In recent times, the world media has almost written off the Indian growth story. Yes, there are several setbacks with growth igures coming below six percent in a quarter and the rupee’s devaluation heavily over the last one year, apart from the industrial slowdown. However, there are more than 50 reasons to celebrate the Indian economy as we view the possibilities in 2013.
The story cannot be inished for a nation with the world’s youngest population (66 percent below 35 years of age), with one in every six people owning some business, farm sector experiencing growth unlike the developed world, New Media usage rising at the fastest rate here, and the newly rich investing heavily in education and health apart from media and technology.
Agriculture Sector Developments:
Let’s begin with agriculture. Some promising developments in agriculture in spite of the annual growth in the sector being lower than three percent merit a look. The Times of India group has recently awarded the NABARD Rural Innovations Awards to several pathbreaking innovations at the grassroots level in agriculture.
Growing riceusing ‘direct seeding’ technology promises to bring down water usage and production costs remarkably. Precision farming eschews the traditional haphazard approach to agriculture, and farming community in several states are being trained in the same. Further, several ‘producer companies’ are becoming a reality in which farmers are shareholders and making a difference. There are 150 such companies across the country, mainly in the South. And, agricultural universities are mentoring such companies as well.
Closely associated is the success of the dairy cooperatives in India which has made the nation, the largest producer of milk in the world. Gujarat and Maharashtra are the leaders in this domain.
Inculcation of ‘drip irrigation’ techniques in paddy is improving yield and also saving up to 40 percent of water. Moreover, Gujarat’s success in improving agricultural productivity through check dams is inspiring other states.
Sustainability Initiatives Across India:
Ecologically sustainable naturism and tourism are helping development at the grassroots. For example, Mountain Shepherds is using ecotourism to improve the living standards of the Bhutiya people. Tarun Bharat Sangh, a water management organization, is transforming villages in Rajasthan. An architect’s initiative to clean Delhi’s drains and use the land around them for public purposes is picking up pace and public support.
‘Total Village Management’ system in Jharkhand is another example of sustainable initiative. This means mentoring Jharkhand villagers to change their lives and build the local economy at the grassroots. Local and largescale generation and use of solar energy is on the rise and solar and biomass power has a bright future in India.
Water recycling and reuse is gathering momentum. Success stories of one place are being emulated by others. ‘Green’ buildings are another signiicantly relevant development. These optimize the use of resources, including water and electricity mainly, and are a key to ensuring successful urbanization of India.
Urbanization is also helped by alternative new practices. The efforts of a scientist have prompted local authorities to make rainwater harvesting compulsory in the heart of Bengaluru. Also, there is a growing organized sector processing ewaste in a safe and environmentally friendly manner, though it is a major metro city challenge indeed.
Infrastructural Growth Points:
Construction is experiencing a boom. New roads and bridges are bringing people closer than ever before, as well as brightening business prospects. New import terminals will substantially increase the country’s capacity to import gas for power generation. A gas pipeline from Gujarat to Jammu & Kashmir is raising the expectations of the people in India’s northernmost border state. Further, India’s complete switch from cylinders to piped gas is long overdue, but it is well underway. Every urban centre is going through a phase of multiple lyovers, ring roads are being constructed in major cities, Delhi’s Metro or Mumbai’s BandraWorli Link lyover or Ahmedabad’s BRTS are two success stories in handling urban population pressure, ‘green houses’ by Magarpatta in Pune and Shrachi group in Kolkata and others are now commonplace.
For long, India has remained deprived of the power of technology harnessing growth, except for the irst generation telecommunication revolution. But now, with 3G and 4G in public use and the evolution of smart classes and homes, the enabling power of technology is happening on a large scale. Further, the Centre for the Development of Advanced Computing is leading efforts to make India a supercomputing power. Delhibased designer Sumit Dagar is developing a smartphone that can include the blind in the mobile phone revolution. Technology is being evolved to tackle concerns of safety of women in urban India, handle the vagaries of monsoons in rural India, and largescale supply chain management of goods for retailing across the nation.
