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Stage set for development

A long journey since impoverishment at the hands of the British, the Indian economy is now escalating to further heights.

Stage set for development

India, which accounted for 23 per cent of World GDP in the 18th century, became impoverished during nearly two centuries of British colonial rule. But it has come a long way since Independence in 1947 to become a major emerging economy and the World's largest democracy. As the nation celebrates its 70th year of Independence, India can be proud of its achievements, thanks to its visionary leaders.

The Narendra Modi government, in particular, has given a new thrust to socioeconomic development during the last three years to take the country to the next higher level of development towards an aspirational India, where 65 per cent of 1.25 billion people are less than 35 years of age. It is not a mean achievement that India's GDP has grown from a mere Rs 94 billion in 1950 to over Rs 130 trillion now.
In the Initial years, India was in a consolidation mode and hence the emphasis was on the development of basic and heavy industries to become self-reliant and prevent starvation deaths in the country as occurred in the case of Bengal famine of 1942. The economy was in shambles at the time of Independence, particularly after the World War II. It is the vision of our political leaders at that time that made the country adopt a mixed economic pattern with a socialistic bend to uplift the vast section of poor in the country. India did not adopt extreme socialism like China or the erstwhile Soviet Union neither did it adopt extreme Capitalism. Several decades later the World had seen the collapse of extreme socialism as was witnessed in the Soviet Union and a collapse of the unbridled market economy in the United States during the global financial crisis of 2008. India has been able to weather the storm during the global economic crisis because of its mixed economic approach. The transition was smooth when India shifted gears from a socialistic pattern of economy to an open market economy in 1991. It also remained unscathed during the East Asian currency crisis of the 1990s and global financial crisis of 2008.
From a food grain importing country, India has become a food grain exporting country. In recent years it even overtook Thailand to become the World's largest exporter of Rice. Today India is among the World's top producers of milk, sugar, fruits, and vegetables apart from food grains. India is also not far behind in production of cash crops like rubber, cotton, tea, coffee and so on. However, despite a record increase in agricultural yield, the farmers in the country are facing a tough time burdened by debt, crop failures and also failing to recover remunerative prices for farm produce. Some years there are gluts and some years there are shortages. Successive governments have come up with several steps to deal with the farmers' distress. A lot has been done, but much more is still to be done and the Modi government has rightly embarked upon a plan to double the farm per capita income by 2022, so that rural India too can prosper. The attempt of the government during the last three years has therefore been to make India agriculture smart. Just as the government has embarked upon the Smart City project, agriculture too is being made smart through programmes like Jan Dhan Yojana and Digital India, which will have a far-reaching impact on improving credit and assisting price discovery of farm produce, besides timely assistance and education with regard to farm techniques, weather forecast, selection of crops, pesticides, quality of seeds, fertilisers etc. A simple step like adding neem to fertilisers had ensured that there is adequate availability of fertilisers to farmers by checking the diversion of urea for industrial purposes.
Apart from bringing about financial inclusion, Skill India, Digital India, Swachh Bharat and Make in India programme of Prime Minister Modi will push the country forward to bring about socio-economic development in a better and clean environment. The Government's clean energy programme to install 1.75 GW of solar and wind energy will help in moving towards ecological balance apart from dispersed development. To ensure the economy kick-started at a time when the global economy is tottering, the government has undertaken a number of initiatives to step-up public expenditure and infrastructure spending. This has ensured that India remains among the top as far as economic growth is concerned and, therefore, India remains a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy world economy. This is evident from the fact that the foreign direct investment is on the rise and has surged towards a record $60 billion this year. This is no mean achievement as global investors see an opportunity here when it is shrinking elsewhere in the World including China and other advanced countries.
The rural roads programme, the cold storage development programme, allowing 100 per cent FDI in food processing, the development of ports and airports, the highway programme, the Sagarmala project to encourage coastal shipping, the inland waterways project, will step up job creation and economic development. Apart from the development of 100 smart cities, which will step up urban development, the government has taken up metro rail projects in several cities including metros to improve urban transportation facilities.
With strong macroeconomic fundamentals including low fiscal deficit, low and stable inflation, and several structural reforms including the game-changing Goods and Services Tax, the economy can only move forward to a high growth path. There might have been some short-term blips because of demonetisation and some teething trouble because of GST rollout but the structural reforms taken by Modi government will have a far-reaching impact on putting the economy on a higher pedestal. This will also ensure that India moves away from a corruption-ridden economy to a corruption-free economy. The digitisation efforts will improve ease of doing business further resulting in more economic activity and the much-needed job creation. These unprecedented reforms have set the platform for India to leapfrog in development. PIB
(K. R. Sudhaman is a senior journalist. Views expressed in the article are strictly personal.)

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