What is the turning point for India? The point or time in history when India becomes a first world country wherein all citizens are well-fed, happy, healthy, safe, secure, well-governed, with the freedom to pursue satisfying lifestyles of their choice – when can we expect that to happen?
Many of us, at least in urban India, are optimistic it will happen soon, perhaps within 20 to 30 years. We are growing fast. The vast middle class is experiencing rising incomes and is hungry to consume more. Businesses, domestic & foreign, are eager to address this burgeoning market. Thousands of schools, colleges & universities are churning out deployable youth in millions. The government is business friendly. The going looks good. All of us are going to be rich soon. First world country? Yeah, why not?
But, is it really so inevitable? Can it really happen soon?
Countries become rich (aka first world) when their national per capital income shoots through the global ranks and when they emerge, say, within the top 20. But the speed at which this happens depends on a various fortuitous factors coming together. It is more luck than skill.
A small country like Japan or Singapore (small in terms of population, land mass & resources), was able to reach first world status in about 50 years. Bigger countries like the US have taken a longer time. Still bigger countries like India & China will take a still longer time.
But it is not that simple, not just a matter of time. There are various other factors like the size of population, political leadership, policies, governance, continuity, institutions, people and their aspirations, religious & cultural influences, history & traditions, and so on.
India is a complex & diverse society. Decision making at the state & national levels on important policies is complex and tedious. Enlightened political leadership at various levels is absent. Rule of law seldom works. Our social, political & legal institutions are not mature and operating well.
Pulling forward 1.4billion people needs humongous horse power & smartness at all levels. A magical confluence of multiple factors is needed to give us that thrust. Such a coming together of various factors can seldom be engineered by humans. Hoping for a happy accident to happen can only be just that – a hope. A bloody revolution doesn’t seem to be in the offing, even if one believes it can help. We are headed on a slow, long & boring journey.
Despite all optimism, India’s turning point may be many decades or perhaps even generations away. Or the future may have other plans. Our goals may change.
Meantime, we will have pockets of riches and islands of revelry.
Turning points will happen, but for a few.