Renew pledge

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While the customary speeches and invocation coming from the national leadership, on the eve of 72nd Independence Day, are ritualistically supposed to convey a feel-good message the reality on the ground does not fully square up with that imaginary scenario. No doubt, India today is economically and militarily stronger and diplomatically more influential than it has ever been. Yet it is also a concurrent fact of its evolution that the country as an integrated entity has become weaker and more vulnerable because its leadership has failed to objectively respond to legitimate aspirations and urges of the deprived and less privileged classes. India is today internally trapped into a vicious grip of sectarian and class polarisation with its contemporary leadership having nothing more than its incompetence to show. On the positive side, India can boast of having achieved a great deal in the last over seven decades. The greatest merit and asset has been the framing of a democratic and secular constitution and its continuance is one of the major successes of the country. The great strides taken by the country in the field of science and technology is yet another. India’s growing economy has made it a force to reckon with in the world with exports comprising not just raw materials but also finished machine products and sophisticated gadgets. Our Information Technology industry is a booming business and creates its own niche in the world. But this may not be the absolute truth as the benefits of these achievements percolate down to very few people. Increasing development and high standards of living of few have corresponded with increasing disparities, reflecting the ambivalence of achievements and busting the myth of progress. For the teeming millions of the country, it is still rare to find two square meals a day, leave alone nutritional diet or even clean drinking water. While mobility within certain classes of people has shown a robustly spiraling affluence, the number of starving poor has not diminished but sadly increased. Though the country can boast of some of the finest health care institutes, the teeming millions are deprived of the facilities due to poor economic standards or poor access to basic dispensaries, especially in the rural remote areas where such facilities do not exist. All benefits ultimately percolate down to the urban population, essentially the elite living in cities. The poor and the rural-ites remain deprived, pointing out the stark disparities that subvert the very essence of a socialist, secular, democratic republic. The glaring economic disparities aside, forces of disintegration and polarisation are on the prowl unmindful of its cost to the long range larger interests of the Indian nation. Pulls and pressures of electoral politics have become the determining factor across the board. It is for that reason that the clear cut lines of demarcation, between forces of integration and forces of disintegration, set and followed by the earlier generation of the leadership have disappeared. Contending rivals in the election arena have perfected the art of deception almost equally. Key institutions of national integration, formal as well as non-formal, have been rendered ineffective largely because these are being manned by people who lack vision. Narrow and partisan considerations have replaced healthy norms of functioning in public life. Almost each and every sphere of public life is today seriously contaminated by the sectarian virus. Alarming rise and surge of forces of disintegration on the national scene projects a frightening picture of India’s future, notwithstanding assurances to the contrary contained in the ritualistic ID messages from VVIPs. Proliferation of disruptive trends and ascendance of its champions is, perhaps, not as frightening as the stunning fact that both are gaining acceptability across the socio-political spectrum. Any such prospect was unthinkable till only a decade or so back even as India was grappling with its poverty and economic backwardness. Indeed there is much that is wrong with India today and that is the biggest challenge. These challenges also pose the biggest threat to India; it is from within due to its abject political failures and decline, dilution of spirit of democracy, increasing disparities and lofty ideals of harmony and liberty are in jeopardy. Seventy-two years ago, the first prime minister spoke at the stroke of midnight about redeeming “our pledge” to building a healthy nation based on dreams of democratic, secular and socialist society. It is time once again to look back and renew that pledge and make a drastic course correction.