On February 11, 2000, it would have been hard to believe that the Sensex would add nearly 10,000 points in less than seven years. Just as it was impossible to believe that a nation battling to raise foreign currency through Resurgent India Bonds and India Millennium Deposits would become the worlds top receiver of remittances from abroad.
It would have taken a braveheart indeed to pencil in these numbers, even at the beginning of this decade. Yet they are the statistics that are the stuff of daily news in India as we move past the 60th birthday of this republic, next week. The past seven years of this republic has really been electric. The numbers now tell the story of a nation hungry for more success.
The sort of success that has pulled up, approximately one million people each year from under the poverty line, in the past decade. That is the largest piece of social engineering ever to have happened in the world. This also means many more Indians are in a position to demand jobs, social security and generally the means to ensure they do not slip back into abject poverty. These are the sorts of demand that can overwhelm any government, especially when they happen with such blinding speed. It requires an ability to build on ones own success and be prepared for absolutely fresh challenges, as is happening in India now.
The data also shows something else. The numbers under the poverty line actually grew as long as we kept on taking the wrong turns. The per capita income just did not grow in the 1970s.
Compare that period with the 5.6% growth rate in the last seven years. This has not been achieved by a cut-back on population growth rate. It has slowed up only marginally.
That sort of success story is repeated in every chart. The total foreign investment into the economy has quadrupled in seven years to $26.5 billion by 2006-07.
The macro numbers are therefore in place. The trick is to do more of the same and ensure that those who have been left behind get a chance to take the India story forward. This will obviously depend on how we work out the details of the India story. This is the decade of opportunity but the key question to ask is whether we are ready to take those chances.
A decade later, it will be time to introspect if we took those chances or simply let go due to stagefright. By then the world would have moved on to some other stage.