The Build India Group had a humble beginning in Delhi High Court in September 2006. It was a Saturday of September 2006, that Biraja Mahapatra met with his friends and fellow advocates Nishant Datta, Shanmuga Patro, Kiran Patra, and journalist friends Sudha Passi, Avtar Nehru and Gautam Basu and Nabajyoti Das at Chamber No 12 over a cup of tea and samosa. The topic for discussion was an idea of a country-wide platform for promoting in each and every citizen a sense of belonging to the country and a mindset against corruption and terrorism. The group had one conviction in common, that only a conscious citizenry could provide an answer to the problems that the country was facing.
On that day in September 2006, no clear path could be chalked out. But they persisted and a number of brainstorming sessions followed. Eventually, the idea of the Pledge Festival was concretised. It was agreed to work towards a Pledge Festival with pledges in 17 languages, and a country-wide exercise involving students across the country. The modalities would include the method of write-recite-commit to inspire students to be good citizens, sermons, slogans and songs amidst charged ambience came as tools to reach out to lakhs of students. The first festival was organised on the third Saturday of January in 2008 and has continued every year since then.
The early BIG group was supported and inspired by Justice A.K. Patnaik of Supreme Court, Justice Kailash Gambhir of the Delhi High Court, former Union ministers Ram Jethmalani and Salman Khurshid, former Delhi ministers late Purnima Sethi and Mangat Ram Singhal, Sr Advocate Rakesh Khanna, A K Behera, India Islamic Cultural Centre Trustee H R K Suhel, Advocate Sunil Malhotra, Rajeev Saxena, among many lawyers, educationists, and social workers to reach out to students across the country.
Institution heads like Mrs Bushra Rani, Mrs Mala Sood, Preity Goel, Savita Das, Late P J Naidu, Dash Benhur, Prof. B.K. Kuthiala, Dr. U.K. Mishra, Prof. Anita Das, Rajesh Asthana, Pradosh Debi, S.L. Arya, NeeraKhera, A.P.Sharma, J S Ghuman, Onika Mehrotra, Promod Kumar Ray among many others found the programme meaningful and carried it to various educational institutions where students took a pledge to be good citizens. This celebration continued on the third Saturday in January, albeit the weather conditions on the third Saturday are harsh in north India and some hill states are even under the cover of snow.
In 2013, it was decided to have a day for the country, which could be truly celebrated as a national festival. It followed that, the need was for a national festival and a national pledge – both did not exist in India. November 26, the day the Constitution was adapted, was identified as ideal for the purpose of being declared a national day.
It was found that most people do not know the relevance of November 26, 1949. This date is most significant in the history of India because it changed the status of common people of this country from being subjects of their erstwhile kingdoms to the sovereign owners of this country.
11 MPs of the Rajya Sabha including our adviser Sh. A.V. Swamy who wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister in September 2013 urging him to declare November 26 as the National Pledge Day. M.P. Rabi Mahapatra promoted the idea amongst fellow MPs, that November 26 should be declared a national day. The government did not respond to this proposal.
Pledge festival, with a national outlook with equal respect to all faith systems, was already becoming popular in many schools and colleges across the country through the untiring efforts of BIG. Dr Bhagaban Prakash, Dr Rajeshwar Rao, Pankaj Sukhija, Debendra Rout, Sangram Dhar, Ravikesh Sinha, Promod Chawla, Ramakant Gaur, Anant Trivedi, Rajiv Mallik, Shailendra Srivastava, Ashwini Sood, Aswhini Dubey, Sangeeta Tomar, Rakesh Chitkara, V.K. Sharma, Ranjan Mohapatra, UtpalBorpujari, Rakesh Mukhija, K.G. Suresh, B.K. Dash, S.K. Rout among many others got together to yet again suggest to the government that November 26 could be declared as a national day.
Our adviser Sh A V Swamy, MP, continued to patronise our idea and continued in his effort to convince Prime Minister Modi and other ministers that November 26 be celebrated as Citizens Day as per the program already established by BIG. A timeline was also put forward for consideration. On September 21, the PM office confirmed that the Prime Minister had taken note of the proposal and appropriate instructions were being given to three minsters for their opinion.
