We as a nation are going to be celebrating our 69th anniversary as a Republic tomorrow on Friday.
We have indeed come a long since we became a proud Republic among other independent, countries of the world in 1950. We are self sufficient in food: we even export it; we have progressed industrially, and have made great strides in Space and Nuclear technologies too.
But if Republic Day is a day to analyze our failings as well as our success’ and ponder on where we have faltered, we should begin seriously worrying about these 3 factors:
Our alarming pollution levels
Everyone knows about the pollution in Delhi, but are we aware that all our other cities are highly polluted too?
Not just our metros, our tier 2 cities like Agra, Lucknow, Varanasi , Rohtak, Moradabad etc. have air quality index that is classified as ‘very poor.’
The unbelievable tragedy is that according to WHO only one in a thousand Indians resides in an area where particulate matter is less than 2.5 considered the safe level.
Yet, we have embarked on an even more ambitious program of felling trees, destroying forests to make way for mines, highways and factories.
Nature keeps sounding warning by way of floods – in Himachal Pradesh, in Bihar, in Assam, but our policy makers and those in government do not want to listen.
Total collapse of our agrarian policies
For a country that consists of majority being involved in agriculture, we have given this important means of livelihood completely short shrift. Despite having spent on so many Agricultural Universities and colleges, farming continues to be a neglected sector. Soil health and productivity, cost of inputs vs market prices of agricultural produce, credit and insurance available to farmers – nothing is satisfactory or supportive of the farmer.
The disparity between what a farmer earns and what a govt. employee takes home has become so stark with the 7th pay commission that one wonders if they both live in the same country!
Farmer suicides have hit all time high figures and agriculturists, from any part of the country, are about to throw in the towel. As it is most children of farmers do not want to follow their parents into farming.
It is probably this factor, that leads us into the third colossal problem facing our nation:
Unemployment and frustrated youth
Villages, small towns, even tier 2 cities do not seem to generate jobs to contain the youth of the area. Migration to metros is increasing at an alarming level leading to increased crime, specially crime against women.
According to the latest ILO report, the number of jobless in the country will increase to 18.6 million in 2018 and 18.9 million in 2019, against 18.3 million in 2017. In last year’s report, the ILO had forecast that the number of unemployed in the country is expected to be 18 million in 2018 and had estimated the unemployment figure for 2017 at 17.8 million.
So, the number of unemployed persons in India in 2017 was 0.5 million more than ILO’s previous year estimates.
Apart from industrial and economic depression, another factor contributing to unemployment is that our education system renders youth unemployable.
It is a sad but bitter fact that even our professional colleges run on obsolete course material and most of our engineers are also not fit for immediate employment without rigorous training from employers.
The short comings of our education system do not prepare a person for self employment in any sector. Whether it is service sector, economic or industrial.
One has heard even senior lawyers or judges complaining that our colleges are churning out Law graduates who cannot draft a letter, forget a petition!
There are many other issues like hunger and malnutrition that we have not touched on.
But the long and short of it is, just using GDP as a tool to map our progress can and has led to many pitfalls.
When we measure our development just by Gross Domestic Product, we do not account for environmental disasters, misery and inequality.
It is high time we began measuring our development and our progress under the parameter of the Social Progress Index, where access to basic knowledge, health and wellness, ecosystems and personal rights matter.
The sad truth is that as we enter our 70th year as a Republic, our Human Index figure ranks us at a lowly 131 out of 188 countries – we are the lowest among BRIC countries lagging behind even Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Time we took a real hard look at our priorities as a nation and re adjust our path ahead and set our RADAR accordingly.