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Book Extract: India of 2050 will be city centric

Dec 09, 2014

The vision of sustainable prosperity presented in this book will require an activist government.

Indian 2050

India 2050: A Roadmap to Sustainable Prosperity
Ramgopal Agarwala
SAGE Publications
Rs 995

Green Knowledge Cities for Sustainable Prosperity

The prosperous India of 2050 will be city centric: More than 80 percent of employment and income will be generated in cities.

A large part of the story of generating and marketing knowledge achieving equity and low-carbon lifestyle will be played out in cities. These cities will have to be globally competitive to attract the best knowledge workers who would have a global market and they will have to be green cities to live within India’s ecological constraints. India’s present cities are largely a mess; neither globally competitive in terms of living conditions nor ecologically sound. The efforts of the government for urban renewal have had limited success and the need to be redesigned for better results. Fortunately, most of India’s urbanization lies in the future and India has a great opportunity to start urban process in smart fashion with the principle of “new cities, new rules.”

However, the process of development of new knowledge hubs will require conversion of some (about 6 percent) of the agricultural land to urban usage. We have to grow out of our romantic fascination with rural life and rural development. There is no way incomes of rural incomes can be increased substantially while keeping majority of our workers in agricultural occupations. For prosperous India, more than 80 percent of the farmers will have to be resettled in non-agricultural occupations, largely in cities.

This will require conversion of some of the agricultural land to urban uses. Such conversion is now taking place in an unplanned manner often benefiting the speculators and creating dangerous bubbles in property prices. If unchecked, these property bubbles can deal a mor tal blow to India’s growth trajectory just as they did to Japan inl99Os and the US in late noughties of this century. A planned system of land conversion is needed for the development of knowledge corridors/hubs in knowledge economy of India. We propose a system of compensation and resettlement of landowners which we believe will be a win-win solu tion for both the farmers and the public authorities trying to develop new urban ht

Governance for Sustainable Prosperity

The vision of sustainable prosperity presented in this book will require an activist government. The neo-liberal adage (“Get the Government off your back”) has to be replaced by a new adage: “Get the Government do its duty of providing public goods.” The current government in India is clearly incapable of doing its duty. This is evident from both international and national reports on the quality of governance in the country. Here again, some basic transformations are needed. One major facilitating factor is the development of YCT and e-governance. There are now vast opportunities for improving service delivery, better communication within government and between government and businesses and public, greater transparency and better accountability. With India’s widely acknowledged ICT prowess, e-governance should certainly be a major instrument for improving governance in India. Various efforts are a-foot. But unfortunately, on international score board, as prepared by UN reports, India is in a relatively low position. India can learn from high performers in this area such as South Korea and Singapore.

However, the performance of c-governance can only be as good as the administrative system allows. India’s administration services are largely in a colonial mode. During the era of freedom struggle, eminent leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru were convinced of the need to change the colonial system of administration in free India. However, after Independence came, it was decided to leave the system largely intact. That decision perhaps helped India to maintain stability that eluded so many other post-colonial countries. However, after 60 years of Independence, Indian polity has attained certain maturity and it is now imperative to change the ethos and functioning of the administrative system. The administrative service has to grow out of “rule” mode and get into “service” mode; the personnel has to acquire some domain knowledge of the functions they perform and they need to be given some stability of tenure to deliver on their duties. Their security of tenure and promotion should also be based on the performance, and their appointments should be open to competition from outsiders. Similar and many other useful recommendations have been made by the Second Administrative Reform Commission and what is needed now is their effective implementation.

Quality of administrative services will depend crucially on the quality and motivations of their political masters. Here, a sharp deterioration has taken place in India. Indian political system has become vitiated by money power and muscle power and winners of elections often openly look into their positions of power as instruments of earning decent rates of return on the election expenses incurred by them and/or their election financiers. Here again, the US with its system of lobbies and election funding is a bad role model for India. India can learn from the European practices of giving constitutional status to political parties and developing a system of state financing of elections. This reform should improve level of probity in the political system.

Even with all these reforms, government can do its duty only if the public does its duty in terms of paying the taxes and other charges rendered by the state and following the rules of public behavior as enacted by the state. The society as well as the state must focus more on its duty than just rights and a National Duties Commission may be set up to supplement the Human Rights Commission that we have.

The list of do’s for achieving sustainable prosperity proposed in the book is long and given India’s recent performance, one may wonder if they could ever be delivered. Fortunately, there are cases in India (such as Gujarat’s) which have achieved sustained growth and provided good governance even in India’s current conditions. That provides a basis for hoping that with a determined leader armed with a right vision, we can indeed change the current trends in India and put it on a road to sustain able prosperity.

Ramgopal Agarwala is Chairman, Pahle India Foundation.

Reprinted with permission of SAGE Publications. Excerpted from ‘India 2050: A Roadmap to Sustainable Prosperity’. Copyright 2014 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.

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