Courtesy: Rama Bijapurkar
At least on Independence day, we can give ourselves the liberty of thinking about the past decade. And give ourselves a break from the flagellation to look at some of the useful things that got done in India.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, started in 2000-01, has been a success. Now, 90% of children have access to a school close to home, literacy rates in rural India have risen by 10% in the last decade and the literacy gap between urban and rural has narrowed. When you get cynical, drive into the interiors of most states and see droves of children chattering and laughing and on their way to school. The right to education has birth defects but it moves the agenda from mere access to a right to free education.
The right to information is a noncaste-based liberal move, whose impact is widespread, and goes all the way to the grassroots. In rural areas, a large network of roads has been built, though potholes in cities can be life-threatening. Road connectivity has improved and economic change has come with it.
To check the progress of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, go to the internet and check the voluminous data there for all states. Our sarkar has embraced the internet with a vengeance. The seeds of e-governance have been sowed in many places in different ways.
Many government services have been computerised. From registering property to applying for a passport, many services are online now. So, now, with a railways PNR number, anyone can send an SMS and get the status of the waitlist. After initial hiccups of trying out private players, the government got its act together and the Aadhaar juggernaut has gathered momentum.
Aadhaar could become a game changer for everyone, not just the poor. It is time to be honest and admit that the welfare schemes of the Centre and the states, despite their many drawbacks, are big symbols of what our values are or need to be. NREGA has done much more for wage improvements than trickledown has. Inclusion and inclusive growth are now a part of what this country wants to be.
We have found our sense of humour and our wit and it is all out there in cyberspace. Humour on the net is status-neutral and no one is spared. No major city has been spared terror strikes. Along with that, security has become more intrusive. We live in an atmosphere of excessive checking of handbags, passing through X-ray machines and surveilled by CCTVs. Yet, we don’t feel beleaguered and India has not become a paranoid, angry and suspicious society, at least not on account of this.
Education, especially in computers and English, is our route to personal progress. So, we now have one more common path to nirvana that the rich and the poor both believe in.