Hard data is difficult to challenge. President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to Parliament on the opening day of the Budget Session contained impressive facts about the government’s performance in a particularly difficult year. Covid-19 disruption affected the lives not only of the common people, but also posed a serious challenge to the economy. All things considered, the nation adapted well, not least because of intelligent policies adopted by the Modi Government. It can only be imagined what would have happened if the indecisive and remote-controlled UPA Government had been in charge.
This does not mean, of course, that things are perfect. Far from it! The first objective is to provide people the basics of a decent existence, which for some reason was not the primary goal of governance after Independence. Was it because those in power then were unconcerned about it, or that there were more pressing concerns? Whatever be the case, India has today reached a stage where it is possible to bring the entire population above the poverty line to a reasonably comfortable level. The process has its own challenges as every level of the economy has its own particular requirements. While there has to be government support in some ways, there have also to be incentives for growth through individual effort. Wealth needs to be created before it can be taxed and shared.
In the fast changing global and technological environment, archaic economic models are a serious impediment. While life changes inexorably, mindsets remain fixed. Without the ability to adapt, there can be no progress. It is not just about availability of skills, it also has to do with the willingness to change. India may be fortunate to have a forward looking and pragmatic leadership at the present, but people can easily choose for all the wrong reasons those who offer political opium as an alternative to hard work and ambition.
Elections in the coming days will show how aspirational is new India and to what extent it is still bogged down in the lethargy of the past. The stakes are very high and there is much to lose in the case of misjudgment. The impact will be immediate and felt down to the coming generations. Hopefully, the people will choose wisely as calamity does not distinguish on the basis of caste or community.