Young and rocking, this is the popular image of India as it begins celebrating its 60th birthday as a free nation. Such a long journey and so many pitfalls along the way. But somehow, battered and bruised, our chaotic, often anarchic, democracy has stayed on course. A survey by HT C-fore shows that this is in no small measure due to the eminently sensible and down-to-earth attitude of the people, especially the young who were polled in our survey. Now, many would be forgiven for getting carried away by our spectacular growth rate, our emergence as a major world power, both strategically and politically. But what seems to prevail is the very sense of independence, self-respect and oneness that Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, spoke of so eloquently as being necessary to safeguard democracy.
Maybe we have not quite kept our tryst with destiny, but the foundations that India’s tallest leaders laid down are today unshakeable. Democracy really rules with 52 per cent saying that they are proud of our system, warts and all. And achieving food sufficiency, again so vehemently sought after by Nehru, rates as India’s proudest moment today. But from the Nehruvian heights, the political leadership has not enjoyed the confidence it should among people, with 64 per cent saying that they would never make a career of politics. Contrary to political projections, people are not seeking the easy way out via the reservations route, either for women or in jobs. Economic and educational support, yes, but nothing to be handed out on a platter. Let’s hope the HRD Ministry is listening. A sobering thought for those under the impression that the soaring growth rate will deliver us into El Dorado, 56 per cent feel that this is meaningless without jobs to go along with it. Poverty and population still remain major concerns with economic reforms being seen as benefiting the rich more. For the Left comes good news. A substantial 45 per cent want foreign policy to remain independent. The media must be heartened by the survey. It may be a convenient whipping boy for people but it ranks as the foremost institution that the respondents had faith in. No prizes for guessing which comes in last, the legislature below both the executive and judiciary.
There is great hope that India will be a great power by 2067 but not much that hunger and poverty will go. Nor is there much faith that the subcontinental adversaries will cosy up to each other. Come 2067, 63 per cent feel that the same tensions will remain. Not a good prognosis that but let’s hope the survey is a little off the mark on that one. If you thought the young and restless no longer had time for enduring icons, well, Mahatma Gandhi is still tops for 58 per cent. The call of foreign shores is no longer all that hot for most people who opted to go and study abroad or even work but always to come back home to settle down. Nehru once said “ great causes and little men go ill together.” Perhaps as we look back over 60 years, we should be glad that we have had great causes and, fortunately, great men and women to execute them barring the odd exception. So as we begin the journey ahead, we can perhaps rejoice in the fact that rambunctious though it is, India is an idea whose time has truly come.