After its independence in August 1947, India faced huge challenges. Some of the major challenges are as follows:
The Constituent Assembly was formed by elected representatives. It held its deliberations between December 1946 and November 1949 to draw a constitution for the new nation. The Indian Constitution was adopted on 26 January 1950.
Voting Rights: Universal adult franchise was adopted by the Constitution and it was one of the remarkable features of the Constitution. In other countries, it had taken years of struggle to ensure universal adult franchise. Thus, the Constitution makers gave political equality to all citizens of India.
Equality: Another feature of the Constitution was the guarantee of equality before the law; regardless of caste or religious affiliations. While some leaders proposed to build the nation on Hindu ideals, Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to build a secular state.
Reservations for Underprivileged: Special privileges were given for the poorest and most disadvantaged Indians. The dalits and the tribals had faced oppression since ages. They were given reservation in government jobs and educational institutions so that they could improve their socioeconomic status. Reservation for these classes was also given in the Parliament and state legislatures.
Several rounds of discussions were held to distribute power between the centre and the state. It was argued that only a strong Centre would help in developing a strong and united country. Some members argued in favour of giving more power to the provinces. A balance was chalked out by making separate lists of subjects for the Union and the State governments. The Concurrent List was prepared to include subjects with common interest.
The issue of language was another serious matter of discussion. Some leaders believed that English should be done away with and Hindi should be promoted as the national language. But this idea was opposed by the leaders from non-Hindi areas. They did not want an imposition on Hindi on the people of those areas. Finally, it was decided that while Hindi would be the ‘official language’; English would be used for communication among various states.
Back in the 1920s, the Congress had promised to create linguistic states after the independence. But the partition of the country along communal lines changed the mindset of the nationalist leaders. They wanted to prevent further divisions in the country on sectarian lines. Nehru and Sardar Patel were against the creation of linguistic states.
But people from many parts of India began their demand for creation of states based on languages. The strongest protests came from the Telugu speaking districts of the Madras Presidency. Nehru was shown black flags when he went there to campaign for the general elections of 1952.
Potti Sriramulu: In October of 1952, a Gandhian leader Potti Sriramulu went on a fast onto death to demand the formation of Andhra Pradesh for Telugu speakers. After fifty eight days into his fast, Potti Sriramulu died on 15 December 1952. This sparked large scale violence and protests. The government had to concede to the demand and the new state of Andhra Pradesh was created on 1 October 1953.
Creation of more states: After the creation of Andhra Pradesh, demands from other linguistic groups came cropping up. A State Reorganisation Commission was set up to look into the matter. The Commission submitted its repots in 1956. Based on its recommendations; the states of Assam, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka were created. The large Hindi-speaking region of the north was also broken up into several states. Bombay was divided into Maharashtra and Gujarat in 1960. Punjab was divided into Punjab and Haryana in 1966.
Removing poverty and building a modern technical and industrial base were important objectives for the new nation. The Planning Commission was set up in 1950 to plan and execute policies for economic development.
The policy makers followed the model of the mixed economy. As per this model, both the State and the private sector had to play important and complementary role in economic development.
India has entered into its seventh decade of independence. The biggest achievement of the nation is the continuity of democratic form of government. At the time of independence, many foreign observers had predicted that India would not be able to survive as a single country. The huge diversity of India was the basis of their apprehensions. But we are enjoying the fruits of democracy, independent judiciary and independent media.
Socioeconomic disparities still persist in the country. Caste based inequality persist in many parts of rural India. Communal violence has also happened from time to time.
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