they have lost all sense of dignity. L'Abbé Pierre therefore thinks that such people need only one thing: they must be convinced that they are not as worthless as they think they are, they should be told that their lives are still full of rich potentialities which if developed may give a new direction to their lives.

L'Abbé Pierre has implemented this philosophy and has greatly succeeded. His movement has reclaimed thousands of sans logis and his message has spread far beyond the shores of France. I would like to end this account of L'Abbé Pierre by quoting a passage from himself in which he sets out the fundamental principle of his philosophy: "Entreprendre sans attendre d'être sans défauts. Par sa vie entière chacun doit s'employer à prouver que, pour pouvoir utilement accomplir une telle élèmentaire action, il n'est pas nécessaire d'être déjà devenu quelqu'un d'excellent, mais qu'il suffit de s'y vouer; et que c'est seulement en se vouant de quelque façon à cette manière de vivre qu'il est possible de tendre à devenir bon a quelque chose, et moins mauvais, et meilleur, car il n'y a pas d'autre voie vers la vie en plénitude, vers la perfection que la voie de la prise au sérieux de cette unique Loi, la loi des lois; aime le prochain comme toi, c'est-à-dire sers ton prochain avant toi tant qu'il est moins heureux que toi".

Paris once one of the greatest cities of the world still retains its splendour. It is more beautiful than a host of cities I have seen; it appears to have been better planned than London itself, though in some details London is to be preferred. Life in Paris is wonderful... provided you have bags of francs! The cost of living is prohibitive and pourboire is almost a national industry. The most common characteristic of the French people is the proverbial je m'enfichisme. What about government instability? No one cares. Why the mess in Algeria? No one cares. Why so much dependence on America? Well, that's that, if it is not America it will be Russia. My final impression of the French people I met and tried to question about the things referred to above is that they are indifferent: they have an acute sense of humour and when they happen to find something funny they would laugh à gorge déployée!

Speaking of the French temperament I may recall a rather funny incident which happened to me. One evening I went out with an American girl whom I had previously met in Delhi. At about eleven we entered an Italian restaurant where I was to taste pizza, the Italian speciality. We were hardly seated when a man, ungainly dressed, barged in with a bouquet of violettes; he went around the other customers shouting, "Violettes, messieurs-dames" but no one cared to buy his violets. Finally he came to us and staring at me, said "Violettes, m'sieur?" I didn't pay heed but he insisted. Seeing that I was adamant, he addressed the girl "Violettes madame?" The girl too did not bother. He looked at me and said "Monsieur, des violettes pour madame?" but I still refused to consider his offer. Poor chap, he got exasperated and blurted out, "Eh bien, si vous ne voulez pas faire le bon gallant, merde!"

That was the Paris I saw and I liked. I only wish I had stayed longer. An hour or so before I left Paris for Marseilles a friend of mine, the student at the Sorbonne, came to visit me. He wanted to know what was the one thing which had impressed me most. I told him it was the generosity and sincerity with which I was received by the group of friends. "Why, didn't you expect it?" he enquired. "I was not so sure". I evasively replied. He pressed for further explanations and I had to give him a picture of the situation here in Mauritius. French culture is so pure in Mauritius, I hinted, that we are kept at arm's length from the Franco-Mauritian community. "Hm," he murmured, "c'est la bétise française... Il y a une différence entre les français de France et les français de Maurice", he concluded. I agreed.

Mauritius Times, Friday 21st February, 1958.

Copyright Succession Keharsingh Jagatsingh

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Winds of Change

As you are aware I have just arrived from Paris where I was attending a meeting of the Executive Board of Unesco. I must say that I have come here not only with pleasure but I have come here to fulfil a most pleasant duty and to participate in a rather modest function but which I am sure has considerable historic importance. This morning we are gathered to launch the first ever published collection of our Prime Minister's speeches.

I have had the privilege of going through many of the Prime Minister's speeches and what is more, I have had the good fortune of listening to many of these speeches when they were originally made. If I may be personal for a moment, I must also say that I have had the singular privilege of having been associated with the Prime Minister for the last twenty years or so and this association has permitted me to understand and appreciate one of the finest political minds of the Third World.

