“The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavor? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.”
The infamous Independence day speech by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru promised not only freedom for the country but also hope. Hope for a better future for the millions, who were alien to the concept of democracy, state, nation and all the things that the colonisers stripped us of. A nation was then born, divided, brought together like the pieces of a puzzle and from there the journey of an independent India began. The end goal was set and promises were made, but have we been able to keep those promises and fulfill those wishes?
India is not just one nation, its enumerable small nations conjoined into one. The aspirations are three-fold, individual, communal and collective. Ever since independence the leaders have grappled with numerous challenges about the nation’s growth and development.
After getting free from a 200-year long rule, the country got divided into two parts and violent riots began. What a start that was to the mostly non-violent freedom struggle. Besides the partition the country was somewhat already divided into a variety of provinces and princely states which further had several communities of people.
One of the first challenges that came about was the process of building a nation. Over 500 states were narrowed down to a number that was very condensed. The other major challenges were the newness of the Indian economy, lack of proper healthcare and education systems, and the dense air of poverty that floated over a large section of the population.
After the 1st elections in 1951, the Indian National Congress won by majority and chose Nehru as the Prime Minister. He decided on a socialist way of society focusing on the welfare of the people. Clauses like increasing the legal rights of women, delegitimising untouchability, coming up with 5-year plans and many more were added to the constitution. The economy was closed and away from foreign competition, the policy of non-alignment was introduced and as the foundation of democracy was laid down, the constitution came into effect on 26th January 1950. This article here focuses on unraveling how the challenges posed before the country have or have not been fulfilled.
Freedom and Opportunity
The articles on 14-18 focus on general principles of equality before law and non-discrimination, and further the philosophy of social equality. Articles 19-22 guarantee freedom to speech and expression, of assembly without arms, of association, movement, to reside in any part of the country and to practice any profession. Policies of reservations have also been implemented over the years to increase inclusivity of the diverse population. Although the constitution promises these rights to the entire population, it would be unfair to admit that not everyone gets to exercise these rights in equal proportions.
A report by the organisation Freedom House gave India a freedom rating of 2.5, and explained that although the rights are present but the country still has an underlay of discrimination and exploitation. From a bird’s eye view the country seems modern and moving towards progressive thought, but at the grass root level problems of untouchability still persist and exploitation of the minority communities still exists.
Over the years people started demanding rights to information, privacy, improvement in human rights and one of the most recent ones being rights for the LGBTQ community. Historically, such demands were unheard of because the focus was more on basic rights but with the evolution of democracy in India and the growing influence of the western society, such rights have also become basic. Although, there might be a certain section of people for whom it might be a luxury because the basic rights have yet not come to them.
Poverty and ignorance and disease
According to a UN Development Programme report, more than 42% of the population is poor but out of this, more than 21% of the population is low income and without employment. At the time of Independence, the majority of the population was living a low-income life but after the setting up of the government and the industrial sector, many jobs and employment opportunities came up. Over the years employment has increased manifold and due to the increase in employment the rate of poverty has gone down. But not as much that the country can claim that we are free from it. With the incoming of private industry and India going global, many corporates and private companies have also set up in India. This has been both a boon and a bane for the country.
Health in the country has certainly seen an improvement. From the time of independence, many variables like the infant mortality rate, life expectancy and the sex ratio has shown improvement. Severe diseases like small pox and polio have also been tackled with vaccination. But with the rise in healthcare the population has also increased which has led to an increase in the doctor-patient ratio. Although healthcare facilities have shown immense levels of improvement but there are still cases of community breakouts of diseases and great loss of life due to unavailability of doctors or ambulances.
Prosperous, Democratic and Progressive Nation
After 72 years of independence India is in the race of becoming a world power. Getting independent around the same time as many other countries, India has emerged as one of the most progressive. Besides China, India is the one that has seen the most economic development and industrial growth.
The economy in India has grown in 2 phases, one which was closed and the other post 1990s when the policies of globalization, liberalization and privatization had been adopted. Initially, the growth wasn’t that high due to the internalization of the economy, but eventually with the adaptation of economic reforms and the arrival of FDI, the economy got a boost.
India is now on the mission to reach the $5 trillion mark but due to recent global recession and the ongoing trade war, this goal seems a little distant.
Justice and Fullness
The constitution grants justice for all and the judiciary being free, fair and independent has certainly been beneficial for the democracy, but there have been incidents when the independence has been curbed. The role of the judiciary is quite essential due to the diversity of the population. To protect the fundamental rights of such a huge population is a difficult task which the judiciary has been managing well but some adequacy has led to a heap of pending cases.
The bureaucracy and the legislative structure which is known as the backbone of the country, has also become a hub for red-tapism and corruption. The perpetual delays have been an ongoing struggle which has been the cause of a lot of problem for the people. The increasing influence of the government in to justice system is also posing many problems especially for the minority population.
Over the last 72 years, India has come quite far in economic, political and social aspects but with the growth in development has also come a growth in the income disparity of the population, political challenges like identity politics, economic recession and many more.
Although the development is phenomenal but problems like poverty, discrimination, unemployment, illiteracy, low sex ratio and many more still persist. The destination of becoming a global power is not too far but the benefits of that might not reach the entire population. Thus, the challenge that the polity will face then will be to provide basic rights and economic benefits to everyone out of the 1,371,208,575 people living in India.
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An aspiring civil servant, a curious mind but also an avid binge watcher- Prerna is currently pursuing BA Prog in English and Political Science from Kirori Mal College. She belongs to Chandigarh but really enjoys the hustle of Delhi. Her favourite pastime is taking naps and recognises herself as a pro at it.