10 Dec 2007

India rising and beyond

More than 8% GDP growth rate, a bulging working class, heightened attention from the developed nations and keen interests of economists as to how things work despite such high levels of corruption, un-systematic patterns and all, curious BBC people, lots of you tube videos [1, 2, 3, 4, etc.], bullish sensex. Is this all? Does this translate into India rising?

Huge section of people still below poverty line, more people on less than 1 dollars are day than the entire population of many countries, large-scale illiteracy, massive income divide, little and practically no infrastructure to connect the rural with the urban and share the benefits, the same rudimentary and dogmatic vastness covering the mental psyche of the rural India (which deprives that section for sharing the same development rate, who do not understand what does an appreciating Rupee against dollar mean) and all.

But why am I saying this, is it a criticism of the structure and more like saying "things will not change ever" or "come on, you gotta be kidding" types. I am a hard-core supporter of the vision that Indians carry and India is striving for. And I am equally sure that we will be able to achieve those desired results. But my only concern is the timing. In my opinion not much emphasis is being given on these underlying issues, which are vicious circles really, and without tackle which successfully, the dream will continue to evade us and become a long realized one.

The policy makers should lend their eyes to that. To illustrate, take the case of Education Cess, which is charged as a surcharge (i.e. tax on tax) @ 3% now (earlier 2%). The collections on this count have been huge and are piling up as we speak and Indians spend. But where are they being used? This reply in Lok Sabha does not tell us much. The attitude of the Government did not change even an year later [click here to see]. Shouldn't there have been a professional approach towards handling this fund, which has been earmarked for a special and important purpose?

Same is the case with handling of foreign exchanges. No doubt the Reserve Bank is doing a wonderful job keep the Rupee stable and fighting inflation. But shouldn't we stop compiling dollars? I am sure, with the given rise in exports and (but for oil), matches with imports, there would be no foreign exchange crisis in the short and medium run. Then why not invest these reserves in infrastructure development. Mumbai and Delhi are like saturated in terms of the available space. Why not make smaller cities around these and other metros as hubs for investment to supply and cater to the needs of these metros, which are like economies in themselves.

India is rising because it is bulging with talent. But what is the point if the talent cannot be utilized? I would propose that incentive schemes be made such that non-office jobs be situated in sites which do not crumple space in cities. Like what about BPO, call-centres etc. being situated in outskirts of cities. This will not harm anyone and more space in the interiors of the city can be devoted to jobs which require more skills and add more value. Certainly I do not wish to demean the wonderful service these sectors provide but it is just that a proper city planning itself can do wonders.

Then we have such a huge IAS personnel, all full of talent and merit (come on, its really hard to pass through that UPSC exams and if you are through, you got to have something in you). Why not assign independent charges and pool ideas from amongst them. But always keep them making meaningful things out of what Ministers say. The country will grow more if independent charge is given to each IAS (sitting in North or South block) to take care of a particular sector/industry/area/city (or whatever wise criteria one can evolve) and then give them the resources and time with a regular stock-taking. I am sure they would come out with wonderful results. We just got to trust our brother-hood and be patient with the results.

These are just few suggestions which my brain can think of. Think the wonders that will be caused if the progress is seen as the target and more people start thinking in this novel and broad way. I would really love to see the country prosper and advance in more qualitative terms than just in terms of GDP.

Vande Materam ...

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