PM museum glimpse of path to New India: Modi

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday inaugurated a museum commemorating the contributions of all his predecessors and the highlights of their terms, saying the complex showcases the challenges they overcame to lay the foundation of a ‘New India’.
“It is my honor to dedicate this museum to the nation as we celebrate 75 years of India’s Independence… this is our attempt to raise the national consciousness,” the PM said, addressing a gathering comprising families of some of the former PMs, among others.
The museum has come up on the Teen Murti Estate in the national capital, where the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, dedicated to the first PM, is located. Artifacts related to Nehru have been retained in the original Nehru Memorial Museum building, re-designated as Block I, and contain interactive screens about India’s journey to becoming a republic. It also features a gallery on the writing of the Constitution, apart from books and memorabilia related to Nehru.
Interestingly, the ‘Pandit’ honorific nearly synonymous with Nehru has been replaced with ‘Shri’ in the reference to him in the gallery containing pictures of all PMs.
Modi made an oblique reference to the suspension of civil rights during the Emergency at the inauguration of the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya, saying it is the nation’s collective responsibility to strengthen democracy, which India has sustained with a solitary aberration. The PM, who toured the old and the new blocks for over one hour as the museum’s first ticket-bearing visitor, said the museum reflects the shared legacy of every state and each prime minister.
The gallery space dedicated to Indira Gandhi also comprises a section on the Emergency period, alongside others that credit her for leading India’s first nuclear test in Pokhran and the nationalization of banks. The collection includes correspondence between her and prominent leaders, including Jayprakash Narayan in June 1976 – at the peak of the Emergency – in which he acknowledges her contribution of Rs 90,000 from the PM Relief Fund to buy a dialyzer for his treatment.
On ‘Pandit’ being replaced with ‘Shri’ in referring to Jawaharlal Nehru, a member of the content review committee told TOI that the panel had in the initial stages “looked at standardization of names” and there was “no reason” (other than that) for dropping the honorific commonly associated with India’s first PM.
Members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, which gave the country three PMs, skipped the event, while Manmohan Singh conveyed his inability to attend due to ill health. However, Congress was represented by Anil Shastri, the son of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Surbhi Vani Devi, daughter of Narasimha Rao, who was present along with the kin of former premiers Chaudhary Charan Singh, HD Deve Gowda, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Morarji Desai.
Surabhi Vani Devi said it was a “very emotional moment” for her. Rao’s grandson and BJP leader NV Subhash said Congress did not give enough credit to the late PM and it took 18 years for him to get the recognition that was due. Neeraj Shekhar, former PM Chandrasekhar’s son, tweeted a photo of his father with Modi to say that the two had enjoyed a strong bond despite political differences. Sandhya Agarwal, the granddaughter of Chaudhary Charan Singh, said she was “overwhelmed” by the great initiative to preserve the late farmer leader’s legacy.
With high-end technology, smart voice-overs, screens, and visual effects, the museum virtually transports visitors to the era of the PMs. The highlight of the AB Vajpayee gallery, for instance, is the Pokhran II test in 1998, which visitors can experience with a simulated shuddering of the ground beneath their feet.
The collection includes a ‘charkha (spinning wheel)’ belonging to Shastri, which he received as “dowry” when he refused any other gift, handwritten diaries of Chaudhary Charan Singh, Rao’s spectacles and Desai’s ‘tulsi’ beads and Bhagavad Gita.
In an oblique reference to the objections raised by Congress about the government’s “takeover” of the Teen Murti Estate, the chairman of the executive council of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Nripendra Mishra said the Nehru Museum wouldn’t have got the space it deserves if the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya was built anywhere other than at the Teen Murti estate. “This is why we decided to integrate the old with the new,” he said.


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