Celebrating the 71st Independence Day, there is a need to look at what has India achieved and what is to be the goal now.
Unification of India into one entity in 70 years. There was never a country even under British rule a country as large and as jointed as it is now. Even the Mughal Empire did not run through the length and breadth of the country.
The consolidation of parliamentary and electoral democracy. Voter turnout has increased among the marginalized sections of society, women and lower castes.
Relatively free media
On economic front, in terms of technical, managerial competence, there is enormous improvement.
On social side, some improvement in the status of women. Also, role of caste and communalism is much less than what it played for centuries.
Participation by people who are otherwise deprived
Diversity was recognised by firm principles of unification were there always.
Improvement in life quality indicators
Life expectancy increased to 69 years from 32 years.
Literacy- 16% literate in 1947, 74% in 2011
IMR was 145.6 per thousand live births. This is now reduced to 40 in 2013
Much more could have been done on life of poor people, in terms of security, education and health.
Though 700 million people have been brought above poverty line during this time yet, a significant 22% population, i.e. around 300 million people are still Below Poverty Line.
On social side, even after 70 years, it is driven by caste, community, religion and ostracism. No section of society has converged to a mainstream of self-sustaining improvement i.e. Dalits, SCs, STs and other backward class. There are forces that take advantage of their backwardness to create problems. There is a need to engage them into the mainstream.
The loss of scientific temper, the belief in magical remedies and godmen as not changed.
Cross border terrorism
Internal rebellion challenges have been not yet resolved inspite of technology and resources for development.
India has made some errors in foreign policy which has been one of the reason for a volatile neighbourhood now. Indian democracy faces challenges, occasionally like in Kashmir where instead of democracy, there is force. The Kashmir problem is not because of unwillingness as part of any government. If the Kashmir is in turmoil, it is not only because of failure of Indian democracy but also because of dynastic rule, corruption, and export of terror from across the border, particularly after Bangladesh got liberated. The rise of dominating Wahabi Islam, Lashkar-e-Toiba, ISIS and Taliban had spilover effect in India.
Changes across the world
In 1980s came the globalisation where capital, goods and services began to move across the countries. Migration also happened at large scale. The internet came by the 1990s. This allowed much faster rate of growth for countries that were traditionally considered underdeveloped. However, India did not take full advantage of it as china.
The global power balance shifted with collapse of USSR in 1991 to which India swiftly readjusted and rebalanced. India was now able to realign its priority with reality.
The world has also changed especially in the last decade of 20th century. Things like socialism, commonwealth, cold war, nonalignment don’t make much sense now.
What to be done now?
Faster economic growth rate. Though India has 7% growth rate, there is a need to do much more to lift 22% of population above poverty.
A more egalitarian process of development that has been adopted in last 25 years and should be continued further. A top down model to be supplemented and complimented by the state action to take care of people who cannot do themselves.
India needs to be secured from external threats and internal problems. India is strategically autonomous today. No country is going to come to its rescue. So it formed alliances and partnerships and made collaborations to draw the technology is available in the world to protect itself.
Soon after independence, India built up the technological capability. India is one of the few countries which can launch satellite into space. It has to further explore and develop its space capacity to protect its national interests as well as regional security.
Reduce the tensions within the country which are either based on religion, deprivation, factions etc. The country shouldn’t be carried away by minor current issues but how things have changed over the years.
India’s strength lies in its unity. Unity is not just the political unity of different parts of India but cohesion of Indian society. Genuine empowerment of groundlevel people of society. There were great leaders even at the state level and the states were at equal with center post few years of independence. Such kind of congeniality in the way which politics operates is now required.
Policy makers at the centre and state need to make sure that more resources need to be spend and extensive use of technology has to be made in education and health care. The private sector cannot be expected to bridge the gap in these sectors. When the state concentrates on these matters, the other things happened on its own.
In next 70 years, agriculture should be the focussed sector. Productivity of agriculture must be raised to tackle the population rise and economic burden.
In the end, Respecting the plurality of the countrymen and celebrating the diversity is the answer for a peaceful and sustainable existence.
Connecting the dots:
Broadly outline the achievements and challenges of India in its post independence era.
Critically analyse the factors which shall be the guiding light of India’s social and economic development.