India 2030: Dreaming with open eyes

    06-Apr-2021   
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"The book 'India 2030' is for every Indian who wishes to dream with open eyes and who wishes to overcome cynicism about India. It is for Indians who wish to understand various dimensions that power the engine and the growth of a nation. They will find them in a single volume. It is for citizens of the world who wish to have a stake in India’s growth story"
 
A few years back a great scientist, President Shri Abdul Kalam woke up a pessimistic nation from its slumber with his visionary book ‘India2020’ which opened up our youth’s minds and made them think big. For a nation that had lived on five years to five years thinking born out of Western idiom that believed that India is a new born nation created by British, born poor, destined to struggle to survive; it was a dose of optimism and a call to action, to “see dreams with open eyes.” And this ancient nation opened the eyes. Results are for all to see.
 
The world is watching the turnaround of a nation ready to stride confidently on the world stage and grow on the basis of its own genius. It’s a nation that will rise on its own idioms, not on borrowed ones. Nothing exhibits this change in the mood of our nation than a new book brought together by Gautam Chikermane. It is a compilation of essays that don’t theorise but they boldly predict where India, that is actually Bharat, will be in 2030 titled ‘India 2030’. The sub-title is more interesting – ‘The Rise of a Rajasic Nation’; making it very clear that the great minds of India are thinking about India’s future in her own paradigm. Before 2014 or as some would say 2014 BM (Before Modi) no publisher would dream of publishing a book on humanities with such a title, and probably shooed away the writer(s). I am a person who faced such a situation in 2008 when I first decided to publish my book. This is the biggest change that 2014 AM (After Modi) has seen. Change in our collective mindset. Rather, Modi represents this turnaround in our thinking taking place imperceptibly over the last few decades. This slowly building momentum broke the bondage of west influenced thinking in 2014.
 
‘India 2030’ represents this confidence and change. This book is a collection of 20 thought leaders who have gazed into their own crystal glasses. I think the brief of the editor to these experts must have been not to theorise about what should be or how to go about a given goal, say 10 trillion dollar economy, but to sit in a virtual time machine of their minds (like rishis of yore) and predict, not preach. A tall order. And to the credit of nearly all the contributors, they have caught on to this bold idea. They have virtually stuck their neck out.
 
The topics covered are - Health (Rajesh Parikh), Politics (Ram Madhav), Economy (Bibek Debroy), Justice ( B N Srikrishna), Defence (Abhijit Iyer-Mitra), Spying (Vikram Sood), Foreign Policy (Samir Saran), Multilateralism (Amrita Narlikar), Money (Monika Harlan), Energy (Kirit S Parikh) Urbanisation (Reuben Abraham), Work (Manish Sabharwal), Education (Parth J Shah), Policy making (Ajay Shah), Science and Technology (R A Mashelkar), Soft Power (Amish Tripathi), Friendships in the technology-driven world (Sandipan Deb), Nationalism (Devdip Ganguly) and Civilisational Resurgence (David Frawley). The essay that sets the tone of the book is the opening chapter by the editor, Gautam Chikermane. He talks about the forces that would lead to the rising of a Rajasic India. He takes a bold sweeping view of all the dimensions of our national life and creates a kind of atmosphere that sets the tone for the essays that follow.
 
It won’t be possible to talk about individual essays as it would need a small monograph. No two essays are similar, just as no two thinkers are from the same mould. All the writers are specialists in the field of their choice, hence, they speak with clarity and objectivity. Most of the topics are such that they cannot be and should not be seen through an ideological prism.
 
You can appreciate and understand nearly all topics without a tinted world view. Issues related to culture and philosophy do need an India-centric view point. And writers here don’t shy away from sharing their enlightened non-partisan views. Some essays are easy flowing, some are like condensed quotable quotes, a few present technical data extensively and challenge you, some are exciting and move at a galloping pace; and some, like on philosophy are enlightening and soothing. Reading the predictions of these fine minds, one at a time, is quite an exciting and enlightening experience. Ideally, one should not try to read them in two or three long sessions. It is basically a feel-good book even as it rouses your expectations and spark optimism about the future of India and you feel fortunate to be around in this AM era.
 
This compilation has kept politics out of this narrative except for one essay, which is not that political. I agree that giving less importance to politics was important to keep the reader’s thoughts focused. However, as I read the book, I became aware that the thinkers and experts seem to have based their predictions on the assumption that Mr. Modi is going to be around for a major part of the coming decade. This is a huge assumption that looks distinctly possible today. But, more he brings in fundamental changes in the economy and politics, the more desperate will be the forces of status quo. I am sure that many predictions, except those based on technologies, would have been different if this book was written under a different government. This underlines the importance of Narendra Modi for the future of India.
 
I do have a difference of opinion on a few ideas and some points missed out. For example, over-dependence on technology to deliver, without an ethical compass. Missing the concept of sustainable consumption that can lead to sustainable development. I am also a bit uneasy that the writers simply look away from the threat of radical Islam that has altered or disrupted the social equilibrium and political thinking of the nations across the globe.
The growth trajectories of many nations have changed. Many societies have self-destructed themselves under its influence. Will India be immune to its influence? Will its politics ride out the threat to national integration posed by people wedded to intolerant religious ideologies and the anarchic Left? Will orthodox religious groups’ alliance with atheist neo-Left survive or break down? We can’t neglect these challenges because they can change the predictions. A lot depends on it. I wish, there was another essay on the politics of 2030 by an apolitical political thinker.
Fate of economic and political growth also depends on the success of PM Modi is weaning people away from ideas of a nanny government that provides the basic necessities or comforts like TV, food processor, minimum income transfer etc, to the idea of a government that would skill and empower people to rise in life as per their aspirations. Will people rise above lazy temptations or will they fall for populist politics? Will they still like to learn fishing or prefer a fish laid out in their plates?
 
PM Modi has changed the political paradigm with inclusive development and national sentiments as the fulcrum; inspiring people to rise above narrow identity politics, while the opposition is getting more and more into smaller divisive ideas of caste, exclusivist religious and regional identities. Will we turn away from legacy politics? Farmers’ protests are a sign of sheer inertia of the well-heeled groups living happily on subsidies to new experiments.
 
They can do better with vastly improved infrastructure and new policies that would empower more farmers living on the fringes of our society away from our collective gaze. Will confrontational politics allow this to happen? These are messy issues that have not been taken up in this book. But, as an academic exercise, I believe, this was necessary to bring clarity to the main issues that will define the evolution of this ‘sanaatan’ nation. This book succeeds eminently in this exercise.
 
In science labs, we used to write an assumption while reporting the results of our experiments. The assumption was called “Under NTP” (under normal temperature and pressure). Is the post-2014 environment the new NTP? What are the chances of it reverting to the insipid NTP of yore? Despite a few reservations, India 2030 represents a positive view about India’s future with an India-centric approach and defines the path ahead under the new ‘NTP’. After reading the book we feel, just like the experts in this book, that the new ‘NTP’ will survive the political glitches and take India onto the path that the eminent thinkers have predicted.
 
I hope this book will spark discussions and debates about how India should or would rise in stature for its own people and for the world. India 2030 is for every Indian who wishes to “dream with open eyes” and who wishes to overcome cynicism about India. It is for Indians who wish to understand various dimensions that power the engine the growth of a nation. They will find them in a single volume. It is for citizens of the world who wish to have a stake in India’s growth story.
 
(The writer is an author and columnist)