India at 63: The road ahead is full of bumps

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“Business as usual” is the way of the world, and yet nations commemorate certain days in order to gain strength from their collectivity, and draw inspiration from the crowning success of a moment that represented a turning point in history, one which gathered in its fold all of that nation. There is no higher moment for all Indians than Independence Day which we celebrate on August 15 without reservation, putting aside our skepticism, overcoming self-doubt. It is thus that we embrace hope. It has been 63 years since that magical hour in 1947 when we crossed a threshold as we became sovereign after decades of peaceful but consciously choreographed struggle against foreign rule. Hope nursed in our bosom has stood us well in this time. It has led us to endeavors which sometimes produced results beyond our expectations, although there were also moments of doubt and despair along the way. But all things considered, it has been a good ride for most. And here lies the rub. Most now need to resolve to put themselves through the grind in order that the ride becomes good for all. This indeed has been the failing that any child will put his finger on.

For all the poverty reduction regimes that have been put in place in the last 63 years, we still have enough very poor people whose numbers easily match the aggregates of the destitute in sub-Saharan Africa. If we have cracked nuclear fission and hope to put a man on the moon in the foreseeable future, we can crack this one too, provided there is a consensus on getting down to the task. But that can only be brought about if there is also a wide philosophical agreement to banish poverty in all its manifestations. It is unrealistic to expect this to happen unless practical ways can be found — through suitable changes in government procedures, through cutting systemic delays, through electoral and political reform, and through re-discovering the culture of honestly implementing laws and rules and regulations and ending the blight of “casino” capitalism, to recall Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s telling comment — that will help us eliminate corruption which is responsible for choking every worthwhile endeavor in this country. If all the schemes launched with taxpayers’ money to improve the lot of the poor had been implemented with dedication, poverty would long be a thing of the past.

This Independence Day comes in the midst of much churning. We are stretched on the internal security front on account of the serious challenge posed by Maoism which is intrinsically linked to the persistence of poverty in tribal India, which produces the country’s mineral wealth. Kashmir has erupted in a way that might question some basic assumptions we made about the pattern of political and economic development in that state. The relentless rise in the prices of essential food articles — arising essentially from poor management — for about two years has sapped the perseverance of not just the poor but also the middle class. The government must shake itself out of complacence to attend to these matters with a sense of urgency.

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle

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