India’s 72nd Independence Day: Let’s Talk Less and Do More!

by August 15, 2018 0 comments

India’s 72nd Independence Day Let’s Talk Less and Do More!Unless we start doing more and talking less, India is on the path of being the smart guy who is a know-it-all, but accomplishes nothing.

The Prime Minister’s speech at the ramparts of the Red Fort is a celebration of Indian democracy and for the past 20 years Indian Prime Ministers have delivered all five speeches of their terms. But with India heading into a vital General Election in 2019, it is not clear who will be standing at the Red Fort and addressing all Indians on August 15, 2019. With several crucial States going to the polls for Assembly elections later this year itself, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will all but declare the games open for the hustings at the Red Fort. But before the elections we should wonder why the modern nation state of India, which will  celebrate the 71st year since its inception, is still considered one that promises so much but has delivered so little.

Debating is the national pastime of this country, followed closely by procrastination. We like to talk endlessly about the ills that affect India and what should be done about them. This happens in dhaba, coffee shops, permit rooms, homes, newspaper columns and television studios. However, even if we can offer practical solutions, our actions speak louder than words, and truth be told, we are not a nation of action, we are a nation of words. In this regard, we would all do well to appreciate an American President’s words, no not the current occupant of the Oval Office, but John Fitzgerald Kennedy who famously implored his countrymen and women not to expect from their nation but do for it instead. And they did. And as painful as it is to write, most Indians expect the state to do things for them, because they believe they deserve it.

There has been social injustice in India, and that is a fact. Whether we like it or not, or whether the privilege of our backgrounds have made us immune to the horrors of the caste system, colonial rule or the constant invasions. We have far too many Indians still living in abject poverty, millions of others with little hope of uplift. There is still endemic corruption and the feeling that people have to cheat their way to success. The safety of women cannot be guaranteed in many areas. And the fact is that law enforcement has in many regards failed across India.

But it is not all negative, we are one of the few nations to have a capable space organisation able to send missions to the moon and beyond. We are a nuclear power and while we are the world’s largest net importer of military hardware, in the past two decades we have taken massive strides in building and commissioning our own weapons. Indeed, huge advancements in agriculture, particularly in storage and transportation, have made India more-or-less  self-sufficient in food production.

But our core problems still remain, the much ballyhooed ‘middle class’ consumers of India remain a dream. India’s consuming classes are just a small sliver, a bare 2.5 per cent of its population if not less. Few other large nations have such a disparity of wealth and education between the top one per cent and the rest of the population. The constant small arms fire on Twitter conveniently glosses over the fact that it is a medium for the few. We have challenges that cannot be won by a war of words but by action. And that comes back to where we started.

We do not have a dearth of ideas and opinions to fix our problems. We have a problem of enforcement and cronyism. We have political parties desperate for power who would do anything to get on the saddle, but have a lack of ideas. We have a bureaucracy that has kept the nation running, but is ineffective and intellectually lazy, and we have a judiciary that works at the speed of molasses. But, all said and done, when India was formed as a nation state, many felt that the inherent flaws within it, the very fact that India was unique in the sense that it was an amalgam of so many disparate cultures, people and languages and its contradictions would tear the nation apart. It is the dharma of the nation, forged in a common identity that was kept us going and made us stronger; our strength is in our diversity. No other nation has managed to deal with these contradictions. Yugoslavia split up and China has steamrolled Han Chinese assimilation across the nation.

So as we head into yet another critical election season in India, a celebration of our democracy, we should look at politicians and political parties that offer us solutions and give us hope for a better tomorrow. It is beyond ridiculous that millions of Indians do not have an iota of hope even today because they lack access to clean water and electricity let alone modern healthcare. We need solutions, not talk and both sides of the political fight are responsible, constantly pointing fingers and apportioning blame. There are millions of young men and women without jobs, our civilian infrastructure is creaking, the rule of law is fraying and we are still a nation in the 21st century but one still dragging social issues from the 15th century along with us. We need answers, we need solutions and we need less politics.

It is unlikely that we will get those answers before March-April 2019, the elections will be fought on partisan lines and the volume leading up to the election will be tremendous. It will be too much to ask for a civil election, for pre-electoral debates where issues are discussed. Both sides, or the several sides in these elections, will flog the same dead horses over and over again and the manifestos will contain some pipe dreams that will never be fulfilled. Yes, there are some changes taking place and they will change India for the better. But we have to start talking less and doing more, otherwise India is like the smart guy in the room who is a know-it-all but does nothing. And that will condemn us to another seven decades of under-achievement.

Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer

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