India should have done better, say freedom fighters

New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) They were jailed and made sacrifices as they single-mindedly worked to throw off British rule and build an India of their dreams. But freedom fighters do not appear to be satisfied with progress over the past six decades and feel the country should have done much better.

Most of the freedom fighters IANS spoke to at an At Home by President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Friday to mark the 71st anniversary of Quit India Movement were concerned about corruption.

Mostly in their 80s and 90s, the freedom fighters also had concerns about price rise, situation of farmers and employment opportunities for youth.

Bichhanda Charan Pradhan, 91, from Odisha, was jailed and his property confiscated for fighting the British. He compared his feelings at the country attaining Independence in 1947 to a cow getting away from captivity.

However, Pradhan said he was not satisfied with the country's progress.

"There is exploitation. Those in positions of power are insensitive. People often have to give money to get their work done," he said.

Mahendra Bajpeyi from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh was a student when the Quit India movement was launched on Aug 9, 1942 and participated in the "spontaneous civil disobedience movement which spread all over the country".

Bajpaeyi, who was later jailed for participating in scavengers strike, said leaders of freedom movement had a vision of education, health and employment for all but complains these have not been realised.

"A report has said that about 80 percent of population live on income of Rs 20 per day

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There is no control over price rise. Alongside there are threats to country's security, left wing extremism and religious intolerance," he said.

Devi Prasad Sinha Chaudhary from Jharkhand, who also took part in the Quit India movement, said that the purpose for which Mahatma Gandhi gave a call for Independence has not been fulfilled.

"The dream was of Ram Rajya but it is Ravan Rajya (rule of the demon king). Earlier, the British looted the country, now our own people are looting the resources. It hurts my soul. The prevailing conditions are not those for which we had made sacrifices," he said.

Sitaram Sah, another freedom fighter from Jharkhand, said that corruption was widespread and people are not able to fully avail their rights.

"The system should be such that everyone benefits from the country'sdevelopment," he said.

D. Pampanna, a freedom fighter from Karanata, said the government should give immediate attention to the lot of farmers and create opportunities for the youth.

"Farmers are dying due to debt," he said.

Subhadra, a freedom fighter staying here, said the country's leaders need to protect at least one ideal and the nation should strive for common goals.

The president honoured and felicitated 121 freedom fighters Friday in the presence of VicePresident Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister A. K. Antony and other dignitaries.

Each of the freedom fighters was gifted a solar lamp with a personal message from the President.

In his message, the President said "nature has always been kind to humanity. But, whenever greed has overtaken need, nature has revealed its destructive face. The recent natural calamity in Uttarakhand has once again shown the necessity for mankind to live in harmony with nature. Increased use of solar power can help us preserve the environment".

The event is being held at Rashtrapati Bhavan since 2003 to honour freedom fighters and mark the anniversary of Quit India movement.

The All India Congress Committee had adopted a resolution on Aug 8, 1942 in Bombay (now Mumbai) calling on the British to "Quit India". There was a spontaneous movement next day in response to Mahatma Gandhi's call for immediate independence.

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