True independence

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Today India is celebrating its 75th Independence Day as Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. 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.

In Arunachal Pradesh, Independence Day is celebrated with pomp and gaiety. Many people fly the national flag in front of their houses, shops and vehicles. Sweet shops selling jalebis, pakoras and mala rotis spring up at many places. However, in some areas of the Northeast, Independence Day is marked by bandh calls by various organizations. The days around Independence Day are marked by increased security checks, harassing many travellers.

Despite 74 years of independence, are we truly independent? Real 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 also includes 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 74 years post independence, India still has 28 percent population below the poverty line, which has been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The literacy rate of India is 75 percent, which is below the literacy rate of China, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In life expectancy, India is ranked 125 with a life expectancy of 70.4 years, below those of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. In the healthcare index, India ranks 154, below Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. According to the 2020 figures of the corruption index of Transparency International, India ranks 86th place out of 179 countries, below China and the Maldives. India is also the second most unequal country in the world with the top 1 percent of the population owning nearly 70 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.

Similar 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 as per the 2011 census, 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 1,000. These figures, combined with lack of basic amenities like stabilized electricity and poor infrastructure like roads, water supply, etc, makes the life of an average Arunachalee harder than others. Except for a few items, Arunachal depends on other states for most of its requirements of food, clothes, groceries, pen, paper, soap… almost all products.

It is admitted that these figures are better as 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. Presently, all citizens are also craving for independence from Covid-19. When will we be truly independent? (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)