India has a long and rich history – an epic of twists and turns and breath taking climaxes. In the 21st century, one cannot help but notice how India still remains so diverse and unique. An interesting snippet of information – in 1830, India accounted for 17.6% of global industrial production against Britain’s 9.5%, but by 1900 India’s share was down to 1.7% against Britain’s 18.5%. History has shown India various phases and stages – of glory and then of gloom. Once known as the Golden Sparrow or Sone ki Chidiya in Hindi, India was once the richest nation in the world. No wonder the Europeans were green with envy and that was the reason explorers like Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus set out in huge expeditions to seek out the wealthy and prosperous lands of Hindustan. After the glorious rules of the Mughals when India reached the pinnacles of civilisation, the country was reduced to a colony of poor farmers, uneducated masses and exploited labourers under the imperialist rule of the British that lasted for more than 2 centuries. At this juncture in time, our nation has two reflections – one of India, the forward-looking nation of entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors and highly skilled professionals who are ready to move the world and that of Bharat – the backward country of farmers, villagers and labourers still entangled in the poverty that the English created.
In the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, 24 are Indians and even more importantly there are 4 Indians in the top ten richest on the planet. In fact, there was a time in end 2007 when Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani surpassed Bill Gates and Carlos Slim to become the richest human on the face of Earth. What started out as a small company run by Dhirubhai Ambani was one of the world’s top multi-national corporations. This signalled the rise if India, a new nation of progressive Indians looking to change the world and be successful in life. Every year millions of graduates enter the global economy and advance the Indian economy. Before the financial crisis hit the world hard, the Indian economy had been growing at a steady and stellar rate of more than 8%. Jobs were being created and millions of Indians were lifted out of poverty into better lives. According to the criteria of India’s planning Commission, in the span of around 25 years, poverty in India was slashed from 55% to a mere 26% at the turn of the millennium. Today, India has earned itself a respectable image and its medical and IT sectors are indeed world-renowned with nations seeking to emulate the models of India.
Despite the fact that India has made progress, the shackles of Bharat still hold us back. The harsh reality of Bharat is simply appalling – according to the World Bank, 42% of all Indians live under the global poverty line. Infants in Bharat are the unluckiest in the entire world – their situation is worse than those of in Sub Saharan Africa, the poorest region in the world. These are the hard facts – more than 43% of all infants in Bharat suffer from malnutrition, this is the worst figure on the planet. Madhya Pradesh fares worse than countries like Sudan and Ethiopia. Mass poverty is taking a toll in the image of our nation – exemplified by the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. For the poor and illiterate in the villages of Bharat, there is little hope and their world is limited to their fields and shanty huts.
There is little doubt that India has grown and advanced but the growth has been highly uneven. While millions have benefited from the new prosperity, even more remain immune from India’s new found growth. The need of the hour is to bridge the two reflections of India and Bharat. We need to remind ourselves of the poor in our villages and not focus too much on urban citizens of our nation. This is because India will never develop unless growth reaches our villages and the lowest sections of society. India needs to reach out to Bharat and lift her so that a homogenous and prosperous country can take her rightful position on the world’s stage.