Equal growth, opportunities for all in society

It would be unrealistic to expect that 2013 will be dramatically different from the year ending now, yet it could mark a watershed for changes that this society and the world at large need most desperately.

What India needs is an era of transformative change. There are trends at the global level which have crucial relevance to the future of our society, and which call for major changes, in the absence of which we would have to pay a high price. The trends in existence - which we fail to perceive - represent a malaise in society. There is growing insensitivity to challenges such as the existence of widespread poverty, hunger, lack of healthcare as well as degradation and damage to natural resources and the environment. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown and the problems of the poor do not adequately stir the conscience either of the government machinery or those who possess the means to bring about a transformation.

Efforts by the government often fall by the wayside because of weaknesses in implementation, ill-conceived policies and vested interests that hijack benefits. The spread of television and the crass display of wealth by the rich only help to fuel the aspirations of the poor who also want air-conditioners, automobiles and household appliances advertised on a wide scale.

Industrialisation and the development of markets have provided choices for a large section of society, enhancing their well-being, but this is only one side of the picture. Those who are deprived develop a craving for goods and services which they are in no position to access or afford. The cohesive thread running across society gets snapped, leading to tensions and a disregard for law and order.

On an even more serious level, the problem of rivers being polluted, thinning of forest cover across the country and high levels of air pollution are problems that we are all familiar with. The solutions to environmental problems and social tensions require major transformative changes. The emphasis has to shift from protest, disillusionment and cynicism to a collective effort in finding solutions. This will require the involvement of all stakeholders.

I hope 2013 is a year of widespread acceptance of this reality and awareness that India needs to be transformed in several areas for a future that is brighter, cleaner and more egalitarian.

Tags: 2013, industrialization, equal growth, polluted rivers, deforestation