It was sixty seven years ago that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru spoke those memorable words, words that will echo in eternity. The vision that Nehru laid out, one that successive Prime Ministers have tried to work towards was “to build up 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 question we must ask ourselves is whether the promises made, all those decades ago, have been upheld. How have we fared as a nation?
Consider what has been accomplished. After decades of languishing at what has been called the ‘Hindu rate of growth’, the reforms implemented in the early 90s, unleashed forces that led to a paradigmatic transformation of the economy. Per capita income, which was growing at a pace that can at best be described as glacial, rose sharply. Recent data seems to suggest that India is now the third largest economy in the world. Absolute poverty, whichever definition one may choose to use, has over the last two decades come down dramatically. The literacy rate in India, when the British rule ended, was roughly 12 per cent. Today it stands at 74 per cent. Crude death rate has declined from 25.1 in 1951 to 7.6 in 2005. Infant mortality rate fell from 146 to 58. Life expectancy at birth for females which was 36.2 in 1951 has now risen to 67.
While the tremendous improvement on various economic parameters is undeniable, progress on others has been far from satisfactory. India ranks 135 on the human development index. A large section of the population still does not have access to clean drinking water, hygienic sanitation facilities, proper health care and education facilities. With a new government in power, one with the strongest mandate in decades, one hopes that the vision it articulates reaffirms and delivers on the pledge taken decades ago.