Friday, April 19, 2024

Demographic dividend


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The World Bank has observed that India, as also the entire geographic region with its high population growth, is squandering the demographic dividend. Well said. With a population bulge of 1.40 billion, India might soon edge past China and become the world’s most populous nation. A major difference between India and China is that China uses its manpower to the maximum, even by coercion, while India encourages laziness. A nation grows by using its people’s productive energies. China has shown it and is today the world’s second largest economy, next to the US. India is in the fifth slot, next also to Japan and Germany.
Japan is a hard-working nation. Like a phoenix, it emerged from the World War II nuclear bombings, took lessons from Germany and worked hard, excelled in technology and built a huge economy. Germany benefited hugely from the Industrial Revolution that started in Europe in the 18-th century. India was at the receiving end of the Industrial Revolution as cotton and other natural resources from this country were shipped to Europe to feed their factories there. The post-Independence era from 1947 did some good to India under the visionary leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. The succeeding generations of politicians that ran this nation showed a penchant to play to the gallery and demonstrated a lack of long-term vision. The poor remain poor despite the Garibi Hatao slogan raised by Indira Gandhi in the early 1970s to win a parliament election. The food security law brought into force some 40 years later by the UPA-II government was, on the face of it, a good idea. But, with hugely subsidised or free rations becoming a right of the citizens, the large army of India’s poor have lost their urge to work. A lazy nation gave a booster dose to laziness.
With the corruption graph rising in recent decades, setting up industries has become a more expensive proposition. Those who attempt it will have to grease the palms of politicians and bureaucrats. The hurdles are many. The dawn of the age of Liberalization in the early 1990s promised an end to the Licence Raj, a largely corrupt practice, but it reappeared in new forms. Even to start a modest holiday home to rent out space to tourists, as many as 20 clearances have to be obtained from the ‘authorities’. Industrialization has been largely hit and the nation is relying on manufactured goods from China. This is worsening the joblessness scenario. As the tracking agencies noted, the employment ratio for the South Asia region now is at 59 per cent against 70 elsewhere. Female employment ratio is at its lowest in India, below 40 per cent, and the youth unemployment ratio is currently over 45 per cent.


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