India 2020 is an unforgettable book by the late Dr. Kalam who presented his vision for 2020. We have now crossed 2020 and the next landmark is 2030. If you were looking for a book that could give you an inkling of what 2030 would look like, then this is the book you need to read. The book ‘India 2030’ is a collection of essays by Gautam Chikermane, Vice-President of Observer Research Foundation and a well-known media professional. A Jefferson fellow, Chikermane presents a collection of essays predicting how 2030 is likely to be. This review explores some of the key essays and its themes presented.
At the outset, Chikermane makes it clear that this book is not prescriptive; it does not tell the government or the public what to do. Each author presents his predictions on what the future would hold for India. The book contains essays on various themes by thought leaders, people who know what they are talking about. The most interesting concept in this book is that of the ‘Rajasic Nation’. I have heard of the term ‘Rajasic’ being used previously in relation to health and food. The concept of Rajasic Nation was intriguing.
Being a fan of the Mahabharata and a student of Sri Aurobindo, there is none more qualified to explain the concept of ‘Rajasic Nation’ than Chikermane. In the first introductory essay of the book, he talks about how ‘Tamas’ had put pressure on India right from the time of the Kurukshetra war. He talks about how the nationalism movement gave an impetus to the change from ‘Tamasic’ to ‘Rajasic’.
He gives an overview of the challenges ahead on different fronts, ranging from ideology to dynasties, and media narratives to the world of arts. He concludes by talking of how the 2020s has been the harbinger for the return to the roots. He predicts that the post-COVID decade would be India’s moment where the world looks at us to provide stability to chaos. He predicts that the Rajasic force would act as a spiritual driver for Indian’s transformation.
The first essay by Rajesh Parikh (Director, Medical Research of Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai) talks about the health challenges that we need to gear up to in this decade. He highlights the potential dangers of bioterrorism and the scary scenario of growing antimicrobial resistance. He predicts how AI will have a role to play in the decades to come in the fight against diseases.
BJP’s ideologue Ram Madhav in his essay predicts a return to conservatism. This is interesting since Chikermane stresses in his intro that India will remain a liberal nation. He then writes about Modi’s leadership and ‘right’ politics. Madhav stresses on how cultural roots, civilizational symbols, and nationalism would define the way forward. He concludes on how good governance has made Modi invincible and highlights the challenges on the economy front.
Eminent economist and author Dr. Bibek Debroy begins his essay by highlighting how the youth of India will use their entrepreneurial mindset to help India’s per capita income cross $4000 by 2030. This is a major prediction and he is clear that this will happen even if the growth in this decade is not spectacular. He presents his view on a very significant theme, that of inequality and inequity. He says redistribution of wealth can reduce inequality while creation of wealth can reduce inequity. Dr. Debroy predicts that the focus would now be on wealth generation, thanks to the post-1991 generation driving policy measures. He concludes by saying that inequality is not an issue now and we should worry about it when our per capita income crosses $20,000.
Justice (retd.) B N Srikrishna in his essay spends time on explaining how technology would act as a solution to fix the problems faced by the judiciary. He touches on the controversial Collegium System and predicts it will change (but does not explain the form it may take). The learned justice gives a stark picture of the justice system, saying its credibility is at a nadir. He ends by hoping that the system would ‘take an exponential flight to efficiency’.
The irrepressible defence analyst (and my favourite Twitter personality) Abhijit Iyer-Mitra lists out nine trends in defence that would dominate in this decade. He makes a significant statement that our defence spending is deeply wasteful. He predicts a shift towards empowering MSMEs instead of investing in big-ticket projects. Iyer-Mitra gives an interesting analysis on how Balakot may have been a success, but at the same time exposes how our assets don’t interface with each other. In conclusion, he lists nine specific predictions as trends for the 2020s. He predicts a move from public sector to private sector spending in defence production. He also interestingly predicts that our reliance on Russia will be lesser than before. Finally, he predicts that the reforms in the defence sector could be taken as a pilot project to reform the economy as a whole.
Being an avid fan of the spy novels, I eagerly looked forward to spymaster Vikram Sood’s predictions. He talks about how technology will help in the forthcoming Cold War III. For India, he presents three security challenges – China, Pakistan, and Islamist terror. He highlights the security risks posed by technologies like 5G, 6G, etc., particularly when China is involved. He highlights what security means to each one of us. With the digital world having subsumed us, we face hacking threats at every level. He stresses on how we citizens need to be overly watchful. His message seems to be clear, we need to reinvent, else we will be in big trouble.
Samir Saran, the President of Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in his essay talks about how India will be a bridge nation. He predicts that India’s economic governance will help it make its voice heard in the world. He predicts that India can be the First ‘Developmental’ Superpower if it can help a majority of its population reach middle-income levels. Saran repeatedly stresses on how COVID has given India an opportunity to wield its influence.
