Indeed, it is also necessary to look at the shortcomings rather than crow over the successes because only then we can pay attention to these factors and do something to overcome them.
That we have managed to survive as a democratic state, are capable of holding elections and voting, and are leaders to power are no mean achievement, considering that we are a nascent republic in a region in which dictators and military takeovers are none to rare.
We still have troubled areas in the North-East and particularly, the Kashmir problem that cannot be wished away, but the overriding fear of Balknisation has receded.
Domestic traditions seem to have become rooted in our way of thinking. But when we see the quality of governance, we see how we have failed. Unless there is a firm adherence to the rule of law, there can be no development worth the name.
Unless there is a commitment to the equality of law, we will remain a mediocre force in world polity and economy; we will also be what is becoming a fashionable word these days—a ‘soft’ state.
For, unless the law-enforcing agency is free and unfettered of undue political influence, the common man will not try to speak out against injustice, leave alone act against it.
Ultimately, unless the quality and vision of our politicians and law-makers improve, the future does not seem to hold out much promise.
On the socio-economic and the technological front, we have a mixture of achievements and failures. Certainly, our GDP has outgrown what has been called the Hindu rate of growth.
Incomes have risen and so have spending power. The structure of the economy has been transformed, with the share of agriculture having come down from 49 per cent to about 25 per cent and the share of services accounting for more than 50 per cent.
Foodgrains production has gone up several times from 50 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 233 million tonnes in 2008-09. Industrial expansion has, no doubt, taken place. Some industries have soared—software and telecom, for instance. There are more brands of consumer goods available to the Indian buyers—at least the urban buyers.
But the picture is highly lopsided. In core areas we have stupendous shortcomings; as somebody has pointed out, more Indian homes have televisions than toilets, and rural India still has little potable water and less power.
Infrastructure is both sufficient and inefficient—a deadly combination that adversely affects our industrial progress.
We have immensely bright young scientists and economists working abroad, most of them being products of our technical institutes and centres of higher learning.
Life expectancy and literacy are up and the death rate is down to less than nine per thousand. However, we are still way behind some of the other nations of Asia in the field of literacy and primary education.
The state has failed in this sector, for it was the state’s duty to see that children of this country are educated. There are two categories of Indians—one which enjoys access to Internet and all the modern amenities that technology is able to produce, and the other that does not know even the alphabet and lacks the purchasing power to eat one square meal a day.
We have mastered the technique of soaring into space and mapping ground water and minerals, but the reach of these facilities is grossly restricted. The day-to-day life of a majority of Indians remains unaffected by science and technology.
The equitable distribution of resources that was once dreamt of is still a dream. There are so many Indians still lacking basic health facilities; they have to trek miles before they can avail of a modicum of medical attention. But we have to admit that several deadly diseases have been brought under control and an attempt is being made at immunisation of children to protect them from disability.
Social uplift is seen to be feasible only through reservations, and not through encouraging merit and providing equal opportunity to one and all.
A policy for ten years, to enable the downtrodden to catch up with the more fortunate, has been extended automatically to serve political ends. Now more and more sections of the populace went to jump on to the bandwagon of reservations.
Are we secular? Even if by ‘genes’ we are so, vested political interests have turned the very term to mean different things to different people. Communal riots still dog us. Over the years, suspicion among communities has risen, not diminished.
Most of the responsibility for this state of affairs lies with the politicians who exploit religious sentiments to create vote banks. In view of persisting problems, does the Constitution need a review?
If we look at some of the amendments of the past, the Constitution appears to have been modified in no small way. As the eminent constitutional historian, Granville Austin has pointed out, “Neither the idea of reviewing the Constitution nor the topics to be discussed is new.” There have been major ‘reviews’ in the past, he says, starting with the one that produced the Ninth Schedule to protect certain government- selected laws from judicial scrutiny.
Yet another review began with the Golak Nath case of 1967, extending through the Nath Pai Bill and producing the 24th Amendment and finally the Supreme Court’s ‘basic structure doctrine’ in the Keshavananda Bharati case. Then came the Swaran Singh Committee in 1976 and the consequent 42nd Amendment, which many have called a ‘mini constitution’, so deeply did it alter the very form of the Constitution and threatened the very democratic structure of the country.
Then there was a review, this time positive, to overturn some of the drastic changes brought in by the 42nd Amendment, and the 43rd and 44th Amendments came about. In the 1980s came yet another review, by the Sarkaria Commission, whose report has, unfortunately, been gathering dust over the years.
As for ensuring stability, he points out the governments will become stable not through constitutional amendments, but when factionalism and its causes decline. “The Constitution,” as Granville Austin says, “needs less to be reviewed than to be implemented.”
Indeed, most of the ills that beset us today, whether it is on the economic front, in the social arena or in the educational field, may be attributed to the poor quality of governance, and unless the matter gets the attention it deserves, no development is possible.