Give me back my India.
Give me back my India where I can express myself freely in Parliament without being abused, heckled or intimidated.
Give me back my India, where economics gets priority, not encomiums. We need economists but all we have got are encomiasts.
Give me back my India where crimes against women are met with the harshest punishments; where champion athletes do not get sexually harassed; and where abusive men in power are not shielded.
Give me back my India where one out of three youth are not unemployed.
Give me back my India where language was a means of communication and not a marker of patriotism.
Give me back my India where a state is not consumed by violence for five months. (Sorry, Manipur, we still have not managed to send the head of the Union Government and chief of its executive branch to you).
Give me back my India where the double-digit food price inflation does not lead to a situation where three out of four people cannot afford a healthy diet.
Give me back my India where farmers are guaranteed MSP (Minimum Support Price) for crops; where farmer suicides are history; and where farmers get prioritised over large corporations. It is tragic that 10,000 farmers committed suicide in 2021.
Give me back my India where the Prime Minister pays condolences when jawans are martyred instead of attending functions at his party headquarters.
Give me back my India where its profitable PSUs, its crown jewels - the Railways, SAIL, BHEL, BSNL - are not privatised.
Give me back my India people's hard-earned money is not used to cover up frauds and corporate losses amounting to over Rs 12 lakh crore.
Give me back my India where economic offenders do not loot this country and then flee to another land while the common people have to face LPG cylinder and price rise.
Give me back my India where renowned institutions are not systematically weakened to be subservient to the ruling dispensation.
Give me back my India where media owners are not enslaved by the party in power, where real journalists have the freedom to remain real journalists.
Give me back my India where the government does not have to revise the methodology of calculating GDP to make numbers appear artificially higher.
Give me back my India where slums are not covered with green curtains when the country is hosting international events or world leaders.
Give me back my India where dissent does not mean jail. Think Father Stan Swamy, Siddique Kappan, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, and so many others.
Give me back my India where religious propaganda does not trump science, and cow-urine is not drunk to cure COVID. Let's celebrate the champions of Chandrayaan, not those who peddle pseudo-science.
Give me back my India where citizens, especially migrant workers, are not left stranded or die, because of fatalistic announcements of demonetisation or COVID lockdown.
Give me back my India where statistics and data are not the enemy of the state. COVID data was suppressed, the PM CARES Fund is opaque, and the Census is postponed.
Give me back my India where the environment is not sacrificed at the altar of corporate profit. Examples - Joshimath subsidence, roads built by National Highways Authority of India caving in, landslides caused by uncontrolled construction.
Give me back my India where the heartbeat of our economic engine - manufacturing, doesn't suffer from policy-induced arrhythmia. Employment in the manufacturing sector has fallen from 51 million in 2016 to 36 million in 2023.
Give me back my India where the right to privacy is not a contested battleground but a fundamental and inviolable right of every citizen. The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill that was bulldozed in the Monsoon Session of Parliament arms the government to circumvent citizen privacy through multiple channels.
Give me back my India where I can eat what I want, where I can say what I want, where I can love who I want.
Give me back my India where unity in diversity is not just an empty phrase, it is a belief. Where unity in diversity is a way of life.
Give me back my India where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.
P.S. This article has been adapted from a speech this columnist delivered in Parliament. As it turned out, Give me back my India was the last speech to be made in the original Parliament building.
(Derek O'Brien, MP, leads the Trinamool Congress in the Rajya Sabha.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.