PM Modi has exhorted his party colleagues to take a ‘long jump’ & hasten the pace of socio-economic transformation to achieve his vision of a ‘New India’ by 2022, when India completes 75 years of Independence.
‘New India’ is expected to be a world power and developed nation.
Can Modi’s long jump land us in the professed New India?
Probably not, as we are following the destructive development path of the western world. The big idea underpinning our growth strategy is to invest more and consume more. The more we invest and more we consume, the more we will grow, just like the US & Europe did.
On the same day Modi talked about his long jump, we read about beer manufacturers gearing up to launch many more premium beer brands to bolster our pathetic beer consumption habits (2L per person per year) to world standards (30L per person per year). What will be the impact on an already water-stressed country? 50 – 300L of water is used (water footprint), depending on whom you ask, to make 1L of beer. Unregulated growth of the industry which beguile us with smart promotions is bound to increase our consumption over time. While the rich drink premium beer, the poor would be left high & dry, literally. Meanwhile, farmers may be motivated to switch crops, say from wheat to barley, as big breweries compete to pay more for quality barley. As barley requires less water compared to other essential food crops (like wheat) and as our farm lands get more water stressed, more farmers will be enticed to switch crops, and we will end up making more beer and less food. Suicidal for a drought-prone and famished country.
The above scenario could be a remote dystopian possibility, but we still cannot dismiss it outright. If we don’t regulate beer production and consumption now, our long jump will land us in a future we don’t want to be in.
And that is just one industry.
As Indian industrial growth fires on all cylinders across multiple sectors, as spending & consumption go up their wonted hockey stick growth paths, the blended outcome may not be what was intended.
The Americans & Europeans invested, spent and consumed their way to their current style of living. The unintended side-effect was environmental devastation and climate change.
As PM Modi urges 1.25 billion Indians to dream and build a developed nation, riding on the same consumption-led growth model, where will we land? We are competing with many other nations, especially the formidable 1.35 billion Chinese, who are headed the same way. Can earth sustain such ambitions?
Nature has its own self-correcting mechanisms – natural disasters. Floods, famines, droughts, diseases etc. may help us learn the hard way.
Shepherding 1.25 billion aspiring Indians to a path of sustainable growth & living should be the goal of right thinking leadership.
Modi’s long jump looks dangerously like the same old western medicine bottled with some Indian flavors. Not a dramatically new formula the current ailment needs.
The long jump may enrich the already rich, improve living standards in pockets of India, while the rest struggle and our environment deteriorates further.