Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara…Tho Sur Bane Hamaara…

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It has been a long arduous journey.  Initiated at the stroke of midnight on 15th August 1947, today, on 15th August 2006, India completes 59 years of Independence.  As we step into our 60th year of ‘freedom’ some questions still haunt us.  What does ‘Freedom’ mean to each one of us?  In this tryst with destiny, have we emerged as winners or are we still struggling with the concept of being ‘Indian’?  Have we thrown off our shackled burdens of oppression or have we accumulated more on these tired shoulders? To sum it up:


After 59 years of Independence ? Are we truly Independent???


To answer this question, Mangalorean.com has rounded up some of our most conscientious Indians from around the world, whose views are held in high esteem by our readers.  Their candid answers will surely force us to take a long hard look at our failures and achievements, our despair and our hopes….Be prepared then to be immersed in a potpourri of hard-hitting intellectual perspectives.
 
Yusuf Ali MA (Managing Director, EMKE Group, UAE) 


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India reduces unemployment rate by 100%, India ranks among the top five economically self sufficient countries, India in the finals of World Cup Football, an Indian heading the UNO, India bans unlawful hartals and bandhs, Air India rated as the best carrier in the world, the list of my dreams goes on..
 
The moment I think of the future of India, the way we should be shaping the growth of our nation or the way we should guide the youth on the path of growth and prosperity, only one person’s words comes to my mind instantly?..Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the Honourable President of India and one of the best brains India has ever produced.  There is no other person who talks more passionately, more optimistically, more positively about India, Indians and its magnificent future than Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.


I had the great fortune of listening to him speak live on stage while receiving the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award from him in 2005. Each word he spoke, each point he made, each dream he talked about aroused so much passion and pride in all of us present there, that words can hardly describe it.  After a long time, we have a person at the highest office who has taken onto himself, the task of encouraging the citizens of India especially the children to dream?.after all it is dreams that form the foundation for any development in any country. What better example than UAE, whose visionary rulers have dared to dream differently and the results are there for all of us to see.


Like any patriotic and proud citizen I also have my dream about India but at the same time looking at the various prevailing political, socio-economical, environmental and other related problems gripping the nation, I think its time we stopped day dreaming and get down to some concrete action in the right direction. It is high time we stopped blaming or taking refuge behind various excuses like increasing population, lack of education avenues, underdeveloped infrastructure facilities, etc for our dismal performance in various fronts.


It is high time all our decision makers, be it political leaders, bureaucrats or us, the citizen of India, got down together and come out with firm steps and action plans in a phased time-frame manner with clearly defined goals. The more transparent these plans are, the more involvement will be there from the common man. Nobody, be it private sector companies, professionals, businessmen, NRIs or ordinary citizens will ever scuttle any development plans if he is clearly aware of the goals and the means to reach there.  After all, I am sure, all of them are equally frustrated with the current pace of development and various different crisis’ they face daily.


We must all realize that our biggest asset right now is ‘our Human Resources’, which is educated, professionally qualified, competitive in the world market, so rather than looking at the size of our population as a disadvantage we must start looking for ways and means to make them more competitive in the world market and train them to meet the newer challenges facing the WORLD.


Let’s hope this Independence Day brings us peace, new hopes, new horizons, new aspirations and new dreams, not just for Indians but to all of those who are used to nightmares rather than dreams.


Brian Nazareth (Deputy Manager, National Travels, Muscat)


""India a country subjugated for centuries through conquests, unsettled socially by bouts of regular invasions from land and sea, the idea of independence dormant in the Indian psyche, crystallized only after 1857.


The euphoria of Independence was marred by the massacre of hundreds and the uprooting of millions of families resulting in the greatest human tragedy of the 20th century the wounds of which I would say may never heal.


Independence brought along with it a promise, a promise of being counted among the top nations of the world, a constitution that guaranteed rights to every individual, irrespective of caste or creed and an unstained canvas on which this new nation and its people could paint its colorful future.


