“We the People”: The Indian Republic
72nd Republic day- unfinished agenda is staring!
Is Democracy in peril?
America and India are the two largest democracies in the world. Alarming analogies are being drawn between the storming of US capitol on 6th January 2021 and breaching of the Red fort in Delhi on 26th January 20201. The storming of the United States Capitol was a riot and violent attack. The revolt- observed world over is a warning bell. Many of those who stormed were racists and Proud Boys members’ of Trumps stop the steal and save America rally. The unnerving sight of Confederate flag that emerged during the storming of US capitol by Trump mobs brought back bloody memories of civil war.
The Nishan sahib on the other hand is a holy religious flag of Sikh community. The farmers’ protest has been consistently identified with religious flags. But the climbing on to poles, waving the flag from the ramparts of Red Fort and later hoisting the Nishan Sahib, at the Red Fort on the 72nd Republic Day of India has sent shock waves across India and the world! The shocking visuals will be forever etched in the memory of Indians. Did the protesting farmers forget that on 15 August 1947, Nehru, raised the Indian national flag above the Lahori Gate and that every year the PM hoists the Indian “tricolour flag” at the Red fort?
Is Democracy in India- in peril?
On foot and in tractors, the protesters were part of a huge rally planned for India’s Republic Day. The storming of the red fort has made the 72nd republic day of India as the ‘republic of fear’. Red fort is a Symbol of the sanctity of our democracy.
Red Fort was breached; 120 and odd Police Personnel injured with some in ICU. There were actually armed insurrectionists in an inflammatory state of madness marching menacingly up the steps of Red Fort- never seen before! January 26, 2021 was an unforgettable crackpot day not just for us but for a flabbergasted world watching the grotesqueness at play in the red fort! The security infrastructure guarding the historical place, where the Prime Minister unfurls the National flag was feeble and unprepared. Supporters of Khalisthan movement and anti-national forces have infiltrated the Farmers protest.
Now, I am a common man.
The Common Man is a cartoon character created by Indian author and cartoonist R. K. Laxman. For over a half of a century, the Common Man has represented the hopes, aspirations, troubles and perhaps even foibles of the average Indian. Clad in a dhoti and a plaid jacket, the puzzled Common Man is no dupe: his sharp observations never missed details of the political circus.
Are we a successful nation?
Yes and NO!
We seem to be suffering from a colonial hangover! Seven decades after Independence, the legacy of the British Empire continues to define India in many ways, in terms of the institutions and regulations we inherited and chose to persist with. Westminster model of democracy has failed us as reflected in the unfinished agenda of free India.
India is a paradox
Within India there live many India-s including Rural Bharath and an Urban India and to quite a few others the Hindustan! The rich and content India, the poor and weak India, the mediocre India, the ailing India, the rejoicing India, the satiated India, the starving and famished India, the India that reaches out to the space, the India that struggles hard to write it’s name. India dreams to develop into a superpower but a third of the world’s poor still live here. India is one of the fastest developing economies in the world but also a home to the largest number of malnourished children.
In India, parliamentary democracy actually means appealing to caste and communal vote banks. It only has further entrenched them. Cash, caste and charisma- in that order, win you elections. Still elections are declared Free and fair. The Parliamentary Democracy has failed to deliver the basic necessities of life to the majority of Indians even after 72 yrs.
Respect for ourselves guides our morals; Respect for others guides our manners. Respect is one of mankind’s most noble sentiments. The highest levels of respect are always earned — never given. “As a citizen — I should be an Honest Person, Understand the Values and have Good Manners and Proper Conduct and Learn to accept responsibility for my own actions. This is the only way we can develop and help India develop.
Within two years of independence in 1947 and through open and spirited debate, India produced a constitution that guarantees “fundamental rights and a federal and parliamentary system with a significant role for the Supreme Court. But we are into an illusion. The superstructures of democratic government — a parliament and prime minister, periodic elections, constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms — hide the realities of on-the-ground rule by local landlords, bureaucracy, and party and industrialists, buttressed by a culture of caste-based inequality, and sustained by India’s continuing poverty. A democratic India has not been able to match Communist China’s ability to bring about an economically stable society!
Right after independence up to mid-1960s, we had to import food grains. Today India is self-sufficient in food production and exports various food grains. We are largest producers of fresh fruits, milk, pulses and oil seeds, largest producers of wheat, rice, and sugarcane.
India is one of four largest military powers with nuclear capability in the world today. We have a sophisticated missile program. We have developed one of the most envious space programs in the world. To this day, we have launched successful Lunar and Mars missions; all thanks to Indian Space Research Organization. Indian science is transforming India!
Despite its impressive economic growth, India still faces large challenges to overcome. Wealth at the top has not trickled down to the bottom. In 2017, 81% of the population still lived on less than Rs 140.00 a day. In the same year almost 30% of adults were illiterate and only 7% of Indians graduated.
Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty
Can the Indian government declare that in the next 5 years India will be in the list of 50, “NO-hungry” countries? That is the greatest freedom the government can offer! The Global Hunger Index- India is 103rd of 119 surveyed for 2018. Nearly 6oo million go hungry every day.
International poverty line is US$ 1.25 per day and as per the World Bank report 32.7% of the population in India lives below the poverty line whereas 68.7% survive on less than US$ 2 per day. 45% of children in India are malnourished. India has achieved the poverty reduction target. However, progress is uneven.
