India After Independence Essay

Development in India After Independence

August 1, 2014

by Subhojit Goswami


While some have a high opinion of India’s growth story since its independence, some others think the country’s performance in the six decades has been abysmal. It’s arguably true that the Five-Year Plans did target specific sectors in order to quicken the pace of development, yet the outcome hasn’t been on expected lines. And, the country is taking its own sweet time to catch up with the developed world. All efforts are frustrated by lopsided strategies and inept implementation of policies.

The Two Phases of Economy

An independent India was bequeathed a shattered economy, widespread illiteracy and shocking poverty.

Contemporary economists divide the history of India’s economic growth into two phases – first 45 years after independence and the two decades of free market economy. The years preceding the economic liberalisation were mainly marked by instances wherein economic development got stagnated due to a lack of meaningful policies.

The economic reforms came to India’s rescue with the launching of a policy of liberalisation and privatisation. A flexible industrial licensing policy and a relaxed FDI policy started getting positive responses from international investors. Among the major factors that drove India’s economic growth following the economic reforms of 1991 were increased FDI, adoption of information technology and an increased domestic consumption.

Service Sector Growth

A major development in the nation’s services sector has been the tele services and information technology. A trend that started some two decades back is now well in its prime. Several multinational firms continue to outsource their tele services and IT services to India. The acquisition of expertise in information technology has led to the generation of thousands of new jobs, which in turn increased domestic consumption and naturally, more foreign direct investments happened to meet the demands.

Presently, the services sector employs 23% of the Indian workforce and this process of development started back in the 1980s. In the 60s, the sector employed only 4.5% of the working population. According to the Central Statistical Organization, the services sector accounted for 63% of Indian GDP in 2008 and the figure continues to grow.

Growth of Agriculture Sector

Since 1950s, the progress in agriculture has been somewhat steady. The sector grew at about 1 percent per annum in the first half of the 20th century. During the post-Independence era, the growth rate nudged about 2.6 percent per annum. Expansion of farming area and introduction of high-yielding varieties of crops were the major factors of growth in agricultural production. The sector could manage to end dependency on imported food grains. It has progressed both in terms of yield and structural changes.

Consistent investment in research, land reforms, expansion of scope for credit facilities, and improvement in rural infrastructure were some other determining factors that brought about an agricultural revolution in the country. The country has also grown strong in the agri-biotech sector. The Rabobank report reveals that the agri-biotech sector has been growing at 30 percent since the last few years. The country is also likely to become a major producer of genetically modified/engineered crops.

Infrastructure Development

The Indian road network has become one of the largest in the world with the total road length increasing from 0.399 million km in 1951 to 4.24 million km as of July 2014. Moreover, the total length of the country’s national highways has increased from 24,000 km (1947-69) to 92,851 km (2014). Governmental efforts have led to the expansion of the network of State highways and major district roads, which in turn has directly contributed to industrial growth.

As India needs power to drive its growth engine, it has triggered a noteworthy improvement in the availability of energy by adopting a multi-pronged approach. After almost seven decades of Independence, India has emerged as the third largest producer of electricity in Asia. It has increased its electricity generation capacity from 1,362 MW in 1947 to 1,13,506 MW as of 2004. Overall, power generation in India has increased from 301 billion units (BUs) during 1992- 93 to 558.1 BUs in 2003- 04. When it comes to rural electrification, the Indian government has managed to bring lights to 5,93,732 (2013 figures) villages as compared to 3061 in 1950.

Progress in Education Sector

Pulling itself out from widespread illiteracy, India has managed to bring its education system at par with the global standard. The number of schools witnessed a dramatic increase during the post-independence era. The Parliament made elementary education a fundamental right for children in the age group of 6-14 years by passing the 86th amendment to the Constitution in 2002. At independence, India’s literacy rate was a paltry 12.2 % which increased to 74.04% in 2011.

The Government launched the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan in 2001 to ensure education for the children from 6 to 14 years. Prior to that, it had launched an effective initiative – Sponsored District Education Programme, which increased the number of schools across the country. In a bid to attract children to schools, especially in the rural areas, the government also started implementing the mid-day meals programme in 1995.

Achievements in the Field of Healthcare

A decrease in death rates is considered one of the major achievements that came India’s way in this sector. While life expectancy was around 37 years in 1951, it almost doubled to 65 years by 2011. Infant mortality has also seen a marked decline with death rate coming down to half of what it was during the 50s. Similar improvement was noticed in maternal mortality rate also.

After a long-drawn struggle, India has finally been declared a polio-free country. Malnutrition in children under five years came down to 44% in 2006 from 67% in 1979. Government’s efforts yielded result as the number of tuberculosis cases also got reduced to 185 per lakh people in 2009. The cases of HIV-infected people are also witnessing a declining trend. Besides increased public health spending (about 6% of the GDP), the government has launched a series of ambitious initiatives including ‘Healthcare for all by 2020′ and distribution of free medicines to the people falling under lowest-income group.

