The constitution of a free country came into force 70 years ago and the fact that we continue to hold it supreme is a cause of celebration.
But there is far more to celebrate as well and that is the rise of a movement that is progressively moving toward to being a more inclusive and empathetic nation. Take the decriminalization of Article 377, the demands of 33% reservation for women, the starting of an exclusive women’s party, the positioning of health and education for all as national policy imperatives and the making of sanitation as the right of every citizen.
Corruption is still on the radar and so is poverty and inequality but the narrative has somehow expanded to include the citizen voice’s as active participants of policy and development in achieving that. The right to information, right to work and right to education are powerful narratives that allow the citizen to demand what is his/her right rather than just being passive recipients of a government decreed largess.
There is something that is changing in this country and that is the voice of the citizen, more focused, more louder, more emphatic. It is not just roti, kapda and makaan, there are a whole set of issues to demand and engage. Rural distress, environmental degradation, protection of forests, natural habitats, biodiversity, quality education, clean food, clean air, jobs creation, gender diversity and equality, occupational safety and the list goes on. It is no more about bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger bank balances, it is the need that is felt across for quality public transport, affordable housing, financial inclusion and easy access to all public services. Social media and its proliferation in the hands of every citizen informs and engages in the form of comments, feedback and active involvement.
Despite these inroads in citizen awareness, yet there are dangers to citizens being misled and misinformed in the name of religion, state, party, caste, and narrow notions of nationality, These represent real dangers to progressive citizen movements that press for sustainable development, participatory democracy and inclusiveness in work and living spaces, expression and recognition.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to educate, empower, and engage with citizens, by citizens and for citizens to ensure that the Indian republic remains on course.