Posted in India

Independence Day 2021 : Redeeming the Pledge

At Midnight on the 15th of August 1947, India won its freedom from British Colonial Rule and on that historic occasion, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India delivered the famous Tryst with Destiny speech, which ranks amongst one of the greatest speeches of the last century, in any language.

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

He went on to outline the many challenges the new nation, bent and broken by centuries of servitude, more diverse and ungovernable than any other on the planet, faced…

Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this Assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom, we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons us now.

That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means, the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and poverty and disease and inequality of opportunity.

And it was this Nehruvian Vision which makes it possible for every Indian to look back with pride at what has been so painstakingly and assiduously achieved, in the face of adversity, scarcity, conflict and constraint:

Lately however, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep India’s tryst with destiny, as we seem to be moving backward from the road to human development, which changed a billion lives for the better, over 75 long years.

Some indications:

  • The Pew Research Centre, using World Bank data, has estimated that the number of poor in India (with income of $2 per day or less in purchasing power parity) has more than doubled to 134 million from 60 million in just a year due to the pandemic-induced recession. This means, India is back in a situation to be called a “country of mass poverty” after 45 years
  • As manufacturing jobs dry up, workers are returning to the low-productivity farm sector. Getting back to a higher growth trajectory will require getting people out of this disguised unemployment and into more gainful productive employment. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has been monitoring these numbers and its Consumer Pyramids Household Survey shows that these numbers have been steadily rising in recent years. The government’s own Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) shows that employment in agriculture, as a percentage of total employment, has gone up from 42.5% in 2018-19 to 45.6% in 2019-20. In other words, our labour force is in reverse gear and the situation can only grow worse, resulting in India forfeiting its demographic dividend
  • Globally, India fell 20 places in ten years on the WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX – from 122 in 2010 to 142 in 2020. This story is becoming all too familiar, whether it is the World Development Index, the Social Progress Index, the Human Development Index and a myriad other global indices and criteria

Nehruji ended his speech with rousing words indeed:

We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be. We are citizens of a great country on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.

To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy.

And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service.



I am a trainer of Government Officials and Elected Representatives, specializing in the urban and municipal sector. I have also written extensively on Urban Governance, Poverty, Development, Social Accountability and Municipal Management in the Indian context, and wish to share these writings with you through this blog.

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