“In Singapore you don’t say anything, DO YOU? YOU wouldn’t dare to eat in public during Ramadan, in Dubai. YOU would not dare to go out without your head covered in Jeddah. YOU would not dare to buy an employee of the telephone exchange in London at 10 pounds (Rs.650) a month to, ‘see to it that my STD and ISD calls are billed to someone else. ‘YOU would not dare to speed beyond 55 mph (88 km/h) in Washington and then tell the traffic cop, ‘Jaanta hai main kaun hoon (Do you know who I am?). I am so and so’s son.
I am echoing J. F. Kennedy ‘s words to his fellow Americans to relate to Indians….. ‘ASK WHAT WE CAN DO FOR INDIA AND DO WHAT HAS TO BE DONE TO MAKE INDIA WHAT AMERICA AND OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES ARE TODAY’ Lets do what India needs from us.”
APJ Abdul Kalam
These powerful words from APJ Abdul Kalam’s famous speech in Hyderabad penetrate our consciousness to pose one significant question – ‘What does Independence Day mean to us?’ Is it just another official holiday when the patriot in us awakes for a day only to sleep again for the rest of the year? Or can this be a day when we as a Nation can do some introspection of our journey as an Independent Democracy?
We have a relatively easy ship to sail. The hard work has already been done for us by the brave sons and daughters of India who sacrificed their lives so that we may breathe in the invigorating air of freedom. We have inherited the strong foundation of the world’s biggest secular democracy and there is a lot that we need to give back to this glorious nation so that our future generations may no longer need to migrate to other countries. Perhaps this Independence Day we could all do some relationship accounting with ‘Mother India’?
It was a with great sense of collective fervour that the founding fathers of India heralded India’s rebirth as a sovereign nation. “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…A new star rises, the star of freedom in the East, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed!…” these words from Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous speech resonate again in our ears today and the collective soul of all those involved in India’s Freedom Struggle whispers in our ears – ‘Are you living in the India that we concieved in our dreams?’
It seems that we have disconnected ourselves from the excitement that should mark our Independence Day. And we have some valid reasons.
Yeh Mera India – Waking up to Reality
A World Bank Survey reveals that 25 per cent of teachers were missing and another 25 to 30% not teaching at the time of three unannounced inspections at 3,700 schools across 20 states in India. The average duration of a court trial in India is a staggering 15 years. The international benchmark is 3 years. Our judicial system is saddled with a gargantuan backlog of 29.2 million cases pending across hundreds of subordinate state-level courts, 21 high courts and the Supreme Court. These are just a few figures that highlight the disarry the system around us has fallen into. The question that will lead us to the promised land is ‘How can I make a difference?’
Demographic statistics highlight that India is now an increasingly ‘young country’ as compared to the ageing developed world. Today, 31% of India’s 1.1 billion people are under age 16. By 2030, India is expected to become the most populous nation on Earth. In 2030, India will have by far the largest workforce in the world, because a disproportionate 68% of its population will be of working age. This 68% can be India’s biggest asset or India’s biggest liability and that depends on what we are collectively doing as a Nation today.
India and China started their journey towards development at about the same time but a quick glance at where we stand in comparison to China should send shockwaves to every concerned citizen. China started its family planning policy in 1970, India in 1952. India is still adding 18 million people per year, against 9 million per year in China. In a different field, China won 63 medals in the last Olympics; India just one. Clearly, someone somewhere from among us, is not doing their job right…
Strength in Diversity
Stephen Covey, the famous management author said that ‘Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.’ Our strength as a Nation lies in the fact that we are diverse and to reap the benefits of this strength we need to put our national identity first before our regional identities. With regional turf wars being waged all around us, are we blind not to see that we are Indians first and Punjabis, Gujaratis and Marathis afterwards? We need to put an end to the politics of hate and division and forge a new identity that is Indian minus the geographical divisions.
The road ahead…
As a Nation we have made a lot of accomplishments as well. While the financial systems crumpled worldwide, India bravely withstood the financial downturn and proved to the world the strength of its fiscal policies and reforms. There is no doubt about the fact the India has arrived on the world stage. Latest projects like The Chandrayaan Mission and Arihant – India’s first nuclear powered submarine have generated immense respect for us but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels as there is still a lot that needs to be done.
The responsibility of ushering India into a new age lies upon every single one of us. Regardless of how we are contributing to the nation, if every citizen commits to achieving excellence and taking pride in what he is doing, we would certainly be on the road become the next Global Power.
The need of the hour is effective leadership in all spheres of activity- our homes, our educational institutions, our government, our media and popular entertainment and our companies – Leaders who ‘can be the change’ and who can live the message and who have the courage to challenge the status quo.
This Independence Day, rather than focussing on how the system has failed us, let us commit to focussing on what we can do differently in our circle of influence.
Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Jai Hind and a Happy Independence Day!