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What has India achieved in 60 years?
October 22, 2007
Since 1947, India has been celebrating Independence Day to rejoice in her freedom from imperialism. Its essence is also to recall how much suffering people had undergone during the British rule.
Of course, we also have to understand and analyse the purpose of our freedom. One can reasonably expect this exercise to be done after a decade or so, when things would have begun to take shape as envisaged before Independence.
For a celebration of any achievement by an organisation or an annual function, it is the past performance that is normally evaluated. If we look at India, increasing casteism, communalism, corruption, terrorism, etc, are not just the by-products of decadent social system; we are equally responsible.
The prime minister of India addresses the nation from Red Fort [Images]; a message is conveyed that we are free and this is something to celebrate. It is never mentioned that the country has yet not reached the heights it should have achieved after 60 years of Independence.
Political freedom is one thing; economic well-being and the country's unity and integrity are most significant factors. Dr Ambedkar warned that if political and social democracy do not go hand in hand, the former will crumble.
Intellectuals and socially and politically awakened citizens presuppose that social democracy will automatically come into effect if urbanisation, education, industrialisation and globalisation happen. Alas! That has not happened.
Who is most responsible for this situation? The blame can be squarely laid at the door of the nation's intellectual class.
All over the world, it is the middle class that has had the maximum impact on the overall social, political and economic development of a successful nation. The French revolution, which contributed to the promotion of modern democracy, rule of law and freedom of individuals, was basically the handiwork of intellectuals. Similar things happened during Russian revolution and elsewhere in the world as well.
The trouble with Indian intellectuals is that they are content to find fault with others' accounts. The media has utterly failed to change the mindset of the people of the country. If some changes have happened, they are because of natural process and other factors like development in the communication system, globalisation and technology.
The middle class finds politics disgusting and disdains it as a calling.
The famous philosopher Karl Marx said that while philosophers have interpreted the world, the real task lies in to how actually to change it. Our intellectuals do not even interpret the world properly. If they had done so, some changes would have occurred.
Did the media realise casteism will shape the direction of politics? Did journalists warn that money and muscle power would outweigh values and development in politics? After all, what is the definition of intellectualism? Is it just to reflect whatever is happening?
Real intellectuals could have warned the nation about the dangers emanating from the socio-politico and cultural fabric of the nation. Not only this, they could have prevented these things from happening with their realistic writing, unbiased speech, words and direct participation.
When we talk to a Communist, he will talk only about two classes, the haves and the have-nots. But see what happens when they celebrate their marriage. It is solemnised within their caste only. If only the Communists would have married their comrades, caste-based politics could not have found solid ground.
Others too do not stick to their principles, whether they are the Ambedkarites or socialists. Dalit leaders are never tired of blaming the upper castes, but do not ever endeavour to remove casteism from among themselves.
Modern democracy is imported from Western nations. It worked there and is still very effective. It is the best form of government. But, while adopting it, all political parties and institutions could have widened their role to address not only political and economic phenomena during the years since Independence, but the millennia-old rust of the nation as well.
It is a settled issue that no organisation -- whether social, educational or cultural -- is more organised than political organisations and political parties. How can these important organisations get away from their responsibility of fighting against social discrimination, casteism and decadent traditions?
Political parties leave these problems to others and address only political and economic issues; they behave as if they are functioning in Western societies. We do not realise that there are thousands of nations within a nation in India. A citizen is closer to a person from his caste even though he is miles away from him, than his neighbours in his native village. Thus, his identity is not his vicinity but his caste affinity.
Our prime minister, prominent economists and intellectuals say India will become a superpower. How has a mere growth of 9% GDP per annum become the yardstick to determine that India will become a superpower? If you look at the countryside, this claim will sound false. A majority of our farmers still use primitive technology like wooden cultivator, bulls and buffaloes. Most of the houses in rural areas are still made of mud and thatch. Animal dung and wood are the fuel of cooking. Rural schools can hardly be called as schools. Most of the children have not seen a computer, the Internet, etc. There are no toilets in the rural areas. The majority of people in rural India still do not have power, drinking water, roads, telephones, etc.
Under these circumstances, how can India become a superpower? Over 60 per cent of its population is still struggling for basic needs and amenities. We are in the habit of comparing ourselves with growing nations at different intervals, but keep revising it and comparing ourselves with other backward nations who begin to progress.
Let the sixtieth year of our Independence be dedicated to introspection and realisation. Let us focus on the goals that need thorough scrutiny to fit in today's vision of Independence.
The British are no longer ruling our country. Even as we commemorate our freedom, we should examine ourselves and see how we, as a nation, can achieve our national goals. If does not happen, each Independence Day celebration will be nothing more than a ritual.
Udit Raj is the chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, the national president of the Indian Justice Party and member of the Government of India's National Integration Council.