Launching The National Prosperity Movement

Launching The National Prosperity Movement

Concept Note

In its origin and essence, the Indian National Congress was not a political party or even an association. It was a broad-based movement of the population representing and giving expression to the people's deep-seated aspiration for freedom. The early leaders of that movement gave voice to the subconscious urge of the entire nation and helped bring it to surface consciousness so that it could become a practical reality.

When Gandhiji first called for satyagraha in 1919, even his closest admirers were skeptical of the outcome, because they lacked his intuitive sense of the people's aspiration for freedom. When telegrams brought in news from Delhi, Calcutta and other places that the nation had been brought to a standstill, it became evident to all that Gandhji was right. The Freedom Movement gained momentum. By 1946 the readiness of the people had become so complete that when the nation was paralysed by several all-India strikes and the Naval Ratings took to the road on April 19th, the very next day Prime Minister Attlee announced in Parliament Britain's decision to grant India freedom. When the people's aspiration for freedom was fully awakened, no force on earth could withhold it from them.

After gaining Independence, the leaders of the freedom struggle turned to the even more arduous task of preparing the nation for prosperity. They soon discovered that their skills in mobilizing the masses for a non-cooperation movement against the British Raj were inadequate for the greater challenge of ushering the country into prosperity. A freedom movement can be conducted by a party or an army, but a prosperity movement requires the participation of the entire population. Freedom may be gained by negative acts of protest, refusal and non-cooperation, but prosperity requires every man and woman to act positively to raise their aspirations, improve themselves, enhance their knowledge and skills, and raise their productivity in work.

It took half a century for the leaders of the freedom struggle to fully awaken and successfully mobilize the people to achieve Independence. Once attained, the leaders discovered that the population was not yet fully prepared for the effort required to attain prosperity. Literacy and education were needed to make the people aware of the possibilities of technology, to awaken their aspiration for a better life and to equip them with the necessary productive skills. The nation's physical, scientific and commercial infrastructure had to be multiplied in order to support greater, more productive activities. New organizations had to be established to disseminate advanced technology, develop markets, impart knowledge and skills, and enhance access to credit.

All these efforts were initiated with tireless dedication and idealism by the freedom fighters, yet visible results were slow to come. The first great breakthrough was the phenomenal success of India's Green Revolution, which harnessed education, demonstration, technology, organization, infrastructure and market-oriented policies to double food production within a single decade and achieve self-sufficiency in a field where the nation had been vulnerable and severely dependent. Green Revolution laid the basis for acceleration of India's developmental progress. Increased food production and rising rural incomes spurred demand for manufactured goods and stimulated the growth of industry, in the same manner as it had done during Britain's Industrial Revolution. It also fueled growth of the newly nationalized banking industry, whose deposits have risen 300-fold since 1969. The spread of technical education and manufacturing expertise created the necessary foundation for development of a strong service sector, leading to the explosive 1000-fold growth of IT exports from $10 million in 1984 to over $10 billion in less than 20 years and presaging similar achievements in biotechnology, medicine and other spheres.

Today the signs are everywhere that the Indian population not only aspires for prosperity but is fully ready to mobilize its own energies and initiative to avail of opportunities. This is evident from the energy level, fast pace of life, and rapidly changing life styles in urban areas. Scooters, which were considered a luxury 20 years ago, are rapidly being replaced by motorcycles and cars in the cities. It is also evident in the rural side from the rising demand for education-starting from pre-school all the way up to college and higher technical education-advanced technologies and modern products. Cycles, which were rare in many rural parts in 1980, are rapidly giving way to all forms of motorized transport. Even the vulgar spread of corruption should be understood as a temporary, negative expression of rising aspirations and prosperity.

Measured in terms of improved access to nutritious food, clothing, education, housing, transportation, communication, information, modern technologies and health care, the population as a whole is already 10 times more prosperous than it was fifty years ago. Literacy has risen from 16% to 62% since 1947. Life expectancy has risen from 46 years to 64 years since 1970. Electricity production has multiplied nearly 50-fold. Wages, which were 20 np in 1947 and Rs 1 in 1965, have risen 400-fold, representing at least a doubling or tripling of average real incomes. More importantly, it has resulted in a change in attitudes. Instead of "Let my son be a worker" we hear today "let my son go to school." Among these many signs of awakening and readiness, the spread of literacy and education is the most heartening and significant. Education builds confidence, self-respect, pride and aspiration for higher life. As Kamaraj keenly observed, "Educate a man and he will develop himself."

The nation is ready, but it does not fully know what is possible or how to accomplish it. Today India has abundant opportunities to accelerate the pace of development in all fields, but these opportunities are not being fully utilised. As the development of India's ports was not fully appreciated until the droughts of the mid 1960s forced the country to urgently import millions of tons of foodgrains, the nation's huge investment in infrastructure remains only partially utilized. Capital is no longer a constraint. Apart from the huge foreign exchange balances of around $80 billion, today India's banks are flush with funds and eagerly seeking out safe ways to invest them. Much of the public's savings still gets channeled into unproductive traditional forms such as gold. Money is abundant, but neither the banks nor the public understand how it can be most effectively utilized. As it took the entry of foreign banks to open up the consumer finance revolution, it will require fresh thinking and new organizational models to fully harness the country's surplus savings for development.

Today the country is replete with achievements that can serve as success stories and proven models that can be replicated and multiplied endlessly, as engineering colleges, computer training institutes, mobile phone companies and Internet cafes have proliferated in recent years. Proven agricultural technologies, such as those being propagated by the leading California consultant Dr. C. Lakshmanan, can double or triple productivity on major crops while reducing by 50% or more water consumption in agriculture, which accounts of 95% of the nation's total water use. Rainwater harvesting can rapidly replenish both depleted rural and urban water supplies, as so dramatically demonstrated in Virudhunagar a few months ago. Biomass power generation and biofuels such as ethanol and jathropa can drastically reduce India's dependence on imported fuel oil, while stimulating growth of rural incomes and employment opportunities. Advanced methods of early childhood education, as demonstrated by Aruna Raghavan's work in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, can double or triple learning rates, equipping first standard children with the knowledge and skills of children four years older, without pressure, strain or homework. Application of computer for vocational training can widely and economically disseminate vocational skills-currently possessed by only 5% of the workforce compared to 28% in Mexico and 95% in Korea-to tens of millions of workers, stimulating both productivity and job creation in the process.

Opportunities abound. What is needed today is not another government programme, though all constructive programmes are welcome. No government can develop a nation. It is the people that must develop themselves. Development is a process, not a programme, and that process can best be stimulated and accelerated by a public movement led by an inspired leadership.

The primary objective of the Prosperity Movement is to generate awareness of the potentials for individual and collective advancement, appeal to people's latent aspiration for prosperity, disseminate information on practical opportunities, celebrate success stories, and inspire people to constructive action for their own self-development.

The media, both print and electronic, can play a vital role in supporting this movement, by disseminating the information on both potentials and accomplishments. But the traditional role of the media is not to create news, only to document it. It lacks both the inclination and capability for in-depth research on future potentials. Therefore, the media needs a leader to follow, someone or some group to point the way and identify news-worthy development opportunities.

It is for this purpose that the New Indian Express group has formulated a new editorial thrust for its English, Tamil and Kannada newspapers to become voices for Indian Prosperity as they earlier served as ardent voices for Indian Freedom. Given the right leadership and initiative, other media houses will quickly join in and lend their full support for this mission.