Sixty eight years ago, we chose to be a republic on 26th of January 1950. As Rajpath prepares itself for another flag hoisting on this republic day, we need to ask several questions: What is a republic? Whose republic? What does it mean to poor?
After sixty-eight years of a government of the people, for the people, by the people, where do we stand? Is it just another such day of the year, where we are forced to imbibe patriotism and love for a nation?
Even though India has the world’s largest young workforce with average age to be around 29 years by 2020, it is still ironic that most of these youngsters flee their nation for better opportunities abroad.
A growing population, an incentive to reservations and better living standards makes it necessary for the same.
India attained independence from the clutches of the British Empire in 1947. And this newborn nation had to face certain challenges.
The problem of religious fanaticism, caste hierarchy, the rich-poor divide pose a large threat to India’s unity.
The newborn nation had to make a new constitution, which accommodated all kinds of people, upheld the idea of democracy and asserted its own sovereignty.
Many people throughout the world questioned the existence of India. One American journalists wrote in 1951, “India means only two things to us – famines and Nehru.” But, today it seems to me that India has succeeded at accommodating all the differences.
However, there are many problems that have prevailed in India over the years. Since independence, poverty has remained our ‘UNWANTED’ guest, which has taken different shapes over the years. And this can be associated with Bollywood movie, ‘Athiti tum kab jaoge’ (Dear Guest, When Will You Leave?).
In fact, every fourth person in India is poor; this roughly accounts for about 275 million people. Many villages are not linked to the principal towns with good pakka (concrete/tar) roads.
The village population is still afflicted with open defecation. Many of these villages do not have the basic facilities like electricity, felicitous drainage system, clean drinking water, a hospital, and a primary school.
True, India has made efforts to move forward from where we stood in 1947. But there are many areas that just remain the way they are. According to UN, India has the largest malnourished population in the world, which accounts for about 194.6 million undernourished people.
With the literacy rate over 74 percent according to 2011 census, we still have a long way to move forward. About 280 million Indians are illiterate, this is nearly equal to Indonesia’s population, which has 96 percent literacy rate.
Our education system itself needs revival. From the teaching of history from colonial perspective to telling the story of India, from conceptual teaching to application level, from blackboards to smart boards, there is a lot that needs to be changed.
Indians are trained to be good employees. We study all our lives to be employed by some lucrative corporate company that pays well. And here is why we have a large chunk of unemployed youth. ‘Beta, you should do Engineering degree or become a doctor. Otherwise, nobody gives you dowry’. This phrase has piloted overcrowding in areas that have limited opportunities.
What are you good at? Well! I don’t know. No matter what we study and how much we study, most of us end up with doing nothing. Our education system fails to provide vocational training.
Our education system teaches a fish how to fly. Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if we judge a fish by its ability to fly, it will leave its whole life believing it is incapable of doing anything”.
Today, our educations system prepares us to be what the society wants us to be, rather than what we are capable of. Every other parent wants their children to be modern day engineers and doctors.
Many children who are not good at science and math believe that they are stupid and useless. Our education system needs to be revived. We need the world to allow everyone to pursue their interests; allow them to make their own choices.
India is the land of villages. There are as many as six lakh villages in India which account for about 70 percent of our population.
Most of the villagers are illiterate and inclined towards traditional farming. Over 600 million people in India depend on agriculture for a living.
Most of these farmers depend on rainfall for irrigation. When harvests are poor, fewer food grains will be available in the market. A mismatch between demand for food and the supply of food grains drives up the cost of food this is called food inflation.
When farmers harvest few crops, they earn less money. As a result, they buy fewer things – fewer tractors, fewer motorcycles, fewer televisions and even fewer clothes and snacks. Low demand affects the business and profitability of companies that manufacture these goods.
The country has almost been desensitised to news of farmer deaths. With severe drought, the farmers do not have enough water to drink, let alone to grow crops with.
What does republic mean to them? How does it matter if it is republic or freedom to those who are struggling to earn two square meals? Republic is just another day of the year until the poor are uplifted, educated and employed.