The Gandhian philosophy and the values of Ahimsa and peaceful coexistence, inherited through the centuries became the cornerstones of our domestic and foreign policies.  A changing world order at that time and the birth of new ‘isms’ saw India struggling.  Secularism and Socialism became the new mantras which rather went down well with both the super powers. In a fast changing and cold war world the middle path advocated by India led us nowhere.  India was swiftly marginalized. Flirting with pseudo- socialist policies led us into the License, Permit Raj and corruption.


A sudden change of regime (personalities) in the 90s saw us wriggling out of the economy from the strait jacket.  Reforms spearheaded by the only ‘Meek Singh’ , the economic liberalization, opening of the Foreign Direct Investment and reduced red tape led to a higher growth rate and greater economic and social development.


India has not looked back since.


Are we truly independent?  Would we be if it were not for democracy? Would these experiments have taken place?  Would we be exposed to affordable education that is almost on par as in the west? (I still have as a memento, a Rs. 65 receipt which I paid as college fees in 1980). Would we enjoy the benefits of a top quality Medical/ Health infrastructure, Telecommunication network, Transportation network and a robust Private sector already on a great leap forward?  Do we hear of starvation deaths now?


Yes it is the vote that has made us truly independent! And thank God for that!


India for its vastness will continue to have its minor irritants, its internal boundary and water disputes, its quota problems, its insurgencies……. the ballot is the answer, the opportunity to exercise your freedom and independence.  India over the years has evolved, a land cultured by civilizations, bonded by a shared history, and now nurtured by democracy. .


Where on earth will you find a country with a Muslim President, a Sikh Prime minister, a Hindu Leader of the Opposition and a Italian born Christian Leader who binds together a Coalition which includes some Atheists to lead a country of 1 billion of which 85% is Hindu??


India embraces all.  Mera Bharat Mahaan.


Vijay D’Souza (PhD Student, University of Wolverhampton, UK)


""Though we have been freed from British occupation for nearly 60 years now we are still besieged by corruption and inequality.  In our subconscious effort to be accepted by all, we seem to be losing our true identity evidently reflected in our names, colloquial language, fashion and etiquette.  Not much has changed since Independence. On one hand we have people who struggle to feed themselves while the people in charge have forsaken their responsibility and fundamentalists are bent on tearing the country apart.


There is no escape from this ordeal. There is no fantasy dreamy enough to put this misery out of mind. Even the creative magic from our cinema has long been dead. It has become a patchwork of fashion, songs and never ending clich?s. Our athletes and sportsmen are at the mercy of the authority’s prejudiced plan. To make matters even worse, the real news from broadcast has been replaced by stories of controversies, scams and gossip.


All of us blame the other and expect India to be one of the best, however, that doesn’t mean trying to be like the West.  Our patriotic fervor should not be limited to the confines of bravery during conflict and national emergency but Indian-ness should mirror in our everyday activities.  Our nationality should be an ornament of pride and should define our character.  I look forward to an India which prides itself on human capital irrespective of its caste and creed.  An India which is advanced, self sufficient and which is forthcoming to accept its destiny to bear the moral high ground in this distressed world.  Unless we set the balance right between our traditional values and our desire to be the best we would still be struggling to be free. We have to decide now because it is us on whom India’s destiny depends on.


Austin Prabhu (Management Coordinator, Deltrol Fluid Products, USA)


""On August 15, 1947 India was declared as an Independent State from British Raj. It was a victorious moment for crores of Indians because after decades of struggle, their dream had finally come true.  Today we are celebrating India’s 59th Independence Day with more nuclear power, information technology power and with Mittal’s worldwide steel power!  Today Indians are spread all over the world than ever before.  Every field in the world, there are Indian nationals who are experts, who teach other foreigners and outsmart all of them with their knowledge and leadership.


150 years ago, the first war of Independence was declared.  Some of India’s strongest freedom fighters laid their foundation from Red Fort to fight against the British Raj.  Hindus and Muslims were very united in this fight.  Because of this unity, India thrashed the British Raj and declared Independence.  Hundreds and hundreds of India’s sons and daughters lost their lives to achieve this goal of independence for their country.


