Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain Tere

The Life of Indians After 66 Years of Independence

Prof. Dr. Rameeza A. Rasheed for BeyondHeadlines

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” It’s been sixty six long years since these golden words floated throughout the free India  when ,on the midnight of August 14, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of an independent India made a ‘tryst with destiny’ heralding the  freedom from a foreign hand rule.

The 67th Independence Day of India was celebrated with the usual festivity by the Indians, with President’s address to the nation and the Prime Minister’s speech at the red fort in old Delhi. One more holiday for the Indians so that they can sit in front of the television and enjoy the cinema events the whole day. When we sit back and ponder over the concept of independence and its practical value in India today only the negative points score over positive ones.

In spite of few decades of independence, the nearly half the population of India ie., the women are not free to pursue their goals due to several hurdles in their path towards progress. The social moorings work strongly against their progress. They are subjected to violence within homes, in work and in public places. Their movements are restricted due to unsafe conditions prevailing in this nation resulting India getting 4th  international rank as unsafe country for women. The United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2013 reports a very bad picture on this front.  According to this report India stood at 132nd position out of 187 countries on the gender inequality index – performing worse than even  Pakistan (123). Adverse sex ratio is one of the reasons  for this lower rank because ,in India  females do not have freedom  to be born, to live after birth, to live with dignity during adolescent period and later in life due to all types of violence against them.

The children  are  subjected to all types violence,  at homes, schools and work places. They  too are subjected to sexual violence and  suffer due to child labour. The parents create traumatic situation for them due to their efforts  to make their children achieve  all their failed ambitions through them . Even the  schools do not have a pleasant learning atmosphere  due to strict rules, over loaded syllabus , treatment of children by unkind teachers who subject them to corporal punishment  and the parental pressure to achieve   excellent academic record.  They have no freedom to learn at their  own space and enjoy their  childhood pleasures .

The un organised labourers are thoroughly exploited and even the  organised labourers are not protected by labour laws due to the unlimited powers of the corporate sector. The unemployment situation in this country is fully utilised by the employers  to treat them as bonded labourers with no freedom to work with dignity , fair wages and job security .

The higher and professional education sector has become a very lucrative sector for profiteers and hence  has gone into the hands of politicians and business men  with zero academic background. Such persons  decide the fate of the millions of the students . The domination of non academicians in the  higher education scenario has resulted in the mass production of unemployable graduates .Ever since the mushrooming of self financing colleges happened in India, higher education has become a commodity, salable to the highest bidders  hence wealthy students get courses of their choice in spite of poor academic performance and those who can not buy the seats end up  with  courses allotted in spite of better marks. Thus, the difference between the haves and have nots  is implanted in the students mind strongly at that age and it is one of the reasons for the development of materialistic attitude among the younger generation. The teachers in these institutes are treated like bonded laboures  with no facility for quality enhancement .

The academic scholars, the NGOs and human rights activists are often accused of sympathising with  extremists and Maoist insurgencies  and subjected to tortures of different types and slapped with several cases and arrests and prevented from carrying on with their social responsibilities with total freedom.

The marginalised communities like the Dalits, tribals  and minorities are denied of their share of gains of  growth  and exploited  in different ways . They are not free  to raise their voice against any injustice, since they will face life threats or legal action   under severe provisions of the of some draconian laws. The tribal communities  are robbed of their natural resources and habitats  by corporate sector  and the government, in the name of  infrastructural development  without due compensation and rehabilitative measures. The  Land acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill is long pending.

Creative persons like writers, painters, cartoonists and film personnel are not free to express their creative ideas  without any opposition from some fringe groups. They  create  law and order problem and succeed in  forcing  the ruling government to ban the exhibition of  creative works.

The opposition party’s freedom to perform their  political   duties is restricted whenever, the ruling party at the states level get brutal majority. They are often slapped with defamation cases , arrested on flimsy grounds and  prevented from performing their democratic functions for which they were elected by the citizens. Section 144 of the criminal procedure code is often used to restrict the opposition party’s activities.

