Despite gaining Independence, India has been in constant search of freedom.
After freedom from the British, we needed freedom from dependency on food grain import to feed our bulging population. Next, we needed freedom from poverty and retarded growth rates, so diktats were unleashed in the name of ‘Nationalism’. Then, we needed freedom from ‘Nationalism’ which crippled industry to achieve ‘Liberalization’. Today, in the free market regime, we need freedom from our own venality.
Anna’s campaign against corruption is but symptomatic of the deep yearning for change that has been lying latent in the ordinary Indian.
The timing of the whole affair may seem extraordinary. For no time for India has been better than the decade or two gone by.
The economic reforms stirred the Indian to a span of fresh possibilities. A more affluent life is within reach for the Indian; one that is certainly better than his parents’ and grandparents’. Entrepreneurship is awarded. There are new opportunities for the young and restless. Average salaries and living standards are better than the past. Above all, we are a more confident people. We see brighter prospects for our country in years to come.
But the more we change, in some way, the more we find ourselves trapped in our old ways.
The politician has failed to see the change in the Indian. Development is the new ‘caste’. And vote bank politics now depends more on deliverance of progress, as exemplified in Bihar, than the creed one is born into.
The politician and the bureaucrat have missed seeing that the Indian is more media savvy and more connected. Thus more interested in accountability.
The scams that have tumbled out of the UPA II’s closet are nothing new. Corruption has been a part of Indian politician’s DNA. No party has been free from it. But people are now looking for action against culprits.
We are therefore looking for freedom from those who have sucked our earnings to get tenders passed or even move a file than follow systematic processes.
In hinterland India, the poor is yet to throw off his yoke of deprivation. He is looking for freedom from his lot. Even as the percentage of population below the poverty line decreases, the yawning gap and visible difference in lifestyles of the haves and have nots increases. This has spurred a Red revolt where the underdog is willing to resort to violence to gain freedom from his paucity.
Even as India grows and prospers, questions of poverty, equity, corruption and accountability remain unanswered.
Besides greater political, social and economic reforms, there is a pressing need to bring back morality in our grain. Possibly, this search would need us to take a U-turn to the days when men walked tall on principles and their campaign was also called the Indian freedom struggle.