"I am happy to share my thoughts with you all at this important `International Conference on Development Discourse` being co-hosted by the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Research for Resurgence Foundation (RFRF) and other organizations.
The theme of the conference is quite apt as there is a need for wider debate on the concepts of development and promote interactive discourse on the vital issue. The concept of development is associated with many words like GDP, consumption, human development, income levels, poverty reduction, social development, free markets and westernization.
‘Development’ is the new identity of any nation in 21st century. While it is for the experts and the development economists to decide and define what constitutes real development, I on my part feel that any development should be people-centric and nature-centric.
While development broadly encompasses improving incomes and living conditions, the focus should be on achieving the sustainable Development Goals the world has set for itself in 2015. For a developing nation like India, the need of the hour is to sustain the momentum of economic growth and dovetail its efforts for increasing prosperity and wellbeing of the people.
Making agriculture viable, improving farm income, bridging the Urban Rural Divide, eradicating poverty, tackling climate change, harnessing technology, empowering women and creating jobs are all crucial to sustain this growth momentum.
As we all are aware, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services.
There are arguments that say that GDP can only be a rough indicator of economic growth but not a real measure of the overall development as it does not include several factors such as standard of living, environmental quality, levels of health and education among others. Dear friends,
The ultimate goal of development has evolved from ‘struggle for existence’ to ‘बहुजनहितायबहुजनसुखाय’ (welfare and happiness of majority) and finally achieving ‘सर्वेभवन्तुसुखिनः’ (let all be happy).
Such interactive discourses on development can provide answers to certain paradoxes and define development in a more comprehensive manner.
We have realized over the past few years that “Per Capita Income” and “GDP” are good but inadequate measures of development.
Economic development, it was felt, has to be translated into human and social development. Then, we came to a point of painful realization that we have ignored the protection of our environment in our mad rush towards economic growth and unchecked industrialization. We felt that we have to protect our planet if we have to survive, let alone enjoy the fruits of development. The development paradigm has, therefore, been evolving. The latest global formulation of sustainable development goals lays emphasis on five Ps: People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace and Partnership. It recognizes the need to adopt a holistic, integrated perspective on line and development.
The Indian way of life has traditionally adopted an integrative approach where human beings lived in harmony with nature.
Many Vedic hymns extol the beauty and nourishing features of environment including the hills, the trees, the rivers and oceans, the water and the air. Nature has been treated with reverence in many hymns. Restrained, sustainable use of natural resources is advocated. This emphasis on sustainable lifestyle is echoed in the famous words of father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”
I have always been advocating that our education system right from schools should promote the concept of sustainable development which keeps nature at the centre of mankind’s progress. As mentioned earlier, sustainable development requires symbiotic relationship between economics and environment.
It should be noted that development has to be people-centric. Development should transform human lives for the better. For example, introduction of automation should not displace people from jobs but provide avenues to upgrade their skill sets to take up new roles. Technology should improve the quality of our lives.
It is high time to think, what development actually means to the humanity at large. The bottom line seems to be improvement in the quality of life, how healthy and happy and how fulfilling and emotionally satisfying are our lives.
Prosperity is important. However, there are probably many things that matter in our lives in addition to money. Environment and peace, both external and internal, are critical determinants of the quality of life.
As mentioned in NITI Aayog’s India@75 report, India’s youthful and aspirational population deserves a rapid transformation of the economy, which can deliver double-digit growth, jobs and prosperity to all.
Inclusive economic growth should be central to our development. Making people living in rural areas an integral part in developmental process should be the aim of the policy makers and planners.
Even 71 years after Independence, about 18-20 per cent of the population are living below the poverty line. Eradicating poverty must remain the top priority of the government, NGOs and the private sector. We have to be sensitive and accommodative to the needs of the poorest of the poor in our efforts. We must also ensure that development and welfare go hand-in-hand. It should be remembered that environmental sustainability and people’s well being are not mutually exclusive and every development project must be considered in a holistic manner.
Promoting investments in modernizing agriculture, mainstreaming of rural livelihoods and creating market avenues for rural population will help in ensuring equitable development.
I am happy that the government has undertaken a number of economic reforms including digitization of the economy, financial inclusion, tax reforms like Goods and Services Tax (GST) along with easing approvals.
It is heartening to see more than 326 million persons have opened bank accounts under Jan Dhan in the last four years making financial inclusion a reality. In the wake of the various reforms, tax base has been widened and tax compliance has increased. I am happy that government is focusing on the use of technology through Digital India, Jan Dhan, Adhaar and Mobile in improving governance and reducing pilferages.
The country can achieve rapid progress and bring about a transformation in the lives of both urban and rural people only when we collectively strive to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, caste and gender discrimination as also the twin menaces of black money and terrorism.
Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi’s three-word mantra for ‘Reform, Perform and Transform’ has to be implemented in letter and spirit by all the stakeholders—government, local bodies, educational and medical institutions, NGOs and the private sector to bring about a complete transformation in the lives of the rural people and rural economy in general.
Organisations like yours have a greater role to play in our growth story. You can make invaluable contribution with focused on research on challenges faced by the nation in various sectors, including health and education. The need of the hour is for focused research on what development pathways can lead us to shared prosperity and inclusive, harmonious, environment-friendly life style.
A culture of sharing and caring, of dialogue and understanding, of empathy and compassion can shape a new world.
Similarly, a deeper concern for the protection of bountiful nature ensures that all of us have a bright future. In essence, therefore, preserving culture and nature can pave the way for a brighter future.
I am happy that RFRF is taking a leading role in this endeavor by bringing under one roof academics, teachers, scientists and other intellectuals.
I was informed that the ICDD2019 is intended to converse, contemplate and construct consensus for holistic perspectives and actions.
I am also told that RFRF proposes a Global Level Advanced Research Centre to act as a nodal agency to promote development research. I am sure that conferences such as these would open newer pathways to address the needs of the people through a comprehensive discourse on development.
With these words let me congratulate the Research for Resurgence Foundation, Lead Host, the English and Foreign Languages University, and other co-hosts in bringing academicians, industrialists, and researchers onto a common platform. I wish you the very best in your future endeavors.