As the eloquent speeches leave behind a residue of unmeant, moribund words and the bout of patriotic fervour subsides post-Independence Day, we return to our daily mechanical schedule. Some of us still debate over how far we have come since 1947 and the progress we have made since. Our success is often thought to be our technological achievements, the economic prowess we have gained over the years. We often forget that progress and development means nothing if it doesn’t make a change to people who are faceless and seldom the subject of popular media, unless it is a tragic story.
And yet there are many everyday heroes who silently toil to make India a more inclusive and just society. Inconspicuous to most of us, there are many organizations and individuals who sacrifice many of their personal dreams to ensure that the fruits of development reach the grassroots of society. One such organization I happened to come across was the Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Thinkers Forum which is involved in some commendable work in the Mandya district of Karnataka. As I talked to the chairman, Dr B. S. Shivanna, I realized the crucial role voluntary organizations and volunteers play in ensuring that development is not restricted to the swanky, plush buildings of metropolises like Bangalore.
Despite being a civil engineer, agents of change like Dr BS Shivanna, have dedicated their lives to attain social justice for the most vulnerable sections of society. In the nascent days of his activism, he was actively involved in demanding the effective implementation of affirmative action which despite the flak it draws is essential to create a level playing field in society. It is essential to ensure that those facing social disadvantages are able to overcome prejudice and stereotypes that are prevalent in our society. As a corollary, the fight is also against superstitious beliefs, which sustain the ecosystem of inequality.
People like him have been toiling to ensure that farmers are not exploited and that they become aware of their rights. Given that the bulk of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood and is facing an acute agrarian crisis, it is imperative that farmers are empowered and enlightened. As a part of their programme, they piloted the concept of ‘smokeless villages’, built fully functional toilets, schools and organized health camps. They even pitched in with providing the rural students with laptops, bus passes and sponsored an English teacher so that the students can hone their communication skills. On the social front, they encourage widow and inter-caste marriages, provide footgear to sanitary workers, distribute Prajavani—a local newspaper for free so that students can keep abreast of current affairs.
While some of these activities may appear to be trivial, when seen through the prism of privilege, they do make a great deal of difference to people who live in remote villages of India which are untouched by the globalization. Instead of engaging in meaningless arguments on the internet, the youth of India should take inspiration from people like Mr. Shivanna and dedicate a part of their lives to reconstructing Indian society rather than criticizing it ad nauseum. True patriotism is to love one’s country and work for its inclusive and sustainable development, rather than harbouring hatred for another nation.