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January 2005

Obituary: P.V. Narasimha Rao

- by Carel

The former Prime Minister of India, Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao, passed away on December 23rd, 2004 , at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi . He was 83. The Central Government announced a seven-day national mourning and the Union Cabinet recorded Mr. Rao's “dedicated services to the nation” and the “leadership he provided in carrying out the economic reforms.”

The major achievements in the political career of Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao were when he served as India 's ninth Prime Minister from 1991–1996. In the period 1980–89 he had held several cabinet posts.

Narasimha RaoIn 1980, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India , gave him the position of Minister for External Affairs. It was during that tenure that he became involved with Auroville. In 1980, the Indian Government had passed the Auroville (Emergency Provision) Act to vest the management of all the Auroville undertakings in the Central Government for a limited period. Under this Act an International Advisory Council was constituted. It consisted of Mrs. Ludmila Zhivkova from Bulgaria; Mr. Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, then Secretary General of Unesco; the Indian industrialist Mr. J.R.D. Tata; P.V. Narasimha Rao, who was the Chairman of the Council and, as Secretary, Shri Kireet Joshi. Although this Council only met a few times in the period 1981-1986 – five times in all in New Delhi – it did play a very important role for policy decisions regarding Auroville. After Indira Gandhi's death in October 1984, Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister. In his new government, Narasimha Rao was made Minister for Human Resources Development which included the Department of Education that dealt with Auroville affairs. He thus became the minister in charge of Auroville under the Auroville Act. It was on the 23rd of August 1986 , that he, together with Mr. M'Bow and Mr. Tata came to Auroville for a meeting of the Council.

Those who thought that this was the first visit of Mr. Narasimha Rao to Auroville were in for a surprise. When he addressed the community he recollected a scene from fourteen years ago. “In 1972, I visited here on the Shravan Purnima day. The Mother was kind enough to give me a special darshan. It is very difficult for me to describe that experience. I can only say that in my long enough life of 65-66 years I have not had anything like that, any experience of that kind. The interview was over within one minute, no words were exchanged, it was just something passing from one point to another and probably being absorbed there to the extent I had the capacity to absorb. Nothing more, nothing less. Then I was told that the Mother wants me to pay a visit to the place where Auroville was taking shape. I drove there to find all around barrenness. There was nothing there except a small structure about which I was told that the soil of all the countries had been brought there. And that was the only structure which I could see. I was remembering that scene while driving here. It was impossible for me to believe that I am coming to the same place. So much has happened in these years, even from the point of view of outward appearance…it is unbelievable that within a comparatively short span of 13-14 years, all this has been created by the inhabitants of Auroville. I have nothing but admiration.

“But you know what we hear about you in Delhi (laughter). That is the contrast…nothing but petitions, letters, complaints that the inhabitants of Auroville are divided against themselves, totally worthless community, they do nothing except quarrel (laughter) …But the difference which I see between what we hear about Auroville in Delhi, and what we actually see with our own eyes, that actually confirms that seeing is believing.” And he expressed his confidence that Auroville will be a success. “It's you who have to run the show. It is yours. Whatever the legal difficulties, whatever the other difficulties, the basic fact is that this Auroville is yours, and you shall run it. When, how, in what manner, all that are matters of detail. This is the truth and I would like to assure you that we all believe in this.”

Shri Narasimha Rao as the Chairman of the International Advisory Council, lights the lamp during the IAC’s visit to Auroville on August 23, 1986. To the left is Sanjeev, behind Dr. Kireet Joshi and Krishna TewariIt was with his help that under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Auroville Foundation Act 1988 was passed by the Indian Parliament. But he did not again become part of the International Advisory Council when it was reconstituted under this Act 1988. In 1987, he once again had become Foreign Minister and gradually his contacts with Auroville diminished. After Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991, he succeeded him as Prime Minister until 1996. He became known as one of the most effective and creative prime ministers of India .


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