Identifying potentials and anticipating
the challenges to our future progress in different sectors
of the national economy does not constitute a vision of
the countrys future. These disparate threads need
to be woven together to reflect the integrated nature of
our national life. Then, there still remains the question
of whether to be preoccupied by the negative possibilities
or to throw our full weight behind efforts to fully realise
the positive potentials revealed by this analysis. That
will determine whether we regard the following statement
as a promising glimpse of what India can become in 2020,
or as mere fantasy and wishful thinking.
India 2020 will be bustling with energy, entrepreneurship
and innovation. The countrys 1.35 billion people will
be better fed, dressed and housed, taller and healthier,
more educated and longer living than any generation in the
countrys long history. Illiteracy and all major contagious
diseases will have disappeared. School enrolment from age
6 to 14 will near 100 per cent and drop out rates will fall
to less than one in twenty.
A second productivity revolution in Indian agriculture,
coupled with diversification to commercial crops, agri-business,
processing industries, agro-exports and massive efforts
towards afforestation and wasteland development will generate
abundant farm and non-farm employment opportunities for
the rural workforce. These in turn will stimulate demand
for consumer goods and services, giving a fillip to the
urban economy and the informal sector as well as rapid expansion
of the services sector.
Indias claim to the title Silicon Valley of Asia will
be followed by the diversification from IT to biotechnology,
medical sciences and other emerging fields of technology,
widening the field of Indias international competitiveness
and generating a large number of employment opportunities
for the educated youth. These developments, driven by the
firm commitment of the government and a quantum expansion
of vocational training programmes, will ensure jobs for
all by 2020.
Inequalities between different age groups, the sexes, income
groups, communities and regions will come down dramatically.
The old disparities between the very rich and the poor will
not have disappeared, but the nature of poverty in 2020
will not be nearly as harsh and oppressive as it was at
the turn of the millennium. Regional disparities will remain
visible, though all regions will have advanced significantly
in two decades. Indias achievements have been fuelled
by the realisation that the progress of the whole ultimately
depends on the progress of its weakest links; India 2020
must be one in which all levels and sections of the population
and all parts of the country march forward together towards
a more secure and prosperous future.
The increasingly congested urban traffic will be motorised
as never before. Two wheelers will be ubiquitous and cars
will be considered essential for most middle class families.
City roads and rural highways will improve substantially
in number, capacity and quality, but a four-fold multiplication
in the number of vehicles will tax the urban infrastructure
to the limit. Urban congestion will accelerate the movement
of business, middle class families and even government offices
into new self-contained suburban centres. Cell phones, computers
and the Internet will permeate every aspect of life and
every corner of the country.
Computerisation of education will dramatically improve the
quality of instruction and the pace of learning, so that
many students will complete the first twelve years of school
curriculum in as little as eight. Computerised distance
education will catch on in a big way and enable tens of
thousands more students to opt for affordable higher education.
Computerisation in government will streamline procedures
and response times to a degree unimaginable now. Perceptive
observers will find that India is leapfrogging directly
into a predominantly service economy.
Environmental issues will remain a serious
concern. Urban air pollution will come under control by
strict enforcement of motor vehicle emission standards and
widespread use of ethanolblended motor fuels, but water
shortages in major metropolitan areas will continue despite
a national programme to popularise water harvesting techniques
in both urban and rural areas. A massive afforestation programme
will reverse the depletion of forest areas, raise the nations
Green cover to 33 per cent of area, generate millions of
rural employment opportunities, and provide abundant renewable
energy from biomass power production.
India will be much more integrated with the global economy
and will be a major player in terms of trade, technology
Rising levels of education, employment and income will help
stabilise Indias internal security and social environment.
A united and prosperous India will be far less vulnerable
to external security threats.
A more prosperous India in 2020 will be
characterised by a better-educated electorate and more transparent,
accountable, efficient and decentralised government.
Some may regard this vision as an anxious
attempt to imitate and catch up with the West. But there
is an important distinction to be made between blind imitation
and intelligent emulation that draws upon the discoveries
and experiences of others to address universal needs common
to all human beings and all societies. India, with its rich
cultural heritage and thousands of years of history of civilisation,
need not aspire to become like country A or B. For India,
realising the vision for 2020 is not an end in itself, but
rather an essential condition for allowing the spirit of
this country to emerge and flourish.
There is a natural temptation to attempt
to reduce two decades of future progress to a concise formula
and prepare a manifesto of policies or strategies that will
enable the country to realise its full potential during
that period. But a list of such policies or strategies will
always remain unsatisfactory unless it is made comprehensive,
and a comprehensive list needs to include hundreds of necessary
and desirable initiatives.
However, in addition to these policy and
strategy prescriptions, or rather underlying and supporting
them, there are some nodal points of action which, when
touched, can release the enormous pent-up energy of the
society and throw it into constructive action. It is well
that we conclude our summary by identifying those nodal
points which will be most powerful for propelling forward
the development of Indian society over the next two decades.
These nine nodes are not independent powers.
Each draws upon and contributes to the power of the other
seven. They are mutually supportive and reinforcing. They
are not a hierarchy of powers that can be developed sequentially,
but rather eight essential forces that need to be developed
simultaneously. As peace and education are essential for
growth of employment and living standards, so are food security
and employment opportunities essential for peace and social
stability, and so forth.
But beyond these physical, social and mental
powers, this country possesses something even more powerful
and essential to its existence. India is a nation with a
soul and a great spiritual tradition founded upon faith
in the power of the spirit to create and manifest in the
world. It is our spiritual values, our psychic essence,
which is the core strength of Indian civilisation that has
sustained it for millenniums and will elevate the quality
of our national life in future. These values possess the
ultimate power both for national prosperity and to propel
India to be a proud member of the world community. True
spirituality will not make us less tolerant. Though
our spiritual tradition takes on an infinite variety of
forms, they all share a common faith in our capacity as
human beings to realise whatever we aspire for.
Our future depends not on what will
happen to us, but on what we decide to become, and on the
will to create it.