India, poised to enter the landmark 75th year of its independence, stands on the cusp of a transformative era. It is a historic point in time for all of us to celebrate our achievements, look back at the years gone by with some measure of satisfaction, and chart out a realistic road map to build a more inclusive, powerful and prosperous India. With its increasing clout on the world stage, India is set to emerge as a leading global power in the years to come.
We are indeed fortunate to have inherited a Constitution imbued with the visionary foresight and robust pragmatism of our national icons and freedom fighters. The phrase, “We the people”, in the Preamble encapsulates the essential foundation of our developmental architecture. People are at the centre of all thoughts and actions required for national development. They are the creators of their destiny.
In the course of this eventful journey of 75 years, we have, without doubt, dispelled the fears and apprehensions of doomsday prophets at the time of Partition that it is impossible to keep India united because of its enormous diversity. In contrast, we have grown from strength to strength as a vibrant and thriving parliamentary democracy.
The framers of our Constitution had unflinching faith in the democratic principles, where people’s voices are heard and acted upon, where debate and deliberation lead to a well considered public policy, and where people are empowered to lead the process of transforming our nation.
Barring the dark episode of the Emergency, when fundamental rights of the people were trampled upon, we can be justifiably proud of our democratic accomplishments and credentials. It is imperative, however, to cleanse our political system of various ills that are vitiating the electoral process and impeding the development of the country.
As the largest democracy in the world, India should be a shining example to others on many issues, including the effective functioning of our Parliament. But what we have witnessed in the monsoon session is a sad reflection on the current state of affairs. Parliamentary gridlocks can only be resolved through dialogue.
It is a matter of great pride for us that the image and stature of our nation are on the rise in a range of sectors —from economic, academic, geopolitics, defence, sports, science, to IT and space technology, among others.
Agriculture, often referred to as the soul of India, is another area of focus where we have made considerable progress. There is a pressing need for improved agricultural practices and modernisation of technology to boost productivity and efficiency. It is equally critical to identify and address systemic problems which are holding Indian farmers back from realising their full potential. Strengthening infrastructure including creating storage networks and cold chains, access to formal and timely agricultural credit to farmers, value addition through food processing and driving other much-needed reforms will transform the farming sector.
India, which has emerged as a hub for the launch of Indian and foreign satellites, is a leader in the fields of space technology, as also strategic and defence technology with exemplary capabilities.
Powered by reforms and the ‘Make in India’ drive, the economy is on the rise and India is being transformed into a major hub of hi-tech manufacturing with the presence of world leaders in this area. At the same time, it is pertinent to point out that India registered its highest ever foreign direct investment inflow of $81.72 billion during the financial year 2020-21, which alone is a reflection of the priority the Government is according to manufacturing, design and innovation with an emphasis on ‘Vocal for Local’.
It is a matter of gratification for us that India is the fifth largest manufacturer in the world. In this context, the Government of India’s multi-pronged initiatives such as Make In India, Start Up India and Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Ltd (MUDRA) deserve special mention. The Government of India’s nimble economic policies have, in a great measure, cushioned the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has put even advanced health-care systems of the wealthiest nations to severe test. It has disrupted lives and livelihoods, businesses and economies all over the world. India was no exception, but displaying rare grit, our frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, para-medical staff, Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers, police and media personnel have been waging a difficult war on the pandemic tenaciously.
Similarly, in the true spirit of Atmanirbhar Bharat, industry rose to the occasion to make life-saving vaccines, personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, face-masks, sanitisers and ventilators along with a whole range of essential products, in a frenzied race against time. Resilience, resolve, research and reinvention aptly define Team India’s response to the unprecedented health crisis. However, there can be little doubt that the pandemic has sharply highlighted the need for strengthening India’s health-care system. Ensuring universal health coverage and bridging the urban-rural divide in health infrastructure need to be a sustained effort to be taken up without any further delay.
While the path-breaking Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana had provided the much-needed connectivity in rural areas, the need of the hour is to incentivise employment-generation initiatives for accelerating the growth of rural economy.
Women’s empowerment and gender equality as well as the welfare of children need to be prioritised. I am happy that there has been a renewed focus on maternal and child welfare including nutritional needs and overall well being.
I am glad that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has been designed to meet the needs of a resurgent and aspirational India. Ours is one of the youngest nations in the world with over 62% of its population in the working age segment of 15-59. In this context, NEP provides a blueprint for quality school education which, when rolled out to its full scope and extent, has the potential to transform the academic landscape of the country. It is essential for planners of educational policy to build a knowledge ecosystem which would drive India’s growth. The link between research and industry is another thrust area which needs to be actively fostered.
I always emphasise the importance of using the mother tongue at all levels of education, including vocational and technical education. In this context, I welcome the initiative of 14 engineering colleges across eight States to offer courses in native languages. Similarly, local languages should be widely used in administration and the judiciary, including court verdicts.
Though we have come a long way in the area of governance, achieving digital governance to a considerable extent, universal Internet access and cyber-security remain challenges which need to be addressed. The shift to online education in schools and colleges during the novel coronavirus pandemic hasbrought to fore the wide gaps between rural and urban India, when it comes to Internet access and the availability of electronic gadgets. This digital divide should be narrowed as quickly as possible.
Clearly, our country has so many achievements that each one of us can legitimately be proud of, including the recent spectacular performance of our sportswomen and sportsmen in the Tokyo Olympics, with the best ever Olympic Games medals tally our country ever achieved.
This moment of celebration should be a moment of re-dedication, a moment of introspection, of review, reforms and ceaseless, collaborative, competent action.
We can co-create a new India by building on our strengths assiduously acquired over the past decades and centuries, by celebrating our rich diversity, by transforming our governance and institutional structures to serve the people in the best possible manner, by leaving no one behind, by resolving differences through cordial dialogue, by striding into the complex, uncertain future with greater optimism, confidence and determination.
M. Venkaiah Naidu is the Vice President of India