Identifying potentials and anticipating the challenges to our future progress in different sectors of the national economy does not constitute a vision of the country's 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 country's 1.35 billion people will be better fed, dressed and housed, taller and healthier, more educated and longer living than any generation in the country's 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.
India's 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 India's 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. India's 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...