In our multi-party federal democracy, a Union of States, with different political parties of all hues calling the shots, there is much to look forward to with hope. Apart from our own stupidity, there is no reason as to why we should not be on our way to being “the dominant global power”.
One of our more astute civil servants has in his book of experiences shown that coalition regimes, more often than not, have overseen periods of high growth and reform. History suggests that fast economic growth is a period of structural transformation from rural to urban and agriculture to industry. But Gandhi’s India is showing a different path.
As India got into a high growth phase since the Eighties of the last century, its non-food grain demands started rising at two-digit rates. This led to rural-urban migration and to what are called “census towns”. These are urban areas but not classified as such on account of the politics of remaining a panchayat.
In fact, we were rapidly urbanising as she/he moved to the nearby market towns to avail of its facilities. Some years ago, I discovered their importance and wrote a book about the stupidity of ignoring infrastructure in thousands of these growth centres. Sadly, even today, we are not doing that — shifting focus to these centres through the smart cities project.
The good news is that this neglect won’t last and many of the states are picking up the mantle. It will become the norm as the need becomes pressing.
There are two other sources of growth we will garner. The first is women power. We will recognise that they hold up half the sky. My favourite example is the demographic dividend as she goes to college, marries late, the first baby comes later and the last earlier. We will stop saying they are “Devis” and accept them as fellow workers, and a great source of growth.
Women are not the only ones we discriminate against. Brahmanical leadership in thought will be changed to take advantage of the large Adivasi and Dalit population as another great asset for growth.
As Kaushik Basu has written recently, divisive laws are hurting our global reach and have serious economic consequences. Ten per cent less in the labour force means almost one percentage point lower growth than 8 per cent annually.
We will resist those who say Enjoy-Now-for-the-Good-Times are here, for the TV czar is clipped, and the reality of acche din will come to mean that this generation must sacrifice and build the nation with its prospering market towns, girls in college and facilities to get over other deprivations. Our savings rate will stop falling. It will get back from 29 per cent to 40 per cent as in China — not difficult for good leadership in Gandhi’s India.
Above all, we will be the first human society which will show that a large Islamic population and not-so-insignificant other minority groups will be an integral part of a cultural super power, on its way to become a great economic power.
Are you not convinced? Barack Obama was possible because the future was crafted during the Kennedy era. We have inherited a freedom movement which made the impossible possible. How many countries can boast of Bapu, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Azad? We are destined to be a great power.
The writer, a former Union minister, is an economist.
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