Us Indians have a very strange trait of never being united despite claiming to ride the waves of national integration, unity, diversity and what not! Perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that we never were a whole unified state until the British came invading and in the process unified more then 300 hundred provinces into a single country. While we celebrate being the world's largest democracy and attempt to project a very unified stand to the world outside, in truth, there is a whole lot of difference at the ground level when it comes to the part of the country one belongs to. Regional bias has been a woeful problem although spoken about rarely. Worse still, this regional bias is promoted by political parties and their leaders in a subtle yet distinctly strong manner in order to carve out their identities in the minds of people who decide their fate in local and general elections. Unification of people in India has always been a mammoth task and has tested many a nerve despite electoral command and experience. It has hence come to be believed that Indians wouldnever stand united despite any calling or cause. The differences and biases run deep in our bloodstream that prompt to immediately oppose any call for unification.
Forgetting unified stands for a while and going into real people issues, one realizes thatwe were a mass of people who spent centuries under rulers being their subjects. This probably did not echo the need to carve out a space for ourselves in the society and capitalize on movements of change that swept the world such as the Industrial Revolution. Teamwork and people force were given no importance whatsoever while as sitting ducks we subjected ourselves to imposing oppression.
Worse, this brought about a standstill in the way our minds worked and creativity and callsfor excellence by learning and transcending borders were blatantly shot down! Eventually, people although in the thousands had not convinced themselves that the real forceof change lay in them. While they sometimes did call for change, it was not often acted uponwith rigor and passion.
Sometime in the 1600s the British came calling under the guise of a trade-bannered East India Company, the Indian subcontinent for the first ever time stood united! Although a few princely provinces remained stray, they owed allegiance to the Crown and hence formed part of the 'empire.'
The need for freedom spurred Indian emotions to a new high and pockets of resistance soon evolved to become revolts and a call to quit India became a reality on 15th August 1947.
However, I wonder if we ever deserved freedom as early as 1947. Following independence, India and Pakistan saw a bloodbath and people who once neighboured one another soon stepped out for each others' blood. Social and economic development were inching at snail's pace under a socialist government that came into power following independence. People once again subjected themselves to being ruled, this time by an elected government, that cared little for its people. Slowly, bureacracy and rad-tapism creeped into every governement machinery and efficiency faultered to a bare minimum. Corruption thrived in every sphere of public life and people had no option but to endure this disease. A new breed of politicians inked memorandums of understanding with criminals in a bid to further their money making machine and extend their influence in order to capture a larger share of the electoral pie.
Had we so abruptly altered course barely years after independence? Where was the 'vision' that the government yapped about? Where was the 'golden dream' that every Indian was promised? Had we merely become a state of thugs who care less for its people? Poverty and crime rose by the passing year along with the scourge of unemployment!
Elsewhere, members of the cabinet proclaimed that the emerging Nationalist state would outdo many a developing nation in the coming years! Politics was redifined where talk and act were miles apart. You could have a number of things on paper ratified by officials but when action called, none of these were ever in the forefront. Accountability and responsibility were constantly dodged by politicians and bureaucrats alike.
And then in 1999, the British handedover Hong Kong to China. While the world watched the transfer, it also took note of the industrialized and modernized social structure thatHong Kong had become under British rule. China had indeed received a lavish return on investment.
There will be many a 'self-affirmed' patriotic political bamboozler who would regard my writing to be pro-colonial and argue that India should have been an independent state long before 1947. To them I would emphatically state that Independence is earned with a proof of longstanding and unwavering maturity as it is in the case of animals and human beings.
While India has long been a wonderful bank of natural resources and intellectual capital like no other, a coordinated effort to transform the state with times has been missing.
Today, at a time when global presence and on-demand business are harped upon, I find India divided. An India is home to the super affluent while another witnesses a mass of people who thrive on a meal a day or perhaps lesser. Isn't it a national shame that people do not have food to eat? What use is it to glorify a nation whose people do not have a roof over their heads? Scores of people lack basic amenities of life and do not have access to medical assistance in the event of a threat to health. Unemployment, child labor, poor wages, abuse of all kinds and poor living conditions are common to more than 40% of the Indian population. With an ever increasing population, common civic senses are absent among people. On a morning walk one could see people defecating on the streets (I am told that in certain states, it is customary for people to defecate alongside their houses). Spitting and littering are synonymous to living!
All this makes me wonder, did we after all need independence as early as 1947? What would be our state had we made a choice to let the British rule us for a half-century more?
Perhaps we would have emerged better and civilized Indians and yes, certainly a united lot.