Even the judiciary which is considered as the custodian of justice is slapping contempt cases on activists and journalists if they expose judicial corruption

The online censorship  introduced under the provisions of the 66 A of The IT Act is  restricting the freedom of the cyber world. Any face book or twitter comment can cause problem to the contributor of that idea and cases can be filed . Any comment can be treated as harmful or harassing of blasphemy or menacing or falsehood and invite problems .  Internet rules introduced in 2011 have imposed lot of restrictions on internet service providers

The Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) grants excessive powers to the security forces. They are given the power to use force  against the suspects in disturbed areas. There are several charges by human rights violations and misuse of their powers  in states like Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur and Nagaland . In these places, people are not free to protest even against genuine grievances.  In seven north eastern states the insurgent faction seeking greater autonomy for their ethnic groups are implicated in several cases and sometimes even ordinary citizens  are slapped with false cases.

In the name of internal security the several Muslim youth are falsely implicated under Internal Security Act  and remain in prison for a number of  years wasting their productive years  and finally discharged as not guilty with out any compensation for the loss of their learning and earning periods . Their entire future becomes a tarnished one since the stigma attached to them because of the government actions remain with them throughout their life.

Press freedom is often curtailed due to  external and internal pressures such as interference by political and business leaders, pressure from advertisers and physical attacks on the press people. Various media laws, such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, The Copy Right Act, 1957, impose restrictions on the exercise of the right of freedom of speech and expression by the press. The second Press Commission has suggested certain amendments in the existing press laws to expand the scope of press freedom. India is ranked 140th in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index – it’s lowest ranking since 2002 – because of an “increasing impunity for violence against journalists and because internet censorship continues to grow. India has slipped nine positions on this list with the “government increasingly refusing to grant citizens the freedom to be informed”. The print and electronic media are  slapped with several  defamation  cases to discourage their fearless reporting.

According to the Heritage foundation and Wall Street Journal report India, has been ranked as the 119th free country in the world out of 177 in the 2013 index of economic freedom. The reasons listed are, higher level of corruption at every level of the administration , absence of a well-functioning legal and regulatory framework,  highly protective  trade policy, the notoriously onerous set of regulations and licenses required to do business in India, a thriving black economy,  maximum rate of corporate taxation and state-run banks domination over the  financial sector. In short the foreign investors  feel India is still   a restrictive economy in spite of WTO’s  regulations  for free economies.

Our own administrators  are doing everything the  foreigners did such as the robbing of natural resources for private gain,  following the policy of   divide and rule on the basis of religion, , race, castes and language, transferring black money to unknown destinations, and permitting unrestricted flow of foreign goods and  services even in vital sectors in the name FDI . We struggled hard to achieve Swadeshi  concept and now we  invite foreign investors, luring them with incentives and worry if they hesitate to enter Indian market  without bothering about protecting Indian business interests.

This how the  Indians are living  after 66 years of independence.

The net result is, the absence of free and fair atmosphere in every field which has created a choking atmosphere for the marginalised sections, human rights activists and honest bureaucrats The growing crimes in India and the internal security problems  have  created an unsafe conditions for the Indians in general and for women, children and senior citizens in particular. The ethical values are fast disappearing among the administrators, rulers and the citizens due to growing materialism .We often wonder why should self rule has brought out multiple problems in the life of  average Indians though no one expected paradise after independence from foreigners rule. Infrastructural development and technology advancement alone will not enable  human to live with dignity. In a country where the women, the poor , the physically  handicapped persons and the senior citizens are not treated with dignity and in human rights violations  are rising  and where the  rich and the powerful enjoy unlimited rights and allowed to loot the country in every possible manner people will surely become weary of living in the independent India .Yet, we have great faith is our Constitution and the judiciary and it is always better to live in country like India which is a functioning  democracy despite  it’s under performance in certain matters than in countries with economic prosperity, but without basic freedom to the citizens. Living forever in golden cage will not be a pleasure but a choking situation.

(The author is a Chennai based academic and a retired Professor of Economics with specialization in gender and Indian economy.)


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