I love my country. I don’t say this often, but I do. I like the welcoming familiarity of being among Indians. I like that when someone asks me what Indian culture is, and I have a hundred different answers, and they’re all equally true. I like the resilience in our people. Let’s face it, we have plenty of concerns in society, but we remain compassionate and continue to hope for a better future. I also like that we remember our past—where we all came from, and hold on to it. But if we have to continue looking at the past, after over 70 years, to feel pride in our nation, maybe we should rethink our priorities in the present.
According to some people, we have a lot to feel proud about. As of last year, we are the proud hosts of the world’s tallest statue. It took five years and almost 3000 crores to be built, but the important thing is that it is tall and shiny. We are told that we should be proud of it. India is also on a mission to build smart cities to improve social infrastructure and digital connectivity. Sanitation, civic facilities, housing and transport, are the focus of urban planning. Yes, it is as good as it sounds—we are choosing which parts of the Indian population can live better lives than the rest. But at least we are caring for our environment.
The Swachh Bharat mission flows through every Indian’s bloodstream. The intentions are good, which is why we cannot be blamed for the effects of climate change. Global warming is simply running ahead of us in the race. Despite all these achievements, I have never been prouder of my country than I have been since last month. Because we are now providing 3-star housing in Assam for Indians whose names have slipped out of the citizens’ register, we should be proud of how considerate we are, shouldn’t we?
No. We need to change our priorities.
One of the major global concerns at present is climate change. Harvest festivals like Makar Sankranti continue to be celebrated as part of our country’s rich culture, but what exactly are we celebrating? The seasons are changing, and noticeably so. We don’t need numbers or charts to prove this. Approximately 58% of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood. Harvest no longer comes after the monsoon, and this indicates a widespread economic crisis which cannot be fixed even with government employment generation schemes. Let me paint you a picture. It is common knowledge that economic instability is a cause for the high suicide rates in rural India. The same concern is also causing migration on a large scale. The migrant population, who present themselves as cheap labor, is what capitalists feed on.
These are just a few of the indirect consequences of climate change in the society. There are more direct effects. Imagine a more direct threat like forest fires or floods. How much of the annual budget is allocated to emergencies like these? Climate change has also led to a global Birth Strike Movement: people unwilling to raise a child in the present environmental conditions.
Then there are social concerns. Somewhere along the way, communal violence, domestic violence and social discrimination have integrated themselves as a part of Indian culture. Declaring Section 377 as unconstitutional was a major judgement in India’s recent past. It gave us hope that our home will be more accepting of differences. Yet, a year later, detention camps are being built for ‘illegal’ immigrants who have lived in this country for decades. What does this say about us?
Economic development is essential for a nation to grow. And I am not saying that we have not made any progress in social welfare or environmental initiatives. I am simply pointing out that if these concerns are given higher priority, we would see some real positive changes. Instead, what our government has released as its vision for the next decade is to become a $3 trillion economy, improve infrastructure and increase digital connectivity.
Yes, I love my country. Would I call this love patriotism? I would. But my pride in my country is for different reasons than what is expected. I do not love India for the wars it fought decades ago. I love it for the social changes it is trying to make in the present. I do not love India for its GDP growth rate. I love it for its diverse communities, which support each other and grow together. I do not love India for the number of foreign investments it gains. I love it for the amount of care and consideration that it gives to the people living in its borders. That’s what I hope for the future of India.