Skip to main content

Tryst with Independence: India falling behind most its neighbours in social indicator

By Moin Qazi*
August 15 is the most cherished date in the Indian calendar .it was on this momentous day, more than seven decades back, that we were born an independent and free country .Mahatma Gandhi’s luminous leadership finally made the British Quit India in 1947. It is certainly an occasion for celebration.
More than that, it is a point in a nation’s journey when we need to introspect and evaluate whether we have been able to realize the dream of our Father of the Nation who guided the nation’s journey of liberation from colonialism.
We must remember that Gandhiji had proclaimed that true freedom will be one where every Indian is able to live a life free of hunger and destitution. As the great philosopher Voltaire said, “The poor man is never free; he serves in every country.” Gandhiji himself emphasised several times that his mission in life was to wipe every tear from every eye.
Freedom is the primary value from which spring forth all other values. It is the river; the others are the tributaries. Without freedom, all other values wither and perish. True freedom signifies freedom from restraints that we derive from the willingness of others to give space to their convictions and actions and acknowledge their right to do so. It allows us to live our way and to pursue our vision .
In his famous ’Tryst with Destiny‘ speech, broadcast on the radio at the midnight hour of India’s birth as an independent nation on August 15, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first Prime Minister, articulated the new nation’s promise to its people in words whose soul-stirring resonance still echoes today:
“The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic, and progressive nation; and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.”
My grandfather remembers how fired he and his friends were by Nehru’s sincerity and determination; indeed, how some of the venerable elderly elite who listened to that historical speech commented that they felt like the old and decrepit war horses who spring back into action propelled by the bugle call. They felt like they were hearing the Delphic oracle.
Nehru’s vision remains as inspiring today as when he first spoke the words but the goals remain equally elusive. India’s poor still wait for opportunity and justice; too many of their lives are still fraught with poverty, ignorance, and disease. No doubt, some of the worst exploitation of human beings occurs in India.
The great poet Faiz Ahmed‘s Faiz lament is laden with stark truth:
“...This is not the morning we’d fought for,
In whose eager quest, all comrades
Had set out, hoping that somewhere
In the wilderness of the sky
Would emerge the ultimate destination of stars...”

Indeed, as Mahatma Gandhi had envisioned, the struggle for the larger freedom was the journey towards the second independence, the true but elusive freedom, the freedom from poverty.
Nehru reiterated Gandhi’s vision of independence:
“Mahatma Gandhi taught us to view our national struggle always in terms of the under-privileged and those to whom opportunity had been denied. We realised that there was no real freedom for those who suffered continually from want, and because there were millions who lacked the barest necessities of existence in India, we thought of freedom in terms of raising and bettering the lot of these people”.
One of the most significant goals of inclusive and equitable development is poverty elimination. Although India has made rapid progress in several fields, its impressive economic growth has not trickled down to the larger population. India's millions still continue to face mounting daily challenges and are struggling to meet the bare basic necessities of subsistence; education, health, housing, employment and adequate food.
The Father of the Nation had said that elimination of poverty was his mission and was also the prime objective of 'Swaraj' or freedom. In his famous speech, 'Freedom at Midnight' Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru mentioned:
"The ambition of the greatest men of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.“
Nehru reminded the country of the tasks ahead and emphasized: “The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.” That mission of Gandhi and ambition of Nehru is still a mirage, a far distant dream.
India has witnessed a relatively high aggregate economic growth, but also abounds in persistent and endemic deprivation and deep social failures. Appalling poverty and the staggering inequalities continue to characterize the lower social and economic pyramid.
Concentration of wealth and power in very circumscribed elite strains the values which define democracy
Barring an impressive growth in per capita income, which has inherent faultiness, India is actually falling behind most its neighbours -- in every social indicator that matters, from literacy to child malnutrition to access to toilets. India’s development landscape is dotted with schemes that sounded ambitious but were very poorly funded and simply didn’t deliver.
This concentration of wealth and power in very circumscribed elite brings to fore many important issues. This culture strains the values which define democracy. A critical strength of a democratic culture is that it allows everyone to pursue their interests relatively freely.
But, as Alexis de Tocqueville reckoned, the democratic individual can easily be trapped by the delusion that they are rich enough and educated enough to supply their own needs:
"Such folk owe no man anything and hardly expect anything from anyone .They form the habit of thinking of themselves in isolation and imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands."
This is a very old problem. Pericles, the great champion of democracy in ancient Athens, praised individual initiative, but also cautioned against citizens who live only for themselves He believed that such individuals have no right to be part of the city-state to which they owe their prosperity. He had a noun for such folks too, idiotes – from which we get the well-known English word.
India has certainly made great economic progress and is a global powerhouse, but its villagers continue to live in extreme financial stress. We have the best education facilities in cities but children in village go to schools where there is little learning. The fragile foundation of basic education augurs a dim horizon for India’s future human capital.
India is striving to build hundreds of smart cities, towns and villages. We must ensure that they are humane, hi-tech and happy places leading to the creation of a technology-driven but compassionate society. In this age of technological advance, machines are being pitted against men.
The only way to survive this is to acquire knowledge and skills, and learn to innovate. Inclusive innovations linked to the aspirations of our people can benefit a wide spectrum of society as well as preserve our diversity.
It is time we understand that India will grow only when all of India grows. The excluded ones have to be included in the development journey. The hurt and the alienated have to be brought back into the mainstream.
One unique feature that has held India together is our respect for each other’s cultures, values and beliefs. It is our unique strength and we should safeguard it .The very essence of plurality lies in cherishing our heterogeneity and valuing our diversity.
In the networked environment of today, a caring society can only be developed by harmonizing religion with modern science. Swami Vivekananda once observed:
“What is needed is a fellow-feeling between the different types of religion, seeing that they all stand or fall together, a fellow-feeling which springs from mutual respect, and not the condescending, patronizing, niggardly expression of goodwill.”---
*Consultant, Niti Aayog, Government of India

