Looking beyond technology, perhaps the most important event in 2004 in India took place in May with the loss of the ruling BJP government and the coming to power of a Congress government, supported by the Left parties. The shock was so great that the BSE Sensex fell sharply to a level just above 4,000. That was May. Now, the elections are long since forgotten, and the index has crossed the 6,000 mark. Politics has taken a back seat as India gets back to focusing on growth. There is a distinct pro-poor bias in talk but actions still leave a lot to be desired.
The greatest challenges for India remains the same moving a mass of many hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty and tackling the population growth in the face of finite resources. Even though the Budget did not have many measures which should help the poor, there is little indication that the implementation of the various programmes has been changed to plug leakages in the system. The feeling across state governments now seems to be that providing free power to farmers is a great idea for them to stay in power! So, we have a situation that even with a debt of Rs 1 lakh crore ($22 billion), the government of Maharashtra state has decided to implement its election promise of free power to the farmers.
Look south and the Bangalore dream is in danger. The Indian Express ran a series of front-page stories on the sad state of infrastructure in the city, a government which didnt care because it was elected by the poor, and a frustrated IT sector which can shout and scream but is not being heard. India will not get too many chances. The global herd is remarkably agile and can move its money and attention quickly. India has been the cynosure of eyes during 2004, but for it to continue we need to move fast on twin tracks: transforming rural India and upgrading infrastructure across urban India. We dont need lots of fresh ideas we are not the first country which needs to become developed. What we need is a mix of vision and will we have our chance, and we need to now grab it. Not for a few pockets for India, but for a nation. Technology can be a powerful enabler but it is just that. 2004 has seen many positives, but this is only the start. India has many lost decades to catch up on.
I believe that one of Indias greatest strengths lies in the entrepreneurial ability of its people. There is still a lot that holds us back than propels us forward. Many amongst us will need to change their mindsets to take the risks that are necessary to build innovations and institutions that can be the foundation for a smarter, better and richer India. And for that we have to get a lot of the small things right. Consider for example the way we have our addresses. Try finding a place based only given a three-line address anywhere in India. Of course, there are plenty of people walking around who can be stopped and ask. But thats not the solution. We have to do things right not create alternate paths around wrongs.
So, what will 2005 bring? As always, I am optimistic I believe that a handful amongst us can make a deep and positive impact on the India of tomorrow. We have to believe and dream that a better India can be built by us, the people. Technology can now enable us to do things faster, better and cheaper. By aggregating the best ideas and innovations, we can build a platform for others to participate in bringing about the renaissance of a nation that binds us all together.
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