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'Our expectations have not been fulfilled,
our dreams haven't come true'

Over the last half century, Usha Mehta has tirelessly worked to keep the spirit of Gandhi alive.

This most amazing woman is deeply disenchanted with the India of the present. Is this the freedom you fought for, Archana Masih asks her:

After having participated in the freedom struggle what expectations did you have from independent India.

Our expectations have not been fulfilled. By and large our dreams haven't come true.

Barring in one or two directions, I do not think we have marched the way Gandhiji wanted us to. The India of his dreams was where there was minimum unemployment--where people were supplied with some craft to earn a living wage. There would be no difference on the basis of community, caste or religion. Where people were disciplined and developed a constitutional habit to obey laws passed by the state. That India would have a sense of affinity with all those who were victims of injustice and exploitation because India's freedom was not for India alone, it was for the whole suppressed sections of humanity.

How many of these expectations were fulfilled and how many got lost in the way?

In the social field, Gandhiji wanted the removal of untouchability. Although it is now a punishable offense, even then I think the atrocities on the harijans is increasing instead of decreasing, let alone abolished.

Similarly, take the concept of equality between men and women. Today I can't imagine how women are abused in free India. Rape. Almost everyday, atleast one or two cases of rape must be taking place in our country. Not only rape by one individual but gang rapes and custodial rapes.

I do not say the government hasn't done anything for women. Some laws have been passed, 30 per cent reservation is given to them. But only reservations is not the solution. Along with this should come real education. Women should be made aware of their rights. Therefore, a constant education campaign should go on. If women are educated, the family planning programme will also catch up which is the best way of implementing this programme. Unfortunately we haven't done this.

Then Gandhiji wanted education through the medium of a craft. Where there was a close connection with the realities of life and the type of education imparted. Today education is stuffed with information and no values. What we need is value education. Education has remained examination oriented, not life oriented. This is the reason why there is such unemployment that many graduates and double graduates sometimes seek employment as lift attendants.

Usha Mehta's photographs: Jewella C Miranda