With Vision 2020 mostly blurred, 2050 needs better lens

Lokeshwarri SK BL Research Bureau | Updated on December 31, 2019 Published on December 31, 2019

Heralding the year of many promises   -  -

We are finally stepping in to 2020, the year that seemed far in to the future. So far away that many companies and the government decided to call their strategic plans ‘Vision 2020’.

The Centre’s long-term plan for the future was spelt out in the Planning Commission’s report ‘India Vision 2020’, drafted by a committee headed by SP Gupta, published in 2002.

This well-researched report had struck an optimistic note while looking at the potential of the country to grow inclusively. “India 2020 will be bustling with energy, entrepreneurship and innovation. The country’s 1.35 billion people will be better fed, dressed and housed, taller and healthier, more educated and longer living than any generation in the country’s long history. Illiteracy and all major contagious diseases will have disappeared. School enrolment from age 6 to 14 will near 100 per cent and drop-out rates will fall to less than one in twenty.”

Also read: Resolutions for a 2020 financial vision

Nodal points of prosperity

Compare this vision with the current conditions, and it is apparent that while we have made progress, it has not been inclusive. The economic growth has not helped all, leading to widening income inequalities. Scant attention has been paid to human development indicators that are critical for gauging a country’s progress. The India Vision 2020 document had identified a set of parameters seen as essential to promoting prosperity among the masses.

The document had envisaged a highly productive commercial farm sector that can ensure food and nutritional security, generate employment opportunities, stimulate industrialisation, and produce renewable energy from biomass and fuel crops.

Foodgrain output has increased 208 million tonnes to 291 mt between 2005-06 and 2018-19 thanks to improved technology and higher yielding seeds, and oilseeds production has grown from 279 mt to 322 mt in the same period, thanks to the use of technology and better yielding seeds. But the increase in output has neither helped farmers nor created jobs. This is due to the government keeping a rein on food prices, smaller land-holdings and the middle-men taking a chunk of the profits.

The report had also stressed on moving towards 100 per cent employment by 2020. But, according to the International Labour Organisation, the level of unemployment remains unchanged from 2000, hovering around 2.5 per cent. Lack of reliable data to track the level of unemployment makes the job of ending joblessness all the more difficult.

It is in the areas of education, skill development and health that some progress has been made. But not enough. While the rate of population growth has slowed over the last two decades, the sex ratio is still skewed in favour of boys with 1,106 boys for every 1,000 girls in 2017. Literacy rate among males has improved from 64 per cent in 1991 to 82.1 per cent in 2011 and from 39.3 per cent to 65.5 per cent among women. The section of population below the poverty line has also dropped from 45.3 per cent in 1993-94 to 21.9 per cent in 2011-12.

Life expectancy among men has increased from 59 years in 1994 to 67 years in 2016. Among women, it has increased from 60 to 70 years. While these numbers are good, life expectancy in India is the lowest compared to other emerging economies. The Centre’s spending on healthcare is just 3.1 per cent of GDP compared to 9 per cent in China, 8 per cent in Indonesia and 9.9 per cent in Brazil. Enrolment into schools and colleges has been stagnating since 2011-12.

In terms of infrastructure development and globalisation, some of the targets have been met, but unplanned urban development, coupled with increased rate of migration from rural to urban areas, means below par water and sanitation facilities.

The report had said that physical security both from external and internal threats were of utmost importance. In order to achieve this, national defence had to be robust and domestic law enforcement strong to ensure social harmony. But the Budget spending on Defence has been stagnating over the years. With salaries of Defence and police accounting for a chunk of the Budget spend, buying equipment for the security forces has taken a back-seat.

The road to 2050

The consequences of the negligence over the past two decades cannot be corrected in 2020. It is time, the Centre starts work on ‘Vision 2050’ and makes sure that this time, the focus is on the efficient implementation of the social welfare programmes so that the country improves its ranking in human development indicators as well.

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Published on December 31, 2019
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