As India reaches seventy as a free democratic nation, we have a lot to celebrate and a lot to feel sad about. Like one fly is enough to discard a pan of milk, any incidence of corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, narrow-mindedness makes all our proclamations about our achievements sound so hollow.
At this moment, one incident come to my mind. One is observation of an All Star Basketball player from the US, who was visiting India. I quote what he thought about India during his limited stay, “It’s a country that’s 20 years behind in terms of knowledge and experience. You see cows in the street, monkeys running around everywhere, hundreds of people on the side of the road, a million cars and no traffic violations. Just a bunch of underprivileged people there and they want to learn how to play basketball. That s— was really, really dope to me”. The basket ball player was Kevin Durant. For me he is a neutral observer, and not necessarily an Indophile. He is used to certain standard of governance in his native place. To his unaccustomed eyes, India appeared very odd may be dysfunctional. Subsequently, Kevin Durrant has been forced to apologise for his statement. When it comes to money, individual opinion becomes so insignificant. We may castigate Kevin Durrant as a privileged, pampered American. We may point out several social evils of America. But we cannot deny what Kevin Durrant felt while on his trip to India.
Around the same time I read an article written by Mr. Akaar Patel, a very well known journalist and writer. At the 70th anninversary of Indian independence, I had expected a more nuanced appraisal from Mr. Patel. Alas, it came out as an hagiography of congress party and its leaders and a brutal indictment of BJP and Indian right. At the time when Mr Patel was so effusive about contribution of leaders of Indian freedom fight, read leaders of congress, we must ask why any average non indophile, like Mr. Kevin Durrant, sees India in such a different light? If this is the state of affairs after more than 50 years of congress rule, if this is the state of affairs at the 70th independence day of the nation, then certainly Mr. Patel is disingenous when he wrote his piece on leaders that gave us independence and ruled us for greater part of our freedom. Mr. Patel should explain despite a beautiful picture he painted, does job of a leader end with independence or one has to steer new born nation by formulating policies and administering them without fear and favour? Mr. Patel must explain, why India looks so shoddy to a neutral observer? Why India has 600 million very poor people? Why did a very poor country like India not unleash creativity of captains of industry? Why did India nationalised banks and unleashed licence raj? Finally, India did not liberalise her economy in 1991 out of a grand dream, but because she was bankrupt. All because of faulty policy, practice of nepotism. practice of an entitlement culture by our policy makers. Happy seventieth birthday mother India.