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The Republic is stronger


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As India celebrated the adoption of its Constitution for the 64th time on Saturday, some introspection on the state of the Republic is inevitable. New Indian President and veteran politician Pranab Mukherjee did the same.

A few years ago, I landed in the tiny airport of Nadi, Fiji, and was being driven to my hotel by an Indian-origin taxi driver. He asked me a simple question: “Desh (mulk) ka kya samachar (khabar) hai?

So, what was I going to tell him about this vast, diverse, divided, unequal, multilingual, beautiful, frustrating country from where his ancestors must have migrated more than a hundred years ago? What was the news I could give him?

In the end, my response: “Sab kuch theek hai.”

Looking back, what should I have told this man? Should I have told him about the abysmal failure of all mainstream political parties and leaders to provide Indians the basic nutrition, water, electricity and health services necessary for survival?

Should I have told him that those responsible for keeping people in poverty be charged with cognizable crimes?

Should I have told him that in the rush to acquire material wealth, inequalities had attained a tsunami-status that threatened to sweep the poor into the sea?

Should I have told him that India spends hundreds of crores of rupees on building the latest missiles and weapons systems, but can’t deal with the fallout of a cyclone or resettle those displaced by a dam project?

Should I have told him that the mainstream Indian media is dominated by the drive to rake in the money; people and issues be damned?

Should I have told him that millions of Indians believe that the only way of getting a job done is by bribing someone?

Should I have told him that India and Pakistan haven’t been able to settle their differences and move ahead on the path of adulthood that would allow for both their peoples to life in a spirit of friendship?

Well, there was a lot I could have told him then and a lot I could tell him now. It would appear that I was economical with the truth when giving the easy answer.

But I should have also him that India does have a set of people who want change and who want their government to deliver basic services to people cutting across caste and religion.

And, most of all, would want to tell him that the rape-and-murder of a young medical student in Delhi on December 16 had set off a movement for gender equality that could really empower Indian women.

That the crowds demanding change were good for Indian democracy and lent added muscle to the Republic.

That a commission of inquiry asked to suggest ways and means to improve women’s security had come out with a report in one month.

That this meant some Indians could deliver and work together on an issue that directly affects about 50 per cent of the country’s population.

That the push for good governance will continue.

And, that new means of communication will allow more assemblies like the ones we saw in Delhi and other cities in December and can happen again to push pressure on our rulers.

That to be re-elected you must do a little something for the electorate.

It would be a mixed answer to the question posed by the Fijian of Indian-origin.

That’s the news for him and me.


Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group

Author Image

Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan. He tweets @abaruah64.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (72) Closed

