So August 7, 8 and 9 and August 15 too, have come and gone and life, hopefully, has come back to normal. Most newspapers brought out special issues to celebrate sixty years of Independence, full of information about what happened in those long and turbulent years.
The Times of India (August 15) gave actual figures to show out progress. How were things like then in 1947? And how are the same things like now in 2007? Consider this: In 1947, then our wheat output was about 6 million tonnes. Now it is 606 mt. Then we had 1.1 million telephones. Now we have 606 million. Infant mortality then was 145.6, now it is 58. Then we only had 50,000 doctors. Now we have 5.54 lakhs of them. Then we had 19,634 kms of highways. Now we have 65,569 kms of them.
Then government revenues were about Rs 171 crore, now it is 4.03 lakh crore! Average life expectancy then was 31.4 years. Now it is 64.7 years. Similarly, literacy percentage then was 14. Now it is 67. Only, the population then was 300 million and now it is 1.13 billion. But who cares?
With some pride The Times of India says that then its circulation was 65,000. Now it is 3.5 million?and counting. How times change! In an editorial (August 15) the paper commenting on the 60th anniversary of Independence said that India is ?60, batting? and ? the future looks better than the past?. And how! As for batting, The Hindu (August 14) proudly noted then India had won the Test series against England and ?the win at Trent Bridge? was every bit as heart-warming as the triumph at Leeds in 2002? and that ?in both cases India out-thought, out-played and out-fought England in typical English conditions?. On the sixtieth anniversary of India'sIndependence that was only to add to India'spride.
But look at the NDTV poll on who are India'sgreatest personalities, which The Hindu published on August 12. One may or may not have much faith in polls. Invariably they have turned out to be far-fetched. But even granting that, here we have some surprises. The poll was conducted across 13 cities including four metros and it involved direct questionnaires administered randomly at street corners and responses received through the channel'swebsite and mobiles, phone text messages. With what result?
The poll showed that Mahatma Gandhi remains the country'sgreatest icon, getting 53 per cent of all ?votes?. Mother Teresa comes second with 17 per cent. Next comes J.R.D.Tata with nine per cent, to be followed by Indira Gandhi (seven per cent), Narayna Murthy (six per cent) and Amitabh Bachchan (five per cent). Poor Jawaharlal Nehru comes last, with four per cent. And what does this tell of polls?
Next question: what is India's?greatest pride?? The answer is democracy (44 per cent), secularism (17 per cent), IT industry (16 per cent), the armed forces (13 per cent), Indian Railways (six per cent) and the judiciary (four per cent).
And what has been India's?greatest political blot?? Anti-Sikh riots (44 per cent), riots after partition (19 per cent), Babri Masjid (16 per cent), Emergency (12 per cent) and last Gujarat post-Godhra riots (nine per cent). And who is India'sgreatest sports person? Sachin Tendulkar (48 per cent), Vishwanath Anand (20 per cent), Milkha Singh (19 per cent), P.T. Usha (ten per cent) and lastly, Leander Pace and Mahesh Bhupathi (four per cent). What is India's?worst shame?? Bribery (38 per cent). While there have been editorials noting the fact that India as a free and independent nation has turned sixty, the joy has been calibrated.
Thus Deccan Herald?and it seems as if it speaks for the entire media?noted, ?When India won Independence 60 yeas ago, the future seemed promising? but it was ?only sections of our population that has gained from Independence?. Our freedom fighters, the paper said, had indeed won the country political independence, but, it added ?We need to move it to the next level?give it depth to mean freedom, to ensure that every Indian is free from hunger and want, deprivation and discrimination.? And the paper summed up the situation by saying: ?Unlike in 1947, India today is no more a poor country lacking resources to tackle its gigantic problems. Its economy is robust. It has the money and the manpower to address these problems. What is needed is the political will.?
The Hindu one suspects set up a record by getting some fifty celebrities in various fields to write on their specialised fields and the Independence Issue is a gem. And as if to show what it stands for. It published a full-length painting by M.F. Husain depicting Bharat Mata. The painting was done specially for The Hindu. It was as if the paper was saying where it stood in regard to the Hussain controversy. The writer include Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate, Manmohan Singh, Somnath Chatterjee, Mayawati, Chandrababu Naidu, Narayana Murthy, Lord Paul, Fali Nariman, M.S. Swaminathan, Sunil Bharati Mittal, Anil Kakodkar, M.R.Srinivasan?, and it looks a Who'sWho of the intellectual world.
Barkha Dutt of NDTV has now become a columnist. Writing in Hindustan Times (August 11) she gave a hard-hitting punch to our so-called ?secularists?. Said she: ?Where are the placard-waving protestors this time? What happened to the street marches, the irate editorials and the lament for creative freedom? Does our outrage choose sides selectively? Three legislators and a sundry assortment of political workers from a right-wing Muslim party force their way inside the Press Club of Hyderabad, assault Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, vandalise the venue and then defiantly refuse to apologise, because, after all, they were God'swarriors, they claim. ? There was no real evidence of anger or disgust? from our liberals and secularists.? So asked Barkha, ?Does the fight against fundamentalism go into battle mode only when the enemy is the Hindu Right?? And she added: ?As far as I am concerned, Qureshi or Akharuddin Owaisi (the Hyderabad MLA who led the attack on Taslima) are no different from Praveen Togadia or Thackeray.? The Times of India (August 16) commenting on India's60th Independence anniversary called upon the country to ?unleash? the ?vast and untapped human potential of talent and enterprise? and ?seek out individual initiatives and projects of successful leadership? telling the youth. ?It is no one else'sbut yours to take?. And insisting, ?Those who have so long been led can become leaders in their own right.? Something that needed to be said.