From when I was a school-going child to my teenage years and now in my early twenties, I have been hearing that India is a “developing” country.
Even after 69 years of independence from the British, millions of Indians remain hungry and poor with no access to clean drinking water. Leaders come and go, laws are framed and reframed, millions of rupees are spent, and yet, my countrymen continue to struggle—simply to exist.
The dos and don’ts are decided by political leaders—some of who have befallen us as curses rather than boons. Financial wealth and muscle power play a vital role today in how candidates are selected to represent the rest of us in Parliament. We seldom know who funds them, and so, we are unaware of the invisible hand that governs us. Those who are able to sense it—the ones with perspective and wisdom—do their best to stay away from politics. Leaders are supposed to be torchbearers, the ones that inspire people to follow. But are India’s leaders interested in inspiring their people? Or are they interested in increasing their party memberships, wealth and votes, whichever way they can?
By pitting man against man, religion against religion, emotion against emotion, and insecurities against insecurities, our leaders have created a thoroughly divided society that stands puzzled, exhausted and practically dead when it comes to questioning the depravity of those who could beat up the poor in Uttar Pradesh, spew religious hatred when a terrorist was hanged to death, and preach moralistic garbage while banning the consumption of beef in many parts of India. No political party or leader dares to disturb their respective votebanks, thus stamping out sane voices that are often lost in rising levels of chaos, hatred and frustration. It’s a dirty game where one sleeps with the enemy to gain power—power at any cost.
My country has strong, beautiful women, who are often restrained at home because they aren’t safe outside. How can a nation progress if a large section of its populace isn’t allowed to study, marry who they want, choose their own lives, or sometimes, even be born! Why is everyone quiet about not enough women being allowed to contest elections? The Women’s Reservation Bill is still pending. How can India claim to be advancing? It’s actually regressing when it comes to treating women right. A country that saw women philosophers like Gargi and Maitreyi, and marvelled at the greatness of a writer and mathematician like Shakuntala Devi has forgotten the strength that lies unexplored in the many women it has suppressed. Who do they turn to?
The judiciary has its hands tied before the many loopholes that money-minded lawyers use to save a criminal or send an innocent man to the gallows. It is overwhelmed by the number and complexities of the cases it sees daily. The custodian of the rights of a common man stands helpless as people get away even after committing crimes that rattle our collective conscience, forcing us to look at—and then sadly away from—what we close our eyes to. Yes, I know I ought to have solutions too if I know the problems.
If—as an Indian youth—my voice has any authority over India, a democracy, here are a few suggestions from me:
Constitutional amendments that reflect changing times
Abolishing or amending judicial laws that don’t do justice to all
Economic reforms that are devoid of casteist or religious colours
The right to recall any member of the Legislative Assembly or Parliament if there is breach of trust
Supervision of funding channels of political parties
Limiting age and tenure of individuals contesting elections
Outright refusal to let criminals contest elections
Democracy demands from the common man a certain level of ability and character. It expects men and women to be rational, aware and selfless in their approach to public interest. Our democracy is not socialistic though it is thus stated in the constitution. It is capitalistic—where the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor, always.
The only way we—the people—can wield power is by never letting communalism, separatism, casteism or terrorism drive a wedge between us. The educated and intelligent youth of India must come together with definite ideas on how to take our nation forward. We must be politically aware and agile to be effective in how we present ourselves. We have to correct this democracy, and we have to do it NOW. Let’s give our children a “developed”, not “developing” India as they grow to embrace the future.