umesh bhagwat Jan 28, 2013 10:48am
bah! jiski lathi uski bhains!
Ram Jan 28, 2013 03:38pm
if the same article published in "Times of India", it would have made sense !! Nice article though..India is progressing and need non-greedy leaders..
Rahul Jan 28, 2013 11:01am
Not sure whether to thank the government for the success or blame the government for the failure, i think both people and government (civil admistration regardless of party) are responsible for the current state. They say you cant clap with one hand. So whats the solution ?
manomoni Jan 28, 2013 10:45am
Nothing new. Author always cynical and could not look at other positive aspects in comparison with the India at nineties...
Stranger Jan 28, 2013 10:36am
There is no need to be so negative.
Ajay Jan 28, 2013 10:18am
Every Time i found these types of frustrated articles by AMIT in pakistani newspapers only. Because in pakistan they are ready to pay a handsome amount to amit...Discusting.
Pragnesh Patel Jan 28, 2013 10:31am
Mr. Baruah, The issues you've mentioned are real and yes government can and should do something to improve the condition. But let me ask you one thing - living in India what have you done to help the poor, helpless, fight corruption, ... afterall, only way to change India is by changing Indians. Poverty, hopelessness, corruption, discrimation, ... have been in India forever, it'll take a different type of revolution to fix it. By the way, Delhi rape case is a national shame, but people's protest - that's progress. Able to maintain civil, democratic nation for 64 years - that's progress. Thriving middle class with real ecomonic growth - that's progress. Do your share to help India and Indians - change your attitudes to your servants, respect all individuals, teach your kids and your associate to respect all individuals, help anyone who cries out for help.. you get the point.
Cynical Jan 28, 2013 08:55am
The glass is half filled, or half empty. Take your pick.
Srini (Dallas,TX) Jan 28, 2013 07:51am
I agree with the issues mentioned, but how could you miss the positives - IT revolution, billion dollar businesses in several industries, entrpreneurs, and so on. It is not fair to just talk about the only issues. Also, mind you these issues exists all along - It is not like India was flourishing like USA before and came to this state. Fifteen years ago when I came to US, there was no identity for Indians, today Indians are treated with utmost respect - this is solely because of developments took place in India. Isn't it huge achievement? I am not for turning down the negatives, but this is the time to examine both positives and negatives.
manoranjan Jan 28, 2013 07:54am
False news India has well developed now and have a healthy economy.
Sandip Jan 28, 2013 04:05pm
I always like to see outstanding issues because thats why I go to work to resolve those issues. Not to celebrate parties about work accomplished. So this article makes sense to me but for others they might fill it as a negative article. But well good news is accomplishments, bad news is your new challenges. I like to look for new challenges.
Raja Jan 28, 2013 04:42pm
whatever happens, the Republic is still stronger
Madan Jan 28, 2013 04:45pm
Mr Amit, ur negative points about India are well known to everyone.u guys are always interested to publish this type of articles. i want a article from u ---"The development of India, before and after independent -a comparative study". CAN U DO THIS?
Paki Jan 29, 2013 12:33pm
I agree with the analysis that the article lacks originality and fails to inspire any meaningful thought process. However, from the barrage of negative comments for the author including personal attacks from our indian friends shows how intolerable they are like us here in pakistan to any kind of criticism...something which will keep both nations tied down to the pits they are in for years to come I am afraid.
Cyrus Howell Jan 28, 2013 05:19pm
All things are normal.
Cyrus Howell Jan 28, 2013 05:30pm
Have you taken India's pulse lately? I suppose Slum Dog Millionaire was far off the mark. I know Indians abroad who did not see that film because they don't want to be reminded of the truth or to feel guilty of abandoning India to the flesh eaters.
Cyrus Howell Jan 28, 2013 05:34pm
"Look at our neighbor and you will see the difference." Indians are becoming billionaires because they cannot wait for God to feed them.
musum Jan 29, 2013 09:34am
India is an ample example for true development. Our money, Our people efforts build India for tomorrow. There is a change of attitude by Politicians in a positive direction compared to the past. In India there is a huge need of infrastructure improvement, It has been a hamper for foreign investment in India.
Cyrus Howell Jan 28, 2013 05:47pm
Well, everyone is uncomfortable with the truth.
Cyrus Howell Jan 28, 2013 05:49pm
This is the time to examine both positives and negatives from America.
Chanakya Jan 28, 2013 05:54pm
Show me a perfect diamond, I'll show you a perfect country.
Chanakya Jan 28, 2013 06:11pm
