After more than 55 years of independence, India continues to reel under poverty, hunger and disease. Corruption is rampant and social inequities continue as never before and are now perhaps more embedded in the social milieu; thanks to the social engineering done by our petty politicians in the name of caste and religion.
Whereas other nations have gone on to make a name for themselves the ones that attained their independence along with India in the world order, India seems to be struggling to create an identity of its own and perpetuate a medieval culture incompatible with the modern information age.
To reflect on what we have not learnt since independence would amount of writing an epic whereas writing on what we have learnt would be like writing a one-page journal. In a nation of self-seekers, we have always put self before society and before the nation at large.
In spite of being the first country in the world to launch a family planning Programme, we are now a nation of about one billion people; thanks to the lopsided and hollowed policies of the government and the indifference of the people, we have become and second-most populated nation in the world sitting on a pile of human dynamite waiting to explode for its own destruction.
Each year the government machinery spends crores of rupees educating the population on family planning by means of advertising on the mass-media, distributing free contraceptives and the like but we stubbornly refuse to learn. Despite the growing population, people are heard talking about the need for a big family; about how a girl is Paraya Dhan and about the need to have a son to carry on the family lineage; son is thus preferred to a daughter and people go to any extent to beget a son.
Not only does population entail the difficulty of feeding more mouths, it also brings with it the travails of unemployment, illiteracy, overcrowding, in sanitary conditions, congestion conditions that severely restrict the development of human mind and body.
But not only do our people, our politicians too seem to learn either. For their petty political gains, they are averse to taking stern measures like setting the ‘one-child family norm’ encouraging celibacy lest they should anger the masses. As if this was not enough, a proposal for a bill not to it the people bearing more than two children contest elections for panchayats, assembly and Parliament was scuttled.
Will our politicians ever learn? No, perhaps never, seem to be the reverberating answer.
Leave aside the population problem had we put a sound educational system in place with vocational guidance and technical education as the core, we would not have ended up with the millions of unemployed youth in the country; instead our education system is an ‘Inverted Pyramid’ “with astronomical sums being spent on higher education and virtually nothing spent on primary education and at the undergraduate level.
To top it all, a large number of professionals particularly from IITs and IIMs desert their motherland for greener pastures abroad leading to the waste of colossal sums of money on higher technical education in the country this ‘brain drain’ creates a serious imbalance in the Indian skilled man power structure.
But we refuse to learn or emulate the process by which other Third World countries have managed to retain their technical manpower successfully by creating a healthy atmosphere at the world place and higher pay packets. Instead of setting up technical Institutes the rural level, we have now started setting universities for the development of ancient languages which have now become completely defunct an out of use.
Will we ever learn? “But cheer up, the worst is yet to come” – (Philander Johnson) in the Shooting Stars.
In the world’s largest democracy, espousing universal adult franchise elections have become a demonstration of force. Money and muscle power rule the roost. Becoming an MP and consequently a minister has become a status-symbol and public service has taken a back seat. Elections are fought on caste-lines; lives are no longer laid down for the country but for the glorification of one’s caste.
History-shelters win elections with big margin and that too from behind the bars. Bureaucrats, police and politicians are hand in glove with one another. Nepotism and favoritism are the order of the day. The ballot is stronger than the bullet but in India the adage stands floored on its face.
Bullets rule the roost and ballots can be bought for pennies. ‘Criminals and Politicians’, ‘Smugglers and Leaders’, are no longer strange bed-fellows in India. Here they take pride in complementing each other. Despite thirteen general elections, we continue to remain an immature and indifferent electorate and have not learnt to vote judiciously.
Indian democracy may degenerate into total anarchy and chaos if we remain apathetic to the political and electoral process of the country. We seem not to have learnt a lesson from the military rule in our neighborhood either.
The above are examples of collective failures of the Indians as a nation but what can we say about those people who are taken for a ride by the shopkeepers and their ilk everyday. Yet, they don’t complain a bit and suffer the injustices like a slave.
