India Celebrates the 67th Independence Day!
by Elizabeth Menon

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India Celebrates the 68 th Independence Day!

August 14, 1947: Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, announced the birth of a new nation, born after more than a century of colonial rule, with these golden words -- "At the Stroke of the Midnight Hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom... Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?" The rationalist in India's best-loved Prime Minister was evident in his speech. 'The great day' that millions of people have been dreaming about for years, at last materialised -- a day of rapturous jubilation on 15 August 1947, 67 years ago!

Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru worked together on the values that should shape this new great nation. However, the signing of the Constitution of India did not take place till 26 January 1950; much has happened to this magnificent country since the independence, both good and bad. Gandhiji, the apostle of non-violence and leader of freedom movement, was against the partition but even he was unable to stop the greatest forced migration of Hindus and Muslims that followed. A Hindu extremist shot and killed Gandhiji only six months after the Independence, Indira Gandhi, the second woman in the world to become the Prime Minister of a nation and who served as Prime Minister for 16 years, was assassinated in 1984; her son, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was also killed by terrorist in 1991. And now, India has Pranab Mukherji as its 13th President at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, and a new government with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister!

The nation proudly celebrated the 'Golden Jubilee of India's Independence' on August 15 in 1997, and when the world was asleep, India woke up to two voices -- Latha Mangeshkar singing 'Sare Jahan-se achcha' and Pundit Bhimsen Joshi, 'Vande Matharam'. Armed Forces Medical College, set up in 1948, amalgamating the different units of the Indian Army Medical Corps has grown to become the premier Medical College in India, recognized worldwide! The great V K Krishna Menon inaugurated the ‘Graduate Wing’ on 4 August 1962, which produced its first batch of graduates in October 1966 and its Post Graduate Wing conducts postgraduate courses in many disciplines. 4 August is celebrated as ‘AFMC Day’ and the Postal Services has issued a ‘Postage Stamp displaying three AFMC students, and a First Day Cover’ on this day this year, to commemorate the ‘Golden Jubilee’ of this great institution! A great achievement for an institution that completed only 50 years of service, acknowledging that what can be achieved in 100 years has been achieved by AFMC in 50 years -- this kind of accolade is usually reserved for a Centenary or Bi-Centenary celebration -- moment of pride for the students, old and current, and the three wings of the Armed Forces of the post-Independent era!

India has been moving forward steadily since independence. The green revolution of the 1960s has helped the farmers to feed the nation's starving millions and export a surplus! Education has helped the once powerless and untouchables to make their voices heard and their numbers felt at the polls. It is quite remarkable that India has retained its faith in constitutional democracy in spite of many crisis; wars with Pakistan and China, natural disasters and communal violence, to mention a few. India has plunged into world economy; cable, television and satellite dishes seem to be everywhere, even in remote villages! Computer software is not alien to the man on the street. India ranks as one of the ten largest emerging markets in the world; but progress in different states is as varied as the multitude of customs and languages that prevail in different parts of India.

Creative writing in various Indian languages and English has been very popular in India that has gained a great momentum during the past few years; many writers have achieved national and global acclaim. Indian women have emerged as the 'Superpower', having representation in all walks of life, Prime Minister, ministers, judges, state governors, doctors and engineers, to mention a few. Our achievements in the field of education, medicine, engineering, agriculture, telecommunication, sports, music and computer technology have been highly commendable; the progress has been steady but slow! While the modern technology has transformed the face of India, life in remote villages and tribal settlements has escaped the international consumer culture; rural life goes on as they have always done, despite the invasion of electronic media.

Although the constitution prohibits discrimination by caste, it still handicaps millions of citizens; however, the Dalits, had representation in India's Supreme Court and India had its first Dalit Head of State in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. Mr K R Narayanan from Uzhavoor, Kottayam District and elected for Lok Sabha from Ottapalam in Kerala State, was India's President, when the nation celebrated the golden jubilee of freedom -- a great scholar with a first-class honours degree in political science from London School of Economics, diplomat, Union minister, parliamentarian, and Vice President; few of his attributes that made him worthy of the nation's highest office. Kerala State has achieved 100 % literacy rate and has one of the best maternal and infant mortality rate in India. Gandhiji had a vast following in Kerala, who believed in Gandhian philosophy, spending many years behind bars during the independent struggle: K. Kelappen, K P Keshava Menon, Kuttanadu Ramakrishna Pillai, K P Madhavan Nair, A M Thomas, C M Stephen, V K Krishna Menon, to mention a few. They, along with the other freedom fighters from all other states in India, dedicated their lives for the country during the freedom movement and since the independence -- their dedication and sacrifices should never be forgotten!

