- Posted March 30, 2014 by
INDIA’S FESTIVAL OF DEMOCRACY – PART III
Despite the ravages of 200 years of colonial rule and a bloody partition where the country was divided without factoring in ground realities but more to protect the future political interests of a colonial power, India after Independence in 1947 has surprisingly blossomed, shocking some of its critics, with inclusive growth spurred by democratic ideals backed by a highly pluralistic culture notwithstanding the poverty and humongous human numbers, the regional, religious and linguistic diversities that it has to deal with. Again the entire exercise can look extremely tumultuous but the results surprise even the most ardent supporter or critic. If one were to go by numbers then the Indian Railways would be an apt personification – the Indian Railways is the largest network in the world transporting 25 million people everyday, yes everyday, that cumulates to nearly 9 billion annually with near clockwork precision over 115000 Km of railway track. Being essentially a continuous and vibrant democracy and since the Railways are state owned, fares are kept at very, very affordable levels so that it is not a deterrence for the common citizen to travel on the network. It is not a profit based enterprise but a self sustaining social model. The first Metro Railway in India in Kolkata, capital of the eastern state of West Bengal, gives world class services at fares that are hugely subsidized by the state and they have been doing this for the last twenty years with services improving every year. Now more and more Indian cities have caught the metro bug for their citizens’ inner city travel.
It has 400 million of its citizens in abject poverty but makes active efforts to spread literacy and health care which again gets reflected in the literacy figures improvement over the decades and the fact that no polio cases have been reported for the last three years, huge achievement considering the scale and numbers of people that the outreach programmes have to touch upon. It sends satellites into space and now Mars, at one sixth the price of its counterparts in Europe and USA, this lower cost is known commonly as frugal engineering, and this space programme is mainly to benefit the fisherman, farmer or education with accurate information which is relayed through the mobile phone network one of the largest in the world. Frugal engineering in India’s space programme was a necessity considering the paucity of resources in India in the 1960s when the space programme was launched and its principal aim was not to compete with more advanced nations but use space technology for the benefit of the society. Less is more drives the Indian space programme.
India is placed geographically in an extremely hostile region where its immediate neighbour to the West, Pakistan, is known internationally for all the wrong reasons that a nation state should not be identified with. The fact that more Muslims are killed by fellow Muslims in Pakistan all in the name of Islam is not lost out on the people of the sub-continent and the world at large of a nation formed principally for the safety of some Muslims of this region. The hostility towards India is a remnant of the 1947 bloody partition of the sub-continent and probably reached its lowest point in the daring Mumbai attack, where an entire city was held hostage by ten gunman, beamed through television to the whole world, trained and indoctrinated on hate from the soil of the neighbour whose previous militarily ruler had promised not to do so. Democracy in the immediate neighbourhood of India is largely patchy so the country comes across as the largest island landmass in the region of sobriety and plain reasoning. In fact its giant neighbour and the second largest economy in the world, China fears anything remotely associated with democracy. So for democracy to thrive and flourish is in itself a modern miracle that unfolds every day in India watched on the world stage. With the Indian economy valued at $ 4.962 trillion on purchasing power parity, the interest in the country and the elections are being keenly followed across the globe because India’s markets could be the growth driver for many a economy across the world in the years to come.
All of us live in a global village and with the reach of the social media, borders are appearing to be increasing irrelevant, borders anyway did not come with the original script, and this is captured in an old Indian saying of a few thousand years, VASUDHAIVA KUTTUMBAKAM meaning the whole world is one single family and this family includes humans, animals, birds, plants and all living, non-living organisms.
It is time for celebrations of this age old and eternal concept in the modern era suitably embodied by India, its people and its vibrant, colourful, chaotic, noisy and wonderfully functional democracy.