Back in 2017, the government of India launched a very optimistic initiative under the name ‘Sankalp Se Siddhi‘. The motive behind it has been to accelerate towards a ‘New India’ by 2022, an India which is Poverty free, Casteism free, Communalism free, among others. It is already 2021, and the unfortunate truth is that there is still a long way to go to bridge the gap between the two Indias.
UNDP report has praised India for lifting around 271 million Indians out of poverty in the period between 2005-06 and 2015-16. Government has been very actively working to reduce poverty level in the country, as evident in its programmes like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) for housing, Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana (DAY) for skill training, One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) under PDS and many more. But the sad reality is that there still exists a massive economic inequality. According to Oxfam, India’s richest 1% hold more than 4 times the wealth held by the bottom 70%. Clearly, the rich are becoming richer at a much faster pace than the poor are moving up the economic ladder. The widening rural-urban gap is one of the primary concerns of the farmers today, who literally feed the rich by cultivating crops, but continue to struggle with poverty.
Caste is yet another factor that segregates India. Although the caste hierarchy is much complex and not just binary, we can still describe the reality of Indian society, to a large extent, using Louis Dumont’s binary opposites of purity and pollution. Discrimination, in some way or the other, continues to be made between the upper castes, traditionally considered pure, and the lower castes, denounced as impure. Although there has been mobility in the caste as suggested by the rising cases of inter-caste marriages, dalit capitalism etc., the general perception of the society is still entrenched in caste as evident in the cases of honor killing and well-off castes like Marathas, Jats and Patidars demanding quota benefits under OBC. The apex court, in a number of judgments, has emphasized that the sooner the discriminatory caste system is dismantled, the better it is for the unity and integrity of the nation.
Finally, it is imperative to mention about religion when talking about the Indian society. The preamble to the Constitution of India mentions India as a ‘secular’ society, which means the same as one of Gandhiji’s 11 vows, “Sarva Dharma Samantva” or “all religions are equal”. Yet, the ground reality stands in sharp contrast to the Constitutional prescription. The Hindu-Muslim divide has led to an atmosphere of fear and hatred, which was recently visible in the North-east Delhi riots of 2020. In words of experts and scholars, politics has played a key role in polarizing the Indian society on the basis of religion for vested interests.
It, therefore, is clear that the idea of ‘New India’ is incomplete without addressing the divide between the ‘two Indias’. Poverty, casteism and communalism are only a few to mention, but definitely the primary ones. A multi-stakeholder effort is the need of the hour to eliminate these social evils and achieve a New India in the true sense.