It is indeed a happy coincidence that the launching of this book is taking place in London on a piece of land which happens to be Mauritian territory. Born out of the soil of sufferings of Mauritius, Prime Minister Ramgoolam came over to Britain where his mind was fashioned by British Universities and the great traditions of British polity. What is significant indeed is the fact that although Prime Minister Ramgoolam imbibed the British Political traditions of fairplay, free discussion and open debate he has never cut his roots which have sunk deep into the Mauritian way of life, diverse and multi-faceted as it is. On the contrary his training in Britain deepened his interests in the plight of the common man and strenghthened his determination to raise the Mauritian proletariat out of the depths of politically and socially marginal living.

In a way Prime Minister Ramgoolam was helping a "wind of change" in Mauritian politics, the same "wind of change" which Sir Harold Macmillan, former British Prime Minister who is happily present today, wanted the people of Southern Africa to see for themselves. The "wind of change", a phrase coined by Sir Harold Macmillan, captures the new and hopeful mood of the twentieth century and has raised the hopes of millions and millions of people in the developing world especially in those areas which are afflicted by the evils of underdevelopment. And Prime Minister Ramgoolam in his own way has seen to it that the "wind of change" has embraced the whole of Mauritius within its sweep. But there is much more than that. Prime Minister Ramgoolam has ensured that the "wind of change" did not develop into gales and gusts which are more apt to destroy than to build. He has succeeded in mastering the winds of change and in taming them; he also has harnessed the energy inherent in those winds of change and utilised them to create a new nation out of various communities who had been taught to hate each other. Prime Minister Ramgoolam has also laid the foundations of our society in such a way that we Mauritians can develop the creative faculties of our young emergent nation.

I feel that the message of Prime Minister Ramgoolam has always been that it is not enough for a people to develop and progress materially but that it must so move forward that it can develop the faculty of re-creating itself. In the main, this is what this book contains and I am hoping that future generations of Mauritians will not miss its message. This is a case where the message is so much more important than the medium.

Speech at the launching of Selected Speeches of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Mauritius High Commission, London, 8th May 1979.

Copyright Succession Keharsingh Jagatsingh

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

When I was in Nairobi in July last I heard a tape-recorded speech of Dr. Radhakrishnan which he had delivered in that city while inaugurating an educational institution a few days before I stopped there. I Delhi I have listened to him on three occasions: once, when he presided over a lecture on What is Buddhism? by U Nu of Burma and twice at special convocations at Delhi University. These added only a little to the picture of the great philosopher I had conjured up for myself on seeing his pictures or while going through his books. But on Monday last I had the pleasure of coming face to face with India's socratic philosopher-statesman and during the half an hour I spent with him I was indeed overwhelmed by his charm and bonhomie about which I had read and heard so much.

Dr. Radhakrishnan is now well advanced in age, he is over 68. Though he looks a bit tired yet his way of talking which reflects a happy choice of words pronounced impeccably, flowing out in quick succession and as if charged with a kind of driving power which immediately convinces and simultaneously appeals directly to the heart of the listener, betrays a youthful vitality. His fascinating smile which illuminates his face -- a face capped with a bald head with a few lashes of grey hair, a face radiating wisdom and learning -- and his gentle and friendly way of addressing people puts, at the very outset, his interlocutor at ease. When his secretary showed me in, he was reading and on seeing me he came forward and greeted me.There I was beholding in front of me the Vice-President of the world's largest democratic republic, Asia's leading philosopher and one of the most commanding personalities of the world wearing a simple white dhoti and with a large shawl wrapped round his shoulders! Could there be a more vivid example of plain living and high thinking? Was it not in some way a paradox that such a high dignitary should have donned so simple an attire? Perhaps, but not from the Indian point of view because Radhakrishnan represents par excellence the great Indian traditions which since millenia have been advocating the primacy of the spiritual over the material.

Dr. Radhakrishnan inquired about life in Mauritius and said that he used to receive letters from Mauritius. When he spoke about his recent visit to East Africa where he received a thunderous welcome, I expressed how sorry we felt when we learnt that he could not extend his visit to our Island. Concerning our problems, especially when I referred to the canard of extreme nationalism raised in connection with the Indo-Mauritian community which was supposed to seek annexation of Mauritius to India, he commented: "Oh, no. We do not want such things. Gone are those days. No country is permanent, no civilisation is eternal. These things come and go. What we must do is to contribute to human welfare, to alleviate human suffering. Only the other day I told a gathering -- Christ died on the cross, it was physical death but spiritual survival. But you are struggling for physical survival and spiritual death". Continuing he said: "Gone are the days of domination or narrow nationalism or separatism. I feel at home everywhere. Whether it is England or America or East Africa or Indonesia or Japan -- it's the same to me. Now is the age of broad, world nationalism". He spoke about the great problem confronting India and how they were trying to bring about changes striking at the root of social inequalities like the caste system, provincialism and other social ills.

