India will remain a low-income country for several decades with per capita income well below its other BRIC peers, says a recently-released paper by Goldman Sachs, simultaneously pointing out that it can become a motor for the world economy. But for that to happen, we will have to increase its efficiency or productivity. And there lies the key — the India of tomorrow can’t be built on foundations of yesterday. The one resource that needs to be given policy respect: Knowledge. It is the one word which the past week saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and National Knowledge Commission (NKC) chairman Sam Pitroda stress. The Singh-Kalam-Pitroda combine is powering the bandwagon of societal change just as it is beginning to move: the creation and maturing of India into a knowledge society, a process that began in the early-1990s as Singh opened the economy sector by sector, clause by clause.
A decade and a half later, as captain of a ship with many sails to open before it cruises at double-digits, Singh is recognising that if the ship has to power ahead, its oarsmen at the bottom need to be empowered with muscles of knowledge. A social infrastructure has to be put in place, using which the marginal farmer or farm worker who moved as domestic help and physical labourer to the city then squeezed his way as a contract worker into a factory and signed into a union register as a permanent worker, can take the next step of becoming a skilled worker and as a collective transform India into a knowledge society.
Opinion in The Indian Express, January 25, 2007