India @ 60 – The Challenges
I was born when independent India had just entered her teens and like the teenagers of today the world over, was struggling to come to terms with the pangs of growing up.
Life was much simpler then. Needs of the people were few and austerity was a way of life. We trusted our politicians and respected them. We were imbued with the fervour for equitable distribution of wealth and power. We were a young nation striving to stand on out two feet, proud to be free and confident that we could do it.
Sixty years after independence, India looks a different country. Confident, almost to the extent of being brash. Proud, in a very large measure. We’ve achieved much that we set out to do. But challenges remain. From aspiring to become a great nation at 60, we must transform ourselves into a great nation, at all levels, in the next 60 years.
Young in years
In three years’ time – 2010 – 54 per cent of our population will be 25-years-old. What a fantastic opportunity that will be for India in its 63rd year of freedom. If we could just tap into the potential of this young nation, harness the citizens’ energy, enthusiasm and abilities to the task of nation building.
This won’t be easy. Providing opportunities for this young workforce to be productive will require a huge job generation effort. Our GDP growth rate has been a robust 9 percent. Henceforth, the Indian economy will need to grow even faster, and for long years in a sustained manner.
That will be possible only when our infrastructure improves qualitatively and quantitatively. Our roads and bridges will need to match the best in the world. Our railways, already putting up a good show, will need to change tracks to take inland travel to the next level. Our airports will need a complete makeover, not just a minor upgradation on the stinky and chaotic scene that greets one when going to catch a flight. This will need to happen not just in the metros, but in all busy locations, all over the country. Better connectivity will not just bring us closer. It will bring us closer to prosperity and progress.
Nearly half of our population consists of women and yet they are still some distance from attaining the respect and rights that should in theirs naturally. The birth of a girl child must be celebrated just as we celebrate the birth of a boy child. She must have the best of education possible and opportunities to give full flow to her creativity. Women have the right and must be given an equal share in power at all levels. If we ignore our women, we alienate half of our human resource.
Millions of our citizens in rural and urban areas still struggle to find enough drinking water to slake their thirst, cook and clean every day. But we’re fast running out of fresh water sources. It has been predicted that the next big altercation among nations may happen because of water. Every Indian needs to understand the importance of conserving water. Indeed, it must become a national mission.
No nation ever becomes great while remaining energy-deficient. India must plan and build to become energy surplus. Non-conventional sources of energy will need to be tapped but what could lead us on the way to energy self-sufficiency is nuclear energy.
The Indo-US civil nuclear deal could not have happened at a better time. This instrument of international energy cooperation must become India’s ticket to energy prosperity and therefore, economic development. Interestingly, this deal, when it comes into force, will run for 40 years. In 2047 India will celebrate its Independence centennial. An energy sufficient India will be a fitting gift on the one-hundredth anniversary of our independence.
Age of Asia
It is said that the 21st century is the Asian century. India must learn to look east and west to its Asian friends to exploit the opportunities that the Age of Asia will throw up. For long we’ve been tutored to look towards the western powers for help, influence and succor. We must now work with the rest of Asia to enjoy the fruits of the continents’ growing power and influence.
We are world’s largest functioning democracy. But our politics is becoming increasingly attritional. We are at odds with each other’s opinions. It is no body’s case that dissent is not an integral part of democracy, but our politics and governance must become more inclusive for all round development. A society that does not encourage diversity of views runs the danger of turning into a totalitarian state.
Rule of Law
We must tirelessly build citizens’ faith in the rule of law. The rich and the powerful must not be allowed to twist the rules to their advantage and the detriment of the common people. We all remain equal before the law.
Our judiciary needs to find a way to deliver timely justice to all. The backlog of pending cases needs to be cleared at the earliest, for, justice delayed in many instances is justice denied.
Corruption is eating into our polity and society. Today, it is the single most important reason for people losing faith in the efficacy of our system. Though it may be a utopian thought to believe that one could root out all corruption from the system, but we must clamp down on it. The challenge is to find a way to make corruption unrewarding, a stigma for those who indulge in it.
Glory of Sports
Sports arenas are the new battlegrounds. We as a nation need to appreciate that we’ll gain respect in the comity of nations also when we do well in sports internationally. Mere participation in an event or competition gets you nothing except sympathy. Winning is everything and India must give a better account of itself in the international competitions that matter. The Olympics, World Cups and Asia Cups are another instrument of international influence, so we must go out and get it.
Greatness flows from self-belief, confidence and the ability to set goals and achieve them. India has had it pretty good in the last 60 years. The coming 60 years will show our future generations and the world whether we had it in us to be truly great.