Cacti of challenges in our garden of freedom
Just a few hours hence we will be celebrating 70th anniversary of India’s independence. Of course, being a citizen of a free country is a great privilege for all of us. Therefore, we should all be grateful to all the known and unknown freedom fighters who have given us this precious gift. Now our responsibility is to make this garden of freedom better; grow new flowers of positive thoughts!
There is no doubt that after independence we have made a lot of progress. We are sending our satellites into outer space and even to Mars. We are not only sending our own satellites into space but those of other countries as well. Indian scientists have proved that India is second to none. Once India fought hunger with the US’ rotten wheat but today the country has become land of agricultural revolution and is helping the world fight hunger. Once potholed roads are now turning into sleek highways. We now have roads where fighter aircraft can land and take off. Once this country depended on other countries for small machines but today it is building gigantic machines.
What we mean to say is that the flowers in our garden are blossoming like never before. But there still are many challenges, many problems that make us worried. Food, water, education, healthcare and employment are prerequisites for a better life. But are we in a position today to say that these basic requirements of every citizen of this country is being satisfied? No, I believe! Farmers are not getting water for irrigation, good seeds for sowing and remunerative prices for their produce. They are therefore, ending their lives. Many people are not getting clean drinking water. The condition of healthcare too is not very encouraging. People are dying like cattle. One-third of the country’s population is battling poverty.
Unemployment is a major problem. An analysis of the data of 2015 shows that the number of unemployed in the country is about 12 crores. Of these, 25 per cent are between 20 and 24 years in age, while the number of youth between 25 and 29 years is 17 per cent. The number of women among them is very big.
Analysis also shows that 16 per cent of the youth who are getting technical education are standing in the queue of unemployed.
Many claims are being made for providing jobs to the youth, many figures keep coming from the government, but the reality is that the number of unemployed is increasing. Obviously, its side effects are also being felt. There is a saying that the empty mind is the devil’s workshop. Obviously, when the youth do not get employment, they are more likely to go astray. Many young people take to crime. Why the number of stone pelters is growing in Kashmir today? If they get `700 a day to throw stones, they will naturally be inclined to do that. I have made many trips to the Kashmir Valley. From morning till evening, the youth have been found chatting at intersections. I have always been thinking why they can not get employment? My clear opinion is that if the government creates a means of employment in Kashmir, then the day is not far when the separatists will not find any stone pelters.
Earlier the Congress government and now the Narendra Modi government has paid attention to the skill development programme. Modiji has coined a slogan of ‘Make in India’. Of course, the work is going on, but the results are still to come. We are all waiting for the concrete results of ‘Make in India’ because it has rekindled the hopes of the unemployed for new employment opportunities.As far as the terrorism is concerned, one big cactus in our garden of flowers is also that India is at number four in countries affected by terrorism.
In fact, we are fighting with two types of terrorism. First, it is the terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. Second terrorism is in the form of Naxalites within the country. It seems that there should be different strategies to deal with these two. Naxals can be isolated within the legal framework along with the development of tribal areas. But for the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, the government has to implement ‘zero tolerance’ policy just like Israel.
I will tell you an incident. The great scientist and former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was talking to children at Anand city in Gujarat. A child asked him who is the biggest enemy of the country? Kalam Sahab put the question back to the children and sought their reply. A girl named Parul said the country’s worst enemy is poverty! I also believe that unless poverty is removed from the country, the garden can not bloom.
There are many other cacti too. In India, the number of malnourished and underdeveloped children is around 4 million. India is 120th in the list of 130 countries in the matter of children with stunted height and low weight. There is only one bed available for 1,050 patients in hospitals. Similarly, only 0.7 doctors are available for 1,000 patients. The irony is that while our country spends only 2.1 per cent of the global expenditure on research and development, Europe’s share is 24.5 per cent.
Not all is well socially too. India’s secular fabric has taken a beating. What the former vice president Hamid Ansari said in his farewell address needs a serious thinking. Unity in diversity has been the strength of this country. We must salute Nehruji for giving us a framework which has guided us on the path of progress. It is very easy to find faults. Governments change but the most important thing is which path we are following. Mere rhetoric can not make a country great. Together with freedom, social harmony is one very important aspect which needs to be taken care of.
Before I conclude
The name of Davinder Singh Kang of Punjab may be new, but this 26-year-old player is the first Indian athlete to reach javelin finals at the World Championships. No one had earned this privilege before. In a team of 15 players, only Kang tasted success. I congratulate Kang wholeheartedly. He is certainly the new hero of the youth.
Foundation of unity of Opposition shaken
Signs had started appearing long back that the distance between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi is reducing and the bonhomie with the NDA is growing. The whole country was realising this situation, but those who have the responsibility of building the edifice of opposition unity, remained indifferent and did not notice it. They did not understand that Nitish is particular about his image and power. He is also called a big weathercock of politics. In such a situation, he was not comfortable with the alliance of power with Lalu Prasad Yadav. There were clear indications that he could leave the boat anytime. The opposition stalwarts seemed to have felt that the issues like communalism and being the strongest candidate for the prime minister’s post would be able to keep Nitish deterred, but Nitish had realised that the opposition at the moment could only dream of capturing power at the centre.
