India and her potentials in development and progress are neither new nor a recent discovery. It is a country of 1.37 billion people with a GDP of $2.94 trillion, revenues worth US $550 billion and 527 million labour forces. What is important is to introspect into our growth story and the realities that we as citizens of this nation face.
India and its emergence of being the fastest growing economy buzzes from newspapers on our breakfast tables to the green and red arrow notifications in the stock markets that flashes on our e-gadgets. We are always concerned about the health of our economy and hence, get alarmed with words such as; inflation, fiscal deficit, trade deficit, low GDP etc. As citizens, we are directly and indirectly part of the economic landscape and contribute enormously to the system by being its backbone and building blocks, hence, we must not only be concerned but aware also at the same time.
India is at a critical juncture in its growth and development trajectory. There are many facets that we need to introspect upon and critically diagnose. First, as a country with a massive population we must tap this reality into an opportunity- As an economic advantage. Almost half of our population is out of the workforce which means we are working at half of our capacity. If we convert this into numeric figures, we are at a loss of billions of dollars that can actually get added into our economy. Many of our economic abilities lies with the young generation; almost 50% of India’s population is below the age of 25 and, 65% is below the age of 35. This is where the real future and potential of India lies in. We need to carefully harness the economic energy the youth possess.
Despite a booming economy and an increasing labour force, the process of job creation is sluggish and has become one of the principle problems that India faces. There has been a sharp increase in the employment of informal workers, but the same has to apply to the formal sector (with skills), which holds important aspect of a progressive economy. Diagnosing unemployment is a golden key to unleash our economic power. The latest CMIE data shows that the unemployment rate in India was 8.2% in February 2019. Besides the unemployment crisis, we should also shed light on balancing the male-female employment ratio. By balancing the ratio, 235 million women will be in the workforce which can make the country richer by 27%.
Today India is the sixth largest economy in the world. Significantly, the attribution also lies in the agricultural sector, which is 29.7% of total GDP. But India is witnessing a new wave of agrarian crisis. The farmers are expressing their despair and alienation with the policy framework, from MSP to loan waiver. Hence, the agricultural belts have become synonymous to suicide belts where a number of farmers are forced to take their own lives, indicating the gravity of the crisis. This is a critical issue that could put a massive strain on the economy, if it further continues.
There must be a shift, where development is more focused towards labour intensive sectors to create more jobs to ease the employment crisis. At the same time, there must be attention paid to social development investments like, health, education, nutrition, water sanitation (directly related to health), to improve our productivity, human capital, per capita income; and most importantly there must be a greater focus on progressive taxation where additional revenue generated can be invested in social security and other essential services that can significantly boost our economic strengths and capabilities. In a nutshell, this is where we are and what we can actually work on.
*Disclaimer: The views are personal and do not advocate anyone’s opinion and are neither meant to criticize any individual or organization’s work, policy or effort.