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Matchless at 70
India turned 70 on the 15th of August 2017. We look back at the events that shaped its destiny - the moments of which we are proud and the moments of which we are not. We catch up on the fight towards relevance that tells us how high we can scale and the wars and riots that speak of how low we can fall. This cover story is based on a survey we carried out on Facebook. Read on.

1. 1991 ECONOMIC REFORMS

That day in June-July 1991, India dusted the cobwebs of socialism to embrace ‘market economy.’

It was the mother of all reforms and was important if not more important than 15 August. It heralded economic freedom and growth calibrated by governance. 

First, there were two doses of devaluation and then the waves of liberalisation swept through as India ended the License-Permit-Quota raj by dramatically curtailing government’s intervention in trade and business. The government would be in the business of governance, rather than in the management of business, was the thread that ran through. Globalisation was the new buzzword. Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then finance minister, who went on to become the prime minister, pro-mised the commercial version of Eldorado. 

The moves of 1991 paved the way for increased privatisation, reduced government intervention and increased foreign capital, trimming taxes, lowering of institutional barriers and encouraging private sector participation. 

The reform enabled India to cruise through the darkest hours of financial crisis and helped her take the first halting steps towards recovery. It turned out to be a fantastic global case study in handling glasnost and perestroika.

Over the years, disposable income went up, the standard of living surged and an aspirational India emerged. Telecom, automobiles, airlines, insurance, financial services, capital markets, manufacturing, healthcare, education, banking, infrastructure, zoomed.

 

2. 1947 INDIA’S INDEPENDENCE

On 15 August 1947, India awoke to life and freedom. 

It was finally free from the British Raj under whom it had lived years of serfdom.  The new dawn came after years of sweat, blood, tears and toil. It was the only time in history that a country had won its independence by practising non-violence. Hoards of freedom fighters sacrificed their lives so that India could be free.

But India’s biggest moment in history was spoiled as her body was dismembered from the northwest and another part from the Far East by a geographical line. Mohandas Gandhi, who had said that he would allow partition only over his dead body, was marginalised.

Jawaharlal Nehru was keen to rule India, divided or otherwise.

Men and women, who all along had lived in the villages, towns and cities as brothers, who exchanged sweets, food and pleasantries during festivals and birthdays, lunged at each other’s throats like beasts. 

Even as the two nations engulfed in hatred, and even as the man with the walking stick, the 

Mahatma, walked across the burning ghats trying to restore sanity, Nehru made his famous tryst-with-destiny speech. “Long ago we made a tryst with destiny and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge.”

The task ahead was cut out - drafting of the constitution, special privileges for scheduled castes, social infrastructure and the formation of parties, not to speak of attention to poverty, illiteracy, infrastructure, industrial development, population growth and making India a strong nation.

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