Three priorities for India that is Bharat

The journey of transformation from an under-developed country to a developed one is not an easy one. It is not a voyage aboard a luxury cruise ship. We must make tough choices. To begin with, we must stop blaming our democracy for all our woes -specially, the widening disparity between Bharat and India.

In a complex country like India there are many actions that are overdue. I will focus on only three priorities:

1. Firstly, we must invest in our farm and rural sectors. 65% of our people depend on farming and live in rural areas. We have to industrialize to create opportunities for our rural population. And march ahead we must in services. But we cannot neglect the farm sector. In an environment-friendly way, we ought to usher in a tri-colour revolution version 2.0. A new green revolution for our farms. A refreshed white revolution for dairy, livestock, fisheries and poultry. An orange (prefer it to “saffron”) revolution for fruits and orchards. Better agricultural methods, superior seeds, irrigation, crop management and access to market will make a difference.Let us fiercely debate the merits of genetically modified seeds –after all we are a mature democracy. Why should we not have large-scale, commercial and contract farming? The unorganized, daily labourers in agriculture are the worst exploited. Why should our vegetables and fruits rot in the fields? We complain about the rising world price of food grains. We worry about our food security. We know that the rural poor is worst hit by rising food prices. We acknowledge that our peace and stability are being endangered by the destitution of the rural and tribal poor. We raise the slogan of inclusive growth. Yet we continue to neglect the farm sector!

2. The second priority should be the development of both physical and social infrastructure. We need new roads, ports, airports, inland waterways, railways and public transportation and new towns. People will be displaced as we build infrastructure and industries. There should be fair and humane policies to rehabilitate the displaced. But we must discourage grandstanding and penalize disruptive tactics when a project is eminently in the greater public interest. We require more schools that teach and institutions that impart vocational training. If we do not educate our young people and skill them to be ready for gainful employment, the fancy word of demographic dividend will come back to haunt us as the worst nightmare.

3. The third priority should be rooting out corruption. Economists and public policy pundits underplay the role of corruption in holding back the progress of our country. There is an inter-dependent ecosystem that feeds of each other in a vicious chain of corrupt politicians, crooked businessmen and dishonest bureaucrats. There are pliable professionals who form a support system to this eco-system. Unless these “enemies of the people” are legally attacked, socially ostracised and economically crippled, there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that we will reduce corruption and its corroding impact in our daily lives. We need to initiate a legislation called the Indian Bribery and Corrupt Practices Act 2011 which punishes both the giver, the taker and the keeper of bribes with imprisonment. The first step, however, is to call a spade a spade and begin using the “corruption” word, instead of “governance challenges”, “trickle down problems” and “underground economy”.

Roopen Roy is the Managing Director of Deloitte Consulting, India. Views expressed are personal.