How India can realise its true potential

Sanjeev Nayyar offers a roster of things to do to see the India of our dreams. 

Many know that India was once a prosperous nation with a rich heritage or else why would it attract invaders of all hues? So they believe it is inevitable before she becomes prosperous once again.

But times have changed. The path to building national power is difficult. Here are some things (not an exhaustive list) Indians must do to see their nation high up in the comity of countries.

Thinking differently

1. Ignore flattery.

This requires not to gloat when praised, for example, recently former US president Barack Obama said he had heard the Ramayana in his childhood. It made many proud, but could actually be a ploy to promote his book.

If we get taken in by flattery it implies a lack of confidence. When praised, say ‘thank you’ and move on.

2. Stop this yearning to be a superpower.

When things begin to look up, hype about India being the next superpower is created. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Indians must put their heads down and work. When we become a power, the aware shall realise it because the world will look at us differently.

3. Be inspired by and learn from India’s past but live in the present.

Swami Vivekananda said, ‘So long as they forgot the past, the Hindu nation remained in a state of stupor and as soon as they have begun to look into their past, there is on every side a fresh manifestation of life. It is out of this past that the future has to be moulded.’

4. How must we think? 

Maharshi Aurobindo says in India’s Rebirth, ‘Our first necessity, if India is to survive and do her appointed work in the world, is that the youth of India should learn to think — to think on all subjects, to think independently, fruitfully, going to the heart of things, not stopped by their surface, free of prejudgments, shearing sophism and prejudice.’

5. Have an open mind and accept knowledge from all sides.

We must accept the best of the West, whilst adjusting it for our national temperament.

6. India should play to win.

And stop trying to be a good boy like Vijay Amritraj who never won a Grand Slam but was appreciated for his on-court manners.

7. Learn how to concentrate.

If we do so, national productivity would go up.

8. Promote curiosity.

Create a culture that encourages people to ask questions. This will also help disturb the status quo.

9. Change is essential to life, a rolling stone gathers no moss.

The government can take the lead and explain the need and benefits of change. Once people’s faith in the government is restored they will be more amenable to change.

10. Stop being over-critical.

When shortcomings in the electoral process of its president became apparent some suggested that the US outsource the conduct of elections to India. Yet we never cease to find fault with India’s electoral process and Election Commission.

Indians criticise too much. It represents negative energy. Learn to appreciate good work and say ‘Thank you’.

11. Compassion.

Being compassionate requires us to share wealth/intelligence with the less fortunate and accept that the God within all is the same.

The GoI must create a public trust that allows rich Indians to contribute to nation-building, for example the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccine and weapons.

12. Yoga and Ayurveda, being preventive in nature, build immunity and mental-physical-spiritual strength. 

The learned can tell how to make them a part of contemporary daily living. India must then selflessly share these pearls of wisdom with the world.

13. Focus on the root of the problem.

Well-meaning institutions are taking numerous steps to control pollution in NCR where stubble burning by rice farmers is a major cause. Growing rice is attractive because of free power (encourages pumping of ground water) and assured price.

Yet, we do not ask Punjab farmers why they grow rice or to do away with free power. Instead, we spend money on buying machines to cut stubble and farmer subsidy.

Thus, we are not addressing the actual cause of the problem — free power. Be it bank NPAs or stubble burning, India must not put good money after bad.

Business and policy

14. Give people freedom from excessive regulation.

Over the last 70 years Indians have become adept at how to beat the system. Create a high trust rules-based environment, with checks and balances, so that energy is used to create jobs and wealth.

Remember, ‘Expansion is life, contraction is death’.

15. Focus on manufacturing, scale, innovation and produce for domestic and export markets.

So far India Inc was forced to think small. However, the recent PLI (production linked incentives) scheme might change things. As Anand Mahindra tweeted, ‘This policy signals recognition that a. Scale is imperative in order to nurture globally competitive businesses; b. Large enterprises foster a large ecosystem of small/micro enterprises.’

Companies could learn from Bajaj Auto who produce motorcycles for the domestic and export markets. Exports lower per unit manufacturing cost. Wish Rajiv Bajaj spoke about how BA meets consumer needs in so many markets and shares learnings with India Inc.

16. Indians should be obsessed with cost reduction.

Government must run a national campaign, Get More Value for Every Rupee Spent. Consumers must demand better quality at the same price. This will force all to increase productivity. I learnt this mantra whilst working for Hindustan Lever.

17. Judicial reforms. The Executive must reform laws.

Delays in courts make it difficult to enforce contracts — this affects ease of doing business. Read Ideas for Judiciary 

18. Irrigation.

Since states have failed to substantially build canals, the Centre needs to step in. For this the Constitution must be amended by moving agriculture to the Concurrent List.

19. Promote handlooms in a big way.

More consumption shall increase employment and incomes at the grassroots level. 

20. Promote domestic tourism

Especially to backward areas of Bundelkhand, Bastar and Odisha.

Make Bodhgaya a world class pilgrimage destination with 18-hole golf courses.

More tourists mean jobs and higher incomes.

When Indians interact with others it shall reduce misunderstandings and promote appreciation.

21. Export arms.

This shall generate jobs and growth. It shall provide the necessary heft to India’s foreign policy.

Macro issues

22. Strengthen Dharma.

Every nation has a main current of life. India’s is Dharma. If Dharma weakens India could become like Sudan where warring factions split the nation into two. Remember the Supreme Court logo Yato Dharma Tato Jaya — ‘Where there is Dharma, there is victory.’

We should remember that centuries ago our forefathers allowed persecuted Jews and Parsis to settle in India.

23. Reduce population.

Now suppose India’s population was 100 crore and not 140 crore, imagine the reduced need for foodgrain, resources and administration.

It is also simple maths. A family of four with a monthly income of Rs 20,000 spends Rs 10,000 per child versus a family of six who spends Rs 5,000.

24. Be aggressive. 

We must realise that military strength and spirituality are both necessary for peace and righteousness. Swami Ramdas is incomplete without Shivaji. We need not project our capabilities aggressively. The wise will understand.

Similarly spirituality and improvement in the material conditions of the life of the poor can co-exist.

25. Respect women, allow them to blossom.

India’s future is intertwined with the respect accorded to her women. Conversely, women should not try to ape men because then India will lose.

Before going to bed reflect on and think what you can do better.

Sanjeev Nayyar is a chartered accountant and founder, www.esamskriti.com. @nayyarsanjeev.

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