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In want of a new direction

The India envisaged by our great leaders of yesteryears is in stark contrast with the how the nation stands in present times

In want of a new direction

The National Pledge which is commonly recited by Indians at public events and during Independence Day and Republic Day was composed by a little known Telanganite in Anneparthy, Nalgonda District - Pydimarri Venkata Subba Rao, a noted author in Telugu and a bureaucrat. While serving as the District Treasury Officer of Visakhapatnam District in 1962 in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh he composed this and later presented to Late Tenneti Viswanadham, a former Minister and Member of Parliament, who forwarded it to the then Education Minister PVG Raju.

The Pledge goes like: "India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of it. I shall give my parents, teachers, and all elders respect and treat everyone with courtesy. To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. In their well-being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness".

While remembering the struggle for Independence spearheaded by our great leaders who are no more now, to what extent are the words in the pledge or fruits envisioned during the freedom movement relevant today? Is there a brotherhood and sisterhood among us? Are we still really proud of our rich and varied heritage? Are we worthy of our country? Are we politically in a position to steer the country towards progress? Do we have a perfect National agenda to take the people forward? Are we in a position to compete with other nations? Where do we place ourselves regarding the different areas?

Yes, the country needs a new direction as seventy-one years have passed since Independence. Most of the country is still struggling for basic minimum needs with a significant chunk of its people suffering from poverty and are either unemployed or underemployed. There are countries that were poorer than us when they became Independent, however, as the days passed they achieved remarkable growth by leveraging their economies to a larger extent.

Quite a number of examples should suffice the poor performance of India when compared to other countries. The best example is that of China which is our neighbouring country on the other side of the Himalayas. China has been consistently maintaining a high growth rate since 1979. From 1992 onwards, for more than 25 years, it has been continuously registering very rapid growth. The GDP of China was less than that of India till 1971. Now it is four times that of India. India's GDP in 1968 was one eighty billion Dollars and that of China was just one thirty-four billion Dollars. By 2016, China reached nine thousand five hundred and four billion Dollars whereas India could reach to a mere two thousand four hundred and sixty-five billion Dollars. In other words, China increased by more than seventy per cent and India by little over thirteen per cent. What a drastic difference! Similarly, the per capita income of China which was just 172.91 dollars in 1968 increased nearly by forty per cent in 2016 whereas that of India which stood more than China at 340.36 dollars in 1968 could grow only by 5.47 per cent and register just 1861 dollars by 2016. This is a serious concern and should be addressed appropriately.

On the power supply front, as on today, if we have 3.45 lakh megawatts installed capacity with 1122 units per head, China has 17.77 lakh megawatts capacity with 4475 units per head! The land useful for cultivation in India was four hundred and ten million (forty-one crore) acres in 1979 and by 2015 it got reduced to three hundred and ninety (thirty-nine crore) acres. In China, however, in the same period, it increased from two forty million (twenty-four crores) acres to 297.5 million (29.75 crores) acres.

East Asian tigers like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and ASEAN countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, etc., achieved miraculous growth. Japan rose from ashes to become a country with one of the highest per capita income in the world.

What is required is what suits our country. Can't we leverage the wealth and inner strength of our country and its economy? What is stopping us? It is not an insurmountable problem, but just a mindset issue. If we have to develop India, it requires out-of-the-box thinking and not just the routine way as it has been done during the past seventy-one years. The customary talk of 'Best Practices' should be dropped and be replaced by 'Next Practices'. A growth-centric tactic for issues aiming at reinventing and reorienting India, moving away from stereotyped practices, is the need of the hour. We have to, first, do away with the poverty of thought and instead of incremental thinking, plan in a grand way.

Then who is responsible for all the ills? The Nehru-Gandhi-led Congress Party era followed by Morarji-VP Singh led Janata-National Front era and then the Vajpayee-Modi BJP era within between PV-Manmohan Congress era are squarely responsible for all that has happened in the past seventy-one years. However, it was either the Congress party or the BJP that were at the helm of affairs.

To what extent has Nehru's policy of agrarian reform, industrialisation as import substitution, and mixed economy where the government-controlled public sector coexists with the private sector helped this country in developing needs to be studied and analysed now? He initially believed that the establishment of a basic and heavy industry was fundamental to the development and modernisation of the Indian Economy. Did it help or not?

Indira Gandhi, in stroke, nationalised fourteen major private sector banks, industries such as coal, and services like insurance. Whether the move helped India to march faster or was it a counterproductive one also requires to be studied in-depth. As it was seen then, did the nationalisation of banks facilitate economic growth of the country throwing the banking facilities to the common people wide open or not? It is often said that the corrupt misuse of banks for political gains was one of the negative fall-outs.

The technological advancements of Rajiv Gandhi era, which are supposed to be a turning point in that front, have not been consolidated even during his regime. He was, although, allegedly involved in Bofors scandal and could hardly escape from it. This certainly resulted in hindering the development of the country at that point in time.

PV Narasimha Rao tried his level best through economic reforms such as dismantling of License Raj, globalisation, and rescuing India from near bankruptcy. However, to what extent were they consolidated in the later regimes of BJP is a question to be answered. If at all, there was development then it was certainly during his tenure, but unfortunately, it could not be sustained for too long.

Manmohan's Rural Health Mission, Aadhaar experiment, and the RTI Act had no direct impact on the country's growth. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first non-congress PM to complete a full five-year term, probably had nothing great to his credit barring Pokhran nuclear tests, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and National Highways Development Project with the biggest failure being his 'India Shining' campaign.

With Demonetisation and GST experiments, Modi, the current PM, gained massive criticism and how they contribute to the country's growth effectively is yet to be seen. There was nothing significant during the rest of the period and it was mainly alternate governments assuming charge one after another. India needs a momentous change and it is possible, maybe, if the political system is changed as the national political parties and the present political system failed the nation.

(The views expressed are strictly personal)

Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao

Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao

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