On January 26th India celebrates its 63rd Republic Day. There will be the usual parade with all its pomp and drama. On display the might of the armed forces, the famed tableaux representing our diversity ans skin deep progress, the school children, the folk dancers, the horses, camels and elephants. India will put its best foot forward for the world to see. Watching all this will be our so called rulers eager to take ownership of all on show. Forget about the price tag attached to this spectacle. Millions will tune on to their TV sets and feel a sense of national pride. Are we not the biggest Democracy!
For a day we are pushed to forget what goes on behind the show. But can we. It is time we asked ourselves what we are truly the Republic of? The choices are many. Let us start with hunger. In spite of the glitzy, high tech and affluent image we want to project - we have the maximum billionaires in the world; guess it goes with the size of our population - we have the worst record when it comes to malnutrition. 5000 children still die every day of malnourishment. Our statistics are worst than those of sub Saharan Africa. 42% of our children are malnourished! Recently our CEO declared that this was a national shame. Wonder why it took so long and what will be the outcome of his statement. So are we the Republic of Hunger?
Let us continue to find the right definition for our Republic. Corruption is what comes next. I guess everyone agrees on that one. 2011 witnessed a lot of hue and cry on the issue. But again to no avail as voices of dissent were overpowered and futile and pointless solutions set into motion. We all know nothing will happen and corruption will remain intact. And this across the board from the small street vendor who wants to eek a living to the big corporates who want their pitch accepted, everyone will have to grease a palm confidently proffered. It almost seems that we cannot live in our dear Republic without mastering this art. Are we the Republic of Corruption?
Are we then the Republic of failed promises. Perhaps. Look at all the lofty promises made by the powers that be, promises meant to be a panacea to all ills but that get hijacked on the way and become new avenues to enrich the executors. The examples are endless. Look at all the grand schemes that are heralded ad infinitum and bear complex acronyms: ICDP, MNREGA, XZYZ and so on. One of our erstwhile leaders did admit that not even 10% trickles down to the beneficiary.
Are we the Republic of the absurd where politicians of all hues promise free laptops
in a land where millions still sleep hungry. Where a politician asks a school child to tie his shoe lace
at a public function and when admonished simply answers that his doctor has advised him not to bend. Has he not heard of slip on shoes, maybe one should send him a pair!
Are we a Republic of extremes where the rich get richer and the poor poorer by the minute. The gap is widening in every walk of life. Let us talk about our children. Instead of progressing our children are are regressing. The education infrastructure is abysmal. According to a recent article
India has a shortage of 1.5 million teachers. Now don't tell me cannot find teachers if we truly wanted to. Sanctioned amounts are never released. On the flip side schools for those who can pay are proliferating. Education is a lucrative business. The state of health is no better. Health care for the poor is lamentable: overcrowded hospitals where you need to wait for months and even years for a simple surgery, quacks who fill in the gap with their half baked knowledge. The rich however are wooed by luxurious hospitals that burgeon by the day and cater to your every whim provided you have the moolah.
Our Republic does not have the will to house its poor. They are left to fend for themselves and come up with solutions often illegal but that soon get the blessings of those in power always on the hunt for new vote banks. You cannot imagine what some of these dwellings look like and what living in them means in the heat of the summer or the winter freeze. Can we called ourselves the Republic of shame.
We could also be called a republic of feudalism, forgive the paradox but what else would you call a country that is divided along every line possible: caste, religion, gender and economic status. Invisible and impregnable walls separate them and some arrogate to themselves the right to trample others.
You may think that all these are just generalities. Not quite. In the last few days we have had the above stated shoe lace aberration, a woman mercilessly beaten up
by a cop, 12 babies
dying in 2 days in a state run hospital and more.
A sad picture is it not? But I would like to look at matters in another way. In spite of all the chaos and failures millions of Indian live one day after the other with infinite dignity and courage. Millions of children defy all odds and dare to dream and build a better future. Thousands of Indians have the grit to take the road less travelled and bring usurped smiles back. Faceless millions continue to protect the values and principles many have waylaid. Millions of Indians refuse to give up on their cherished country. We are the Republic of smiles, hope, courage and dignity.
God bless India!