Radhakrishnan is indeed a unique personality. In the West, whose philosophy he has thoroughly mastered, expounded and interpreted, he is regarded as a link, a bridge-builder between the East and the West and a philosophical bilinguist; in the East he is regarded as the very embodiment of the renaissance of Hinduism which to use his own words, "is not a definite dogmatic creed, but a vast, complex, but subtly unified mass of spiritual thought and realisation. Its tradition of the godward endeavour of the human spirit has been continuously enlarging through the ages". Radhakrishnan represents the latest "enlargement" of Hinduism.

In a world which has shrunk so much that one can "breakfast in Bombay, lunch in London and dine in New York," in a world in which man is no more cut off from his fellow beings by mountains and oceans but by ideological barriers of his own making, Radhakrishnan's broad philosophical perspective and universal outlook hold out a unifying link, a bridge. It does not matter who made the bridge or what it is made of; what really matters is whether it is going to be used. Undoubtedly in tiny Mauritius, where we, people of different races and cultures, have been cast together and where we seem to believe in supremacy, where we tend to accentuate our differences instead of exploring what we have in common, Radhakrishnan's philosophy is not without significance.

Mauritius Times, Friday 22nd March, 1957.

Copyright Succession Keharsingh Jagatsingh

Monday, 23 January 2012

Chou En-Lai

Until I left for India in 1956 I did not have what one could consider a fair and reasonable view of China and the Chinese. In those days in Mauritius the ethnic communities were living in watertight social compartments and as communities we were hardly interested in each other. My knowledge of China and the Chinese was limited to what I could make out of my relationships with our household shopkeeper and one or two of my school friends who were of Chinese origin. All this amounted to nothing much but my interest in Chinese history and civilization was roused when I read Lin Yu Tang's Wisdom of China and The Legacy of China edited by Raymond Dawson. These two books opened my mind to an area of world history which I have found most rewarding. All the same it is true to say that when I left for my first trip overseas in 1956, China did not mean much to me.

But when I reached New Delhi and started my attachment on The Times of India I developed a keen interest in Indian affairs and in those days China figured substantially in India's view of the world specially of the regions close to her. Geopolitically India could not do otherwise and to the extent it was possible I followed closely the development of Sino-Indian relations. I then realised that China was an important factor in international affairs and that gradually she would emerge as a major power not just in South East Asia but it was clear that she was poised to gain the status of a world power within a reasonable period of time.

Those were the days when India and China were "immortal" friends and Nehru and Chou En-Lai were the de facto leaders of the developing countries. India was pressing for the admission of China to the United Nations but practically all the Western powers led by the United States were opposed to China. It was in Delhi, in November 1956, that I met Chou En-Lai for the first time. I talked to him at Palam Airport and later I spoke to him again at a reception at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi. We spoke to each other in French and he said he knew about Mauritius.

By the time I left India in 1957 there were signs that the relations between India and China would not remain as rosy as everybody thought. Problems has begun to emerge about their boundaries and matters went from bad to worse until the 1962 border war between the two countries. I was then back in Mauritius and was already a Member of Parliament, People of Indian origin in Mauritius were really taken aback, and a group of friends and I raised a substantial amount of assistance for India. I know that that did not please my Chinese friends and later on I was politely and discreetly so informed.

But my real meeting with Chou En-Lai took place in January 1973 in Beijing. My wife and I were invited by the Chinese Government. We saw quite a bit of the country and I did my very best to understand the Chinese and their own experiment as a large Communist country. My hosts wanted to impress upon me that they had done very well in industrial and agricultural development. They were most unhappy with the USSR who they considered stabbed them in the back by withdrawing all the Russian technicians overnight. This was told to me by everybody including Chou En-Lai himself. Mao Tse-Tung was the be-all and the end-all of everything and at an infant school which we visited we realised that even the infants were being taught about the importance and the all-pervasive influence of Mao Tse-Tung.

I  could see that the Chinese had already made tremendous progress in the production of vehicles and machine tools. The factory I saw was most impressive and it was more than evident that the Chinese were in the throes of a major industrial breakthrough. Men and women were given equal tasks in the factories and naturally they were all dressed in the traditional Mao uniform. The women looked flat-chested and it did appear to me that it was all artificial. I did not like it as I failed to see in the whole experiment anything like equality between men and women.

