By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, February 9, 2022: We have just celebrated the Republic Day few days ago. Now, we are in the seventy fifth year of India’s independence. It is most appropriate time to exchange views about what challenges confront us as a nation -free of bias, prejudice, and emotion.

Having seen the birth of independence of India, remembering the closing days of the World War II, blackouts in Cuttack, attack of fishing boats by the Japanese fighter planes near Kendrapada, bombing of Berhampur, experiencing trauma of assassination of the Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, following the events of Indo-Pak war in 1947-48, I have seen the unfolding of history of our nation from its independence and world events since then.

One also saw mergers of princely states under the leadership of stalwart Sardar Patel, the Iron man of India like Bismarck of Germany, which was not easy and at the same I got excited by the event of fall of Chiang Kai Shek and its corrupt regime, emergence of the Communist China under Mao Tse Tung promising emancipation of proletariat and peasantry from thraldom of capitalist class and landed aristocracy.

Globally, the defiance of Kim, the grandfather of North Korea against the US led purposeless Korean war, and dogged determination of Ho-Chi Minh and an anthropologist turned a General, Vu Nguyen Giap to bring abject humbling to the colonial France at Dien Bien Phu, and inflicting the most disastrous defeat on the American armed forces in the senseless war imposed upon Vietnam also amazed me.

I was equally enthused by planned development strategy adopted by India’s legendary Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru to construct multipurpose irrigation projects with hydro electric generation, steel plants, and heavy engineering and machine tool facilities called modern temples of free India. Nehru primarily aimed at bringing democratic socialism through abolition of the Zamindary system introducing scientific agriculture.

I also witnessed the leadership of the country under the Non-aligned Movement and the Afro-Asian Solidarity, experiencing the humiliation of the Sino-Indian border war in the northern border in 1962. I had the pleasure of serving the country in the civil service for more than quarter of a century, almost for three decades during which period India’s prestige soared high with spectacular victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war with emergence of Bangladesh notwithstanding China’s sabre rattling and the American threat of Seventh fleet in the Bay of Bengal.

At the same time, there was green revolution bringing self sufficiency in food production. I also saw industrial development leaping ahead with economic liberalization process, which enabled to draw foreign investors to set-up power plants and other manufacturing units. During my service in the international civil service, I could acquire a world view during the Cold War, watching live on TV the collapse of the Berlin Wall followed by the demise of the powerful Soviet Union and socialist bloc, following events of the first Gulf and then second Gulf war.

One also saw the horrific event of 9/11 and two decades of US and NATO involvement in Afghanistan. I also watched rise of China and its increasing truculence ,in recent times seeing global and national handling of world’s the worst pandemic in the recorded history, and pathetic and disastrous withdrawal of US and NATO forces from that hapless country, Afghanistan handing over it on a platter to the barbarous Taliban , and finally inglorious leadership of US under Trump culminating on the 6th January 2021, the attempted coup de’ tat in world’s oldest constitutional democracy, I have seen to my fortune the enforcement of history of our nation from its independence and world events since then.

Based on this experience, I will identify the four challenges which need to be addressed: first, economic challenge, second, challenge to institutions, third, challenge to the diverse society of the Indian nation and fourth, security challenge, both within and from outside.

With increasing inequality to which Dr Subba Rao, former Governor RBI in recent statement has highlighted, high degree of poverty among more than three to four hundred million people with just one dollar of daily income or even less, mostly living in the hilly and inaccessible terrain, rising unemployment among the millennials to almost astronomical proportion many with technical degrees but large number with school and college education, I have seen India’s economy nose-diving.

Slowing rate of growth which IMF has revised its projection downwards and identifying low level of consumption, no sign of sparkle in the much publicized “Make in India” programme which reflects poor private investment both domestic and foreign, yawning gap between inflow and outflow in budget to which even Professor Panagariya, former Vice Chairman NITI Ayog has made mention of, while praising resilience of the Indian economy during pandemic, K shaped growth to which Prof. Raghunathan Rajan, former Governor of RBI alluded to, which reflects wealth creation in some selected top places while low spending power in the rest of economy, heavy dependence on import notwithstanding the call for “Atmanirbharbharat”with the Indo-China trade level remaining high in spite of border tension,and inability to be independent in the oil sector, and economy being rated as “just above junk” level, just to identify a few indicators are the causes of concern of the Himalayan magnitude.

Ascribing pandemic to the cause of poor economic health and gaining comfort because of occasional vibrating stock market is nothing but reflection of ostrich outlook. India’s global ambition can never be achieved without robust economy. What is most disconcerting is rising dissatisfaction among the youth, poor, and marginalized both in the rural and urban India.

Wealth is not evil but its distribution is divine. Monopoly of State is not the answer. Private sector is equally relevant and important. When and where public sector exists it must be truly autonomous. Where private sector operates it must be under regulation, but not subject to political extraction.

