I often ponder what India would be like 10 years hence. A lot of erudite people talk and express their views about Vision India 2020. Would it really be the India that I have pictured it to be? Would India be as prosperous as I have envisioned it to be? To me prosperity is correlated not only to affluence but also to corruption, crime, law & order, cultural heritage, economic health, social evils and so on. In my lifetime, I have watched our country grow andchange; change for better.
In 60 years of Independence, India has transformed, from a socialist economy, into a liberal free-market economy that rewards free enterprise and entrepreneurship. Today, we proudly stand as the second fastest growing economy in the world with a robust and resilient financial system that has proved to be immune, to an extent, to the global economic recession when other countries such as the USA, UK and Japan are engulfed into the economic meltdown. As in 2007, India was the fourth largest economy in the world with a GDP of $3 trillion (Purchasing Power Parity basis). Thanks to the regulated banking industry and the culture where people tend to save. India has evolved, socially and economically, and grown significantly in the last couple of decades. The Judiciary has played a critical role in formulating laws to overcome evils including exploitation of women, dowry, child labor, preservation of Flora & fauna. We seem to have overcome the stereotypes of gender roles, to a great extent, and see that women do not fall behind men in any field. In the last decade or so, there has been a significant investment in infrastructure projects in road, port, power and telecom sectors leading to the employment of millions of people across the country. In 1998, the government created National Highway Development Plan (NHDP) for the development of roads across the country with an estimated cost of INR 54 billion. Such projects have propelled and stimulated the economic growth by providing employment to numerous people. With more disposable income at hand, these people spend more on consumer goods, leading to an increase in the overall spending. Infrastructure projects, as a means of providing employment to the poor, have played a key role in reducing the inequity between the rich and the poor; therefore, propelling equitable prosperity in India. With the government creating incentives for Foreign Direct investment, FDI inflow in India rose from meager $155 million in 1990 to $24 billion in 2007-2008. This economic growth coupled with a focus on education has lead to the emergence of a more prosperous, responsible and stronger middle class that continues to play a critical role in creation of a prosperous and enriched India. Today, Indian IT industry is considered a benchmark across the globe and India has emerged as the most favorite destination for outsourcing, leading to the creation of numerous job opportunities in India as well as abroad. Success of Indian corporations is not limited to IT industry. Companies seeking foothold overseas range from manufacturing to pharmaceutical to Bio Technology. In last few years, Indian manufacturing industry has proved its mantle by making several acquisitions overseas including Tata’s acquisition of Chorus, Tata’s acquisition of Ford’s Jaguar and Land Rover to name a few.
Having said all this, there is no gainsaying that India has prospered and is progressing fast to achieve greater heights of opulence in years to come. But, is it my vision of prosperous India? Unfortunately not. I envision an India that would be free of corruption, terrorism, social evils, crime and poverty. We still have a long way to go so as to overcome the social evils. A recent example that manifests the exploitation of minor girls in our so called prosperous nation is from the state of Rajasthan where a 14-year old girl in the district of Jodhpur refused to bow to the pressure when she was being forced to marry a 50-year old man. Though, she has been bestowed with bravery award but it doesn’t end here. Not only her, but the whole family has been ostracized and boycotted by the villagers, making the family’s survival difficult. I dream of India free of the anti-social elements who assault women that go clubbing, and who call these women immoral. How can anyone dictate what should women or anyone, for that matter, should do and should not do? The constitution of India provides us certain rights that we are entitled to enjoy, and nothing is above the law. Though, we have made progress as a nation but women still don’t feel safe, people can’t get their work done without bribery, corruption is all time high, around one third of judiciary is corrupt (as stated by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme court of India), terror attacks can strike anywhere & anytime, people can’t trust and depend on the police, and monetary strength and social and political clout are the eligibility criteria for one’s ability to lead a happy and wishful life. This list will go on. In nut shell, India can’t be a prosperous nation until the list of aforementioned accolades is gone with the wind, or, at least shrinks to a bare minimum.
This requires a dramatic change in the system, and in all of us. Instead of holding ‘systemic failure’ the cause of every cataclysm including terror attacks, corporate frauds, stock market scam and the corrupt Judiciary tormenting our country, we, the government, the bureaucrats, and everyone, need to grow up and take responsibility and accountability for the things happening around us. The day when we stop blaming, taking things for granted and finding excuses, but rather take result-oriented actions, will embark the dawn of true prosperity in India. It requires each of us to come together, contribute our bit, never compromise with honesty & integrity, become aware and take collective measures with a great sense of responsibility. Until then, India may be called a progressive nation, but, certainly, not a prosperous nation.