India@75: still a work in progress
NEW DELHI: As India celebrates 75 years of independence, citizens are united with a sense of pride and accomplishment over how far we have come.
An occasion such as this demands that we take cognisance of how we have fared in the past seven decades, and contextualise India’s role in the global scheme of things.
With a population in excess of 1.4 billion people, India has as many great things going for it.
Over half the citizens are under the age of 30, which presents great opportunities for nation building.
There is reason to be optimistic about how a fresh perspective can reshape the politics and socio economic stature of India. While we might have arrived a little late to the party of industrialisation, India is still one of the most sought-after nations as far as business prospects are concerned. The nation is ranked third on the number of unicorns incepted, trailing behind the US and China, and we are serious about chasing down that $5 trillion economy dream by 2025.
India’s drive towards urbanisation is also proceeding in top gear as close to 34% of the population lives in urban regions, which is estimated to be 40% by 2030.
As per data from the National Statistical Office (NSO), as of 2021, India’s average literacy rate has hit 77.70%, which bodes for business and the education front, as educated parents are more likely to ensure children stick around in schools.
Strides made in the digital sphere have seen as much as 41% of the population with access to the Internet.
Thanks to the deep penetration of mobile and internet services, India has a vibrant communication infrastructure that has covered the expanse of the nation.
We would be remiss in our duties if we ignore problems that have been part and parcel of the national experience since day one.
About 60% of the people live on less than Rs 240 ($3.10) a day, which is the World Bank’s median poverty line and more than 250 mn citizens, survive on less than Rs 160 (or $2) a day.
It’s hard to believe that a nation bursting at the seams with progress, can be beset by such debilitating instances of squalor and shortages.
India has also consistently fallen short on parameters involving human development indices measured globally.
Among 189 countries, India was ranked 131 on the Human Development Index 2020 which was prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The nation’s ranking in the Gender Inequality Index is also dismal as we were ranked 123rd out of 162 nations.
Gender parity is hard to come by in the nation as female representation in the parliament is just about 13.5%.
There are several action items on India’s plate that are yet to be tabled. Universal, affordable and accessible healthcare is out of reach, in spite of our track record in vaccinating people during Covid.
Affordable housing is unaffordable for millions, and our environmental footprint is abysmal, as large swathes of forests are levelled to make way for infrastructural projects and rapid urbanisation, a necessary evil, born from our neglect of rural India.
Civil rights of minority populations in India are also bulldozed with impunity, and the freedom of press is tossed into the refuse bin as several journalists paid with their lives or were incarcerated on account of speaking the truth.
After 75 years of Independence, India is still a work in progress. If we are serious about turning into a superpower in the coming decade, the government will have to lean on its citizens and vice versa.