Being Free

Submitted by souravroy on Fri, 01-Feb-2013 - 21:19
Many of us often wonder - what does Republic Day signify in real sense? Isn't Independence day good enough a reason to celebrate the freedom and spirit of nationalism? Why then, do we celebrate Republic Day? Before we come to appreciate what Republic Day actually signifies, it is important we understand the fact that India was never a singular democracy. For centuries, it was under monarchist rule. India, as we know it today, was not a even a single united nation. Even during the British times, India was a cohesion of British colonies and Princely states. After India won it's freedom, within 3 years, it was able to set the ground rules right. We gave ourselves democracy. During the freedom struggle, India was blessed with exceptional leadership across all regions and social groups. After independence, these freedom-fighters were the first-generation politicians and nation-builders. They integrated the princely states, brought order, built institutions and articulated a national vision. This is 'the' reason India remains a rare and robust democracy among many other nations which were liberated after the War. It is on the Republic Day that the Indian constitution was adopted. This was the day when our rights and duties were brought to a concrete form. If Independence Day reminds us of the sacrifices the brave young men and women gave for a better tomorrow, Republic day reminds us that their dream is yet to come true, and it is WE THE PEOPLE who can make it happen. Not all that was envisioned, actually happened. After being declared a democratic republic, for many years, power in India remained centralized. Liberty coexisted with a high degree of centralization and there was great dependence on those with power and influence for simple services like getting a ration card or a birth certificate. This prevented the growth of local leadership and innovation. The licence raj made things worse. The lower bureaucracy remained unaccountable and exploitative. People needed to bribe to get even the smallest thing done. The citizen had only one real power - the vote. The politician who sought it was the only one who would listen and would be expected to meet the needs of the people. Over the years, the honest generation of politicians realized that people depended on him for everything, but he had no legal authority (and often lacked the ability) to deliver. Although, in-spite of all efforts, his was a thankless task. The glory of freedom struggle had faded away. The politician still begged for votes, and faced the criticism and grumbling of dissatisfied voters. Over the time, he came to the conclusion that honesty was incompatible with survival in politics in India. Many honest politicians faded out. Some politicians, armed with the realization that honesty didn't pay in politics, started inducing poor voters with freebies. What started as a necessity became an opportunity, and over years - natural resources, licences, contracts, transfers and permits - all became a source of private gain. Instead of focusing on education, healthcare, skills and jobs, the poor began to be offered immediate, short-term gifts like money, liquor, television. Also, in a heterogeneous society like ours, it became easier for the politician to play caste based politics in order to gain more votes. Result and residue of this was rampant corruption and growing inequality. 63 years has passed and this is where we stand. This may as well be a passing phase. It must be understood that among the countries which gained freedom post WW2, India is probably the only nation with such strong grounds for progress. While other nations are on-and-off democracies with great internal turmoil, India has been a strong progressive nation. But as citizens of the country, it becomes important for us to become the change we want to see. It is this day, when we need to introspect and rejuvenate. It is this day when we ask for once - what is it that I can do for my nation, and why am I not doing it? The year that went by has infused great hope! The young India has taken charge. It has engaged in debates which are extremely important in a democratic society. They have come out on streets and have asked for transparency and accountability in governance. The whole Jan-Lokpal movement surrounds this. Even if the watch-dog they demand, starts to bite, the whole movement has created a breed of young tigers ready for any rumble. Rape happens in every part of this world but it’s only in this country that a nationwide protest took place to demand the government to do something about it. The youth of this country has showed that it doesn't seem to take things lying down. And mind it - India's youth comprises of 65% of its population. The golden phoenix, may just be rising from her ashes, and preparing to fly.