One time Pt;Nehru was approached by a farmer, and the farmer started complaining about every thing, And the farmer asked this what you call a democracy? Pundit Nehru said"You're denouncing and putting down every thing at the very face of the prime minister of this great country, and he is listing, that's what democracy is all about'.
rajiv Jan 28, 2013 06:38pm
True... there you talk like Ron Paul... totally agree with that.. let people do their business and improve their lives...
gunjan kumar mishra Jan 29, 2013 11:37am
people in pakistan only compare themselves with india .india in a certain category ranked 3 and pakistan 4th .taliaaa we are not far below than indians.india having 1.2 billion population still manage to grow at the rate of 6% per annum.pakistani media should show to their people how a country which was once part of pakistan is going to be the next SUPERPOWER in 30 YEARS.
HNY2013 Jan 28, 2013 07:07pm
AMIT did you take that Taxi Driver to your hotel room? Did you tip him? If yes how much? Or were you so lost in the problems of the nation you forgot to be a good human being and do your share of helping another human being. Think Positive. Your worring wont help no one!
HNY2013 Jan 28, 2013 07:08pm
Awesome ! cant stop laughing
Sudheer Jan 28, 2013 07:28pm
This is an extremely shallow article and reaffirms my impression about Mr. Baruah as a pseudo-intellectual. The comments posted by the readers appear to be much more sensible than author's meaningless ranting about India and the issues related to her. India is huge and so are its problems. But, crying about inequality and asking for equal distribution of wealth without generating it, is simply a farce, which we as Indians endured for more than four decades, where, the so called numerous "socialist" governments promised Indian masses of the "roti, kapra our makaan", stifling the entrepreneurship of people of India. There is a golden rule, you cannot distribute something which you don't have. In the early nineties, all that the Indian govt. did was to allow Indian people to earn their own bread! And that was a miracle! It not only allowed tens of millions of Indians to pull themselves out of poverty and become as much rich as any European citizen, but, it also made the Govt.of India dirt rich, allowing the so called "pro-poor" politicians to indulge in corruption, not just in millions, but in billions! Our dear author, tragically or ironically, belongs to the same caste known in India as "Jholawallas", the bleeding heart pro-poor anti-bourgeois, with a cotton Kurta and Jhola (bag) over their shoulders, well known for discussing poor of India over a bottle of scotch (in older times it was vodka!) while sitting in a star hotel (of course the bill would be payed by a bourgeois). Whatever progress that India has achieved so far, is not because of the government, but, despite of the government. The biggest achievement of India is its amazing people, who, despite all odds, retain the capability to bounce back. Mr. Baruha should've told this stark truth to the Fijian taxi driver!
Cynical Jan 28, 2013 07:36pm
Fantastic response. Some people take themselves too seriously, the present author is one of them.
Sammy Jan 28, 2013 09:01pm
@ Srini,well said,even today if any one ask where are you from? I have came across Indian answering,I was raised in England,i m third generation in Keneya,they will rather pick Keneya then Giagantic india lol
vijaykumar,salem Jan 28, 2013 09:31pm
who is this man?People are all the same all over the world,give them power,they will misuse it irrespective of religion or country.All one needs is a foolproof system that cannot be eroded.Un fortunately in India politicians managed to corrupt a system made by the stalwarts like Dr.Ambedkar to suit their needs.It is not an easy thing to be democratic country but India is a succesful democraqtic country mainly due to the common man who knows when to change the top.It may be a bit difficult to understand for people in a country where words of a military man or former cricketer get printed in the front page.
Indian2 Jan 28, 2013 09:58pm
Good one....hehehehehe :D
kt Jan 28, 2013 10:20pm
I have started believing after reading one after the other Amit's article that Amit is mentally sick. If you agree, please like this response...
Chanakya Jan 28, 2013 11:07pm
The very first thing to acknowledge the problems, once we do it, we're bound to find a remedy.We Indians have, or at least used to have the mentality of denial. That does not work.Sweeping under the rug will pile up the garbage. Actually for a last few years the younger generation is showing a remarkable awakening, it reminds me of the movie"Network".:'You stick your head out and shout"I'm fed up with this system and I can not take this any more", and without any blood shed. The system will change, just trust your self, stay on the right path.
PN Jan 28, 2013 11:17pm
Amit, These problems & issues have been written about endlessly, both by Indians as well as non-Indians. Your article is an old cliche, and throws no light or nor it is original. What you should have articulated rather what, how, when, who should do to remedy those issues. Your article lacks originality and smacks of being snobbish.
