Neelam Deo: Independent India's Unfulfilled Promise

Roundup: Talking About History

Neelam Deo is India's former ambassador to Denmark and Ivory Coast, and served in Washington and New York. She is the director and co-founder of Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations.

On August 15, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, addressed a newly-liberated people suffused with a sense of possibility and hope to collectively build an egalitarian and democratic nation. The people’s aspirations were articulated in Nehru’s famous words:
“The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavor? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.” 
This vision was subsequently enshrined in India’s Constitution on January 26, 1950.
Sixty-five years later, the dream of a truly democratic India has dulled more than a little. Hope has been replaced by dismay at the cheap pursuit of self-interest that pervades our present political and economic landscape.
Did we expect too much from a post-colonial, impoverished country? Did we overestimate our future and now find that the reality does not match our vision? Did we unrealistically compare ourselves with other fledgling or developing nations? In other words, is the sense of disillusionment only a problem of perception?..

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