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India@75: On right path, but some drags on growth

During the last eight years, Prime Minister Modi has elevated the quality of governance to a higher level  and has introduced several imaginative schemes,  keeping in view the requirement of the people at the lower economic level as well as the compulsive need to forge ahead in terms of technology and productivity

N S Venkataraman Aug 14, 2022
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India@75

As India is now completing 75 years after attaining independence from British rule and celebrating its 75th year of Independence on August 15, a careful review of the scenario in 1947 and in the year 2022 in a holistic manner will certainly convince a discerning observer that India’s achievements and progress have been substantial, significant and praiseworthy.

In 1947, when India forced the British to give freedom, India was an underdeveloped country with low literacy levels, a high level of economic disparity and a large percentage of countrymen living below the poverty line.

All such deprived conditions have changed considerably in the last 75 years with significant industrial development, growth in agricultural production and productivity, significant improvement in literacy level and public health, and reasonably good advancements in technology and particularly in digital media and information technology . The improved figures and data are well known and are in public domain.

The question is that given India’s landscape, different climatic and soil conditions, irrigation potential, mineral deposits, long coastal belt and several other advantages, should one conclude that India should have  done better  than what it has achieved?

A comparison with a similarly populated country like China might be instructive.

China's phenomenal growth

In 1947, both India and China were nearly on par as far as far as technology, industrial and agriculture base are concerned. In the last 75 years, China has grown phenomenally and is now claiming superpower status in the world.

China is only 15% of the global economy in size but now contributes 25 to 30% of global growth.  Assuming that we don't count the European Union as one economy, China is the second largest economy in the world.  China’s share of world output has gone up from 6.3% in the year 1996 to 17.8% . in the year 2020.  China contributed as much as around 70% of the growth in the share of developing economies in world GDP in the last two decades.

Today, the size of the Indian economy is much smaller than that of China. What is the reason for this sharp difference in the growth profile of India and China?

One can say that China is a totalitarian country and, therefore, the Chinese government has been  able to implement any project as it deems fit without resistance from any quarters. However, mere totalitarian rule cannot be attributed as the reason for China’s success, since several other totalitarian countries have not progressed to any reasonable level.

The reason for China’s growth is the strong government and policy of the government to liberally cooperate with the developed countries in industrialization and technology acquisition.  Many multinational companies are now operating in China with large industrial capacities, substantially contributing to China’s technological growth and economy.  Chinese companies have gained a lot by having joint ventures with multinational companies in China.

India's drawbacks 

India could have done better in the last 75 years if the following issues have been tackled adequately.
India’s population in 1947 was around 347 million and  the population is 1.4 billion at present.  The mouths to be fed have multiplied several times and India’s economic  growth,  though impressive,   has not been adequate enough to match the population growth.  Next year India would emerge as most populous country in the world. China too is a populous country but the Chinese government has admirably controlled the population growth by its one-child family policy, which India has not been able to do due to several reasons.

Unlike China, India is a democratic country with freedom of speech and personal freedom remaining at very high level.  As a result, several projects announced by the government have been criticized and resisted by section of activists and several political parties with India emerging as the noisiest democracy in the world.    Several well-meaning schemes could not be implemented and good projects have been forced to close down due to the protests by so-called activists  and some political parties. The latest example is that of Sterlite Copper plant in Tamil Nadu.  Due  to the closure of this plant, India has become a net importer of copper, whereas India was a big exporter of copper when the Sterlite Copper plant was operating.  Another example is the  very important   and technologically significant Neutrino project,  which has been stopped by political groups.  So many other examples can be pointed out.

Another major issue is the rapidly developing dynastic politics in India, where family groups are holding a vice-like grip over several political parties all over India.  Except for BJP and Communist parties, all other political parties in India today are dynastic parties under family control.  In this scenario,  due to the development of a situation where the family groups are ruling several states and with vested interests developing,  administrative standards have deteriorated and in several states, political corruption has reached an unacceptable level. Committed people with proven competence are unable to win elections based on their merit.  Such conditions have become a drag on the overall growth of the country.

Modi's good governance

During the last eight years, Prime Minister Modi has elevated the quality of governance to a higher level  and has introduced several imaginative schemes,  keeping in view the requirement of the people at lower economic level as well as the compulsive need to forge ahead in terms of technology and productivity.  Even in the present post-COVID period where several countries in the world including developed countries are facing serious issues of inflation and recession, the Indian economy is doing much better. This fact has been recently confirmed by a report from International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Though several opposition political parties and some activists have been opposing and criticizing Modi’s governance in severe terms, the overall view amongst a cross-section of the countrymen appear to be that Prime Minister Modi has done a reasonably good job and this trend should continue.

(The writer is a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. Views are personal. He can be contacted at nsvenkatchennai@gmail.com)

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