Battling At 64

<br>ABIJIT SHARMA

Aug. 22, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-05 Aug. 19-2011 (Bhadra 02,2068)<br>

A couple of bikes on the road whizzed passed me on the night of August 14th, the pillion riders waving India’s flags and shouting Vande Mataram. Not a rare sight in India, especially on this very special eve!


However, unlike the young bikers, not all are upbeat as India enters its 65th year of  independence from the British. The country, although maintaining a steady economic growth and development, is flooded with problems which show no signs of slowing down. Recalled Inder Malhotra, a Delhi-based political commentator,


“On 15th August 1947,  I along with four of my other friends, when we were all teenagers, visioned an India where curses like untouchability, illiteracy, bribery and dowry along with the Hindu-Muslim tensions did not exist. How utterly naive one can be!”.


All those ‘curses’ still remain in the azaad India. But along with them the country has been grappling with new problems. One of them is the social inequality which has been become a major issue of concern for the ‘rising super-power’ since its policy of liberalization, in 1991. The policy has taken India on the road to economic boom and prosperity but at the same time it has created a vast disparity of wealth between the people. In simple words, it has made the rich richer and the poor haven’t really got the opportunity to improve their lot. The poverty rate hence remains high with 37% of the population still living below the poverty line (although various statistics show different rates). One, however, does not need statistics to sight the difference between these two groups. This inequality is hard to miss in the streets where sights of rickshaw-pullers toiling away in the blistering heat is contrasted by many Indians cruising in their BMWs and Mercedezes. 


There is another side to the ‘booming’ economy , which the country does boast of. The per capita which stands at more than US$ 1200 now, and is expected to go up to US$ 10,000 by 2039 might reflect a rosy picture. But the reality is wretched.  The unemployment rate in 2010 at 10.8% still remains a big worry. Rising prices and inflation have been continuously haunting the economy. According to the CIA World Factbook data, the inflation rate in 2010 was 11.7 % ; an increase of 0.8% from the previous year. Agitations and protests against rising food prices have become quite common. 


The government, loaded with huge economic aspirations of the people, has however completely ignored the voices of tribals and villagers who have been directly affected due to the establishments of industries. This has led to the rise of the Maoist problem in several states of India, which, according to the Prime Minister, is the ‘single biggest internal security threat ever faced by the country’. From 1989 to 2011 alone, the Maoist insurgency has claimed more  than 11,000 lives including  the policemen, government officials and the civilians. Moreover, rather than acting as protectors of the adhivasis,  the Maoists  themselves have added woes to the tribals’ grievances, turning out to be the most serious internal security threat to the whole nation. Inflicted with the tumult of Hindu Muslim riots in 1947/48, the Indian nation hence still continues to be agonized by growing violence . 


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The third and another age-old problem still confronting the country has been corruption.  Transparency International has ranked India in the 87th position out of 178 countries in its corruption perception index, far below other rising super powers such as China and Brazil. Although voices against corruption have been raised from time immemorial, little has changed. Rather, with countless scams being exposed, corruption only seems to have doubled in the Indian system, a big disappointment to the Indian citizens who had high hopes of a corruption free India after independence.


“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. We end today a period of misfortunes and India discovers herself again” said Jawaharlal Nehru on the midnight of 14th of August during his speech addressed to the nation. Little did Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi or as a matter of fact any of the jubilant and ecstatic Indian have any idea about what was to follow – more than six decades after the independence.

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