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Celebrations On India’s 64th Independence Anniversary Will be Subdued

Dr. Bikkar Singh Lalli

When Nehru unfurled the flag of Independence at the Red Fort in Delhi on Aug. 15, 1947, Indians felt an unaccustomed relief from the prolonged foreign subjugation. On that day, in one stroke, millions of people, from richest to the poorest, were empowered with a  sense of belonging, dignity, pride, and the right to express freely and confidently. There came the dawn of a new era brought about by a sustained struggle and bloodied sacrifices. On that day, Indians were united in their hopes for the future.

On Aug. 15, 2011, Dr. Mamnmohan Singh will unfurl the flag of Independence at the Red Fort also. But he will not find the same zeal, the same enthusiasms and satisfaction among the people, that were prevalent in 1947. For 800 million hungry individuals, the words like freedom and democracy are hopelessly redundant. The meaningless rhetoric of the leaders, in which people have no faith or trust, give them no hope and solace.

India’s biggest achievement is that it has sustained democracy in spite of some terrible social, economic and political challenges. On of the major concerns has been and still is the canker of corruption which is the root cause of poverty, and is eating into society’s essential vitals, stripping the prestige of the nation’s elite in all fields and making the mockery of the political system. There appears to be no remedies to bring order in governing the corrupted political system. The Vice-President of India, who speaking at the all India Whips conference, warned: “the most important issue of concern today is the decreasing credibility of our legislatures as effective institutions capable of delivering public good and contributing effective formulation of laws—-. The situation is worse in case of MLAs failing to discharge their two-fold brief: legislate and deliberate, and that the country’s top lawmaking body had fallen short of people’s expectations”.

India’s Election Commission must become pro-active and do its job, as effectively as Supreme Court is doing its, to disinfect the heavily diseased electoral system. Reformed electoral system may prove a panacea for governing the world’s largest democracy. Presently, black money and criminality combine to send to Parliament several men and women unfit for public office. The civil service and the politicians, instead of keeping an eye on each other, join hands to share the spoils of office and corruption is an inevitable by-product of the neta-babu-raj. The ill-earned dirty money has become the currency of the Indian politics. Corruption per square-foot, per pound, per file and per head, is the swan song, a song which millions of underprivileged and disadvantaged Indians cannot sing. India’s blood stained dirty money, which is parked in external Tax Havens outside the country, if brought back can infuse fresh life in the starved and stunted Indian masses. Due to rampant corruption, and red-tape justice is either miscarried or delayed. There is a widespread feeling of lack of social justice. The political leadership and the top judiciary are seen to have failed the people in spite of the checks and balances a democracy is supposed to provide.  The Lokepal Bill, introduced in the Parliament, needs to be strengthened. The credibility has eroded, leading to the demand that all the MPs, including the PM, and the judiciary be made accountable.

Obvious challenges for India and for Dr. Singh are internal security, rural poverty, and depleting moral values in Indian society. India can ill-afford to overlook the miserable conditions in which 800 million people live while it celebrates the 64th Independence anniversary on Aug.15. Millions of children go to school every day but for 10 million street children there is no school and no home. In Delhi, the country’s capital city alone, there are 50,000 homeless children. There is a shameful neglect and mismanagement in the distribution of food. As much as 40 per cent of all the fruits and vegetables and grains grown in India never make it to the market. The country wastes more grain each year than Australia produces, and more fruits and vegetables than U.K. consumes.  In the fastest growing country in the world, with 9 per cent annual growth over the paste decade, 40 per cent Indian children remain statistically malnourished.

India is waking up to the necessity of providing quality education to the young generation. Without educated, skilled, and enterprising citizens there cannot be high growth.  According to NSSO (National Sample Survey Organization), Indian families are investing heavily in their children’s education. – spending in 2009, increased by 378 per cent in rural areas, and by 345 per cent in urban areas, over that in 1999. “Although India has allocated 3.57 per cent of GDP for education, it has allocated only.57 per cent for higher education”, says Prof. Ved Prakash, Chairman of UGC. That is not the way to build knowledge economy of a nation. According to Prof.  Prakash “the focus has to be on six Es for higher education – Expansion, Equality, Excellence, Empowerment, Engagement and Ethics”. This is how you produce outstanding scholars. Chinese leaders recognized long ago that education and knowledge would push their nation ahead of others. The number of institutes of higher learning increased from 1,022 in 1999, to 2 263 in 2007, and the university enrolment  increased from one million in 1997 to 5.5 million in 2007.The Chinese authorities are attracting the best global scholars, and are investing significant resources to build Ivy league of their own.

Dr. Singh, on Aug. 15, has to assure Indian investors that the cut in US credit rating by Standards & Poors, from triple – AAA to AA+, will not effect India’s high economic growth.  High inflation is already eating into  the income of everyone. In recent months, thanks to the surge in oil and petrol prices, food pieces have skyrocketed by 20 per cent.  There is a report by WHO, published in BioMed Central, a Medical Journal, that India was recorded to be among the nations with the highest rate of depression in the world at 36 per cent.

To redeem its tryst with destiny. India has to eradicate poverty and corruption, remove the shackles of 12.6 million child labourers, invest more in higher education, strengthen inclusion and improve governance. When Dr, Singh unfurls the Indian flag of Independence on Aug. 15, he must muster some courage to tell the power brokers and big time players in public life, as Cronwell did in the British Parliament in 1653: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God go”.

Dr. Bikkar Singh Lalli is a Surrey-based writer, analyst and educationist.

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