India is celebrating the 70th of the Republic day; it is propitious to introspect on the trials, tribulations and the exhilaration of the Republic. When the country was born after the protracted freedom struggle under the mesmerizing leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, India, a country of the continental proportion, was confronted with a myriad of problems. The proclamation of the Republic in 1950 heralded the dawn of decolonisation in the whole of Asia and Africa. Poverty, illiteracy, diseases, lack of infrastructure and social stigmas were daunting challenges. It is a matter of great pride that over the years, in particular in recent few years, a great transformation has taken place in the country which has restored the pre-eminence of the country as a vibrant democracy and economy in the comity of nations.
Today, India has emerged as a resilient polity and as the fastest growing economy of the world. The regular and periodic elections to its democratic institutions from ‘Panchayat’ to Parliament have vindicated the democratic spirit of the country and its people. India’s challenging economic potential offers a great deal of opportunities for the all-round development of the country and the people at large. The GDP growth has averaged 7.3 per cent for the period from 2014-15 to 2017-18 which is the fastest among the major economies of the world. The latest forecast of the International Monetary Fund that India will grow at a world beating 7.5% in 2019-20 only vindicates robustness of the economy. What is significant is that growth has been achieved in the backdrop of lower inflation, improved current account balance and notable reduction in the fiscal deficit to GDP ratio. The introduction of GST helped to a great extent towards resolution of problems associated with the non-performing assets of the banks. Further liberalisation of FDI also gave impetus to economic reforms. Yet another accomplishment is the augmentation of foreign exchange reserves which stood at close to US$ 414 billion, as on January 2018.
The credibility of the country as an attractive destination for business and entrepreneurship has received an impetus with the World Bank upgrading India’s position to 23rd last year as per the Doing Business Report 2019. This is the second consecutive year for which India has been recognised as one of the top improvers in terms of ease of doing business.
It is against this backdrop that over the years, India has been able to lift about 78 % of the population above poverty line through a slew of programmes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, ‘Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana’, National Rural as well as Urban Livelihood Mission, National Social Assistance Programme, Pradhan Mantri Jandhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana etc. The MUDRA Yojana aims at promoting small scale business ventures by young and dynamic youth of the country. Similarly schemes such as Prime Minister Employment Generation Programme, Social Security for Unorganised Workers, Credit Guarantee Funds are targeted to generate income and livelihood. Defining extreme poverty as living on less than $ 1.9 a day, a recent study by Brookings Institute claimed that by 2022, less than 3% of Indians will be poor and extreme poverty could be eliminated by 2030.
Efforts have been made to improve the quality of life, particularly those belonging to the less privileged strata, through ameliorative measures such as National Rural Drinking Water Programme, National River Conservation Programme, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission, Housing for All, Digital India, the Ayushman Bharat health protection scheme etc. The Ujjwala scheme launched in May 2016 provides financial support for each cooking gas connection to eligible households given in the name of women heads of the households.
A sense of purpose and direction has enabled the country to accomplish what it has achieved so far. It is in the interest of the country and its people that the momentum of growth and development should continue and not falter.
Script: Dr. Rupa Narayan Das, Strategic Analyst