Officially 2011 marks the completion of two decades of liberalisation in India. Liberalisation gave wings to the country’s economy which had until then been a snail. Consequently India became the home of many billionaires. If the private wealth of India’s billionaires was less than one per cent of GDP in 1997, in 2008 it was more than 23 per cent. That’s a remarkable growth indeed.
But what I look forward to is not just that kind of growth. Such growth is thoroughly skewed in favour of a few. And those few, at least quite many of them, seem to possess extremely crude visions. How else can one explain the Antilia that clouds the skyline of an Indian city half of whose population live below the poverty line? The billionaire brother of the billionaire owner of Antilia is also going to construct another tower for his family.
What I look forward to in 2011 is a little sensitivity in India’s 49 dollar billionaires and the 100,000-odd dollar millionaires. A sensitivity that will prompt them to use a fraction of their fortune for the overall welfare of the nation. I hope these extremely privileged section of India’s population will think of some schemes for their much less privileged counterparts – at whose cost, probably, many rose on the wings of liberalisation.
Rising at the cost of others is another problem that I hope 2011 will deal with. Corruption is one of the most serious vices that India faces today. The sums involved in shady practices are mind-blowing. There is an insidious nexus between the politician and the trader. Both together are betraying the nation. Both together are stealing the wealth that rightfully belongs to the nation, particularly to its increasing poor. The poor are driven to the streets, if not to suicide. 17,368 farmers committed suicide in India in the year 2009. Hundreds of thousands are driven to despair by the economic juggernaut that rides royally carrying those who know how to manipulate the neoliberal political system.
I look forward to a more humane political system. Neoliberalism promised more wealth to people. But it brought more (and obscenely more) only to a few. And it left the vast majority helpless and hungry. For example, the average daily net availability of food grain between 2005 and 2008 was 436 grams per head in India. It was 440 grams in 1955-1958. What did Neoliberalism achieve?
I look forward to a more humane religious system. I hope people like Sadhvi Pragya Thakur [god-woman involved in the Malegaon blast] understand the real meaning of religion. I hope political parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party understand the real meaning of religion [and even politics]. I hope 2011 will liberate religion from politics.
I have a very simple hope too. I hope that the youth of India, a very significant section of India’s population, understand that there is no short cut to real success. I hope the youth take matters of the mind more seriously than the gadgets they are in so much love with.
Am I hoping for too much?
I look forward to an India where people of any religion, language or ideology can live together in harmony and happiness.