It is estimated that 60% of Indians are employed in Agriculture, accounting for 26% of the country’s output, according to McKinsey. To increase standards of living, we have to take the “other India” with us. This is, what we city dwellers call “rural India”. It is an India where time seems to have stood still. The India also needs to become Great.
As a technologist, it is difficult for me to suggest what India can do in Agriculture. However, technology can be used to ensure that farmers get access to the latest information and the best prices. This is already happening in some parts of India with cellphones. Biotechnology and genetic engineering can also help in making the Indian farmers much more productive.
One of the banes of rural India is the water problem. What India needs is a much more efficient system of canals and dams to ensure that water is available for irrigation and consumption. The dependency on rain needs to be reduced – the annual uncertainty needs to be smoothened out.
Rural India can also offer a platform for other experiments – for example, in solar energy. This has been done in fits and starts, but never as a proper initiative. Rural India and especially the economy built around agriculture offers tremendous prospects for those entrepreneurs willing to look “within”.
Recently, in a talk given by the Tofflers in Mumbai, there was a reference to the clash of three civilisations (or societies): the agrarian, the industrial and the post-industrial (knowledge-based). India has all three co-existing. Somehow, the industrial society in India never made a mark. Even as a part of India wants to leapfrog into the New World, we cannot do so if a part of us is still stuck in the past. Amul in India is an excellent example of a bottom-up revolution in the hinterland. This needs to be amplified and the divide bridged. Knowledge and Industrialisation need to be made available to the Agrarian India, so all can move forward.
The creation of the New India (or not) lies in our hands. As a group, we need to take decisions which can move India forward – not in small steps but in giant leaps. The time for incrementalism is long over. Change in India needs to be rapid, sudden and discontinuous. India needs to Tip soon, or else remain forever an emerging and developing economy. There is no Messiah who will come with a magic wand and wake us from our dream. The New India needs innovative and entrepreneurial thinking. The choice is ours and ours alone to make.
What has been heartening is the overwhelming response this series has written in terms of feedback. If this is an indication, then Hope is not yet lost. The Journey has only begun.