We are at the end of the year 2017 and for India, it has been a year of mixed feelings and emotions as a number of social, political, economic and environmental events unfolded throughout the year.
In retrospect, it terms of achievements, 2017 will be mainly remembered as the year India elected its 14th president Mr Ram Nath Kovind and implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST). India also became a full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Supreme Court banned instant triple talaq, calling it unconstitutional.
Manushi Chhillar won the Miss World beauty pageant, Rohit Sharma scored his third ODI double century against Sri Lanka and Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli got married. In terms of scientific and technological progress, India can boast of the successful testing of nuclear-capable Agni IV missile and the launch of the PSLV – C37 rocket.
In spite of all this, 2017 will sadly be remembered as the year where women’s safety experienced an all-time low, as numerous little girls were raped and murdered by criminals. Children’s safety was another major problem when little Pradyuman Thakur was killed and 290 children died at BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur.
Religious intolerance was again on the rise and one’s patriotism was questioned when journalist Gauri Lankesh was killed. Social media abuse knew no boundaries when Priyanka Chopra and Mahira Khan were trolled for nonsensical reasons. Even the nature god remained unhappy with the country as India experienced the highest snowfall in two decades in Jammu and Kashmir, which killed 20 people, and in July, heavy floods in Gujarat, which killed over 200 people.
We have seen phenomenal growth in terms of technology and science, but basic needs like sanitation, hygiene, education, healthcare still remain a distant dream. India still has a long way to go to become a super power in the true sense and achieve social and economic development.
To begin with, for the year 2018, India has to deal with some major social issues on priority, which have emerged unexpectedly, and in a big way, in 2017. These are the issues which have the power to pull back the progress of our country as they not only expose the hidden villains of the country but also pose a question on the basic rights and safety of the citizens.
All kinds of shaming – slut shaming, body shaming, mother shaming, victim shaming. For instance, Priyanka Chopra was shamed for wearing a frock to meet PM Narendra Modi and Mahira Khan was shamed for smoking. Rape and molestation victims were shamed for sharing their experiences and Zaira Wasim was shamed because apparently, it was a publicity stunt when she talked about getting molested. Numerous other common girls and women were shamed for numerous other things. Shaming is a way for the perverts of the world to get some sort of twisted pleasure at the expense of women. If we are intelligent enough, we have to stop all kinds of shaming or risk becoming a shoddy and crude nation which does not understand the value of personal choices.
Padmavati has to be a unique case of misplaced beliefs. The movie’s release was delayed because as per the Karni Sena, it showed the Rajput queen in a bad light. When crackers were banned in Delhi, it was supposedly done to hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus. This religious, social and artistic intolerance is one of the most dangerous social evils lurking in the unexpected quarters of our nation. It has the capacity to snowball into something extremely volatile and dangerous in the coming years if not worked upon immediately. We do not want to experience the horrors of 1984, 1992, or, for that matter, 2008 once again, as it will break the morale of the country. But, going by recent events, the future looks bleak.
We are the biggest democracy in the world and everyone has a right to express displeasure about the workings of the government. But criticism without knowledge is like firing in the dark. It is also an invitation for radical opportunists to influence the mind and decisions of citizens. This phenomenon is on the rise in recent years and we would need a great deal of maturity and wisdom to eradicate this attitude.
This is exactly opposite to the earlier problem of baseless criticism. Thousands of the citizens of our country have taken it upon their shoulders to be blind soldiers for the government. So any criticism or opposition to the government is considered as ‘anti-national’. These people consider it their ‘moral’ duty to uphold the pride of our nation but by through wrong and violent means. We need to start classifying people who, while blindly supporting the government, are, in fact, promoting their own radical agenda. We need to mark the difference between patriotism and blind faith.
India has four of the five most polluted cities in the world. It’s not just the air – we are badly polluting our rivers and agricultural land through the excessive use of chemicals, plastic and careless disposal of waste. Pollution has the ability to reach massive proportions and destroy the ecosystem if we do not stop abusing natural resources before it is too late. Along with that, planning for the optimal utilisation of water needs to be on top of the list because water pollution and wastage can leave our country dry and barren in the next decade.
It is estimated that 88% of the households in India have a mobile phone but 732 million people in India do not have access to toilets and clean sanitation. Sanitation is a basic right of every citizen of the country. Unfortunately, this is one issue the country has not been able to successfully handle in the last 70 years. Even in the cities, there is a dearth of proper drainage and disposal of waste. People still do not segregate dry and wet waste, which causes huge issues in decomposing and recycling. Continued usage of plastic can also lead to serious environmental and health hazards in the near future.
This is one issue which does not need any further explanation. It is the fourth most common crime against women in India. In 2015, there were over 34,600 rape cases and yet, as we can see, rape conviction rates continue to remain low. Women – both adults and minors – are getting raped and reports are coming in from all quarters of the country. Yet, there has not been any significant improvement regarding women’s security and safety. Women still have to feel scared to wander the streets at night, away from their homes, while rapists still roam free. India still has a long way to go in ensuring a safe and secure life for women.
There are still a number of other social evils, like illiteracy, malnutrition, access to healthcare and corruption. The entire country needs to deal with these. Yet, the above-mentioned problems can be controlled to a large extent by the active participation of the citizens themselves. Most of the problems are based on attitudes and perceptions and just a slight change in mentality can make a huge difference to our country.