Nandan Nilekani’s ‘Imagining India’

For months, I was eagerly waiting for Nandan Nilekani‘s ‘Imagining India‘. Many a times, I find myself in dilemma of answering to me only, if I am a book lover or book collector. Yamuna, my wife, as usual, thinks I only collect books, I don’t read. I confess I am not a first-page-to-last- page reader of any book. But I read essentially the interesting chapters, particularly the first and the last ones. While the first one provides a fair idea of the contents with the mission and style of the book, the last chapter provides the conclusive remarks with future trends and the relevance of the contents dealt with in the book.

I told Anand about ‘Imagining India‘ who is equally sold about books. He didn’t find it on Amazon, but then when I showed another Indian site, he helped me in ordering the book from here (USA) itself. If everything goes as we hope, I shall have it in the mails, waiting for me on my return to India.

I have some more reasons to associate myself with Nandan Nilekani. Firstly, Nilekani is also an IITian, and secondly, I had also taken the adventure in writing a book even though I was in manufacturing sector and the people around me were hardly appreciative. I did succeed in getting my book on ‘Machining Trouble shooting’ (no more in print) published through Tata-McGraw-Hill.
I don’t have any intention to compare myself with Nandan. He has gone much higher than I could. Thomas Friedman in his book ‘The World is Flat’ gives credit for the title of the book to Nandan, who was one of the founders of Infosys. Will ‘Imagining India’ make Nandan a bigger celebrity? I wish so.

Many months ago, I had read an article of Nandan, ‘Six Things That Changed India’. That was perhaps the part of his book planned. Six things are as follows:

1.Gigantic human capital: The mindset of India about population has changed from looking at it as ‘burden’ to thinking of it as human capital. It will be India’s “demographic dividend” as in the next 20 to 30 years India would “have the largest pool of young people in the world, when the rest of the world is aging.”

However, I favour certain amount of control in population as a necessity to reduce pathetic poverty levels, though not through as harsh as China’s ‘one child policy’.

2. Entrepreneurship gains acceptance: Entrepreneurs are no longer viewed with suspicion but as icons of economic growth. Today, India has the largest pool of entrepreneurial talents outside the United States. Indian entrepreneurs are not afraid of liberalization anymore and globally competitive. They are investing abroad, and are buying companies abroad.

I wish all entrepreneurs follow the Infosys track record of creating wealthy employees too.

3. The power of English: English is no longer viewed as an imperial language. More and more people, whether they are in villages or small towns, are realizing that if they really want to participate in the global economy, and they really want to bring more income to their lives, they have to learn English. And, the political system has accepted this because more and more states — which had stopped teaching English — are now going back to teaching English from class one.

I differ with Nilekani on the issue a little. It is not necessary to teach English from class one. However, I agree that our children must learn English or any other foreign language that enhances employability as the second language.

4. Change in democracy: The notion of democracy had undergone a major transformation. Today, it has gone to become a bottom-up democracy where everybody understands their democratic rights — not just in the sense of parliamentary democracy or contesting elections. You see people taking charge and doing things in India without waiting for the state to do the job. Today, India is the most thriving place in the world for NGOs.

But can the synergies of NGOs be focused to one single purpose of universalizing education in India? Is it not the one big thing that can make real difference? Can technologies rescue when teachers sleep in class or give a slip?

5. The technology revolution: Technology had catapulted India and helped it leap-frog several decades. For example, India’s entire national election was held on electoral voting machines. Today, India has the most modern stock markets in the world and they are completely electronic. Mobile phone has become accessible to everybody. With more and more applications, it causes a quantum leap in productivity and much of this has fuelled the economic growth.

Why is India not having an explosive growth with manufacturing going to huts and hamlets?

6. Globalization embraced: India had adopted a progressive view of globalization. Our companies have become globally competitive and are willing to go out and global factors are really playing in India’s favour today.

I experience every day here in US how globalization has helped Indians. Today, one can find the parents from remote villages from all over India in every part of US visiting their siblings who work here. Could it be possible without globalization?

I can’t but agree with Nilekani that “there is a lot of work ahead in really reforming and improving the quality of education — both primary and secondary. Having just a few Indian Institutes of Technology or Indian Institutes of Management is no panacea. You need to have hundreds of them, like they have in China.”

And yes we can.

PS: Read a chapter-From Bangalore One To Country One

India, By Its People

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