Independence day #77: Time to ponder

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Independence day #77: Time to ponder

Tuesday, 22 August 2023 | Kalyani Shankar

Independence day #77: Time to ponder

The road to 2047 could be rough. India must take on population growth, poverty, illiteracy, religious bias and gender inequality on priority

India just marked its 77th year of independence on August 15. It is an excellent time to reflect on successes and failures and plan what's ahead. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shared his vision for the country until 2047. His "Azadi ka Amrit Kaal" plan aims to enhance the quality of life for all Indians. Modi's dream is to prepare India to become the world's third-largest economy by 2030 and a developed nation by 2047. Amrit Kaal aims to use technology and involve the younger generation to improve the quality of life and reduce government intervention.

The country gained independence on August 15, 1947, a significant historical event. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, delivered his famous "Tryst with Destiny" speech on this day in the Central Hall of Parliament. Various Prime Ministers have played a crucial role in shaping India to its current position.

India's freedom fighters made great sacrifices that paved the way for four generations of free Indian citizens. Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister born in independent India, which is noteworthy. The most critical thing was that since 1947, the country has remained united despite predictions of disintegration from Western countries. India has achieved 17 peaceful power transfers as a young nation without hiccups or military coups. The voters

have actively participated in the democratic process. Even illiterate voters have demonstrated their ability to remove corrupt regimes, as was seen in 1977. During this time, the Janata Party coalition was brought in. Indira Gandhi was removed from power due to her emergency excesses. However, when it was discovered that the Janata coalition was a mixed group, the people voted back Indira Gandhi in 1980.

The country has made progress in various sectors. Its economy has gained global recognition, particularly since its liberalization in 1991. Over the past 77 years, India's democratic institutions have seen both successes and failures. The Modi government has initiated several schemes, as did his predecessors. The weak link is their implementation. One crucial area is to promote gender equality by placing more women in government positions. They must also get equal pay for equal work.

Despite women's demand for a 30% reservation of seats in Parliament, male politicians have resisted the idea thus far. Rajya Sabha passed the women's reservation bill in March 2010, but it lapsed in Lok Sabha. New efforts have yet to be made to reintroduce it.

During his tenth Independence Day address last week, the Prime Minister spoke about India's progress in many areas. He highlighted the importance of three key factors: Democracy, Diversity, and Demography. He noted that 65% of the country's population is young. It is both a boon and a curse. While having more human resources is advantageous, ensuring enough food for such a large population is a worry.

In his tenth Independence Day address from the Red Fort, Prime Minister claimed that the country has progressed in various areas during his regime. Transparency in decision-making is essential for trust between the government and the governed. It can be achieved through access to information. The Right to Information Act (2005) is a critical tool that promotes openness and accessibility in governance.

Promoting political participation is essential. The village panchayat system has significantly progressed since the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution in 1992. A three-tiered approach has decentralized power. Currently, over a million women hold positions as panchayat heads.

Industries like agriculture and dairy farming have seen significant progress, such as the Green and White Revolutions. The country has also made strides in nuclear power, military and information technology, and space exploration. Despite progress in many areas, critical issues remain. Specifically, education, housing, infrastructure, and healthcare need more funding. It is crucial in light of the recent pandemic. We need to build a more resilient healthcare system.

Although steps have been taken to address corruption, a fundamental shift could combat this issue. Corruption has deeply rooted itself in all strata of society. And those who offer and accept bribes must face the consequences. Transparency in political financing is essential, especially with the rising costs of elections. Disclosing all donations to political parties is crucial. Moreover, identifying and addressing any loopholes in existing laws is vital.

To prevent discrimination based on caste, gender, and religion, it's vital to implement affirmative action strictly. Also, there is a demand for quota for the Backward Classes. In India, easing religious tensions is critical to respecting other religions and adopting a philosophy of coexistence. Communal clashes in various parts of the country must be ruthlessly checked.

The road ahead could be rough. The focus must be checking population growth, treating poverty and illiteracy, religious bias and gender inequality. We must address issues like city congestion, environmental degradation, and a pressing energy crisis.  For all these, good governance is essential. People must be vigilant while choosing their representatives.

(The writer is a popular columnist. The views expressed are personal)

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