76 years ago, Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhiji launched Dandi Yatra against the British Raj and fought a non-violent battle and was very successful in celebrating a much deserved victory. He wanted to work for the poorest of the poor in India, because he said that this country belongs to them.  Is it true now?  Does this great democratic nation belong to the poorest of the poor?  If I say yes, it will be the biggest joke of the third millennium! 


Gandhiji promoted friendship and harmony amongst all Indians.  Are we walking in Gandhiji’s footsteps and his dream?  I don’t think so!  We create enemies amongst ourselves and fight in the name of religion, caste, creed and color.  Why are we shattering Gandhiji’s dreams?  Are there any logical answers for these acts of our own Indian miscreants?  Where did we loose our Indian culture and togetherness and start a British Raj of our own? 
 
Gandhiji fought for the poorest of the poor to provide them the basic necessities of life in India.  We have completed 58 years of Independence and are we there yet?
 
To see these dreams come true, it’s a long way to walk; a long way much more than Gandhiji’s Dandi Yatra.  We have to fight against our own politicians who control India for their own selfish benefits, for their own selfish commitments and to abet their own selfish finances.  We have seen so many programs declared by our politicians to promote Gandhiji’s dreams come true and so far very few of them have succeeded in bringing change amongst the poorest of the poor in India.


We can see a huge economic growth in India.  India is now self sufficient in providing basic food to her citizens.  However, how much of it is true?  There are lakhs and lakhs of poor people still struggling to find food they can’t afford even after they have worked long hours and struggled all day long doing hard work.  Lakhs and lakhs of people still live by the roadside in ‘Jopdees’ (slums) without proper shelter, proper basic education, clothes and even basic medical and preventive care for themselves or their kids.


Dear politicians, do you want to see the growth of prosperity amongst the poorest of the poor in India or line your own and your family’s pockets with wealth and prosperity only for the rich and famous?  Which school of thought did you go to study this philosophy and to become a politician?  We have the Government’s National Common Minimum Program. We want to see growth in the Saat Sutras like Agriculture, Irrigation, Education, Health, Employment, Urban Renewal and Infrastructure.  We want to bring Panchayati Raj to ensure Bharat Nirman.  We want to see Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan by strengthening the primary educational system in India. We have National Rural Health Mission to accomplish.  We want to control Aids epidemic in India.  Indira Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao and Rozgar Badhao are still struggling in lifting their heads up!  Are you a true politician of India who wants to proclaim by standing firmly that we are working for the poorest of the poor in India?  Without achieving these goals, can we Indians say ‘We are truly Independent?’


Veena Rao (Editor, NRI Pulse.com, USA)


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Even as I prepare to celebrate the 59th anniversary of India’s independence and puff my heart with pride and love for my country of origin, there is a part of me that admits that we are not truly free yet. True independence is not merely political – it means freedom from poverty, illiteracy, communalism, corruption, oppressive traditions and prejudices that sadly pale the
new Indian economic shine that we so love to talk about.


Of what significance is Independence Day to the rural farmer who is so mired in debt that he cannot afford two meals a day, or to send his children to school, or dream of a better future for them? Of what significance is Independence Day to the urban laborer who cannot read or write or partake of India’s economic progress after 59 years of Independence? Of what significance is the day to a young bride who is sold in marriage for a hefty dowry and mistreated thereafter? Of what significance is the day to a society where the birth of a girl child is still considered a sad day?  Of what significance is independence to those who are not free to make choices, simply because the choices are not available to them?


The day we can proudly say that these maladies do not afflict a majority of our people anymore; we can call ourselves truly independent. I hope we will be truly independent during my lifetime!


Amarnath Bantwal, Kuwait


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August 15th 1947 –  It was an event which kindled romantic overtures in writers, ignited verses that tugged many a heart-string. It was a midnight when the Union Jack was lowered and a tricolor was unfurled, the rose petals that showered from the heavens bode good-tidings, the promise of a new and emerging nation.


