I am old-school when it comes to ‘Good News versus Bad News: What to share first?’ Which…basically means that I like to share good news first. So, before we move along and discuss the macabre topic at hand [i.e., the challenges and issues that plague India], let me first share some good news that ought to put us in a more positive frame of mind, which research shows is a prerequisite to effective and efficient problem-solving.
So, what’s the good news? In an inaugural report released on Thursday – at the eve of World Economic Forum Annual Meeting being held at Davos, Switzerland – India ranked 22nd amongst the ‘World’s Best Countries’. According to the report, which analysed 60 countries and was prepared by US News and World Report and New York-based brand BAV Consulting and Wharton School of Business, “India has a fast-growing, diverse economy with a large, skilled workforce. But because of its population, it’s also one of the poorest countries in the world based on income and gross national product per capita.”
As is evident, while there is much to be happy about, we cannot turn a blind eye to the myriad issues at hand, which warner our immediate attention. Since it is not possible to cover every single issue (owing to both the paucity of time and the prescribed word limit), we will look at the current national issues by analysing the macro-environmental factors using the trusted PESTEL framework.
1. P: Political
The biggest national issue that needs our urgent attention is ‘National Security’. And let’s admit it, given the terrorist threat that’s forever looming in the horizon, we need to take affirmative action in order to combat the menace. So, how can we – that is, the general public – take preventive steps? Here’s how:
a) Avoid wearing dresses with army patterns and other combat clothes as fashion wear. In fact, the army spokesperson implored the youth to use social media to spread awareness and start online campaigns to prevent the misuse of Army uniform and equipment as fashion statement.
b) Do not sublet apartments/rent out rooms without proper verifications/identifications.
c) Always be proactive in reporting suspicious activities. In a nation as large as ours, we cannot forever expect the men in khaki to be ever-vigilant, hence our own vigilant vigils are required to curb the menace of terrorism.
2. E: Economic
Without delving into the controversial debate on the ‘measurement’ itself [vis-a-vis the Tendulkar committee vs. C. Rangarajan committee], we know that poverty as an issue is something we are grappling with since the roll-out of the first Five-Year-Plan, but to no avail. Rural poverty and urban poverty continue to be alarmingly high. While the government attempts to curb this problem through schemes like NREGA (of course, the rampant corruption is a major reason for the dismal performance of such schemes), free education, mid-day meals, skills development; truth is, we need to redirect all our focus towards rural poverty.
Why? Because it’s a vicious cycle! It is because of rural poverty that workers are forced to migrate to cities. This large exodus of a migrant population to cities actually brings down worker wages, forcing them to work for pittance. Not to mention, since the agricultural worker has now moved away from agriculture (and to the city), there are fewer farmers left for farming, which further affects crop production. This, in turn, results in driving the food prices up (basic demand-supply economics), which in turn, greatly affects the urban poor…often driving him to the depths of destitution.
So, how can we save our farmers (and, in turn, save ourselves)? A simple solution can be through the scheme of ‘crop insurance’, which will act as the safety net in case of failed crops, weak harvest, climatic factors, etc. With better
3. S: Social
The single biggest social issue facing India is that of ‘overpopulation’. This is because most other social ills are actually a byproduct of a country that is literally bursting at its seam. Not only is it a huge strain on natural resources, it is the biggest contributor to almost all other problems facing this country. Since we cannot expand the size of this planet, we seriously need to rethink the size of our population.
4: T: Technological
As reiterated, an important component of alleviating poverty is through agricultural revolution. It is here that technology can help us make tremendous stride by introducing modern methods to farming, developing crops that are resistant to infections and the environmental onslaughts, etc. The farmers, furthermore, can learn about water conservation projects and water re-use technologies for better harvests.
5: E: Environmental
As previously stated, overpopulation is one of the biggest contributors to most environmental problems. The biggest and the most serious, of course, is the problem of deforestation, which in turn leads to serious environmental threats. As populations continue to expand, the demand for housing and shelter has made the green zone shrink. Deforestation not only leads to adverse climatic conditions, it is a threat for the already-dwindling animal population, rising in pollution, increasing carbon footprint, etc. After all, you can live without big houses, but you cannot live without the quintessential “oxygen-producing” trees.
6. L: Legal
When it comes to the legal issues, the biggest cause for concern is the turtle-paced judiciary. This is truly alarming since the number of pending cases is all set to breach the 1 crore mark. This problem too is a fall out of the huge population of the country. While population increase has witnessed a geometric progression, the increase in the number of judges has just not been able to kept pace. Therefore, judicial reforms is one of the most pressing issues of our times. After all, no society can function (let alone prosper) in the lack of administration and justice.
Hence, when it comes to the issues facing the nation, they do not fall in distinct segregated buckets…instead, most are correlated. You take care of one (especially population), and most other become easier to fix. After all, you cannot fill a bucket that has a gaping hole in the bottom. Hence, you need to plug the hole before you run the faucet!