Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy independence Day!

I don't know the reason, but somehow this day each year spurs me to write something. I feel the strong urge to let my beloved friends know of my dreams and thoughts about our great country.

Before I go any further - Wish you all a very happy Independence Day! India turns 61 today.

Today, we get a chance to bow in reverence to the thousands of freedom fighters who put their homeland before everything else and fought the British oppressors. Their struggle finally bore fruit and we got our Independence 61 years back on this day.

Today, we also get a chance to look back and evaluate ourselves. Have we fulfilled the dreams and visions of our freedom fighters? Would our freedom fighters feel proud about the state of our country today? Or would they feel sad that their supreme sacrifice went in vain?

It is but natural to say that the feeling would be mixed.

They would be extremely happy and proud of a number of things that our country has achieved. India has become an economic superpower. Our business houses are expanding their footprint all over the globe. We have several great people who have made a mark on the global front. Our forex reserves are overflowing. India has become the global technology hub which engages in cutting edge R&D activities. We will shortly have the world's biggest refinery for crude oil. We also got a major break at the Olympics - Abhinav Bindra won India's 1st ever individual gold medal at Olympics. Yes, one gold for a billion people may still be bad - However, a beginning has been made and hopefully this will have a cascading effect to produce more medals.

Sadly, the story does not end here - Our freedom fighters would feel extremely sad and ashamed to know that their country is still suffering from a number of ills.

Poverty is the biggest problem facing our nation today. About 30% of the people in the country earn less than Rs 10 per day. These people are in a dire situation. Many of them are homeless. They don't have even one proper meal a day. Their health is fragile and the conditions they live in is pathetic.

Education is the next big problem. India is projected to be a country with the most number of youth by 2020. This is a huge advantage which will be squandered if we dont educate this large pool of young people. Though the situation is improving, India still has one of the highest number of illiterate people. We also have a high number of school dropouts. There are several reasons behind this - The most important one is the poverty at home which forces parents to look for additional income.

Corruption is something which we should all be ashamed of. Transparency International ranks India at a paltry 72 out of 180 countries. Our politicians are one of the most corrupt in the whole world. Each one of us is to be blamed for the pathetic state of affairs. We always seek the easy way out of any government work by paying bribe. This emboldens the corrupt officials who don't do any work without taking a bribe. Corruption has the potential to bring the progress of our country to a stand still. We have taken a few good steps towards eradication corruption - Like the RTI act. However, more needs to be done. Most importantly, we need to empower our Lok Ayuktha to prosecute corrupt officials.

I have deliberately omitted terrorism out of the list above. I strongly believe that if we eradicate poverty and educate people, terrorism will automatically disappear from our country.

All this makes me wonder how we - the citizens of this country - can contribute to make the dreams our great freedom fighters come true. There are a number of little things which we are capable of doing -

Firstly, we all should vote without fail. Voting is the most powerful way to influence our country's future. By consciously voting for good candidates we can ensure that this country is run by those who really care for it.

We (by we, I mean the people who are lucky enough to read/write this post), are the beneficiaries of the economic growth of our country. Yes, we are very talented people who made our own destiny by working hard. However, I would urge each one of us to spare a thought for the rest of our society. Economic inclusiveness is extremely important for a society to exist in harmony. The communal tension, crime and violence all around us is because all the sections of the society have not benefited from development.

No, I am not telling that we must donate our salary or our car to someone poor - Instead, I am asking us to empower the poorer sections of our society to raise their standard of living. Each one of us can ensure that our maid servant's children are attending school. We can also make sure that she has an investment plan for the future. We can ensure that the security guard at our apartment is adequatly insured so that his family does not suffer in case something untoward happens to him. We can spare some time to serve at an NGO and make a difference to some people.

I have little doubt that if at least some of us come together for this noble endeavour, our country would be able to overcome most its problems. We owe at least this much to the brave hearts of our Independence struggle.

Jai Hind.

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