From the blood-soaked earth had sprung the hope of a new tomorrow, ‘Freedom at Midnight’ two inebriated authors had muttered. The Queen was humbled, the sahibs vanquished and a bald, bespectacled, frail, dhoti-clad skeleton called Mahatma (Great Soul) had ushered in Indian Independence. The ramparts of the Red-fort were now witness to a momentous piece of history.  India rejoiced!


As many of my generation did, I grew up with the knowledge that India was once upon a time enslaved.  It all started with the Mughals, some historians wrote. Christopher Columbus setting foot on the shores of Calicut had slavish connotations, a few other scholars have averred.  Being a Mangalorean, that makes for an elbow-distance proximity to history. Well, the silk route of the days of yore had paved the way for blood-thirsty, fortune seekers who now sought to wield the whip to usher in a couple of centuries of bondage that left India ravaged and brutally molested.


Independence Day was just another day, a day when there would be flag-hoisting ceremonies all over.   I would march dressed in my blue, freshly-starched Air Wing NCC uniform, leading my squadron at the local parade. "Parade Ko Manch Se Guzarne Ki Aajna Deejiye Shreeman",  I would request in chaste Hindi?a few drum beats and salutes later we would be back to square one.  The babu would hoist the national flag, sing a song of six pence and on-lookers would clap.


A public holiday, when India would come to attention, at the mere mention of the Bengali Babu’s soul stirrer Jana Gana Mana.


It took a few million deaths, martyrs and civilians alike, arsonists, revolutionaries, a salt march from Dandi by the same goat-milk bred great soul, a heartless massacre by a schizophrenic colonel (or General) that left people plunging into wells to avoid being riddled by canons and bayonets, a sepoy mutiny, a large-scale burning of foreign goods that heralded a new dimension to political attires (Khadi had come of age), a deep-rooted clandestine love-affair of a first Lady with a rose-totting patriarch of India’s political First family.  He loved Children, our teachers told us and we believed them.


Rhetoric as it may sound, Indian Independence is 59 years old; a couple of years older than my mother, hence this maternal awe I bequeath.  Is India truly free is a question that I ask myself repeatedly, with a Silasic vehemence.


Approximately 17% of the world’s population belongs here and spawning at a rate that would put maggots to shame, draconian forms of discrimination, an inept democratic system with a constitution written by an untouchable (yet another social ill), India is shorn like never before.  India is still reeling under the clutches of feudal lords, caste and religion based discrimination, a womb-bursting desire that renders the family planning policy redundant.  The system drains the populace of its physical and psychological energies of the basic right to live, while we talk of fundamental rights and India shining.


Female foeticide, infanticide, dowry deaths, rapes on one hand; religious bigotry that has killed endlessly and sent fears up the spine of the living dead; Government machinery that is elected to fuel the politician’s insatiable thirst for power, someone please tell them coffins have no pockets.


I could ramble endlessly on these issues which harangue me without fail, but what’s the big deal?  I wish for the Tricolor without colors of caste, creed and religion, a chakra without spokes in the wheels of progress and a mast that symbolizes growth and not a phallic representation of the Indian man that is eternally lodged.


I wish for Independence, I wish for freedom from all ills.  I wish for a day when the chimes of a temple bell, the fervent call to prayer of a muezzin, the religious overtures of a Wahe Guru and the sign of the Cross co-exist in a bonding that reflects the true Indian democratic republic.


Keeping in mind, India’s giant strides in technology, education and Industry and a highly potent and virile work force, I wish for an Indian utopia.  Hope I live to see the day – India shining.


Joyce Alvares (Administrative secretary, Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar)


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The definition of Independence Day, as taught to us in school, is "the day India was liberated from the British rule". The earliest memory I have of Independence is the school holiday and also of receiving "mithai" laddoos in primary school on the previous day.  I also remember strangers handing out goodie bags, containing banana chips and laddoos, to people passing by. Hence August 15th has always been a day of festivity and celebration. August 15th was special for another reason ? as a member of the girl guides I looked forward to participating in the Independence Day parade at Nehru Maidan. Ah, those were the days!