Comments

TRENDING

India reaches 8th of 10 stage genocide: US Muslim advocacy group raises 'alert'

By Hena Zuberi* India has reached the 8th stage of genocide with the persecution of the Muslim community. Stating this, Professor Greg Stanton, who heads Genocide Watch, declared a Genocide Emergency Alert for India today at Justice For All online briefing.

Mayawati's 'success' depends on how BSP taps new crop of young Amdekarite leaders

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Whatever be the election results in Uttar Pradesh on March 10, it is extremely important to understand: that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and its leader Mayawati have the potential to rise like a Phoenix any time.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Anti-poor? 'Cumbersome' to link aadhaar, voter ID for people sans internet access

By Prashant Kumar Chaudhary, Ajit Kumar Jaiswal*  At present, technology plays an increasingly crucial part in modelling human existence by offering a variety of solutions to many of the challenges individuals confront in the real world. As a result, every branch of research works to provides means to solve these difficulties precisely and efficiently. The Central government works along the same lines as well.

India's actual Covid death rate about 2500 per million, third highest in world: Study

By Rajiv Shah  There is now well-researched proof, if it can be called that, indicating that the Government of India may have fudged data to show lower Covid death rate. A new paper, published in “Science”, has said that while officially the Government of India’s Covid-related death estimates as of January 1, 2022 – 345 per million population – are one-seventh of the US death rate, the actual analysis of crude death rate in India suggests, this may be a gross underestimation. 

Barbaric, inhuman attack on Odisha villagers to implement JSW project: NGO networks

Counterview Desk  A “solidarity statement" issued by three top civil society networks, Friends of the Earth India (FoE India), Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has asked the Odisha chief minister to ensure that the “inhumane barbaric attack on the villagers of Dhinkia, Odisha” in order to implement a corporate project.

Gender insensitive? Model Gujarat's cyclone relief package ignores 40,000 fisherwomen

CSJ volunteers talking to fisherwomen By Rajiv Shah  A Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) note on the Gujarat government’s compensation package to the victims of the devastating Tauktae cyclone, which hit the coastal belt of Saurashtra's Amerli, Rajula, Una, and Gir-Somnath districts in May 2021, has said, the relief offered was so terribly inadequate that many of the fisherfolk were not able to fish for the rest of the year.

'Dargah site was a temple': Claim in Gujarat following post-Babri verdict demands in UP

By Rajiv Shah  Will Gujarat also see demands to replace mosques and dargahs with Hindu temples? It would seem so, if a new fact-finding team conclusion is any indication. Apprehending the “danger” of communal conflagration, it has cited the claim on a 15th century dargah was originally a Hindu temple – allegedly quite on line with what has been happening in UP following the Supreme Court verdict on Babri Mosque.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Haridwar call for genocide direct result of Modi 'tolerating' Islamophobic policies

By Our Representative  A high-level briefing organised in Washington DC, in which as many as 17 human rights and interfaith organizations -- including Amnesty International USA, Genocide Watch and Hindus for Human Rights, apart from several persons in their individual capacity -- participated, has come down heavily on what they called "Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Islamophobic policies and tolerance of open incitement by Hindu extremists for a genocide of Muslims."