“Shri Balkrishan Goenka Ji, President, ASSOCHAM; Dr Niranjan Hiranandani, Senior Vice President, Shri Vineet Agarwal, Vice President and Shri Deepak Sood, Secretary General, ASSOCHAM.
Distinguished diplomats, senior officials from the Centre and State Governments, captains of Indian industry, friends from the Media, sisters and brothers.
Thank you for inviting me to deliver the 21st ASSOCHAM JRD Tata Memorial Lecture, instituted in the name of Shri Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, popularly known as Shri JRD Tata.
I feel specially privileged to deliver this lecture because Shri JRD Tata was not only a doyen of the Indian industry but also a visionary leader who foresaw a rising India and contributed to nation building in many remarkable ways.
He has been synonymous with high ethical standards and the pioneering spirit of entrepreneurship.
I am happy that the tradition of institution building and ethical business with a sense of responsibility towards society continues today in the house of the Tatas, being steered eminently by Shri Ratan Tata Ji.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The theme of today's lecture is 'Rising India--Strength to Strength'.
I must compliment ASSOCHAM for choosing this theme as it not only generates such positive thoughts and feelings about the inherent strength of our nation, but reminds us of the glorious past and the need to strive further continuously for building a bright, prosperous and inclusive India.
It is a matter of great pride for us that our nation is rising in stature in various fields - be it economic, geo-political influence, defence, sports, science, IT and space technology.
As far as economy is concerned, I am quite confident that the recent measures taken by the Government of India will simulate investments, attract capital flows and give a push to GDP growth in the coming months. With the government committed to pursuing various reforms, India has the potential to emerge as one of the leading economies in the next 10 years.
Above all, we are proud of being the world's largest and the most vibrant democracy of 130 crore aspirational Indians representing a vast diversity of religions, regions, castes, cultures and traditions. The foundations of the democracy are supported by strong institutions of Parliament and Judiciary, a dynamic private sector and an independent and vibrant media.
Dear sisters and brothers,
The fundamentals of Indian economy are strong and India continues to be among the fastest growing major economies of the world. India has moved 14 places in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking and is placed at 63rd place among 190 nations. This has been possible due to extensive economic reforms initiated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.
The right kind of environment has been created for doing business. I call upon the industry leaders to make best use of the opportunities.
Rising India should mean the rise in the living standards of every Indian. Not only should there be greater ease of doing business but there should be greater “ease of living” as well.
As J R D Tata had said, “I don't want India to be an economic superpower. I want India to be a happy country. No success or achievement in material terms is worthwhile unless it serves the needs or interests of the country and its people and is achieved by fair and honest means.”
India will rise only if each Indian rises. It will grow faster only if each Indian gets involved in its growth story and if each Indian feels the quality of life improving.
With this in mind, the government had initiated several flagship schemes. Welfare and upliftment of the common man has been the focus of all these schemes-be it Ujjwala, Ayushman Bharat, Swachh Bharat or Jan Dhan Yojana. They are meant to empower the people and make them active partners in India’s growth story.
Given the advantage of the huge educated, technical and scientific human capital, the expanding middle class with disposable incomes, the vast consumer market, India has the potential to fast track the growth trajectory by expanding the manufacturing sector, improving the infrastructure and fully leveraging the IT talent pool, among others.
Digital India is one such important program which envisions transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. Universal access to broadband connectivity and mobile connectivity will help bridge the distance between rural and urban India.
Similarly, Jan DhanYojana created a world record in opening the largest number of bank accounts in shortest time. It has made financial inclusion a reality.
Today, JAM trinity (Jan Dhan – Aadhar – Mobile) has enabled us to use DBT mechanism for transfer of benefits directly to the beneficiaries. At present, funds of more than 425 schemes are getting transferred to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries through DBT.
This extensive use of digital technology has reduced corruption and improved the transparency. The use of digital technology to a large extent has ensured that the deserving people received the benefits meant for them.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Though schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana have ensured financial inclusion, now our focus must be on financial literacy. I call upon the private sector to work with the Governments, financial institutions and NGOs to bring financial literacy to the masses.
When it comes to industry, we are well integrated with the global supply chain in a number of industries like automobiles, engineering, pharmaceuticals, and information technology to mention a few.
