Wide canvas, diffuse portrait

| Updated on: Sep 12, 2011

This compilation of essays written by Rajiv Kumar, Director-General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), first appeared as columns for various newspapers over the last two-three years. Insightful as some of them are, the book would have provided an interesting commentary on the evolution of the Indian economy if only the author had provided some context to the short essays.

The essays, divided into various sections, discuss what the author calls the “triple transition (economic, political and social)” — a huge, complex and “expectedly a messy” undertaking that India is going through. It is the economic transition that is the most significant. And, as the author says, the first decade of this century has seen global attention turn to India, “thankfully largely for positive reasons.” So the canvas of the book is vast and the subject topical.

Lack of context

But the problem with Many Futures of India lies is the fact that even within one section, subjects covered are unrelated. Take the last section, ‘‘South Asia: India's Role'', as an example. The section has three essays, the first on India taking the initiative in “ensuring a stable, peaceful and prosperous South Asia.”

The second essay in this section talks of the Nepal Prime Minister's “appearances and utterances in Delhi over the last two days” being a study in contrast. And the last essay talks of July's Indo-Pakistani joint statement. These three essays are significant in themselves and do make a point or two on the role that India can play in the region, but the lack of context will be a big negative for an average reader. Though such a problem is bound to crop up if topical and timely columns in newspapers are compiled into a book, it should have been addressed. The section on “India and Global Governance” is perhaps the best part of the book as it cogently talks of the G-20 and the second G-20 summit held in London. It also provides an in-depth account of two international conferences (held in Kiel, Germany and Delhi) which focused on the issues on the agenda for the 2009 G-20 summit. The author participated in both these conferences; his comments are, therefore, both insightful and informative.

Lessons on agriculture

Another section that is interesting is the one on reforms that are still needed because it draws interesting examples from the rest of the world and the lessons that India can perhaps learn from countries such as Korea and Argentina. The essay on Argentina talks about that country's agriculture, which is highly modernised and profitable, thanks to the latest practices adopted by the farmers“These examples should be of immediate and direct interest to India,” says the author, adding, “Yet my apprehension is that none of these relevant global practices will find their way into Indian agriculture as long as the government has the exclusive mandate for modernising the sector.”

There are some other essays that are are equally insightful. For instance, the one on the three critical reform priorities at the time of the United Progressive Alliance coming to power — of sustaining high economic growth of not less than 8 per cent, improving the delivery of public goods and services and rejuvenating Indian agriculture — are issues that continue to be important even today.

Published on September 20, 2011

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