Challenges & opportunities of being 5th largest economy of the world!

It’s a major milestone – India surpasses the UK to become the fifth largest economy in the world. If all goes well, we will soon be the world’s third largest economy after the US and China. India is currently ranked as the fastest growing economy among the G-20 countries. In fact, our cap has multiple feathers. For example, we are the world’s number one consumer of smartphone data and number two for internet users. India is the third largest energy consuming country in the world. Over the past eight years, over $100 billion companies have been founded. New companies are added every month. It took India around 800 days to reach the first 10,000 startups after 2014 and less than 200 days for 10,000 new startups. In the last 96 months, the total number of startups has increased to almost 70,000. These startups are spread across all states and more than 650 districts in the country. About 50 percent of these are in Tier II and Tier III cities.

It is also claimed that India is witnessing an unprecedented investment in social and physical infrastructure today. An environment of consensus has been created to implement the new National Education Policy 2020, while on the other hand work is being done to implement the new Health Policy. We don’t have a national airline today, but a record number of new airports are being built in India, connecting small towns with air routes in collaboration with private sector actors. A string of new cell towers are being installed by private sector players as 5G knocks on India’s door. We also have the world’s best digital transaction platform – Unified Payment Interface (UPI). Up to 40 percent of the world’s digital transactions are processed in India. Under Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi, approximately Rs. 2 billion was transferred to the bank accounts of more than 11 million farmers in the country.

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Today, three million poor people in the country have their pucca and new houses to start living in. More than 50 million poor people in the country have the opportunity of free treatment up to Rs 5 lakh. Over 25 million poor people in the country have accident insurance and term life insurance at Rs 2 lakh each. About 45 million poor people in the country have bank accounts with Jan Dhan. The PM SVANidhi program has provided financial assistance to 35,000 street vendors across the country. Loans worth more than Rs 20 lakh crore have been made available to small business owners across the country under the Mudra Yojana. Among the borrowers there are about seven million such entrepreneurs who have started a business for the first time and have become new entrepreneurs. That said, with the help of Mudra Yojana, more than 7 million people will be associated with self-employment for the first time, and 70 percent of the loans went to women entrepreneurs.

No doubt the best possible efforts are being made to build a stronger, much more vibrant and inclusive India, but in jubilation we must not forget gaps that point a lot to the ordinary people, policy makers, public policy experts and other stakeholders. The latest Human Development Report – Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World – published by UNDP – ranks India 132 out of 191 countries. India’s HDI score of 0.633 places the country in the medium human development category, lower than its score of 0.645 in the 2020 report. India was ranked 131st out of 189 countries in the 2020 Human Development Index. “As with global trends, in the case of India, the drop in HDI from 0.645 in 2019 to 0.633 in 2021 is due to falling life expectancy – from 69.7 to 67.2 years. India’s expected school years is 11.9 years and the average school years is 6.7 years,” the report said.

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Human development — a measure of a nation’s health, education and median income — has declined for two straight years — 2020 and 2021 — reversing five years of progress. Although the trend is consistent with the global decline, suggesting that human development around the world has stalled for the first time in 32 years, we need to be more focused and steadfast in our inclusive efforts. The HDI measures progress in three key dimensions of human development – ​​long and healthy life, access to education, and a decent standard of living. It is calculated using four indicators – life expectancy at birth, average schooling, expected schooling and gross national income (GNI) per capita. No one can deny the fact that India’s growth story has reflected the country’s investment in inclusive growth, social protection, gender-sensitive policies and the push towards renewable energy to ensure no one is left behind, but the gaps between opportunities, benefits and audiences remain monstrous .

Child labour, caste discrimination and poverty are closely linked in India, according to a UN report, which highlights contemporary forms of slavery, including severe discrimination against Dalit women in South Asia, as a result of which they are systematically denied choices and freedoms in all spheres of life. Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Tomoya Obokata, in his recent report on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, said that entrenched, intersecting forms of discrimination combined with several other factors are the main causes of the impact of contemporary forms of slavery minorities. The report also finds that systematic discrimination has profound effects on the ability of affected individuals and communities to live with dignity and enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others. Marginalized communities are often overlooked in public policies and national budget allocations, and their access to courts and remedies in cases of human rights abuses, including contemporary forms of slavery, is generally limited. Our inability to end caste-based discrimination is a sad reflection of us as a nation.

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It is a welcome development that India @ 75 has renewed its determination to end TB by 2025. TB is directly linked to severe malnutrition and poor hygiene, among others. Nothing can be more gratifying when one sees malnutrition disappear from the country in the next three years. No malnutrition means no chronic poverty, which means a tiny percentage of people live below the poverty line. Low immunity – a significant drop in malnutrition – is thought to be one of the most common reasons why TB infection leads to TB disease. People suffering from HIV, stress, diabetes, damaged lungs; Alcoholics and smokers with poor general health also have the possibility of contracting the disease. At this stage, they begin to show symptoms. The incidence of TB is quite high worldwide. Of the total cases, more than 26 percent are from India. This includes both multidrug-resistant TB and HIV-TB cases. The task before us is of course enormous and complex. We need to invest heavily in human development through health and education for sustainable growth.

(The author is an experienced journalist, columnist and author. The views expressed are solely his personal)

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