An Independence Day Reflection
Image Credit: Al Jazeera English (Flickr, Creative Commons)

An Independence Day Reflection


On August 15, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, addressed a newly-liberated people suffused with a sense of possibility and hope to collectively build an egalitarian and democratic nation. The people’s aspirations were articulated in Nehru’s famous words:

“The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavor? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.”

This vision was subsequently enshrined in India’s Constitution on January 26, 1950.

Sixty-five years later, the dream of a truly democratic India has dulled more than a little. Hope has been replaced by dismay at the cheap pursuit of self-interest that pervades our present political and economic landscape.

Did we expect too much from a post-colonial, impoverished country? Did we overestimate our future and now find that the reality does not match our vision? Did we unrealistically compare ourselves with other fledgling or developing nations? In other words, is the sense of disillusionment only a problem of perception?

After all, a lot has been achieved since 1947 in giving a more dignified standard of living to a population that has nearly quadrupled to 1.2 billion. Life expectancy has more than double to 65 years, while infant mortality has halved. Literacy has grown from 12% to 74%; unemployment has dropped from 48% at independence to around 19%, and per capita income has risen to approximately $3500 at Purchasing Power Parity levels.

Development indicators, however, are debatable and only one part of the picture. The sense of failed expectations is not only a matter of perception, it is embedded in more tangible experiences. The promise of an egalitarian democratic nation has been tarnished by the entrenchment of dynastic leadership, the concentration of political power and wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer interconnected politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. This new aristocracy has replaced the colonial rulers and kings of earlier times and effectively subverted the ideals of a true people’s democracy. Indians are uneasy because they no longer feel empowered to determine their destiny.

At the same time, a parallel, paradoxical process is underway. Indian citizens have higher expectations and a greater sense of entitlement. The spurt of economic growth since India began a process of economic liberalization in the early 1990s has raised aspirations. The escalating trend of populist political campaigning during elections involves promises made to potential vote banks—promises that people expect will be fulfilled, but rarely are.

Manohar Kapoor
August 12, 2013 at 02:32

The   Indian independence was the climax of the tragedy called PARTITION – a heavy price. The initial  excitement and euphora of 15th August 1947  has long been over. To day we are suffering from only the illeffects of that very Independence – emrgence of higher incidence of crime and corruption etc. and incompetent  and greedy politicians and inefficient administrators.

 Independence was no credit – it was the result of escape by the then Indian leaders from the alternative threat of Civil War given by Md.Ali Jinnah, the Muslim League leader.

The beneficiaries of the Independence are the  politicians (criminals) and others in power – not the common man. For these beneficiaries, it is a boon.















Whatever kind of growth and development we see in India today is not because of the Independence. It is there as a result of normal process of time. Every country has seen progress over the years. There is nothing unique about India. Whether Independence or not, this growth/development  would have been there. Under the British Raj we would have achieved much more.

September 7, 2012 at 16:18

Dera Neelam,
The article is truly an eye opener. However, can we be clear on what exactly are we trying to convey here? Because in my opinion the ideal state will always be in the ideal world. We can only measure progress in terms of perception, as you so rightly said. But then again, perception varies and so does people. A nation or a society cannot have the positive growth without the many shades of grey that will always coexist. As they say, without darkness, there cannot be light.
Ask the ordinary Indians to compare their lives with those of their forefather. I'm sure most would agree that there has been a substantial change in the general socio-economic outlook of the country as a whole, which cannot be undermined in spite of all the corruption and bureaucracy. We Indians are just treading into new waters, into an era of greater global exposure which has increased our expectations greatly. 
I feel instead of focusing on the negative aspect, for once let's just concentrate on the positive news. Your country gives you the right to voice your thought, do the job you want to, believe in your god and religion, give your child the education you've always wished for… in short it lets you live your life the way you want it. I think that is much more than I can say of some other countries.
Only 65 years of Independence and we have achieved so much! From being a developing nation, onto its way of becoming an economic super power, I would say, we have come a long way, isn't it??
Thanks & Regards,
Priyanka A

Giovanna Gould
August 21, 2012 at 10:28

​Dear Neelam
​I find your article very inspiring. I visited your country a few years ago and would very much like to meet you again.  Are you back in India? Hope to hear from you soon.
​ Many Greetings
Giovanna Gould

August 16, 2012 at 01:34

"Indians are uneasy because they no longer feel empowered to determine their destiny."
The system has remained the same since independence -
The ordinary Indian however is just coming to realize how powerless he/she is due to greater exposure, expectations and education.

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