India at 67: Have we taken our freedom for granted?

Written by: Rizwan Azad
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India celebrates its 67th Independence day on Friday, 15th of August 2014. The Tricolor will be hoisted on the historical Red Fort followed by a speech by the honurable prime minister. We, Indians, will have a day off from our school, colleges and offices and that's what these national festivals stands for the majority of the population- a day off, a holiday.

Why should anybody care about the history, the ideology and the philosophies behind the freedom struggle that ultimately won us freedom, as long as people gets a holiday on Independence day, Republic Day or Gandhi Jayanti!! What pains me the most is how granted people take the freedom for.

We inherited a free India from our forefathers with no perpetual efforts and sacrifice but what is even more painful is that we have failed as a nation in treasuring and nurturing free India. While our great freedom fighters and visionaries put their lives at stake in winning us freedom and making us a democratic country but the mantle of taking the progressive ideas ahead rests on the shoulders of the modern generation especially youths.

Independence and freedom are not merely about hoisting flags, organizing cultural programms, singing national anthem and distributing sweets. It's much more than that. Freedom is an ideology, a belief and a philosophy. My idea of a free India is a country where there is no disparity and differences among people irrespective of their religion, caste, creed, color, belief or ideology. My idea of a free India is a country where there is love, respect, tolerance and acceptance among people no matter what their religious beliefs are, or what their political leanings or ideologies are, or what language they speak, or which strata of society they belong to.

Let's celebrate the pluralism of India that exists nowhere else. Let's respect and celebrate the differences. My idea of a free India is a country where food, shelter, education and medical treatment is not restricted to the elites but is a right of each and every citizen of the country. A better standard of living makes for a prosperous and healthy country. While we have countered and controlled infant mortality rate to a great extent with advancements in drugs and medical facilities, we still fare poorly on malnutrition and death due to hunger and disease. India as a free country needs to plug the hole and narrow the gap on deaths caused by malnutrition if we are to become a disease-free country.

Education is the building block of any nation and India is no different but the data and statistics of school drop outs, lack of quality teachers in government schools, lack of toilets and hygiene in schools, and children unable to afford to go to schools gives astoundingly horrible figures.

Education system, accessibility of education by one and all, quality of teaching, numbers of schools in remote and rural areas are the areas we need to work on immediately to improve the quality and standard of our manpower. My idea of a free India is a country where there is a respect for the law of the land for a lawless country has always gone astray. Constitution provides us with laws and regulations but the complete enforcement of laws depends on how aware and educated citizens are about the laws.

Following and respecting simple laws can help us build a better India. My idea of a free India is a country where each and every language, culture and beliefs are respected and celebrated. If India has to grow it must give due importance to Indian languages and culture but must not force feed them to the people. We must welcome and embrace new ideas and technologies in a bid towards modernization but at the same time must keep our distinct and unique identity of a multi-coloured, multi-cultured nation intact for that's our indispensable asset. And finally in words of Rabindranath Tagore, my idea of a free India is a country where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. Each and every citizens of India must live with a sense of security and trust.

That sense of security and trust has to be imbibed by the Government by bringing citizens together by means of active participation in nation building and inclusive growth that caters and serves the need of people of all society and community. A sense of security can't be delivered without dispensing justice for one and all that is fair, timely and unbiased. Heads of citizens can be held high only when there is equal opportunities for employment without any bias or prejudice.

We are a free country without doubt but our freedom seems to be more of a status granted by British than a freedom in true sense that respects and celebrates the pluralism of this land. We are enslaved by social dogma, sexism and racism, fanaticism and we keep feeding these with hatred and disrespect for each other. My idea of a free India is my dream of an India that I would like to pass on to the next generation so that they can live and breath in a free, independent and modern India.

The responsibility to make India of my dream rests on me as much as it rests on each every responsible citizen of the country. The change starts with us. As Bapu said "Be the change you want to see."

[The author runs an institute called Aspire Educations in Delhi. The opinion expressed here are the author's own]

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