In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of. - Confucius
India is celebrating its 66th anniversary of independence with all fanfare and lots of activities right in the national capital as well as in remotest village schools in the country. The Prime Minister of the country will unfurl the national flag from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on 15th August followed by a speech enumerating the achievements of the central government during the year passed by and making lots of promises for the year ahead. Similar exercise will be performed by the Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors in respective states and union territories on this occasion. Obviously, hundreds of millions of public money will be spent as always.
But the nagging questions related to real independence of the largest democratic country of the world will still remain to be answered by political masters, planners, policymakers... and the questions are about three most basic needs of every Indian: Food, Clothing and Shelter. If few other basic necessities of life are also added such as Health, Education and Employment, it would be fair enough to analyse the outcome of the 66 year long journey of Independent Democratic Sovereign India. All kinds of statistics/data on these basic needs of people of India are readily available for each one to know, ponder and ask the following questions once again:
Is every Indian getting even two meals a day to eat?
Is every Indian clothed like a normal human being?
Is every Indian family residing in a dwelling unit/pucca house?
Is every Indian getting minimum basic health facility?
Is every Indian getting even primary education worth the name?
Is every Indian gainfully employed even for 180 days in a year?
The answer to all these basic questions is in negative. Notwithstanding, the ruling class - be it political leaders, planners, policymakers/lawmakers and bureaucrats, would argue, many of them loudly and shamelessly, that the country has achieved a lot on these counts during the last 66 years, but they find it very difficult to justify the adequacy and urgency of fulfilling these basic needs of people. It is shameful and really hard to believe that a country with GDP size of more than two trillion dollar is still struggling hard to provide toilet and sanitation facility to a majority of households in the country, thereby earning the infamous title of world capital of open defecation.
Our former President and renowned scientist, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam writes in his famous book, 'Ignited Minds' - we have all the resources we need, whether it be people, talent, natural bounty or other assets. India is truly blessed with real, though latent, abundance. Scarcity is not the cause of our problems. Our problems originate in our approach towards them. We are spreading our resources too wide and too thin. With our resources and the money we spend, we could easily accomplish three times what we do, in half the time we normally take, if we were to operate in mission mode with a vision for the nation. The vision generates the best in every field."
Everyone would agree, by any yardstick, 66 years is pretty long a period for a country full of natural resources and human assets to have real cheers and happiness for celebrating the Independence Day in an inclusive and genuinely festive manner.
Isn't it an opportune time to ask ourselves and question our powerful representatives as to why the country failed to perform even on most basic issues of wellness of our own countrymen? Who is responsible and accountable for this sordid state of 66% population earning far less than what needs to have at least two meals a day, ironically for whom, after 66 years of independence, central government now proposes to get the food security bill passed in the parliament? And how long it will take to make India independent in real sense of the term?
Milan K. Sinha is a freelance writer. He has worked in Banking and Insurance sector for three decades following three years of active writing in various newspapers and magazines. Presently he is engaged in stress management, wellness and awareness activities besides freelance writing.