Independence Day 2023: An Introspection

Dr Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*

On 15th August 1947, India liberated itself from 200-year-long colonial subjugation and got ordained as a sovereign nation. Since 1947, every year India celebrates Independence Day on August 15 with grandeur, joviality, zeal, fervour, alacrity and enthusiasm. This year too, the country is gearing up to celebrate its 77th Independence Day on August 15, 2023. Some individuals put forth the argument that August 15, 1948, was the first anniversary of India’s independence, by which logic, today’s event is the 76th anniversary of Independence, and this won’t be wrong to say.

However, counting the number of Independence Days celebrated in India, it will be 77th because the hard-earned freedom that India achieved on August 15, 1947, from British domination was the country’s first-ever Independence Day. Hence, in totality, the correct way to say is that India is celebrating the 76th anniversary of its independence but it’s still the 77th Independence Day.

India’s freedom struggle was a watershed moment in history, marked by a diverse array of factors that contributed to the eventual overthrow of British colonial rule. The historiography of this crucial period is a drapery woven from the threads of various interpretations, highlighting the multifaceted interplay of political, socio-economic, cultural, and ideological forces that impelled the quest for India’s sovereignty.

15 August is a special day for Indians to pay tribute to India’s freedom fighters and leaders who fought for freedom.     It is a reminder of the many sacrifices and struggles made by the Indian freedom fighters to help the country achieve its freedom from the British Raj. The day also invokes feelings of patriotism for the nation and the willingness to serve the country and lead it to prosperity. It also creates a sense of unity and duty among citizens.. The day serves as a reminder of the value of freedom and emphasises every citizen’s responsibility to preserve and protect the country.

Led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Independence movement began with World War I . In 1947, the Quit India Movement resulted in the British leaving the country. On July 4, 1947, the Indian Independence Bill was introduced in the British House of Colonials. British dominance came to an end after 200 years on August 15, 1947. The British enacted the Indian Independence Act on July 18, 1947, and the entire act was the reason for the Indian Independence Movement, which had been active for a long period of time.

Many leaders played a prominent role in the Indian freedom struggle, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Subhas Chandra Bose, and many more. Several brave fighters laid down their lives for our country.

On August 15, 1947, the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, hoisted the national flag at the Lahori Gate of Red Fort in Delhi.  Since then, every year, the flag is unfurled from the Red Fort by the incumbent Prime Minister, followed by an address to the people of the nation. On August 15, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver his 10th consecutive Independence Day address – also his last before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls – with a mood of anticipation around the annual showpiece event that he has used to present his government’s report card.

The Indian National Flag which is in use now was designed by Pingali Venkayya, an educationist and freedom fighter from Andhra Pradesh. The present national flag has three colours – saffron representing courage and sacrifice, white representing peace and green representing prosperity. The Ashok Chakra in the middle represents the cycle of life.

India has made many strides in different fields since independence, though long way to go. Now, India is home to the largest number of hungry, poor people in the world.  Now, problems of religious fanaticism, linguistic antagonism, and communal skirmishes are looming large and threaten the unit integrity of the nation especially our cultural diversity and syncretic culture. Society is now torn asunder and there is a rapid erosion of moral, and ethical values. A culture of hedonism and violence has gripped society. Human beings have grown more insensitive, arrogant and vindictive.

Last year, the aim of the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign was to make the relationship with the national flag a more personal one rather than just keeping it formal or institutional, said the Union Ministry of Culture. Under the banner of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, last year’s Independence Day was observed. ‘Panch Pran’ (five pledges) was the main highlight of his speech Prime Minister in 2022, as he called upon people to make India a developed nation by 2047, remove any trace of the colonial mindset, take pride in our legacy, boost the strength of unity and fulfil the duties of citizens with honesty.

The theme for Independence Day 2023 is “Nation First, Always First”. All the programs and events on this day will be based on this theme. But now rich, powerful corporate are first. Corruption, malversation and nepotism are gnawing the vitals of our system. The system is rigged in favour of the rich, powerful and corporates.

Politics, which is one of the soberest activities of human beings based on the blend of reality and morality, has become only rich people’s game.  Politicians are only worried to retain power or snatch power with problems of people being relegated. . Democracy has been confined to only the right to suffrage.

According to a report released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 43 per cent of present Lok Sabha MP have a criminal background and with a criminal background, one has more chance to win the election. Further, the average assets of Lok Sabha MP are around Rs 20 crore while that of Rajya Sabha MP is Rs 55 crore.

Similarly, according to a report released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW), the total assets of 4,001 MLAs across the country are worth Rs 54,545 crore. The report claimed that the total assets for 1,356 BJP MLAs analysed is Rs 16,234 crore, for 719 Congress MLAs analysed is Rs 15,798 crore.

Besides the BJP and the Congress MLAs, the report said that 146 YSRCP MLAs have assets worth Rs 3,379 crore, while 131 DMK MLAs have assets worth Rs 1,663 crore. The report also said that 161 AAP MLAs have total assets worth Rs 1,642 crore.

The amount of total assets of sitting BJP and Congress MLAs are larger than the 2023-24 annual budgets of Mizoram Rs 14,210 crores and Sikkim Rs 11,807 crores, respectively. The report was released after analysing the self-sworn affidavits of sitting MLAs in State Assemblies and Union Territories across the nation. The data has been extracted from affidavits filed by the MLAs prior to contesting their last elections.

India is a flawed democracy according to Global Democracy Index of Economist Intelligence Unit ( EIU) . Democracy is sliding in India as India is dubbed as electoral autocracy. India is relegated to partially free democracy from free democracy.

India ranks 108th in the Electoral Democracy Index of the V-dem Democracy report 2023. The country ranks way below countries such as Tanzania, Bolivia, Mexico, Singapore and Nigeria. India has also been named in the top 10 autocratising countries in the last 10 years in the report released in March 2023.

India’s ranking dipped from the 100th position in 2022 to 108th this year in the report’s Electoral Democracy Index (EDI) while it was 97th in the Liberal Democracy Index (LDI). The Liberal Democracy Index captures both liberal and electoral aspects of democracy based on 71 indicators such as free and fair elections, political and civil rights and more. India is ranked abysmally at 161 out of 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index. When there is erosion of freedom of press and decline in democracy, citizens should be more conscious to preserve our hard-earned freedom.

(*The author is an Odisha-based eminent columnist/economist and social thinker. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected] )

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.

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