That speech from Red Fort


On this Independence Day, if the question, ‘Is India shining?’ posed to the people of India, it is certain to evoke varying responses ranging from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘don’t know’.

The opening up of the Indian economy has led to an LPG (liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation) wave ushering in radical changes in urban and metro areas in lifestyles, wealth creation, employment market, disposable incomes, social systems, food habits, culture, media and entertainment, communications, fashions, bewildering advances in technology and so on.

The rich and the affluent business community has fully exploited the opportunities presented to them and have further prospered. A lucrative and vibrant employment market has opened up in the fast emerging services sector and the urban educated and skilled middle and the upper classes have been greatly benefited by this positive change. The huge direct and indirect tax revenues have filled the state coffers beyond expectations.

But what about the urban and the rural poor, who are uneducated, undereducated or unskilled? Even after almost two decades of the reforms regime, more than half the population is still below the poverty line. Even after 62 years of Independence, starvation deaths are reported and we have not succeeded in ensuring that everyone gets at least two square meals a day.

Even after launching so many grand and much hyped social and poor people friendly welfare measures, the bulk of the rural folks and the semi-urban poor still have no access to affordable housing, quality education, clean drinking water, sanitation, healthcare, power, good roads, marketing support for farm produce, cheap and adequate credit, alternate jobs, skill development opportunities, life insurance, senior citizen benefits and so on. More than half the population constantly lives on the edge. The blame squarely lies with the corrupt leaders and bureaucrats.

Rural infrastructure has crumbled and cries for immediate attention, besides resources coupled with sincerity of purpose and good governance.

We can proudly proclaim that ‘India is shining’ only when qualitative improvement in the living conditions of millions of poor Indians is achieved. Can we hope Manmohan Singh, at least this time, to deliver little more than a hollow-sounding speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort?

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