IT honcho Manish Sabharwal presents an interesting essay on productivity and makes a key statement that the problem in India is not of jobs, but of wages. He does a very interesting comparison of GDPs of different countries, states, and cities to explain his point. He comes out with a really thought-provoking statement that our problem is not unemployment, but of employed poverty. Sabharwal rues that we created corporate dwarfs instead of babies that would grow. He highlights six areas (increased urbanization, increased industrialization, increased formalization, increased digital payments, better governance, and better skills) that would change things for us by 2030. He concludes that India has an opportunity not just to become the third largest economy, but also to send poverty to the text books by 2030.
Parth Shah of the Indian School of Public Policy makes four fantastic forecasts in education and lists out six challenges that the education system would face. He highlights the main problems that our education system is facing – like the low relevance of learning, the tyranny of board exams, and how innovation in higher education is being killed thanks to the regulatory system. Shah predicts a change in regulations. He forecasts that education financing will soon focus on per student funding. His important prediction is that the antiquated notion of ‘education being non-profit’ will be out. We can sincerely hope his prediction will come true, but seeing the speed at which reforms in education are being carried out, it seems doubtful if this will indeed happen.
Science and Technology
Former DG of CSIR, R A Mashelkar asks three questions that should make the people in charge wake up. He asks if we can make breast cancer screening available for every woman at $1 per scan. He asks if we can offer ECG reports at Rs. 5 per test through a portal machine. He asks if we can detect dengue in a test that takes 15 minutes at $2. Mashelkar talks about how young start-ups are making these challenges possible. He hopes that by 2030, technology will be available for all and not just for the privileged few. He also makes a key point that we cannot become ‘China-less’ and instead focus on ‘less and less China’.
Well-known author Amish Tripathi dwells on how India will be the confluence of both materialism and spiritualism. He looks at soft power BC (Before Corona) and AC (After Corona). Amish talks about how excess consumerism and individualism has devastated the environment. He then highlights on how the Indian spiritual path helps us to be liberal, even while being traditional. He predicts that Indian’s soft power fuelled by spiritualism will change the world in a way that the world itself cannot imagine.
The learned Dr. David Frawley in his essay writes about how a Dharmic future awaits India once it reconnects to its ancient past. He sees the emergence of Narendra Modi and the cultural resurgence as positive trends that would make this happen. Dr. Frawley makes an interesting point on how Indology looks at India from a foreign viewpoint. He says that the modern study of India has in fact diminished it. He laments that India under Nehru reflected the mindset of colonial India and subsequent governments continued with this legacy. Dr. Frawley explains how India as a civilization is defined by the concept of Rashtra. He outlines how our economics is the creation of abundance as an offering for a spiritual quest. His prediction is that consciousness studies will see a resurgence and India will be a doorway to the cosmos. He bemoans how the influence of the left poses a challenge. In conclusion, he explains the concept of ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ and explains how this cosmic reality can help us transform humanity.
Gautam Chikermane has put in a painstaking effort bringing together some of the best minds in India to create this collection of essays. It is a comprehensive book that doesn’t miss out on any topic. Banking, insurance, energy, defence, culture, urbanization – every single topic is covered. The authors have used their expertise to make their predictions on how India would be in 2030. Reading this book gives you the confidence that there are good things to look forward to in a decade from now.
The book has a quote by the Prime Minister on its cover. I hope the PM would read this book and make the key people who frame policies read it. The chapters on intelligence and defence make positive predictions, but highlight very serious concerns. Hope the policy makers look into these issues. The essay on education is extremely optimistic, but in my view the scenario is not as rosy unless the HRD ministry seriously starts action on this now. For example, we have been hearing of a regulatory body to replace UGC from more than 3-4 years, but nothing concrete has happened.
Dr. Debroy’s assertion about our per capita increase – even if we don’t do so well sends positive vibes. There is no doubt that India has proved itself to the world after the COVID crisis. The coming decade belongs to us. We can hope to see India as a ‘Developmental Superpower’. Now that Gautam Chikermane has come out with a predictive vision document, hope he turns his attention next to creating a prescriptive Vision 2030 book.
This book was illuminating. Whether you are a student, a policy maker, or just an ordinary citizen you should read this book once. It gives you hope that India’s soft power will help in fueling the growth of a Rajasic Nation by 2030.
Author’s Note: I received this book from Indic Book Club as a part of the 1000 Reviewers’ Club initiative. Thanks to Abhinav Agarwal and his team for the great work they are doing in sending Indic books to book lovers.
India 2030: The Rise of a Rajasic Nation is available here.
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