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The Edict x Project Safar: Part II

A few weeks ago, we’d asked high school students from all across India, and indeed the world, to partake in a fundraising competition, wherein the best essays, photographs and artworks make it to the pages of The Edict. All that was raised through this fundraiser went into Project Safar’s efforts: that of arranging transport for our country’s stranded migrants.

This is the second of a two-part series, through which The Edict celebrates the winning works.

Writing: ‘Envision an Ideal Future for India Starting Today’ by Raunaq Singh Bawa India appears to be mired in a chakravyuh of challenges today, being burdened on multiple fronts simultaneously: a crippling pandemic, a dire economic state, social strife within her borders, and foreign aggression without. As of now, India is far removed from her ideal state, and solutions must be sought to achieve this vision for the future. However, in order to arrive at this ideal future, we must first look to the past.

At the midnight of 15th of August 1947, the Tiranga finally unfurled before its independent people, as the free nation’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed to the masses: ….At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man,…to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman…The is no resting for any of us until we redeem our pledge in full.

However, seventy-two years after this impassioned call to action by the revered statesman, his vision for the future still remains just that— a vision. Of course, we have certainly excelled in several fields, from becoming one of the world’s largest economies, to having our own space programme, a powerful military, a well-developed democracy, and achieving self-sufficiency in feeding a fifth of the world’s population. Yet, this is not enough. India has its fair share of unresolved problems, be it mass unemployment, communal violence, an outdated educational system, regressive social attitudes, gender inequality, caste pride and so on— all of which go to show that a great deal of the nation’s founders’ aspirations have still not been met.

My point being, it is futile to conjure up additional imagery for the future, when such a comprehensive vision is already laid out before us. No doubt, we must strive to address the newly emerging issues of significance in our society; but we must not get carried away by the want of envisaging completely different ideals. After all, with seven decades of unfulfilled aspirations, can we truly afford seven more? A single read of Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) of the Constitution is sufficient to bring home the fact that we remain far behind our existing aspirations for the future.

The present pandemic situation, while tragic and debilitating, has a silver lining: a chance to reboot, rethink, and restart. India is still opening up from the ‘strictest lockdown in the world’— with over 17% of the world’s population under lockdown at once. This drastic and abrupt halt in social, political and economic activity, provides an opportunity to reflect on issues that we lost sight of in the labyrinth of routine life.

Take for example environmental policies. Due to reduced industrial and automobile emissions, the lockdown saw a drastic fall in pollution levels all across India. This presents a golden opportunity for course-correction of environmental policy. Similarly, with massive proportions of economic, educational, and administrative activity being shifted to digital platforms, this must become the stepping-stone towards mass digitalisation, with most administrative, government, and corporate entities already dispensing with outdated practices for online forums.

The crisis also magnifies the innate flaws in our socio-economic-political systems. Gaping holes in social infrastructure, such as access to essentials (water, sanitation, electricity, and even internet coverage) are clearly visible, and hence requisite measures must be taken to ensure access to these, for all. Pertinent issues like enforcement of labour laws came to fore in wake of the migrant labour crisis. Glaring loopholes in the Indian public and private health infrastructure lay bare—with private services being too expensive for majority Indians, and public services suffering from pathetic management and poor hygienics. The lockdown enforcement also made the red tape, lack of transparency and accountability, of bureaucratic functioning more striking. The pandemic has incentivised Indian society and polity to make amends; and if these are achieved, the future for India, post-corona, will be far brighter, with equitable socio-economic development for all.

Pandemic-related crises aside, there has been a recent rise of communal tensions, due to the charged and polarised political climate. With protests against the government’s divisive policies turning violent in the national capital, and religious scapegoating taking place in the early days of the pandemic, one of the nation’s most persistent problems has once more made a resurgence. An ideal future for India, for moral and prudential reasons, must remain a proudly secular state while overcoming superficial differences of caste and creed. Similarly, inequalities of gender must be overcome, for sexual discrimination is the hallmark of a primitive, narrow-minded, and oppressive society.

Finally, India must strive to protect the Fundamental Rights, especially the Free Speech, of her people. Protection of Free Speech does not merely imply protection from infringement, but also from perversion. Indians, especially the media must learn to use this Right wisely. Indian Media today is the prime example of the perversion of this Right, with excessive commercialisation, politicisation, and sensationalisation of the same. Free Speech must be accommodated with a crackdown on Fake News and Hate Speech. Indian mindsets must be open-minded, yet capable of making educated and rational choices, thus making Indian society as a whole more harmonious, democratic, and sensible.

India as a nation has had her various ups and downs, but I am of the firm belief that the overall trajectory is an upwards one. In this period of unprecedented tragedy and crisis, let us not forget that this nation has made it through much worse, and has never ceased to surprise the world with her resilience. We too, must stay resilient, not just through this time of darkness, but through the years ahead—persevere in our never-ending quest for self-improvement as a proudly diverse, heterogenous, egalitarian, and prosperous nation.

Congratulations to Anvita, Aryan and Raunaq, and thank you to everyone who contributed!

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