True independence

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

On Saturday, India celebrated the 74th Independence Day. Independence Day is celebrated across the country with parades, cultural shows, prabhat pheris and feisty speeches. However, this year the celebrations were muted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In some areas of the Northeast, the days around Independence Day are marked by increased security checks due bandh calls by various organizations, harassing many travellers. Nonetheless, in Arunachal, Independence Day is celebrated with pomp and gaiety. Many people fly the national flag in front of their houses and shops.

Despite 73 years of independence, are we truly independent? True independence implies self-reliance in food and housing for all citizens. Self-reliance means non-dependence 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.

Seventy-three years after 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 154th, below Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. According to the corruption index of Transparency International, India ranks 79th among 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. Rafale is the latest fighter aircraft imported from France.

The figures of Arunachal are also not so good. The poverty rate of Arunachal is 34.67 percent and 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, makes life of an average Arunachalee harder than that 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. Even for the Covid-19 pandemic management, most of the essential items like PPE, sanitizers, masks and testing kits are imported from other places, including China.

It is acknowledged 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.

Do you want true independence? By the way, when will we be independent from Covid-19? (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)