We were invited to visit a commune. From what I saw I realised that it was a successful experiment. The idea of trying to make each commune as self-sufficient as possible is a great one. I cannot say how successful the experiment has been all over China but the one I saw was really impressive. The people in that  particular commune were fully motivated and they controlled and really ruled the place. It was clean and orderly. In fact it was oppressively clean. The people in the commune produced all the electricity they required and practically the totality of their agricultural crops. Only high-cost inputs were supplied from outside. However, I had the impression that social life was rather dreary. There was a definite lack of social amenities although I was assured that steps were being taken to improve the situation.

I must mention an incident which I found most interesting and which I had recorded in my notes. One of the leading lights if the commune got very friendly with me and I started questioning him on matters not directly related to the economics of the commune life. I asked him whether he was married and if yes where did he meet his wife. The reply was that they had met in a factory and got engaged and were subsequently married. Was there any kind of marriage ceremony?" I asked. The answer was in the negative but I was told that there was no priest or anyone else involved except the official at the registration office. I then inquired whether there was any celebration after the wedding. Yes, there was. There was a little gathering in the evening at the bridegroom's house where they all shared some beer. I asked my friend whether he gave his wife a present such as a piece of jewellery or something else. The answer was in the negative. "Not even a ring?" I exclaimed. "No", he said. "I bought a bicycle for my wife, he said proudly.

The meeting with Chou En-Lai took place on the 25th of January. We were convened for 10.00 p.m. and we were made to understand that we were spending only 10 minutes with China's Prime Minister. When we reached Chou En-Lai's office we were asked to pose with him for the photographers together with the ladies. After the photographs were taken, we were shown in to the Prime Minister's office but the ladies were excluded from the talks with Chou En-Lai. It was a fascinating experience and instead of a mere 10 minutes we spent one hour and 10 minutes with him. The discussion covered a lot of subjects. We talked about the Commonwealth to which Chou En-Lai reffered rather ironically as a great club. He said in very clear terms that outside forces were disrupting the peace and tranquillity of South East Asia.

That was an obvious reference to the USSR. In another direct reference to the USSR he inferred that China was living under the threat of a military attack by her military powerful neighbours. Chou En-Lai also mentioned the fact that the Russians had let them down in a rather inelegant way and at a critical moment by withdrawing their technicians who also took away all the blueprints for a large number of important projects. I could see in his face that he was almost passionate about the whole unsavoury episode.

I very discreetly suggested that relations between the major developing countries of South East Asia should be improved. I said they should patch up their differences and work for the uplift of the millions and millions of poor people of that area. Naturally, I had both India and China in mind. He again took the view that but for the interference from outside the relations between South East Asian countries would be quite normal and friendly. He very subtly parried all references to Sino-Indian problems and gave me the clear impression that he was unwilling to talk about China's relations with India. I felt he was not interested in India's overtures to China.

Chou En-Lai was not too happy at the way the rest of the world had reacted to the emergence of Communist China. When I observed that a large number of countries had already recognised China after initial hesitations and a vigirous anti-Chines campaign in the international press, he quickly retorted that more countries had recognised Bangladesh than had recognised China. He even quoted the figures form memory: 83 countries had extended diplomatic recognition to Bangladesh against 79 in the case of China.

During the entire conversation Chou En-Lai was completely relaxed and was in a really pleasant mood. He talked to us through the interpreter but every now and then he would correct the interpreter who in turn would explain again what Chou En-Lai was saying. But he was not the same Chou En-Lai I had met in 1957. His health had definitely deteriorated. His face was somewhat emaciated but he look oddly fresh. In our presence he asked for some tablets which he swallowed on the spot. Chou En-Lai was the genuine voice of China and will certainly be remembered as one of the authentic makers of modern China. It is no surprise therefore that whilst there has been a serious attempt to debunk Mao Tse-Tsung not a single irreverent reference has ever been made to Chou En-Lai.

During the discussions with the Chinese Officials we managed to get our first consignment of rice from China. The price was reasonable and the quality was quite satisfactory. We left China via Shanghai and through Hong Kong. It was the end of a happy visit and we were all sad to leave. We were leaving behind a friendly, brave and hardworking people who was bent upon catching up with the twentieth century. On my way back I returned via India and when I stopped over in New Delhi, I met Sardar Swaran Singh who was then Minister of External Affairs. He was really keen to exchange notes with me. During that period India was clearly trying to improve her relations with the Chinese. When I told Swaran Singh that the Chinese gave me the impression they were not in a hurry to patch up he was taken aback. I could hardly believe that the relations between India and China had got so bad that India's Minister of External Affairs was not in a position to gauge with a reasonable degree of accuracy the intentions of the Chinese towards his own country.

