?At the stroke of midnight when the world sleeps, India will wake to life and freedom.? These historic words, spoken by Jawaharlal Nehru on the midnight of August 14-15, 1947, have their own fascination. They sparkle with passion and poetry and enthral a number of Indians even today. But are these words true? Was the world sleeping or watching India? And did she wake up fully?
The light of freedom about which Jawaharlal Nehru spoke so eloquently was too weak to pierce through the darkness created by the heaps of garbage which India had collected in her courtyards during the long period of her social and cultural degeneration. Standing over a pedestal, glittering with artificial lights, declarations could be made: ?We would create a mighty India?mighty in thought, mighty in deeds, mighty in culture and mighty in service to humanity.? But no one seemed to know, or even cared to know, how that ?might? would be created or how those mountains of garbage would be swept away.
For declarations to get translated into ground realties, a powerful motivating force and a leadership with extraordinary courage and commitment was needed not only in the arena of politics but also in the intellectuals, social, cultural and spiritual spheres. Regrettably, neither the requisite motivating force nor the requisite leadership was forthcoming.
It was a comparatively easy to provide, by way of a liberal and democratic Constitution, a pattern of polity whose aims and objectives were to create both purity and productivity in public life. But it was difficult to inject the ethos of purity and productivity in the system. There was no one to undertake this task. The clay of the people who had to run the system and the social and cultural environment in which it had to function essentially remained the same as before. And it did not take long for a fairly sound Constitution to look like a grammar of democratic anarchy in practice.
The Preamble of the Constitution, which reflects its ideals, declares: ?We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens?? But what is the operational reality today, after 60 years of Independence? How are the ideals of the Constitution being translated in practice?
?We, the people, are Sovereign, says the Constitution. But how do we give expression to this Sovereignty? By electing our representatives to Legislatures who have criminal records, or who obtain money for tabling questions in the Parliament, or who receive bribes for voting in the House in a particular manner, or who indulge in human trafficking, or who take oaths and other pledges only to break them with impunity, or who are too deficient in intellect to understand the complex problems of India and of the world around her.
So far as socialism is concerned, we cannot make even a pretence of it. What sort of socialism is it which enable 36 citizens to accumulate wealth of about $ 191 billion, when millions remain hungry and diseased and when hundreds of farmers commit suicide every year due to financial distress.
What about the solemn pledge of making India a secular state. Has it not been turned upside-down? Are not the political parties and their leaders taking every vital decision on the basis of caste, creed and community? And is this phenomenon not leading to communalisation of Indian politics and growth of deeper and more intense religious affinities?
Equally spurious is our democracy. Could we legitimately call a system democratic, when 99 per cent of the Members get into the Lok Sabha, as it happened in 2004, with less than half the electors voting for them? What type of democratic temper has been nursed when an election to a single State Assembly could be held in seven phases, spread over a month, and that, too, with the help of paramilitary forces?
What aspirations was our national flag expected to generate and what aspirations are being actually generated by the populace and their leaders, be they in the political, social, intellectual and cultural arenas of public life? The wheel, on the flag, in the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, is a symbol of our ancient culture. But with what respect do we look at our ancient culture these days? To talk even of its noblest strands is to invite a charge of being an obscurantist.
What Dr. S. Radhakrishnan said, by way of elucidation at the time of adoption of the national flag in the Constituent Assembly, on July 22, 1947, bears reproduction: ?The Ashoka'sWheel represents to us the wheel of Law, the wheel of Dharma? It indicates that there is life in movement?The Bhagwa colour represents the spirit of renunciation. The green expresses our relation to the soil, to the plant life on which all other life depends? We must be guided by truth?white?adopt the method of self-control and renunciation?saffron.? But do we find in our public life today even an iota of purity or spirit of renunciation?
Clearly, every ideal enshrined in the Constitution and every aspiration expressed in the national symbols has remained on the paper. The spark that was needed to ignite the inner passions and galvanise the nation to build a noble India on the noble ideals and aspirations was not generated.
From the very first day of our Independence, the people in general and the national leadership in particular have developed a propensity to keep aside the hard crusts of the problems and remain content with breaking softer grounds. Even now, while chronic problems mount and infections in the system strike deeper roots, we continue to nurse illusions and derive satisfaction from short-term gains and outward glitter.
These days, one often hears about India'simpressive foreign exchange reserves, her outstanding performance in the area of Information Technology, her rising volume of trade and her high rate of savings and investments. But comparatively little is said or done about the ever widening income-gap between the rich and the poor, worsening problems of unemployment and under-employment, continuance of acute poverty and malnutrition, rapid increase in the number of squatters and slum dwellers in cities and sharp deterioration in both rural and urban environment. The enormous challenges of internal security, as they exist in Kashmir, Assam and Naxal-affected regions, too, are being soft-pedalled. So is the attitude towards the deeper inroads that corruption is daily making in politics, economy and other venues of public life.
Quite a few commentators of the economic scene, of late, have been observing that the optimists in India see the glass half-full while pessimists see it half-empty. However, the observations of this nature, though attractive, tend to ignore a more significant aspect of Indian reality. If the table on which the glass is kept get weaker by the day, on account of its wood being eaten by termites, it would soon collapse. The glass itself would fall to the ground and break. The massive and all-round damage that is being caused to the overall system is bound to obliterate whatever few lines of hope that are still being seen by the optimists on the palm of India'sdestiny.
(The writer is a former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and a former Union Minister and can be contacted at E-48, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017.)