The Last Bastion of Pluralistic and Welfare Society in India
By: Sujai Karampuri
When India became independent in 1947, it inherited a 90-year long freedom struggle; a struggle that consisted of many internal movements. While the underlying movement was to fight the British to achieve self-rule, there were many other movements that made India a modern nation – one to establish a democracy and a society based on rule of law, one to emancipate the lower caste and elevate woman to give her equal status, and one aimed at breaking down the extractive feudal system, and another to allow local and regional identities to thrive without getting diluted by the overarching national identity.
The leadership which took up the responsibility of ruling this country went through decades of struggle, participating in many of these movements, to create one of the most unique experiments in the history of mankind – a democratic, secular, welfare society out of many disparate entities and geographies, promising all its citizens, rich and poor, literate and illiterate, the grand and modern concept of universal adult franchise. To remove people from shackles of centuries old institutional discrimination, it provided one of the most radical and most successful social experiments, called the reservations. To emancipate the woman from the bonds of orthodoxy it introduced a series of legal codes. To allow multiple identities to coexist and have equal status it sought to reorganize states through a legislative process.
India was indeed a unique experiment. Nowhere on the planet ever before, was a democracy, a republic, and a welfare state created, with so many diversified populations and identities – representing six religions, twenty plus major languages, and many ethnicities and socio-economic histories. The result indeed was a grand success – India turned out to be a pluralistic, inclusive, welfare society, that imparted rights to every individual and every minority, and it remained so for many decades.
But that ideal started to fade away as time progressed. Competing forces at work slowly moved India away from the original ideals, and paved the way for tyranny of the majority, and the ideology of the privileged became the dominant theme. The majority started to usurp the national stage to create a new definition of being Indian, to conform to one single group’s identity, shedding away the image of diverse India to in an attempt to create a homogenous India. And the mainstream ethos in the national media, debates and policy-making started to reflect the aspirations of the privileged section, looking down upon all welfare schemes as antithetical to development. Reservations are called in for question labelled as caste politics, welfare schemes and subsidies are ridiculed as populist schemes meant only to serve political parties in garnering votes, and the state participation in institutions that provide basic amenities such as education and health is discouraged as anti-market tendencies.
The result is that today, we are a nation that believes that India needs a dictator, that it should get rid of its secular character, that minorities should all embrace the culture of majority. In today’s India one could be jailed or even killed if they ate different kind of food, and kicked out of the country if not conformed to the will of the majority. On the national debates, welfare schemes are derided, reservations are considered an anomaly, and state is supposed to exit all domains leaving even the basic amenities like health to private institutions.
When most of the country voted the political parties which embraced the new set of ideologies to power in 2014, notably one State in India moved in a different direction, reaching out to the ideals on which this nation was originally created, rediscovering the fabric that the founding fathers of India set forth for India.
Telangana, borne out of nearly sixty years of struggle, has seen many internal and parallel movements – and right now, the leadership which inherited these movements has imbibed the genuine aspirations of its people to embark upon some of the largest welfare schemes on the planet. Telangana State is restoring 45,000 lakes to provide irrigation and water to all its villages, is connecting 10 million homes with pipe connection to provide continuous tap water. It set new records in doling out pensions to 3.7 million needy people that include the retired, the widows and handicapped, and is giving out loan waivers to 3.6 million farmers who live on subsistence. The State provides mid-day meals with fine rice and eggs to 10 lakh school students.
Telangana is also creating strong foundations in infrastructure to produce abundant energy, irrigate its lands, and provide road and digital connectivity to its people. It is building 24,000 MW power generating plants earmarking a 15B USD fund, and is irrigating 10 million acres of its land with tank and canal water, while laying highways across the State, and digital broadband connectivity to 10 million homes. To create large scale employment and a sustainable economy it has come up with a historic and unprecedented legal framework for its industrial policy bestowing the investor a right for time-bound clearances, heralding a new chapter in the promoting ‘ease of doing business’ in India.
The new leadership that has participated in nearly 14 years of intense Telangana Movement for creating a separate state understands the importance of diversity of its population and seeks to preserve its cosmopolitan culture. The State continues to be home to all people from various parts of the India and the world, allowing people to eat different kinds of meats, and celebrating festivals of all religions. It is about to provide reservations to Muslims in the State to improve their representation in education and employment.
When most of the country is moving away from the welfare schemes, Telangana reaffirms its faith in the original ideas of India where State continues play a vital role in providing basic amenities to its citizens to create a strong social democracy. While most States in the country are moving in the direction to ban certain meats, targeting people for a different choice of cuisine, Telangana celebrates the festivals where people eat all kinds of food. When most of the country is moving away from the ideals of founding fathers of India, Telangana remains the last bastion of the ideas of Gandhi, Nehru and Patel – that of pluralism, that of a welfare society, that of inclusiveness, that of promoting excellence, that of State playing a vital role in promotion of industry, education and employment.
It has become important for India that Telangana is successful in its endeavors so that other States emulate its values and ethos; so that a resurgent India based on original ideas of the founding fathers can once again become the mainstream ideology in this country.