Gautam Jan 28, 2013 11:17pm
I think he gets paid so he can provide an 'Indians' perspective of how similar India is to Pakistan; and that is somehow comforting to Pakistani readers!
h.mani Jan 29, 2013 12:11am
You live in India?Smart,but no cigar.I remember my dad wrote to Nehru in 1953,what essentially you wrote.My old man on a beat up typewriter 125 long pages to him,what socialism and state control would do to India.It was no use,even his liberal son gave up in 68 and left for US,and never looked back or even visited a doomed nation.It is a lost cause,things are only going bad to worse,the other shoe is about to drop,if Asish Nandy episode is any clue,you are soon going to lose your freedom even to write in Dawn,bad things are on the horizon.Good luck,guys,my heart felt sympathy to both Pakistan & India.H.Mani
Shahid Iqbal Jan 29, 2013 01:08am
My dear Indian, You are right it was a casual question but to a journalist this is the way to write ..whether you read OPED pages of N.Y Times. There is so much positive about India obscured in this article by Amit Baruah
Chen Jan 29, 2013 01:30am
I see only Indians commenting here ....Great job DAWN #Respect...You are more famous in India than in our own Pakistan
Vikas (Indian) Jan 29, 2013 04:37am
Well said Brother Farhaz
Bong Jan 29, 2013 04:59am
Maybe he was in UK in the nineties !! He missed the toil which has brought the country where it is.
Bong Jan 29, 2013 05:14am
I agree with Satish's answer below - but that is an ideal situation to be in and yes India needs to work towards it. Education upto class 12 should be made compulsory - the Govt needs to work on this. Baruah is trying to sell his piece and earn forex - lets not be too harsh on him - he has to continue to make his living.
Manish Jan 29, 2013 05:43am
Well said Mr. Farhaz. Your comment is of in more mature nature than this article.
followsnaruq Jan 29, 2013 07:36am
"A few years ago, I landed in the tiny airport of Nadi, Fiji, and was being driven to my hotel by an Indian-origin taxi driver" . imagine your pathetic sense And, most of all, would want to tell him that the rape-and-murder of a young medical student in Delhi on December 16 had set off a movement for gender equality that could really empower Indian women. The rape incident took place in Dec,12.And you were in Fiji a few years ago.Ha Ha Ha...Keep fooling Pak...
Kashmiri Jan 29, 2013 07:56am
106 thumbs up from reluctant patriots do not change the sorrow tale of India. In Pakistan there is a change, the Pakistanis are no longer living in denial. They know they are living in a broken system and It is first step toward required troubleshooting. In India a great majority of citizens are drinking patriotism cool aid and encouraging rapists of their mother land. I don't how much Pakistani activism is going to change the face of society but it is true that Pakistanis do not give 106 thumbs up to critic of truth.
Anoop Jan 29, 2013 08:00am
I don't really understand what the point of the article was since this is a Pakistani Newspaper. If you had written it in an Indian Newspaper, you would have awakened a few blokes who usually don't give a thought to the poor masses. Who are you trying to awaken here? Aren't contributing to the Right-WIng, Islamist narrative in Pakistan which paints India as bad, corrupt and generally a bad country with bad people?
Dr. Dang Jan 29, 2013 01:07pm
Indians are more in population, are more literate ,own more computers & internet penetration is deeper compared to any other country in south asia.hence more hits from India.
BGK Jan 29, 2013 01:08pm
You don't really need a billion dollars to buy a meal. Unless of course we're talking Zimbabwean dollars
BGK Jan 29, 2013 01:21pm
It's not comforting at all. It's actually quite depressing, to see all this hatred, in spite of the obvious similarities. Gautam! Dude! Buddy! Please don't kid yourself. I bet you're brown, probably a slightly darker shade than me, but still, our DNA's will be very similar. Are you seriously saying that the author is lying about the situation in India. So there's no inequality? Corruption? What about the treatment of women. How about rape? Did he also make up the Delhi gang rape case?
Ismail Jan 29, 2013 05:18pm
Essentially this article is to keep fooling the Pakistani masses that everything in India is failing and that Pakistan governance is therefore justified by its own massive failures. Keep fooling Pakistan..
yajigourish Jan 29, 2013 05:24pm
Yes, You asked the right questions. There are many many such kind of questions that needs to be answered in India. We just can't sit and think that everything is working fine here. We need more people like you to ask questions , which eventually result in more healthy democracy and more welfare to the society. We just can't romance all the time that India is still a working and largest democracy in the world
ash Jan 28, 2013 02:59pm
yaar take a break. why r u always so negative.. dont you meet good people in your daily life????
Avishek Roy Jan 28, 2013 09:07am
Another fine article by you... True indeed....
