Inclusive Growth is not a Utopian Concept

IndiaInclusive growth by its very definition implies an equitable allocation of resources with benefits accruing to every section of society. Utopia on the other hand is that ideal state which we all strive towards. As a race still in the process of developing itself, it would perhaps be very premature to let go of the dream of inclusive growth. Society by its very definition implies a coming together of a variety of peoples. For growth at any level to be sustainable, it needs to take into account these pluralities. This realization has made us wiser today of the consequences of our actions and thus collective movement towards this ‘seeming utopia’ is well under way, as is evident from the example of the Eleventh Plan Approach Paper according to which a key element of the strategy for inclusive growth must be “to provide the mass of our people access to basic facilities such as health, education, clean drinking water etc, and that governments at different levels have to ensure the provision of these services” The thrust of the Prime Minister’s I–day speech was that the economic benefits accrued as a result of globalization should be inclusive and that the issues of employment generation, poverty reduction and human development must be addressed.

India’s growth since 2003 has been phenomenal and represents a structural increase rather than a cyclical one which indicates that inclusive growth has been on the agenda. India’s sustainable growth rate resulting from increased openness is projected at an average of 8.4% until 2020. This openness has provided access to superior inputs to domestic firms and encouraged a shift in employment from the less productive agricultural sector to more productive sectors and thus has created a demand for more skilled labor thus focusing on the significance of education.

Perhaps the best example of inclusive and holistic growth can be provided by the experimental township of Auroville where people of all countries live in progressive harmony above all politics and all nationalities. Here the very meaning of progress is to take everyone with you in your march forward. Sure Utopia is not on the cards right now but the fact of the matter is that society develops only if every individual in it develops in their unique way. We cannot sit back and harp on how the world is witnessing unidimensional progress because that won’t solve the problem anyway. We as humans have realized the need to be equitable in our actions because otherwise we would be a race perpetually at war with each other with anarchy all around and since these are luxuries we can ill afford inclusive growth is the only way forward.

For instance it is heartening to see that the Asia and Pacific region has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty. In the 1970s, more than half of the region’s population lived on $ 1 or less per person each day. By 1990 that population had reduced by around 900 million people. The figure is projected to fall to 350 million by 2015. The very fact that absolute poverty levels are declining indicates our commitment towards a holistic society.

The question to be asked is if its possible to include the most disadvantaged in the production and distribution of products and services? It is, and innovation is the way. At the bottom of the pyramid access to real opportunities to create wealth has the potential to transform lives in an inclusive way. Sectors such as healthcare, energy, clean water, education, and housing, present opportunities that are ripe for innovation. By continuing with the tried and tested do we in our developmental journey visit the same problems and challenges as the developed nations of today did or do we learn, innovate and leapfrog?

In a vibrant democracy such as ours it is important that the better-off sections of society realize their wider social responsibility. For India to be a global player it is essential to understand the need to make our growth process as the PM said in his recent CII address more inclusive; to save more and waste less; to care for those who are less privileged and less well off; to be role models of probity, moderation and charity.

The world today is faced with a choice, a choice between holistic development and absolute anarchy. We have chosen to walk the thin line between economic and social growth and if we are to realize our dreams it is only through the harmony between the two. As pointed out in the 10 point charter by the PM we need to invest in worker’s welfare, be proactive in offering jobs to the underprivileged, give equal status to women, invest in people and in their skills because high rates of growth mean nothing for those who are unable to find employment and fight corruption at all levels. Today we have the responsibility of creating a culture of caring, sharing and belonging and being the eternal optimist I’m certain we will not fall short and that the motto ‘vasudheve kutumbakam’ will indeed resonate the world over.

Uttara Balakrishnan