Reigning in a socialist arena to begin with - i.e. in the initial years of self governance – India’s social and cultural turf has undergone a sea of change since the time we achieved venerated freedom at midnight on the 15th of August 1947.
With immense effort put in to eradicate the remnant mores of the colonial era, India has been commendably able to tackle most of the post-colonial anxieties that plagued every erstwhile colony, which had embarked upon the journey of self sustenance.
But is it too soon to go on a self-congratulatory spree, as India completes 61 years of its existence as a free republic? Yes it is. This success has been limited in many ways and the developmental graph has many a gradation that has hampered all round progress of the nation.
Few in India can with conviction deny the fact that we face a crunch of resources that threatens to derail the process of social, cultural and political development. With agricultural and farming sector on the back foot, more and more families in the villages are pushing in youngsters to go into urban hubs, seeking employment.
The resultant mass urban migration is adding scores by the day to the already burgeoning pool of unskilled labour - also creating an ethnic, social divide between the urban elite and a multitude of people seen as nothing but ‘parasites’.
This outward movement, from the rural strongholds towards the metros, is fuelling rising unemployment and adding to the existing woes of cities’ infrastructure, which is bursting to the seams and struggling to survive this continuous onslaught.
This degenerative socio-economic trend has at its root faulty governmental policies that are failing to find their mark, resulting in relief measures not trickling down to the masses, with lack of sustainable means forcing them to embark upon alternative routes of survival.
State governments are unable to provide adequate funding for social programs that might contribute to poverty reduction and population control. Unequal allocation of capital and available resources is aggravating existent problems. Consequently, the Urban-Rural divide, though seemingly bridged in the present modern times, is actually merely linked by the tenuous thread of one-way migration.
The malaise of corruption is another factor that has let down our social sector in a big way and it creeping into distribution channels of governing structures has ensured that justified and timely allocation of resources remains nothing but elusive.
As India's life expectancy has doubled from 32 to about 62 in 50 years, and its infant mortality rate fallen dramatically, its population has grown phenomenally – consequently straining the available means all the more.
Fed by the market-savvy glitzy portrayals of elitist, ‘globalized’ lifestyle, this feeling of a limited reality creates tremendous stress in terms of rising middle class and working class expectations and what is actually possible for India's limited resources to deliver.
Though boasting of an immensely rich cultural lineage, Indian society is nevertheless left struggling in a continuous stream of internal flux. This owes to its incapability of easily coming to terms with rapidly changing ways of modern lifestyle.
Lack of seamless transition, fetters of cultural stereotypes, issues with changing notions of individual sexuality are just some of the many nagging tenets of our inherently problematic cultural ideology - which has stagnation and hostility to change hampering its full scale development.
Cultural ethos in India is synonymous with religious and regional identity. In a surprising development one can track the increasing and not so positive tendency of orthodox obstinacy that is creeping into these two social indicators. National identity takes a beating with religion and region taking the call, when it comes to commanding the loyalty of the masses.
This call for one to remain true to their roots is springing from the perceived threat of globalization; the argument propounded alleging it to be a subtle, stylized form of colonialism. Though, this statement might seem to hold some water when analyzed in detail, it still fails to provide justification for the trend we earlier categorized as religious and regional obstinacy.
The most recent in this series is the whole Sethusamudram Project and the Amarnath Land transferissue that has wreaked violent havoc on the Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir.
It has been brought to light by various researching bodies that this segregated leaning to is what makes the masses refrain from making intelligent and practical choices at times.
As Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi famously said, "You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist."
Porous pillars, shaky standing?
Though the governing structures, organisational grid and the reprisal systems in independent India have indeed come a long way since the time of independence and the politically volatile years that immediately followed it, herein too there is scope - nay urgent need - for improvement.
Indian judiciary and law maintaining bodies are begging strict, internal overhaul. In the face of piling irregularities, glaring lapses and unfathomable procedural delays – the public is fast losing faith in that much abused grip of law.
Law abiding citizens are increasingly turning to speedy means of vigilante justice. This can be envisioned in the alarming rise in the number of mob lynching cases, where angry hordes have beaten the defaulters to death. Viewing these instances as a sign of things to come, social anarchy is not far from becoming an everyday banal reality.
Admirable in its continued existence as a sustained democracy, our nation has yet to realise the ideal of a truly democratic entity. Our version of democracy is sullied by dirty political power games that get played out on a dangerously regular basis.
Most of the social problems of contemporary India are rooted in the policy of segregation and have not been addressed by strategies and initiatives launched since independence. And this makes the base on which we rest the assertion of being the ‘next big thing’ a bit wobbly to say the least.
Developing thought it is, India needs to reconcile social and economic growth in order to gain the leverage needed for it to transcend the developing nations’ category. A mechanism that will serve this end must be deliberately and consciously devised, so as to ensure parallel growth across various sectors of the Indian polity.
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