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The Road Ahead for India: 5 steps to greatness

January 23, 2009

I have often wondered,on the face of all these new found fascination and romance with India, if this country is truly made out to capture the center stage of world. The infrastructure is crumbling, the population is exploding, corruption is rife, policies are outdated, quality of life is zero and … Slumdog Millionaire is a hit!

All the paraprosdokian apart, the governance,law and order are major issues in the system. Yet, in spite of the gloomy situation out there, India has a chance of a lifetime to take the nation to a different orbit. A totally different one.

I have a disclosure to make, at the very outset. I believe the last five years have been great five years. But also, a five years of divisions. An unseen division between the haves and the have not. No, a division which runs subtler, yet deeper than that. A division creating two groups, those who have been able to participate in this growth and those who couldn’t. And to a large extent, the second group is more.

And this is the entire crux of the post. Yes, we are facing a slowdown. Yes, these are dark times. But often in these dark times, we have opportunities which can make it a blessing in disguise. EU at one side is falling apart in its economy. US seems to be heading towards an era of deflation and ZIRP-ishness, which will severely hamper the nation.China on the other hand is coming under huge pressure, somewhat similar to Thailand after Asian Financial Crisis. So it will be in India’s infinite advantage, if India brings forward a hugely focussed almost martial in execution these few points. The sincere and successful execution of these will make it sure, that the quality of life and human resource in India changes altogether.

I believe there are 5 [atleast] primary steps to make the growth a truly sustainable one.

  • Quality of Primary, Secondary and Higher Education: Indian policy makers has for long time neglected the state of education in the state. While, the basic illiteracy in India has substantially reduced since 1981, but the absolute numbers is still staggering. Today the number of illiterates in India above the age of 7, exceeds the population of India in 1947 by around quarter of a billion.

Amartya Sen, to this effect has noted in his book Argumentative Indian,

“Sometimes the very institutions that were created to overcome disparities and barriers have tended to act as reactionary influences in reinforcing inequality… The teachers’ unions, which have a very positive role to play in protecting the interests of teachers and have played that part well in the past, are often turning into an influence that reinforces the neglect of the interests of children from desperately underprivileged families. There is evidence of hardening of class barriers that separate the newly affluent teachers from the impoverished rural poor.”

  • Focus and Quality of Research : India heavily needs to reinvest, refocus in bringing cutting edge research to the nation’s resources. While the research is being traditionally seen with a sunk cost bias, but this attitude has recently changed after witnessing Kapil Sibbal’s speech on the bill “Scientific Research in India” this winter. But still, it must be realised if  India has to go forward the number of quality research and patents coming from the nation has to atleast triple,quadruple, if not quintuple. In 2002, the number of PhDs passing out in India was hardly 22, today it has risen to 104. Meagre, but still substantial rise. This has to change and change significantly.With building of more top notch flagship universities on the line of int’l institutions, is the way forward. And not IIT-isation of Bannari Ammal Muthuselvan Ravindra Rao Institute of Technology.

  • Increased government spending on infrastructure : India for years, nay for decades has suffered an abominable quality of life. The nullas[drains], roads, urban planning is all pre historic. For Gods sake, increase the government spending and fix these. Get the quality of life on track again. Instead of giving away land for SEZs, improve the basic necessities first. And if the nation wants another bull run, this is an absolute must. You will have good infrastructure spendings, the necessary companies will get a filip in their business. Get the public-private venture ‘on’ for Gods Sake if anything substantial has to happen. Is it any surprise, when you think the last bull run came after phenomenal government spending during NDA government?

  • The Law and Order, the Hidden Factor: It is often the most neglected variable in the equation when it comes to sustaining growth and attracting investments. But neglect this, and the situation will worsen far faster than a train coming your way at 150kmph. India had a criminal neglect towards this area. I can never ever forget or forgive the almost lackadaisical attitude towards internal security during these four years of UPA governance. If Kandhamal was anything of a small village situation then the blasts in India in 2008 were no less. It was a huge mistake on the part of UPA to neglect this. And I am sure India has faced a huge lapse in this area. The event of holding Mumbai to ransom for three long days was the culmination into the situation. I just hope Indian policy makers have woken up to this.

  • Transparency, Tackling Corruption and Improved Governance : India has found it extremely difficult in the past to address this issue successfully. If Satyam case was an instance of bad checks, even then buck stops with the policy makers. Even till recently int’l hoteliers like Four Seasons, Trident and Hiltons found it extremely difficult to perform business over here. Reportedly 43 licenses were required for Four Seasons to open. All of these instances call for a better addressal  of  grivances, keeping in place the required checks and making RTI even more encompassing and powerful. This addresses effectively the transparency and corruption area. Streamlining the investment avenues will make it sure that corruption is not encouraged and kept in check properly. Not only corruption arising from investment avenues but also corruption arising in government-public interface. All of these are not easy but only martial focus on to the problems at hand can help us. Greatly.

At the end ,what counts is India fully prepared and loaded to take its righful place in the comity of nations. Successful execution of these will significantly smoothen the journey if not make it a joy.

Signing off,
Jump Up!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2009 9:33 pm

    dude.. really cool post 🙂
    saved the web page on my hard-drive 😀

  2. January 27, 2009 10:30 pm

    Thanks Paul my pleasure 🙂

  3. January 28, 2009 9:07 pm

    good one..i liked it

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