akoi Jan 28, 2013 09:23am
Khoob bhal sar. Intriguing indeed!
pratik Jan 28, 2013 02:33pm
mano Rajan babu ... Its true but its only the one side of the coin .... So there is a similarity between you and Writer .
Sad_Truth Jan 28, 2013 01:22pm
I don't think the respect is because of what India has become. Trust me they still make fun of us brownies. Its because of the work ethics of getting the job done and not questioning their managers. While the "natives" question every step of the way.
Keenobserver Jan 28, 2013 01:11pm
different problems, same answer. nice article.
Indian Jan 28, 2013 01:12pm
If the Indian-origin taxi driver had known you would think so much for just a casual question, he would never have asked you anything. Thank god, he didn
JAGDISH AMIN Jan 28, 2013 03:26pm
It will be a miracle if Pakistan and india settles their differences.The roots of trust, hatred,enomisity are so deep that it will take generation to settle it.
Satish Jan 28, 2013 12:52pm
It is not govt's duty to provide nutrition, water, electricity and health services to the people. The only duty of the govt is to protect life and freedom of people from external and domestic threats and to enforce the law of the land(i.e, the constitution). We have seen what happens when the govt takes that responsibility in the soviet union. It is better to privatize everything except national defense and law and order. It is the people who need to work hard and feed the govt , not the other way around. The only solution to end poverty in India is freedom and free markets. Remember there is no Santa Claus out there if the govt promises to give you something for free , it always cost you more than it already is costing you in an indirect way. Cause, govt has no money and it has to take money from the tax payer. The reason for poverty in India is that the govt wanted to provide those and results have been quite opposite. Just like when the govt tried to provide telecommunication services and gave up in year 2000 and privatized it. The results are there for everyone to see. The only common thing between a poor man and rich man in India is a mobile phone. So let eliminate socialism from India and enhance free markets.
SHRi Jan 28, 2013 03:24pm
totally correct. But I guess some people just likes to be pessimistic. So can't help.
Ragu Jan 28, 2013 12:34pm
Indian corruption has the potential to undo all the other advances. Not any single political party, but across the board on so many levels , this cancer called bribe is eating India from the inside. The poor and downtrodden, already are erupting in terms of Naxalite movement, that is felt in large swaths of the country. The political propaganda is that all things are normal, so that the political elites can continue to loot.
farhaz Jan 28, 2013 12:25pm
Why doesn't Dawn give an option to dislike an article...??? Mr country can get rid of all the existing problems takes time. There is no point in just listing down all the possible negative things happening around in India. I agree there are problems but it is actually not justified to draw such a negative impression...Same is true for Pakistan as well. Don't forget that we were ruled & looted by foreign powers for centuries...and the ruins they have created can not be cleared up overnight. We, as a country, are just 65 years old...and in this much time we have achieved a lot. And I am proud of that. Give the country and its people some time and hope...rather than sitting and jotting down all the negative points. That will help a lot.
Obama Jan 28, 2013 02:26pm
Mr writer, you should have told him that India builds missiles and other weapons but still hands over their control to minorities which is indeed incredible,for example A.k Antony is defense minister and general Bikram is chief of army staff both minorities. Also dear mr writer you should have well informed him that mr Ghulam nabi azad from J & K is current minister of health and family welfare and keenly working on nutrition, water, health and other services necessary for survival. You kept that poor guy ill-informed if you did not mention that it is the main stream Indian media which is responsible for sending several ministers including chief ministers to jails. On India Pakistan, you should have told him, its better they are not settling their scores because in more close proximity you remain, the more differences arise. Better stay away and work on with in problems.
pratik Jan 28, 2013 02:21pm
What a castigation indeed but there's also a different picture of India . I am not going to say that what India had done in US ( FYI Indian based companies have provided 80,000 Americans nothing but a decent job ) . And why India have expended their Army power ? I am also not going to belabor on Indian economy . But will wright about only grass root improvement . Today we have 0.6 millions school with 223 million school going kid . ( The population which is almost equal to the world population excluding India, China , US , Indonesia ) . The no of children not going school went down from 20 million in 1998 to 2.28 million 2012 . A fast growing economy needs young people to be educated in such a way that they can make RESPONSIBLE life choice . At present there is a school of every 133 kids . This is the improvement India has done . Only education can change any malice thinking . You are pointed out money indulging in army and all but how many countries can afford to give 290 billion USD as only SUBSIDES ?? ( FYI Pakistan is a growing country and its budget is round 40 billion USD ) . So it will take time to be a stable country . managing 1.2 Billion is not an easy job . And please don't forget you are also the part of this developing but a future super power country with some contradiction .
