Narayana Murthy, Chairman of the Board, Infosys Technologies Limited, says our young nation can be proud of its achievements, but key development challenges remain. In his article Eight areas of success, NRN Murthy wrote about 8 areas of success India achieved in the last 60 years. This article is part of The Hindu’s special cover story on Independent India at 60. Quoting this article from the Hindu for all the NRN fans out there!
India completes her 60th year as a free nation on August 15, 2007. According to Hindu tradition, the completion of 60 years is a landmark event in the life of any person and celebrates the wisdom, maturity, accomplishment and the readiness to enter vanaprasta asrama — a phase of life marked by renunciation of worldly responsibilities, and detachment from power, desire, and wealth. However, 60 years is a short span in the life of a nation, and barel y marks the first steps of a toddler. Hence, any assessment of India has to be generous and optimistic.
We have made decent progress in several areas during the last 60 years. We have produced world-class scientists, engineers, journalists, soldiers, bureaucrats, politicians and doctors. We have built complex bridges and dams. We have sent satellites and rockets into space. We have increased the number of doctors ten-fold. We have increased life expectancy from 32 years to 65 years. We have built about 20 lakh km of roads; we have multiplied our steel production by over 50 times and cement production by almost 20 times. We have increased our exports from a few million dollars at the time of Independence to more than $125 billion now.
There is an equally convincing set of data to show that we have a long way to go in certain other areas. A whopping 350 million people are illiterate; 260 million are still below the poverty line; 150 million people lack access to drinking water; 750 million lack decent sanitation; 50 per cent of the children are below acceptable nutrition levels, and basic medicines are unavailable in 75 per cent of the villages.
Be that as it may, I want to focus here on a few major achievements that have transformed the lives of our people in ways we never imagined would happen.
Perhaps no other Indian initiative has enhanced national confidence as much as the Green Revolution initiated by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan. This revolution, which started in 1965, not only transformed India into a food-surplus economy from a food-deficit economy but triggered the expansion of the rural, non-farm economy. It uplifted the lives of at least 400 to 500 million Indians. From being a perennial importer of grain, India became a net exporter of food grains 10 years ago.
Coming from a generation that experienced an acute shortage of milk, it is unimaginable that today we have become the largest producer of milk in the world. The credit goes to the extraordinary vision of Dr. Varghese Kurien, continued ably by Amrita Patel. In a nation where children are malnourished, such abundance of milk has offered us the opportunity to fight malnutrition.
Economic reforms of 1991
The economic reforms of 1991 — initiated by P.V. Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia — opened up the minds of Indian corporate leaders to the power of global markets, helped them accept competition at home and abroad, and raised the confidence of consumers. Our hard currency reserves have gone up from a mere $1.5 billion in 1991 to over $220 billion today. The reforms encouraged entrepreneurship, and gave confidence to businessmen and entrepreneurs to dream big, create jobs, enhance exports, acquire companies abroad and follow the finest principles of corporate governance.
The success of a democracy depends upon certain important values of governance — fairness, transparency and accountability. The freeing of media, particularly television, has laid the foundation for improving these values in our governments. The courage, enthusiasm and the zeal to seek truth shown by scores of young, idealistic journalists and Editors like N. Ram, Arun Shourie, Shekhar Gupta, Sucheta Dalal, Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai, just to mention a few from the English press and TV, are what make us feel confident that the future of this country is safe.
No other technology has brought India — the urban and the rural — together as the 500-line EPABX designed and implemented by the Center for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) under the leadership of Sam Pitroda. This programme brought fresh confidence to the people as they could reach out in a jiffy to their loved ones, officials, and doctors, to name just a few. People no more feel that they live in isolation.
Professor Yash Pal’s Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) blossomed into a full-scale facility connecting millions of villages of India. The television medium has made our political masters realize that their actions and inaction will be seen and judged by every citizen — from the forgotten villages of Assam to the activist villages of Kerala. This technology has given voice to the opinions of a billion people — the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, and the powerful and the disenfranchised.
Dr. Homi Bhabha conceptualized the Indian nuclear programme and initiated nuclear science research in India. His programme has made possible the successful utilization of nuclear energy in defense, power generation, medicine and allied areas. Our peaceful use of nuclear energy has raised India’s prestige as a mature and responsible player in this field.
N. Vittal’s Software Technology Programme, along with the economic reforms of 1991, laid the foundation for the industry’s spectacular progress. India’s Information Technology (IT) exports grew from $150 million in 1991-92 to $31.4 billion in 2006-07, and are projected to reach $60 billion by 2010.
The IT industry is unique for several reasons. It focussed on exports, benchmarked with the best global companies; followed the finest principles of corporate governance; created the largest number of jobs in the organized sector; and demonstrated that Indians could succeed in the most competitive global markets.
What do these eight programmes have in common? They were all led by visionaries. These visionaries accepted global benchmarks and settled for nothing less, despite tremendous odds. In each of these initiatives the national government was a genuine catalyst supported by some extraordinary politicians and bureaucrats. These examples show how the people and the government can work together to achieve what is thought impossible. What do I expect from the India of 2067? I want an India where every child will have access to decent education, health care, nutrition and shelter. I want an India where children belonging to every race, religion and caste are confident that there is a bright future for them if they are honest and hardworking. I want an India which receives respect from every global forum because we Indians will be peace-loving; we will be gracious hosts; we will be fair; we will be pluralistic and respect every faith; we will be trustworthy and our aspirations and accomplishments will be high.