Propelling India’s development the right way
The Indian space program, once viewed with skepticism as a daring venture, has now achieved remarkable feats. From landing a rover on the moon’s south pole to launching missions to study the sun, India’s progress in space technology is undeniable. However, amidst these stellar achievements, there remains a pressing concern – the coexistence of technological triumphs with persistent poverty and destitution for millions of Indians.
GS-03 (Science and technology)
Analyze India’s historical approach to technological development and its impact on economic growth and social inequalities. (150 words)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Early Initiatives in Technology and Industry
- Moonshot Development Strategy
- Criticisms and Challenges
- Role of Public Funding
- Impact on Private Enterprise
- Inequalities and Their Consequences
- Impacts on Economic Growth
Early Initiatives in Technology and Industry:
- India’s journey in the realm of advanced technologies and industrialization began even before the establishment of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in 1969.
- The Department of Atomic Energy, formed in the early 1950s, played a crucial role in coordinating space research.
- Simultaneously, India established prestigious academic institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management during the 1950s and 1960s.
Moonshot Development Strategy:
- India’s approach to development during this period can be likened to a ‘moonshot’ strategy, driven by the belief that modern industrialization could propel the nation forward after centuries of colonial rule.
- Visionaries like Vikram Sarabhai saw the potential of satellites in building a nationwide telephone system and providing education on agriculture and health.
Criticisms and Challenges:
- Critics of India’s development strategy have raised concerns about heavy reliance on public investment and misdirection of resources.
- Some argued that, as a labor surplus country, India should have focused on labor-intensive industries like garments and footwear instead of investing in capital and technology-intensive sectors.
Role of Public Funding:
- The lengthy gestation period and initial high costs associated with new technologies make it unlikely for private players to lead in their development.
- Public funding has been instrumental in India’s space mission, ensuring continued support even when short-term commercial viability was uncertain.
- Public investment is crucial due to the long-term and public good nature of emerging technologies.
Impact on Private Enterprise:
- India’s technological capabilities, nurtured through state support, provided a foundation for private enterprise across various sectors, including pharmaceuticals, information technology, and space exploration.
- Professionals trained in public universities have assumed leadership positions globally, enhancing India’s strategic significance.
Inequalities and Their Consequences:
- Despite technological progress, India grapples with persistent inequalities, particularly in asset ownership and access to education.
- Land redistribution programs have not been effectively implemented, leading to ownership disparities. This inequality perpetuates in the labor market, where privileged groups with greater access to higher education secure better-paying jobs.
Impacts on Economic Growth:
- Inequality has repercussions on India’s industrial and economic growth. A skewed distribution of domestic demand primarily from the upper-income classes has hindered the growth of high-quality, mass-consumption goods. Entrepreneurship has also been limited to a narrow social segment.
- India should recognize the strengths and shortcomings of its post-independence development strategy. The ambitious approach to building technological and industrial capabilities through state support was a commendable endeavor.
- To compete in emerging economic fields like semiconductors and biotechnology, India must revive such efforts. The belief that industrial policy has no place in a globalized economy should be reconsidered, especially in light of government support provided by the United States and China.
India’s journey in utilizing technology for development has achieved significant milestones but remains unfinished. To truly succeed, India must ensure inclusive and widespread economic growth. Accessible higher education for all, including marginalized communities, is essential. India’s mission to use technology as a catalyst for development is only half complete. Empowering its billion-strong population with the social and human capabilities for upward mobility will be akin to a lunar takeoff in economic progress.