Its been more than six decade since India transferred to itself the ruling powers from the hands of the British and called itself a democratic republic. Hopes were high when the British left India with proud Indian rulers and their new found powers making promises to an illiterate population to eradicate each problem of the country with the best constitution and the best governing system.
The best constitution indeed seemed best then; the common men found it a super complex epic with a thousand of articles and notions, though most of it contradicted each other! A very proud Indian Government stuck to its constitution using it sometimes as a weapon and sometimes like a shield to protect, ignore or delay justice and rights to its people. The Constitution of India gave every Indian to have the Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right against exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion. Unfortunately none of them is completely enjoyed by a vast majority of the Indian population.
Where is the right to equality? People of the country continue to discriminate between the different castes, males over females. The rulers of the state are well known for providing better opportunities to their close near and dear and those who bribe them with money in getting jobs, setting up trades, solving court cases, etc. Dowry deaths, honor killings and termination of female child pregnancy continue as ever.
Live first to enjoy Right to Freedom! The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) introduced in the North Eastern region in 1958, a draconian law that allows the Army to kill anyone at its will with no chance of a legal charge against the army men, itself forbids the basic right of freedom for every soul in the region. Strong democratic protests by civilians against this law have been ignored by the democratic rulers of India. Even a hunger fast to death for more than a decade by Irom Sharmila to repeal this law has been given a blind eye. This single example is enough to state the state of freedom to live in Indian’s democracy.
Right to exploitation! Child labor and trafficking continues to rule the shameless Indian corners, children being worked in factories, mills, restaurants and as domestic servants. The only day we remember child labors is when newspapers and media publishes photographs of child laborers on the occasion of Nehru’s birthday, which the then Congress Government has forever implemented cunningly as Children’s’ day!
Risk to Freedom of Religion! Yes, the freedom is there but at your own risk. Killing of Christians in different states, round the year risk of sensitive Hindu-Muslim clashes gives people nightmares even after the nation has completed its own space mission on the moon. The fear would not be closed ever till we chase out some of India’s own political superheroes who add fuel in ethnic and religious clashes.
When it comes to a failed democracy, the first steps of Indian Democratic Government’s nation building process itself proved the future of the character of democracy in India. When a cunning Nehru and his close aide Sardar Ballabhai Patel decided to advance with their expansion and dominance over the north eastern region by taking over the princely kingdoms of Manipur (which had formed its own constitution as sovereign state even before India did) and Tripura, the stage was just set. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) introduced in the region in 1958 was the beginning of the worst. The act was based on the same principles which the British used to dominate the Indian rebels in their fight for independence. The betrayal of India to its north east region when the Indian Army fled away to safety under threat of the Chinese in 1962 and Nehru’s farewell speech to Assam, the bombing by Indian Air forces in Mizoram to kill its own people were only subtle hints as to what the Indian democracy had in scope for its people.
After six decades of enjoying a democratic environment, we find the same problems haunting us which were the major issues during India’s pre-independence years and during its infancy years of post-Independence. Those times, India was facing trouble with the lack of national integration, languages, caste systems, poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and poor health conditions, etc. Now we find the situation only to have got worse.
The steps in the name of National Integration such as imposing of Hindi culture to other non-Hindi speaking but vibrant and culturally rich regions only created a bigger gap between different cultures. Poverty in the country has seen no improvement with more than 40% of the population living below the global poverty line and more than 70% living on an earning of less than 20 rupee per day! The rise of the rich to richer has been phenomenal though, due to the monopoly of the capitalist class of India only whom the democratic government of India supports A mere 0.012% of the Indian population possesses investible wealth worth one third of India’s Gross National Income (which means the remaining 99.88% population possess two-third of the GNI) and yet most of our urban youth says, ‘Look, India is shining and getting rich’, looking at the Ambanis and Tatas and fooled by the glam and glitter of Malls in the Gurgaons and Mumbais.
The sad state of the tax Payers of India too shows the nature of rights and privileges we get. We pay service and sales tax to the democratic Government for eating in a restaurant. We need to take big loans to study and for years later, pay interests higher than the interest we pay for a car loan! We pay taxes for clothes or shoes that we buy; we pay taxes at toll gates for the privilege of using good roads or bridges! We pay huge amounts to buy lifesaving medicines (the poor ones do not have the right to live, so they don’t get to avail those). And all of these we pay even after paying our quota of Income or Professional taxes! But what for?
The number of taxes that a citizen of India needs to pay is more than the fundamental rights which one enjoys (at least in paper). But the services that we get are not in accordance with the number and amount of taxes. For example, the tax payer’s money is used by Government in funding Government Medical Colleges. But the doctors passing out of the medical institutions do not really pay back to the people with their services. One still needs to incur huge medical bills and pay big fees to doctors for any minor or major medical treatment. The roads on the other hand are rarely meant for the ease of the common people. It’s mostly to facilitate trade and business only those good roads are laid down. For example, after Nehru had bid farewell to Assam during the Chinese aggression of 1962, Indira Gandhi later tried to make amends by saying that Indian army had failed because there was no connecting bridge across the Brahmaputra and further declared that the bridge of Bogibeel be constructed connecting Dibrugarh and N. Lakhimpur. But even four decades after her promise, the bridge is still a long away from completion because it does not promise a huge trade benefit.
So, the people living in this democratic country of, for and by the people finds just right which one can fulfill without struggling for it,- the Voting power. By using this power, the people of India can flatter themselves to have changed destiny of the country, to have changed lives of people. But history, with a wicked smile, has shown us that the voting power of India too is limited to change only the bank balance of the candidates who gets elected. All political parties, whether it’s Congress or BJP or regional party like AGP or BPF, are as worse as each other. It’s time we, the people of India start thinking about changing the political system altogether, not just a political party.
Priyankan Goswami is the Editor of Times of Assam’s Political Analysis section. He is also founder member and member of the Executive board of Times of Assam.
By Academic Priyankan Goswami is MBA & Mechanical Engineer.