On the midnight of August 14, 1947, the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru delivered his famous "tryst with destiny" speech, pointing to the star of freedom that was about to rise in the east.
That night, millions of Indians went to sleep with Nehru's words still reverberating in their ears - "The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; 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."
These magical words of an enigmatic leader encouraged every Indian, from poor to rich, to have a dream and work towards its fulfillment. The theme of the dream was prosperity, both personal and national.
A large chunk of the population was impoverished. They could not afford to buy food articles from the market. They dreamt of two square meals a day in independent India. The government's public distribution system intended to provide foodgrains at highly subsidised rates to people living below the poverty line. PDS induced them to dream again about two square meals.
But corruption continues to rob them of the dream, despite the Supreme Court's intervention. The foodgrains vanish from the godowns and surface in the market bypassing the poor.
The poor dreamt of earning through work after the government floated the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. It guaranteed corruption but not work. Corruption confined the work and the wages
The farmers dreamt of prosperity as a million hungry mouths needed food. They toiled in the fields and hoped to produce more. But, lack of irrigation facilities and markets failed them. Money lenders and middlemen stepped in. The debt burden crushed the dreams. Farmers started committing suicide.
Every common man had a dream of his own - communal harmony, a speedy justice delivery system, a responsive bureaucracy, a transparent system, a corruption-free polity and, above all, honest governance. All these are, still, dreams only.
Two decades ago, the Supreme Court in Sodan Singh vs New Delhi Municipal Council [1989 (4) SCC 155] had said "justice, social economic and political" and "citizens, men and women equally, have a right to an adequate means of livelihood", which the Constitution of India promises is still a distinct dream."This court, in various judgments, has reminded the government of its constitutional obligations to ameliorate the lot of the poor in India. Nothing much has been achieved. An alarming percentage of population in India is still living below the poverty line. There are millions of registered unemployed. The government, in spite of constitutional mandate, is unable to provide them with employment," it had said.
Two decades later, the situation remains more or less the same. More than one-third of India's over a billion people are yet to cross the below poverty line. The unemployed still dream of a job that ensures equal pay for equal work.
There is utter lack of security. The innocent still get killed by bomb blasts. Instead of acting against the perpetrators, politicians play the game of one-upmanship using religion as a pivot.
So surcharged is the atmosphere that one thinks twice before asking the government as to who were the people and groups behind the bomb blasts in Mumbai on July 13. A month has passed and there is no one in the government to tell us who has been apprehended and what steps have been taken to ensure safety of commoners. Someone had rightly said: "Religion, as it has come to be understood, does not mix well with governance because it creates a lethal explosive."
So, on the eve of August 15, after 64 years, what does a young Indian dream? A fresh tryst with destiny?