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Happy Independence Day

Dr Nitin Pandey

15th August is celebrated each year in India as “Independence Day”; Independence from foreign rule that is. On this day in 1947 as the Indian Flag replaced the Union Jack the Gora Rulers were replaced by the new Indian Rulers. Did this really liberate the masses of this sub-continent or merely replace one set of rulers with another? Are we Indians really free?

Before the British came, the Subcontinent was ruled by a number of families, each with their own kingdom. The rulers had absolute powers, were above the law and were not answerable to anyone. When they died, someone from the family replaced them and the story continued. Were Indians free then?

After the British left, the Subcontinent is still ruled by a small number of families, with their own domains. The new rulers have absolute powers; they are above the law and are not answerable to anyone, for the 5 years they are in power. When they die, someone from the family replaces them and the story continues. Are Indians free now?

Was the Indian freedom struggle waged solely to replace the set of rulers or was it to give its people freedom from oppression, freedom from misrule, freedom from exploitation, be it foreign or domestic?

Four Pre-requisites for India’s Freedom
Police Reforms Freeing the police from political stranglehold will ensure corrupt and law breaking politicians and big-wigs will never go scot-free.
Limit number of terms No person should be allowed to occupy the same Government post more than twice. This will reduce the rush for and arrogance of power.
Direct Democracy Should be introduced with the power of recall, initiate and referendum given to ordinary people.
Evaluate possible change in the System of Governance The efficacy of Westminster System of Governance in the Indian context needs to be evaluated and a possible switch to the US system discussed.
Politicians of today are the Maharajas of yore. Specific families are at the helm of affairs in most parties, they are above law for they can amend the law as and when they please, they are directly not answerable to anyone when they are in power and they continue to misrule and exploit Indians on basis of religion or region to further their own narrow ends often at the cost of the country. Anyone who dares question them rues the day, as did the traffic policeman who a few days ago tried to prevent a BJP leader in Dehra Dun from violating traffic rules. He was beaten, his uniform torn and finally suspended from service.

Sharing this royalty with the politicians is the bureaucracy. From the pan chewing Chaprasi to the Sahib’s driver and sometimes to the Sahibs themselves; the feeling of being “rulers of India” is all-pervading.

The reason why “royal” political families thrive is because of the system of governance and politics in this country. The Westminster System of Governance may have served the relatively educated United Kingdom well, but has resulted in creation of these elite rulers in India. Power and money gives rise to more power and money. Politicians loathe giving up either and do not hesitate to misuse regional or religious feelings to preserve their hold on them, even if it harms the country. The only way to counter this is to ensure every citizen has the potential of holding the reigns of power directly in his hands and politics is not the preserve of a few.

We can only be truly free when all citizens are equal, have equal dignity of life and an equal opportunity to govern the country. As long as the power is in the hands of a select few, we will continue to be exploited and misruled.

Our forefathers liberated our country from foreign rulers, but true freedom still eludes Indians.

Happy Independence Day!

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