Saturday, June 02, 2007


India, fresh from the first flushes of economic growth. The first full throttle boom now over, we are faced with a unique opportunity in our history as a nation. The chance to transform into a knowledge economy, an intellect driven growth that shall propel us into that elusive developed bracket globally. Are we ready to take the leap? And what do we need to do for this huge transformation?

At the risk of overstating our capabilities, we have the manpower, the intellectual pool that's required for the change. What we lack is a comprehensive policy to shepherd us to the goal of an equal, just, social set up. The state , saddled as it is by limited successes and huge failures of past endeavors at nation building, and huge gaps in the distribution of the fruits of economic growth , is yet unaware of its role in fermenting this much needed change. And change we will have to. And very fast. So, is it then justified when the government looks up to American cooperation to help it cross over into the big league?

On the face of it, there is no harm in India seeking help from America. We are in a globalised world order, where isolation is synonymous to extinction. And given the fact that India has always championed the cause of international cooperation, it is natural that two of the world's largest democracies enact a give-and-take-symbiosis that creates a ripple effect of growth in the sub continent. The only glitch remaining, that America doesn't accord India, or for that matter any other nation, an equal stature.

The big brother, blinded by capitalism, sees in India a huge untapped market. A vast underdeveloped, naïve populace ready to devour anything American, in its quest to go upscale and global. They sell, we buy. We give, they take – doesn't sound fair right?

Americans are eyeing the huge pharmacy, software and agriculture sectors for cooperation. The agricultural growth lag begets a second green revolution, and the Americans seem to promise us just that. Cooperation none the less, but at their terms. The insistence to change Indian IPR laws with a pronounced emphasis on shifting to "incremental patents "regime is a clear attempt at allowing pahrma MNC's from America to monopolize Indian drug markets.

Software initiatives tend to favor the likes of Microsoft in saturating our consumers with their products. Agricultural sector is facing the huge risk of loosing out on technologies and getting heavily dependent on imports. Selling technological end product, instead of indigenous innovation and sharing of existing technical know-how seems to be the American model of cooperative development.

Can India avoid this? In the present global context it is impossible for us to keep the barbarians at the door. We cannot wish away the American's. What we can do though is act now wisely to make this a mutually beneficial alliance. India needs to drastically fine-tune its policies and laws, with more emphasis on implementing them with a heavy hand.
The need of the hour is to tap the vast rural Indian minds, which in the absence of state support come up with cost effective and ecofreindly solutions to challenges that impede growth.

A massive remodeling of science teaching, and reshuffling of scientific hierarchy in the nation is needed. Red tapism and arrogance have walled out genuine minds from entering the portals of elite scientific institutions. Making science viable as a career option will help bring back the youth into the fold of R&D. incentives , scholarships though available even today , are less and inadequate.

Science in India suffers from a sad disease of elitism that scoffs at and fails to recognize the fact that there are agile alert minds ready to take on scientific challenges out of the walls of their campuses too. Fostering the minds of youngsters not only will help improve the quality of science in the country, but will also help us consolidate our stand in the international arena , long after the now benevolent Americans give us the cold shoulder.

India's road to a knowledge based economy passes through its hinterlands, certainly not through the swank by-lanes of the NYC.

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