Happy 71st Independence Day to all!!

From FY18 onwards, India’s won’t have a Five Year Plan; instead it will be replaced by a long-term vision document that would incorporate the priorities and direction that the Centre and states to take the country over the next decade and half. Will that work? Abandoning the old concept of five-year plans that India has been following since 1951, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has decided to come up with a 15-year vision document in tandem with global trends and economic growth. The main aim of the 15 years long vision statement is to end poverty in all forms.

As the country moves towards an entirely new regime of long-term planning, and end of 5 years planning coming to an end in 2018, things will change drastically as planning commission was treated as financial hub of all major economic activities. The new National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) will act more like a think tank or forum, in contrast with the Planning Commission which enforced five-year-plans and allocated resources to hit set economic targets. NITI includes leaders of India’s 29 states and seven union territories. The Prime Minister is the chairman of the Ayog.

In 2025 India will be the world’s most populous nation, with a population of just under 1.5 billion, a little ahead of China. Gandhiji’s famous statement that “India lives in her villages” will remain true with under 40% of the population in urban areas. Agriculture will remain the foundation of employment with over 40% still dependent on it even as its share of economic activity continues to shrink. India’s integration with the global economy will be even higher with trade in goods and services accounting for nearly two-thirds of GDP. The average Indian will consume over four times the power she does today. Internet users will account for anywhere between 50% and 80% of the populace. The market for passenger cars will be around 7.2 million a year, currently the size of the US market. Over 320 million people will travel by air within the country each year, meaning nearly a million Indians will take to the skies each day.

I think that “New India” description should work faster in the rapidly changing global economy. But the narrative is challenged by many socio economic lobbies.  While we acknowledge India’s some achievements such as fostering democracy in spite of large cultural diversity, and economic growth these get nullified by its bureaucratic structure, widespread corruption, poor leadership, risky social divisions, religious extremism and internal security threats. Religious tension is over growing of late, which needs measures to curb.

Rapid urbanization has its side effects, such as starving the rural economy of skilled labor, fuelling unsustainable growth in urban densities and pressuring natural ecosystems. The International Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report concludes that human economic activity is responsible for the catastrophic rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Over the last five decades, we have destroyed close to 50 per cent of the nation’s flora and fauna and are wiping out freshwater sources. Growth without a fundamental understanding and concern for the natural environment is simply not an answer to progress.

The Indian growth story is showcased in some of the schemes made by Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi: the 175 GW solar mission, the Swachh Bharat campaign, Jan-Dhan, Aadhar, Mobile (JAM) trinity, farmer insurance, Make in India, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Digital India, Smart Cities Mission (SCM) Goods and Services Tax (GST) which is a tax reform intended to benefit consumers. Though, at the moment nations is experiencing some hiccups in getting used to the new tax reform. All of these changes have collectively set the tone from a perspective of balanced growth; the think tank needs to look closely at the balanced growth now.

While Make in India is highly appreciable, can we afford to pollute our water bodies, forests, landscapes and air? Instead, why don’t we ensure that India becomes the preferred destination for efficient and pollution-free manufacturing? I think India has a great potential to become a global research and development hub why don’t we work on it?

India is in true sense a melting pot for cultural diversity which has phenomenal strength, the culture of In India is the way of living of the people of India: language, history, religion, dance, music, cuisine, architecture, and customs differs from place to place within the country.

It’s sad that we are yet to realize the strength of our diverse cultures, such as Indian religions, philosophy and cuisine, which has a profound impact across the world. We need to boost confidence of our artisans in handicrafts in micro and village industries. Lack of access to the right markets, absence of market intelligence, absence of micro finance lead to quality issues and mismatch between products and demand for rural artisans in our country.

Millions of Indians still depend on indigenous modes of production, traditional skills and techniques to make a living based on handmade products. These craftspeople and artisans are the backbone of the non-farming rural economy. Music, art, handicrafts, heritage, cuisines etc are boosters for tourism. We need robust tourism policies. By analogy with biodiversity, which is thought to be essential to the long-term survival of life on earth, it can be argued that cultural diversity may be vital for the long-term survival of humanity; and that the conservation of indigenous cultures may be as important to humankind.

Nation Branding is catching up rapidly. On 71st Independence day India needs some serious thought on its branding: over population, poverty, malnutrition, health, increasing crime rate, illiteracy, corruption, increasing unemployment rate, cross border terrorism needs serious attention. Besides, 71 years old country certainly cannot be considered young anymore……..

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