Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India would need to play on its skill, expand the scale of projects it undertook and improve the speed of execution to match the competition from China.
Modi made the comments as Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi landed in New Delhi for talks with his counterpart Sushma Swaraj including on the massive trade deficit India has run up with it.
Talking in detail about the priorities for skill and education he pointed out that India lacked depth in its think-tanks. “The contribution of think tanks is limited in our country”, he said. The intellectual input is lacking in governance, he pointed out unlike in many countries abroad where “hundreds of scholars from different universities analyse future policies threadbare for a strong agenda to evolve”.
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He made the comments at the release of the book, ‘Getting India Back on track – An action agenda for reform’, at his residence. The book is edited by Bibek Debroy, Ashley Tellis and Reece Trevor is published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The Prime Minister’s comments were lapped up by a select audience of bureaucrats, industrialists and academicians who felt he had touched the right chord.
The book is a collection of essays by noted economists including The Indian Express columnist Surjit Bhalla, which tracks the policy imperatives for the new government.
In his speech, Modi worked to reverse some of the challenges described by the book as areas of opportunity instead. On cities, he said urbanisation has been seen by successive governments as a challenge instead of as an opportunity to develop as growth centres.
He said that the country needs to exploit the demographic dividend as 65 per cent of population was below the age of 35 years. “For this skill development needs to be a priority area,” he said.
Referring to skills such as teaching, nursing and paramedics, he said good teachers were one of the biggest needs of society. “Can India become an exporter of good teachers who would capture the imagination of an entire generation globally,” he asked.
Similarly he played on the colours of the national flag to say his government;s priorities will be to push green revolution including productivity raising initiatives like protein spiked pulses, a decentralised system of warehouse development and making railways play a more active role in transporting agro-produce.
He said while India had the largest cattle population globally a white revolution must focus on increasing milk productivity and developing a support system for ensuring their health.
Saffron, according to him represented energy. “We need a saffron revolution that focuses on renewable energy sources such as solar energy to meet India’s growing energy demand”.
Referring to the blue colour of Ashoka Chakra, Modi said blue revolution should focus on developing fisheries, including ornamental fish.
Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal, who attended the function said, “The election of Narendra Modi shows the importance of getting India back to the high growth levels we enjoyed at the beginning of this century.”
Jessica Mathews, president, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace said, “India is a very important power in the world and an increasingly influential player on the global stage.”