Fifty Years of Independence
India has completed fifty years of her independence which was indeed won in a unique and distinguished manner when the nation freed herself from the chains of foreign rule and exploitation. She dreamed of a future full of prosperity, equality, and justice for all.
We have achieved a lot during the past five decades but our progress has not been satisfactory in many vital fields. It is an irony that India, which is one of the richest in natural resources, has been rated as one of the poorest countries in the world. We must celebrate our Golden Jubilee for introspection and for pragmatic planning in the future.
The second major drawback of our policies manifested itself in terms of high population growth. The urban centers became the backwaters of human civilization. Growth in the rural population was also tremendous. The rising population levels have put severe pressures on our economy and society.
The result is a slowdown in all the spheres of our economy and society. In 1951, when JRD Tata explained his concern to Pandit Nehru about India’s population, he snubbed JRD and said that a large population was the greatest source of power for any nation. Nehru, therefore, believed that population was an asset for the nation.
However, Nehru, unlike Gandhi, had nothing against the usage of contraceptives. The population increased from 36 crores. In 1951 to 55 crore in 1971 and was still growing at a staggering rate of 2.24 percent per annum.
By the time Indira Gandhi could consolidate her position politically and became powerful enough, our population had reached ominous proportions.
However, Indira Gandhi thought that all that was needed to control the population growth was to promote literacy and reduce the infant mortality rate. So, despite the fact that she did not consider population as a national asset, she could not make any significant headway for controlling the population growth rate.
And then, came the Emergency of 1975 and she pressed the panic button. The over-enthusiasm to promote birth control proved counterproductive. Emergency and family planning became almost synonymous. The fallout of that coercive measure is that population control is taboo for politicians.
The credit for creating such apathy and fear against family planning in the minds of the public and politicians goes to the elite and opinion-makers. Due to their zeal for condemning the emergency, they highlighted the excesses (committed during that period by family planning authorities) to such an extent that emergency and family planning are still feared by the masses of India.
Our greatest mistake has been the neglect of primary education. It has been specifically laid down in our Constitution (which the nation gave to herself soon after Independence) that free and compulsory primary education would be provided to all the children and this goal was to be achieved within ten years from the inception of the Constitution, (by the year 1961).
Our first Prime Minister—Jawaharlal Nehru—was not only a prominent member of the Constituent Assembly but also commanded more power than the President in a Presidential form of Government. Hence, our dismal record in the field of primary education—as required by the Constitution—speaks volumes about the failure of our leadership. Today, our population is more than 1 billion and it is increasing at the rate of about 1.9 percent every year.
So, even if we assume that the country has adequate schooling facilities for the existing population, we need to open about one lakh new primary schools per year to meet the primary educational requirements of about 50,000 additional children that are arriving every day.
Obviously, a nation must provide school education to the children right in their childhood itself. Let us not allow our children to grow into illiterate adults for want of proper schooling facilities and then, launch ineffective adult literacy programs, which do not yield concrete results.
After independence, the common man in the street was a free bird. But he was caught in the chains of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and backwardness. The growth in all the sectors of the economy did not percolate down to the lowest levels of our society. The poor became poorer.
The rich became richer. Let us not be impressed by color televisions, satellite televisions, amazing electronic gadgets, and gaudy dresses, which are adorned by people in the name of fashion. The quality of life is determined in terms of qualities of food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, education, habitat, environment, health, and employment. Indian citizens have been deprived of good standards of living on all these fronts.
The urban centers have shown progress but the slums in all the major cities indicate that all -the people have not been able to reap the benefits of freedom, industrialization, and a free-market system. The politicians had a major share in the loot. The bureaucrats came next. The common man waited for the realization of his dreams but he was deprived even of the right to live with dignity.
Exploitation in the office and in the industry, famines, poor foodgrain supplies at the outlets of Public Distribution System (PDS), shortages of electric power, food and medicines, bureaucratic delays, corruption at all the levels of the state governments and those of the central government administrations, etc are some of the woes of the deprived masses of India.
And the irony is that he goes to the polls after every five years (even earlier than this) in order to vote for the elected representatives so that his fortunes might be changed. The common man has suffered on all accounts and freedom from the British was the only solace for him.
Indian economy had witnessed Green Revolution (during the seventies), White Revolution (during late seventies and early eighties), economic Glasnost during the Mid-eighties, information revolution during the late eighties, and finally, complete information technology miracle (in the form of the Internet) during the late-nineties. India was a nuclear novice in 1974.