Scientific Achievements

Independent India has taken confident strides in its road to scientific development. Its prowess is being manifested in a gradual scaling up of ambitious projects. India takes pride in its space programmes, which began with the launch of its first satellite Aryabhatta in 1975. Since then, India has emerged as a space power that has successfully launched foreign satellites. Its first mission to Mars was launched in November 2013 which successfully reached the planet’s orbit on 24 September 2014.

India is also aggressively pursuing both nuclear and missile programmes. That has simultaneously augmented the country’s defence strength as well. BrahMos inducted into the defence system is the world’s fastest cruise missile that has been jointly developed by India and Russia. After more than six decades of independence, India has now come closer to being an independent force to reckon with in the field of nuclear and missile technology.

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Essay on India after Independence!

India is the world’s largest democracy. It is the only country in Asia that has remained democratic ever since it attained its independence from British rule. The only exception to this is the brief period of the Emergency in 1975-76, when the democratic process was halted.

But it is through the democratic route of elections that the ruling caucus was dethroned and an alternative government installed. But that did not last long and the Congress party returned to power by winning back the confidence of the people.

Many in the world were apprehensive of the success of democracy in India. Their belief was further strengthened when several countries in the region, including Pakistan, failed as democracies and chose an authoritarian and militarist path in its stead. But this did not happen in India, and we have crossed more than half a century as a democracy. India has falsified all the prophecies of doom. It is the ballot, and not the bullet, that reigns supreme in India.

India after Independence:

After a long and difficult freedom struggle, India attained her independence from British rule in 1947. But this independence came with the partition of the country. A new state of Pakistan was created with portions of Western and Eastern India, taken away from the Indian map.

West Pakistan took away Western Punjab, Sindh, and Baluchistan; East Pakistan was created with the partition of Bengal into East and West, the latter remaining with India. Thus, there was a long corridor of India that separated East Pakistan from West Pakistan. That such a formation of the new state was non-pragmatic and unworkable was proven by later events.

In 1971, East Pakistan broke its ties with the Western wing and became the separate country of Bangladesh. The subcon­tinent, which was once a single country, was divided into three nations. Meanwhile, the state of Sikkim, which was a separate kingdom ruled by the Chogyal monarchy, joined the Indian Union in 1975.

Independence arrived in India not only with ‘multiplicity of heritages and legacies’, but also with the pangs of partition that caused dislocation of populations on both sides. Several Muslim families from regions other than those that went to Pakistan decided to opt for the nationality of the new religious state and to migrate there, and numerous Hindu families from both East and West Pakistan got uprooted and came to India as homeless refugees.

This movement of people was not peaceful. There was a lot of bloodshed, looting, rape of women, and merciless killing of innocent people. After the creation of Bangladesh, several Muslim families, which migrated from Bihar and other adjoining states to the Eastern wing of Pakistan, suffered from similar discrimination and marginalization. India has become a shelter for several Bangladeshis who have crossed the porous border illegally and settled in several cities of India.

Their arrival in Assam, for example, caused serious problems and prompted the natives to raise the demand for repatriation of the non-Assamese. Speakers of Bengali and followers of Islam cannot be easily classified foreigners in the pluricultural society of India. Vote-bank politics has also helped in blurring their identities.

India inherited the legacy of British rule – a system of admin­istration, an army, and a democratic form of government, based on the Government of India Act of 1935. Most important was the fact that our country retained the name India that is Bharat. We remain the mainland, while the other states are historically the breakaway groups.

The transition from a colonial country to an independent nation was not easy. Partition entailed division of resources, transfer of government personnel from one country to another, and reorientation of the bureaucracy.

As Paul R. Brass says:

“In some ways, it is possible to view Independence and the adoption in the early years after Independence of a new Constitution as another stage in the evolution of India toward representative government in a process that dates back to the Indian Councils Act of 1861 and continues through the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909, the Montagu- Chelmsford Reforms of 1919, and the Government of India Act of 1935”.But the new Constitution, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, and came into force on 26 January 1950, has some new features, providing a sharp break with the British colonial past.

It adopted the Westminster model of parliamentary government as against the mixed parliamentary-bureaucratic authoritarian system inherited from British India. The new Constitution included a chapter on Fundamental Rights, and also on Directive Principles, which were not there in the 1935 Act. The introduction of adult suffrage was also a new feature. The Indian polity became a mix of the unitary and federal forms of government.

The new leadership was equally interested in bringing about socio-economic reforms for which the model of a ‘socialistic pattern of society” was adopted. The contradiction thus intro­duced between civil liberties and governmental control has been a subject of political protests.

