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By Pushkal Shivam:

‘The empires of the future are going to be the empires of the mind’ – Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill loathed India and predicted its doom in the absence of the British Raj. Ironically, 63 years after India’s Independence from the British colonial rule, his words can be quoted to articulate the narrative of India’s stellar economic performance. That an Indian went on to become the richest man of Britain, ridicules the thesis of the merchants of doom.

Last fiscal year — at a time when world’s largest economy grew at -2.4%–India registered a growth of 7.4% which was only next to China’s 10% mark. According to the IMF forecast for 2010, India is expected to grow at 9.4%. We have already clocked up 8.9%. Not to forget that these superlative figures were preceded by a drought and global economic downturn. What for decades remained at the centre of world’s supremacy has already shifted East, especially after the global financial turmoil.

So, what has really catapulted India into the Global scene? India’s GDP is likely to quadruple from $1.1 trillion to nearly $4.5 trillion by 2020. These figures are astonishing for a country which was on the brink of bankruptcy two decades ago. The decades of socialism after Independence saw scarcity of food, grinding poverty and hostility towards open markets (ironically it was to become a panacea for India’s problems). Finally, Indian economy was rid of the stranglehold of the government in 1991. The years which followed Economic Liberalization saw the Indian economy grow manifold. What could not be achieved in nearly four decades after the Independence cascaded in the 19 years after the Economic Liberalization.

The phenomenal rise of India’s IT sector put India on the map of global economy. The IT sector grew from $150 million in 1991 to more than $5.7 billion in 2000. In 2007, the numbers for IT industry stood at $47.8 billion.

The Indian businesses are making acquisition, establishing partnership and thereby expanding across the globe. In 2007, the $72 billion TATA group acquired British steel firm Corus making the $12.2 billion acquisition the largest ever by an Indian company. Likewise, the Indian firms are making several acquisitions and mergers. India has sired business leaders, strategist and analysts like CK Prahlad, Nitin Nohria (Harvard dean), Raghuram Rajan to name a few. The Indian CEOs too are making their presence felt. This has put India in an advantageous position where it can leverage policy and opportunities.

India’s passport to prosperity is its young population. India’s human capital underlines this claim- median age of the population is just 25.9yrs. India is set to reap what experts call ‘demographic dividend’ which would facilitate sustained growth as there will be a large pool of young working population and fewer dependents. The rapid ageing which is set to occur in China and across the developed world puts India in a “sweet spot” as India will have the opportunity to benefit from the world economy through migration and the outsourcing industry. It is estimated that India has over 300 million English users, which gives it an edge over its competitor China. Armed with education, the young population of India would set out in its quest for global supremacy.

The presence of influential Indian Diaspora across the globe gives India the soft power leverage. The brand India is premised on the might of knowledge and soft power. India has become synonymous with solution and innovation. However, much of this is credited to globalization as India itself has done little to exploit its enormous potential. Whichever way it is, that day is not too far when India would be the knowledge capital of the world (world’s back office tag might change folks).

The Indian scientist and researchers are making rapid strides in the field of science and technology. It was ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) space mission- the Chandrayaan-which discovered water on moon with the help of NASA. Looking at the progress that the Indian scientists and professionals are making across the world, it is disconcerting that India could not make the best of its talents reserve.

A huge market exists in India’s own backyard which, so far, has remained untapped: SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) members. Studies have pegged the potential of trade in this region at $85.1 billion. And India is the “Big Daddy” in this region. Business interaction in this region on the lines of EU would increase India’s clout across the globe. However, Indo-Pak friction remains a challenge in this region.

The rise of the middle class lies at the heart of India’s growth story. In fact, it was India’s large domestic consumer base which insulated it from global financial downturn. This large base of consumers with increasing purchasing power is attracting firms from across the world. Also, business models with proven success in India are being used in other developing nations successfully.

While discussing India’s chances of becoming a world leader China is inevitable. Although China is ahead in the race between the two competing nations, the fact is that China is an authoritarian regime while India is a democratic country. China’s growth has been state induced i.e. manufactured, while that of India is natural. While decisions taken by a tyrannical government can be quick and decisive, they can cause fatal conflicts-the nemesis of an authoritarian state. According to a study, after 2010 China’s working age population would start falling. By 2040, China would have over 400 million pensioners i.e. world’s second largest population after India. In India’s case, the aforementioned demographic dividend would peak by 2035. Experts rightly point out that China’s population, which would get richer by the day, will want their fundamental rights and freedom. This may create complications and conflicts which will hinder growth.

On the other hand, in democratic India the debates could be raucous and decision making slow. But the eventual decisions are consensual. This will ensure a sustained growth over a long period of time. To put it simply in Thomas L. Friedman’s words, “I don’t think that this century can belong to a country that censors Google”. However, India has to cover a lot of ground before it pips China.

But potential does not always translate into success. If India has to realize its dream, it will have to address efficiently some of the pressing issues. The most glaring of them is the menace of Naxal violence: an insurgency the extreme left wing is carrying against government in several parts of India. Poverty alleviation is another challenge India has to grapple with and surmount. And how can we miss corruption!

India must learn its lessons from the west. Development cannot be at the cost of environment. India’s strategy must assimilate environmental concerns so that lush green surroundings and concrete can coexist. India will have to make its own path to global supremacy.

There was a time in history when India accounted for about 25% of the global trade. Perhaps, the world’s fastest growing democracy is waiting to come full circle. The trail India leaves behind in its journey may well reflect that history belongs to them who enlighten the world with their ideas.

Image courtesy.

You must be to comment.
  1. Sameera Joshi via Facebook

    Thats rightly said! we are nearing to complete full circle & will come back to where we always belongd! Cheers

  2. Youth Ki Awaaz: Mouthpiece For the Youth via Facebook

    @Sameera: Good to have an active member like you. You must join us at http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/join-us/

  3. rakesh

    India’a HDI is still very low.
    By 2020,India cannot become a superpower.
    It is far behind China which I think is a superpower now.

  4. Anshuman Gandhi via Facebook

    Have we not have had enough of these puff pieces already !?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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