This paper was written on 7th July, 1980 and is being published for the first time.

Copyright Succession Keharsingh Jagatsingh 

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Case For A Planning Commission

On very many occasions we and our correspondents, especially Peter Ibbotson, have pleaded for the establishment of a planning organisation. And we suggested the handy denomination of Mauritius Planning Commission. With the publication of the new Capital Expenditure Programme and the Meade Report and also the Government's proclaimed determination to foster secondary industries, we feel that more than ever now is time to create the Mauritius Planning Commission. The idea of having such an organisation is not a new one. Nor can anyone here take the credit for having produced it: it is something obtaining in many other countries and they have worked well. Besides, Professor Meade and his colleagues strongly recommend the setting up of a similar organisation, i.e., the Industrial Development Board. By definition such a board is bound to have a limited scope and this must be avoided.

By now there is unanimity about the necessity of diversifying our economy and there seems also to be unanimity about the way of achieving that most needed diversification. But there have been too few suggestions about modus operandi of achieving what is so strongly advocated and so ardently desired. The organisation we have in mind must be in a position to investigate what secondary industries can and must be promoted and also to be able to fit such minor plans into the country's national plan. For it must be coherent and it must have as its basis the priorities of the needs of the people. The success or otherwise of a Plan depends upon the extent to which it is integrated and well-balanced. Without fear of contradiction, it can be said that we can derive the right inspiration from the invaluable work done by the Planning Commission of India.

A careful reading of the Meade Report clearly shows that, as was expected, the fact-finding experts have not and could not have offered cut-and-dried solutions to the problems facing Mauritius. Professor Meade and his colleagues have indicated the broad lines on which development can be initiated and on this they readily admit that what they suggest have already been suggested by previous commissions. Therefore Professor Meade and his colleagues urge action without delay. Very candidly they observed: "We are opposed to any policy of waiting till the last moment". We have only to take the cue and the start can only be made by creating the organisation to which the spadework will be entrusted.

For the time being the Ministry of Commerce and Industries is flooded with demands and inquiries about new industries. With the present set-up, the Ministry is obviously not equipped to initiate the necessary secondary industries. It is not known what industries are likely to prosper and how much investment will be required. Before considering which secondary industry to promote. Professor Meade suggests the following six basic and highly important consideration:
(a)     availability of markets (local and foreign) 
(b)     availability of raw materials
(c)     capital
(d)     management
(e)     availability of skilled and trained labour
(f)     services such as electric power, water etc.
Consideration of these factors and final decisions involve a colossal amount of research work inside as well as outside Mauritius: it constitutes the most difficult part of the job and it will determine the future of secondary industries in Mauritius. We therefore believe and strongly advise that, without delay, the necessary steps must be taken to launch secondary industries in Mauritius. It is not enough to start off with new industries but it must be ensured that they become successful ventures. It is a matter of life and death for Mauritius. Disaster must be avoided.

Mauritius Times, Friday 19th May, 1961.

Copyright Succession Keharsingh Jagatsingh 

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Our People, Our Asset

Political freedom is the mother of all freedoms. Only free peoples can develop and use their inherent capacities and natural resources in their national interests.

The history of developing countries have shown that unless a people is independent it can seldom take unfettered decisions. In the absence of freedom, real development, which is rooted in fundamental social and intellectual challenge, eludes the people: aggregates of goods are produced but there is little impact on society.

Our new nation was born on the 12th March 1968, the day when our struggle for independence culminated in glory to the toiling masses.

Nothing has since remained untouched by the creative drive and determination of our people: our national genius has flowered in several successful endeavours in an atmosphere of heightened sensibility and increased self-confidence, the most dramatic being our economic revival. The last eight years have seen levels of growth and prosperity unparalleled in our time.

At the time of independence, however, the Mauritian economy was confronted with a high level of unemployment, low rate of economic growth and increasing population.

The national pride and self-confidence generated by independence has enabled Mauritius, with limited land and capital resources, to take up the challenge of breaking the spell of stagnation and transforming a colonial economy into a dynamic and forward looking economy inspired by social justice.

