To start with, in the last 60 years, India has shown a lot of resilience, overcoming traumas of partition, war and political assassinations as well as disastrous failures of government. It has overcome all of these as a more prosperous, modern state that is being recognised by the rest of the world. However India has to overcome its attitude of bhagwan bharose. Despite the progress, that still seems to be the guiding factor for many Indians.
Looking ahead, I see three main areas of challenge.
India is still to establish the correct balance in democracy between its different institutions. This means that politicians have to shed some of their power, there is too little check on them. There is politicisation of too much that should not be politicised.
Until there is a really independent bureaucracy which does not allow politicians to interfere, the process will remain skewed. There also needs to be a judiciary that is able to inspire fear. The police force needs to be responsible to courts, not to the government. Unless these systemic ills can be addressed, this imbalance will continue.
Another area of concern is the growing economic imbalance. While there is an overall increase in wealth, the poor largely are getting benefiting from the fruits of economic growth. A major reason for lack of economic growth among the poor is due to the lack of adequate access to services for them, especially education and health.
South Asia is still not united. The region is still living in the shadow of partition. Where the rest of the world has realised the crucial importance of regional cooperation, South Asia is lagging behind. The countries still carrying that past baggage, and that has held up progress in many aspects. The situation was actually better under the British as there was a common market and a uniform communication system. India, as the largest country, must take a larger share of the responsibility.
Unless these issues are addressed, I do not believe that India will be able to exploit its undoubtedly vast potential and will remain backward, politically and economically.
The problems of the administration are being addressed by higher courts and the Election Commission to an extent, but there is an urgent need to make the bureaucracy function.
India has a great advantage due to its plurality, an aspect that needs to be stressed and maintained. Indian pluralism can be a pattern for the other countries. While I do believe that pluralism is under threat, and I sincerely hope that it will survive.
As told to Suman Tarafdar