August 15th, 2006, is the 60th birthday of the Republic of India. This day always evokes a sense of introspection in me. How do we judge the performance of a nation like India in the last 59 years? Are we a success or a failure as a nation? Where will India be in another 50 years? Will it reach the pinnacle of success or will it split apart because of internal strife.
We have come a long away since those brutal days of 1947 when India announced its arrival to the world after emerging from the bloody ravages of an incident, nowadays known by two simple innocuous words - "The Partition".
We have the world's largest constitution that has somehow managed to withstand the ravages and challenges of time. We have established the rule of law that separates state from any single dominant religion. In our armed forces, we have an institution that has managed to guard the spirit of Indian democracy and its people. The three arms of the government - the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive, have managed to fulfill, albeit inefficiently, the roles laid out by the constitution. Our economy has finally managed to break the shackles and grow at an average rate of 8%. In the last 10 years we have managed to lift 100 million people out of dire poverty. We have managed to implement a law called the "Right to Information" that guarantees the common citizen of India the ability to access any type of information from the government. Although the infrastructure in India seems to be showing no signs of improvement, yet, I do believe, that lot of work has already gone into developing them as fast as possible. It is another matter that the pace of infrastructure development could have been much faster in order to support the growing economy. There is much to celebrate!
During the celebrations, we must keep some unsavory facts about our country in perspective. We have more than 300 million people living in dire poverty. Even in this cycle of unprecedented growth of the Indian economy, we see farmers of Vidarbha (Maharashtra) and Andhra Pradesh commiting suicide after the failure of their crops. The liberalization of the economy, responsible for freeing the people from the shackles of government bureaucracy, has come to a virtual standstill because of the pressure from the leftists who provide support to the coalition government in the center. Executive arm of the GoI still does not have the desired respect for human rights and right to free speech and expression enshrined in our constitution. The list of pending law suits that need resolution in the courts have reached few millions. Our legal system shows no signs of any reforms in order to keep pace with a fast changing society and economy. We have archaic laws inherited from the British that consider practices like homosexuality to be punishable offence. The bureaucracy, scared by the efficacy of the RTI law, now want to modify it in order protect their vested interests.
We have a raging conflict with the Islamic fundamentalists in the state of Kashmir. This conflict threatens the secular fabric of India. In Central India, the Maoists are trying to undermine the state of India in their own way. The security situation for the common man on the streets has deteriorated because of the spineless nature of the GoI and increased victimization complex among the Muslims that is being exploited by the Islamists. In the meantime, everybody in the government as well as in the opposition is too busy playing appeasement and partisan politics.
I can go on and on about our problems and our achievements in the years since the independence. I can also keep fighting over what, I think, are the best ways in which India can provide hope to its starving millions and what should be the next policy change of the government. However, this post is not an exercise in that. On this day, I would like to just roll with the flow, relax, and feel the love that I have for this land and her people. I can not normally characterize this love in words. My birth as an Indian is probably an accident in the cosmic scheme of the things. But I have grown up to love her enormously. Cynics will sneer at me for admitting this love in words. I am OK with that.
It is time that Indians stop pontificating on the historical injustices that we have suffered in the hands of the Mughals and the British. Let us start by assuming that we are responsible for our mistakes and we have to figure out how to rectify them. Let us not repeat the mistakes of our past. Today, India stands at the crossroads of development and it is for us - the current generation, to show her the way.