Well, there is an old history of Nitish that he does not tolerate corruption. In 2005, he had shown his education minister Jitan Ram Manjhi the door a few hours after taking an oath, because Manjhi’s name had come up in the education scam. When he was in power with the BJP, he had sought resignation from his own party leaders Ramanand Singh and Awadhesh Kushwaha.
Nitish knows that caste equation in Bihar politics is not at all in his favour. He comes from Kurmi community, which is only 4 per cent of the population in Bihar. He gets support of other classes because he is known for good governance and clean image. Had he remained with the Lalu family, he would have had to bear losses. Though he had entered into an alliance with Lalu for capturing power in Bihar and stopping the BJP in 2015 elections, the arithmetic of Bihar election results must certainly have churned his mind. In the Bihar Assembly elections of 2015, the Bharatiya Janata Party got 24.4 per cent votes, while RJD got 18.4 per cent and Janata Dal (United) got 16.8 per cent votes. Clearly, this arithmetic must have compelled him to think that it is wise to go with the BJP. His calculation was simple: There is no hope of Prime Minister’s chair coming his way, but if his image suffers by being in company of Lalu in Bihar, the future will be dark.
Nitish is the veteran politician and with one stone he has killed two birds. The Lalu family is weak and after the latest allegations of corruption, their troubles have only increased. Who can exploit Lalu’s weakness better than Nitish! Nitish, who was with the BJP since 1996, had made ‘Gundaraj’ his weapon in the fight against corruption during Lalu’s tenure, and in 2005 he had joined hands with the BJP to oust Lalu and Rabri from power. Back with the BJP once again, Nitish will not leave any chance to further weaken Lalu now! Nitish’s another goal is to maintain his chair in the next election. Though the Bihar Assembly elections are three years away, even the BJP will not be able to become a party of backward classes during this period. Therefore, Nitish will fill the void because BJP’s image in Bihar is that of a party of upper castes.
The opposition parties which tried to unite against the BJP and Narendra Modi actually did not understand Nitish. Lalu Yadav’s ego was also a big reason behind this. Lalu himself was not in power but he was not leaving any chance to prove that the biggest party in Bihar was his. He started making internal manoeuvers to ensure that Bihar’s next chief minister would be his son Tejashwi Yadav. So in Bihar, it was a matter of direct internal competition between Lalu and Nitish. The need was that the leaders of all opposition parties should have stayed united and tried to reconcile between Lalu and Nitish so that Nitish could have got along well with the opposition parties. In the initiative of unity, certainly Lalu and the Congress could have played a major role. Nitish had also met the Congress high command, but the Congress did not understand the need to tell Lalu that Tejashwi should resign. So why should one not believe that the Congress too is responsible for this political storm to a large extent. In fact, the country is hoping that Congress will behave like a responsible national party as before, but such behaviour is not witnessed anywhere. The Congress is seen as a scared, frightened party. The Congress will have to understand that just opposing ‘Indu Sarkar’ will not work. It will have to take to the streets to open a front against the Modi government. Does the Congress have the guts today? The reality is that Congress is fast losing the opportunities.
As far as the other opposition parties are concerned, the way in which top leaders of the opposition parties across the country had gathered during Nitish’s previous swearing-in ceremony, it had raised hopes that Nitish would become the foundation of opposition unity. There were some expectations from Akhilesh Yadav too, but the BJP defeated him in his fortress. The reason for this is that most parties are being run like a private limited company. Their policies are being framed as per personal ambitions. Some parties are like a family clan. In such a situation, how can people trust the opposition?
Here, the duo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is playing the game of victory. In politics, their every move is unique and unmatched. It seems as if a continuous churning is going on in their mind about every corner of the country. Contrary to this, there is no such churning in any opposition party. Modiji and Amit Shah’s pair decides so fast that their opponents are left gaping. Why does the opposition not show similar alacrity in deciding? Time is important in politics. It seems that the time is running out for the opposition parties, and for this opposition parties themselves are responsible.
Before I conclude
Even if Pakistan is in the grips of anarchy, even if the law and order there has gone haywire, even if there is an army intervention in politics, but the judiciary of Pakistan has proved itself powerful at every stage. By showing courage to indict Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for corruption, the judiciary has maintained the hope of justice in the minds of the citizens of that country. This has also proved that the judiciary of Pakistan is not under any pressure.
One more thing
Last week, I had written about Kovindji that he will not prove to be a rubber stamp under any circumstance. I expect this to happen today, but I am surprised by the fact that he did not mention any of the great patriots, freedom fighters, the country’s first prime minister and architect of modern India Jawaharlal Nehru in his address after the swearing-in ceremony. Your Majesty, you should have mentioned Nehruji!