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Ideas for India – Part 2

February 5th, 2009 · 37 Comments

Continuing the note Atanu Dey and I had written from yesterday:

  1. Urbanization. Urbanization is both a cause and a consequence of economic development. No country has developed without being also largely urban. India’s economic future depends on India’s success at urbanizing its immense rural population. Therefore in the matter of rural development, there is a distinction between the development of rural areas as opposed to the development of rural people. The former is neither necessary nor sufficient for development; the latter is indispensible and can be achieved most effectively by urbanizing them. This requires the development of liveable cities that would absorb hundreds of millions of people who would be engaged in non-agricultural sectors.
  1. Transportation. India is a large country with a large population. For the economy to prosper, people and goods have to be efficiently moved fast over large distances. India is approximately ten times as densely populated as the US. It therefore cannot afford the solution that works for the US for transporting people, namely, air travel. What India needs is a land-based system and more specifically a rail-based transportation system for both goods and people. The technology exists for super-efficient, super-fast rail systems. India has to seriously invest in that and replace the century-old current railway system. Further, within cities, India needs to have efficient public transit system and not rely on automobiles.

Note that each of the four elements has dependencies with the others. For instance, the creation of the human capital (education) requires urbanization, which in turn depends on the availability of energy and a good transportation system.

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37 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Vishal // Feb 5, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Rajesh – Great post.
    All of these will happen when the Government is out of all these activities and a real free market is created. A free market for one billion people to create and consume!
    The key will be- what will it take for the Government to get out of these places.
    Who will be the reformer who will initiate reducing government role in many of these activities ?
    Imagine – The same set of a billion people what we have today and they have good roads, good education, good cities. How much time it will take for these people to have a decent life fit for human beings.
    I will say it the turnaround will happen in few years.


  • 2 rossoneri // Feb 5, 2009 at 10:42 am

    good one rajesh, I think 3 & 4 are more easily achievable than 1 & 2 and should spur us on to other goals.
    Personally, I have seen that atleast the rail system is improving, in 2004 BSP completed its long rail project and started manufacturing 130m rails instead of the usual 26m. The better engines to exploit these still need to come though.

  • 3 kasi // Feb 5, 2009 at 10:50 am


    In my humble opinion….The point number 3 will take care of everything else (or atleast most of the things that needs to be done for India).

    Once we have small-towns urbanized and
    people living there does not have to depend on
    agri….that means they have plenty of oppurtunity to work and earn more….then the
    demand will push everything starting from roads, education, healthcare, connectivity, sophistication, style and obviously malls and multiplexes.

    then Mumbai-Delhi-Calcutta-Chennai will become NY-Washington-SanFrancisco-Chicago.

    My home town will be equivalent of Denver!!!
    I will happily live there ever-after:-).


  • 4 Kumar // Feb 5, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Rajesh and Atanu,

    I agree with all the foru elements you have mentioned. However, the fifth element is missing, IMHO 🙂

    And that related to ‘Reform’ – Constitutional reform, taxation reform, administrative reform, and so on.

    To put it briefly:

    Constitutional reform: This ties in well with some of the ideas discussed on Rajesh’s earlier post on electoral reforms.Plus, we need to study the working of the current constitution in depth, and bring in amendments that ensure a cleaner polity and governance structures.

    Taxation reform – Give more powers to local governing bodies.Let the people decide what they need locally, and use their tax money (not all of it, but a more significant portion than what they get now).In short, tax needs to be collected and spent at local level, with some designated portion being given to the upper levels (State and Union govts).Mind you, this was the age-old model in pre-British India.

    Administrative reform – I find it incomprehensible that we have so many departments and ministries that are a drain on the exchequer.Rationalize it all, and allow experienced professionals, subject matter experts etc to serve in the Govt for 3-5 years at a time. Get rid of age limits for entering govt service.Currently, unless one knows a high ranking politician intimately, private sector professionals have no way of entering the civil service.

  • 5 Vishal // Feb 5, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    The only problem Kumar is how will a butcher stop killing and make a living.
    How will the Government of India which is the source of all trouble initiate these reforms.


  • 6 Stuart Henshall // Feb 6, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Rajesh, these are great points. On my last trip I was fascinated by the story the cab driver was telling me as I returned to the new airport in Bangalore. As a large scale infrastructure project it will generate much of the urbanization, and transportation elements around it. In fact that seemed to be the case. India really needs a “train” project of a massive scale. Highways too although some are in progress. They should also be educating people about what the implications are. The cabbie’s stories would suggest others have learned and the “sharks” move in quickly.

  • 7 Mayur // Feb 6, 2009 at 4:20 am

    Hi Rajesh:

    I agree with your comments on the importance of urbanization for India.

    Data available from sources such as WorldBank shows that as the urban population has grown worldwide, so has the services sector of the world economy.

    In urban areas, there is an increased demand for services such as retail, healthcare, education, financial services, entertainment, transportation, communication etc. It’s a two way relationship between urbanization and services – increased urbanization leads to increased demand for services. This creates more jobs and growth in urban areas, leading to more urbanization.

    A larger services sector creates more opportunities for offshoring and outsourcing.

    Some more details and charts at:

  • 8 Urbanization and Transportation « Sriks6711 // Feb 8, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    […] February, 2009 Rajesh Jain continues with Ideas for India – Part 2 which made me take another look into the […]

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  • 11 Best of 2009: Personal / General // Jan 1, 2010 at 5:01 am

    […] 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 (Mar 09) – Entrepreneurship in India (Feb 09) – Ideas for India: Part 1 Part 2 (Feb 09) – India needs Ratan Tata as Prime Minister for 5 Years (Dec 08) Personal – 41 to 42: […]

  • 12 Siddhartha // May 7, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Most of the communities in India (such as Bengali), are succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty'(a theory introduced by an American anthropologist Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold. Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour (values) to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting of those children those are born out of ignorance, real poverty. All of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in their own life/attitude, involve themselves in ‘Production of Space’(Henri Lefebvre), at least initiate a movement by heart, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up.
    – Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101.

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