Corruption has corrupted India!
While India remains the most corrupt country in this region, with 69 per cent bribery rates, Japan came out as the least corrupt nation, with a 0.2 per cent bribery rate. Many Indians believe that God accepts money in return for his favors. So, they believe, there is nothing is wrong in bribery!
Religion is transactional in India. Outside the temple walls, such a transaction is called “bribe”. India’s temples collect so much that they don’t know what to do with it. Billions are gathering dust in temple vaults. Corruption breeds corruption. It has ceased to carry any stigma!
Corruption is regarded as the biggest reasons of poverty in India. Corruption in the Public Distribution System is the worst of its kind. The leading source of corruption in India is entitlement programs and social spending schemes that are meant for the welfare of our society.,
We have five million children in the labor market, says official figures. Their actual numbers may be four times as many. As a nation, we have failed each one of them. The debate on child labor should have been settled with the Constitutional amendment recognizing the right to education as a fundamental right. The problem is anything but over!
India has nearly achieved Universal Primary Education. 96 % of all children between the ages of 6–14 are enrolled in school. There are 229 million students enrolled in different accredited urban and rural schools of India. The quality of its education is in crisis. 95 percent of children attend primary school- just 40 % attend the secondary schools and Gross enrolment rate in Higher education is- 20%. 7% come out as graduates and only 20% of these are employable!
The number of graduates coming out of technical colleges is over 700,000. However, according to one study, 75% of technical graduates and more than 85% of general graduates lack the skills in the high-growth global industries.
In January 2019, India had over 900 universities and 40,000 colleges. Our university system is, in many parts, in a state of disrepair. Almost two-thirds of our universities and 90% of our colleges are rated as below average. The new National Education Policy 2020 introduced by the central government is going to bring profound changes to education in India.
The second freedom struggle is for ‘a caste-free India’.
A Wake-up Call for the People! Equality is fundamental to civilized living. The caste system has become degenerated and a social evil. It is a deep-rooted problem which has defied all solutions so far.
Religion is just a belief and faith. It can change during anytime of the life, but caste is constant. Once a shudra you are a shudra for life! Caste system is more dangerous than any religious system. Destroy India’s Caste System Before it destroys India!
Anyone with a caste mind set will be change proof — Harvard and Oxford educated are no exceptions. Come out of caste-based reservations. Let scholarships be based on father’s and mother’s income and child’s merit. Refashion education. You cannot embrace 21st century with 19th century mindset!
Secularism in India- a camouflaged hypocrisy!
Ban of Triple Talaq is first of many things to come in modern India!
True Secularism does not permit, mixing religion and State power. The Indian Constitution has allowed extensive interference in religious affairs in India’s personal laws — on matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, alimony etc. In the West, the word secular implies three things: freedom of religion, equal citizenship to each citizen regardless of his or her religion, and the separation of religion and state. Supporters of the Indian concept of secularism claim it respects “minorities and pluralism”. Many Critics claim the Indian form of secularism as “pseudo-secularism”. India’s acceptance of Sharia and religious laws violate the principle of Equality before the law.
Uniform civil code- equal laws for every citizen irrespective of his or her religion, is still a mirage despite nearly a decade of Modi rule! Religious laws in personal domain, particularly for Muslim Indians, supersede parliamentary laws in India.
A reality check- Universal healthcare in India!
Thirty per cent of Indians don’t have access to primary healthcare facilities. About 39 million Indians fall below the poverty line each year because of out of pocket healthcare expenses. 70% of Indians spend 70% their income on healthcare and buying drugs.
One million infants die in India every year –114 every hour- before they are a month old. Add another million kids who die before they are five years. Now this is a country that allows 218 children to die every hour of the day.
We have successfully eradicated various epidemics and Polio from our nation. Life expectancy is 68.89 years, which was only 36 years at the time of independence. This is one of the major achievements.
Freedom struggle was for an India that would be free from exploitation, oppression and discrimination on the basis of class, caste and creed. Tens of thousands of farmers are committing suicide! They are demanding secure livelihood. Many middlemen in the name of farmers are battling against the farm laws which would ensure secure livelihood for the farmers! Women are protesting against the blatant violation of their rights, growing incidences of rape, violence and exploitation! Youth are demanding their right to education and right to work.
Middleclass are demanding food at affordable prices, safe water to drink, housing, sanitation and dignity of infant feeding, defecation and menstruation! The previous governments were dithering and allowing Jammu and Kashmir to slip into Stone Age. The Prime Minister has done the right thing to abolish article 370 and 35-A to bring in hope of prosperity, development to Jammu and Kashmir on par with other states.
2021 is a year of hope! The Corona virus came from china. From an Indian perspective, the Chinese Virus and the Chinese State and its army have created an unprecedented havoc in the country. However, it is India and India alone which has handled these threats squarely and blunted them to a large extent. This is important.
What does the Year of Hope — 2021 portend for us? It portends a year in which India will come into its own. It also portends a year in which India will have to overcome three challenges– China , Pakistan and Internal Politics, if it has to realize its potential!
Our national leadership has the wisdom, sagacity and statesmanship in the face of adversity to come together and stand up to our enemies. Even more than that, 2021 is the harbinger of global change which opens immense opportunity for India.
Dr N prabhu dev
Former VC Bangalore University
Former- Director Jayadeva institute of cardiology.