By Vijay Darda | 15-08-2016
It is celebration time and the Bharat Parv is on. This is in the fitness of things. The festivities are in full flow. From a newly independent free country, whose future was beset with doubts about the stability of its integrity and unity we have marched on to being a regional super power and a force to reckon with on the global stage. In seven short decades we have arrived on the world stage as a de jure nuclear power with a knowledge economy that drives the world. This is no mean achievement and has been made possible by the hard work of each of the 125 crore people. Each of us deserves the credit for it.
Let us face it. It has not been a smooth ride. On the contrary, it has been a tough uphill climb with challenges galore. Not to speak of the four needless wars inflicted on us by a recalcitrant neighbour who refuses to learn any lessons from its own division in 1971. But we have moved on regardless strengthening the basics of our economy, and building democratic institutions that nurture the liberal, secular and plural ethos of our founding fathers. It is on the strength of these values that India is recognised and respected as the biggest democracy in the world.
This has been made possible largely due to the vision of the leaders of the freedom movement who collectively invested their intellectual brilliance, moral commitment, philosophical wisdom and steadfast patriotism in the process of nation building.
The values enshrined in our Constitution are a tribute to their national vision of a strong, modern, democratic and secular India. It has to be a country where the head is held high and the mind is without fear embodying the sentiments expressed by the Nobel laureate poet Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Indeed, when we look back we find that India is uniquely blessed in the sense that it had superlative leaders from Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee down to Dr Manmohan Singh to guide its destiny at every critical juncture. Each of these leaders rose to the occasion and measured up to the challenges of the moment. It is their collective and cumulative leadership that makes India great.
But no nation has ever been able to achieve greatness by resting on its past laurels. The past can only provide us the confidence to do better in the future. Besides, great as our achievements of the past 70 years have been greater are the challenges that we face ahead. For starters, a new divide has entered into our public discourse- the chasm between a rich India populated by the urban upwardly mobile segment of the country which can afford every expense and can still have a lot to splurge on the one end, and on the other a poor Bharat that perishes in the everyday struggle to make both ends meet, and still does not manage enough to have two square meals. Forget other amenities like education, healthcare or any other social security benefit. This is not a problem that can be solved by paying lip service to poverty eradication.
The chasm between India and Bharat can only be bridged with an unflinching commitment to solving the problems of livelihood and safe citizenship for the millions who are currently vulnerable to the slightest stroke of misfortune due to natural or man-made circumstances. This has to be backed-up by a programme both at the macro and micro level with sustainable remedial measures. Band-aid type ad hoc solutions will not extricate us out of this mess. We cannot bridge this divide by scoffing at farmers’ suicides or through tokenisms.
It is a matter of good fortune that as we celebrate the 70th year of our independence the nation has at its helm of affairs a prime minister Narendra Modi who has been elected with a mandate that is unprecedented in the last thirty years. This mandate is a reflection of the high hopes that the people have from him, and as caveat it has to be added that the vote has been more in his favour as a person and less about the ideological baggage that he carries. The people have invested their future in his promise of sabka saath, sabka vikas. It is on the redemption of this promise that our future greatness lies. Indeed, our success as a nation would be directly proportional to our achievements in this respect. The more inclusive our growth (vikas) the stronger we shall be as a nation.
A word about relations with our immediate neighbours is also in order at this juncture. Our hostile relations with Pakistan apart, it cannot just be a coincidence that from Nepal to Maldives and Sri Lanka and others that we do not have booming bilateral relations with any one of them. Even if it is granted that they could be inspired by other powers hostile to us, can we seriously overlook our errors of omission and commission? Isolationism is simply not a virtue available in international relations, and unless we get the better of every equation, we shall always be at a disadvantage. As a nation, we can hardly afford such a situation.
In five years’ time, when we shall turn 75 as an independent nation, we owe it to our people and ourselves to break free from the current handicaps that put us down. We should not be struggling with issues like clean drinking water or clean toilets, and jobs for the youth at that time. These goals should be behind us and we should be marching ahead as a developed country whose people are free from the existential worries of making both ends meet and are living good lives. This was the promise when Pandit Nehru made his midnight tryst with destiny on August 15th 1947 and promised to wipe every tear from every eye. We must redeem this promise in full measure.
Before I conclude…
The monsoon session of the Parliament saw a display of bipartisan cooperation that made way for the smooth functioning of both the Houses. It also culminated in an all-party meeting on Kashmir chaired by prime minister Narendra Modi. But now is the time for the healing touch in the valley. We cannot restore peace and normalcy only by treating it as a security or a law and order situation. The genuine or perceived grievances of the people have to be addressed, and the human factor must get all the priority.