Is it not a clear sign of a Rising India’s strength that the cutting edge back-end solutions of scores of Fortune 500 companies are being developed in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai, However, we cannot remain complacent. We must use the cutting edge technologies to come up with new products and processes and become the digital hub of the world. I would like the private sector to create the right ecosystem for young Indian talent flourish by according greater importance to research and innovation.
India also has come a long way from being a host to multi-national companies headquartered in the US, Europe and Japan to creating our own MNCs across the world. If we go anywhere in the world, we will find Indian companies being present there.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
As mentioned earlier, Infrastructure is a key pillar for national development. Tremendous progress has been made in this regard in recent years.
India is also better connected today. With an average of 27 kms of national highways and 134 kms of roads being built every day, our villages are better connected and this will improve their overall economic activities. Air connectivity has also witnessed significant increase with an addition of 40 airports. India has emerged as the world’s third largest aviation market.
We have embarked on many other ambitious projects which include building 100 smart cities, 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, 10green field airports, 5 major ports and connecting our villages with broadband internet. All villages in India have been electrified.
Over 8 crore LPG connections have been given under the Ujjwala scheme and more than 2.6 crore electricity connections have been provided under Saubhagya scheme. In fact, the International Energy Agency called India’s rural electrification journey as one of the greatest success stories in the year 2018.
Swachh Bharat Mission, the world’s largest sanitation program, has changed the behavior of hundreds of millions of people with respect to toilet access and usage. Over 10 crore toilets have been built across rural India under the Mission. Over 5.9 lakh villages and 699 districts have been declared ODF( Open Defecation Free), along with 36 ODF States and Union Territories.
This expansion of basic infrastructure to the rural India and to the last mile will lay the foundation for inclusive development in the true spirit of Gandhi Ji’s Talisman.
Rising India has another dimension. The dimension of human capital. We need to remember that education is one of the key drivers of country’s transformation. As Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first education minister whose birth anniversary falls today, had emphasised, “we must not for a moment forget, it is a birth right of every individual to receive at least the basic education without which he cannot fully discharge his duties as a citizen.”
Today, more than 65 percent of Indian population is under the age of 35 years. It is potentially a great demographic dividend. However, we have to realize this dividend. It will be possible only if we provide them the right kind of skills and opportunities. We must create the right conditions for their growth and development.
The Government has launched Skill India Mission to skill Indian youth. According to the World Economic Forum’s report “The Future of Jobs 2018”, more than half of Indian workers will require reskilling by 2022 to meet the talent demands of the future. I call upon the industry to join hands with the government to create a workforce that has the 21st century skills.
Only skilling is not sufficient. For better productivity, we need a workforce that is not only intellectually and attitudinally fit but even physically fit, which is why the Prime Minister has recently launched the Fit India movement. We need to take this movement forward.
Similarly, ensuring equal opportunities for women is a key element of rising India. We must empower women and create an eco-system that gives them equal opportunities to grow and contribute to national development.
Dear sisters and brothers,
We also have to be proud of our achievements in the farm sector. Our farmers have not only made India self-sufficient in food grains and other agri-products, but are also producing surplus. In 2018-19, the country produced about 282 million tonnes of food grains. I am sure that with reforms in the agri-sector, this sector would even lead the economic growth in the coming years.
In the global arena, India is rising up to assume a leadership position whether it is the issue of climate change, multilateral trade liberalisation or in geo-political affairs. India is being recognized as a strong power not only in terms of its rising economic and market potential but also for its soft power.
Sisters and brothers,
As we remember the great son of India, Shri JRD Tata, let me share my optimism with you of a New India, which will continue to rise from strength to strength. What we need is effective implementation and enhanced productivity, the two aspects highlighted by JRD Tata when he had said, “The effective execution of a Plan is what counts and not mere planning on paper; it is not what we put on our plate or even what we eat that provides nourishment and growth, but what we digest. Productivity and efficiency can be achieved only step by step with sustained hard work, relentless attention to details and insistence on the highest standards of quality and performance.” I hope we take a leaf out of the extraordinary legacy of the Bharat Ratna JRD Tata to shape a dynamic, forward looking, people-centric, inclusive India. This was the India that our constitution makers had dreamt of and visionary industrialists like JRD Tata have laid a strong foundation for.
I extend my thanks to the ASSOCHAM leadership for inviting me to deliver this prestigious lecture. I do hope we shall all work together and draw upon our core competencies and blend our strengths to make India rise to greater heights in the years to come.