66th Republic Day

Raju Vernekar
As we celebrate 66 th Republic Day, our fragile economy is slowly showing signs of improvement with reduction in inflation and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs, the country is poised to witnesses over all changes.
US President Barack Obama will be the Chief Guest for the Republic Day. He becomes the first US president to grace the occasion as chief guest. An American President’s presence in the Republic Day celebration in India has been long-awaited necessity and it is expected to be an inspiration for other democracies and add value to role of democracy in world affairs.
Since 1950, India has been hosting head of state or Government of another country as the state guest of honour for Republic Day. Indonesian President was the guest of honour in the first R Day celebrations in Delhi in 1950.
Colour full tableaux depicting the myriad hues of country’s diversity, a vibrant performance by students and armed forces in full battle regalia will be at display at Rajpath.
The unity in diversity and the military might with marching contingents and mechanized columns will be seen along the 8 km long route from Raisina Hills to Red Fort.
The Prime Minister will lay a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, at the India Gate in the memory of unknown soldiers. Then the President will unfurl the National flag and the National Anthem will be played along with a 21-gun salute. Awards for valour, like the Ashok Chakra etc.would be given away by the President. The regiments of Armed Forces will march past. IAF will do a fly-past and cultural glimpses from various parts of the country would be showcased. But where does India stands today?
Going by present indications, the foreign investment is expected to reach the all-important $100 billion mark in Financial year 2016.
The Indian rupee which was depreciated to a record low of 68.85 against the US dollar  last year has now strengthened to about 62 level. However according to analysts, the rupee is expected to fall against the dollar over coming months, who predict a broad dollar rally based on expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this year.
Fiscal deficit
The Central Government appears to be confident of meeting the fiscal deficit target set for the current financial year despite a challenging revenue situation. The revenue from the spectrum auction for various bands as well as the reserve price is estimated at Rs 64,840 crore (excluding 2,100 MHz spectrum), of which Rs 16,000 crore is expected to be realized in the current financial year.
Growth rate
A gradual recovery is underway for the Indian economy and the country is expected to clock a GDP growth of 5.5 per cent in the current fiscal and 6.6 per cent in Financial Year 2015-2016.
Unemployment rate rose to 4.9 per cent in 2013-14, mainly on account of increase in joblessness in rural areas despite the Government’s flagship employment scheme MGNREGA. According to the latest survey report by Central Labour Bureau, the unemployment rate rose to 4.9 per cent in 2023-2014 compared to 4.7 per cent in 2012-13.
The over all literacy rate is expected to reach upto  80 percent in the next two years. To  achieve this goal, the HRD ministry is restructuring the entire adult education system in the country with a paradigm shift to lifelong education.
Swacch Bharat
The cleanliness campaign launched by Prime Minister is yet to prove its impact, especially in congested cities and towns including Mumbai where unauthorized slums pose a challenge before civic authorities. According to the World Health Organization, an average of Rs. 6500 per person are lost in India due to lack of cleanliness and hygiene. The Swachh Bharat is expected to make a significant impact on public health.
The year 2015 may well turn out to be that of turnaround for the sagging real estate sector with global investors showing renewed interest. The spike in FDI in the real estate after the Government relaxed regulations in October last could change the overall scenario and help companies with huge debt. The minimum capital investment by foreign companies has been cut to $5 million from $10 million earlier.
India is likely to have 33% malnourished children by the end of this year while the target under the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to bring it down to 26%.
A study conducted by medical journal Lancet in India found that 78% of the infant mortality in India was due to low birth-weight and diarrheal diseases.
Female infanticide
Despite a “crusade” to end sex selective abortions, the ill-practice continues and India reportedly loses 3 million girls in infanticides per year.
Data for the whole country shows only 143 people have been punished for conducting sex determination tests since the enactment of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act in 1996 (amended in 2003).
