Tri-colour flying and continue to fly | Are 135 cr Indians independent today?

By Pradeep Kumar

India will celebrate its 73rd Independence Day on Wednesday commemorating the nation’s independence from the United Kingdom this day in 1947. India attained independence following the Independence Movement, largely non-violent and civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi besides Lal Bal Pal (Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak & Bipin Chandra Pal), triumvirate assertive nationalists who had mobilized Indians across the country to join Swadeshi Movement.

The way first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had hoisted tri-colour from historic Red Fort in 1947, PM Narenda Modi will replicate it followed by singing of national anthem and a 21-cannon salute to pay respect to freedom fighters. But August 15 is a day for retrospection and introspection as to what we Indians have achieved during last 72 years.

Pundit Nehru had delivered his ‘Tryst with destiny’ speech to Constituent Assembly at 11 pm on 14.08.47 proclaiming India’s independence.

It reads: Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity”.

India’s status: Roti, kapda aur makan are basic necessities of human being. Let ups analyse their status.

Roti: Contrary to government claim data shows that the country barely has enough to feed its own people, let alone be self-sufficient or a net exporter. The country is home to 270 million hungry people, the highest in the world. India stands 97th in Oxfam’s Food Availability Index, and 103rd in 2018 Global Hunger Index. A country can be called self-sufficient only when it produces enough to meet its domestic needs. The Food Agriculture Organization has created three levels of self-sufficiency—below 80%, indicating food deficit; between 80 and 120%, indicating self-sufficiency; and, above 120%, meaning surplus. India shows self-sufficiency, and joins the second group which includes China, the United Republic of Tanzania and Bolivia.

GoI’s own data shows that the country is not self-sufficient. Ramesh Chand, member of NITI Aayog, predicted a demand of 257.70 million tonnes in 2016-17. Chand was part of a working group of the Union Ministry of Agriculture which gave a detailed report on the demand and supply balance from 2012 to 2017. The GoI could claim to have surplus production if it produced more than that. The country produced 275.11 million tonnes that year. This was barely a few million tonnes more than the assessed demand, not enough to meet the demand during drought.

Kapada: The National Planning Committee in 1936 had noted the appalling poverty of undivided India, while Nehru in The Discovery of India, (1946) wrote: (…) there was lack of food, of clothing, of housing and of every other essential requirement of human existence… the development policy objective should be to get rid of the appalling poverty of the people. Aagin The National Planning Committee, notes Suryanarayana, then defined goals in 1936 to alleviate poverty by setting targets in terms of nutrition (2400 to 2800 calories per adult worker), clothing (30 yards per capita per annum) and housing (100 sq. ft per capita). This method of linking poverty as a function of nutrition, clothing and housing continued in India after it became independent from British colonial empire.

Where India stands today? – India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, poverty has been on a decline with close to 44 Indians escaping extreme poverty every minute, as per the World Poverty Clock. India has been able to lift significant percentage of its population out of poverty but many still live in it. It had 73 million people living in extreme poverty which makes up 10% of its total population according to Brookings report. The World Bank reviewed and proposed revisions on May 2012 to its poverty calculation methodology and purchasing power parity basis for measuring poverty worldwide. It was a minimal 3.6% in terms of percentage. As of 2016, the incidence of multidimensional poverty has almost halved between 2005–06 and 2015–16, climbing down to 33.8% from 54.7%. According to United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) programme 270 millions or 21.9% people out of 1.2 billion of Indians lived below poverty line of $1.25 in 2011-2012.

Makan: As India surges forward economically and demographically, providing affordable housing for the urban poor has become a major challenge. Currently, the GoI pegs the housing shortfall at 10 million households and hopes to provide every Indian every with affordable, quality housing by 2022.

Achieving this vision requires housing that is “affordable”, as determined by criterion such as family income, size of the dwelling unit, or ratio of house price to annual income, according to a 2008 taskforce set up by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA). For a decade now, the GoI has tried to focus its efforts to provide affordable housing and include the private sector by making it easier for them to comprehend their roles and contributions. But despite their best efforts, affordable housing remains a distant dream for many urban residents. The affordable housing deficit is set to widen to 30 million houses by 2022, according to a recent study by Deloitte, writes Prerna Mehta, Lead, Urban Development, WRI India Ross Center and Jaya Dhindaw, Strategy Head, Integrated Urban Prac) in – Housing for All: a distant dream, published in Deccan Herald on 05.06.18.  PM Modi thus announced on 25.06.19 that his government is committed to further improving urban infrastructure and will leave no stone unturned to fulfil the dream of housing for all.

“There has been a phenomenal rise in economic inequality in India, especially in post-1991 liberalization period. A 2018 Oxfam study reports a significant increase in consumption Gini index (a statistical measure of inequality) in both rural and urban areas from 1993-94 to 2011-12,” writes Indore-based Indian Institute of Management assistant professor (economics) Punarjit Roychowdhury  in “Economic Mobility Inequality”.

According to the Global Wealth Report (GWR) 2017, put out by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, between 2002 and 2012, the share of the bottom 50% of the population in total wealth declined from 8.1% to only 4.2%. In contrast, over the same time period, the share of the top 1% in total wealth increased from 15.7% to 25.7%. Among the countries for which the GWR gives the share of wealth held by the top 1%, only Indonesia and the US have higher shares than India.

Given this dramatic rise in inequality, it is imperative to accurately measure the extent of economic mobility in India, which reflects the number of people moving up and down the economic ladder over time. Mobility becomes salient because the long-term welfare effects of rising inequality depend crucially on the level of economic mobility. Economic mobility (or a lack thereof) can attenuate (or accentuate) the adverse effects of inequality. Holding other factors fixed, an economy with much economic mobility—one in which households move more freely throughout the income/consumption distribution—will result in a more equal distribution of lifetime incomes and consumption than an economy with low mobility.

“Our findings also challenge the conventional wisdom that marginalized groups in India are catching up with the rest on average. This finding, in particular, casts doubt over the efficacy of existing affirmative action and social programmes that have been put in place to help improve the economic status of marginalized groups in the country,” Roychowdhury added.

There have been lot many promises by the great leaders since 1947 but the statics in 2019 contradict all their tall claims to justify the adage:  Actions are visible not the bombastic ornamental speeches which ultimately are forgotten! The very word independence stand questioned today. Have 135 crore Indians achieved political, economical and social independence even after 72 years? If not, it is time for every Indian to wake up and walk the path to fight against main enemy corruption, eating into the vitality of the nation!

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