India Story – A Big Questionmark ?

The India Shining Story seems to be coming unstuck.

Never mind, it was anyway not brilliantly shining at any point in time. Achieving a GDP growth rate of over 8% for a few years should not please anyone, as the uplifting of the rural poor is not complete. Healthcare and Primary Education are in a state of mess. Infrastructure is debilitating. Just one look at China, anyone with some intelligence will realize that a Communist Dictatorship can achieve much more in resolving peoples’ problems and lifting the country out of its poverty than does the world’s most populous democracy.

What gives ?

The system of government does not seem to be the determining factor in achieving economic growth. If we take that factor out of the equation, then things become clearer to an observer. Or else, we will be unnecessarily attributing the success of China to its authoritarian government, and praising India for achieving even a modest rate of growth as the result of sustained democracy.

That would be hogwash.

What exactly drives a country towards a better economic performance and an achievement-oriented mindset ? What are the factors behind success in the world scene – be it a social power or an economic power for a country ? What drives things and people ? What attracts investors ?

There is only one answer, and I do not have any doubt about this answer.

What is it ?

It is EDUCATION. India invests less than 1.5% of its annual budget on Primary Education – a developed country invests typically double that figure, sometimes even 4%. China invests a much higher figure on education overall.

Look at the results. Not even one Indian University is in the Top 200 institutions in the world in any survey – a few Indian Institutes of Technology are there in the Top 100 but way behind the leading Asian Universities from Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The status of Primary Education in India is nothing short of pathetic. No proper schools for more than half of the primary school going children, no proper facilities and in most cases, no teachers.

And, what does the government do ? Just make tall promises and in most instances, just ignore the problem. What did India learn from the Asian Economic miracle and Asian Educational successes ? Nothing, it seems. India did not learn anything either from the West or the East when it comes to quality of education.

How can this situation be changed rapidly given that investments in education take a long time to produce results ?

By bringing foreign universities and institutions into India since Indian school systems and universities have failed their cause and the people of India. Accept the failure and get in the experts to fix the system. Even the Indian system of educational accreditation was riddled with corruption.

India needs to invest at least 3 to 4% of its annual budget on education and reduce its defence expenditure. Healthcare also needs massive investments given the status of Government-run Hospitals, but that is a separate discussion ! Something like USD 50 to 70B of annual investments in educational infrastructure and quality is called for.

Private investments are required, and the Public-Private Partnership model will produce a better quality result than the government of India itself.

Serious and urgent discussions are required in this sphere to arrest the decline and reverse the trend.


Vijay Srinivasan
22nd June 2013


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