REPUBLIC Day comes every year in the life of the nation. Every Indian wishes that our Republic should be immortal, amar.
At the same time, it is also an occasion to review the successes and failures of our republic every now and then. We should not evade it nor should it be perfunctory lacking the element of honesty in its evaluation. If the exercise is done on the plain of reality, we can measure the extent of our progress in the real sense.
Where do we stand today, where have we to go to reach our goal and how have we to strain our nerves to attain it? We should all know it very well. Every Indian has the inalienable right to know his country. The country does not belong only to those who are members of parliament or of State assemblies. It is also not the sole property of those in politics. The country belongs to all those who consider themselves Indians by all counts. We only have a superficial and not an in-depth view of the republic. The fault lies in the fact that we considered that the country belongs to those who run it. We speak very loudly about our rights but we are always evasive of our duties. If we have to usher in change for the better, we have to ponder over the present conditions in the country. We have to be face to face with the stark reality
To which direction is agriculture moving?
After we won our Independence, we have throughout been saying that Indian economy is predominantly agricultural. The foundation of our economic edifice stands on agriculture. Yet, where do we stand as far as agriculture is concerned? In 1951 our per capita cultivable land holding was 0.46 hectare which went down to 0.19 in 1992-93. Today it stands at just 0.16 hectare.
70 per cent of our population in 1952-53 was dependant upon 102.09 million hectare of agricultural land. At that time 18.1 per cent of the land was irrigated. Agricultural production was 59.2 million tonnes and average production was 580 kilogram per hectare. At present with 45 per cent of 122.4 million hectare of agricultural land as irrigated, the total agricultural production stands at 230.3 million tonnes with per hectare production at 1854 kilograms. The percentage of population subsisting on agro-based industries stands at 56.
Fighting hunger and malnutrition
Addressing a joint session of the two Houses of Parliament in June 2009 Her Excellency the President of India, Smt Pratibha Patil declared that Government will come out with a new law called National Food Security Bill. But this law has as yet to see light of day. 53 per cent of our population, out of which 20 per cent belongs to backward classes, is suffering from hunger and malnutrition. According to a latest survey, 1.5 crore children in rural India are at the verge of malnutrition. 27 per cent of the world’s population afflicted with malnutrition belongs to India. 20 lakh infants (2.8 per cent) die every year because they cannot get potable water vital to sustain life.
How alarming is the situation and how complacent are the people can be seen from the fact that in India food grains worth Rs. 58,000 crores get rotten, unfit for human consumption just because we lack the modern technique for storage. Could we not have taken adequate and effective steps all these years to prevent this loss while crores of people are suffering from hunger? What a paradox that among 119 countries in the world India stands at No. 94 in the matter of hunger and malnutrition. What was our aim and where have we gone?
Rising poverty graph
We may claim that poverty in the country is on the decline. But facts speak otherwise. Increase in poverty is keeping pace with the increase in economic development in the country. According to a report released by the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Committee’s Chairman, Shri Suresh Tendulkar, 37.2 per cent of India’s population is very poor. This figure, according to the Report, is 10 per cent more than the assessment made in 2004-05 which stood at 25.5 per cent. In other words, in the last 11 years 11 crore more people have joined the population living below the poverty line.
41.8 per cent of the population, that is 45 crore people, according to Tendulkar Committee report, are subsisting on a monthly per capita expenditure of Rs 447. In other words, these people are unable to meet their daily basic essential requirements of life. This situation only makes us to think as to how many republic days need we to wait to usher in a life of plenty and prosperity for each and every citizen in the country.
Widening disparity between rural and urban population
Villages are not progressing the way and on the lines they should. This is what the official figures indicate. In urban areas 77.70 per cent people live in pucca houses and in rural areas, only 29.20 per cent. 81.38 per cent of urban population enjoys the facility of drinking water, while in villages only 55.34 per cent population is lucky to have this privilege. 75 per cent of urban population has the benefit of power supply while only 30 per cent of rural population has their houses illuminated. In 6 lakh villages in the country the literacy percentage is 59 while in 5,161 cities it is 80 per cent. We have to work very hard to narrow this gap between the urban and rural population. We know that even today 72.2 per cent population of the country lives in villages. Therefore, villages hold the key to India’s progress. Without the villages moving forward, country cannot march towards progress. India as a whole cannot be strong without rural areas being made strong and prosperous.
Increasing foreign debt
Our boasting cannot hide the reality. The country continues to be heads and nails under debt. Till December 2008 India’s debt liability had gone up to $230.80 arab which was not far from our foreign reserves of $254.6 arab during the period under review. According to official estimates, the external commercial borrowing (ESB) has jumped to $66.16 arab from $4.6 arab and till September 2008 the share of ESB in the total national debt has gone up to 28.7 per cent from 27.4. Why are we not worried about these mounting debts? Why are we not serious to bring back the illegal money stacked by Indians in Swiss banks? Why have no concrete steps been taken to get the country out of the debt trap? These questions are crying for answer from the government.