‘Mera Bharath Mahan’ was the slogan of the day and my heart used to swell with pride every time I heard the song ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ on television.


Independence Day still remains a very special day to me, though being in a foreign land has its own limitations on how we celebrate this very important day.  Does celebrating our Independence Day on August 15th alone make us Independent?  After 59 years of Independence, are we truly independent?  In spite of the advancement in technology, is India Shining?  No doubt people have more luxuries now than at the time of Independence, but rather than simplifying life, they only seem to have made things more complicated.  Crime rates are on the increase and there is a decrease in racial tolerance.


For me, being independent means not having to go in search of greener pastures to a foreign land. Being independent means not nursing ambitions to possess a passport of a different colour.  Being independent means not having to cringe when introducing your heavily accented South/North Indian colleague to your American/ British boss.  Being independent means sending your child to an Indian school that follows an Indian curriculum without complaining about the wrong pronunciations and grammar that is being taught by the teacher (this may not be applicable to all).  Being independent means not having to bribe your way through the rigmarole associated with any government/legal procedure. Being independent means being able to love everyone around me irrespective of caste, creed or colour and be concerned about everyone’s welfare, as I am concerned about mine – to share what God has given me with those less privileged ones.  India will be independent when each of her citizens is able to enjoy the fruits of freedom. Only then will India truly be Saare Jahan se Achcha Hindustaan Hamara.


To quote Rabindranath Tagore, "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, into the freedom of heaven let my country awake!" When this is accomplished, only then will we be truly independent. Jai Hind!


Agnel Pereira (Operations Head of First Leasing Bank, Bahrain)


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A question that will fox any Indian! One has to perhaps set aside all his patriotism to answer this question objectively.


Apart from the physical and sovereign independence achieved by Indians from the British (and the Portuguese rule in Goa, French rule in Pondicherry) have the Indians achieved independence otherwise?


The Constitution of India declared India to be a sovereign, socialist, democratic, secular republic. Well, we have achieved the objectives of being a sovereign, democratic republic. Today, India is a well respected country for these ideals and is treated as the world’s largest democracy. We then need to ask ourselves, are we secular? Have we achieved social freedom?


Largely, secularism is practiced by people all over the country despite desperate efforts of certain political parties to sow poisonous communal seeds. Contrary to the safeguards in our Constitution, some state governments have misused power to bring a bad name to the secular fabric of the nation. There is a growing need for the people of India to fight for freedom against the communal forces that are dividing India and making it go backwards.


Socially, we have seen government policies to uplift the lower classes, all of which appears to have been done for the selfish motives of each political party (vote banks) than any love or compassion for the deprived.  However, such policies have been faulty, resulting in continued vulnerability of the lower classes and castes.  Also due to such faulty reservation policies, quality of work in public life has suffered significantly.  There seems to be a false comfort level to which the lower classes have stooped to, under the protection of the government, but the equation somehow balances out at the end, considering the centuries of deprivation, oppression and exploitation received by them at the hands of upper castes. 


The Constitution also assures freedom of religion and faith but politically motivated groups have made a dent in public confidence through their acts of intolerance to the extreme minority faiths. While majority of Hindus want a secular India, it is the political intentions of the parties that brings in feelings of hatred among the younger generation. Young India, considered to be the largest in the world in terms of number of people in the age group of 20-40 years, will determine the country’s future ? taking it forward by eliminating the communal forces and building a powerful and independent India, or taking it backwards, by leaning on their communal preaching.


Talking about freedom of speech and expression, can a citizen point out the flaws in the system or point fingers at the wrongdoings of individuals without being witch-hunted? Your answer will be as good as mine.


Despite significant progress achieved in the last decade through some honest men at the helm of affairs, project planning and implementation appears to be lacking in commitment.  Whatever economic prosperity achieved by the country appears to be concentrated among the elite classes, still not reaching the socially and financially deprived classes. Giant strides in nuclear technology, progress in space research and abundant natural and manpower resources are unfortunately contradicted by sheer lack of infrastructure ? roads, power and water.


