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60 years young and counting

india Updated: Aug 11, 2007 11:57 IST
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Six decades back our leaders had made a tryst with destiny and had vowed to redeem their pledges. The Preamble of our Constitution had outlined the broad contours, which were to be fulfilled in the post-independence years. As we now complete 60 years of independence, it is appropriate to review these pledges and objectively evaluate whether or not we have redeemed ourselves.

The Preamble talks of 10 goals, each of which can be evaluated on a score of 1 and totted across to aggregate 10. We remain a sovereign country and despite global turmoil and alliances our policies are dictated by Indians. This is saying a lot because developing countries have tended to slip into the former Soviet Bloc prior to 1990 or become a USA crony in return for favours. We have remained non-aligned and there is one point to be scored here.

We were to be a ‘socialist’ country, but have made limited progress here. While efforts have been on in the beginning to reduce inequalities through the public sector and the mixed economy, there has been a tendency for capitalist principles to predominate in the last decade and a half. There is nothing wrong in pursuing such policies except that there has been a tendency for the gulf between the rich and poor to widen. There have been policies espoused in the Plans to relieve poverty, but the implementation has been tardy. So it is a half mark here.

India was to be built as a ‘secular’ nation. Unfortunately, secularism has been the most abused term used very often to divide society by our leaders. While secularism is a doctrine that treats all religions equally, our polity has tended to use this term to garner votes, split society and create ill-will between people of different religions. The nation remains polarised today on religious grounds. Conditions have been exacerbated by bringing in the caste factor, when religion is a non-issue. We have definitely failed here and no marks on this.

The nation can take pride in being democratic despite all the ups and downs that have been faced in the economic and social spheres. There has been just one minor aberration during the mid-seventies when democracy was subverted, but that did not last long. And given that we are one of the most populous nations, it is commendable that we remain a democracy with free and fair elections. It is a different issue that we may not be voting in the right kind of people. One point more for this achievement.

The Preamble promised a republic where the leader is an elected person and not a monarch or part of a dynasty. We have again lived up to this spirit and can claim another point here. Often we mistake the Nehru family rule to be dynastic. This is misplaced because if a nation of 1 billion chooses by its own will a person from the same family, the fault lies with the people and not the system. Similarly, if parties end up propping up one surname for leader, it may reflect the paucity of ideas, but we cannot blame the system.

The Preamble also promised “justice”: economic, social and political.

Out here the performance has been mixed. The judicial system appears to be very slow to dispense justice just as the recent rulings on the bomb blasts of 1993 demonstrate. The processes are so intricate that the common man can spend a lifetime making the rounds of the courts searching for justice. Even today the underprivileged classes do not get social justice. But as the judicial system functions well and is known to be impartial, another half mark may be added.

The Preamble further assured us liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. On this score, we would compare well with any western country. There are none or few controls imposed by the system. However, in the recent past we are seeing certain fundamental views which are being expressed not just in words but in destructive action by some intolerant political and religious groups. The reference is intolerance towards certain kinds of literature (Shivaji), art (M.F. Husain), celebration of festivals (Valentine’s Day), conversions (Staines) dress codes and so on. Three-quarter marks here.

The Preamble also guarantees ‘equality’ of status and opportunity. While we have had conscious affirmative action by the government to meet this objective, there have been problems in implementation of the reservations policy. Also the really under-privileged are not really receiving this benefit. But, to the extent that our laws have taken this objective seriously and made such provisions, we could add another three-quarter marks.

Lastly, the Preamble talks of building fraternity and the success has been quite remarkable despite all the problems that we have faced. People do stand up as one when it comes to the country with the nationalist fervour prevailing. While this gives us one more point, the credit goes more to the people of the country rather than the system.

We have thus scored 6.5 points on a score of 10, which is quite good given the vastness of our country and the contradictions that lie in our society in terms of religion, caste, politics, social differences, education and conservatism.

Madan Sabnavis is Chief Economist, NCDEX Limited

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