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India a superpower? Here's what the aam aadmi says!

Last updated on: June 24, 2010 15:32 IST

India a superpower? Here's what the aam aadmi says!


Indrani Roy Mitra in Kolkata

The Indian economy is galloping at a breakneck speed and might even reach double-digit growth by 2013, feel Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. Many economists agree that the demographic dividend that India enjoys could see the country sustain its high growth rate for a long time to come.

The India growth story is indeed enviable. Despite being plagued by myriad problems, India has emerged stronger and more resilient to any global crises so far.

India is expected to be the world's fastest growing economy by 2018, according to Economist Intelligence Unit, a research arm of the Economist magazine.

But does this so-called growth reach Indians living at the lowest rung of the society, does 8-8.5 per cent rise in gross domestic product indicate better living conditions for the poorest of the poor?

What does aam aadmi feel about this development story so well publicised by the politicians, economists and media alike? spoke to a cross section of people to know their opinion about the possibility of India emerging as the next economic superpower. Click NEXT to read on . . .

Image: Children play as the monsoon clouds cover the sky in Ahmedabad.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

'Growth is fabulous when its fruits are equitably distributed'

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Dr Amitrajit Saha
Public health specialist (he has worked with marginalised populations)

On growth, in the true sense of the term

First we need to ask ourselves what do we mean by growth?

Some 'growth' is considered 'good', like growth in gross domestic product, growth in industrial production (notwithstanding the havoc it plays on the environment); but some 'growth' like the 'population growth' is considered 'bad' growth.

So we need to define two things: which growth are we talking about, and who is doing the talking?

What are the parameters of growth?

India has had 'great' industrial growth and 'economic' growth by the economic parameters of gross domestic product, gross national product, et al; but has 'not grown' at all in other sectors like health, education, quality of lives, nutrition, newborn, childhood and infant mortality, infectious disease prevention, etc.

We still have extremely poor health indicators: more than 46 per cent of our children are malnourished -- so, where then is this 'growth'?

I think the viewpoint that 'growth' should only focus on economic growth is deeply problematic. I believe that distribution of that growth, equity and rights equally need to be measured to say that we are 'growing'.

On India growing at the rate of 8-8.5%

I think in terms of economic growth: this is indeed fabulous!

But if we say that to the Uttar Pradesh rural woman whose baby dies because she couldn't reach the Lucknow private hospital. The place she did reach -- a government primary health centre -- did not have the medical officer (who may/may not have been busy getting a piece of that 'growth' at that time).

So how does this 'fabulous' growth affect this UP woman?

Or take the case of a tribal woman in India's heartland -- whose life is going to be changed totally -- because 8 per cent GDP translates to her being evicted out of her ancestral home and her land dug up for bauxite or chromium or hematite ore or coal.

Therefore, growth is only fabulous when its fruits are equitably distributed and all the people get a share.

Has the government been able to cater to the basic needs of our people?

Again, we need to define what we mean by 'basic needs'. If by that we mean livelihood, food, clothing, shelter, education, health (mental and physical), pleasure, dignity, choice, for all people -- we can comfortably say that till now, we have not been able to fulfil these for all the people. 

Are the rich in our country getting richer and the poor poorer?

I wouldn't really know that never having been 'rich' myself, but most published indicators seem to point at that. We must take into account the increasing numbers of our dollar billionaires in India.

The names of the top industrial house owners are now part of the global rich list and going by the public display of their spending, it does seem that they are getting richer.

What needs to be done

To be honest, I am not too sure. The old pattern of socialism did not last. Perhaps, we need a new discourse entailing new kinds of social movements.

Sheer militarising populations won't be of much help.When the State usurps power, denies people their rights and redressal formula is thrown out of the window, people suffer and growth takes a backseat.

Click NEXT to read further. . .

Image: Dr Amitrajit Saha.

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'India's growth story is full of sound and fury'

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Shyamal Das
Autorickshaw owner-cum-driver

I am not the right person to be talking about India's growth and economic expansion. I am not equipped for that.

I have been to school for a few years only and had to quit as my parents could not afford my studies.

Growth, therefore, to me suggests a better life for my kids. I thought I was giving them one till recently. In the last couple of years, prices of essential commodities have gone up alarmingly high throwing our monthly household budget out of gear.

My elder daughter had to quit school as I could not pay her fees. She is now working part time at a zari factory in the vicinity.

My younger daughter is still studying though I am not sure how long I will be able to send her to school.

My wife, who was a homemaker till now, is thinking of taking up jobs as a household maid as it has become virtually impossible for us to make both ends meet with Rs 6,000 that I make every month.

We became poorer over the last few years. And we are the citizens of India. If India is growing, isn't it expected that we grow with it as well? Or are we to suppose that by growth it means the rich should get richer and the poor poorer?

Therefore, to me, India's growth story seems to be only 'full of sound and fury signifying nothing'.

Click NEXT to read further. . .

Image: Shyamal Das.
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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'It's time we gave up our obsessive perception of growth'

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Krishna Bandyopadhyay
Social activist, writer

Mahatma Gandhi had once said, 'Whenever you are going to take a step for development in India, think carefully whether it is going to benefit the poorest, the most vulnerable section of the country or not.' These might not be his exact words, but that is what he had said in spirit.

Have we done that with our growth and development policies? The answer is a big 'No'.

What have we achieved in the last 63 years? We have built a big Army -- a huge arsenal at enormous costs -- we are even exporting/supplying arms to other countries.

Why? Do we want to build a powerful nation? But isn't a nation strong only when each of its citizens is sound in health, education and value-based well-being?

A small percentage of our expenditure on defence would have sufficed to provide basic healthcare to all of our people. But look at our healthcare system. The government is fast withdrawing from its responsibility to provide even primary healthcare to its people free of cost or at a minimum expense.

Healthcare now has become more and more privatised -- a commodity affordable only for the rich or the upper middle class. The poor are not even entitled to have good health.

As for education, the least said the better. A lot of big talk is doing the rounds about free and compulsory education for all. But nearly 50 per cent of India's children are still not going to school.

We must remember that every child who is not in school is doing labour somewhere -- at home or outside. Is there a political zeal to deal with child labour, a shame for a country that boasts of 8.5 per cent growth?

Let's face it: we have  absolutely failed our children we have not been able to give them even a fraction of their rights.

Our nation is riddled with reprehensible practices like child marriage, dowry, caste discriminations . . . Honour killing is still the order of the day. We have done practically nothing to enlighten our masses to stop such horrific malpractices