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Compendium on “Aspiring India at 75: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” launched by Bharat Lal, Secretary, Lokpal of India

The compendium contains interviews and opinion pieces of some of the leading experts from policymaking apparatus, academia, industry, diplomacy and social sector.

Bharat Lal (centre), Rajat Banerji, Head-Corporate Affairs of Amway (right) and Rajesh Mehta, International Consultant & Columnist(left)

As India awaits its 75th year of independence, a question worth asking is, ‘Where does it stand and more importantly, what does it aim to be? What are the challenges it faces, What are the opportunities that it sees for itself and How can it achieve its desired goals?’ These are some of the questions that a compendium titled ‘Aspiring India@75: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav,’ which was launched by Bharat Lal, Secretary, Lokpal of India, aims to answer. The compendium contains interviews and opinion pieces of some of the leading experts from policymaking apparatus, academia, industry, diplomacy and social sector. Commissioned by Amway India, the compendium is edited by leading international consultant & columnist Rajesh Mehta and Anand Mishra, a research scholar at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

The compendium’s foreword by eminent scientist R.A. Mashelkar underlines the fundamental promise and predicament of India in its 75th year of independence, by stating that “with combination of disruptive technology and bold policy, it is possible for India to bring in radical yet sustainable transformation.” This sentiment is supported by Shekhar Mande, DG, CSIR, when he emphasizes that “proposed Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) seems very promising as it sets out to create a vibrant scientific ecosystem for India.” On the other hand, Aruna Sharma, Former Secretary, Steel and Former Secretary, Electronics & IT, GOI, cites the success of digital initiative like SAMAGRA in improving governance, stating, “the continued emphasis on Digital India shows the e-governance has seeped in governance where all utility services etc. are taking place through electronic mode.”

Governmental and research experts featured in the compendium unanimously assert that India can both leverage technology to improve governance and take conscious steps to enhance the quality of its manpower which can perform in the tech-driven economy in the coming years. Also, since India can not shut itself off from global economic changes, the government should “facilitate the industrial adoption of disruptive technologies that can reduce costs, increase efficiencies and expand productive capacities,” as per Badri Narayanan Gopalakrishnan, Lead Advisor-Trade and Commerce, NITI Aayog. The compendium also features policy experts such as Ajay Pradhan (President CEAI), Akhilesh Gupta (Sr. Advisor, DST) and Arpita Mukherjee (Professor, ICRIER).

The compendium featuring leading voices from science and academia opine that to exploit its latent advantages, India needs to be innovative, cash on its innate expertise to develop highly cost-effective innovation, improve its basic healthcare delivery and be environmentally sensitive. Jaideep Prabhu, Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, for example, shows how Jugaad (Frugal) innovation can help India achieve various sustainable developmental goals and contribute to its “circular economy model.” US based venture capitalist Venktesh Shukla, on his part, feels that India should “keep working on removing cumbersome rules and regulations that slow the startups.” Other experts featured in the compendium include Venkata Gandikota (Founder President, InnoFrugal), Prashant Yadav (Professor, INSEAD) and Deepa Prahalad (Author).

Moving forward, India needs to prepare for the next paradigm of economic and industrial development, which will be driven by disruptive technological changes, flexible and adaptable manpower, and a globally integrated economy. For this to happen, India needs to invest in its human resource. As Sanjeeva Shivesh, founder of the Entrepreneurship School says, “unless we empower the other half of the country with appropriate skills, access to resources, the economy can never reach its true potential.” Anu Acharya, CEO of Mapmygenome, also recommends focus on inclusivity in skilling opportunities so that all can flourish as a nation. Some other experts from the segment and featured in the compendium include Anil Nair (Editor, Policy Circle), Gaurav Singh (Founder, AgriTech IND), Mahendra Singh Rajawat (President & MD, Joyson Safety Systems), Ludovic Dalleau (Founder-CEO, Bloom India Strategy), Partap Chauhan (Founder, Jiva Ayurveda) and Shashank Randev (Founder, 100X.VC).

The compendium features half a dozen senior diplomats who have served as India’s envoys abroad or are country representatives in India. These diplomats unanimously state that India is a major player in global affairs and has immense potential for contributing to the well-being of humanity. However, it is challenged by a troublesome neighbourhood which impedes its rise as a global power. Commenting on India’s rise, former Indian ambassador to South Korea and former High Commissioner to Canada, Vishnu Prakash mentions that “India’s re-emergence has been welcomed by the comity of nations except for a handful of countries led by China and Pakistan.”

Ashok Sajjanhar, former ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden, and Latvia, contrastingly, feels that “India has been extremely successful in advancing its strategic and diplomatic interests over the last few decades on the global platform.” He also asserts that barring Pakistan, India’s relations with SAARC countries today are much better than they were in 2014. Commenting on the coming challenges for Indian foreign policy, former Indian ambassador to Malta, Libya and Jordan, Anil Trigunayat mentions that maintaining strong economic growth is a major challenge for India. He adds that India needs to “maintain a robust defense preparedness against traditional and non-traditional threats for which appropriate alignments and reliable mechanisms have to be created.”

Freddy Svane, the ambassador of Denmark to India, asserts that “with its large population and its growing economy, India stands out as a vital player in the world’s path towards a sustainable environment.” The ambassador of Estonia, Katrin Kivi points at India’s growing role as “responsible geo-political player in mobilizing forces for regional peace, stability, security, and prosperity.” Whereas Finnish ambassador to India, Ritva Koukku-Ronde, opines that “long tradition of international activism and promotion of rule-based multilateralism is something that has made it an important part of organizations such as the UN and WTO.” The compendium also features noted entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank Islam, who emphasized the sterling role that the Indian diaspora has played in enhancing India’s image abroad.

The role of institutions like ICCR is of importance to preserve Indian Culture and Civilization. As Dinesh Patnaik, former DG of ICCR says, “there is a greater understanding and appreciation of India’s cultural and civilizational heritage today than ever before.” As Shekar Narasimhan, the President of USA-based Dharma Into Action Foundation, points out, “we must adapt how our traditions integrate into American culture.” Back home, how culture can be utilized for better governance and policymaking has been shown exemplarily by the Ministry of Jal Shakti. Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, former DG, National Mission for Clean Ganga, commenting on Namami Gange project, asserts that “there has been an emphasis to use culture as a medium to enhance the people-river connect such that with active community participation, we are able to restore and protect the river.”

The compendium also features leading socio-cultural experts and professionals such as Atul K Thakur (author and columnist), Aparna Saroagi (Head, Credit Risk India, NatWest Group), Kanniks Kannikeswaran (Internationally renowned music composer), Meera Satpathy (Founder chairperson, Sukarya), Maya Vishwakarma (Founder chairperson, Sukarma Foundation) and Meera Shenoy (Founder, Youth4Jobs). A gauging opinion is given by Anshu Budhraja (CEO, Amway India), when he stresses upon how the young population can be put to significant use for all-round development in India. He quotes “the increasing number of people, especially the youth not only in urban but also in rural India, embracing digital technology, will significantly help in the rise of entrepreneurship.”

Drawing on the knowledge and expertise from different segments, the compendium makes a timely effort to generate a discussion on what India is capable of achieving, what challenges lie ahead and how India should be tackling those challenges by utilizing its material and intellectual resources. The Future will be radically different from the present, but if we make right decisions today and play well according to our strengths, nothing will stop India from achieving its manifest destiny.

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