After 60 years of independence, India presents the spectacle of a country in which extreme affluence and poverty exist cheek by jowl. In this ancient land, the rich are richer than the people of the US or UK, and its citizens imbued with a sense of patriotism and technical knowledge which exceeds that of the Japanese. And its people quite often outwit the Chinese.
On the other hand, some of our poor are the poorest in the world. Hunger, poverty and unemployment have compelled them to live a life of indignity. The degrees of inequality are appalling.
The contrast mirrors itself in many other ways. We are world champions in one form of cricket and global leaders in information technology. But we are also known for being a very, very corrupt country.
Casteism, crime and terrorism are a slur on our society. Women continue to be helpless victims of dowry, and cases of female foeticide haunt India.
For how long can we afford to indulge in such acts of moral turpitude and insensitivity? We have people who dare to dream and conquer the world. But we also have people who lack the courage to stand up against oppression, injustice and wrongdoing.
I dream of seeing India transformed into a mighty superpower, both economically and spiritually. It will be an ideal nation and a role model for others to emulate. I have a vision with seven dimensions to achieve this:
1 Our country faces a crunch of land and other resources, infrastructure, amenities and jobs. The population explosion is worsening the situation. We must initiate a new social awareness campaign to enlighten people about the benefits of a small family. Having disproportionately large families should become a social stigma. The government and NGOs should reward those who have planned families and care to produce an able generation. In this regard, we should take a cue from China.
We should design a strategy to provide higher education to our youth. Not a single one of them must be left out. Some of them should be sent overseas to bring prosperity to our country and to reduce the burden on our resources.
2 Experts and resourceful persons in diverse fields should lend their might to build better transportation and housing and an efficient and clean administration.
3 In a prosperous and happy nation, citizens are conscious of their health, hygiene and cleanliness, and sensitive to their duties. Policymakers and intellectuals must think of ways to achieve these objectives with the active participation of citizens.
4 Over Rs 5 lakh crore is drained out annually on health spending. Hospitals and doctors look upon patients as consumers. Crass commercialism has set in. To improve the health of the common people, it is crucial to bring yoga, pranayam and alternative systems of medicine into the mainstream. This will tap the yet-undiscovered potential of medical and solace tourism, elements in which India is the richest.
Sports must be encouraged. Vedic knowledge should become an essential part of school curricula. In conjunction with this, family values can equip individuals to combat stress and anger, negative emotions like depression and envy, and perversions like sexual abuse. It will also act as a bulwark against deviant behaviour arising out of modern life and brute materialism.
5 The farming community continues to be dependent on the vagaries of nature. While input costs are soaring, output remains uncertain and un-remunerative. The sector is increasingly characterized by speculative activities. As a result, a large number of farmers are stamping out their lives out of sheer depression. The country now needs to plan a second green revolution encompassing alternate crops, herbal plants, horticulture and biotechnology. Farmers must be given a better deal, ensuring reasonable rewards for their toil.
6 Swadeshi is the key to India’s prosperity. It generates pride in the nation and helps build self-sufficiency. The country needs to imbibe the ideals of Bapu’s Swadeshi, Maharshi Dayanand’s Swarajya (self rule) and Swabhimaan (self respect), Swami Vivekananda’s knowledge, and the bravery and courage of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Rani Laxmibai and Vir Savarkar. Their ideas and ideals are perhaps more relevent today than anytime in the past in a world which is riven by conflict, insecurity, greed and materialism.
Prejudice should give way to rational thinking. In short, to borrow from a well- known and timeless Vedic verse, our ideal should be: “Lead us from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness to light, from mortality to the nectar of eternity.” In Sanskrit, the shloka is: “Asato Ma Sadgamaya, Tamso Ma Jyotirgamaya, Mrityora Ma Amritamgamaya.”
The clash of civilisations should give way to amicable discourse with a view to discovering the common threads, which run through them. The world will realise the power of wisdom ladled out by our sages that the universe is one family: “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.”
7 I urge every Indian to take a solemn pledge on the following lines: “I will not use in my lifetime any imported goods. I will add to the prosperity of my country through my knowledge, work, courage, confidence, self-respect, honesty, integrity and faithfulness; If I am awakened, my country is awakened, and will continue to march ahead; I am not just a person, but represent the entire nation; India emanates from me, my knowledge, deeds and behaviour. It builds or tarnishes the image of the motherland, and I will, to the best of my ability, protect the honour of my beloved country.”
I do think of, and live with by pledge. I am confident that every Indian can contribute to make India a great country by doing so.
(Swami Ramdev is revered by millions in India and abroad who have benefitted from his yogic exercises and spiritual discourses. This is the first time he has written for an English newspaper)