India @ 75: A Hope For The World

We need to articulate our vision, firm up a goal and get people, policies and institutions aligned to the future vision.

India @ 75: A Hope For The World

Bharat, that is India, now moves another milestone to celebrate its 75th year of independence. It is also a milestone to reflect back on as to what all we achieved in these 75 years, and what more we need to achieve. Finally, we need to articulate our vision, firm up a goal and get people, policies and institutions aligned to the future vision.

India has moved fast forward on all fronts, but due to lack of holistic approach, the success of one side is decimated by the ignorance of the other side.  

  • India’s longevity has doubled from 33 years during independence to about 70 years now, but we are also the diabetes and CVD capital of the world.
  • India’s GDP has increased from 2.7 lac crore in 1947 to 147.79 lac crore today - India has become the fifth largest economy but India’s GDP per capita at less than US$2000 puts India under a struggling LMIC – Lower Middle-Income Country.
  • India has become the fastest growing economy but our national debt increased to a whooping 91 lac crore.
  • India has become a nuclear power but still a percentage of Indians live without electricity and water.
  • Agriculture is self-sufficient and produces five times more than it produced during independence but farmers are moving out of the profession at an alarming rate and profitability of agriculture is a burning issue.
  • India’s literacy rate increased from about 12 percent in 1947 to 74 percent, but employability is still a major challenge.
  • Indian education system is the second biggest in the world but still an Indian has not won a Nobel Prize in science and education since independence.
  • AIIMS, IISC, IITs and IIMs are amongst the world’s best education institutions but the rest of the education system is struggling to catch up, leading the bright and the wealthiest moving to the west for education.
  • India has moved to Mars and is a world leader in space program but the roads, water and electricity are still to reach every household.
  • India has added a billion more consumers post-independence but not commensurate buying power. So, the supply side has grown but we have not grown so much on the demand side because we have consumers but not the buying power.
  • India has created a few world-class billion-dollar companies but MSMEs have not been able to catch up.
  • Due to a few world class healthcare facilities, medical tourists flock to India for treatment, but COVID-19 bared the reality for all of us, when medicines, beds, ventilators and oxygen had to be imported to save lives.
  • India is the pharmacy of the world but 70 percent of APIs for manufacturing medicines are imported.
  • We have now moved from a nation with rationing of landlines - to more than 100 % telecom density, but the quality of voice and data is failing to deliver 2G levels, even though we have nationwide 4G and are planning to launch 5G soon.
  • Indian Railways is the largest employer in India, but Indians still have to face a long waiting list to getting a reserved seat, and railways still needs a Tatkal scheme.
  • Indians have powered the world with Indian skills and brains but India has failed to utilize the same brains back home.
  • India has increased connectivity massively, both in terms of soft and hard infrastructure, but inequity has increased equally.

So, when we look back, India achieved growth but not development, India achieved freedom but not independence. The reasons are clear;

  • Instead of promoting meritocracy, we are still living and promoting entitlements and quid pro quo.
  • We have programs for sharing freebies, but we are not focussed on creating wealth.
  • We have always tried to be politically correct though economically unviable.
  • Individual interests come above national interests.
  • Rights come before duties.
  • While we are upstreaming aspirations, we are lowering the level of national discourse.
  • Instead of data and facts, we believe in unverified perceptions.
  • Systems have changed, but mindsets are still the same!

In 75 years, Indian democracy has come a long way. India’s stature before the world has also grown and we are being looked up as a ‘potential super-power’ and we can be described aptly as a hope for the world at this stage.  But, we still have a long way to go, and we have to recognise that we are still a ‘developing country’ and that too, in the middle rung of LMICs.

India of today has capitalist’s objective, a socialist plan and a communist minded bureaucracy, where profit is considered ill-intentioned and bordering criminality. Bureaucracy has bartered India’s development by seeking favours at the cost of the nation’s future.

When we complete 100 years of independence, about 20 percent of our population will be senior citizens (about 34 crores), which was India’s total population when we achieved freedom. So, we have to serve and care for the population India had when it achieved freedom. Our dependency ratio will undergo a major change and our demographic dividend would have inverted. As we enter the 75th year of independence, India at 75 is a young democracy, aspirational economy and an ageing nation.

I am not much worried of the past 75 years but more about the next 25 years. Five-year planning pursued by India gives me an impression of our short-term thinking, and perhaps why we failed to set a long-term goal. In all my years of research, I have not been able to find a roadmap to make India a developed country. Dr.Kalam attempted something at TIFAC in the 80s, and it was sketchy and more on technology. If we had developed a roadmap for India in the 80’s and worked sincerely, India would perhaps have become a developed country by now.

We need an Ecosystems approach and systems thinking. Else we will remain a land of contradictions. Also, the last few decades, India has faced extremism fuelled by vile neighbours, but if we don’t pay heed to the climate emergency, we will face internal catastrophes due to ignoring our environment which will decimate development. Already, according to UN, India has lost about 25% of its GDP due to climate change.

It is time to plan meticulously to raise the GDP per capita to USD 20,000 over the next 25 years. Any organization if asked what they want ; they will say, ‘Give us the best of people and some resources’. India has plenty of both. What can stop us? This is a question we must ask, and lets come together to make a Viksit Bharat ( Developed India) in the next 25 years. When we turn 100, we should celebrate two milestones; one of India having become a developed country and the other of 100 years of freedom! When I was discussing this mission, I was asked, ‘Is it achievable?’ and I responded, ‘Does India have a choice?’

India needs the goal of JRD Tata, vision of Vikram Sarabhai, faith of Vivekanand and values of Buddha to become a ‘Ram Rajya’.

Where ever you work, keep in mind that you work for the country, and your employer helps you to take care of your daily needs.  Let’s decide what is our goal, our priority – If it’s a developed India. No one can stop us.  As Plato wrote in the 4th century BC, “What is honored in a country will be cultivated there”. Time for us to decide on what we will honour in this great country. Choice is ours!

(Prof. Rajendra Pratap Gupta is a leading public policy expert, who drafted the BJPs Election Manifesto in 2009 & 2014 and leads the Viksit Bharat Mission. He tweets @rajendragupta)