Since taking over as Prime Minister last May, Narendra Modi has made several major announcements—smart cities, bullet trains, Digital India, Make in India, Jan Dhan, to name a few. Recently, he talked about taking India from a $2-trillion economy to a $20-trillion one. Of course, one day, some time in the future India will be a $20 trillion economy. But, what is the timeframe we should be looking at—15-20 years, 30 years or 40 years? In a subtle way, can India become a $20 trillion economy within a generation?
This, indeed, is a daunting task and looks like a stretched target. The Indian economy doubled in size between 2008 and 2014 and it has more than quadrupled since the start of the millennium. However, here we are not talking about doubling or quadrupling the economy. The target is to grow the economy ten-times in size. To achieve such an ambitious target, radical reforms are needed across the sectors like manufacturing, agriculture and services including banking, insurance and payments. Our cover story not only highlights challenges in these sectors but also suggests action that would help overcome those challenges and put the country on a sustained higher growth trajectory.
On paper, several of the policies announced by the government in the last one year or so, look radical and a step in the right direction. However, the success will depend on how these policies are translated into action on the ground.
Economic growth is important, but what is even more important is to ensure that its benefits reach to the marginalised sections of the society. Finding of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC), the first of its kind survey since Independence, indicates that the benefits have not percolated down to the bottom of the pyramid.
As per the survey, majority of the rural households are either manual casual labourer or involved in agriculture. The farm sector is in distress! In our previous issue we highlighted the plight of agriculture sector in the wake of a spate of farmer suicides across the country. It is heartening to note that the government has acted on some of our recommendations, especially related to the farm insurance and credit. Soil quality has deteriorated due to excessive use of chemicals under the so-called Green Revolution. As a result farming has become unsustainable. The need of the hour is to think of “Evergreen Revolution” that embraces natural and sustainable way of farming.
Organic products are gaining currency these days, or I would say it is in fashion, mostly among the urban elite. The way organic products are positioned and marketed would further widen the gaps between haves and have-nots. A special report based on our study at the ground highlights several maladies in the system. However, this does not mean that we are against organic farming. It is sustainable and the produce is healthier. The point here is: do only rich have health risks and need to eat healthy produce? Increasing use of toxic chemicals and pesticides in farming endangers the lives of the rich and the poor alike. In fact, the poor are more vulnerable. Therefore, instead of positioning organic as an alternative, why not mainstream it, so that everybody—rich and poor alike—get healthy products to consume.
(Sameer Kochhar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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