Finance & Banking:
There has been a signiicant growth in the banking sector. The State Bank of India is competing hard with the best among private banks. There is a movement towards 100 percent account ability in each city and town. Interesting to note is how the dedicated banking oficials of Ernakulam in Kerala have ensured every single adult there opened a bank account. Financial awareness, the need to save, invest and use money wisely is on the rise even among lower and lower middle classes. This is India’s sureshot way of tackling economic slowdown. The government is moving towards cash transfer to below poverty line families and this will also give a boost to the banking ability of the nation. The multiple use unique identiication number Adhaar will give impetus to this process.
Interesting and unique initiatives are being taken up in the domain of education. Amit Bhatia’s Aspire India is on a mission to make young graduates more employable. Bengalurubased Unnati imparts vocational skills to young people from deprived backgrounds for free. Gram Tarang trains young people from backward and Naxal hit corners of Odisha. A number of business leaders and corporate houses are funding free quality education for the deprived under Corporate Social Responsibility schemes. Wipro is coming out with a chain of schools across India.
Several corporate houses, like the Birlas, Kirloskar and Adani have come out with their own BSchools and many more are contemplating the same. Delhi University’s Bachelor of Elementary Education course has become a benchmark for teacher’s training programmes. NIIT’s initiative to introduce chess in schools has become increasingly popular. Over the last two decades, the midday meal scheme has made a great difference to school enrolment. Online learning portals, a costeffective way of improving the quality of school education, are catching up across the nation.
Interestingly, the literacy levels of the poorest of the socalled Bimaru states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, are improving fast. Further, sports beyond cricket are becoming viable, popular and contributing to national health and wealth, getting corporate endorsements and global recognitions too. Case in point is the fact of six medals in Olympics and the support for the medallists back home.
Also, higher education has led to more women leaders climbing the corporate ladder than ever before. A point to note is that the CEOs of all three major private banks in India are ladies: HDFC, ICICI and Axis Bank.
There have been praiseworthy initiatives here as well. Health insurance schemes launched by the state governments of Karnataka and Maharashtra are benefitting people in the rural areas and the poor. The Maduraibased Aravind Eye Hospitals blends social commitment with quality healthcare. A virtual collaboration by thousands of researchers could reduce the cost of lifesaving drugs. Maharashtra’s mission to track and prevent child malnutrition is yielding results. Rajasthan’s generic drug stores have cut down on prices of medicines heavily. The NRI involvement in the health sector is growing as in the case of Monilekh Hospital in Jaipur by UAEbased NRI Ashok Odhrani.
Entrepreneurship On An AllTime Rise
Consequent to most of the developments, entrepreneurship, including those of the small scale and social varieties, are on an alltime high today. The proposed National Entrepreneurship Policy could be a shot in the arm for the startups. Experienced entrepreneurs and former corporate honchos are coming out to support startups. Social entrepreneurs are finding creative solutions and making a proit for the stakeholders they are bringing together. With the mobile revolution sweeping across the nation, ingenious new services are being delivered to small towns and villages. Several global seed funds have Indian entrepreneurs on their radar today. SME Entrepreneurship training by TiE, several NRIs, NABARD and SIDBI are also important cases in point here.
Governance & Democratic Institutions:
Several states are voting for development work, shunning traditional thoughts of ‘votebanks’ and ‘antiincumbency’ as seen in Gujarat, Punjab and Bihar. Even Goa, with one out of three residents being Christians, has resolutely elected a BJP government.
Shimoga, Karnataka, has become the irst Indian city to completely digitize the property records.
The Goods and Service Tax, expected soon, will break iscal barriers between states and create a common market in the country. Whatever its shortcomings might be, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has been a major gamechanger. The National Food Security Bill is also expected to be an important step towards tackling hunger and malnutrition. The Right to Information law has empowered citizens and made corruption a major political issue as seen in the context of Jan Lokpal Bill movement led by Anna Hazare.
There are several instances where the government, lawyers, police and volunteers are working for poor communities to ensure equality before the law. The advocacy campaign by Trilochan Sastry’s team against the criminalization of politics is making an impact today. There are also emerging instances of how wellrunning Panchayats are changing fortunes of villages, as in Maharashtra’s Hiware Bazar of Ahmednagar district.
There is an alternative India amidst the despair of corruption, rapes and economic downturn. Combating negative forces like these must also go hand in hand with the rise of this alternative India to envision the future of this great country.