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I have seen three Indias in my life. The first one was the country of my childhood — a nation ruled by a foreign colonial power. It was a country struggling for independence. That country had a vision for independence which was led by great mass leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
After we got independence in 1947, I witnessed another India. That India was independent but it still strived for recognition as it recuperated from the injustices of the colonial rule that lasted for more than a century. It was an India of hopes and dreams. It was an India that dreamt of having self-sufficiency in food, a strong economy and a position of respect in the international arena, which it really deserved. Many leaders, scientists, servicemen and social reformers worked very hard to build the newly independent nation through economic development coupled with social equity and democracy.
Then I saw the third phase of India, an era which belongs to present-day youth. Now, India is a land of opportunities, growth at previously unimaginable rates, a strong workforce and technological leadership. Six decades back, few would have dared to imagine that a nation of such diversity — often termed by some as an experiment in democracy — would eventually find its place amongst the top economies of the world. Who would have imagined that one day India would have worldclass educational institutions and it would be the first country to discover water on the lunar surface.
The three Indias I have lived in and witnessed are quite different from each other. We have come a long way since 1950, when we became a republic. Of course, there are still many important issues such as poverty, illiteracy and corruption that need to be addressed.
The Indian economy was growing at an average of 9% per annum till 2008. In 2009-10, our economy was affected by global
economic turbulence, but still it managed to grow at more than 7% at a time when many other countries were facing recession. Even in the last quarter of 2011, with the economic scenario in the US and Europe looking quite bleak, India grew at 7%. In the present circumstances, I often ask myself what type of innovation is needed to enrich the Indian economy and make other world economies better. I have been talking about this important issue with many experts including those from the Indian Institutes of Management.
On the basis of these discussions, I be lieve that our economy will not be affected by the current financial crisis. India will escape this turbulence because of the fol lowing reasons:
The liberalization process in India has its checks and balances which are consist ent with the unique social requirements of the country
The Indian banking system has always been conservative which has protected from the global crisis The Indian psyche is generally savings oriented and living within one’s means is part of our mindset The purchasing power of the 350-million strong Indian middle class While developed nations are in turmoil in India sectors such automobile, cement and financial services have been posting significant gains. We have reached a level of development where innovation has become part of our thinking. Now we need to apply this thinking to rejuvenate the agricultural sector. It’s time to make value addition to the agriculture sector and to small- and mediumscale industries and enterprises so that they can all make greater contribution to India’s growing GDP.
I foresee tremendous possibilities for creating new markets and jobs. This can
be done by tapping the potential of the rural population and by creating more employment in the countryside. There is huge potential for what I call public-private-citizen (PPC) partnerships and international cooperation in these areas.
India’s performance in information technology, pharmaceuticals, small-scale industries and infrastructure has given a new dimension to our economy. With a credible legal framework , robust banking and financial system, skilled manpower and a dynamic 600-million-strong workforce, India has become an attractive proposition for the global order.
At the domestic level, India is focusing on bringing sustainable development to its people through rural and urban infrastructure, quality education, healthcare, environmental upgradation, efficiency in public institutions for better and enhanced delivery of essential services on time, reforms in the financial system for better global integration and a proactive regulatory system.
All this is critical to India becoming a truly global player. More than 60 years of democratic vibrancy — which has provided good leadership to the nation — gives us confidence to manage socio-economic turbulence. It also helps us in providing leadership to 1.2 billion people in a democratic, multicultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religious environment.
With such a positive outlook, here is how I visualize India in the year 2020. Eight years from now, India will be a nation, where
The rural-urban divide is reduced to a thin line
There is equitable distribution and adequate access to energy and quality water
Agriculture, industry and service sectors work together in symphony
Education is not denied to any meritorious candidate because of social or economic discrimination
The writer was President of India from 2002 to 2007. He is the author of ‘India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium’