Four hurdles to freedom: What India must resolve to shed on Independence Day

One can think of at least four such major hurdles to a truly independent India.

Abhijit Majumder August 15, 2020 12:42:45 IST
Four hurdles to freedom: What India must resolve to shed on Independence Day

On its 74th Independence Day, India stands under a blue sky and an open field, free to run and full of promise.

But the shoes still hurt at a few places.

Those optimistic about the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi see great strides in the last six years in the correcting endemic corruption, resurgence of civilisational values, rebuilding capacity in health, social security, national security and diplomacy, and now a push for self-sufficiency and Make in India under atmanirbhar Bharat.

However, glaring gaps and injustices exist both in our mindset and at the level of action. Those who are persecuted on the basis of their birth, or have lost their job because of COVID-19 or the general economic downturn, or have been either denied justice for years, or have lost a dear one because the Indian State still doesn’t attach much value to human life cannot be expected to toast freedom today.

Those Indians cannot afford the luxury called freedom.

One can think of at least four such major hurdles to a truly independent India.

Faultlines of identity

One of the first things British colonisers did in India was to identify the faultlines of Indian society:Hindu-Muslim, upper caste-lower caste, north-south, poor-rich. Then they played on these to divide and rule.

The British have gone, but Indians have held that dark legacy chose to their chest.

National Crime Records Bureau figures show every 15 minutes, a crime is committed against a Dalit in India. A Dalit woman is raped every day.

Jati-varna may have originally been just a theoretical matrix of work, but upper castes sensed power and quickly made it into a birth-bound tyranny.

Hindu gurus from all sects need to come together and appeal for an end this. Our textbooks need to have more Dalit, tribal OBC icons. Creamy layer reservations must go free up seats for the genuinely needy from those categories. And the nation needs Dalit leaders who focus on progress of the community rather than just victimhood, which Leftists and Islamists want them to just fixate on.

The Hindu-Muslim question lends itself to a million analysis. But in a nutshell, a population of nearly 200 million people with an ummah of 50 Muslim-majority countries does not need minority status and special favours.

India should review the whole concept of minority to end political appeasement and shut for good the source of much bitterness and divisiveness. Both Hindus and Muslims can live as Indians, free to practice their faith privately within the boundaries of law.

Stymied enterprise

According to some sectoral estimates, just the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused well over 10 million job losses. The figures are mounting, and getting added to unemployment from the sluggish pre-COVID economy.

Let us face it. The India government cannot provide enough jobs. These will have to come from the MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) sector. The key word being enterprise.

Sadly, the colonial education India has stuck to so far only encourages us to be clerks, or get into some job to serve someone else. It suited the British Raj. But it has killed Indian’s hunger and courage to start and enterprise.

Both State and banking bureaucracy actively discourages small entrepreneurs. The Modi government has recently taken a number of steps in micro-credit and legislation for MSMEs, but they need to be implemented.

Otherwise, the prime minister’s dream of atmanirbhar Bharat, which he abundantly highlighted in his Independence Day speech, will remain just that.

Even today, it is extremely difficult for a youngster or a mid-level person to take a loan and start his or her own business, which in turn would create more jobs. That needs to change for India to be self-reliant and economically free.

Justice only for the rich?

We cheer the occasional landmark judgments by the largely independent Indian judiciary. But if we look at the extent of untold corruption (especially in lower courts), the mountain-like pendency of cases, lack of transparency in appointments and almost non-existent communication between the courts and the public, justice eludes an overwhelming number of Indians.

For an ordinary Indian, the first dare is to seek justice.

The police and lower courts are intimidating, insensitive and corrupt.

But even if you manage to clear that obstacle and file a case, yours will be among the 3.1 crore cases clogging India’s district courts at last count. About 21 percent of these cases have been going on for five years or more.

And if you are up against a rich and powerful person, he or she will have better lawyers who can keep tiring you out and burning your pockets with endless adjournments bought from corrupt elements in the judiciary.

It will be disingenuous to celebrate freedom without acknowledging that justice continues to be denied to vast swathes of India’s population.

Cost of an Indian’s life

According to 2018 estimates, 1.51 lakh Indians died in road accidents. The same year, 8.82 lakh children under five died in the country. A 2015 heat wave killed at least 2,300 in India while between 2001 and 2014, 10,933 were killed in cold waves. Guess how many Indians died just by falling into open drains and manholes in 2011?

1,847.

Statistics like these show how little value we attach to human life in India. To change that, we need to start fixing accountability.

For every child that falls into a drain or dies of hunger, a dozen civic officials and politicians must pay with jobs or jail time. For every bridge or road that collapses, somebody should be punished for corruption and negligence.

Until then, the word freedom will ring somewhat hollow in this otherwise great land.

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