Departing from the conventional path, Mauritius decided to adopt a new concept of development rooted in those basic values of humanism and social justice that had provided the vital force of our struggle for political freedom over four decades.

The targets set out in the first Plan for social and economic development in respect of employment and income-growth were considered, in some quarters, as being over-ambitious. All those doubts and apprehensions have been proved wrong. Most of our targets have been exceeded particularly in the area of job creation, the very core of the silent social revolution which has changed the face of the villages and towns and given the people faith in the future.

The Second Plan (1975-1980) formulated in the new atmosphere of confidence and hope and inspired by a humanist philosophy seeks still wider vistas of growth and larger rewards for all sections of the community.

We are determined to achieve higher levels of excellence in technology, skills, investment, techniques, and social services so as to extend further the frontiers of progress. In employment, for instance, we not only want more jobs but jobs of higher productivity and greater satisfaction.

This is a people's Plan for it is designed for their benefit and offers opportunities to everyone to contribute to the increasing prosperity of Mauritius. Its basic objective is to further improve the quality of life of our people.

I do hope that this summarised version of the second Plan will find a receptive audience especially amongst our young people who constitute our best investment for the future.

Preface to A Call For Action, a summarised version of the 1975-1980 Plan, 2nd October 1976.

Copyright Succession Keharsingh Jagatsingh

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Renga is No More

If you want an illustration to support the popular saying that when death strikes it strikes blindly you can take the case of Renganaden Seeneevassen. He was a man, intelligent and cultured, kind and friendly, who combined honesty of purpose with wise statesmanship. Yet in the thick of his activities, working for the uplift of his people he has been removed from life by that invisible, mysterious but deadly hand of what some of us would call fate.

The death of Seeneevassen leaves a yawning gap in the life of this country. It will not be easily filled for some time to come. At the bar, in the Labour Party and in the Ministry we do not find, at least for the moment, anyone to replace him. His death is therefore an irreparable loss. The bar has lost one of its most eloquent members, the Mauritius Labour Party has been deprived of one of its pillars and the Government has lost one of its most capable Ministers. And Mauritius has lost one of its most distinguished sons.

At the bar, Seeneevassen was a name to be conjured with. His eloquence was proverbial and his integrity known far and wide. His profound knowledge of law coupled with his analytical approach to any given situation made of him a very successful lawyer. His willingness to help and advise his younger colleagues of the bar and the poise and self-confidence with which he would tackle any situation earned him the respect and admiration of his profession as a whole.

In the death of Seeneevassen the Labour party loses one of its top leaders. He was indeed a very able and popular orator who could captivate an audience for any length of time. He was accessible to everybody, high or low, and his friendly way of greeting friend or foe did much to keep his prestige and that of his party always high. Next to Rozemont he was the most popular Labour leader in Port Louis. It is to be wondered now how the Labour Party meetings will look like without him.

Undoubtedly, Seeneevassen was one of the greatest parliamentarians of his time. His marvellous way of speaking, the flowery and forceful language he would use, his subtle sarcasms, his constant desire never to strike below the belt and his readiness to consider the other man's views are the great oratorical qualities he had. The way he steered the passage of the new Education Code in the Assembly revealed his detailed knowledge of and faith in parliamentary practice.

As a Minister, Seeneevassen did his best to shoulder the responsibilities of as large a department as the Education Department. Some aspects of his policy may not have pleased everybody but it will be conceded that it is not always possible to satisfy everybody at one go. Seeneevassen brought to his office the rich experience of a great legal mind unsoiled by the mean desire of pleasing one community or group at the expense of another.

Another aspect of Seeneevassen's impressive personality was his versatility and his broad cosmopolitan outlook. He was at home at any level of any society. Whether he was in European society or Indian society it was all the same to him. He was one of those rare, brilliant Indo-Mauritian intellectuals who in spite of having imbibed a good deal of Western ideas and ideals, still continued to stick to their own culture and traditions.

Seeneevassen honoured his family, his profession and his country. And he would have continued to do so. The country was expecting a lot from him. he has died too soon. Be it as it may, tomorrow when that body of his which was so full of life and vitality would have been reduced to ashes on the funeral pyre and when the crowd of mourning friends would leave the Vallee des Pretres crematorium, they would perhaps say to themselves:
"His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world "This was a man!"
Mauritius Times, Friday 6th June, 1958.

Copyright Succession Keharsingh Jagatsingh