The ruling government has rolled out its ‘Make in India’ campaign with much fanfare. Its purpose is to woo investors, particularly Indian businesspeople who have been investing elsewhere, to return to the mother country. “Come; Make in India” is the clarion call being sent out to them.
The slick ‘Make in India’ website has a lion (why not the tiger, our national animal, one wonders) made up of cog wheels, emblazoned in profile across its homepage, and it has a long list of sectors ranging in alphabetical order from Automobiles to ‘Wellness’ (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy). The list also includes Mining, which is a loaded topic for us in Goa, as we have seen its fallout at the environmental level here over several decades, affecting our water, air and soil quality and our very future, with very little returning to the state exchequer. One can only hope we have learnt from past mistakes and will not repeat them.
A clear example is China, who we seem to be in competition with, and who launched their own copycat “Made in China” campaign closely on the heels of ‘Make in India’. We would do well not to repeat their mistakes. Their incredible growth rate has been achieved often at the cost of devastation of their environment and trampling on the human rights of their own people. I fervently hope India does not consider this a path worth following.
The Defence industry is another sector that might be seen by most of us as a necessary ‘evil’, but the idea that an entire industry can revolve on the premise of destruction of human lives is somehow unnerving to me. And the idea of my country collaborating with this objective in mind with other countries around the world, particularly Israel, which has recently claimed so many innocent lives in Gaza in the name of its own defence, makes it even more disturbing.
Obviously the ‘Make in India’ campaign is targeted at manufacturing and industry, and bringing in employment and revenue. Done responsibly, this could be good for the economy, of course.
But are our country’s needs only material? What about other indicators of well-being? How does one define “prosperity” and how does one begin to measure it?
There have been efforts by economists, statisticians, and social scientists to identify solid data indicators that are “illuminating, publicly available, and standardised across countries” which can measure “wellbeing” far more sensibly than the yardstick generally used but has serious limitations, namely the GDP (gross domestic product). Simon Kuznets, the economist who developed the concept of GDP, put forth this disclaimer at the very outset: “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income.” But despite this, it continues to be used as a lazy tool for assessing a country’s progress.
The Legatum Institute defines prosperity as both wealth and wellbeing and uses a Prosperity Index as a new unit of comparison of prosperity between countries. The most prosperous nations therefore are not necessarily those with a high GDP, but those with happy, healthy and free citizens.
In their words, “Prosperity is more than just the accumulation of material wealth; it is also the joy of everyday life and the prospect of an even better life in the future. This is true for individuals as well as nations.”
The nine sub-indices of the Prosperity Index are: A robust economy; Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Education system that is free-thinking, high-quality, accessible and that fosters human development; Democratic institutions that are transparent and accountable; Government and governance that is honest and effective preserves order and encourages productive citizenship; Health; Personal Freedom of individuals to voice their views, and to lead and choose the course of their lives; Security; and Social Capital (trustworthiness in relationships and strong communities).
The ‘Make in India’ initiative seems to address just the first two sub-indices. But there is much more that needs to be ‘made’, or addressed. A growing economy is necessary, but not sufficient, for national prosperity. Without additional factors–such as accountable governments, healthy citizens, strong social capital, and respect for civil and political liberties–a nation cannot achieve sustainable prosperity.
Therefore, going by the Prosperity Index, India currently ranks 41st, ahead of China (75th) despite its superior growth rate, and ahead of Russia (69th). It would be foolish of us to push for an increase in our GDP at the expense of the wellbeing and liberties of our people and of our environment.
In addition to manufacturing and factories and jobs, India should work really hard on improving the public health sector, sanitation, and a complete overhaul of the education system, making it truly accessible in every furthest reach of the country, and encouraging free thinking instead of indoctrination. Free speech and expression are of course a given, and the current Big Brother attitude to comments on social media and in the press, literature and art seem to be steps in the opposite direction.
Just as the red carpet is being rolled out for foreign investors in the finance and business sector, India urgently needs to be just as welcoming to pedagogues for music education to help us build a robust infrastructure for music well into the future. This is a page we can certainly take from China’s book. The current Government of India regulations make it almost impossible for charities and non-governmental organisations to bring in foreign nationals to work and teach here. At this point in our history, we need them to ‘Make in India’ a strong foundation for music pedagogy from the grass roots level to the very top. We can only hope the government is listening.
(An edited version of this article was published on 5 October 2014 in my column ‘On the Upbeat’ in the Panorama section of the Navhind Times Goa India)