Since its independence from the British on August 15, 1947, India has come a long way in terms of economic, cultural and political developments. Although we still have a long journey ahead, it is remarkable how a country with over 1.3 billion people, the second most populous country and the largest democracy in the world, has become one of the fastest growing economies.
The land on we stand today has given birth to world renowned leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to name a few.
Every country has its moments of pride and periods of downfall. Indian leaders have been known for their willpower, commitment and foresight. Mahatma Gandhi, our founding father, fought for the independence of our nation, and on August 15, 2018, we ought to pay our respects to him for bestowing upon us a land that is rich in culture.
It is impossible not to be dazzled by India; nowhere on Earth can one find a potpourri and creative burst of cultures, religions, races and languages. In fact, India has 22 official languages and 447 living languages.
India has given a lot to the world – the number zero, the decimal system, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, Sanskrit (the mother of all languages), Ayurveda, chess, and many more.
Albert Einstein once said, “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no scientific discovery could have been made.” Even foreigners applaud the greatness of our nation. So, it is time to put our differences and national problems aside and focus on growth and development.
After making significant contributions to the world, we became complacent. After gaining independence, we took a back seat instead of continuing our pursuit for success. It is time to face our challenges head on and tackle problems like poverty, climate changes, corruption, scams and other discriminations.
From November 2017, the World Bank started reporting poverty rates for all countries using two new international poverty lines: a "lower middle-income" line set at $3.20 per day and an "upper middle-income" line set at $5.50 per day. These are in addition to the earlier poverty line of $1.90 per day. India falls in the lower middle-income category. Using the $3.20 per day poverty line, the percentage of the population living in poverty in India (2011) was 60%. This means that 763 million people in India were living below this poverty line in 2011.
The government has come up with various programmes and initiatives such as the Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme, National Rural Employment Programmes, and Jawahar Rojgar Yojna to reduce illiteracy and high population growth rate, and increase work opportunities.
Although the government comes up with initiatives, many programmes have not reached the peak of success because of rampant corruption that is present in the government sector. For programmes to be successful, funds need to be channeled in the right direction and the progress of such initiatives should be monitored.
Currently, there is no organisation or group of individuals that is overseeing these programmes to ensure that the benefits are reaching the masses.
Countries around the world have progressed greatly because they have left their narrow mindsets behind. For India to progress, we should eradicate gender discrimination. Gone are the days when women would sit at home and take care of household matters.
Today, women and men are on equal footing. Just like the developed countries in the world, we should eradicate laws that discriminate women. In 1901, the ratio was 972 women for every 1,000 men in India. In 2011, the ratio dropped to 933 women for every 1,000 men.
There are a number of programmes and initiatives undertaken by non-governmental organisations and government bodies to enhance the education level of females in the country. We also need government bodies to keep a lookout for any forms of discrimination. Rape and violence on women should be dealt with seriously too.
Despite all the shortcomings of our nation, there are a number of feats that our society has achieved, for which we should be proud of. The leading achievement of India is its strong and abiding democracy.
Many countries, after gaining independence, slipped into authoritarian rule. India is one of the few countries to uphold democracy and democratic values in every aspect of life. In India, anyone can become a prime minister or a president, regardless of his/her religion.
In fact, despite being a Hindu majority country, India has given opportunities to people of other faiths, and Sikhs, Muslims and Christians have served in some of the highest positions in the government over the years.
India has also coped with many adversities such as the wars against Pakistan and China, starvation, and natural disasters. Over the past 20 years, India has shifted its status from a food importer to a food exporter.
India, a country that was once plagued with droughts, now produces fresh water for its people. Instead of sending bright students abroad for further studies, India retains the bright talent and promotes high quality education in some of the best universities in the country, including the IIMs and IITs. In fact, India has one of the largest bases of professionals in the world in the areas of Science, IT and Medicine.
These are some of the things that we should be proud of as an Indian. Every country has its shortcomings; so does India. Just because there are some negative aspects to the Indian society does not mean that we ignore and forget the positive aspects of life here.
There is a saying that “Grass is always greener on the other side.” From afar, developed countries such as the US, the UK, Germany and Japan may seem the ideal countries to live in, devoid of any problem that India faces. But can these countries provide a rich culture, a caring community and a vibrant society that India has been showering upon its citizens for centuries? The answer is ‘no’.
So, instead of harping on the shortcomings, let us celebrate India’s achievements this Independence Day. Let us come together, forget our differences and stand together as Indians and salute our nation for all the blessings it has bestowed upon us – Mera Bharat Mahan.