Independence from inequity, oppression…

Another Independence Day has come and gone, this more special than others, being the 75th year of our freedom. Over 75 years, as we have moved towards progress and development, explosion of industrial output, excellence in science and technology, particularly IT, the struggle Indian leaders underwent under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership, for our freedom, seems to be losing its gleam. Especially among the younger generation. Hence the call for Har ghar Tiranga by the prime minister was timely. This year we saw lakhs of youngsters celebrating the joie de vivre and passion of living in an independent country by hoisting the tricolour and also wearing it on their social media DPs.

True, people shouldn’t be expected to wear their patriotism on their sleeves, as pride in one’s motherland is deeply ingrained in your very being, and doesn’t need to be proclaimed from rooftops.

But every celebration is also time for stock-taking and self-introspection.  Heart of hearts, are we really happy at the pace with which India has progressed during these 75 years? We might have created an impressive number of billionaires to adorn the pages of Forbes magazine, detailing the richest in the world. But in these 75 years, have we not seen an explosion in the number of the poor and disadvantaged, oppressed and suppressed? The millions for whom day-to-day living and putting together just two modest meals for their families is a huge struggle? Can we imagine what kind of a celebration of Independence it would have been for child labourers, the young girls/women sucked into trafficking, tens of thousands of women facing domestic violence in overt and covert ways, for whom slogans or homilies of equity and gender justice remain just that… slogans? What about the girl child who has dreams of a good education and a successful career, but who has to be pulled out from school for various reasons, principally economic, and pushed into an early marriage and  motherhood at a tender age, because the social conditioning of her parents is to pass on the “responsibility” of a daughter to her husband’s family?

You as Rotarians of India have an incredible opportunity of setting right some of the wrongs mentioned above for as many disadvantaged families as you can, one project and one club at a time. Many of you are doing just that. You have embraced with gusto PRIP Shekhar Mehta’s passionate call to empower girls. We at Rotary News know all about the passion with which you do your projects — building segregated toilets for girls, so that they may remain in school, embracing health projects to mend tiny hearts, breathing life into them; rejuvenating water bodies so that arid farm lands can once again turn green and prosperous; and skilling  tens of thousands of underprivileged women to boost their income. RID 3231 alone will be giving training and sewing machines to over 3 lakh women in 10 years. This is the power of big and sustainable projects.

Every drop counts. Working in tandem with government, we can slowly march towards an India where there’s Independence from want and poverty, inequity,  injustice and oppression. A country where the head is held high and the mind is without fear. Jai ho!

What the Rotary leadership in Sri Lanka has done by forging a partnership with UNICEF to collect funds to help its children and families devastated by the deep economic crisis is commendable. This is an excellent opportunity for all of us to help our distressed neighbour.


Rasheeda Bhagat

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