Bill K Koul
India and the rest of the world just celebrated Diwali, the Festival of Lights, with great pomp and fervour. For a change, the spirit of Diwali brought immense positivity and illumination with it, and infused her people with hope and excitement. But as the auspicious day faded into history, the reality of everyday life in Indian cities has dawned again – the same grind, paucity of time, traffic, people everywhere – pushing, pulling and rushing – with unhappy faces, unhealthy and poisonous air quality, adulterated food, confused and aggressive behaviours, corruption etc. When will her arteries – the roads and streets – keep flowing and when will they get clogged considering her mind-blowing population growth? How long will her people keep sleeping over her existential issues? How long can this massive country survive? It is only a matter of time, unfortunately!
Thus, as 2018 is slowly but surely coming to its end, India continues to witness passively and suffer from a range of liveability issues that may potentially threaten her very existence as one nation one day. She has quadrupled her population since the British left in 1947 and her birth rate continues to be close to three times her death rate, making her potentially the world’s most populous country in a few years from now. She did not learn a thing or two from China!
Post-independence, the people in India did not fully integrate into one Indian people; they remain divided and confined within the manmade silos of regions, religions and caste. And then there is also a nagging divide between the rich and the poor. The underlying simmering divisions amongst the people manifested in the creation of a few new states during the past few years, with the likelihood of creation of a few more new states looming over the coming years. India myopically failed to introduce and implement one civil law for all her people. As if that was not enough, the policy of reservations – without a periodic review – exacerbated the divisions.
Thanks to the Chinese invasion in the early sixties, the country has become a nuclear power, with the world’s third largest army, fourth largest air force and the fifth largest navy. The country also has a successful space programme, a booming IT sector and boasts of a high economic growth in the recent times. However, despite her progress, she has not remained a very liveable and a happy country, thanks largely to her uncontrolled population growth.
As per a UN study, India is reported to lose one student every one hour to suicide. Of her 1.36 billion people, nearly 40 percent (55 million) are reported to suffer from mental depression and nearly 26 percent (38 million) from anxiety disorder, thanks to the effects of materialism, capitalism, a sickening tendency to show-off, the social media, and a perennial fight to perform and survive.
As per the World Bank and other allied studies, her educational infrastructure needs a total revamp, despite the claims of a growing literacy rate of around 70 percent. Note that the term ‘literacy’ means having the ability to read and write one’s name in any Indian language, and not having passed the Year 10 or 12 Board examinations
On the political front, things don’t look very impressive either, with nearly one-third parliamentarians (around 185) having shameful criminal records against them. Holding of the election processes, when most voters are virtually uneducated and / or ill-informed, and subsequent horse trading between political parties, raises a big question on the efficiency and validity of the democratic process being run in the country.
With agricultural land being shredded to smaller pieces – due to a fast population growth – exacerbated by rapid industrialisation of rural areas, accompanied by a climate change, has been forcing villagers to flock towards the urban areas and look for greener pastures in the cites, thereby keep increasing their population density, traffic congestions, air pollution, commuting times, and mental stress, thereby eroding their liveability.
Shamefully, the country continues to be unfair to half her population – the female gender! Hypocritically, many people pray to a number of female deities as per their traditions but passively watch numerous women and girl children being raped, exploited, compromised and disrespected – as second class citizens – on a daily basis.
The current political infrastructure in India is inadequate in truly addressing the aforementioned issues that surreptitiously undermine the country with each passing day. A significant transformation in the political infrastructure and the country’s mind-set is necessary to address those issues. To start with, can the country introduce a law for all her people to immediately control her population, which seems to be the root cause of most of her ills, if not all, before it is too late? But as the politicians and multinationals benefit from a growing population, will that ever happen? Indians are slowly killing the goose that could lay golden eggs!
Every country is guided by its individual and collective destiny; destiny is made by the individual and collective thoughts and actions of its citizens – both past and the present. India will also meet her destiny. India is like a large canvas in front of her people, it is up to them how they paint that canvas.
Bill K Koul