Come January it is celebration time with Makar Sankaranti which augurs the harvest season and spreads happiness through the length and breadth of the country. Closely following that is Republic day on January 26. This is the 66th year since India became a sovereign Republic in 1950. It is a unique occasion this year with American President Barack Obama participating as special guest at the R-day Parade.
It is time for introspection on whether what the country set out to achieve in its tryst with destiny was realised and to what extent.
Our Republic is entering the 66th year and is undoubtedly growing in strength. The progress we have achieved and the problems we have faced, if reviewed, will give an idea of India’s journey so far and the road ahead.
The first decade, the 1950s, was a struggle with the nascent democracy coming to terms with itself. Our leaders Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru , Sardar Patel , Moulana Azad and others had a broad vision, catholic outlook, understood the problems of this diverse nation and worked towards strengthening unity and ensuring inclusive growth. Five-year development plans were launched with a focus on multi-purpose hydro electric projects, mining, heavy industry, which were so aptly referred to as Temples of Modern India by Pandit Nehru. Universal adult franchise was a great blessing to the people of India from the framers of our Constitution. Even a country like America gave voting rights to all its citizens centuries later. India is a land of diversity with multiple languages. Linguistic division of the States of the Union was effected in 1956 and States were demarcated based on the predominant language spoken. The decade witnessed the first formation of a communist government in Kerala.
The second decade was the most trying time for the country when China waged war in 1962 . Though our soldiers fought valiantly in the tough inhospitable Himalayan terrain, it exposed our weakness in many areas of security. The country also faced acute food shortage and experienced famine in several parts. This was closely followed by a war with Pakistan in 1965 when we gave a fitting reply to our recalcitrant neighbour.
The third decade, the 1970s, witnessed yet another war with Pakistan in 1971 when East Pakistan seceded and became an independent country, Bangladesh Following this, in 1972, India signed a peace accord with Pakistan at Simla. The world wide economic setback due to the stranglehold and monopoly by oil-producing countries of the Middle East affected India, leading to unemployment and frustration in the youth resulting in unrest and agitation in several parts of the country. Emergency was proclaimed in 1976. In the election that followed in 1977 after the lifting of the Emergency the first non-Congress government was voted to power.
The fourth decade, the 1980s, was none too peaceful with terrorism in Punjab reaching its zenith and government launching a military operation at the Golden Temple in Amristar, ‘Operation Blue Star’, to flush out terrorists who were holed up there. In 1984 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own security personnel. This sparked anti-Sikh riots in Delhi and other parts of the country as well. India had a young Prime Minister in Rajiv Gandhi who launched technology communication and education missions across India. The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka had its echo in Tamil Nadu with an influx of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. India sent a peace keeping force to Sri Lanka.
The fifth decade, the 90s, was a challenge with terrorism raising its ugly head in Jammu and Kashmir. Sri Lankan Tamil militancy resulted in the bomb blast in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu at an election rally killing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and 22 others. In 1998 India faced incursion by Pakistani militants near Kargil, Srinagar, and the Army in a clinical operation pushed back the Pak army. On the development side India opened up the economy and brought in a wave of economic reforms in tune with liberalisation and globalisation initiated by the World Trade Organisation. Tremendous opportunities in the IT sector opened up for the youth.
The sixth decade is the decade of consolidation of the benefits of reforms initiated earlier. 2008 was a bad year. On November 26, Pakistani militants sneaked into Mumbai city and unleashed terror, killing 166 innocent people. But the resilience, grit, determination and goodness of Mumbaikars, who refused to be cowed down, came to the fore as they joined hands with the administration to restore normalcy.
We have surmounted so many difficulties and moved on. The people of India have strengthened our vibrant democracy. As our President rightly said in his address to the nation, the wisdom of India has taught the lesson ‘Unity is strength and dominance is weakness’.
India is a soft power, strong in soft skills, which beckons the world. ‘ The most powerful example of India’s soft power in an international environment where so many countries are sinking into a morass of theocratic violence lies in our definition of the relationship between faith and polity’. Let us join together and take a solemn pledge to conduct ourselves in a manner which enhances the ethos of our great Nation.