‘India’ is the new global buzzword. The economy growing at a phenomenal rate, combined with a flourishing democracy is making people sit up and take notice across the world. Yet, it is at cross-roads today. It is far from reaching its true potential. The country remains shackled in corruption, red tape, age old social barriers and a puzzling lack of transparency. Growth is not uniform across sectors; and large cross-sections of the populace remain outside its purview. Several social, political and economic factors need to be tackled for sustaining a high rate of growth, as well as to make this growth inclusive. Elimination of child labour, women empowerment, removal of caste barriers and an improvement in work culture are just a few of the things the Indian society needs to introspect on. Tackling corruption in high places, removing the ills of the electoral system, shunning politics of agitations and keeping national interest above petty politics may not be too much to ask of the country’s policy makers. Rapid growth in the rural economy, well planned and targeted urban growth, infrastructure development, reforms in education, ensuring future energy needs, a healthy public-private partnership, intent to secure inclusivity, making all sections of society equal stakeholders in growth, and above all good governance will ensure that India achieves what it deserves.
Challenges of Equity and Inclusive Growth in India
"I have faith that the next generation of Indians, and the generation after that, will eliminate the scourge of poverty and make India rich. Then, the poor country would have deserved its inheritance”–P.Chidambaram, Honourable Finance Minister, Republic of India.
The social limits of Indian democratic politics
Of the eight richest people in the world four are Indian, but the irony still remains that there’s a marginal farmer in the interior of Maharashtra, who is struggling to feed his five children, the youngest of whom is a son, uneducated and unemployed, with four sisters, all of marriageable age, whose marriage the farmer cannot afford. Try telling the farmer that the economy is growing at a handsome 9% per annum, hardly consolation for the empty stomachs his children go to bed with every night.
Few would argue that the Indian economy is growing, salaries are going through the roof for the educated, there are jobs mushrooming in the IT hubs of Bangalore and Hyderabad, disposable income for the ‘Call Centre’ crowd, that is egging on the foray of several luxury goods never before seen in the nation, is becoming all the more accessible but the fact still remains, that the poor are still poor even though the rich have become super rich and the hitherto not so rich, rich.
The growth is far from inclusive. The Oxford English Dictionary gives four meanings to the word ‘inclusive’, with the most appropriate for the purposes in this paper being, "not excluding any section of society." We all know it, we see the beggars on the streets, read about the farmer suicides in Maharashtra, about the biggest slums in the world and even closer home, we know of the cleaning lady who cannot afford treatment for her ailing husband, but still works for paltry sums waiting for a miracle to save her family. We all understand their plight, we even sympathize and empathize with them, for the ten minutes after reading an article in a newspaper or seeing an amputated beggar on the street, only to have it all tramped upon by the news of the raise the successful executive father has received or that of the young MBA son buying a Mercedes in silicon valley and the celebrations thereafter at the new Italian place around the corner.
Even the politicians know that the problem exists and that there needs to be some action, but they will have none of it. They’re much too busy, travelling in their air conditioned luxury sedans, from their plush offices to their designer sari clad...