Sixty three years of Indian independence has meant different things for different sections of the people.
The small minority of the population consisting of big business houses, the ruling aristocracy, big bureaucrats and GDP-focused economists, boast that these 63 years have culminated in several achievements. They are ecstatic that India is the second fastest growing economy in the world today, on the way to overtaking the European economies and even Japan. The country has the fourth largest number of dollar billionaires in the world. The big business houses and monopolies have grown so rapidly that the wealth of the 100 richest Indians equals a quarter of the entire GDP of the country! India has emerged as the largest arms buyer in the world and is fast on its way to becoming a nuclear and maritime world power. The number of Indian companies in the Fortune 500 list is growing every year. Such are the achievements that the ruling class boasts about.
For the vast majority of the population, though, these achievements have a totally opposite connotation. What has India really achieved in these 63 years that makes sense to the aam admi? India is almost at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index. According to the Tendulkar Committee Report, more than 50% of Indians live below the poverty line, which itself is a measure of subsistence living. It is estimated that 70% of Indians live on less than Rs 20 a day. Every year India adds more number of hungry to its population than the rest of the world put together. In 20 years of reforms in which the GDP grew at a rapid pace, foodgrain availability per capita actually decreased. Lakhs of people have been displaced by bauxite, iron ore and steel making companies. India stil has amongst the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. Half our children under 5 are malnourished. One can add a lot more to this list. But, in essence, 63 years of independence have meant only poverty and misery for the majority of our people. What is our assessment of India’s progress after independence? Have her institutions been able to deliver what was promised in 1947? Not really. After 63 years of independence we can have little faith in our Constitution which stands for “we the people” and promises fundamental rights but in practice none of them are enabled. The pillars of democracy – the government, judiciary and parliament have failed miserably. The representative system of democracy that we have today has demonstrated that we all have the right to vote but nothing more than that. The Indian people stand completely marginalized in the current political process. These 63 years could have been very different for the vast majority of the people if the Indian people had taken political power in their hands instead of allowing a small coterie of politicians, ministers and bureaucrats to rule them. It could have been very different if we had thrown out the party-dominated political process, where money and muscle power decide everything, and insisted on a people-dominated political process where representatives are selected and elected by the people and made accountable to them. Independence could have meant much more for the people. But, nothing is lost. We are now clear that we cannot sit quietly and be content with celebrating independence day with flags and sweets. We are building a membership-based organization. We are building lok raj samitis which are the organs of people’s power. We are intervening in the day to day affairs of the country. We are demanding mechanisms for enabling our universal, indivisible and inalienable rights. The day is not far off when political power gets vested in the hands of the people and they decide how the country should be run.