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India’s journey post-independence

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As we hear the clamor about negative news all the time from mainstream media whether it is cable TV, Newspapers or recently grown digital content developers, I just thought to mention India’s progress which has been achieved in the last 70 years. At the same time, India has been a largely free and democratic society along with sustaining its national integrity despite a diverse population in terms of regional aspirations and language pride. With these facts it makes sense to claim that India is a much better place than it used to be at the time of independence. Although intrinsic parameters are hard to define, below standard measures are sufficient to support such a claim.

Economy: At the time of independence India was not even in the top 10 by GDP (nominal) measures despite having a large population. Today India stands at 5th position and soon to be at 3rd position in a few years by nominal measures as per IMF estimates. India is currently 3rd position in GDP (PPP) measures and will be replacing the US from 2nd position in the next decade.

Public Health: Life expectancy at time of birth during independence was 32 years. In 2011, it turned out to be 69 years. Same goes with maternal and Infant mortality rates, which have drastically reduced. Obviously, credit goes to scientific communities as well as Indian governments which have incorporated and encouraged those policy instruments for making such shifts.

Education: Looking at the literacy rate ~16% during 1951 census and ~75% at 2011 census and that is an outstanding achievement by any means. Looking at Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) at primary, secondary and higher education gives similar scenarios. Very satisfying thing is that India has received more than 95% GER consistently since the last 5 years for primary education.

Poverty: Population below poverty line during independence was around ~65%  when population was 350 million, which has reduced to 15 to 19% for 1.4 billion population on similar measuring frameworks. Many poverty reduction measures have played their role even though they have low efficiency and leakage. Since 1991 economic reforms, this poverty reduction is happening at a much faster pace.

Defense: One of the largest standing armies was not even in the top 15 during the 1950 era for defense spending. Today, India is the fifth largest defense spender in the world. One negative aspect needs to be mentioned i.e., most spending goes in buying ammunition and instruments where indigenous manufacturing could have contributed more. 

Free and fair elections: Except for a few instances, India has largely conducted free and fair elections despite having a significant illiterate population. Transfer of power between successive governments has been also smooth in contradiction with our neighbors and other independent countries in similar time frames.

Comparison: Generally comparing with other countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Korea, China, African countries. India has made significant strides maintaining democratic framework. Few cases need to be mentioned like South Korea and Singapore, both have achieved one of best GDP per capita despite being in the same situation 50 years ago. At the same time, we do not forget these are smaller countries compared to India in terms of population and diversity.

Looking at these facts, it is very hard to deny India’s progress in the last 70 years despite maintaining democratic set up. At the same time, we do not need to be complacent about it and push the government for economic and social reforms which will make India prosperous and just society as described in the preamble of our constitution.

Thank you for your time!

-Mohit Kumar

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