What have 75 years of Independence meant for the aam aadmi? Yes, they now have roti, kapda and perhaps makaan, but much more needs to be done to meet their aspirations
(Photo: Bandeep Singh | Graphics: Tanmoy Chakraborty)
There is much that India can take pride in as it celebrates 75 years of its Independence and much more that it needs to do. Especially when it comes to fulfilling the fundamental duties and responsibilities of the State to provide the bare necessities of life to every Indian so that they can live with dignity and in hope. India’s population has grown fourfold since 1947, which is one reason why policymakers have had trouble keeping pace. At 1.4 billion, India is now the second most populous country in the world, next only to China. If over 200 million people lived below the poverty line at the time of Independence, we still have a BPL population of 240 million despite seven decades of economic development, which have seen per capita income grow from a mere Rs 365 to Rs 1.28 lakh now (which remains low by world standards). Sure, the percentage of the total population living in poverty has dropped from 80 per cent then to around 20 per cent now, but we still have as many poor people as the entire population of Indonesia.
Girl students in a computer class; (Photo: India Picture)
This is not to detract from the enormous progress we have made in providing the essentials—roti, kapda aur makaan (food, clothing and housing)—to every Indian in the first four decades of our independence, and then focusing on other necessities such as bijli, pani, sadak, shauchalaya aur paisa (water, electricity, roads, toilets and income), not necessarily in that order, in the decades that followed. We have many achievements that we as a nation can laud ourselves for. We have ensured 90 per cent of homes have electricity, doubled the per capita availability of cereals and quadrupled that of cloth. Development has ensured our life expectancy has doubled from 32 years to 70 years. But we have infinite more miles to go.
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While over 80 per cent of urban households have piped water supply in their homes, toilets on the premised and LPG gas in their kitchens, over 40 per cent of rural households continue to live in a state of deprivation. We are talking of close to 400 million people. That is the magnitude of the challenge before India. The country needs to fulfil these and many other aspirations of its people if it wants to be counted among developed nations when it celebrates 100 years of its Independence on August 15, 2047.
An ongoing geography class in Nanjangud town, near Mysore inKarnataka, in the 1900s; (Photo: India Picture)
Despite the ambitious Ujjwala Yojana, a majority of rural kitchens have yet to make the switch to LPG cylinders; (Photo: Purushottam Diwakar)