Dhanushree Kulshreshtha for BeyondHeadlines
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”-
(Rabindranath Tagore in Gitanjali, published in 1913)
These remarkable words that were written much before the independence of India in 1947, represent the deep patriotism and a sense of responsibility that was engraved in the heart of every Indian citizen thriving for freedom and overall development of the nation.
From the fight for ‘Purna Swaraj’ (complete freedom) based on the principles of non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi, the craving to save our ‘Sone ki chidiya’ (golden bird) from the British Raj and the atrocious zamindars, the inevitable act to counter exploitation of the poor and helpless brothers and the saddening experience of partition of one land into two countries; we have, indeed, come a long way.
These 64 years have seen an immense development in terms of the nation’s economic, political and social progress. The Zamindari system has been abolished. The nation has experienced nearly 9% growth rate recently due to the economic reforms in 1991 and thereafter. Education has now become a priority with increased awareness among the masses. The infrastructure facilities have also seen a remarkable development with India having the third largest road network (3,314 million kilometer) in the world and the fourth largest rail network (64,215 kilometer) after the United States, Russia and China.
India has also progressed appreciatively in the fields of science and technology, sports and art and culture.
A nation that is home to a population of 1.21 billion people, who follow different religious practices, culture and tradition, seems to be a blissful place to live in with this “Unity in Diversity”. But is that so?
Sometimes this very term “Unity in Diversity” seems to be fictitious enough as a long lost dream that Mr Tagore wanted to convey through his inspirational words. Yes, we have come a long way. But one needs to reflect: a Long Way to gain what?
And the answer would stare one in the dark. This is because, 64 years down the line, we all stand at a juncture where the nation’s progress has been thwarted by multiple scams and scandals, in which crores of rupees are spent by our chosen leaders for their own selfish needs. Be it the CommonWealth Games, which now, instead of being a memorable event or a source of pride for the nation, remains just those 1.76 lakh crore rupees that were illegally spent. Or be it the Adarsh Housing Society Scam, in which the homes, which were to be allotted to the families of the jawans, were used by political leaders for their families. Or the 2G scam where the spectrum was auctioned at lower rates to the companies like Swan and Unitech. Or the multi-crore Dal Scam in Orissa. And now, it is the farmers’ land that is being targeted in different parts of the nation like Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Noida to set up industries and highways and expressways.
Corruption has seeped in at every level, and it seems to be an inevitable evil. The Lokpal Bill that is still to be formulated focusing on the rights of each and every citizen to live in a corruption-ridden state, has recently taken a more significant turn. Social Activist Anna Hazare’s fight for such a nation has seen the support of citizens belonging to different age-groups. The people are eager to carve out a way that can lead to the formulation of a just state where every citizen has sufficient resources to survive and the gap in the income levels decrease through an equal distribution.
At present, the situation appears grave. Thirty-seven percent Indians still live below the poverty line (BPL); the literacy rate is just 64.48% and the sex ratio has worsened in several states like Haryana, Bihar and Jharkhand (according to the 2011 census). Inflation has touched a double digit figure of around 10%. Watching these figures, one is immediately shocked and forced to think: Did we really ‘progress’ in the past 64 years?
What is the difference between the Zamindari system, which existed before independence, and today’s atrocious police attacks on farmers who are protesting to get back their land? What is the difference if infanticide exists even today and the girl child is killed even among the educated class? What is the difference if child marriages are held even today in the remote villages of Rajasthan?
The partition of India, in which thousands of people lost their lives, has taken an ugly turn with the issue being outraged by terrorist attacks, which are mostly attributed to Pakistani organisations. The nation has frequently shaken by terrorist attacks in its metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai. The attacks in three key areas of Mumbai’s Opera House, popular jewelry market Zaveri Bazaar and Dadar last month are the most recent incidents, in which many innocent people were killed. Such incidents have rendered the people in a state of fear. Moreover, the security system of the nation seems to be flawed. This is because instead of punishing the real culprits, the innocent youth are targeted and harassed in many such cases. There has been a lack of justice in every arena, thwarting the development of the nation.
However, there have been attempts to improve the situation at every level. The government programmes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and MNREGA have been significantly contributed in spreading awareness, education and employment, but still much needs to be done. What is required is a more balanced implementation of developmental programmes and schemes so that people belonging to each and every section of the nation are rendered justice, be it the farmers, entrepreneurs, students, social workers no matter, poor or rich.
Only thriving for equal distribution of resources can lead to the real development of the nation and its citizens. Then we can truly celebrate the freedom of the nation, not only from the British Raj but from evils like corruption, unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, infanticide and injustice, and justify the meaning of the words through which Rabindranath Tagore described the independence much before 1947.