This Independence eve, let's look at the brighter side too

As I see it

So, as we approach our 65th independence day, the midnight dream of our founding fathers seems to be rapidly descending into a nightmare. But do we really have so little to celebrate this August 15?

Yes, we rank 87 out of 178 countries measured in the transparency international corruption index. Yes, we have major scams running into thousands of  crores where public money has been looted. Yes, you need to often pay a bribe to get work done and buying a house involves be undisclosed cash transactions. But is the fight against corruption really that hopeless?

Take Anna Hazare and his Jan Lokpal movement. If you listen to Team Anna, you’d be convinced that all our politicians are chors with no commitment to probity in public life. But maybe Team Anna too needs to get a reality check: in how many other countries could you abuse the political class, burn draft bills, create a confrontational situation and yet have the space and opportunity to be heard.

Yes, it took a fast unto death threat by Anna to push an obdurate government to bring the Lokpal bill to parliament. Certain provisions in the bill are flawed, need amendment, but the fact that within four months of  Anna’s fast, parliament has been forced to debate the shape of  the proposed anti-corruption legislation is a sign that we are a functioning democracy that does listen to voices from below.

Vehicle for self-aggrandisement

Let’s also look at our much-maligned political class. Their assets have multiplied within a few years of  entering public office, and many of them do see politics only as a vehicle for self-aggrandisement. But for every neta who is out to make a quick buck, there will be one who is working tirelessly for his constituency. Yes, we urgently need electoral reform to reduce the role of money in influencing election outcomes, but if riches alone were to be a barometer for electoral success, then we should have had many more than the 315 of  544 MPs who are currently officially listed as crorepatis. The fact that an increasing number of  candidates are finding it difficult to win a second term should also be a source of  quiet satisfaction: the voter is ready to cast his franchise ruthlessly and effectively.

Take a look at our law and order machinery. Yes, the lower judiciary is in a mess; we need many more judges to overcome the backlog of  cases; we desperately need police reform. But should we not also be celebrating the fact that millions of Indians have still retained faith in the rule of law, that they keep fighting their battles in court rather than on the street. Yes, there is judicial corruption, but equally we have been blessed with judges who have shown a remarkable capacity to pass orders that serve the less privileged sections of  society.

The media too, has been attacked in recent times, accused of  partisanship, sensationalism, paid news and worse. There are sections within the media who have lost their moral compass, but without sounding self-righteous, let us also celebrate the media’s important role as a robust and genuine watchdog. If  that were not the case, the many scams that have been unearthed in the last year would have simply gone unnoticed.

Sure, there are enough reasons to despair. Farmer suicides and the sight of rotting grain in a country where millions still go hungry is an assault on our national dignity. But equally the fact that an 8 per cent plus growth rate has helped pull millions out of poverty is not to be scoffed at. The fact that naxalism continues to spread reveals a failure to address the core concerns of our tribal population. At the same time, the fact that naxalites haven’t been able to overthrow the state while Kashmiri separatists can be engaged in dialogue is a sign that the Indian state hasn’t lost the capacity to be assertive and accomodative at the same time.     

But forget the state for a moment. The real triumph of  Independent India must lie in we, the people. It would have been so easy in the last 64 years for a sub-continental sized country to have lost its way, to have been defeated by caste, region, community divides. Those divides haven’t disappeared and, in some instances, have erupted in terrible violence and suffering. But for every tale of  hate and bigotry there are heartwarming stories of  co-existence and harmony.

Travel across the length and breadth of  India, and you will meet numerous real heroes, men and women who have made extraordinary contributions while living ordinary lives. Like Laxman’s common man they may be anonymous individuals, but their anonymity cannot obscure their abiding commitment to the idea of  a better India for their children.   
(The writer is editor-in-chief, IBN 18 network)

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