Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: The change India seeks to make

Filed on August 16, 2021

The launch of a national hydrogen mission, for instance, aims to make India a global production hub for clean hydrogen fuel production and export.

The eighth address of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his country on the 75th Independence Day has set in motion a vision to build a self-reliant India that grows in a sustainable way and allows socio-economic progress for all its citizens. The 90-minute speech hit the right notes and emphasised the role an individual Indian can play in the development of the country. What was worth noting was the underlying theme that it is time to redefine the country and start work towards building a stronger India.

The launch of a national hydrogen mission, for instance, aims to make India a global production hub for clean hydrogen fuel production and export. Besides making it self-reliant in clean energy, such an accomplishment will also create new jobs. Modi also mentioned a trillion-dollar national infrastructure plan to give an integrated and holistic pathway to the Indian economy. The idea is to link hundreds and thousands of villages and connect them with urban centres through rail and road networks. The opportunities such a plan could unleash is anyone’s guess. Infrastructural connectivity can breakdown silos within the economy and empower local entrepreneurs to become more competitive. But it is as ambitious and challenging as it sounds.

It was in 2016 when the then finance minister, the late Arun Jaitley, first talked about the need for trillion-dollar investment in Indian infrastructure. Since then, such a plan has been talked about time and again by the Modi government. In 2019, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman outlined a blueprint of how $1.5 trillion would be spent to build infrastructure over five years, and include existing projects in energy, road and railway sectors. At that time, she had mentioned how private companies would account for 22 per cent-25 per cent of the investments, with the federal government and states contributing the rest.

The new ‘Gati Shakti’ infrastructure plan, which the Indian prime minister talked about during the speech, is not new but a rechristened scheme that emphasises the importance of infrastructure in a developing country. Over the years, Modi has picked up great talking points for this speech and many crucial projects have gained momentum afterwards. For instance, the Clean India campaign, the mission to build toilets for every house, or to ensure electricity reaches all villages in India. All these campaigns have achieved significant success. If India is able to achieve the various goals outlined by Modi during this year’s speech, it could serve as an inspiring model for other nations to follow. Right from education of girls and minority communities to clean energy and ambition to become self-reliant, India is trying to set the bar higher for itself. Whether its internal political and social divide hinder this progress is what remains to be seen.

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