‘Throwback’ of 71 years

As in every year, while I get ready to celebrate the Independence Day, the most pertinent question resurfaces in my mind. Have we, as a nation, done justice to the struggle of our freedom fighters? Have we, as a nation, stood on the promise that we made to each other? A promise to build a sovereign, socialistic, secular and democratic nation. Or are we just enjoying the powerful weapons loaded in our constitution – Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity?

While Nehru gave his famous speech “Tryst with Destiny”, he would have never expected our thirst with traditions. At the time of partition, lakhs of people were brutally butchered in the name of religion. Communalism was at its peaks causing an irreparable damage to our diverse heritage. Moreover, social evils such as untouchability, sati, caste discrimination, child marriage, female infanticide were deeply rooted in the society. The economic status was also dire. The literacy rate in India was just around 18% during Independence. Income of an average Indian was approximately Rs.1500 per year and average lifespan used to be 41 years. Nevertheless, India has achieved tremendous progress in most of the metrics.

While drafting the constitution, Ambedkar made sure that no one is left behind in our progress. Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s effort led to the unity of the entire country. Nehru was successful in blending modern education and technology with Indian culture. Vinoba Bhave was successful in redistributing thousands of acres of land to minimize inequality. With the solid seeds sown, the national building has begun.

Socially, we have come along a long way. Evil practices such as Untouchability and Sati are extinct. Female foeticide and infant mortality have been improved. Women empowerment is on the cards. Stringent laws preventing male hegemony, ruthless crimes and gender discrimination are in place. Article 29 of the constitution, guarantees protection and promotion of our rich and diverse culture. However, the caste discrimination and dowry system still prevail. Strong resistance ought to be offered to prevent the same.

Politically, we can be undoubtedly pound of ourselves. Right from the first day, we gave ourselves universal adult suffrage. Women in the USA and UK enjoyed voting rights only in the 1920s, many decades after their independence. Till date, we have conducted 16 massive LokSabha elections. Compared to our neighbours, we are far superior in maintaining democratic principles. One neighbouring government needs the military to stay in power and in another, the government is used by the military to stay in power. We also withstood Emergency in 1975-77 which tested the very essence of democracy. Of course, only by 1993 we were able to add another level to our governance i.e., Local self-governance which began through 72nd and 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act. Though women are still under-represented in Parliament that is not the case with Panchayat level. 33% reservation for the women has already shown a great result. As of now, there are around 10 lakh women representatives in India at different levels of Panchayat.

There was a time when floods, contaminated diseases and droughts engulfed innocent lives. Once, in the 1960s, Indira Gandhi had to desperately accept USA conditions for shipment of food grains. Since then, we have become one of the largest producer and exporter of food grains. Green revolution and white revolution led by people such as M.S. Swaminathan and Verghese Kurein have saved millions of lives. Even the revolutions conceptualized by Karl Marx or Stalin could have never saved so many people in the entire history.

Not to forget the 4th Industrial Revolution we are presently living in. From a country which had to depend on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to come out of Balance of Payment crisis (1991), we have become Net loan provider to IMF and also were instrumental in beginning BRICS ecosystem. It took Gandhi one whole year to commute across the length and breadth of the country. Now, every middle-class person is aiming to travel by flight. Thanks to the sacrifice of Airline industry.

We as a nation also withstood brazen attacks from our neighbours. Though we lost to China in 1962, we were successful in defeating Pakistan in 1965. We also liberated Bangladesh from the shackles of Pakistan in 1971. Courageously countered the infringement at the Kargil in 1991. Throughout the history, we were forced into war but never proactive attacked any country. Indian soldiers work all across the world to maintain world peace. Be it be for England in World War I or let it be in Africa for UN Peacekeeping missions.

For a moment, if we stop wondering why SEC data was not released or on why Rahul Gandhi hugged Narendra Modi and forget about the entrenched corruption, social discrimination, gender inequalitiy, etc etc., India is a mere delight to live in. Just-

– To experience the diverse climates – from chilling cold in J&K to arid desert of Rajasthan

– To taste diverse varieties- from Andhra Tirupati laddu to Gujarat dhokla

– To enjoy the captivating dance performances – from Kathakali of Kerala to Bharata Natyam of Tamil Nadu

– To witness the rich tribal heritage of North East

-To cherish the rock-cut caves in Elora of Maharashtra and the Mughal paintings of North.

-To meet people believing in diverse philosophies and speaking in various languages.

-Or to just sit back and watch “Friends”

If taking a human form is a bliss, taking birth in this generation is a luck. Living in India is a celebration. One can never be bored of people or places.

Amidst all this enjoyment, did we forget about the promise made at the beginning?

Happy Independence Day.

Jai Hind.

~Shankar.