As 2019 closes on a low note, be it the Economy or the Society, the eyes turn to the next year and the overriding priorities for 2020. Is a turnaround possible? Not just Economic Recovery but, also, Sentiment and Confidence. There are 9 basic issues which need to be addressed.
First, the critical need for Dialogue, two-way, three-way, multiple-ways, where we not only talk to each other but, equally important, listen to each other. And, find a middle way. Dialogue has been missing. Views, strongly expressed, are the common features of supposed engagement. One-way traffic of expressions of views by all but ‘Listening’ to other views and ‘Dialogue’ is absent. Indians needs to get back to a Dialogue mode, speaking and listening. And, as necessary, using neutral moderators and facilitators to bring people together to a shared view.
Second, through a process of Dialogue, the building of Mutual Trust. Indian Society, currently, is facing a deficit of Trust. All players are responsible – business and industry, civil society, political parties, politicians, government etc etc. No single section is solely responsible for this distressing situation of lack of Mutual Trust. There are pluses and minuses in every sphere. The first step of Dialogue will help bridge the Trust Deficit. This is achievable and must be attempted in 2020.
Third, fundamental to all communication and activity is Transparency. And, this concerns all, impacts all and involve all. Currently, it is lacking in all sections, irrespective of image, perceived reputation and supposed credibility, or otherwise. The Transparency agenda calls for a new leaf to be turned in the hearts and minds of the Indian people, especially those who are seen to be ‘Leaders’ and ‘Spokespersons’.
Fourth, somewhere along the way we, Indians, have forgotten the value of ‘Simplicity’. And, when one tries to form and image of ‘Simplicity’, the life in village, rural society generally prevails. People there may live in Poverty or near-poverty but a huge quality which commends itself is ‘Simplicity’. Gandhiji was perhaps the most recognized person for his Simplicity and, with it, directness. Recapturing the norms of Simplicity would be an important agenda for 2020.
Fifth, there is a preoccupation in India, especially urban India, with all things “Big” and “Ugly” (not Beautiful!). When solutions are discussed, these are also ‘Big’, involving high cost and complex mechanisms for follow through. But, a much more manageable way forward is to think of multiple “Small” solutions, which are also much easier to implement. For example, in creating jobs, the real answer lies in Micro entrepreneurship, not with large companies with large capital-intensive investments. Micro entrepreneurship is really Beautiful in every way – in terms of investment and effort, in terms of self-employment and employment, in terms of dignity, in terms of staying where one’s roots are (the village), in not disrupting the family system and so on. “Small is Beautiful” and far easier to achieve quick results and gain benefits. 2020 needs to see a shift in priority to the “Small”.
Sixth, 2020 also needs to see us re-focus on Implementation as distinct from announcements and promises. And, if the new focus is on “Small” and “Medium”, the implementation part will be much easier, achievable and for all to see. The lack of implementation has been a source of great concern. Multiple announcements have not led to their full and complete implementation leading to loss of faith and credibility. This needs to be set right in 2020.
Seventh, the world is being swept by a Technology Tsunami which is impacting the lives of everyone, rich or poor. The mobile telephone is the most visible example. This Tsunami is led by USA, followed by China, which is making rapid strides. The 5G technology developed by China is an example.
In this scenario, the Indian Technology Initiative becomes very important to fuel Development and Growth. With near-700 million people living in the rural areas, India particularly needs to focus on Technologies to improve the lives of the rural and agricultural population. More than ever before, this must be a priority for 2020. For this, the focus must be on Agricultural Technology, use of Space Technology for Crop Forecasting, Energy Technology to make available supply of decentralized green power, Education and Healthcare Technologies for Distance support, to mention just a few.
Eighth, India is both fortunate and unfortunate to be geographically located near the Equator. One unfortunate issue is the weather, the heat, the humidity and the challenges of people keeping FIT. Together with the weather, diet is also an issue, as a result of which obesity and a variety of health issues such as Diabetes are problems. 2020 needs to see a change in the lifestyle of people, with firm focus on fitness irrespective of the weather and by changing diet habits. Physical and mental fitness are connected as well productivity and efficiency. Indians need to make a new beginning.
Ninth, and the final point, relates to Values. India is known for its spiritual roots and strengths but Indians, today, need to revisit and review the Values they believe in, the Values they live by, the Values which are central to their lives. A “Good Society” can only happen if people have good Values and 2020 is a year for deep introspection and action.
India, and Indians, have much to ponder and work on. As the country is in its 73rd year of Independence it is time to get the Basics right so that our children and grandchildren inherit a Nation more at peace with itself.