In addition to fundamental rights, the Constitution made special provisions for the oppressed castes and tribes by listing them in a Schedule and thus designating them as scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs). The British divided Indian society along religious lines by creating separate electorates, as part of their policy of ‘divide and rule’. But the new leadership of independent India discarded this colonial practice.

However, there was unanimity on giving special protection and privileges to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, who had allegedly suffered from discrimination at the hands of the upper caste Hindus, and who constitute the majority of India’s poor.

Designating the new state as secular was meant to convey the message that the country would not differentiate between people on the basis of religion, but allow each individual, as part of his/her fundamental right, to practice the religion of his/her choice.

This was to ensure that communalism would be contained. However, the history of the country since independence has been witness to several communal riots and the growth of political parties along religious lines.

Even the so-called secular parties contributed – perhaps unintentionally – to the prevailing communal hiatus. In their enthusiasm to protect the minority groups, the secular parties became in fact promoters of communal interests in the hope of creating vote-banks. It led to a reaction amongst the majority group of Hindus.

The role of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in promoting solidarity amongst the Hindus is seen in this political context. These non-political organizations lent their support to the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in the early days of independence, and later to its successor, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Indian polity in reality, and not as seen in constitutional terms, is characterized by a mix of tradition and modernity. The formal structure adopted in the Constitution has continually been modified by the social structure of Indian society, and by the personality profiles of India’s political leadership.

It is not the ideology, but the personality factors, that have led to the formation and dissolution of parties. Review of party manifestos issued during elections and the Common Minimum Programmes (CMPs) adopted by successive coalition governments suggests that there was little ideological distance between parties.Political distance is maintained despite ideological proximity.

The actually existing political structure has departed from the ideal as perceived by the founding fathers of our Constitution. Several amendments made to the Constitution tell that story, but only partially.

There is nothing unusual in this. All living societies continually change in response to the emerging new demands and by the behavior of its members in their different statuses and role relationships.

In the earlier phases, there were pressures from the rulers of princely states and owners of feudal estates seeking redefined roles as leaders in a functioning democracy. They entered politics by joining either the ruling Congress Party or the newly created Bharatiya Jan Sangh and the Swatantra Party (now defunct).

But as long as the nationalist leaders who took part in India’s freedom struggle were there to run the government, there was no threat to the Congress Party. The opposition remained in the minority, but was quite vocal in its criticism in Parliament and the state legisla­tures.

The vote politics that requires numbers led the ruling party and the dissident groups within it, as well as the parties in the opposition, to create vote-banks by invoking caste sentiments. Caste entered politics in the sense that there was, and is, politicization of caste. In this framework, even the minorities were seen as a ‘caste’ – the defining characteristic of endogamy applies to them as well.

If some political parties tried to woo the voters from a particular caste – Lodhis or Rajputs, or Brahmins others tried to woo the minority groups. One also notices a strange pattern of bringing together Muslims and the Hindu community of Yadavs, and other so-called Dalits.

While this grouping is based on sectarian considerations, it is called secular. But a coalition of castes from the Hindu and Jain and Sikh groups is decried as anti-secular. In retort, the latter call the former ‘pseudo-secular’.

In this process, words like secular and secularism have lost their originally intended meaning. All parties realize that no community or group can be neglected if one were to muster political support.

The secular parties cannot afford to neglect the Hindu vote, and the parties that are called anti-secular also have representatives of communities other than the Hindu. All parties, barring religion based organizations, claim to be secular.

Indian politics is characterized by an absence of ideology. Only lip service is paid to ideology. Parties are dominated by personalities. Leaders don’t leave and join parties on ideological grounds. Even the group of Marxists is divided into several parties. To quote Brass, “Indian politics has been characterized by an all-pervasive instrumentalism which washes away party manifestoes, rhetoric, and effective implementation of policies in an unending competition for power, status, and profit.”

The Congress party started as a movement that was joined by people from all sections; its sole aim was to oust the British and establish Swaraj. After the attainment of that aim, Mahatma Gandhi proposed dissolution of the Congress, but it was shot down.

The euphoria of independence was so overwhelming, and the leaders of the movement so respected by the common man, that the Congress party appeared to be the natural heir to the throne. Leaders defecting from the Congress party formed most other parties later.

Students of democracy know that its proper functioning requires an opposition. In the United States, for example, there are two parties – Democratic and Republican – between whom power alternates. But in India, continuance of the Congress rule with no threat of its replacement gave rise to, what came to be known as one-party dominant system.

People found this system similar to that of the Soviet state. This system fulfilled the requirement of the democratic process by creating internal dissen­sions within the Congress party itself.

These were referred to as the ‘ruling group’ and the ‘dissident group’, and power, particu­larly at the level of the states, alternated between these groups, but remained with the Congress. But India’s political situation is changing. This change is taking place on several frontiers. Let us briefly mention the major changes in Indian polity that have occurred since 1947.

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