However, the successive five nuclear blasts on May 11 and May 13, 1998, proved that India had unmatched nuclear finesse as well. In fact, the nuclear tests conducted by India might affect her economy; at least, that is what the critics opine as the economic growth process is not able to sustain the nation. It must be noted that industrial growth was 12.8 percent per annum during the 1995-96 period and the same figure had come down to 6.9 percent per annum 1996-97 period. Industrial growth rates for 1998-99 and 1999-2000 were 3.7 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively. In 2007 it stood at 6.8 percent.
The manufacturing sector did not perform well. The agricultural sector was also at its lowest ebb. Draughts, famines, and floods could not be controlled in any part of the country. The Indian economy is coming out of recession. The stock markets are heading towards bullish trends. Industrial production is up and trading is brisk in major commercial centers.
However, the economic growth rate, which our nation deserved from August 15, 1947, onwards, was not observed in various sectors of our industrial, economic, and trading activities. On the other hand, economies like those of Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and those of other Oriental countries have performed very well. Japan was liberated from the clutches of fanatic nationalism in 1945. Japanese started their economic marathon (after rising from the ashes of the Second World War) and now they rule this planet.
We got freedom only two years later-in 1947, and we are no match for the Japanese technological and economic competence. Our progress has been painfully slow. There is no doubt that we have developed a sound industrial infrastructure and a resilient economy over the last fifty years. However, our progress could have been more rapid. The scams, the politician-criminal-bureaucrat nexus, the four wars, and above all, the Indian psyche played havoc for our economic growth process.
Indians can be proud of their achievements during the past fifty years. We are a nuclear power, thanks to the tests conducted at Pokharan on May 11 and May 13, 1998. Indian Scientists have made the nation proud of them. We are also an agricultural power due to the hard work and dedication of our scientists and farmers. Our engineers and technologists are working in all parts of the world. They are contributing effectively towards the economies of the world.
Our software programmers comprise the most coveted manpower resource from India because of their technical abilities. India has successfully launched remote sensing satellite IRS-P4 (also known as Ocean Sat-1) through the latest satellite launch vehicle PSLV-C2 on May 26, 1999. We are now able to launch payloads of 1,200 kg in space. Further, India is a military superpower, thanks to the development of Nag, Prithvi, Agni, and Agni-II missile systems.
These missiles are totally indigenous and speak volumes of our achievements in the fields of science and technology. India has state-of-the-art nuclear power plants, thermal power stations, steel plants, processing units, and other vital industries, which are essential for putting us on the industrial map of the world. India is a non-aligned country and a member of SAARC. We have no differences with any other nation except some serious boundary disputes with China and Pakistan. We have fought three major wars and a minor war (during May-July, 1999) with Pakistan. We also had a major conflict with China in September 1962. However, our foreign policy is of defense and not of offense.
We believe in the “I am OK, you are OK” situation in which, both the parties are satisfied with the outcome of the negotiation. We were an ally of the erstwhile USSR but now, that friendship has been modified in the favour of broad international brotherhood and cooperation. Now, everybody is a friend. The leaders of the former government (led by BJP) had issued ‘hot’ statements for reclaiming the territory occupied by Pakistan and China. This should not happen as international relationships call for careful diplomatic protocols even for the purpose of issuing statements on international disputes.
The Pakistani side has also been equally vocal after they have carried out nuclear tests. The Pakistani side is immature. But we should also maintain restraint while negotiating or issuing statements related to sensitive boundary disputes. The raising of the Kashmir issue in the UNO (which was a bilateral issue according to India) proves that our politicians were not able to handle this sensitive issue with poise and determination. Indian leaders recently asked Mr. Bill Clinton, the American President, to declare Pakistan a terrorist State. This statement came in the wake of the Kargil war. But would this (branding Pakistan as a culprit in the issue) solve the problems?
India has come a long way after independence. Our achievements are worth mentioning. However, we could have achieved more in the past fifty years. We have to ensure a good standard of living for our masses. We must provide them with better food, water, health, education, employment, and business opportunities. The institutional decay must be checked.
The defense preparations must be done at war footing as the signals from across the border are not positive. Industrial growth must be improved. Agricultural and fanning sectors must be given more priority and resources. International relationships must be improved with visits to all the important nations. Anti-India lobbies must be defeated in the UNO through peaceful and carefully planned efforts.
We must grow at a pace, which must be double the present growth rate. Targets are difficult to achieve and the road to success is strewn with thorns. We must unite as a nation for overcoming all our problems.