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Independent India @75: The Road Thus Travelled

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Pooja Paswan
August 22, 2022

“Every citizen of India must remember that he is an Indian and he has every right in this country but with certain duties.” – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, first Deputy Prime Minister of India and first Home Minister of India

On August 15, 2022, independent India turned 75. In the lifespan of nations, India is still young. The best is surely yet to come. India’s youthful and aspirational population deserves a rapid transformation of the economy. India’s evolving relationship with new geographies, its engagement with new domains of global governance and the human imperative that must define India’s rise. Seventy years ago, similar energy, effort and resolve from all Indians freed the country from colonial rule within five years of the launch of the Quit India movement in 1942.

Here is an insight into some achievements since India’s independence.

Green revolution

One of the darkest periods of British rule over India was 1943 when the Bengal Famine Struck—an estimated 20 to 30 lakh men, women and children died of starvation and disease. This was a result of a colonial power whose only motivation was to exploit India economically. There were virtually no investments made in agriculture by the British—be it universities for human resources, research institutions for developing better varieties of food grain and vegetables or large scale agricultural infrastructure like irrigation projects from dams to canals. As a result hunger, poverty and malnutrition abounded in India. By the time the British left in 1947, India’s agrarian economy was on the brink of a collapse—India was a net importer of food grain. Post-independence the government prioritized the development of scientific agriculture, also placing emphasis on the related ecosystem of agriculture production. From setting up large fertilizer and pesticide plants, to building multi-purpose irrigation and power projects, an importance was given to starting agricultural universities, setting up post-graduate schools like the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, which was established in 1958, as well as new agricultural research institutions for important food crops like Central Rice Research Institute at Cuttack and the Central Potato Research Institute, Simla, etc. These were the steps that eventually led to India’s green revolution. Green Revolution made India self-reliant in food grain production.

India’s Nuclear Programme

India had foreseen the potential for the peaceful utilization of atomic energy at a time when the pioneering activities in this field were geared essentially towards military use. More than a year before the traumatic demonstration of the destructive force of atomic energy in Hiroshima, Dr. Homi Bhabha, the architect of the Indian nuclear programme, had declared that “when nuclear energy has been successfully applied for power production in say, a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for its experts but will find them ready at hand”. This statement captures the essence of India’s efforts over the last few decades for the peaceful utilization of atomic energy, namely, the development of scientific and technological ability within the country to design and execute projects right from the laboratory stage to the industrial scale largely on the basis of its own efforts.

It was on May 18, 1974, that India tested its first nuclear bomb successfully in Rajasthan’s Pokhran. After the test, codenamed “Smiling Buddha”, India became the world’s sixth power outside the five permanent members of the United Nations, which are the United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France and China, to successfully test a nuclear bomb. Twenty-four years ago between May 11-13, 1998, India made history when it conducted a second series of underground nuclear tests with five bombs in Pokhran, Rajasthan. At 3.45 pm on May 11, the tests were initiated, under the assigned code name “Operation Shakti”, with the detonation of one fusion and two fission bombs. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) characterized the test as a “peaceful nuclear explosion”.

India—Ease Of Doing Business

In 2014, the Government of India launched an ambitious program of regulatory reforms aimed at making it easier to do business in India. The program represents a great deal of effort to create a more business-friendly environment. India was one of the top 10 improvers, for the 3rd time in a row, with an improvement of 67 ranks in 3 years.

India has emerged as one of the most attractive destinations not only for investments but also for doing business. India jumped 79 positions from 142nd (2014) to 63rd (2019) in ‘World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking 2020’.

With the aim to improve the ease of living and the ease of doing business in India, more than 25,000 compliances have been reduced by the GOI. Positive changes have led to this impressive improvement in India’s ranking in the EoDB index.

Where is India headed at 75?

In the 75th year of India’s Independence, per capita income has risen steadily from $100 to $2,200. By purchasing power parity (PPP) it is $6,500. Without growth, inclusivity would be much harder to achieve. If India can sustain economic growth at 8 percent a year for the next decade, prosperity, stripped out of India in the 1700s, will gradually return. So will inclusivity.

Author: Pooja Paswan is currently enrolled at the John.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, India. She has Ph. D in Public Administration and specializes in Public Policy. She was recipient of the ASPA 2019 Founders Fellow. She is currently the Book Review Editor at the International Journal of Public Administration IJPA and has worked extensively in the area of development administration and public policy. She can be reached at https://jmi.academia.edu/PoojaPaswan and [email protected]. Twitter @poojapaswan

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