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Why is India still a developing nation?

By Subhasish Das

The journey of the Indian subcontinent and its tremendous metamorphosis over the last 5000 years is a great example of how civilizations are formed, cultures developed, and religions born. From establishing the first urban civilization in south Asia in the form of Indus valley civilization, to the forming of the Vedic civilization, to the rise of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, to the Muslim dominance in the medieval era, to the establishment of British colonialism, to the freedom movement leading to the country’s partition and independence, India has had a truly remarkable journey so far.

Notwithstanding its cultural superiority ingested through manifold experiences across centuries and the ability to withstand change continuously yet embosom new civilizations, India still languishes as a developing nation. A country that is seventh largest in the world in size, second largest in human resources, has the world’s 3rd largest standing army, a country that propels satellites into space, whose “Yoga” & spiritual way of life have emerged as the greatest healer in modern times, a nation that sends Mars orbiters at a cost lesser than an average Hollywood movie, doesn’t yet find itself in the league of developed nations. Isn’t it intriguing to know as to why such an ancient land, a country with such enormous potential, still struggles to find its rightful place among the developed nations?

As the country liberated itself from British control and enclasped independence in the last century, little did it know that several pernicious seeds had already been sown by the time the British left, that’ll soon enlarge into massive trees of self-destruction and act as major impediments to the country’s development in the years to come. Let’s discuss some of the major factors:

  • Poverty: Poverty has been a major hindrance in India’s quest to be a developed nation. 70% of the country’s population lives in rural areas in conditions that have seen little or no improvement since independence. And sadly, poverty is co-related with other social problems like illiteracy, over-population, malnutrition, unemployment, homelessness etc. It’s all linked together in a vicious circle that thrive on each other.
  • Corruption: From schools to the parliament, corruption permeates the length and breadth of the country. It has become a part of us and our system in such a way that it’s impossible to spend a day without experiencing it in some way or the other. The fact that it makes our lives so easy, most Indians indulge in it unabashedly fully aware that it’s not right. Corruption has eroded the institutional capacity of governments as procedures are disregarded, resources are misused, and public offices are bought and sold like household items with democratic values such as trust and tolerance getting crushed in the process. 
  • Religion: Religion has been more of a divider than a unifier in this country. And the reason for this is not just the people who follow it but also the unwanted political interference that has always existed and inveigled people whether educated or illiterate as per their convenience. Religious beliefs have consistently played a crucial role in national politics and decisions irrespective of governments, appeasement playing a major role in ruling over the gullible masses.
  • Population: If there could be one single factor that has played the most significant role in decelerating India’s development march, it has to be population or over-population rather, whichever way you put it. For a country that was ripped off all or most of its treasures and wealth by the erstwhile British rulers who left behind a mess by breaking up the country and manufacturing civil wars, feeding its hungry and ever-multiplying population was a Herculean task. The supply & demand equation has always been highly unbalanced, the latter far exceeding the former thereby creating irreversible imbalances in standard of living, resource utilization, employment, education, opportunities, healthcare, almost in every sphere.
  • Illiteracy: India has the highest population of illiterate adults in the world at 287 million. Illiteracy in India is more or less due to the different forms of disparities that exist in our society like gender imbalances, income imbalances, state imbalances, caste imbalances, technological barriers etc. Even more worrying is the fact that illiteracy is directly linked to other social evils like poverty, child labour, child marriage, unemployment, social crimes etc. that should ideally have no place in a developed society.
  • Caste system: The division of society into so many castes and sub-castes is sinful as it doesn’t allow upward mobility for persons belonging to the lower strata in society and is replete with gross inequality and injustice. Not just this, it makes a mockery of democracy and its values as people in the world’s largest democracy vote on the basis of caste and religion most often overlooking merit, resulting in unfair selection of candidates throughout the country.
  • Terrorism: Be it Pakistan-sponsored, Maoist-sponsored or north-east insurgency, terrorism has slowed down the country’s development in more ways than one. A major portion of the country’s GDP gets diverted towards bolstering defense capabilities that could otherwise have been directed towards other development activities. A terrorist attack, in any part of the country has significant impact on the economic growth, investments, overall expenditure, not to mention the safety and security of the general people.
  • Brain drain: India has failed to hold back its talented youth and skilled workforce from emigrating to developed countries that includes doctors, engineers, scientists, technicians etc. and this has had quite a significant impact on the country’s development. The mammoth population, the iniquitous reservation system and the insane cut-offs for admission to top Indian Institutes/Colleges/Universities that deny enrollment to even the deserving candidates, all play their part in this exodus. Besides, better work opportunities, better pay packages, high quality of life & facilities tempt most of the students who go abroad to stay back in their host country thus triggering a prodigious amount of brain drain from India.

These are a few prominent barriers that have always dehorted the country from treading the path of development since independence. Although steps have been taken by governments from time to time to expunge these aforementioned deterrents, their implementation and probity on the part of the people involved has always been questionable. As a matter of fact, challenges of this complexity and magnitude cannot be solved by governments and ministries alone. To rectify these issues, a collaborative approach involving business leaders, members of civil society and academia, youth groups and social entrepreneurs would be required.

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