India is a country that is destined for greatness. It is written in its fate. When the Indian nation was created on August 15th 1947, the world welcomed it with a lot of scepticism. Around the world, especially in the west, many political scientists, thinkers, writers and intellectuals predicted that India would soon become a poverty-stricken state and would very soon reach the status of a failed state. They thought that democracy was unsuitable and it wouldn’t work in India because India’s population was so large. People drew conclusions after comparing Communist China whose population matched India’s and were making rapid strides in their development.
Of course, like all countries just coming out of their colonial rule, India also faced problems. Some on a really huge scale too. There was abject poverty, there was very high illiteracy, poor public facilities, little infrastructure, poor health facilities and all other factors which would make India look like an impoverished sub-Saharan African nation. For a moment, India was in such a situation that it would manage to feed its population and have very little reserves. India literally lived on a “ship-to-mouth existence”. Ship to mouth because Indian agriculture was poorly developed and it could in no way sustain the large population of India then. Food, especially wheat had to be imported all the way from the United States of America and other countries in order to feed the Indian population.
In the beginning itself, India and its leaders made big mistakes in their rule. They had misguided policies all as a result of lack of experience and the impractical dream of an absolutely perfect utopian society right here in India. In the beginning itself, India had almost closed itself to international trade and commerce under the garb of attaining self-sufficiency and socialism. Self-sufficiency was a very noble idea but impractical when you consider that India has such huge population and it was left impoverished by the British during their rule in India. The leaders of the new nation, however, entirely missed the point and pushed forward for policies like self-sufficiency and import substitution.
These flawed economic policies was followed for over 4 decades. India was having an average growth rate of 1-2% and was infamously called the “hindu” growth rate. India was lacking the funds to initiate development. While the other countries in Asia were rapidly gaining momentum in their economic fields, India lagged behind. Its economic policy failed to fulfil its objectives.
In spite of a low growth rate, low development in other fields like health, education and other factors, India proved the world wrong that it would cease to exist. In fact, by the 1960’s itself, India had started working towards its supplies of food and had its green revolution and had become near self-sufficient in terms of food by 1991. India did not become a failed state.
Finally, in the year 1991, reforms were made in the Indian economy and it was opened to the world. These reforms were called the Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization reforms. This was the awakening of the Indian tiger.
India opened itself to foreign trade and investment, relaxed rules and regulations, encouraged foreign companies to set up shop in India, gave tax holidays and benefits and provided a lot of other incentives for them to come and invest in India.
Foreign companies on its part, flocked to India with capital and intentions to expand their trade here. India was already a very populous nation and it would have made a great market for their goods. Many companies came to India and set up factories and manufacturing units. India even set up Special Economic Zones where Multi-National Companies or MNC’s would operate with added benefits like tax holidays, cheaper labour and round-the-clock electricity and water.
This created employment, which in turn created consumption and it led to more money for the companies and also more taxes for the government. India started to really prosper now. The annual budgets started increasing at a phenomenal rate.
As a result, many poor people got shifted from the lower-class to the middle-class. There was a shift in the socio-economic patterns of life. India started spending money on education and health. Literacy rate grew to a whopping 63% as of 2010. India started achieving double-digit growth rates. New infrastructural projects sprung up. India used to accept aid from other countries in the beginning, now India gives aid to other countries. When India was merely crawling towards progress in the beginning, it is galloping now.
By the time India reached 50 years of Independence, many in India predicted that India would become developed by the year 2020. Even though that was predicted by many, there has been different opinions on the issue. Nobody can actually guarantee that. It remains a 50-50 chance.
For full development, there needs to be certain criteria, and this criteria is not merely economic growth. Of course, economic growth in financial terms has a large part to play in development. Development, to begin with, means to ensure that there are facilities for education and health throughout the country which is decent enough. It also means that India should be secure in the energy sector, should have adequate security in order to defend itself and it should have a social security net for its citizens. The list is actually long but the basic things about being a developed country has been stated above.
India as of now is doing well. India has spent massive amounts on infrastructural projects. India is creating thousands of entrepreneurs each day. People are upgrading from a lower class life to a middle class life. When you see all that, you tend to believe that India is going to develop completely by 2020. Let us see what factors support this claim:
First of all, Indian democracy is a contributing factor towards the development of India. Indian democracy ensures that the Indian people are happy and that their individual rights are respected. There is no chance of a revolt against the Indian state or any case of dramatic events that may bring it down to scratch. Indian democracy also ensures that each and every decision taken would be one which has been adequately discussed, debated and all angles have been taken into consideration. All decisions are made in such a way that all sides have been taken care of.
Second of all, the phenomenal growth rate of India will aid India’s gallop towards progress. In order to facilitate development, you do require a lot of money and this comes from the higher growth rates. The higher growth rate also encourages more investment from abroad. The more growth there is, there are more taxes and then there is a bigger budget where more could be used for development.
