In New Delhi, the place which truly leaves a mark on you is the majestic and dignified Rashtrapati Bhavan, as well as the stately life found in the areas outside it. Indian society is on its own development trajectory. With a distinct power/authority boundary, social consciousness flourishes .
Constitution “protects” laid back life
Today’s old Delhi is synonymous with crowds and tradition. Only rickshaws and three-wheelers can enter these narrow and dirty streets, many of which have hundreds of years of history. Old houses are on the brink of being destroyed and cable wires lie tangled like spider webs. But people have lived here like this for hundreds of years and no one feels the need to change anything.
It was after India became independent in 1947 that the southwest part of old Delhi was selected as the area to build the new city- today’s New Delhi. Perhaps it was because land is privately owned and the cost of demolishing and rebuilding the old town would have been too high
Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Parliament building, as well as the Rajpath Street — where all government department offices are concentrated, are all in the heart of New Delhi. Rajpath street goes east all the way upto the landmark India Gate. This three kilometre stretch has the most magnificent building complexes in New Delhi and is the pride of the Indian people and a symbol of India’s political center— and every year the National day Parade is held here, much like China’s own Tiananmen Square.
In New Delhi, people look at politics not just with admiration, but it is also view to be dignified and harmonious; display of tolerance is not contradictory.
On both the north and south side of Rajpath there are wide green lawns laden with thick branched trees that provide shade. Gardeners, tourists, students are free to rest under the trees. Even armed policemen who stand in the same posture for a long time, often forming groups of various sizes, sitting and chatting under the protection of the shade—don’t you think level of alertness is too relaxed? You only need to take a momentary look at the roof of the government building on the opposite side and you will understand that the figure moving on the roof is a sniper who doesn’t exactly look very friendly.
What left a deep impression on me the most was there was a stray dog languidly strolling in front of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, while the people working there hurriedly took the stairs paying no attention to it. Not too far from this scene was a soldier patrolling back and forth, a gun in his hand. It turned out it was just me who expressed astonishment at the dog there and took a quick photo.
Rashtrapati Bhavan and Rajpath is New Delhi’s skyline. During sunrise and sunset, many people come here to click pictures in the backdrop of these many centuries old buildings. All day long, on both sides of the lawn people come and go but this dignified and dynamic block looks even more alive.
Around five in the afternoon we were strolling in the huge lawn beside us while waiting to enter the building of Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Next to us, an old man who gave the appearance of an intellectual, went straight to lawn, lay down on the grass and fell asleep. Meanwhile, a group of identical looking three wheelers with their pattering of their engine rather audible and a Mercedes Benz were parked next to each other, “embracing life” under the shade of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Meanwhile, an old ice-cream seller was pushing his ice cream cart, leisurely wandering around on either sides of the street—all in all, these scenes gave an unexpected feeling of harmony. After all, there are no qualms about doing physical labor to earn livelihood and this is the actual state of affairs in life.
This scenario led me to recall a chat on Indian society I had a few months ago with a young Indian guy. He said, as per the Constitution, India is a socialist country.
At that time, I was rather startled. After that I proceeded to look up some more information to confirm this statement: promulgated in 1950 and in effect till date, the Indian Constitution, in its Preamble, declares at the outset that: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist, secular democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens social, economic and political justice; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation”.
The Indian Constitution has been amended 98 times upto 2012 but never the Preamble. For Indians, the meaning of this Preamble seems very simple. The basic concept of socialism is fairness and justice; as long as the government implements this fundamental guarantee, society will operate quite smoothly. So the government should focus on fundamentals and avoid unnecessary tasks.
Official inquiry cannot be sloppy
Before coming to India I had heard countless stories. People said India was dirty, messy, lacked toilets and cows wandered around in the streets. This maybe the scene in suburban areas or countryside but in the old and new parts of Delhi, cows roaming around on the streets is a very rare scene. However, in small towns and cities these type of situation still exists. This is due to the disparity between city and countryside which is also related to the development level of the area. Of course, some people say that the caste system still exists in India which is indeed not a very accurate reflection of Indian society. In big cities like New Delhi, with increasing level of inclusiveness, people’s consciousness about equality is also increasing constantly. Many start ups and science and technology companies have employees from all the castes.
In fact, not just in India, in any country and any society it’s impossible for everyone to be born equal. Every must seek development and progress. In countries with no caste based differentiation, the rigid subconscious standard of hierarchy can be even more dangerous for society. The example of expanding disparity between rich and poor brought about from such thinking can also be found everywhere.
With regards to India’s one billion poor people, the most important social governance factor is that the government must ensure as much equity as possible in social life.
While driving by a hospital, friends told me that this is a high grade medical university’s hospital. Government officials as well as ordinary people come here to get treated. Many people from rural areas come and line up here from the morning. Although the hospital facilities are relatively mediocre, treatment is free for Indians. This is especially important for poor people. India and China are similar this way; many people need to get a token number and you need to come early to get a token. Is there any practice of “token number selling”? Friends replied: “no”, Indian people are not aware of this. Not only does this practice not exist here but poor people also get rice and other basic foods. We could see from our car windows that many people had lined up to receive rice. It looked like there were indeed many poor people.
Progress in Indian politics and economic development will go hand in hand to change the condition of poor people in the shortest time possible. I met many government officials during this visit who displayed ample confidence in India’s development. The bureau chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who came to receive us was busy preparing the answers to the questions he would have to answer in the Parliament the next day. Since these delegates represent people’s interest, they cannot afford to make mistakes. Even our taxi driver happily told us how he went to a MLA’s house to reflect on some of his problems as well as about the time he greeted the President when he had gone to the Rashtrapati Bhavan gardens after they were opened for public. The officials we met from the Ministry of Commerce and industry also appeared unusually confident about India’s ability to attract foreign investment—in 2016, the Indian government even raised the percentage cap of foreign investment in consistently conservative industries like defense to 49%. Massive railways and infrastructure projects are moving forward and projects for advanced new energy vehicles are also coming up in the capital New Delhi to manage the air pollution problem.
I can imagine how this place will look like after a few years. I reckon nothing will change, Rashtrapati Bhavan and the people with the laid back lifestyle will still be just the same.