citizen Jan 28, 2013 01:49pm
considering huge population, such huge diversity in terms of religion and languages, poverty, surrounded by enemies, India did fair job. You look around and you will understand. India did really well in food, bank, telecom etc. To me, for the path forward, India needs bold, strong leadership capable of managing population control and hindu-muslim relations and development of backward areas.
Bilal Jan 28, 2013 02:49pm
Amit seems to be a like-for-like replacement for Javed Naqvi. I used to wonder what motivated Javed to be so imbalanced and cynical. I suppose there is an eager market for mud slung at India and Indians in Pakistan. Just as there is for mud slung at the Pakistani nation in India. "I know we're in bad shape, but just look at the neighbours...". Meanwhile, truth, balance, fairness, etc. are but minor inconveniences that get in the way of a good old-fashioned pasting, as any half-decent storyteller will tell you. Then again, I used to chuckle that Javed knew this as well as anyone, and surely, got a laugh himself while being driven to the bank. He couldn't be serious, could he? But he was often careless with even simple facts. Maybe even indifferent. Often enough that it was foregone he would lose the tiny sliver of credibility he stood on by being across the border in Delhi. He disappeared, as expected. Enter Mr. Amit Baruah. Gee, his mere name makes him more believable. I hope they are paying him well. Hopefully this stint will be useful while it lasts, and when it ends, he'll retire, reasonably well-off as a "journalist" to write the novel he always wanted to write, but no one would pay to read. On second thoughts, scratch that "no one" bit. I know a few Generals who would pay in hard currency. Ha!
HTPak Jan 28, 2013 09:50am
It is the half full / half empty story... We all know the problems stated above and and lot of good stuff about Industrial and IT achievements. stated above.. What about social achievements... Zamindars have been practically wiped of... I am one of them, and I know whole bunch.. they are finished... fantastic story.. Most of the parliament members come from backward and other castes. A number of chief ministers and other powerful people come from the previously deprived classes.. and that is driving other members of their communities to move up the ladder. Number of woman worked is increasing day by day... Inter caste marriages without being known is happening in big cities without much ho hah... young people do not care much about caste... smaller cities and villages will follow... These are huge social changes.... Look at our neighbor and you will see the difference... Poor have remained poor without any site of movement.. Zamindars have remained zamindars... after 60 years... Hindus / Christans have been wiped out.. We know we have still a lot to do... how ever managing all of this through a democratic process and without a bloody revolution I think is quite remarkable...
sks Jan 28, 2013 03:58pm
just look at the no of indians commenting on a pakistani website on an indian reporters views.I guess no one listens to their voices in India.I hope the pakistanis are reading and provide some reassuring comments.
SHRi Jan 28, 2013 03:21pm
Compare today's India with that of India 20 years ago. I guess nobody will doubt that India has excelled both economically and socially. Every society needs time to develop with the help of proper platform i.e. Democracy. And as this Democracy strengthens this has only lead India to greatness.
sks Jan 28, 2013 04:00pm
Great reply.The author just wants to fill the pages.
Sandip Jan 28, 2013 04:00pm
So the face of India has changed little. But will its changing and moving in right direction which is good news. Things will still take time to complete. Unless there is progressive thinking things will not change. Younge people need to unseat those old politicians. Have a retirement age of 65 for politicians. If in all other jobs people get retirement, samething should happen in Politics also. It will make more then 2/3rd of our parliamentarians out of job and see how things start changing from there.
Gautham Jan 29, 2013 10:07am
Humorous comment :-) I guess there are just too many Indians for the number of Indian news papers we have! Alternatively, the internet bandwidths are too high that allows them to surf all over the place!! And me, an Indian who travels all over the place, currently in the US, has no bandwidth problem either!!! Cheers!