Independence Day poser

Ceremonial rituals aside, India is celebrating its Independence Day today against the mixed backdrop of hope and despair: Hope emerging out of the country’s admittedly growing clout in the comity of nations and despair resulting from its frustrating experience in grappling with the multitude of internal problems. Indian economy, despite its share of highs and lows, has a more encouraging appearance than the economies of several other comparable countries, largely because of the world-wide recession. India’s graph of achievements in the vital spheres of knowledge continues to look up and enhance its attraction for rest of the world. The country continues to steer along the course of becoming a major global player despite reverses resulting from a number of external and internal factors. Given the existing global scenario with a gloomy economic outlook, India has reason to be satisfied about its overall position.

But outward appearance, good as it may be, should not—and does not—hide the troubling facts about the country’s internal state of affairs. Mismanagement at the top stands out like a sore thumb. Corruption has become a way of life even as it continues to erode the gains achieved on other fronts. Social disparities have aggravated rather than getting reduced with the progress in the economic sphere. Poverty remains as serious a problem as it ever was. Conflicts rooted in communal, caste, regional and ethnic factors continue to surface menacingly and take a toll of the national fabric. These are the symptoms of degradation in the quality of governance. And this, more than anything else, is today India’s problem number one.

Having moved away from its traditional ideological moorings in the glare and glitz of ruthless market economy, India seems to have lost its way. The present policy paralysis is a natural consequence. Decision making apparatus has lost its dazzle which it used to flaunt, evidently in the reflected glory of some distant object. Vicious recession, claiming one country after another from amongst the supposedly prosperous nations, has given a couple of body blows to Indian economy as well. The falling rupee, falling exports and, more importantly, fall in the rate of economic growth are disturbing features.

Violence, mainly rooted in social and economic factors, refuses to go away while the established political system has no answer to offer towards its solution. In fact, the political profile of the country has got so distorted that perpetrators of vicious sectarian ideology as well as its notorious practitioners in public life now have the audacity to play for high stakes and pretend as saviours of the nation. The ruling establishment, irrespective of its hue, remains unresponsive to the root cause of the problem of social violence. Tendency to rely on state terrorism to deal with manifestation of socio-economic unrest is common across the board.

It is an extension of this very phenomenon that the canker of discrimination has now reached the country’s defence establishment. A series of small and big incidents of violent clashes between officers and jawans, including in a sensitive border state like Jammu and Kashmir, is a warning signal that unattended social concerns have a habit of finding their own modes of expression. Social segregation, ironically accentuated by the country’s economic progress, is a marked feature of public life—armed forces not excluded.

It is obvious that India’s flattering global profile (despite the fallout of worldwide recession) cannot remain unaffected by the unenviable reality of its internal challenges. Independence Day celebrations offer an opportunity to introspect realistically and rework the road map. Have we made the right choices to shape our future? Not easy to answer this question but still there is no escape from facing it squarely. Only the next Independence Day can tell if we made the right choice. Let us hope, till then, that yes we can make the right choice.