INDIAN GROWTH: PALE
India has emerged as an important global economic power, especially after late 1990s. The lives of millions of people have improved with widespread education, healthcare, roads, communications and political participation. Hunger is no longer a national issue, no major epidemic of infectious diseases and not even a wide spread civil strife in a nation so densely populated. Television and mobile telephony is almost omnipresent. The crippling disease Polio has been vanquished and India has been declared a polio free nation by the WHO. The national highways, rail and air connectivity has significantly improved the life quality of its citizens. Banking is now available to much wider sections of population and is gradually becoming available to even the weaker sections as well.
But is this growth happening the way it should have happened? Where is India missing most? Can the chain of growth be smoothened out? It is time for some evaluation to find out the areas where we overlooked the most and may have to pay a price in future if the government stays with its existing apathy.
Recently, I met a volunteer working in Motihari district of Bihar, who narrated some interesting observations. It is a very backward area but the cell phones and television both have reached this area and the road connectivity has also improved. People now know a lot of things they were ignorant about. They want to acquire many of these new inventions. They are intelligent but remain and illiterate. We have shown them the world but didn't enable them to participate in it. This is a lethal combination for social unrest and, perhaps, one of the root causes for growth of maoism/naxalism in many parts of country. There is an urgent need to spread literacy and skill development.
India has added 100 million new voters for the ongoing Parliamentary elections 2014, most of these are young and unemployed youth. They expect new government to provide them with jobs as politicians are promising the moon. However, due to outdated labour laws, corporates are sifting to casual labour to do most of their tasks. Thus, there is a real chance of disillusionment amongst the youth post-election.
It is a cause of anguish to see mountains of trash, about 30 metre (100 feet) high, near the Okhla Industrial area adjoining south Delhi. Estimated to be about 7 million tonnes of garbage, it is expected to grow further as more prosperous a society becomes, the more garbage and electronic dump it generates. Isn't it a national shame that the capital city of India has more than 100,000 rag-pickers? Isn't it a basic right of citizens to demand that our roads become smooth and cleaner? And such heaps of waste are omnipresent in all the cities and towns of India.
Every government - be it central or state, is coming up with plans for new cities. We are growing horizontally at fast pace alongside the newly laid down roads. Most of the times, it is the productive land which is selected for colonization.
The smarter farmers get fat compensation by selling their land and then they blow that money due to lack of wealth management skills. The productive land becomes a non-productive concrete jungle and the proud former landlord becomes a frustrated casual labour! Almost the entire country has become a real estate playground. But is this concrete playground sustainable, especially if it is at the cost of farmlands? We also have to ponder over the population growth. Our land can't accommodate more. The challenges are enormous but the warriors look pale!