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September 22, 2023 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm



Let’s First understand what Development is.

Development is a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components.

The purpose of development is a rise in the level and quality of life of the population, and the creation or expansion of local regional income and employment opportunities, without damaging the resources of the environment.

Development is visible and useful, not necessarily immediately, and includes an aspect of quality change and the creation of conditions for a continuation of that change.

When India started its space journey

When India started space research in the 1960s, many thought it was being reckless: a struggling, young nation sinking some of its limited resources in a highly uncertain enterprise.

Today, however, even the last of the naysayers (pessimists – those who oppose) must be convinced. In a matter of a few days, India became the first nation to land a rover on the south pole of the moon, followed up with a mission to study the sun.

Is this the moment of all happiness and no sorrow?

Yet, this is also the moment to revisit a nagging concern. How do such stellar achievements stand alongside the persistence of poverty and destitution for millions of Indians?

India’s baby steps towards science

Even before the government set up the Indian Space Research Organization in 1969, the country was having a significant research programme in space science. It was then coordinated by the Department of Atomic Energy, which itself had been founded in the early 1950s.

The birth of IITs

These were certainly not isolated initiatives. Between 1951 and 1961, India established five Indian Institutes of Technology, which in no time grew into globally respected academic centres.

The coming into existence of IIMs

The first two Indian Institutes of Management were inaugurated in 1961. During the two decades of the 1950s and 1960s, a number of public sector units were established in diverse areas of industrial production that included steel, fertilizer, machine tools, electric machinery, drug production, and petrochemicals.

Technology to remedy underdevelopment

Taken together, these public investments show that India was determined to become a serious player in advanced technologies of the time despite the multifold challenges facing the young nation.

How we wanted technology to aid our developmental journey

New technologies, it was believed, would quicken the pace of development of the country, which had suffered from two centuries of colonialism.

Vikram Sarabhai, the leader of India’s space programme, had envisioned — this was in the early 1960s — that satellites could be used for building a nationwide telephone system and for providing agricultural and health education.

India’s Moonshot approach to development

In fact, India’s development immediately after Independence may be characterised as a ‘moonshot’ approach (quick) to development — deploying modern industrialization to shake off the ills of the past. However, India’s moonshot development strategy was only partially successful.

Criticism of this approach

It has also been the subject of much criticism from certain quarters, over the years. One was for its heavy reliance on public investment. Two, the investments were being ‘misdirected’, according to some economists.

Being a Labour surplus country, they argue, India should have stuck to its comparative advantages in labour-intensive industries, such as garments or footwear, rather than squandering the country’s scarce savings in capital- and technology-intensive industries.

Public Funding of these technology intensive sector was the only option

But the time needed for a new technology to come to fruition is too long, and the initial effort required is too steep, so it is unlikely to expect a private player to lead the moves to acquire it.

There have been many misses for India’s space mission, especially in the initial decades. A key factor behind the programme’s eventual success has been public funding, which did not waver for lack of short-term commercial viability.

It is not only that the benefits from technology are long in coming, but they are also difficult to be kept exclusive for private profiteering. Consider, for instance, the Internet. It is precisely because of the ‘public good’ nature of technologies that public sector support becomes crucial for developing them.

Just know how Internet was born

The Internet emerged from a research programme funded by the United States government, with military objectives, in the late 1950s.

How this public funded technology aided the private enterprise

In India, the technological capabilities built through state support provided the base for the flourishing of private enterprise in many sectors, including pharmaceuticals, information technology, and the space sector too (more of it likely in the years ahead).

How the professionals trained in these technologically advanced institutions aided India’s Strategic rise

Professionals, who were earlier trained in India’s public universities, have found leadership positions globally, which has deepened India’s strategic importance.

Inequalities, a hurdle for progress

The lackluster (dull) record for India’s development strategy then was not on account of the government doing too much in the area of technology building.

But, on the contrary, it was because the state or the government could not intervene effectively to reduce inequalities or ensure social development.

The one-sided ownership of land and assets

Independent India did not implement a successful programme of land redistribution. Ownership of assets continues to be very low among the socially oppressed communities, including Dalits or the Scheduled Caste (SC) population.

Its effect on education of masses

For the downtrodden, disadvantages due to the lack of assets translate into hurdles in acquiring education, given that India has consistently underinvested in basic education for the masses.

This effect is then shown in the employment sector

As a result, the historically determined inequalities in the social spheres get replicated in the labour market, with the better-paying jobs going more to the privileged groups who have had greater access to higher education.

In 2021-22, 38.2% of all SC workers were ‘casual’, earning their livelihoods mostly out of hard manual labour; the corresponding proportion was 11.2% for workers belonging to the (‘other’) general category castes (Periodic Labour Force Survey data).

Comparison with some East Asian Countries

The contrast with the East Asian countries, including Japan and China, is notable. There, by the 1950s itself, land reforms and other measures had created a relatively egalitarian social structure, which formed the basis for the progressive economic and social changes in the later years.

Effect of persistence of inequalities

The persistence of inequalities has negatively impacted industrial and economic growth in India.

Domestic demand has been lopsided, coming as it does largely from the upper income classes, who constitute only a small, though substantial in absolute numbers, segment of the population.

This has slowed down the growth of manufacturing of high-quality, mass-consumption goods, including food products and garments. Entrepreneurship too has emerged from a narrow social base.

Reinstate state support

Looking forward, we need to have a clear recognition of what went wrong, and where we got it right, with the ambitious development strategy India launched immediately after Independence.

The audacious attempt to build technological and industrial capabilities with generous state support was the correct thing to do.

The country must reinstate such efforts if it has to stand a chance in fast-growing economic fields, be it semiconductors or biotechnology.

After 1991, India abandoned planning for industrial growth assuming, mistakenly, that there is no role for industrial policy in a globalized economy.

It will be costly to continue with that error now, at a time when both the United States and China are lavishing government support for their industries.

At the same time, India must redouble efforts to make economic growth more inclusive and broad-based. Education, especially higher education, should be accessible to all, including the dispossessed.

India’s mission to use technology to propel itself to a higher level of development is half won. Now if the country’s billion-strong masses acquire the social and the human capabilities required for upward mobility, that will be the equivalent of a lunar takeoff in economic progress.

Mains Questions

  1. Discuss how inequalities in development led to further widening the gap in Indian Society? Also, make a comparative analysis with East Asian Economies. (250 Words) 15 Marks
  2. Discuss how the state support was a savior to the development of high-end technologies like space sector in the absence of private players? (150 Words) 10 Marks


September 22, 2023
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
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