Public Health
The public health scenario is also not very bright. About 75 per cent of health infrastructure is concentrated in urban areas where 27 per cent population lives. Comparatively rural hospitals not only lack in medical facilities but also face a shortage of drugs. Contagious, infectious and waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid and TB dominate the morbidity pattern in rural areas.
Now the Government has ordered a cut of nearly 20 per cent in its 2014-15 healthcare budget due to fiscal strains, putting at risk key disease control initiatives in a country whose public spending on health is already among the lowest in the world.
Women’s security
After Delhi gang rape case of December 2012 the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was passed to curb offences such as acid attack, rape, sexual harassment, stalking, trafficking of persons etc. But the new act is yet to prove its effectiveness going by growing crime against women The recent example being a rape of woman employee by the driver of the Uber cab in New Delhi.
While country needs, 128000 MW electricity during peak hours, there is a  shortage of about 12,000 MW. Over 300 million (300 million) people in India have no access to electricity. Of those who do, almost all find electricity supply intermittent and unreliable.
The coal and gas shortage, delay in commissioning of plants etc are the main reasons for power shortage. The union power ministry has set the target of 88,537 MW capacity addition till 2016, with rigorous monitoring of on-going capacity addition and development of Ultra Mega Power Projects of 4000 MW.
GLV D 5 launch
India has done considerable progress in space technology. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently successfully conducted an experimental test-flight of GSLV MK III carrying a crew module, to be used in future manned space missions. It was lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
As of 2014 the PSLV has launched 71 spacecraft (31 Indian and 40 foreign satellites) into a variety of orbits. Some notable payloads launched by PSLV include Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe and the Mars Orbiter Mission.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is also planning to conduct more tests of the 3,500-km Agni-IV and the over 5,000-km Agni-V, which is a genuine intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), to prepare them for induction by 2016. Agni-V brings the whole of China, including its northernmost city of Habin and Asia as well as parts of Europe, Africa and Australia within its strike envelope.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has already cleared proposal to acquire 814 artillery guns for Rs 15,750 crore while deferring decision on joint bid by Tata Sons and Airbus to replace IAF’s Avro transport fleet and also procurement of 106 Swiss Pilatus basic trainer aircraft.
The artillery guns would be procured as per the “Buy and Make” procedure under which 100 such guns would be bought off the shelf while 714 would be made in India. The Indian Army had not acquired artillery guns in the past three decades after the Bofors scam surfaced in 1986.
Jan Dhan Yojana
The Government has started applying exclusion principles to its inclusion scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY). But the life cover of Rs 30,000 announced by the PM for all those opening a bank account under the scheme will now exclude many since the finance ministry has put several riders for defining one’s eligibility for a life insurance policy. The insurance would be provided only to one person in a family for accounts opened between August 15, 2014, and January 26, 2015.
The life cover will be for five years and provided to the head of the family or an earning member in the age group of 15-59 years. The person will be excluded from the life insurance scheme after turning 60.
INS Vikramaditya
The long-delayed and much-awaited USD 2.3 billion aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya has already been inducted into the Indian Navy in a strategic boost to India’s maritime warfare capabilities.
The mammoth 44,500-tonne warship, built as the Admiral Gorshkov and originally commissioned in 1987, the 284-meter (937-foot) carrier has been renovated and armed with Russian MiG-29 fighter jets and Kamov helicopters. The warship is capable of carrying 8,000 tons of fuel to sail 13,000 kilometres  and maintain a 1,600-sailor crew for 45 days at sea. The induction of INS Vikramaditya  will certainly enhance India’s Blue Water power projection.
Indo-Pak relations
The Indo-Pak dialogue remains perpetually mired in one-step-forward-two-steps-back syndrome. The dialogue gets disrupted so often, only to be resumed after a debilitating hiatus and without achieving anything. Pakistan has been using militant groups as proxies to hedge against loss of influence in Afghanistan to counter the superior Indian military. This will stop only when Pakistan stops these type of nefarious activities.
All said and done India should become self-reliant with every reform travelling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Then only we can boast of unity in diversity and have an all round progress.