HTLS 2019: Conversations for a better tomorrow
Getting politics, the economy, and the environment right will lead India to a bright futureUpdated: Dec 06, 2019 05:56 IST
A nation is shaped by its past. History — the good and the bad, the heroic and the tragic, the ancient and the modern — has made India what it is today. This historical legacy is an asset. It has given the Indian civilisation a rare continuity; it has made the Indian State democratic and plural; and it has enabled the coexistence of diverse communities in society. But the burden of history has also held India back. It has slowed India’s battle against poverty, inequality, and injustice; it has often kept the country wrapped in battles of the past; and it has, at times, come in the way of harmony and peace.
But even as India has to navigate through this mixed legacy, it is time to look ahead. And that is why, this year, the theme of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, starting today, is Conversations for a Better Tomorrow.
India has clear advantages. There is a politically stable, strong government at the Centre, with an overwhelmingly popular leader in Narendra Modi. It has a robust democratic system, in which frequent elections keep leaders accountable. It has an independent judiciary, which ensures conformity to the Constitution. Its federal structure has taken deep roots. It has a vibrant media space. It has a big market. And it has young, aspirational citizens, who, with education, migration, urbanisation and the use of technology, are firmly positioned to access opportunities.
It is with these ingredients that India has to make a better tomorrow. This future must have three strong elements.
The first remains a democratic, inclusive and plural set-up. As Prime Minister Modi said right after winning the elections this summer, his government’s philosophy is sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas. This is an excellent guide. India must give each citizen a sense of participation in its political and economic processes. It must strive to improve the lives of each citizen. And it must give a sense of belonging to all citizens, irrespective of their religion, region, caste and gender. This will keep India united, harmonious and just.
The second element has to be a stronger economy. India’s size and population, the entrepreneurial spirit of its people, its diverse economic landscape, spanning large corporations to small and medium businesses and even informal enterprises, the easing of restrictions over the last three decades, and its potential as a site of foreign investment provide a sound basis for growth. But there is an undeniable economic slowdown, as the government has itself acknowledged. This has led to inadequate investment and a dip in demand. The domino effect is palpable in tax revenues, jobs, and consumption. A better tomorrow calls for a review of the economic situation, steps to boost supply and demand, second-generation reforms in various areas from land to labour, measures to ramp up rural incomes, and preparing an educated, productive, employable pool of citizens. This will help reverse the slowdown. It is on the basis of this growth that India must continue its welfare programmes and reach out to the most marginalised citizens. There has already been an improvement in delivery systems, which must be built upon.
The third element has to be a sharper focus on the environment and the climate crisis. Extreme weather events have become the norm. Floods and droughts are devastating lives. India is warmer than ever before. PM Modi has already transformed India from a reluctant participant, seen as a “spoiler” in international climate negotiations, to a leader, willing to take responsibility beyond its share. This must be sustained and all economic activities must have a clear environment lens. A related element is battling air pollution, especially in north India, which is causing a public health crisis.
A better India has to build on its past. But it can also escape the past. Let us get the politics, the economy, and the environment right. A bright future awaits India.