When the country became independent in the midnight of August 14, 1947, the Father of the Nation was on a fast. The Mahatma had looked forward to an India whose people would be liberated not just from political bondages but also from social and moral ones. But what he got was an India where people were killing one another in the name of something that they never understood and would never understand for decades to come: religion.
Did India really become independent? Not then, nor now. In spite of the economic progress that is much vaunted in many circles.
Economically India has come a long way from 1947 when poverty was the hallmark of the nation. Yet –
According to S Ramachandran Pillai – vice president of the Trade Union International, president of All India Kisan Sabha and former Member of Parliament – 840 million Indians spend less than half a dollar a day now [Frontline, 29 July 2011]. Who is benefited, then, by the tremendous economic growth of India?
The number of billionaires rose from 9 in 2004 to 49 in 2008. The assets of the ten largest corporates tripled between 2004 and 2008. In other words, the wealth of a few individuals pole-vaulted.
220,000 agricultural workers committed suicide in India between 1997 and 2008. Today every half an hour a farmer commits suicide somewhere in India. If 22 percent of the Indian population were landless peasant families in the beginning of the 1990s, now after our experiments with globalisation 41 percent of our population are landless peasant families.
But there is no dearth of land for real estate developers. There is no dearth of bank loans for flats or villas. There is no dearth of SMSes that fill the inbox of your mobile phone coaxing you to add yet another flat to your existing assets.
There are two Indias. The one which ranks 66th in a list of 88 countries in global hunger index. The other, the India that is not reportedly affected by the economic recession that is driving people out of their homes in the erstwhile wealthy nations of the West. Reportedly – the Indian reports are for and about the middle and upper classes only. The other India does not exist in reports.
Is India really independent?
I spent fifteen years of my life (how foolish I was to waste that many years of my youth!) in the capital town of a North-eastern state. They, the people of the North-east, celebrated the Independence Day with a hartal. This Independence Day won’t be different either. About a dozen militant outfits in the various states of the North-east have called for hartal this time too. Most of these outfits don’t know what they want exactly. But they love hartals. That’s a third India, an India that does not know what it wants, what it is capable of wanting.
The Mahatma was obviously asking for far too much when he demanded moral independence, if not spiritual independence.
Now we have pathetic caricatures of the Mahatma and comic parodies of his messages parading themselves in public places, on television sets and in the corridors of power.
Nevertheless, we are independent.