Cheats and adulterers go scot-free because we have not learnt to teach them a lesson. Hoarding and black marketing have now been virtually legitimized. TTEs in trains demand a ransom for granting seats and berths and we pay obligingly. We never venture to complain or take any action whatsoever because we have still not learnt how to protect our rights.
Neither is the sports arena a cause to celebrate. Every four years we send one of the biggest contingents to the Olympics only to return empty- handed. Why can’t a nation of a billion produce a single gold medalist in Olympics? Certainly the defect lays with the sports administrators.
There is no dearth of talent in the country; that’s for sure for we do see the likes of Amritrajs, Dingkos, Sikdars or Bhutias coming up from virtually nowhere and making it big for them. The crux of the matter is to promote and encourage the games in the villages where the vast multitude of Indians live but our thick-skinned bureaucracy has not learnt anything from the likes of China who have done the same.
Why is the vision of Nehru (an ardent supporter of sports and pioneer of the Asian Games) so blurred today? Why is it that the country which hosted the first Asian Games finds no place in the medal tally? Why it is that country like Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia have overtaken us in badminton a game that was incidentally played for the first time in India?
Why don’t the Indian tigers like Dhyanchand roar any more in hockey? Have they all become extinct? No, the answer is that they have been caged. The remedy is to provide good administration and sufficient funds. The government will have to encourage corporate sponsor ships for the same. But we have not learnt any of this and that is why we are languishing at the bottom of the pile in world sports.
About the health services, the less said, the better. With the ratio of doctors to patients being one of the lowest in the world it is not a surprise that India figures as one of the lowest countries in Human Development Index. “Prevention is better than cure”, they say, but in India it has little meaning. Total inoculation is a distant dream and for want of vaccination, thousands of children end up being victims of polio, T.B. and other diseases. But, will we ever learn?
Hygiene and civic sense seems to have eluded us Indians as a race. Whether it is a national monument or a busy street it hardly matters, wt Indians wet it without dissemination. Defecating in the open is so universal and ingrained in our habit that even the building of hundreds of public lavatories has not made the slightest of difference. Indians go on with are obstinate refusal to use them. When will we learn?
The writer Charles Lamb who worked in the East India Company office for two years was once pulled up by his English boss for habitually coming late to office. When the boss demanded to know why; Lamb proclaimed, “But Sir, I make up by going early”. How truly and authentically India the above incident seems! Punctuality is something that is simply not in our nature.
Coming late and going early seems to on the minds of everybody in India. Countries in the West pay they employees on the basis of hours of work put in and have shown the world how important it is to be punctual but we squander our hours like anything When will we learn the essence of time-management? A move by one of the State governments to check latecomers by introducing the punching system was so severely opposed that it sent shivers down the spine of the ruling establishment.
Roads in India present another story of government and public apathy the dilapidated condition of roads has made a journey by road nearly impossible in many parts of the country. Is it not a mockery the multinational tire companies have launched advertisement-campaign giving slogans claiming that their tires can take on the roads in India?
Each year the government loses so much in terms of foreign exchange be way of fuel wastage and ‘vehicle-life depletion’ but no attention is paid to the repair and maintenance of this very basic infrastructure the veins and arteries of India. We are yet to learn from other countries that have completely privatized this sector.
In social fields, reverse discrimination by the use of the weapon of reservation to woo the masses has assumed frightening proportions.
Nowhere else in the world have reservations been given on such large scale and in such important fields as space, telecom, atomic energy, etc. But, we don’t seem to learn from the mistakes of other countries at all where research has shown that reservation prove only detrimental in the long run. But even after 52 years of independence, we refuse to learn and sea reason.
In all, the situation is disheartening and desperate but as a ‘fifty year- young nation’ of one billion marches forward albeit slowly into the next millennium, we must not lose heart and remember the dictum: ‘Since is the beginning of Salvation’ and that ‘Each (Indian) citizen like Socrates should never stop learning and learning to learn.’