How India Marked Its 25th, 50th Independence Days

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By: Navneet Mundhra
Updated: 12 August, 2022 6:44 pm IST
Tricolour flying high at Red Fort (TNI Photo By Sumit Kumar)

BENGALURU: India is gearing up to celebrate the 75th Independence Day on August 15, 2022. The Narendra Modi government at the Centre is leaving no stone unturned to grandly celebrate this momentous occasion. Apart from the elaborate arrangements for the Independence Day parade and the presence of a slew of highly-decorated dignitaries, the government is determined to make the common people a part of this rite of passage.

The Modi government has launched the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign, which aims to hoist 200 million tricolours in every household across India. Many social organisations are also engaged in making this campaign a roaring success by instilling patriotic fervour in all families. Many schools and colleges are celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, under which students are encouraged to engage in various cultural activities pertaining to our freedom fighters and freedom struggle.

“The Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav means the elixir of energy of independence; the elixir of inspiration of the warriors of the freedom struggle; the elixir of new ideas and pledges; and the elixir of Atma Nirbharta. Therefore, this Mahotsav is a festival of the awakening of the nation; a festival of fulfilling the dream of good governance; and a festival of global peace and development,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

In 2022, India will have become a major economic power in the world and enjoy glowing prestige. India is seen as a self-sufficient country, which stands out as the largest democracy in the world. The ‘New India’ is ambitious, aggressive, fabulously confident and doggedly resolute, where the merits of an individual matter more than their lineage or background. It also takes enormous pride in its cultural heritage, distinct value system, and glorious civilizational past. The youngsters are no longer bogged down by the baggage of colonial history and self-serving dynasties.

In this drastically changed avatar, India is seen by the world as a land of immense potential. The strategic, economic and diplomatic heft of India can no longer be blissfully ignored. The future looks promising and buoyant But that was not always the case…

1972: As India completed 25 years of independence in 1972, the country was flush with the sheen of victory against Pakistan in 1971 in the Bangladesh war. The entire nation was in a celebratory mood, and so was the then PM, Mrs India Gandhi. Not only was she credited for propelling India to a resounding triumph against Pakistan, but she also led her new party – Congress (I) – to a spectacular win in the general elections. After vanquishing the ‘Syndicate’ of the old Congress, she was now the undisputed leader of the Congress.

However, economically, India was still reeling under abject poverty. Indira Gandhi rode on the Garibi Hatao slogan to register a win at the hustings, but the country was not even self-sufficient to feed its large population. The PM had to go to America in 1970 to request food grain. The much-vaunted ‘green revolution’ was still in its nascent stage and hadn’t started producing staggering results.

Indira’s decision to nationalise banks in 1969 had done little to alleviate the rampant poverty. The government jobs were scarce and in the absence of big private corporations, the high-paying jobs were the preserve of a selected few.

Despite all these factors, politically, Indira Gandhi was seemingly on a strong wicket. Though it had received setbacks in a few states in the assembly elections of 1967, Congress was still the most dominant force across the country. The country was still 3 years away from descending into chaos when PM Gandhi – rattled by the mass movement heralded by Jayprakash Narayan – imposed an Emergency in 1975 and suspended all constitutional liberties.

 

To mark the 25th year of Independence, the Indira government issued a postal stamp depicting people celebrating Independence Day by holding the flag in front of Parliament. She emphasised that the celebrations should be austere. “We have not truly achieved the kind of independence in the last 25 years that we aspired for. When every citizen of the country attains economic and social freedom, that would be independence in the true sense. We must vow to create a progressive, prosperous and shining India together,” she proclaimed in her Independence Day speech.

1997: Between 1972 and 1997, the country went through a sea change both economically and politically. Indira Gandhi’s Congress, by far the most powerful political party in 1972, was fraying at the edges.In the 1996 general elections, the Grand Old Party was reduced to just 140 seats out of 545. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on the back of the Ram Temple issue, was an emerging force, though it was far from getting a majority in Parliament on its own. But in the 1996 elections, it bagged 161 seats and became the single-largest party in the Parliament.

However, the country was ruled by a ragtag coalition put together by an array of regional parties to keep the BJP at bay. There was a sense of instability as no party had the power to form a government on its own. On August 15, Inder Kumar Gujaral was the PM of the country. He rose to the PM’s chair after Deve Gowda had to step down from the post in April.

Economically, India has taken giant strides, especially after the economic liberalisation policy ushered in by PM PV Narasimha Rao in 1991. The liberalisation had far-reaching ramifications as many multinational corporations (MNCs) entered the Indian markets and created millions of jobs. Many private organisations have also begun to expand themselves and realise their potential. The literacy rate (52.10) also saw a massive jump compared to the levels of 1972 (29.45).

Though India was grappling with several problems in 1997 and economic imbalance, especially in small towns and rural areas, was still a huge concern, the liberalised economic policies surely lifted many Indians out of abject poverty. Unemployment was still a problem, though the situation improved relatively.

 

To celebrate the 50th Independence Day, the organising committee – led by the then PM Inder Kumar Gujral – planned a midnight ceremony in the central hall of India’s Parliament on the eve of August 15th. The Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar, waltzed to the stage and mesmerised everyone by singing ‘Sare Jahan Se Acha’ evocatively.

 

In his Independence Day speech, PM Gujral stated that the 50th year of India’s Independence is a moment to celebrate linguistic diversity, secular values and democratic traditions that the country has upheld steadfastly.

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