Thirdly, rapid urbanization and industrialization is taking place in India and industries are being set up even in the rural areas bringing such areas employment and more money. Both rapid urbanization and industrialization is a sign of progress and development.
Fourth, the education given to the Indian people are increasing. Of course, the amount of education offered is clearly not enough especially when you look into the case of vocational schools. India has around 60,000 vocational schools for all manner of subjects throughout the country, whereas China has over 500,000. Nevertheless, India has been literally pumping out thousands of doctors and engineers and they could contribute to more development within the country.
Fifth, though the security infrastructure of the country is not very firm as of now, it is improving. There has been much fewer terrorist attacks than there has ever been in previous years and the magnitude is much smaller. Violent acts has been reduced and security has been increased. This has few advantages. First of all, the sense of security enables citizens to be more productive and secondly, foreign investors will be more reassured when investing in India.
Sixth, India has been pumping in a lot of money in order to spend on infrastructure. This includes expressways, highways, new cities, rail lines, airports, seaports and even energy infrastructure like new coal plants, nuclear plants and the others. Thousands of people are employed in huge infrastructural projects like these and the economy stands to benefit as transportation costs may be much lesser and there is enough power to power various industries and cities. India is also spending a lot of money on renewable energy research and is harnessing its power so that the energy needs of India will be taken care of in the near future.
Seventh, India is a young country with a majority of its workforce well below 35 years of age. India’s youth today are a bunch of educated, enterprising individuals. India is laying special emphasis on entrepreneurship skills of the people. When a population is gearing towards entrepreneurship than employment, that is a big sign of development.
Though all these points signify that maybe India does have a good chance to be a developed country 9 years from now, there is another side to the coin. The points that show that India may not reach the stage of a developed country by the year 2020 is as convincing as the points that signify they do. That is why they say that the chances of India being a developed country by the year 2020 is a 50-50% chance.
First of all, India has a lot of political problems. Though India is a democracy, it is not without its problems. The trend in India nowadays is to have coalition governments. The problem with coalition governments is that the parties have to accommodate all their needs and desires and the list is long when you consider the fact that there are so many political parties who target various kinds of people and their community. There is a lot of minority appeasement and there is resentment within the Indian people. The political parties are less into nation-building and good governance and more into engaging each other in petty politics. Most politicians don’t have enough education and many of them have criminal records or some relation with criminal elements. This works against progress. There is no political will to tackle many of the really pressing issues in India as politicians fear that it will affect them in the elections. Though that persists even in more developed countries, it could have been much lesser if politicians had more education.
Secondly, there is growth, but growth does not automatically imply development. Growth is a means to development. But in India, the gap between growth and development is huge. Even if the budget is increased a lot, the money spent on development doesn’t. In fact, the poor take a lot of time to get out of poverty and into the middle class. Poverty alleviation indeed is the biggest economic challenge for India.
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Thirdly, corruption. In India, corruption is the biggest deterrent to growth and development for the country. Though India is a $1 trillion economy, corruption in India stands at $462 billion. That means, 1/3rd of the Indian economy is actually unaccounted. The most shocking fact remains that $1.4 trillion is held as black money in offshore accounts by Indian citizens. With so much corruption, how is the country going to progress? It was estimated that out of each rupee that India puts into development, only Rs 0.15 reaches the concerned people for development. Good news is that through media coverage and public awareness, changes are being made and questions are being asked. Corruption will take quite a while to fight.
Fourth, India has its security concerns and issues with its neighbours. India faces the threat of Islamic terrorism and naxalism and India spends phenomenal amounts of money to fight it. There are terror attacks going on in India every now and then. Even though the number has been limited after the 26/11 attacks, there is a need to strengthen the armed forces, especially in order to combat terrorism. India also spends a lot of money in Kashmir of which a part has been illegally occupied by the Pakistanis. Border incursion remains a very serious problem in India and India is forced to spend a lot of money in order to combat this very problem and it is receiving a not-very-good result.
Fifth, education is being imparted on a large scale, true. But then the quality of education is so bad and so bookish and impractical that it is almost as good as no education at all. Whenever foreign firms set up shop in India, they say that though the labour is very cheap, they have to spend money in order to retrain them to work. Unless serious reforms come in the educational sector, you cannot express a lot of progress.
The tie-breaker however remains the cultural and religious factor in India. India has multiple identities in terms of religion, region, caste, socio-economic status and so on. Even with so many religion, regions, languages, castes and everything, India displays a wonderful sense of unity amongst such diversity. Of course, things hasn’t been very comfy-cosy and there has been clashes on various distinctions. However, with increasing education and urbanization has brought the differences down and the sense of unity is more strong now. But how far this unity will go will actually decide for India whether it will gallop or crawl towards progress.
At the end of the day, it remains a 50-50 on whether India will actually be a developed nation or not. In order to make India a developed nation by the year 2020, a lot of hard work needs to be put in.
Copyright © 2011 AshwathKomath