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In this roller coaster of a year, 2020, when the world shifted online, Golmej was launched on Facebook to fill in for the need for our own platform for meaningful discussions. On Golmej, we exchange opinions and use facts and research to back them up. Here, we may agree or disagree but don’t conform to the “Agree to Disagree.” Afterall, what can’t we gain from opinionated & open-minded discussions on current topics that matter to us? Why allow chaos when you can make logical discourse?
Striking a chord, Golmej drew various participants to its roundtable. They discussed topics that concern our nation, our youth & society, our children, our development and even our psychology & the social media market. Golmej took up some of the most pertinent topics for discussion & debate. Starting with the India-China conflict and then Online Schooling, the Legalization of Recreational Drugs and Memes!
It had been the year 2020. Despite the ravages of the pandemic occupying the mind, the Indian had something important occupying space. A great vision that was put out by a leader. Our Missile Man, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. His was an unflinching optimism about India’s near future as a developed nation and he looked ambitiously at one particular year by when to achieve this. The year ‘2020’.
The same year when India saw protests over new farm legislations and fought to survive a pandemic with inadequate health infrastructure. The year when its education struggled choiceless online dispensation even as a new National Education Policy was introduced. The year when cyclones ravaging both its Eastern and Western coasts wasn’t the only damage. This was the year India’s GDP first quarter contracted 23.9% – the lowest in 24 years.
Dr. Kalam’s Vision 2020 was a well-defined plan which he detailed in his book, ‘India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium.’ He identified five areas in combination based on India’s core competence, natural resources and talented manpower for integrated action aiming to double the growth rate of GDP and realize the ‘Vision of a Developed India’. These areas included agriculture and food processing, infrastructure with reliable electric power, education and healthcare, information and communication technology and critical technologies and strategic industries.
As we neared December, we had a lot of questions. Does our citizenry have faith in Dr. Kalam’s vision still? How close were we to where Dr. Kalam aimed? Do we have optimism?
Did India live up to Dr. Kalam’s Vision 2020?
On Golmej, we decided to discuss so that opinions get the platform for exchange they deserve. The December of 2020 reserved a discussion on ‘India in living up to Dr. Kalam’s Vision 2020’- assessing ourselves as a country in our standing vis-à-vis the vision. Since we had the entire performance of a country of 1.3 billion across sectors to discuss, we chose a newer format. This Golmej had two presenters, Abhishek and Prathamesh, who talked on the topic relating to the areas identified by Dr. Kalam.
Since we were assessing our country’s standing, a comparison with the world scenario was pertinent. Comparing with the UK, USA and China, we looked at our figures including GDP at $2.8 trillion, active companies at 1.18 million and patents filed at 50 thousand. While we rank at the top in service exports, we are 46th in product exports.
The Agriculture sector was first discussed. India’s agriculture accounts for about 18% of India’s GDP but employs more than 50% of its workforce*. It faces problems like low yield, crop wastage, significant primary dependance on rainfall and farmers capturing only 8-15% of the agri value chain. The discussion also identified the challenges and how we can improve by leveraging our strengths in technology, sustainability and collaborative responsibility.
One sector which the panelists opined India delivered beyond expectations in was Information and Communication Technology. India is the world’s 2nd largest telecommunications sector with 680 million users. The government has been able to help here with the National Digital Communication Policy, 2018 and the private sector, with investments and innovation. However, a lack in adequate regulations to bring in security remains a concern.
The concerns of the education sector remain unchanged over years despite multiple government initiatives. A look at the statistics on student enrollment, passing and placement painted a dismal picture with continuing reduction in numbers through the progression calling for improvement.
Data on India’s healthcare showed we spend way lower per capita than countries like Australia, Japan, the UK and China, with $209 (PPP). India’s hospital beds stood at 1.3 while number of doctors stood at 0.7 per 1000 people.
The panelists delved into what could be done to improve our performance in the manufacturing sector, talking on the need to encourage and leverage our abilities in innovation. As the example of the vandalism at the Wistron iPhone factory in Karnataka made way into the discussion, the presenters inclined different ways. The compulsiveness of fixing the entire responsibility on manufacturers was questioned. The response vouched for maintaining a balanced view to looking at the rights and concerns of workers and employers. And we asked, has India become a developed country? This Golmej showed us how we still have a way to go and work to do in defining the path.
In living up to Dr. Kalam’s vision, India did miss the bus in 2020. However, Dr. Kalam’s vision remains relevant in directing our path to development. Dr. Kalam remains relevant in reminding Indians that it is incorrect that we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a developed nation, self-reliant and self-assured. That as a country which respects the freedom of others, India must protect its freedom, nurture and build on it and stand up to the world. Dr. Kalam remains relevant through inspiring a nation through his perennial optimism about its abilities. “It cannot be abstract; it is a lifeline.”