As India enters its 75th year of independence, it’s a fitting time to unveil a dream of a ‘better’ India.
An India where harmony prevails over hate; where those who target any citizen for their religion, caste, community, region, are prosecuted and convicted for hate speech. Hate cannot be ‘normalised’ in any manner or the culture of impunity promoted under the guise of tedious what-aboutery of competing religious identities. A modern progressive society must have no place for exploiting historical scars from a previous century to settle scores in the present. Just throw all those who engage in hate speech across communities into the same jail cell and toss away the keys.
An India where opaque governments do not try and hide Covid deaths, where data is not falsified to create a fake perception that ‘all is well’ . Why should a citizen’s death certificate not provide an accurate description of cause of death? Callous in life, do we have to be insensitive in death too? If there is a shortage of oxygen, admit it rather than try and hide behind medico-legal jargon. And when bodies are found floating down a river, don’t engage in a perfidious cover-up by refusing to even acknowledge the scale of death and despair.
An India where access to quality healthcare is not determined by social and economic status. Where a public health system puts the ‘aam aadmi’ above VVIP privilege to ensure that no one is denied a hospital bed in an emergency. Where we build more hospitals than places of worship, where doctors and not self-styled Godmen are seen as true icons of devotion and compassion.
An India where we lessen divides and not exacerbate inequalities. Where poverty alleviation is seen as the greatest service to humanity. Where when a lockdown leads to mass migration of daily wage labour, governments don’t pretend that the problem is imaginary. Where the gaping digital divide in pandemic times needs to be addressed effectively. Where a lack of a smartphone or varying levels of technological literacy must not become barriers to education.
An India where the parliament is the ultimate symbol of democratic values of debate, dissent and dialogue and not of unilateralism, obstructionism and rowdyism. Parliament cannot be an extension of a domineering executive where decisions are bulldozed by brute majority nor can it become an arena for stalling key legislation.
An India where governments accused of snooping and violating the right to privacy of their citizens are subject to institutional scrutiny. Where a free and open society must ensure that those who threaten their much cherished democratic freedoms are probed and censured.
An India where democracy is not reduced to a once in five year ritual that doesn’t go beyond casting a vote. Where the elected representative is accountable to the people and is not a feudal lord disconnected from the multitude. Where citizens can engage their leadership in robust interaction and force them out of their cocooned high security comfort zones.
An India where those who are ideological opponents of the government are not instantly labelled ‘anti-national’; where we do not confuse a majority government with nationhood and realize that true patriotism is not a blind acceptance of government diktat, right or wrong. Where a colonial law like sedition is struck off the statute books and dissent is not criminalized.
An India which respects its federal pulls and pressures and where an authoritarian Delhi leadership doesn’t always know best. Where states are not divided based on party affiliations. Where when the police forces of two states fire at each other, the Centre steps in quickly to reconcile differences. Where local antagonisms do not spill over into a violent conflict, where the nation’s peripheries matter as much as the heartland.
An India where constitutional authorities retain their autonomy and integrity by resisting pressures. Where the Election Commission acts as a neutral umpire and not a twelfth man for a party in power. Where enforcement agencies are not misused to settle political scores and where judges are not compromised by an over-bearing executive.
An India where our economic policy makers snap out of denial mode. Where the true state of the economy isn’t determined by a rising sensex or fanciful V shaped graphics but by the reality of falling incomes and loss of jobs. Where a shattered informal sector and distressed micro and small industries become the bedrock of policy initiatives and not fat-cat crony corporates who have little to lose.
An India where protesting farmers are not ‘enemies’ of the state but sons of the soil who deserve a hearing. Where the angry farmers are not barricaded behind iron nails and barbed wires but instead are encouraged to return to the path of negotiation and conciliation.
An India where a woman isn’t assaulted every 15 minutes, where convictions in such cases are swift and assured. Where the family of the victim doesn’t have to wait for years for court decisions, where witnesses are not intimidated into changing their testimony, where a woman’s dignity is not compromised by typical misogynistic attitudes.
An India where local tribal groups are not denied their rights to land, forests and livelihood, where those who stand up for the rights of the poor and marginalized are not labelled as ‘urban Naxals’. Where when an octogenarian priest is arrested, his lifelong commitment to tribal rights is not demonized as terrorist activity with scant evidence.
An India which recognizes climate change as arguably the biggest challenge of the next century. Where policy makers address the ecological crisis caused by reckless deforestation in the mountains and encroachments in fragile coastal areas. Where air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are not seen as elite pre-occupations but become part of an ever-widening dialogue on global warming and the right to breathe clean air.
An India that becomes an Olympic super-power and not just a cricket obsessed country. Where it isn’t another 13 years before India wins its next Olympic gold. Where even as we celebrate our Olympic stars, we remember that only a country with a genuine sports culture will win medals consistently. And yes, an India where next time the athletes are felicitated, their images are larger than those of political leaders!
Post-script: The dream is not just for a better India but a better media too: one which puts sense above sensation and news above noise. And yes, speaks truth to power rather than bends before it. Happy Independence Day!