By Prof Pritam B Sharma and Rajesh Mehta
The news of India taking over UK, to become the fifth largest economy was cheerfully received by one and all here in India. And if the projections are right, India is poised to become the third largest economy of the world by 2031, only next to US and China as per the projections of the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) Report 2021. India’s GDP is poised to grow to 6.8 trillion US dollars in 2031. The task of taking Indian economy from its current GDP of 3.53 trillion US Dollars to 5 trillion Dollars by 2024 and 10 trillion Dollars by 2030 would, however, require a little more push and that too in the right direction. But mere economic growth would not suffice. We need to achieve the goal of creating a New India of our dream that would attain inclusive and sustainable development to protect the interest of our 1.4 billion people and that of planet Mother Earth. This would require paying a great attention to environmental health and providing good governance that shall guarantee high quality of life for people at large. It must, however, be clearly understood that alongside with economic resurgence, we need to succeed in bridging the great economic inequality and take care of the huge unemployment that the current economic development models have become accustomed to. It sounds strange, that in the country of Mahatma Gandhi, rich are becoming richer and poor, poorer- despite the fact that India is emerging as a great place for economic resurgence.
Going by the figures at hand, from the World Inequality Report 2022, the economic inequality in India is as high as top ten percent of population possessing 65% wealth while the bottom 50% are surviving with only 5.8% despite 3 decades of globalization and liberalization of Indian economy. This economic inequality is further compounded as the health of the environment, including the quality of air and water has become highly questionable. Mahatma Gandhi and the freedom fighters had worked for an independent India where the freedom would be utilized to develop India as a prosperous country that will have good governance, efficient judiciary, effective law and order enforcement systems and responsible, law-abiding citizenship. Good governance requires paying great attention to improving the efficacy of government and civic services, maintaining a just and equitable society, creating an abiding faith in peace and harmony and assuring peaceful coexistence for its people of diverse faith and cultural background. This requires a great deal of effort to ensure quality and relevance of education from primary to university levels, making scientific research and technology innovations aligned to the mission of creating an empowered society deeply committed to contribute to advancement of humanity and maintaining a perfect balance between prosperity and happiness to sustain a blissful life for all the citizens of the country.
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Somehow or rather, in its quest for rapid economic growth, the investment on development of people, on the quality of education and civic services got a much less a priority than the caring support it deserved for creating a society of capable minds who would trade and transact with professional morals and work ethics demanded from a civilized society. For Gandhi, education that creates both the capabilities and character was of utmost importance, in fact, a great priority for creating a prosperous and just Indian society once India becomes independent. He wrote as early as in January1922, while India was under the British rule, “As we become independent, all the defects of the system of elections, injustice, the tyranny of the richer classes as also the burden of running administration are bound to come upon us. But there is hope if education spreads throughout the country. From that people would develop their childhood qualities of pure conduct, God fearing love. Swaraj will give us happiness only when we attain success in this task. Otherwise, India will become the abode for grave injustice and tyranny of rulers”. These words of the Mahatma have been neglected by independent India. The net result is that on one hand we are a great economy but on the count of happiness India is ranked much lower, at rank 136 from amongst 150 plus countries of the world.
For Mahatma Gandhi, India for millions of years was the Shantidoot and a country practicing the philosophy of Ahimsa since time immemorial. These are the roots of the rich tradition of unity & fraternity among the diverse religions and cultures that India harbours- from Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and more. While there is a growing trend in the advanced nations of the world towards a vegan diet. We too need to reinstate Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy that a heathy mind needs a heathy body to mentor young India.
Such was the influence of the Mahatma, that Einstein offered high praise claiming “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”
Making Mahatma Gandhi more relevant to the creation of a New India of our dream shall make education a vehicle of transformation of a man into a human and shall create heathy minds tuned to fair prosperity, righteous conduct and responsible citizenship that shall also ensure that the democracy in true sense functions as the government for the people.
(The authors – Prof Pritam B Sharma is an eminent academician, former Professor of IIT Delhi, founder Vice chancellor of DTU and RGPV and past President of AIU and Rajesh Mehta is a leading consultant and columnist working on innovation and public policy. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)