We still have a long way to feel comfortable, with over 30% of India’s population still below the poverty line and over 40% uneducated. If a small country like Japan needed less than 30 years to come out of the World War II devastation and become one of the most prosperous countries in the world today, it was mainly due to the selfless work habits and powerful voice of its people force.  The commitment of its Authorities. And, my favourite, Accountability. It appears our country lacks in all respects – political selflessness, collective people willpower and accountability.


Using the words of the father of our nation, unless a woman can walk free of fear in the middle of the night, the country cannot consider itself free. We can add a little more to this. We will be truly independent if we reach the level of 90% population above poverty line, 90% literacy (and 100% of children below the age of 14) and 90% of the villages electrified.  If our country exceeds the level of 90% who get at least a meal every day, and as many numbers get clean water to drink and medical attention for their serious illnesses, perhaps then we could proudly say we are truly independent.


From poverty, social injustice, racial discrimination, religious intolerance, health concerns, bonded labour, illiteracy, female infanticide?..


Significant economic progress through foreign investments, economic & trade liberalization and significant progress of select industrial and intellectual sectors does indeed raise hopes. There are several such success stories, but we need to make success infectious.  We can do it in 5 years, what we haven’t achieved in 59.


It won’t take long for India to be unparalleled in the world in all respects, political will willing, and human voice prevailing, of course!  Jai Hind.


Dr B.R. Shetty (Founder & CEO – NMC  Group, Abu Dhabi)


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No doubt, we are independent, but the fact remains that even after attaining Independence, today we do not have a properly educated elected community representative in the Parliament or State Assembly.


On India’s 59th Independence Day, my only wish for my country is that we will have educated and honest men to hold top offices. It is a well know fact that even among the top-level positions in our country, corruption lies unchecked.  Stamp paper scams, cheating the government etc all has the blessings of top level connections.  Land grabbing at government expense is another scam by those in high power.  Today our leaders make themselves popular by taking advantage of independent India.


As long as these kind of people exist in our government offices, India cannot be truly free.


Let us join to wish our honorable President & Respected Prime Minister, who right now are the best saviors of our country with a proper vision of growth rate at 9-10% per annum.


Jai Bharat Mata!


And, in short, the word from Mangalore City


Srinivas Rao (President of Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry  – Mangalore)


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We have attained Independence in some areas, but as for Independence in other areas, doubt still persists.  Our administrators need to be more responsible to the public.  They sometimes make laws that go against the public.  The public needs to be informed of every law that is made today.


Ganesh Karnik (Ex-Army Captain, present BJP MLC)


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We are not completely liberated until our leaders travel in bullet cars.  The general public lacks awareness with the concept of Independence.  Even though we are much ahead in economic reforms, our people are weighed down under poverty and unemployment.  To add to this, we lag behind in basic education also.
 
B Dayananda (Dakshina Kannada Police Superintendent, Mangalore)


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Since Independence, our country has shown tremendous development in key areas like Industry, Agriculture and Technology.  Every Indian needs to be proud of this fact.  However, there are many many areas that we still need to concentrate on.
 
Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat (RSS leader)


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We are not independent at all.  We are still slaves.  If we look around us, we will see that most Indians today are following Western culture.  This is nothing but a tragic situation.
 
M.R. Vasudeva (Airport Director, Bajpe Airport, Mangalore)


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Socially and politically we have traveled a long way.  The economy has become more liberal taking India to new heights.  However, we lack a philosophical framework like China.  But as long as we have a democratic setup in India, we are on our way to development.


(Mangalorean.com thanks all the above participants for their valuable input and co-operation. We also thank our team members ? R.K. Bhat, Mangalore, Claude Fernandes & Thomas Sequeira, UAE and Shaly Pereira, Oman for the conceptualization and compilation of this article)


The Mangalorean.com Family wishes all the readers, A Very Happy Independence Day!

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