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Monday, June 09, 2014  
India - A Republic at Sixty
"Are we really a rising world power moving ahead to become a super power in coming 20-25 years? With this situation prevailing, we cannot expect to be a world power in future which seems to be a fact and reality. There is a wide gap between ‘Chamakta Bharat’ (Shining India) and ‘Tadapta Bharat’ (Reeling India); and unless this gap is filled nothing is going to happen. With a 3rd rate education and 5th rate health system how can we think of becoming a world power?"
Syed Hasan Kazim

On the 22nd of January, I saw a soul steering scene at the New Delhi railway station which can make everyone stop and think about the condition of inequality and the apathy through which we are passing in the present era. I had been there to see my brother off who was going to our home in Bihar. Because of the fog conditions all the trains and flights in and out of the capital either were cancelled or running late and, hence, leading to a chaotic condition at the railway stations.

When we were waiting for the train, suddenly a train came from the other end. There was chaos due to the rush of the people to catch trains and suddenly a person standing near the train fell on the track being pushed by the crowd and one of his legs was chopped off his body. Such accidents are a regular occurrence on the railway stations in our country, but what is more appalling and disgusting is the irresponsibility and ignorance of the officials towards the apathy of a common man.

There I saw the whole machinery collapsing as there was not even a single stretcher to carry that almost dead man to the hospital. And after 40 minutes of that accident that person was carried to some hospital by some GRP personnel on a Thela (a local form of Cycle Rickshaw).

And now, we are claiming to be a republic of SIXTY YEARS. Is this time for us to stop and think - are we really ready to accept the challenges which would test our will as a nation in future?

Indian democratic experiment has always been regarded as being one of the most successful systems in the world but with some serious flaws. There is the need of a serious self head scratching. First of all we have to think about the principles on which the Idea of our republic was based. Are those ideals still valid? Yes they are absolutely valid, but are their implementation upto the mark. These are some of the questions whose answers are needed most at this hour.

It’s really an achievement of our nation to remain united as one nation in spite of huge diversities within its fold. But there are still many things which we need to think about.

There is a sense of being ignored or being left behind in our North Eastern states and their complaints are really valid and the government cannot behave like an ostrich in sand for long. The Human rights violation by our security forces in the guise of the laws like AFPSA is a reality which cannot be ignored. Down the South we have an agitation for a separate state of Telengana. In the West we have divisionists like Raj Thackeray who are always in a hurry to exploit regional biases and issues to score their political brownie points and even the state fears to take him by his horn. Raj’s MNS never miss a chance to make the mockery of the state, its law and principles. Sometimes the North Indians are beaten up, sometimes the Muslims are made target. At times it seems that the ruling congress is using him to keep his uncle at bay. The Kashmiris are being exploited since independence, sometimes through the Human Rights violation by our security forces, sometimes by both the Governments of India and Pakistan.

At the political front the level of politics has drastically gone down as compared to the politicians of the yesteryears. Sycophancy is at the peak as Ramchandra Guha rightly says, ‘India is more a Darbari democracy rather than a Dynastic democracy’. For our politicians the importance of the ‘Aam Admi’ – that has only made itself worth to be an election plank - is only till elections are over and after that no one cares about the will of the common Man. With our metropolitans gleaming with skyscrapers and shopping malls and the difference between the have-nots and haves has increased manifold.

The dalits and tribals are still being exploited and their lands snatched away by the greedy MNCs and business tycoons in connivance with the people’s government and, as a result, they are being forced to get into confrontation with the system. How can we expect a person whose children are malnourished or dying out of hunger to understand the royal intricacies of constitution and law? We cannot expect the Naxalite Movement to come down by constantly exploiting the native tribals and depriving them of their wealth and rights over the natural resources.

Are we really a rising world power moving ahead to become a super power in coming 20-25 years? With this situation prevailing, we cannot expect to be a world power in future which seems to be a fact and reality. There is a wide gap between ‘Chamakta Bharat’ (Shining India) and ‘Tadapta Bharat’ (Reeling India); and unless this gap is filled nothing is going to happen. With a 3rd rate education and 5th rate health system how can we think of becoming a world power? The condition of the government hospitals keeps getting worse day by day. Even the hospitals of our metros don’t have state of art facilities needed to deal with emergency. As far as private hospitals are concerned they have become a totally business ventures where a poor person cannot even think to get himself treated.

There have been some black spots in the history of our republic. The emergency, The Babri Masjid demolition, The 84 anti Sikh riots, so many communal riots including the post Godhra riot, communal violence in Kandhamal of Orissa and places of Karnataka, and so many other terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad etc. During the 84 riots and Gujarat riot, the whole state machinery was well behind the marauder and criminals who having political backing went on tearing apart our secular credentials with the help of police and administration. And, it’s a shame that the criminals who were responsible are still roaming free while thumping their chest. Prime accused of engineering and backing the Gujarat riots Narender Modi is still there, the Congress politicians responsible for the 84 anti-Sikh riots are still free as well.

Nearly most of the schemes and issues which should have played a great role in the upliftment of the underprivileged are practically benefitting the contractors and middlemen or are being used to score electoral points. Corruption at the Government places has played a great negative role in undermining the ideals upon which our Republic has been based. The delayed justice delivery system sometimes becomes very much harassing and exploitative for the victims. The best example being the Ruchika Girhotra case in which after being exploited by a Corrupt and hypocrite Police officer a promising Tennis player was forced to cut short her life. Ruchika is just a tip of an ice berg. These type of cases keep on happening in our hinterlands on a daily basis.

Apart from all these negative aspects our democracy has been a success story where the people have every right to dismiss or reject someone whom they do not want to rule. The best examples are the post emergency defeat of Indira Gandhi and the defeat of the NDA government in 2004 elections. It’s in itself a success story.

As a whole I would rather say that the Idea of India has prevailed but there are so many problems which should be and must be seen thoroughly and seriously. Otherwise the condition will get worse. It would not be bad to say that, our republic is an Orange Republic (Divided from within but looks united from outside), rather than a Banana one.

In short, if we really want ourselves to become a world power we have to get empowered ideally (having a sense of ideology on which our republic is based) from within. We have to ensure the have-nots with their rights they deserve. Glittering shopping Malls will look good only when a labourer from our hinterlands who worked day and night in the construction of that Mall or building feels free to go and buy something from that Mall also. They have their kids also who really want to live a life of the ones living in posh colonies of our Metropolis.

(Author is Media and Communication Executive with Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), New Delhi)

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