Modi claims India achieved little in 60 years. These seven charts prove why he’s wrong

The country’s relative progress since 1947 is not a fake story.

The theme of Narendra Modi’s election campaign three years ago was resonant: he was Vikas Purush and would bring much-awaited development to India. “You gave 60 years to the Congress, they gave you nothing but misrule,” he would thunder at public rallies. “Give me 60 months to fix the nation’s ills.”

Modi’s choice of words varied slightly – sometimes using “shasaks”, or rulers, for the Congress and “sevak”, or servant, for himself. But the thrust was always the same. His was an aggressive and frenzied style of campaigning that India had not seen before. Since it was election-time rhetoric against his principal opponent, he could not be faulted.

But Modi was doing more: he was changing the narrative about independent India’s gains, achievements and development to the point where they stood discredited. Modi must genuinely believe in this manufactured narrative because nearly two years after his landmark victory in the 2014 election, he returned to the theme. Speaking in the Parliament in March 2016, he contented: “If the Congress had helped the poor in 60 years, the poor wouldn’t still be facing trouble…We can’t ignore 60 years of misgovernance.”

Incessantly repeated by the popular hero who had captured the nation’s imagination and echoed by his supporters, this assertion struck root. It began to seem as if the story of India as a thriving economic machine, information technology superpower, space explorer, desirable market for the world, and largely secular nation were figments of a fiction writer’s imagination. The idea that nothing significant happened in India after August 1947 has seeped so deep into a section of the population, especially the young and ardent Modi fans, that it has reached the level of received truth.

A cursory glance at online discussion platforms such as Quora shows just how deep this belief runs. In one post, a proud student of the prestigious Doon School claims to demonstrate that Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were utter failures. In Gandhi’s case, even the 1971 war with Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh – the one thing even the Bharatiya Janata Party has commended the former prime minister for – is credited only to her military generals.

It is easy to conflate independent India’s story with that of the Nehru-Gandhi family, whose members held the office of prime ministers for two-thirds of the 60 years Modi harped about. For the rest, though the office was occupied by PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, it was no secret that the levers of power stayed with the family. The BJP’s aversion to the Nehru-Gandhis runs so deep that it would, if it could, obliterate that era from contemporary history. Or discredit it, especially in popular narratives.

Long way to go

It is, of course, not the case that everything was hunky-dory when the Congress governed India. Who can airbrush the horrors of the Emergency or the pain of losing to China in the 1962 war that India was ill-prepared for? How do we reconcile the contradiction that the soaring economy that is the world’s envy also has abject poverty, levels of child malnutrition that put it on a par with sub-Saharan Africa, an agrarian crisis that is wreaking havoc in rural areas, and unending oppression of marginalised groups such as the Adivasis, Dalits and sections of Muslims? The indices for hunger, primary education and healthcare are distressing enough to warrant a revolution. Caste atrocities and communal violence continue to take lives and threaten the country’s secularism, flawed as it is.

Yet, to claim nothing happened in 60 years of the Congress’s rule would be a fanciful rewriting of independent India’s history, and, equally, a whitewashing of the crucial foundational years of a new post-colonial country. As historians have pointed out, those first few years and the leaders who helmed India’s transition from a British colony to an independent, secular, democratic republic despite a bloody and bitter Partition gave the country a chance to earn its place in the world later.

Numbers tell the story of the past 70 years – of greatly improved life expectancy and infant mortality rate (which is still unacceptably high), vastly enhanced and modernised economy, increased food production and per capita income. The events, numbers and indices in India of 1947 would not have inspired confidence, let alone faith, that the country could hold its own in the comity of democratic nations. Those who discredit 60 years of the Congress’s rule would do well to pause, read and absorb the numbers, and ask the question: would the indices have improved to the extent they did without the over-arching socio-politico-economic framework established in the immediate years after independence?


“Modi would not have been the prime minister of the country had it not been for the first leaders of independent India who held the centre against all odds,” said the historian Ramachandra Guha, whose book India After Gandhi traces the early years of independent India and the immense, complex work that went into making of the nation.

“Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, BR Ambedkar for about four years from January 1948 to January 1952 did a truly extraordinary job,” Guha added. “They gave India a fighting chance by determining territorial integrity, uniting the country, resettling refugees, working out an egalitarian Constitution, setting economic growth in process and then conducting the first general election. Think of India as a start-up, not even the most optimistic investor would have put his/her money in 1947 because it looked like it would collapse in a year.”

Picking up the pieces after the British exited, in the aftermath of a wounding Partition when the nation was not yet knit as one, called for moral courage, majestic vision, and immense political skill. Independent India’s leaders clearly rose to the occasion, despite personal shortcomings and inter-personal squabbles, to disprove the prophets of doom who had predicted that India would either break up or come under autocratic rule because her poverty and heterogeneity made democracy impossible.

“The period of Indian history since 1947 might be seen as the adventure of a political idea: democracy,” Sunil Khilnani, scholar of Indian history and politics, wrote in his seminal book The Idea of India. The Indian experiment is the youngest when compared to the American and French revolutions but “its outcome may well turn out to be the most significant of them all, partly because of its sheer human scale and partly because of its location, a substantial bridgehead of effervescent liberty on the Asian continent”.

That India ought to be “an independent sovereign republic” guaranteeing all its citizens justice, equality, and freedom of thought, expression, belief and action subject to law was laid out laid in the Constituent Assembly’s Objectives Resolution. It was Nehru who moved it in December 1946. The Constitution, which was adopted on January 26, 1950, and Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar’s insistence on adhering to democratic values and institutions, however flawed, made all the difference in the first years of independence. “We would not have seen the reforms of 1991 or spoken about 8% growth in GDP had the country not been united,” Guha said.

Nehru’s administration pushed for planned economic and agrarian growth; public sector spending; setting up of steel and power plants; establishing Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management, among other measures. He spoke endlessly about ensuring progress for all Indians and cultivating a “scientific temper”. His government encouraged space exploration and put the country on the nuclear path – boldly for a new and struggling nation. But it fell short in emphasising primary education and healthcare, planned urbanisation and personal law reform.

A blot

The initial thrust made possible economic and political consolidation in the 1960s and ’70s, and further gains. At the same time, these decades unfortunately saw gradual degradation in the institutional framework of the country and breakdown in the political party system as Indira Gandhi took complete control of the Congress and the state. The course correction that should have been effective in the 60s and ’70s wasn’t. Her declaration of the Emergency remains a blot on the nation. Licence-favour raj, cronyism, subversion of the system and corruption became emblematic of her era.

Historians and economists have found fault with Nehru’s government, and indeed all of the Congress’ rule until 1991. However, the process of deepening democracy continued as marginalised groups such as the Dalits and women found their voice; as the communication and information revolution of the 1980s reached unexpected corners; and as new generations of Indians found their lives were better and held more promise than those of their parents and grandparents.

There are still miles to go, but the indices of development show that India has undeniably come a long way since 1947. The country’s relative progress is not a fake story.

This is the first in a two-part series on India’s journey over the past seven decades.

This is the first of a two-part series on the progress India has made since 1947. The second part can be read here.

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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

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2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.