Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for India 15 years from now has been clearly articulated by the NITI Aayog. Parts of the India 2031-32: Vision, Strategy and Action Agenda were showcased at a Governing Council meeting of NITI Aayog, chaired by the prime minister and attended by several chief ministers on Sunday. The vision foresees an India where every citizen will have a house with toilets, private conveyance (two wheelers or cars), assured power supply, air conditioning and digital connectivity.
However, this vision also throws up some pertinent questions on where the government’s focus is in these environmentally challenging times. While the government seems to be appealing to the social and economic aspirations of the common Indian, the resultant massive industrial development, uptake in construction and accelerated job creation could end up having a large price to pay when it comes to the environment.
The government promises clean and quality air in the agenda, but this goal could well run into rough weather from the aspiration to ensure a private car or two-wheeler for every citizen. And strangely this kind of a vision is happening at a time when the world over the push is towards maximising environment friendly public transport options.
According to data by American space agency NASA, the months of March in 2016 and 2017 were the hottest and second hottest in the last 137 years. And this could be why the government thinks every household will need an air-conditioner in the coming years. Are we preparing to counter global warming with one of the biggest reasons for the rise in temperatures.
While a car and an air-conditioner in the house still hold strong aspirational value for most Indians, the government has to take a more responsible position, maybe with some unpopular choices, for the greater good. Of course, every citizen should be economically empowered to afford the luxuries or the kind of lifestyle they want, but as a responsible government the idea should be to offer sustainable, environmentally friendly choices.
On the positive side, the India 2031-32: Vision, Strategy and Action Agenda envisages a society with 100 per cent literacy and universal access to healthcare. It also sets an agenda for wider and more modern connectivity by road, rail, waterways and air. The document forecasts that the per capita income would rise from ₹1.06 lakh in 2015-16 to ₹3.14 lakh in 2031-32. While it remains to be seen how inflation will impact the real value of this figure, the government appears confident that there would be greater purchasing power in the hands of the citizens.
The government has to focus on achieving these long term goals with eco-friendly methods like the huge promised investment on solar power. But why is there no mention of solar powered vehicles when there is a clear push to increase vehicles on the roads?
Of course, we all need to help realise the Prime Minister’s vision for a vibrant India by 2031-32, but the improvement in lifestyle cannot be at the cost of the environment we live in.