Is India really shining? Is it really on the path of becoming a superpower? Optimistic Indians would assert an affirmation but it is time one had a reality check. India is surely marching ahead, but are all the Indians marching ahead or is it just a small fraction of the population doing so? India can surely boast of a growth rate of around 8-9 per cent but one needs to ask if this growth is trickling down to the lower strata of the populace.
India is a conglomerate of diverse ethnic, cultural, financial, lingual groups. It is still caught in the clutches of communal violence. Religion is exploited to create a divide in the people, the Godhra riots, Sikh riots in Delhi, violence in MP, Gujarat and other places is a common occurrence. West Bengal, Assam and other North Indian states are often held at ransom due to ethnic violence and rioting. Such violence creates deep scars and ingrains such deep hatred in the hearts of the targeted communities that it does not only have psychological implications, it hinders the economy of the particular place as well. Take for example the recent riots in Siliguri by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters or the recent Gujjar riots that erupted in Rajasthan. These incidents brought life in these areas to a standstill as people rampaged on the roads, burnt buses, blocked national highways which are the arteries of transportation. Total chaos reigned and in Siliguri, the army had to be deployed. Can a country which witnesses such clashes so frequently be a superpower? India surely is a country of diversity but it is diversity without unity. Certainly not the makings of a superpower. These riots also highlight the fact that there is so much unoccupied and impressionable youth in the country that in the absence of anything better to do, they participate with utmost zeal in destabilizing the country.
India has a staggering proportion of illiterate population. The Times Of India recently brought to light the fact that the number of illiterate in the country outnumber the population of the whole of United States. And our education system does almost nothing to alleviate the problem. True there are government schools which have a nominal fees and added incentives like midday meals but what is lacking is real quality in the education imparted. The children, whose families are struggling to make ends meet, for whom survival is the greatest struggle, need to be motivated to continue education and not drop out in-between. It is also equally important to revise the school curriculum so that these children, instead of mugging facts which won’t come in handy, are imparted skills which will help them rise in the society and get employment or jobs. Till we do not counter the malice of illiteracy, becoming a superpower is but a far fetched dream.
Poverty is another problem which stares the nation stark in the face. And it is another major roadblock in India becoming a superpower. It is estimated that about two-thirds of India’s population resides in rural areas. Out of these, 170 million people are poor. More than 21 per cent of them are wallowing in chronic poverty.
Unemployment makes the situation worse. Currently, the unemployment figure looms close to 8.9 million. India should realise that these unemployed can make for good skilled labour and work force if they are imparted the necessary training and education. Such high unemployment rates would breed major discontent in the youth and would also propel problems like rising crime. The government should implement plans where it exploits its manpower to work for their own benefit. These people could be trained and motivated to build schools in their areas, construct roads, build hospitals in rural areas, etc – all for a stipend of course. Such an approach would provide them with a steady income and also enhance rural facilities and infrastructure so that their progeny gets a head start and have more opportunities open to them. This would also aid in making villages self-sufficient.
One may wonder how such large scale poverty is possible considering that just some time back India welcomed an economic boom and was shining mightily. The truth is the IT and BPO boom benefited the urban and middle class population. The poor were just not a part of this dimension of our ‘Shining India’. How can India assume to become a super power till it has not provided basic education, employment, health care facilities and other basic amenities to the majority of its population? These morbid factors certainly take away some of the sheen from Shining India.
The Indian politicians, often resorting to corruption, playing always the opportunist(the recent Congress-SP marriage proves it), indulging in vote bank politics while sacrificing the nations interest, are certainly not acting as the perfect propellers to aid India’s becoming a superpower. The implementation of quotas in education, public and private sector are the best way of telling people that this country would rather play caste-based politics than reward the meritorious. Not just this, now the government wants to implement faculty quota in India’s Ivy Leagues like the IIMs. They would compromise on the quality of education imparted in the Mecca of India’s centers for technological excellence. Superpower, did we say?
China which is India’s competitor in becoming a superpower is empowering its youth by opening up high number of universities, imparting quality education and teaching English. India, on the other hand, is still fighting for implementation of quotas for students and faculty. Meanwhile, students with potential have to resort to continuing education in private universities which often fail to meet the required standards.
Not only is India rich with a diversity of people, it is also a plethora of priceless resources waiting to be used judiciously to put our economy on the fast track. Such is the vastness of resources that if India were to properly exploit them, our country would become more or less self-sufficient. Our former president A.P.J Abdul Kalam in his book Ignited Minds brings to light the fact that India has one of the largest deposits of beryllium ore. Yet instead of processing it and adding value to it, we were exporting it to Japan who processed it and then exported to U.S. India had to actually import the finished products of the same ore, India should emphasize on its technological powers. Instead of importing raw materials to various nations and purchasing the finished good, we should set up indigenous plants to add value to our raw materials and then export the goods for a higher profit. This would also give a boost to the dismal employment scenario of the country. Ratan Tata has urged the Prime Minister of our country to stop import of iron ore to other countries without value addition.
Gender inequalities, female feticide and the treatment meted out to women in rural areas, child marriages, continuing practice of dowry and sati take away the leftover sheen from the Shining India. The major divide between the rich and the poor, lack of proper rural infrastructure even basic amenities like potable water, toilets, two meals a day, suggest that India has a long route to tread in becoming a superpower.
The advancement of a few earmarked sectors, growth in science and technology are not just the only factors which make the nation a superpower. India will have to cater to the benefit and advancement off all those who have never even heard the term India Shining. It is only once India embraces its own people and works to eradicate such problems at the grass root levels that India will truly shine. India will become a superpower only once it has empowered its own people.