By Ashish Kumar:
Abstract: Every opportunity comes with an inherent danger of squandering it. India, buoyed by its humongous young population and sustainable growth rates of economy, is well poised to be baptized the next economic superpower. To tap the potential of our young population they need to be trained in a diverse set of skills so that they can contribute to improve the manufacturing and service sector. Lucrative incentive to lure these young brains to do cutting-edge research is another need of the hour. A network of high-quality schools, colleges and training centres is needed, which can be addressed by devising strategies to convince the Private sector to invest in education. Also, in order to ensure that the problems of the future India are addressed, the involvement and participation of youth in politics and bureaucracy can be a panacea to the chronic disease of corruption.
In the process of development, what usually get left out are the villages — which are still the places where the bulk of India resides, whose main sustenance is agriculture. And in order to improve their socio-economic conditions, better infrastructure for agriculture like irrigation, cold-storage and transportation logistics is required. Equally important is good governance in Panchayats, which would ensure a vibrant democracy. The e-governance and computerization of public-offices is a must. And, in order for growth to be sustainable, green and alternative sources of energy must be explored. The law of the land should be made tenable to entrepreneurs of any scale or field — an environment to foster new ideas and innovations must be maintained.
India is diverse in its culture and people. So are its problems. Thus, a multi-pronged approach is needed to create a healthy, vibrant nation of India. My vision for a vibrant would encompass the following:
Demographic dividend and tapping it: India, with its majorly young population stands out as an energetic, juvenile, fresh-faced nation in a greying world. When globally more people than ever are retiring, India, with an average age of 29 years is the future talent pool of the world. To harness the demographic dividend, the advantage that comes due to a relatively-young population, these young people must be properly educated and trained. We need to create world-class professionals not only in field of IT but also in Biotechnology, Defence, Sports, Public-policy and Economics. This requires unveiling of Kafkaesque proportions of new colleges and vocational-training centres. The corporate giants can be roped in to sponsor this infrastructure by assuring them of quality workforce in graduates of these institutions. A talented pool of workers, along with abundant capital investment would provide us with opportunities for creativity and innovation, which in turn can lead to rapid growth in productivity and GDP. These skilled workers can do wonders with the presently-ailing manufacturing sector and services sector, the engines of our economy.
Instilling nationalism in young minds is also important. Young people must understand that cursing politicians and bureaucrats for corrupt systems and bad roads wouldn’t change it, but joining politics and bureaucracy would. They just can’t shirk their duties writing codes for their American clients sitting in the comforts of a luxury room and complain about everything else doing nothing about it. It is unfortunate that the average age of Parliament of a country so young is more than 60. The involvement of youth in policy and law making is important for nation building. The notion that politics is an evil profession needs to be changed. Politics is the best opportunity to serve the country. We should take cues from our history and inculcate the culture of clean, competitive politics in our colleges. The reduction in average age of our governance mechanism may prove a panacea to ailing state of polity in country. Sporting infrastructure needs to be developed as achievements in sports are essential ingredients of national pride.
Challenges of urbanization and rural upliftment: Lack of employment and better living opportunities in villages have attracted a swarm of rural population to cities and over-burdened them. The need for more and more land for housing and industries has resulted in massive deforestation, causing environmental degradation. These challenges have substantiated the need of moving back to villages. The Gandhian vision of self-sustaining villages must be made the torchbearer. Basic infrastructure like connecting roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, shops and employment opportunities should be developed to avoid flocking of masses in cities. The development surges up, it doesn’t trickle down! Proper functioning of institutions of Panchayats and local bodies are a must for a vibrant democracy. The tag of IT (Information Technology) should be put to indigenous needs to create initiatives like e-Choupal, Live Price monitoring and weather forecasts.
Agriculture: Agriculture has been the mainstay of our economy. Besides providing food to the masses, it brings employment to millions of farmers. Thanks to the Green revolution, the production is no more a problem in our country. But, in spite of all this progress, we haven’t been able to provide two meals to each citizen of country. The farmers continue to commit suicide because they can’t recover their cost, despite a bumper crop that season. The grim scenario points towards cobweb in our policies. Cold-storage facilities to avoid rotting of grains by rainwater are needed. A better working Public Distribution System (PDS) taking into consideration the context of regional issues and devising strategies accordingly would ensure that grains reach to deserving. Depending on the regional context, variations like coupons, cash transfers, digitization of records or ID (or Aadhar) cards can be used for betterment of PDS. Development of roads and availability of vehicles would eliminate the middleman who does the meagre work of carrying the grains to market but eats the major chunk of the profit. Opening up of our retail sector for FDI is a risk worth taking as it has potential to tame the demon of inflation.
Better governance: Indian public policy planning has huge imprints of West. But time has come to realize that those norms needn’t work in India always. Our country needs professionals who could innovate and bring in new ideas considering the context of Indian demographics and cultural variations. In the coming years, the penetration of computer and internet is bound to increase, so adopting E-governance, due to its ease of access and promise of transparency in government working, can be a paradigm shift. Â Participation from youth, minorities, tribals and civil societies would augur well for the country. India, due to its sheer size and diversity, can’t afford to become a bi-party system which is what Indian politics seems to be moving towards. The role of Constitutional bodies like Election Commission and Comptroller and Auditor General needs bolstering as they have the authority keep a check or bring to the notice of all and sundry the irregularities and corruption prevailing in the system.
Green energy and Climate: Our dependence on the Middle East countries for energy requirements is having enormous repercussions on fuel prices in country. Anyway, this consumption is not sustainable and we need to look for alternative sources of energy. Government-sponsored research in alternative sources of energy — be it biofuels, solar, wind or nuclear energy, must be done. Mechanical filtering devices to filter out the emissions from vehicles and industries need to be devised. Introduction of Carbon Credit would work as an incentive to keep in check the reckless industrialization and emission by developed countries. Environment-and-forest ministry should ensure that no luxurious edifice stands on the mortal remains of flora and fauna of that area. Reckless and illegal mining needs to be checked.
Entrepreneurships and innovations: The bustling of new companies would create jobs and attract foreign capital. The number of IT start-ups has rocketed in last 15 years. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises are the places where the future lies. The government needs to incubate and foster start-ups from diverse areas. A network of Micro-Financing institutions would be a much-needed boon for the rural economy.
International relations and defence: India has maintained cordial relationships with almost all its neighbours and the superpowers. This atmosphere of peace needs to be maintained as it is conducive to flow of foreign investment and tourism. We need to shed the non-alignment-skin and take a stand. We can’t abstain from voting at every International forum. We should speak for what is best for our national interest. If we envision ourselves as a superpower, we have to start behaving like one. Once again, for defence, our thrust should be on Research and Development in this field to develop indigenous world-class technology rather than being dependent on other countries.
Sustainable development: Mechanisms to provide adequate compensation for land acquisition must be in place, if at all the acquisition is indispensable. The plantation of same amount of vegetation at some other place must be practiced when a forest is deforested. Our constructions and infrastructure has to be properly planned not to harm the environment. We have to learn to reuse our resources.
Because, in the end, we want our development to sustain. We don’t want a steroid-shot in the arm, kiss the sky for a jiffy and bite dusts another moment.