Real independence

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]
India is planning to celebrate its 73rd Independence Day this 15 August. Independence Day marks the Indian republic emerging as an independent nation, free from 200 years of British rule. Independence Day is celebrated across the country with parades, cultural shows, prabhat pheris, and feisty speeches.
However, in some areas of the Northeast, Independence Day is marked by bandh calls by various secessionist and other organisations. The days around Independence Day are marked by increased security checks, harassing many travellers. Nonetheless, in Arunachal Pradesh, Independence Day is celebrated with pomp and gaiety. Many people fly the national flag in front of their houses and shops. Many vehicles also fly the national flag. Sweet shops selling jalebis, pakoras and mala rotis spring up at many places.
Despite 72 years of independence, are we truly independent? Real independence implies self-reliance in food and housing for all citizens. Self-reliance means not depending on other nations for basic requirements. Real independence implies universal free education and free healthcare. It may also include essential services like stabilized electricity, water supply, etc. It may not be too idealistic to include fundamental rights like free speech, secularism, pluralism, etc.
Even 72 years post independence, India still has 21.9 percent population below the poverty line. The literacy rate of India is 74 percent, which is below the literacy rate of China, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In life expectancy, India is ranked 125th with a life expectancy of 68.3 years, below those of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. In the healthcare index, India ranks at 154th, below Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. According to the 2016 figures of the corruption index of Transparency International, India ranks at the 79th place out of 176 countries. India is also the second most unequal country in the world with the top one percent of the population owning nearly 60 percent of the total wealth.
India also imports most military weapons like aircraft, ships, tanks, submarines, weapons and ammunition, and thus is dependent on other nations.
The same figures for Arunachal Pradesh are also not so good. As per the same figures, the poverty rate of Arunachal is 34.67 percent. Arunachal’s literacy rate is 66.95 percent, which is third from the bottom. Arunachal has also one of the highest figures of unemployment in the country with figures of about 90 per 1000. These figures, combined with lack of stabilized electricity and poor infrastructure like roads, water supply, etc, make the life of an average Arunachalee harder than those of others.
Except for a few items, Arunachal depends on other states for most of its requirements of food, clothes, groceries, pen, paper, soap, etc – almost all products.
It is admitted that these basic figures are much higher compared to the eighties and the nineties. However, these figures indicate that we are still lagging behind other nations and Arunachal is lagging behind other states.
When will we be really independent? (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)