Friday, April 2, 2010

Well done India.

The ever skeptic Indian finds it against the normal instinct to appreciate the advances of the gargantuan elephant of Indian system and democracy. Perhaps, there is a feeling that we have miles to go and any sort of praise may make the elephant more complacent and it would doze off even before it completed half of its journey. The journey is a long one and the goal is one that is universally aspired by all for centuries, but it does help to cheer the slow and most of the times steady creature when it reaches a mile stone.

It was on the banks of river Ravi in 1930 that our leaders set the goal for 'Swaraj' or freedom. That freedom didnt not just mean political freedom but also social and economic freedom for all citizens. While the former was achieved at the stroke of midnight hour seventeen years later but the latter still remains an unfulfilled goal. Nehru once uttered "A moment which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new". Today again India is at the same crossroads, where she seeks to redeem its age old pledge in a substantial manner.

I have always found it unfair to judge the whole Indian political system as rotten and worth no good. Albeit there are many problems with the current state of affairs, we also have been fortunate, not once but most of the times, to be lead by great leaders whether in politics or in civil society. After six decades of liberal democracy and two decades of high economic growth, India has found the moral and material strength to reembark on its journey towards Utopia. The democracy has finally started trickling down to the roots and the voters always outsmart the politicians in every election. Development and basic needs of people is on the forefront of all political discourses. Efficiency and transparency not just words used by the elite but have found increasing resonance with the common masses.

The course of liberalization and ensuing economic boom germinated the seeds of new socialism and activism. The omens of things to come was the right to education act passed by NDA government and also the not so successful 'India Shining Campaign.' These demonstrated the new found confidence in the government to think big, though it was little too early to trumpet victory even before the battle started. None the less they made important contributions in bringing back the the bureaucracy in shape, breaking down the colonial shackles of licence raj and providing connectivity to all Indians in terms of roads and telephones.

Despite the blows the two major political parties exchange in public, the course of Indian elephant remained more or less the same after change of government. There has been a gold rush to exploit the new found monetary strength of the governments to make grand changes in the life of all citizens and reap the political benefits as did the left government after the successful land reforms in West Bengal. Quite ironically but in a quintessentially Indian way the right liberal policies gave a major push to the center left ideology. Every one from all parts of the political spectrum rushed to adopt the new and more aggressive form of Indian socialism. The days of Mandir and Mandal politics were over. The BJP ruled states focussed on food security by providing food grains to all at almost no price. Some went further ahead to relieve the parents of one of their most pressing worry i.e. cost of marrying their daughters. They promised not only support for education of the girl child but also to give a substantial amount of money at the time of marriage. The southern states soon followed the suit. It was a refreshing change to see rice and not color TV's in the manifestos. The master stroke came from the UPA government lead by congress party with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

The civil society made the most important contribution by channeling the aspirations of the public. They not only highlighted the problems with the Indian government system but also proposed very effective measures and then made sure that the masses rallied behind them.
Aruna Roy, who left her job as high ranking Government official to become a socail activist, championed the cause of right to information (RTI). Her efforts and the more responsive political system lead to the revolutionary legislation empowering every citizen with the right to get information on pretty much every public and personal matter from the government within few days of a simple request.

The ultimate responsibility of good or bad within a democratic nation rests on the people. They have been the major instrument in bringing about this change. The people have generously rewarded the social pro-activeness of the governments. It has been after a long time that people in many states voted the incumbent government back in power. Manmohan Singh is the only prime minister after Nehru to have completed one full term in office and to be re-elected again. The winds of change have blown over the whole nation and today Bihar has the second fastest growing economy in India.

Encouraged with the generous bounty, the last general election saw major social programs in the manifestos of major political parties. There is a consensus among all on the major parties on many social issues. Today, the issue for political parties is not whether the social incentives will be launched or not but how to get the most credit for the them and how to be the first or the most vocal supporter of these policies. Starting from yesterday, the right to education has become a legally enforceable right. The efforts to empower women at all levels have seen a rat race among political parties. Some states have increased the reservation of women in local bodies to fifty percent. The BJP has included one third female members in its highest decision making body. The congress is making the most of electing the first woman president and a woman speaker and marshalling the woman reservation bill through the Rajya Sabha. The food security act will soon become a reality and many other socially conscious measures will see the light of the day.

Within the last decade, India has changed beyond the imagination of many. The new found tools of freedom have worked in tandem with each other to achieve wonders. RTI has acted as panacea. NREGA and many more government schemes have seen a huge improvement in their efficacy. Judges have declared their assets and the Government officials would hopefully follow the suit in the future. Corruption is no longer a thing to live with today but something which can be fought with the RTI. Entrepreneurs like Shaffi Mather have come up with ideas to make fighting corruption a business opportunity. They would fight corruption on the behalf of their client using the new legal tools and charge a small fee for making sure that the client gets a just service from the government. The governments right from the municipal level have become more responsive towards the needs of the citizens and it is no more a traumatic experience to go to a government office for some service.

I feel appalled to hear many voices that still carry the skepticism that is two decades old. I feel rather proud that the Elephant of Indian democracy moves slowly but every step has a huge impact bringing out a gradual change and allowing the effective policies to evolve over time winning against many other alternatives. We all need to pat ourselves and say well done India! lage raho India!!.

2 comments:

  1. YES VERY GOOD ARTICLE AGREE WITH YOU ON ALL THE POINTS BUT LAST WEEK I WENT TO DELHI I FOUND SOME PEOPLE THEIR FEELING PRIDE IN BREAKING LINES AT BUS STOPS/METRO STATION,SPITTING ON ROADS......I THINK NOW IS THE TIME WE MOVE FORWARD N LEAVE ALL THESE BAD HABITS..AT LEAST NOT FOR OURSELVES BUT FOR OUR NATION....WE ARE GOING TO HOST COMMON WEALTH THIS YEAR AT LEAST WE SHOULD LEAVE ALL BAD BECAUSE OF THEM...JAI HIND

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  2. hmmm very true.... there are many things we need to learn and many to unlearn but most importantly we must strive to preserve many virtues which define ourselves... A developed India should not be a copy of the west but something better where we have learnt both the from the successes and failures of the west and draw upon the experience gained by five thousand years of continuous civilization.

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