As we look back on two years of the NDA Government, there is a sense of work unfinished. A regime that has come to power on the back of promises on a scale unprecedented in electoral history has perhaps less to boast about than the voters would have hoped for. And yet, more has been accomplished in certain areas than ever had been before, which means that the proverbial glass is half-full, rather than empty.
So what are the initiatives that can be undertaken, or continued, that will help the Government to achieve its stated goals?
1. Road and Infrastructure development
Perhaps the least-spoken-about of the ministers in the cabinet is Mr. Nitin Gadkari. This might be due to the fact that Mr. Gadkari’s ministry has spent more time on doing some stellar work in the area of road-building and less on indulging in social media dramatics. The National Highways project was started during the UPA regime, and since the NDA has taken over, the pace of road construction has been at an all-time high. This is a significant development on many fronts as transportation bottlenecks affect every aspect of the Indian economy from food inflation to commodity prices.
Similarly, reform in power generation, from increasing capacity to reducing transmission losses, must be taken up very seriously. The thought of a country like ours, aspiring to be a developed nation, and still suffering reduced industrial output due to non-availability of power, is absurd. Further a move away from polluting coal-fired power plants to more energy-efficient sources of electricity would also go a long way towards increasing overall industrial productivity.
2. Tax Reform
In many ways, India is still subject to more trade barriers within the country than the countries that make up the EU. Other large countries like the USA have benefited from a nation-sized common market, and there is no reason India should not do the same. For this reason, the passage of the national Goods and Service Tax, or GST, is critical to develop the country. Similarly, on the front of personal taxes, a gradual reduction in Personal income tax rates combined with bringing the agricultural sector into the tax net would go a long way towards bringing about a qualitative change in the idea of India
3. Investing in education
Without a doubt, India’s teeming population has the potential to be an asset, but can also become a liability. With agriculture no longer able to support as many people as it once used to, it is essential to bring about a rapid development in the quality of our human resources. Unfortunately, the present government shares the folly of earlier regimes in concentrating too hard on higher education like IIT’s and IIM’s and not enough of primary and secondary education. And of course, it has its unique set of problems stemming from the ideological bent towards revising history. Focussing on improving technical education is likely to yield better results than fighting twitter wars. Hopefully this is something the government takes seriously, given how deeply the future of India is entwined with the minds of our youth.
4. Building a manufacturing base.
While India’s growth has been reasonable over the last twenty years or so (even if one ignores the high possibility of inflated numbers in recent years), it has been driven by services. Jobless growth, as the popular term goes. The IIP (Index of Industrial Production) has been slow, indicating a lack of growth in manufacturing. This is something the government needs to look at improving on a war footing, since growth in this is what will lead to job creation. The ‘Make in India’ project is a fruitful first step in this direction, and needs to be zealously followed through.
These are four measures, some interconnected, which are a necessity for India’s development. By no means are they sufficient, but within their broad contours lies the power to make India rise up and take its place among the leading nations of the world.