How much did we celebrate today? 63 years after the tricolour was raised officially for the first time and Jawaharlal Nehru reminded us of our tryst with destiny, retaining the significance of the event in our mind's eye is becoming more and more difficult. The remnant of people for whom independence was the culmination of years of struggle, the realization of a long-cherished dream are dwindling every year. And those of us to whom the torch has been passed tend towards cynicism rather than celebration. Agreed, there are many difficulties and problems. But, I refuse to join the many who editorialise about our missed opportunities and wasted chances. And we certainly have a lot to celebrate! Our nation has moved forward greatly and is fast becoming one of the economic powerhouses of the world. Our India is great - the very fact that we remain united in spite of our great diversity is a triumph in itself. Our neighbours on both sides have shown that this is not such an easy task. Law and order prevail in most places, albeit associated in some with rampant corruption. We still have our struggles in Kashmir, parts of the North East and the areas where our Maoist brothers hold sway but overall, India is probably the one of the safest places to live in South-East Asia.
Here in Meghalaya, there is a day long bandh on Independence Day called by the HNLC, the local separatist group. However, since the group is nearly completely integrated into society, life is not greatly affected. This year, the police had clamped curfew after 6 for 2 days preceeding today and that was, in fact more of an inconvenience! There are some in Meghalaya who are still not convinced of the ideal of Indian unity, but for the most part, there is a realisation that the connection with the union has been highly beneficial especially in the areas of health, education and the economy. And with the centre now giving the North-East a lot of bonuses, there is hope that the sins of the past will slowly be forgotten.
When I look at the present scenario, I feel there is much cause for rejoicing. The issues of the people like poverty, education and health are being brought to the forefront of our national consciousness (after being pushed under the carpet all these years) and legislations like the Right to Information Act are giving corruption a run for its money! So much progress has been made in all fronts considering the state we were in immediately post-independance. After many years of searching, there are a few political leaders who seem to be aspiring to reach the standards and ideals set by our freedom fighters and break away from the petty corruption and megalomania that characterises the majority of our politicians. Poverty is slowly but surely being rolled back with more and more of the government schemes actually reaching the people. Primary health care is now available in many parts where it was but a dream 2 decades ago. Having worked in one of the poorest districts of our country (Palamau in Jharkhand) for 2 years, I know there is much that remains undone. But let us look at the half-full glass rather than the half-empty. Our country is making great strides and each of us is called to put in our two-annas worth to the cause. So let us stop finding fault with all and sundry and look at ourselves. Every day we are given opportunities to make this land a better place. Often we do not take them as opposing corruption, poverty and poor governance is by no means a walk in the park. But if we all take the small steps that we can, change and progress will come. They cannot be halted. We have a part to play in the progress of this great land. And if we play it instead of escaping from our responsibility by blaming the system, we can say with greater pride, Mera Bharat Mahaan!! Jai Hind!!