INDEPENDENCE DAY inspires us to patriotic fervour that few other days in the year are able to generate. This is a day when every galli, nukkad and mohalla chimes to ‘Bharat Mata’, children dressed in saffron, white and green, with paper flags held firmly in hand walk to their school functions, the revered Jana Gana Mana is sung, Bhagat Singh and Gandhiji feature on TV screens and newspapers are full of tricolour ink. How else could one celebrate Independence Day? Sixty-three years have gone by and India’s Independence story is still a fascinating tale. To students of history, the Indian freedom struggle perhaps claims an important place. We are very proud of the way we fought for our freedom. The republic of India was formed and so, India was a free bird. The constitution-makers deemed India a democracy and a secular, socialist republic which we are very proud to be even today.
But, look out into the streets and you will see parallels that one cannot even comprehend. In the name of constitutional equality, we have huge malls opposite huge slums. We have some women walking with Prada heels, displaying branded shopping bags and Revlon lipstick while others cannot even afford clothing and stare at a grim future. Much of rural India is still illiterate, jobless, and deficient in nutrition. They say a good cover doesn’t really ensure a good book. The truth is we have made a grand cover for our nation and we have provided for a half-baked, patchwork solution, which in no time will be in shreds.
Years back, when we decided we were free, we chose a democratic system because it had the power to bring about change. Change we surely have brought about, but it has been one concentrated in small pockets. It is true that we seldom accept, but we are still a nation of people who don’t know where we are heading. Our problems are perennial and each Indian has learnt to put up with it. We don’t mind skipping a signal, paying a Rs100 bribe, jumping queues; we don’t mind being sophisticated in another country and we don’t care about being careless and insensitive in our own. The same Indian who will never dream of dropping a piece of paper on the streets of London, does not think twice before lowering the window of his car and spitting on streets.
A part of the problem is the people we have elected to Parliament. For long the typical Indian politician has been above 60 years of age - and is usually a paan-munching, dhoti-clad man, with no idea whatsoever of his responsibilities except to do his bit for his coterie. A look at their educational qualifications and you figure out why we don’t promote education at all. Why should we, when we choose almost illiterate goons as leaders. Why then should we then educate our kids when we don’t mind electing a man with no inclination whatsoever to bring about positive change? Examine our political scenario. Our politicians ask for votes on the basis of religion, caste, minority, race, language and what have you - in clear violation of constitutional integrity, but we silently let it all pass. Take the example of reservations. Is it difficult for any common man to understand that reservations should keep in mind merit and that it should be at the lower levels and not directly at the post-graduate spectrum?
A politician today can create chaos in the name of language. Does he not have any better issues? And we are so disillusioned that we come running on the streets at the slightest political discourse. What does one need today to win elections? Lineage, caste or muscle? – probably all three. Many of us have lost faith in the electoral system. We have stopped hoping that things will get any better. Each party looks worse than the other; you have a choice between the bad and the worse. Election manifestos have the same agenda – promising roti, kapda aur makaan. And the fools that we are, we still elect a winner out of this mess who is supposed to plan for the next five years. Don’t they have the vision to look beyond the basics? Maybe Independence Day should be about more than just buying paper flags and watching movies. Can we, as citizens of free India, do a little more? Why settle for whatever we are given. Why not resolve this Independence day to do our bit to make this country a better place? Why don't we be the change that we want to see.