By M.V. Kamath
There are two documents before us concerning what to expect should the National Democratic Alliance be returned to power. One is the Vision Document 2004 of the Bharatiya Janata Party which states what the party has in mind on its own and would implement should it be re-elected with a substantial majority. The other is the Agenda for Development, Good Governance and Peace issued in behalf of the National Democratic Alliance and surely would be the guiding factor should the BJP be forced to share power with its allies.
What is most probable is that the BJP will not get a simple majority to be able to form a government without outside support, which therefore makes the NDA”s Agenda more relevant to the scene. In many ways the NDA”s Agenda is more detailed and issue-specific. It devotes, for instance, an entire chapter to Employment Generation Strategy.
In today”s context, with unemployment gathering momentum this chapter assumes special relevance. In the NDA”s common manifesto, in 1999, it had promised to create one crore additional employment and self-employment opportunities each year. That promise has not been met; it was more a hope than an accomplishment. And yet, it is necessary that the next government should focus its attention on employment generation at all levels of literacy. A nation with a large percentage of unemployed is a candidate for social unrest, leading to revolution. But what is most disturbing about the NDA”s Agenda is its apparent disinterest in population control. There is literally not a single word on how to bring down the growth of population which is now around 1.1 billion and growing steadily by the day. Nothing that a government can do by way of rural development, building of industrial infrastructure, introduction of economic reforms or perfecting an employment-generation strategy will be of much help if population growth gets out of control.
Promises have been made to spend thousands of crores of rupees to interlink India”s rivers to maximise use of our river waters. That money could well be spent on introducing birth control measures. We need more water to grow more food and we need to grow more food to feed more mouths. In any country, let alone India, there is a limit to the availability of water. Rather than try to feed more mouths, a government would be better advised to create a system where there are fewer mouths to feed?a point that needs to be heavily stressed in the days to come. Insisting on more water for more land may sound marvellous, but that is equivalent to putting the cart before the horse. In this regard, the BJP”s Vision Document 2004 shows that it is at least sensitive to the problem confronting the nation though it says?no doubt being acutely aware of what happened during the Emergency?that ?the goals and targets set in the National Population Policy can be realised only by making it a people”s movement?. That, plainly put, is cowardice. For a movement to start, it must have proper leadership. And such a leadership can only be provided by a popular party. To shove responsibility on population control to a people”s movement shows utter lack of concern for the most vital issue of our times. The NDA may hesitate to assume responsibility for reducing the country”s population to a reasonable level, but the BJP, which is the lead party in the NDA, must show more courage and a greater sense of responsibility.
India just cannot afford, no matter what wonders it performs in other fields, to see the population bludgeoning out of control. India need not have to adopt the brutally repressive methods employed by China, but any political party worth its salt must take the question of limiting population head-on. The immediate aim should be to bring down the population to, say, 750 million within the next quarter of a century. That by itself would be a major achievement.
According to the NDA”s Agenda, it is committed to making India an economic superpower with the adoption of a seven-pronged strategy. The aim is to make India (a) the food factory of the world, (b) the global manufacturing hub, (c) the service provider to the world, (d) the centre of the knowledge economy, (e) the global tourism destination, (f) the global healthcare destination, and (g) the global higher education destination.
Presently, two factors are in India”s favour. Almost 60 per cent (this is an approximation, considering that figures vary) of India”s population is between the age of 18 and 35. India is young and can provide the necessary labour.
Two, India is becoming increasingly self-confident as we have noticed, even in a limited way, in our cricket team. India can grow more food, India can process more food, India can be a technical service-provider (indeed it already is) to the rest of the world and India can attract more tourists than almost any other country, if it has the will to do so.
India can shine even brighter. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Some of the world”s leading automobile manufacturing companies have subsidiaries in India to manufacture spare parts. In the Information Technology (IT) field, India can easily reach the goal of $50 billion exports by 2008 by consistenly moving up the value chain. There are as many as 2,800 diverse trades in India, each requiring a sound subject-based knowledge and skill. Immediate steps can be taken?indeed, the NDA Agenda promises that they will be taken?to upgrade knowledge and skills through various methods such as distance learning and television. As a matter of fact, the NDA Agenda says that it will see to it that no village will be without telecom services by 2007. The NDA Agenda promises everything under the sun. Some of its promises sound too extravagant like developing at least 20 new cities and satellite towns on completely futuristic lines and at least 10 cities into global cities?whatever that may mean. We don”t need global cities. What we need are liveable cities. Just as importantly, we want liveable villages where the people are content, productive and self-sufficient. It is necessary to dream big, but it is equally important to have dreams that are capable of being implemented.
The NDA, besides, seems entirely unaware of the need to control corruption. All that it has to say?and that, too, under a sub-title ´Other Commitments´?is that ?the NDA government is committed to giving corruption-free government at all levels?.
Surely the question of eradicating corruption ´at all levels´ deserves more attention that a one-liner towards the end of the Agenda? Corruption control, like population control should be at the top of any Agenda, a point that the next government should remember as its members take their oath in the weeks ahead. India can shine even brighter if it can attain these two goals, both of which are entirely within India”s powers to achieve?if it has the will. Where there is a will, there is a way.