62nd I-Day: Reaching out to moon


As India celebrates its 62nd birthday, the highs and lows of its journey to this date, the fade-in and fade-out of its history evokes palpable hopes and despondency in equal measure.

The country went through  the mammoth electoral process and constituted the 15th Lok Sabha barely two months ago. The successive conduct of elections (barring the hiatus of Emergency) is seen as a high point of Indian nation, particularly in the light of “the interrupted democracy” in the neighbourhood Pakistan which celebrated its Independence Day on August 14 amid little signs of military loosening its control over the fragile democracy.

“The owner’s pride, neighbour’s envy” syndrome, however, takes a beating when judged from the point of view of the developed democracies which could usher in a politically, socially and economically more equitable and just society than what we have in our country in the 62nd year of Independence.   

As India (already a nuclear-powered nation) in July launched the first nuclear-powered submarine “Arihant” built on its soil, asserting itself as a world power by joining just five other countries that can design and construct such vessels, the country continued to grapple with the gigantic task of abysmal poverty. By the admission of the current dispensation at the Centre, nearly half of Indian population earns less than Rs 20 per day. Similarly, close to 50 per cent of  children’s population in the country remain malnourished.

There are contradictions galore. The country experiences starvation deaths but, at the same time, remains an exporter of food items. And while India has one of the largest population of unemployed and uneducated, it also has one of the largest talent pools.

Though fancied by the developed world as having potential of being the future super power, India has yet to come to terms with insurgency, left wing extremism, separatism and growing terrorist attacks. It may be an odd statement to make but the country with the second largest population in the world could, so far, produce only one gold medallist in its long history of Olympic participation.

The march from the Nehruvian mixed-economy model to the globalisation clock set by the Narsimha Rao government has unwittingly unleashed forces which have created islands of prosperity along with sprawling slums and rural areas where, as a rule, farmers commit suicide on account failure of crops and indebtedness. The minimum wages in the country remain in the pathetic range of Rs 65 (Meghalaya) to the maximum140 (Chandigarh). Ironically, the left-ruled West-Bengal has one of the lowest minimum wages.

The futuristic planning for India by the second UPA dispensation is rather ambitious. Progressing from the “politically successful” National Rural Employment Guarantee Act that ensured 100 days of work for unskilled labourers per family, the Manmohan Singh government is set to bring the Right to Food Bill that proposes a national food security law under which every poor family would get 25 kg of food grain per month at Rs 3 per kg.

During the last 62 years, the country has moved away from the domination of a single party to the increasing influence of the smaller parties based on caste and region. The profile of the Lok Sabha has changed with even representation from the subaltern class of Indian society.

The Women’s Reservation Bill, if passed this year, may hopefully induce “a major progressive churning” in the male-dominated polity.

 “Antodaya” (uplift of the last man) should be a precursor to the proposed setting of foot by an Indian on the far-off moon in 2025. All Indians are, undoubtedly, trying to reach out to the moon.

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