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From the 20th of May 2022 to the 22nd of May 2022, I was in Bengaluru blown over by the confluence of ideas at the India 2.0 – Rebooting to Meta Era conclave – the 7th India Ideas conclave organized by India Foundation consisted of discussions by leading experts on technology, economy, social sciences, etc. The conference was a step or reflection of the fact that while the world changes, India too is experiencing a reboot and restructuring in its various sectors- from politics to economy to technology to education, etc. Technology especially has touched and sent footprints in every aspect of the country. So, what will India look like 25 years from now and how it would be?
The conclave was charged off with the inaugural address by Shri Ashwini Vaishnav, Union Minister for Railways & IT, who had just tested India’s very own indigenously build 5G technology and had a test call at IIT Madras, and the next day he was here with us and painting a vision for the audience for India 2.0. He highlighted that we must master technologies that are the fundamental driving forces for the shaping of the world starting off with the telecom stack, the semiconductor and the design and manufacturing ecosystem of devices. While we master these technologies, he emphasized, we should also strive to figure out bridging the digital divide for digital inclusion. In a world where the technology cycles are becoming increasingly smaller, making sure people at the bottom of the pyramid get a chance to compete in this world and benefit from the technologies must be a primary goal and for a country like ours, it’s not possible until we build our own technologies for home and the globe. Shri Ashwini Vaishnav highlighted the government’s initiatives towards this including the focus on Antyodaya, developing a 5G technology stack, and towards preparedness to take the lead in the world for the development of 6G, focus on developing 85,000 talent pool for the semiconductor industry, etc.
Post the inaugural section, the three days conclave consisted of the panel and presentation-based discussions on various aspects of India 2.0. The first one on Economy 2.0 was led by V Anantha Nageshwaram, Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance. He highlighted that the conflict in Ukraine is a reminder that technology is at best a source of partial answers to the challenges that we face. India, therefore, needs to focus on fiscal prudence and fiscal sustainability. The government’s initiatives like production-linked incentive schemes, asset monetization schemes, and re-embarking on privatization are great steps towards this. Economy 2.0 should be about responsible economics. This entails the following elements along with – fiscal prudence such as reforming the power sector, less government litigation, reform in education and investment in research and development. The road to a Meta economy is through this and technology can be the icing on the cake for these steps.
The section on Politics 2.0, moderated by Rajdeep Roy, Member of Parliament from Assam, revolved around the idea that politics now is moving from a slow-paced and top-down approach of the past to a fast-paced, technology-driven and constant reach to the electorate. While 6 out of 7 millennials get their news from social media, can our modern generation politicians connect to them while making meaningful conversations? The discussion revolved around India’s continuing success as a democratic nation which needs to be furthered by using mobile phones and the internet to make the process more participatory. Ms. Abhinandita, Advisor to the Government of Delhi (AAP), highlighted that while technology is one of the mediums used to reach out to people for election, we need to emphasize how we can use the technology to give back to the people in the form of governance.
During the discussion on Commerce and Industry 2.0, Union Minister for Housing, Petroleum and Natural Gas- Shri Hardeep Sigh Puri, emphasized on how the pandemic has highlighted the need for countries to be self-sufficient since international commitments like ‘Free trade’ can face challenges in a time of crisis. Shri BVR Subramanium, Commerce Secretary, GoI, highlighted that the dream of making India a $50 trillion model economy 25 years from now is possible. For this India will have to keep up with the changing trends that are emerging or show signs of growth. This includes- demand for shorter but more efficient supply chains, globalization of services, digitization of services and servicification of manufacturing. 3D printing for example highlights that from mass production, the demand will soon be for heavily customized products. India needs to shape its industries and commerce around this.
India 2.0 could not be complete without the discussion on Society 2.0- gender, marriage and family. The discussion highlighted the need for Uniform Civil Code through piecemeal reform, furthering the rights of women as well as mapping the changes in institutions like marriage and understanding the support required. We need to look at Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism facilitating personal disputes/litigations and reducing the trauma among families. Technology can support these transitions.
Shri Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union Minister for Civil Aviation, gave a special keynote address where he emphasized that by 2047, India would emerge as an economy with multiple poles consisting of – “fragmented and decentralized mini-economies powered and connected digitally with international markets”. I had the opportunity to raise a question to Shri Scindia on whether India’s progress towards becoming a connecting hub with mega airports and the growing airline industry on which Shri Scindia explained about the increasing number of airports and expansion projects taking place in the major airports all over the country, while at the same time small townships are being connected to major metros.
The conclave wrapped up with the message that while India seeks to transform itself, we should not forget our culture. The spiritual leader Om Swami gave the attendees a wonderful takeaway that while every government strives hard for development, India needs a strong foundation for it to grow. Therefore, he emphasized, that we should not shy away from our religion and our spirituality in the name of progress but embrace them as part of the journey.
To me as a young Indian, the 7th India Ideas Conclave, brought great hope for the country, as we progress, we should never forget that Dharma & Karma are the two strong pillars of our society as well as a vision for which all of us can strive for as pathway for leading India into becoming the world’s natural guide and responsible leading power.