It is a known fact that the brains behind any ruling Government are its Administrative Services, IAS, IPS, IRS and IFS and Armed Forces that go on working even during political turmoil! It was Sardar Patel’s dream to have a disciplined Administrative Service without any interference from the political party and One hopes that this concept is strictly adhered to, for the smooth functioning of our Governments – we need to abolish corruption and have disciplined officers in our Civil Service to uphold the Nation’s pride in our democracy and culture. It is essential that the political parties acknowledge that the Civil Service is the backbone of a government. One still thinks of Dr D Babu Paul when the three letters, 'IAS' come to mind and we need more officers like him, and Rishi Raj Singh IPS, who has shown how to make the roads in Kerala safe while he was the Commissioner of Transport! I only hope that the 'Indian Administrative Services' continue to exist as a centralized Service and doesn't get destroyed by regional and political interference!

India has always taken pride in the concept of 'Unity in diversity' and the progress in different walks of life has done very little to hinder this concept. One still finds decorated mud walls in villages with paintings of amazing beauty and city homes with flower decoration traced across the threshold. Though life is hard and filled with unimaginable drudgery at times, most people still find time to sing, dance and celebrate; then there are those who have a life of high fashion and glamour, designer clothes, night clubs, beauty pageants and modeling. Within these two extremes, we have the middle class, teachers and scientists, social workers, artists, classical dancers and musicians who devote themselves to an ancient art that is still vibrantly alive -- amidst all this diversity, one finds rocket launching pads and stock exchange!

We have won the Cricket World Cup twice, in 1983 and 2011, making our strength known worldwide! India won six medals at the London Olympics 2012 -- two silver and four Bronze medals: Silver for Susheel Kumar (66 Kg Freestyle Wrestling), Silver for Vijayakumar (Shooting 25 Metre Rapid Fire Pistol), Bronze for Gagan Narang (Shooting 10 Metre Air Rifle), Bronze for Saina Nehwal (Badminton Singles), Bronze for Mary Com (51 Kg Boxing), Bronze for Yogeshwar Dutt (60 Kg Freestyle Wrestling) Whether it is Gold, Silver or Bronze at the Olympics -- they are all most prestigious and we should be proud of them all and equally, for those athletes who were unfortunate in getting any medals! And we have won 64 medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth games this year, 15 gold, 30 silver and 19 bronze! I only hope that the Government and the Sports authorities improve the training facilities and pay our athletes a good regular salary so that they can spend their time in training, in stead of balancing to earn a living and train at the same time! Promising to give jobs after winning an event is not good enough, but putting more money for the welfare of the athletes -- coaching, food, nutrition, free medical care including doctors, Psychologist and physiotherapist, clothing and equipment and improved facilities for National and International travel must be the priority for our authorities!

Gandhiji and Nehru had a dream -- a prosperous and united India -- the proud nation is still trying to reach that goal! In spite of modernism, we still believe in religion, integrity and family values, and One hopes that the 'Vibrant dream' will be fulfilled soon. To achieve this dream, One must remember here that the nation needs its people to work very hard forgetting all their differences. The new generation has to work towards achieving a better quality of life -- improving the roads in our country, abolishing corruption at all levels and better judgement at choosing the political leaders, provision of good water supply and sanitation, awareness of One's civic duties by stopping 'Harthals', strikes and ‘Sit-ins’ that stop the country's progress, better care for our elders and learning to love and respect others -- yes, we have a long way to go! Unless we overcome the fear of those whose faith is different from our own, we cannot build a free, just, and caring nation -- we need to do it individually and collectively without waiting for our government to take the lead.

"Happy Independence Day to All"

© E Menon



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