A checklist for progress as India marks 70 years of freedom

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As India prepares to celebrate 70 years of freedom on August 15, the party that fought for its independence and later ruled the country for 50 years is facing an existential crisis.

The leaderless and rudderless Congress party is on a losing streak as it continues to be mired in corruption scandals. The latest case relates to the seizure of Rs100 million (US$1,466,867) in cash in income tax raids on a Congress minister in the state of Karnataka, DK Shivakumar, on August 2. Somewhat incredibly, the party is supporting him and accusing the federal government of playing vendetta politics.

Meanwhile, new revelations on the alleged role of late prime minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, in the 1986 Bofors arms scandal may embarrass his wife, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, if the case is reopened.

By contrast, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which heads the present federal coalition government, has kept a clean image, coupled with a reputation for good organization and strong leadership under AB Vajpayee and Narendra Modi. Thirty-seven years on from its formation, it is India’s largest party.

Since the BJP elevation to power in 2014, however, attacks on minority groups in the name of protecting cows have been on the rise in northern states. These attacks on Muslims have exposed a hollowness in the party’s slogan ‘Saab ke saath, saab ke vikas’ (‘Together with all, development for all’).

Rampant corruption from one party and social polarization from another does not mean the country has not progressed since independence

Rampant corruption from one party and social polarization from another does not mean the country has not progressed since independence. It has made strides. For instance, its GDP growth rate will remain at 7.1% in 2017-18, despite the demonetization policy introduced late last year. India is the world’s second fastest-growing economies. Smart cities are sprouting up and the country’s literacy rate has touched 80%.

India has a vibrant democracy, an active judiciary and a free press. Over 500 news channels operating 24/7 keep the public informed about events, which is essential for any democracy. Indian scientists are planning missions to moon.

Despite all this, the benefits of reforms are not reaching the teeming villages from which India derives its demographic strength and in whose populations its future lies. Major chunks of the funds allotted to social welfare programs are often gobbled up by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

If the common man is asked to list his demands for a better India, he may well mention the following:

An educated Indian may add the following demands to the above list:

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