India @ 75: The Great Churn

India @ 75: The Great Churn

Come 15th August 2022, India steps into its 75th year of Independence, a status earned with a lot of struggle and vigour. As we celebrate the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, true to the theme there has been decades of churning since 1947. Plenty has transpired in the socio-economic, political and cultural landscape of the nation.

To begin with, the 1947 - 1964 period saw the emergence and culmination of Nehruvian socialism. This included extensive licensing and reservation of industries. Simultaneously, this period was marred by periodic external aggressions from both Pakistan and China. The idea behind the majority of the schemes was socio-economic protectionism. This led to minimal foreign intervention in terms of economic activities. The effects of Nehruvian socialism were felt after his demise in 1964. The political hegemony exercised during this period had ripple effects during the late 1960s. There was a huge instability at the helm of administration in our country. This resulted in extensive food shortages and economic depletion.

The period between 1964-1980 saw India go through a socio-political rollercoaster. Extensive nationalisation was carried out by the Indira Gandhi government. Apart from this, the Emergency period saw the emergence of multiple social and political groups such as the OBC Movement in Bihar, the Navnirman Andolan led by the student community in Gujarat and the Railway employees' agitation led by George Fernandes. It also saw the rise of the first alternate political reality to the Indian National Congress, in the form of the Janata Party. After the Emergency, all social apprehensions were settled through excessive populist measures.

Right from the in famous ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan by Indira Gandhi to rice being offered at Rs 1.50 in Andhra Pradesh by then Chief Minister Vijayabaskar Reddy, the era of populism flourished. A series of populist measures backed by poor fiscal and monetary policies resulted in a huge economic setback for India. External short term debt mounted while the foreign exchange reserves depleted extensively. It is at this juncture that the Indian government took a bold move defying the then political dispensation.

The famous LPG- Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation- reforms were initiated in 1991. The licence raj was abolished paving the way for more private industries to be set up. Privatisation of ill-performing Public Sector Undertakings was carried out paving way for more structured and accountable management of these companies. Globalisation ensured that global technology was meeting local business needs. This resulted in the boom of the IT industry and emergence of the telecom industry.

The early 2000s saw the extensive growth of the telecom industry resulting in enhanced communication. The National Democratic Alliance-I government saw implementation of certain landmark schemes such as Sarvashiksha Abhiyan and the Golden Quadrilateral. Around the same time India decisively thwarted the Pakistani aggression at Kargil War.

Though India had taken major economic strides, questions of internal security still plagued the country, with consequent bombings and Naxaliite insurgency. The 26/11 attacks were not only a reminder of the consequences of poor national security but also an exhibition of the crooked mindset of the internal saboteurs. Through these decades the country had gone through multiple natural and climatic disasters as well. Yet, resilience seemed to be ingrained in the ethos of the people.

The 2014 elections marked the beginning of a tectonic shift in terms of resurgence of nationalism and cultural representation across the country. We saw a series of bold foreign policy measures that put India First. It also saw the boom of the digital economy that formalised the Indian economy to a large extent.

We are now at the cusp of a new India, one that's resurgent, resilient and radiant. India has gone through a lot of ups and downs, thanks to the efforts of both dedicated sevaks and deluded saboteurs respectively. But it is our responsibility to recognize the positives of our country and take pride in it even as we constantly introspect to correct the mistakes of the past.

Just as the puranic churn, both good and evil will tend to emerge from the nation. It is our duty to keep our eyes focused on the eternal, immortal nectar that is our ancient civilisation. For this, an entire populace has to rededicate itself to the idea of India First.

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Chinmaya Udghosh