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It's payback time, dear IIT-ians!
December 11, 2006
The times are exciting in India. All around there is hullabaloo about the amazing GDP growth rate, skyrocketing Sensex, booming foreign direct investment and numerous other factors. All indicate India's rise in stature in the global scheme of things.
The 'iota iota tau' fraternity has led the way for the Indian Inc. and created a stir the world over. Numerous names spill over the goblet if one were to take account of those who have been the benchmark for others with their grooming in leadership and innovation. Now when the Indian economy is warming up and has begun to gallop towards new heights, it is up to this fraternity to take on the onus to lead the country and unfasten the chains tending to hold us back.
A diagnosis of our economy does herald a vibrant and vivacious India but a closer and keener look beneath this veneer of prosperity, one would identify numerous issues. Many of these issues need immediate and urgent attention in our quest to become a developed country, moreover a happy one. One of the stark realities that render all this sweet talk of growth sour is the humungous disparity in the growth pattern. There is inequitable distribution of wealth.
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Statistics say that still about 25 to 30 per cent of our population is below poverty line or roughly around 250 to300 million people. Literacy rate is around 65 to70 per cent. This renders all this partying and festivity meaningless because the benefits are being reaped by a few while a majority of our countrymen are languishing behind, bereft of the benefits this growth is bringing around. To be a powerful knowledge economy education is one of the keys.
One of the criteria to achieve equitable growth is that the GDP should grow at more than 8 per cent which we are achieving. The manufacturing sector is booming at more than 10 per cent and we aren't failing there either. But what is holding us back is the lack of growth in agriculture, on which depends the majority of our population. Agriculture is one thing which might not normally beep on the radar of an IITian's mind screen but one in which definitely a huge contribution is needed and can be made.
Agriculture is one sector on which almost 75 per cent of our population depends but many would not find lucrative enough to invest. It is also highly improbable that it would attract large FDIs. All the more agricultural growth needs fillip if our economy has to mature and alleviate poverty.
The recent Nobel prize for peace has been to the efforts of Muhammad Younus of Bangladesh for his microfinance model. Though microfinancing has definitely lent a new lease of life to many, it is more of a survival strategy. It doesn't really lead to accumulation of wealth and improve in the quality of life.
Closely linked to agriculture is the village cottage and handicrafts industry. This industry also needs a proper stimulus in the form of proper marketing and awareness for it to charter a course for growth. Also the manufacturing sector booming in India presents opportunities to create immense employment opportunities to the surplus labour from the unorganized sector and agriculture.
All these are key areas which many would despise as less lucrative but need urgent attention both in terms of money as well as designing a blueprint for action. IITians with their entrepreneurial bends and innovative wits can articulate a growth strategy which is in synergy with the aspirations of the people it affects most. For, who are better equipped to do it than the people who have been the toast of the nation.
(The author has been working as manager, operations, Tata Steel (hot strip mill) since July 1. He graduated in 2006 with BTech in materials and metallurgical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur).