At the time of writing of these lines, the news has just come in of the launch of iPhone 13 and 14. Beginning from Rupees Seventy Thousand, reportedly the price goes up to Rupees One lakh seventy thousand. This is by no means a modest sum. Numerically it is probably more than the monthly salary of over 72% wage earners of this country. To discuss the merits and demerits of this development would be generating a pointless debate. Pointless; because, many arguments can be found for and against any proposition and there are, often, prejudices involved.
The topic of poverty has been such a popular theme in all planning processes that at least one former Finance Minister quipped seven years ago, that there could not be a budget speech in the parliament without a reference to poverty. Some of the statements above are part of regular conversation or talk topics. Little scientific data is often available on many of the points of views popularly subscribed to. Yet they do become the corner stones of many investment policy pronouncements.
The results and consequences of this kind of situation are both unusual and risky. The need for a complete sociology for the Indian sub-continent is yet to be fully recognised.
A complete sociology can be the only channel of developmental planning. The tools enabling this completion need to be addressed.
Not doing so has many risks. One of them is the outburst of the border conflict which happened between Mizoram and Assam recently. Sending in of paramilitary forces of the central breed may have muzzled the local guns but it has not rooted out the problem. This is understandable. What is not understandable is the smugness with which the origins of the conflict have been relegated to the background. There are no takers of such concerns in the academic or the political groups, to give it credence.
The author of these lines was on the search committee of a Vice-Chancellor of a prominent and perhaps then the only University in Itanagar over a decade ago. Amongst the candidates considered for the job, few had the consciousness of the realisation of the simple need outlined in the preceding paragraph. There is no need to elaborate on this theme to show how this will affect future education of generations to come in the State. The needs of genuine development embedded in the grassroots; the processes of skill formation and education, and competent educators to help in this, have to be visualised in an integrated manner.
The University Grants Commission (under threat of imminent dissolution for over a decade) is at the hub of the educational planning of this vast sub-continent. The truth is each region needs its own version of the University Grants Commission with its own resources within an all-India frame.
Unless this happens, an integrated development of the nation will remain relatively, illusionary. This leads to other spurious debates. One of the better known ones is should entrepreneurship be resource based or market based? This is a fascinating debate but an irrelevant one because depending upon the part of the country one has in mind, both the approaches are needed. This unfortunately also affects business and therefore overall economic planning. The Business Manager cannot acquire global stature by perambulating between urban centres with occasional shrill rhetoric of going to the villages. The reality of Indian development is an abundance of resources in all facets of the meaning and limited ability to harness them.
Since 1947, India has had about thirty five years of capable, action prone, stable national leadership during select patches of the Prime Ministership of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Narendra Damodardas Modi. Capable strong willed Prime Ministers who delivered well on whatever they chose to act on. Yet all three of them have had their Achilles heels.
In a write-up of this order, given the space, time and opportunity it is difficult to argue through for a complete solution.
Yet it is possible to keep some issues alive and to show how the reality of Indian development, glorious as it is in its overall grain, has yet to achieve an all-India comprehensive framework of reference, with its many shades. The limited example of Arunachal Pradesh given above is only illustrative. There are other pockets of neglect and indeed there are so many areas of success. The desired comprehensive breakthroughs will only begin when one can throw up a relevant, cohesive methodology of thinking, analysing, deducing and acting for impact oriented investment. Escalating costs of iPhones and getting for India the dubious status of a territory where inter se cost of iPhone globally is amongst the highest is an unworthy distinction. All it proves is there are people with money in India, there are people competing with each other for social distinction. Whether it touches the lives of the hapless and helpless with no contacts and little connects is another story.
Generations of iPhones will be artificially phased out. Generations of Indians in various geographical territories will continue to live in deprivation and squaller. The debated themes of the day continue to target the audience with resources to buy tele-equipment or the ability to read newspapers. The drama of life understands no such logic. It needs assured cleanliness, shelter, food and opportunity to help itself.
Dr. Vinayshil Gautam - Internationally acclaimed management expert. Chairman, DKIF