Challenges to institutions include constitutional, legal, customary, and traditional. Legislature meant to make laws after deliberations and debates and to scrutinize the budget presented by the executive government have become places of disruptions and frequent unruly scenes leading to pandemonium with laws being passed by voice vote, ordinance becoming normal feature of governance ,some controversial bills being comparably certified as money bills to avoid scrutiny of the upper house.

Institution of judiciary whether at apex, higher or lower level is meant to give justice and in particular speedy justice. Mammoth pend ency of cases cripples the judicial system and administration of justice. Justice delayed is justice denied, says the ancient dictum. Judiciary expected to be independent must be fearless when it comes to rights, life and personal liberty, and freedom as understood under the Universal Declaration Human Rights, constitution, and laws, especially rights of minorities in a diverse Indian society. Why should there be any hesitation to call a spade a spade.

In a federal democracy judiciary plays a pivotal role in maintaining balance between States and centre. Special status to different States in the constitution for historical reason to meet the aspirations of the local people and their traditions and culture need protection from apex court to prevent majoritarian upsurge of emotions to interfere for homogenising. Judiciary consisting of both bar and bench must introspect.

The government known as executive has political part and permanent part, one is elected and other is selected. One which is permanent known as bureaucracy is expected to be politically neutral and enforce laws, rules and regulations without fear and favour. Policies, plans and programmes must be designed and executed with proper delivery system. Political part must be responsive to the people. Once elected to power they should belong to all, no matter who voted for them to power and who did not, and remain above the petty party politics and should be free from casteism, communalism, sectarianism, and regionalism.

Here lies the cardinal principle of developing consensus for stable governing architecture which pre-supposes respect for those who are in Opposition. SABKE SAATH SABKE VIKAS is an excellent principle emanating from the fundamental features of the Constitution should be practiced and not to remain as a mere slogan just as “Garibi Hatao,” a clarion call, should be implemented in letter and spirit.

Political part of the executive must respect the independent advice of permanent part however unpalatable it may be. Under this traditional and well established framework there is no scope for loyalty to a person or party. Members who constitute both the parts, political and permanent, must introspect and do honest heart searching whether they follow this golden rule in a constitutional democracy.

Election must be free and fair. It depends upon political parties and the agency who conducts it. Can it be possible with vulgar display of money and muscle power? Is it believable that it is possible when there is doubt about the neutrality of agency conducting and supervising the election ?Should the members to that body be chosen on loyalty and not on the grounds of integrity and probity?

In a modern State media is a vital institution evolved over time whether it is print, electronic, and now social media. Should they not remain free of control, either political or financial? Big question is, are they?

In the 21st century civil society whether regional ,national or international provides a necessary check on functioning of constitutional and legal machinery and give guidance and support to the State, government, society etc. Are they given the opportunity to do so if they are choked with flow of funds and hounded down perpetually under the grounds of anti-nationalism and sedition?

The diversity of the Indian society is well recognized and those who have studied history of the sub-continent seriously will know how and why diversity has taken place in the geographic entity known for centuries as India and recognize how traumatic it was during the bloody partition, mergers of princely states, followed by inclusion on the erstwhile the French and Portuguese territory and finally Sikkim, and to what extent there are multiple languages, religious beliefs, castes, creeds and ethnicities dispersed across the country some concentrated in geographic locations while some are not, are very well known.

Essence and principle of protecting diversities were ingrained in the constitutional mechanism to avoid fissiparous trends. Not appreciating the cause of rumblings, dissatisfaction and disaffection of Naga, Mizo, Manipur, Bodo, Kashmir, Assam in territorial areas and militancy of the past and present including in Odisha, AP, Chhatishgarh, MP, Maharashtra and Jharkhand by Naxalites and Maoists and sensitivities of people following religious faith other than dominant religion termed as minorities, and marginalized castes and indigenous people will be disastrous for the stability of the nation.

Trends now are disconcerting. Whom one would marry what food one would partake and what trade and profession one would follow cannot be called into question by law enforcing agencies. What is most unfortunate is self-styled vigilante group merrily imposing summary justice on the highways and streets with law enforcing agencies looking other way. If the country is signatory to the International Convention based on Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all political parties forming government are bound by it morally and legally.

Challenge to security of the nation is not only from outside. Much that has been told earlier is the cause of internal threat, if not tackled on time, and properly can be taken advantage of by those who have design to violate our territory from outside and destabilize the Indian republic. External threats are well known. In last few years there is rapid polarization of powers in the globe and possible realignment.

China has risen and strong economically and militarily. Its influence around our neighbourhood has ominously enhanced. Unstable situation in south China sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Jingjiang (Sinkiang), unpredictability of Kim of North Korea, and tension around Senkaku island between Japan and China can be the flashpoint of conflagration and what impact it will have on India’s security with perpetually hostile Pakistan,uneasy northern border with China and not friendly Taliban led Afghanistan and growing tension in UKRAIN with heavy concentration of the Russian troops is unpredictable. India must remember Russia is our old friend. We should not be easily carried away by QUAD and expect any undue support from AUKUS.

The challenges which the Indian Republic face need wisdom and not demagogy, and comprehension of reality and not self-delusion.

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