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If I Were...
[ Issue 118 Page 10 ] Wednesday, November 21, 2012, 16:47:25 Shanti Swaroop Kandala swaroop.kaist@gmail.com

If I were the head of my country, I would reform and revitalize education and develop infrastructure, including human capital. This would ensure a sustainable approach to deal with two pressing problems that currently plague India: corruption and poverty.

Education is a critical tool to spread awareness about socio-economic hurdles among Indians. Post-independence India has been making steady progress on economic, social, and political fronts, but is still not meeting its potential. Statistics show that the gross enrollment ratio has dropped down from 81% in middle school to a mere 20% in higher education. A major cause for this decrease is the fact that the budget allocated for education falls 40% short of that required. Corroborating this, the United Nations reports show that India has the lowest public expenditure on higher education per student in the world. Socio-economic infrastructure development, including quality human capital, would play a vital role in this regard.

High-level implementation would be crucial to the success of such programs. The first step is to increase the budget allocations for middle school and higher education, as recommended by the Bordia and Kakodkar Committees set up by the government to reform the education system. Gaining the support of political parties for such initiatives is an arduous task: with 32.5% of the population living under the poverty line, they would declare that this problem requires attention first. Their concerns can be allayed with socio-economic infrastructural development, which would immediately reduce unemployment and poverty. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2011-12 Global Competitiveness Report, India is ranked 89th, lowest among the BRICS economies for providing basic infrastructure in terms of transport, information and communications technology, and energy. Further seen is a decline in the infrastructural investment year after year for the past three years; and it doesn’t help that the government has failed to meet the target of 500 billion U.S. dollars as defined in the 11th Five Year Plan (2006-2011), falling short by 75 billion U.S. dollars. The main hurdles that impede the path to resolving these problems are land acquisitions, approvals, and environmental clearances, as opined by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Ernst & Young. Prompt action and active monitoring are the two basic tools to overcome these obstacles. The FICCI and Ernst & Young suggest a streamlined land-acquisition process, fast-tracking policy, and regulation reforms for an enhanced implementation, and more importantly, effective monitoring of projects for speedy regulatory approvals and clearances are critical steps required to ensure sustainable success. Investing in infrastructure not only provides better facilities but also immediately addresses the problems of unemployment and poverty.

The effect the educational and infrastructural transformations can have on India is manifold. Firstly, retention in higher education would improve, which would not only bring awareness about social and economic problems, but also would directly influence the bringing down of corruption levels. It would also improve standards of living and reduce poverty. Infrastructural development, including that of human capital, would have a positive impact in improving facilities available to people by directly addressing the problem of unemployment.

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