A public talk series, ‘India2031: The Decade of Transformation’, was organised at JSW School of Public Policy, Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad. The series was divided into two sessions — What India Needs and Public Policy Priorities for the Social Sector, Leaving No One Behind in New India.
The first session was addressed by former Finance Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, Dr K P Krishnan, and former Secretary at Water and Sanitation Ministry, Professor Parameswaran Iyer where they shared their experiences and ‘big picture perspectives on what India needs to do to transform bold and ambitious goal of becoming the world’s third-largest economy from the sixth-largest economy into a reality.
The second session began with the address of NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant. He shared his perspectives on what India needs to do to achieve ‘SDG 2030 goals’ and pressed upon public policy priorities for the social sector that will ensure Sab Ka Sath, Sab ka Vikaas. The session was moderated by Director, (Prof) Errol D’Souza.
India needs to improve Learning, Health and Nutrition outcomes
“I believe that India needs to grow at high rates of 9 to 10 per cent over a three-decade period, year after year,” Mr Kant said.
He said, “India is passing through a window of demographic transition which rarely happens, and we have grown in those high rates but you need to sustain this over a three-decade period.”
“If you need to sustain this over a three-decade period, several things need to be done. One of which is that India needs to improve its learning outcomes, India needs to get its health outcomes right and India needs to improve its nutrition outcomes,” he said.
Importance of Human Capital
Mr Kant stated that Human Capital matters the most and stressed improving learning, health and nutritional outcomes.
He said, “In the 1950s, per capita income of South Korea, China and India were on par. In the 1960s, South Korea’s per capita income had grown 4x of China and 3x of India.”
“Today, per capita income of South Korea is 30,000 USD, China is at about 10,000 USD and India is at about 2,000 USD,” he said, adding, “Human Capital of South Korea was much better in terms of its health, schooling and education, and those in terms of entrepreneurship, innovation, social security.”
Ranking States on their performance in SDGs
“We, at NITI Aayog, do a lot of work in localisation of SDGs. We rank the states on their performance in SDG and we put this ranking out in the public domain,” he said.
Focusing on green energy, NITI Aayog CEO Kant said, “India must get into sunrise areas of growth, it must get into areas of electric mobility, battery storage; it must use the power of being data-rich and data intelligence to do a lot of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Since it made a breakthrough in renewables, it must use renewables to crack water, create green hydrogen, and become a major global champion of green ammonia. So, it can cut down its fossil fuel imports which we have done about 160 billion and, in a decade, it will be doubled.”
He also said that India should also focus on 5G technology and genomics. “If India is to grow at the rate of nine to ten per cent, it must undertake planned scientific urbanization.”
Good Governance Includes a Digital Leap Forward
Mr Kant also talked about focussing on digital improvements and India’s need to go green. “India has taken a huge technological leap forward by introducing UPI and data-driven schemes,” he said, citing Ayushman Bharat and Cowin as examples of the technology that helped in good governance.
Talking about green energy, he said, “The climate of India is an advantage and could make us a global champion in the green energy sector.”
Gujarat is Very Receptive
Chief Secretary of Gujarat, Pankaj Kumar said, “All technological advancements, disruptions, green hydrogen, data bank and everything, Gujarat has been a very receptive state for new ideas and already on all these fronts, we have started working on that.”
“We have 6 per cent of the geographical area of the country and 5% population of the country but our contribution to the national economy is 8.1% of the GDP,” he added.
“Over last ten years, the percentage of social sector budgetary allocation from the total number of the budgetary allocation has risen from 45% to 55%. For the health sector, it has grown from 5.2% to 8.5%,” Kumar said.
We Are Transparent
In the Q&A session, Mr Kant while, answering a question about a Production Link Incentive Schemes, which was compared to a subsidy by the member of the audience, said, “Five companies get the advantage of the scheme only if you achieve the target.”
“We have to get supply chains to relocate. We are at least being transparent. China and Vietnam are not even transparent, they say you come here, we will give you 20%. We have done it in a very transparent manner, like a good democracy,” Mr Kant added.
Covid-19, An Unprecedented Situation
While interacting with Team VoI about school teachers performing non-teaching duties, he said, “Teachers should focus on learning and that is my strong belief and their focus should be improving learning focus for children. The Covid-19 was an unprecedented situation, but that not hamper learning.”
Talking about clean energy, Mr Kant said the focus should be on Green Hydrogen Energy and other renewables production.
“In Agriculture sector, solar pumps were installed and increased in number over the years. The other focus is to replace chemical fertilisers with natural ones,” he told VoI.
Talking about new schemes associated with SDGs, Mr Kant said, “Government is going to roll out a Green Hydrogen Project. We are working on the green hydrogen mission, which means that not only are we working to achieve the goal but also on using it as an electrolyser in several sectors and how to transport it.”