INDIA is now the most populous country and the largest democracy in the world. China is now going to be the second most populous and the largest communist-ruled country. India and China have a lot of poor people in the country.
Neither democratic socialism in India nor communism in China could solve poverty. Looking back after the Independence of India, in the 1950s, the ruling Congress party declared a democratic socialist government to reduce poverty, industrialize the country for jobs and progress and educate the young.
After many years of Congress governments, there was some reduction in poverty. India has become self-sufficient in agricultural products through the green revolution, many steel plants were built to use the high iron ore resources of India and to reduce the import of steel, and educational institutions like IIT were started to improve higher education and reservations for lower caste/tribe were implemented for admission to higher education and government jobs.
During Rajiv Gandhi’s time, India took the initiative on high-tech education and technology, thus becoming a world leader in information technology. Non-Congress governments also took initiatives to increase foreign investments in major industrial and technological areas. Better roads, highways and railway systems were built.
Over the years, more states are now ruled by various regional parties, whose priority was to promote regional culture and identities, while running the state governments. Kerala was always an exception, either UDF, a coalition of socialist political parties, and LDF, a coalition of communist-leaning political parties, has been in power for many years.
Kerala has progressed a lot in the last 25 years moving from a poor state to a wealthy state with less than 2 per cent poverty and 0 per cent illiteracy.
How did Kerala achieve this great progress?
There are several factors to it, the first being education and illiteracy. Other factors are the migration of Keralites to other foreign countries for better employment, expansion of tourism and development in agricultural production.
Even though Socialism and Communism were the hallmarks of Kerala governments, because of foreign exchange flow and tourism, a private economy was behind the progress of Kerala.
Kerala’s growth is an amazing success story of the governments and people. Kerala is the only state where poverty is eliminated and the quality of life of all people has improved.
India has a long way to go to eliminate poverty and increase the quality of life of people. Other than Kerala, states like Orissa and Punjab had shown successful progress in eliminating poverty and increasing the quality of life of the people. The government of India has to take more aggressive steps to better the lives of people, reduce unemployment and eliminate poverty. This should be the main priority of the central government.
Instead of trying to impose Hindi as the only national language and promoting Hindu nationalism, the central government should promote patriotism, mutual cooperation, community development and educational advancements.
Over the years, the government of India has initiated several programmes to achieve these goals, but many times the priority of the government is shifted to the international promotion of wealthy Indians. The government needs to support the business people, but the business also needs to support the government.
The Government of India needs to take the elimination of poverty, education and employment opportunities for the poor and drinking water and electricity for the rural poor villages as one of its priorities. Kerala has done it. Kerala also produces clean hydroelectric power.
Both the UDF and LDF governments took developing the rural villages and educating them as their priority. In most Indian states, poverty still exists in rural villages. There are not enough schools and technical institutes to train and some with no electricity.
In rural areas, only about 25 per cent of women make some type of income. It is estimated that poverty in rural areas is still very high and these marginal societies will hinder the progress of India.
Another priority of the government of India is public transportation, railroads, highways and better roads to rural villages. Indian Railway has always been at the forefront of public transportation and in recent years there are major improvements. There is much to do in the development of interstate highways.
Also, there is a need to develop good roads in rural India for better bus transportation on a regular basis. Again Kerala has good railway links, which is improving and road link to rural areas. Kerala does not have good highways for faster long journeys.
The Government of India can invest more in agriculture and rural development to continue its self-reliance on food. Kerala is behind in food production. But rubber, coffee, tea, pepper, vegetables and spice cultivation continue to improve. Agricultural universities are three to research on new improved production.
The Government of India needs to improve the finance and banking industry. Even though there are many loan programmes for rural industrial and agricultural development and agriculture, there is a need to develop better programmes to get more involvement without fear.
Often, those who get bank loans will not be able to pay them back because of losses in agriculture and other small industry investments. The government needs to provide more technical support and advice to them to be successful.
The finance and banking industry has a lot of corruption. Many loans are given to unqualified people knowing they will never pay back. Even in Kerala, cooperative banks have become corrupt and inefficient in reaching their goal. Instead of giving large loans, the government should encourage banks to give loans to small industries.
Finally, international trade and commerce shall be a major priority of the government. India has improved its international trade over the years in exports of more industrial and technological goods and services in addition to traditional exports of coal, timber, seafood and spices.
Last few years, the trade deficit of India has increased. Kerala is in the forefront of traditional exports like seafood and spices. Kerala also has increased export in value-added food products. Government should take steps to increase exports to reach a zero or positive balance of trade.
India having become the most populous country needs to continue to promote birth control measures. India has a large middle class and therefore there is a big consumer demand for goods. India still has religious divisions and cast divisions which does not help development. The ruling government shall work above all divisions and work towards the uplifting of the poor and meeting the demands of middle-class consumers.