Population to touch 150 crore
According to a UN estimate, by 2025 India’s population will grow to 150 crores, half of which will be living in cities. Speaking in a seminar on disaster management, experts have opined that the urban population will be the worst hit if our cities were exposed to any disaster. But we seem to be the least concerned about this threat. Government seems little interested in saving the country from the threat of population explosion. How long shall we wait? How long can we wait?
Asia’s fourth most corrupt country
In the list of the most corrupt countries of the world we stand at 85 and in Asia at 4. Our last year commenced with the explosion of a scam worth Rs. 7,000 crores in the country’s largest IT Company, Satyam Computers. Then followed a series of scandals, like the spectrum scam in the Communications Ministry, scandals involving the former Jharkhand Governor Shri Sibte Rizvi and by Jharkhand former chief minister Shri Madhu Koda, former union minister’s son Sweety and recently Parliament echoed with the scam involving Justice Dinakaran and senior Army officers involved in land scam. All these have only lowered the esteem of the country in the comity of nations.
Education system that inspires no hope
Government claims that the percentage of admissions in primary schools is touching 90.95. Presence of children in schools is increasing. At the same time the number of children and youth is also witnessing a marked spurt. Based on this assumption, India is in the forefront of the youthful nations in the world. But that is not the reality. On the contrary, the fact is that one-third of the youth in the country continue to be illiterate or they have not been able to complete their primary education. Irony is that the picture of a young India that is being projected is only limited to the youth living in cities having received education in information technology, computer, software, management etc. 70-80 percent of the youth living in villages and slums in urban areas still stand deprived of such elite education. Of which Bharat nirman are we speaking of without the emancipation of the really young India?
For various social and economic reasons, about 40 per cent of our children are forced to leave the schools without completing their primary education. Most of these get engaged in child labour. In other words, only 60 per cent of the children are able to reach the middle standard of education. Even among these, 50 per cent of children leave their middle school education in the way. This leaves only 30 per cent of the children who are able to reach the secondary school education. Further, among these students 30 per cent students who complete their secondary school education, only 15 per cent are able to get admission in colleges. In sum, out of 100 students who get admission in primary classes only 10-12 are able to reach for college education.
Pitiable position of higher education
According to an Assocham report, more than 4.50 lakh students go to foreign countries, like USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Singapore etc. and spend about Rs. 48,000 crores. The reason for this outflow of students is the lack of facilities for high quality professional education within the country. Government will have to chart out a roadmap to meet this shortcoming. Otherwise, Indian students will continue to be the target of racial discrimination, as in Australia, and Indian money will continue to strengthen the economies of other countries.
Poor health facilities
A perusal of the 2008-09 economic review, according to the 2001 census standards India is short of 20,856 health sub-centres, 4,833 primary health centres and 2,525 community health centres. The 34 per cent of the existing health institutions are also functioning from rented accommodation. Even the health institutions at present functioning are handicapped by an enormous shortage of doctors, nurses and other para-medical staff. Hundreds of country’s hospitals are functioning without doctors, specialists and nurses. It is unfortunate that in a country where about one thousand people die every day, the government is spending only one per cent of the country’s GDP on health facilities as compared to our neighbour China which spends 6 per cent of its GDP.
Acute housing shortage
According to a figure released by the national housing organisation, about 2.5 crore urbanites (about 37 per cent of urban population) have no house of their own. According to data released by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) 32 per cent of India’s urban population has less space to live in than the space available to people in jails in USA.
In villages 39 per cent houses provide 65 square feet of space per person. But during the last fifty years the space available in a house per person has got further squeezed both in villages and towns. Today 55 per cent of people in urban areas and 56 per cent in rural have to make do within a space of just 10×10 feet per person. According to UN Habitat report, 17 crore people live in slums in India. The life in the slums, we all know, is worse than that in US jails.
Republic Day is a national festival. We gave to ourselves this Constitution on that day. We had vowed that administration will ensure a better life for the people and will be answerable for it. We have tried to bring to the notice of government the problem of roti, kapda, makan, education and health facing the aam aadmi. Despite all that is available in the country, still people are faced with the problem of hunger and want. We have to ponder over why this situation still persists. If we are able to overcome all the hurdles and difficulties that lie in the way, we will certainly be able to chant loudly: Mera Bharat Mahan!
(The writer is a National Secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party and also a Rajya Sabha MP)