Subsequently, Prakash Javadekar (HRD), T.C. Gehlaut (Social Justice) and Juel Oram (Tribal Affairs) were appointed to give suggestions. Mr Swamy along with Biraja Mahapatra and V.K. Sharma met with ministers Javadekar, Gahlaut and Oram with a copy of the brochure and suggested a time-line for celebrations of the Constitution Day on October 13, 2016.
Soon after, the Ministry of HRD, asked all educational institutions (via an ad in press) to celebrate the Constitution Day with emphasis on the Fundamental Duties enshrined in Article 51 A as its foundation. The Ministry of Social justice also sent out instructions to celebrate Nov 26 as Constitution Day. As a consequence, many more educational institutions joined the celebration and even some government offices celebrated ‘Constitution Day’. Each doing it in their own way, since the instructions were incomplete.
We only hope from the next year onward, the Pledge Festival will get better established throughout the country as a real integrity building exercise and celebrated along the lines proposed by BIG.
The organisation is having its office at D-289, Defence Colony, New Delhi and the main guiding team comprises Rajya Sabha MP Sh A.V. Swamy, former Supreme Court judge Hon’ble Mr Justice Justice A.K. Patnaik, former Judge of Delhi High Court, Hon’ble Mr Justice Kailash Gambhir, Advisor to Election Commission of India, Dr. Bhagaban Prakash, former Additional Solicitor General of India Sh Rakesh Khanna, Former MP and labour leader of international repute Dr R.C. Khuntia, Makhanlal Chaturvedi University of Journalism and Mass Communication (Bhopal) Vice-Chancellor Prof B K Kuthiala, India Islamic Cultural Centre (New Delhi) Trustee Sh H.R. Khan Suhelas Advisors.
The team is headed by Mr Biraja Mahapatra and being actively supported by among others, V.K. Sharma, Sh Ramakant Gaur, Pankaj Sukhija, D. Rajeswara Rao, Anant Trivedi, Dipesh Satapathy, Promod Chawla, Nabajyoti Das, Kiran Kumar Patra, Nishant Dutta, Rakesh Chitkara, Shanmuga Patro, Rajeev Mallik, Shailendra Srivastava, Abhya Kumar Behera, Sangram Dhar, Debendra Rout, Dr Umakant Mishra, Porf Ranjan Mahapatra, Rajeev Saxena, Ashwini Kumar Dubey, Ashwini K. Sood, Narendra Pal Singh, T.S. Kehar, NVM Ramana, and Prakash Nanda.
While the organisation is now concentrating on citizenry building exercise, its main aim is to work towards making an institution of politics with the sole aim that every individual has to be guaranteed food, health care, education and employment in his own milieu with dignity and a Sarpanch has to be responsible for it.
Build India Group is indebted to display of hard work with commitment by Educationist Smt Bushra Rani, Hirmi, Chattishgarh, the late Mr P.J. Naidu, Madras-based educationist who unfortunately passed away early this year, Sh S.N. Mishra, a prominent social worker and journalist in Odisha’s Keunjhar District, prominent story writer Sh Dash Benhur and ShPromod Kumar Ray in Bhubaneswar, Sh Raj Narain in Bangalore, Sh Rajesh Asthana in Mumbai, Advocates A K Sood, D Rajeshwar Rao, Sangeeta Tomar, educators Mrs Mala Sood, Sh AP Sharma, Mrs Pradosh, Sh S.L. Arya and Mrs Preeti Goel in Delhi among others. We are specifically grateful to large number of DAV schools which happily undertook this exercise. We are not able to name a large number of people who have already undertaken this exercise. We express our gratitude to all of them individually but more than our naming them, they already have received appreciations from thousands of parents and students and that is how Build India Group, notwithstanding it has not taken any financial help from any quarters, came to be discussed in the Parliament. We thank you all for taking pains in studying it. Join this movement and “let us keep the country’s interest paramount in all that we think, do, or say for the greater glory of this land”.