How Independent is India?
Written by S. Dogra

Sitting at my computer, I decided to do a MS Word Thesaurus lookup of the word 'Independence' and here is what popped up as synonyms - self-government (n.), self-sufficiency (n.) and impartiality (n.).

So, I started to question as to how Independent is India. How does one with a limited knowledge of most political topics, tackle such serious sounding words? Growing up as the daughter of an Indian Army Officer, it was an easy explanation. India was independent because our freedom fighters and soldiers had led mutinies and fought wars to free itself of the Imperial rule and to protect it from foreign invaders. Now as an adult what do I interpret it to be?

Self governance is a beautiful concept. A government of the people, for the people and by the people.

Yes, we do have Indians ruling other Indians. So, that is not a problem. Or is it? Every day I open or or, sitting here in the US and what do I read? Congress is blaming BJP for its hard line stance towards its peace initiatives or BJP is blaming Congress for its lax anti-terror laws. I know it is healthy to argue in a democracy but isn't the end result supposed to actually benefit someone (who needs it) somewhere? Do these arguments really lend themselves to the benefit of the common man who is killed in a blast in J&K or Mumbai? Or to those who are sitting in polluted roads amidst chaotic traffic trying to just get home to their families? Or is the need of the hour, to sit and think jointly as Indians, of where we all went wrong and what could be done to eradicate this and many such problems at the grassroots level?

What happened to our sense of community? Here in the US we see communities taking responsibility of its people. Community Centers encourage people to participate together in local politics, art and music. Neighborhood watches enable neighbors to watch out for each other. Local newspapers are actually read. My grandfather used to tell me stories about similar activities before India's Independence. What happened along the way?

Did this beautiful concept get waylaid somewhere since we thought of it? Did we some how forget that rights and regulation go hand in hand? What happened to all those children who studied civics in school together? How and when did they change alliances and become hard liners or indifferent spectators? What caused it to happen? Can we revert that sense of civic duty and take responsibility with what has happened to our country today?

We are disciplined denizens of the US, why cannot we do the same in or for India?

Well, I have doubts about this at the outset itself! I know our economy was closed for the longest time after we got our Independence and we like to say we are self-sufficient but really speaking even after all the liberalization, are we really?

We feed our people with grain and rice grown in our own country and clothe them with cotton grown in our fields. So we are self sufficient, aren't we? Well, do we really feed and clothe ALL our people? I see pictures of half clothed children selling the fabric "tiranga" to others, to be able to eat one square meal a day.

Jobs are aplenty but how many of those were generated within the country itself? It is wonderful that there is this "IT boom" but what happened to India being primarily an agricultural country? Has that taken a back seat to other seemingly more global industries? How come I read of a farmer in Maharashtra resorting to suicide as his only respite from a vicious cycle of debt and poverty? In my simple mind, why cannot flood waters in one part of the nation be directed towards relieving of drought in the other? What about improving the infrastructure of the water resources to allow this to happen?

How come in a country that produces the maximum number of computer (both software and hardware) engineers in the world, the school teachers who educate them get paid less than $200 per month? If our teacher's are not self-sufficient and need to supplement their income somehow or go hungry, is India self-sufficient?

India has tried to befriend all and be objective in its dealings with most nations. We are equally well known for our wealth - the homo-sapiens - all over the world. As an ordinary Indian citizen, I feel as pleased to see an Aishwarya Rai poster at the Moscow airport, as I do when an US immigration officer asks my mother if she got some "ladoos" on her trip back from India. And I am overjoyed at Shashi Tharoor's nomination for the post of the United Nation's Secretary General! So maybe India has improved, after all?

But hold on, am I still wrong? I know our President is a Muslim and the Prime Minister a Sikh but when asked by an educated friend if I knew if the maid working in my grandmother's home was a Hindu or Muslim, I wonder if we are truly impartial? Salmaan Khan, my all time favorite actor, is a Muslim, how come no one questions his acting in a Hindu director's movie? Have we now shifted, at least in the urban regions, from religion and caste system towards a class system? Is our domestic urban partiality curve skewed towards the rich? And what of its villages? Caste system is a reality there even today.

What of gender inequalities? What of quotas and anti-quotas? Are those problems resolved? No, not really. Women are still basically unsafe and underpaid today. Anti Mandal Commission immolations and the questions they raised, that we witnessed growing up in the late 80's, are still relevant today. Who is addressing the basic questions behind these shows of rebellion? Why was it only relevant when we got a holiday from school and not today? What really happened in the anti-Sikh riots that rocked Delhi and the entire nation in 1984?

Some tough questions, answers to which I profess not to know. Tough questions, answers to which I should know!

India has moved up a niche in the global social circles, it is time for each one of us to contribute in our own way, towards making it move up at the grassroots level. Let us start with contributing in whatever way we can. Maybe educating a child or a woman, so they can help feed themselves. Or honoring a veteran who is forgotten once he returns from the war. Let us start with empowering ourselves; us, the lucky or tenacious enough to escape the humdrum of standing in a queue to pay our electricity, phone or college tuition bill in India; with the ability to influence just one life that is still doing that in India. How about helping India become truly independent?

Views represented above are entirely author's own views and in no way endorses or disrepsects author's views. Please make your own judgement.