India: Vision 2020 Introduction

Nov. 17, 2002


Introduction to Vision 2020 for India


Inspiring knowledge impelling us to action is vision. A vision that originates in the truth of things achieves more than it has envisioned. What then is the truth on which our vision of India in 2020 should be founded? The nation's past leaders have burned with an urge to make India prosperous, but did not know how that task was to be accomplished. Mrs. Indira Gandhi once cried in despair that she did not know how to go about it and declared that scholars alone could help. Recounting the inadequacies of the nation's successive efforts for prosperity from the Community Development Programme down to Block Development concept, other leaders echoed the same despair. Nehru, perhaps among the world leaders, was the only one who knew the answer to Prosperity: it is to develop the consciousness of the masses. However, all the world experts he consulted did not enable him to convert that sublime knowledge into a vision or a plan of action.

The complete independence India won in 1947 was a result of a unique revolution unknown to history but born on Indian soil. It was not fought for, but rather granted by an Act of the House of Commons, though it did not come unsullied by the taint of brotherly blood. That is our heritage. Standing on the shoulders of these Freedom Fighters, we are called upon to usher in another revolution, a revolution that abolishes poverty. Let us call it a movement of Prosperity. This is in every sense a revolution. It cannot be done either by imitation of economically advanced nations or even by emulation. Such an approach over the past 55 years has only led to a slavery of mind. It is a pity or irony of fate that the political revolution of Indian freedom should lead to a slavish mentality of imitation, rather our minds becoming slaves.

The revolution to usher in prosperity cannot be achieved in this manner. It must begin by ruthlessly casting away all the attitudes of our colonial past. We need to replace them with a new set of mental beliefs born out of the Indian soil, just as in the past the method we utilized to achieve freedom was derived from Indian social culture. As India's freedom fighters were proud to draw on our inherent strengths to organise the freedom struggle, now we should not be shy of awakening our native spirit to fight for prosperity. Our strength lies there. Anything else is Shankara's maya. But this should not be mistaken as a reversion to a life of austere sannyasa, chanting mantras and being lost in trance. Those are only the forms of the past, not its essential truth. The future is built on the past, on the Essence of that past, not on the old Form. Let us give up the Form of the past, while cherishing its Essential Knowledge.


The nation took the phenomenal success of the Green Revolution for granted. C. Subramaniam, who fathered it, left the food ministry within 1½ years. He seemed almost oblivious of the basis for his own accomplishment, since he had simply applied an understanding that he applied to every task he took up. He was the son of a farmer who knew the essential science of achievement as an art of accomplishment. The mysterious expertise behind the Green Revolution is the genius of India, a capacity to accomplish an act. It issues from the hallowed tradition of the nation that is India. To awaken the dormant Spirit of India means to heavily draw upon the rich wisdom of the past accomplished civilisation to solve the present problems and utilise the opportunities fully, rather than borrowing alien models which lead to dismal failure here.

The explosive expansion of India's software exports was possible mainly because that movement unconsciously drew upon the nation's anciently inherited capacity for mathematics, which represents only one thin strand of India's enormous latent endowments. A conscious appreciation of all the nation's age-old inherited capacities will naturally awaken the activities of India on all fronts. This is the vision to be arrived at and it requires a commensurate will for action.

A nation's strength lies in building on its rich inheritance. Napoleon gave to Europe a higher organisation for governance. In 1940 Prime Minister Churchill brought out the very best in his nation to save the world from Fascism. Capitalizing on the strengths acquired by the American people during two centuries of physical sacrifice to settle a new land, President Roosevelt was able to give higher content to democracy through the New Deal. All America's efforts have been derived from and based on its own native endowments, which is why the US leads the world today.


World travellers in the past have spoken about the truthfulness of the Indian population. According to the observation of an English Lord 150 years ago, India was a prosperous land without beggars or thieves. Building upon our innate truthfulness, capacities of production and a life of peaceful existence, today India can shed the vestige of poverty more quickly than the most ambitious and unrealistic planning can conceive of. This is not something that government can do. The society-at-large can accomplish this miracle when it knows its own strength. Korea and Taiwan have taken to such a path based on their own past experience as occupied territories. However it is achieved, Prosperity is always welcome. But when it issues out of a nation's conscious self-conception and when is based on social and political freedom, it is vaster, more lasting and less prone to recoils or side effects. Planning by itself can not accomplish it.


The accomplishments of a nation depend on its social will. Social will issues out of self-esteem and self-confidence. How can a nation occupying the 134th rank on the Human Development Index have self-esteem? How can a nation that seeks foreign aid have self-confidence? Freedom means self-reliance, not dependence on foreign aid. Foreign aid tends to undermine a nation's self-reliance, except when given in the form of training and technical assistance. The essential ingredients for self-reliance were outlined a few years ago in a Nehru Memorial Lecture. When the nation realises that all the money she needs for all her projects is available within the four corners of this poor nation, naturally self-confidence will surge forward. India can achieve in a couple of decades or even sooner what the world took centuries to accomplish, if only She is determined to draw upon her huge reservoirs of inspirational energy. The fact that the US achieved in a few centuries what Europe took over a millennium to complete is an historical example and precedent for what India can achieve by faith in itself.

Requirements & Possibilities

What is necessary to achieve this glorious vision?

  • A comprehensive knowledge of the country's possibility and potentials.
  • An indomitable will that exceeds in intensity the strength of will that achieved Freedom.
  • A clear pronouncement of the policies that can achieve it.
  • Total commitment to achieve the indispensable.

What are the possibilities? The phenomenal success of the Asian Tigers, and more recently China, indicates the possibility for extraordinary growth of prosperity under non-democratic conditions. The rapid and phenomenal accomplishments of Green Revolution demonstrate what can be achieved when the nation and the Government are fully determined to act. The success of India's White Revolution shows the tremendous power of organization, which can be applied appropriately to elevate performance in every field and sector of the economy. India's global pre-eminence in IT reflects the unexcelled, native endowments of our human resources. The recent boom in the metros and major cities shows that the vast energy of the people is getting released and that when the population bestirs itself, it is capable of vast achievements.

How can we conceive the very best possibility for India? The very best for India today is what the society can achieve on its own initiative when its own self-confidence rises to self-esteem. The great Truth behind this view is that India, like other nations, has all the inherent capacities to accomplish as the West has done. But these capacities remain mostly in potential. The knowledge that RECOGNISES that deeper potential is essential. It becomes a comprehensive knowledge and hence powerful when it is converted into a plan of action. The possibilities will become concrete actualities and begin multiplying when we establish model initiatives on the ground.

Starting with the Brandt Commission in the late 1970s, five international commissions were conceived by the UN and various international leaders. The last of the five, the International Commission for Peace and Food (ICPF), was presided over by an Indian, conceived by an Indian spiritual organization and based on Indian principles. Its original aim was disarmament. It took nearly two years to constitute the commission and conduct the first meeting. About a week before that first meeting, the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended. Food being the basis for lasting Peace, the Commission turned its attention to that issue and projected the goal of doubling the world's food production. ICPF's report was published in 1994, and released by The World Academy of Arts and Science and by Unesco. By then the looming threat of global food scarcity no longer existed. The principle of accomplishment here is spiritual. When the solution to any problem is well-formulated, presented to the elite of the world, and wins their full mental consent, it acquires a force to accomplish itself in more than one way that is sometimes discernible and at other times invisible. The then President of the World Academy, a veteran in reading such reports, said in a letter that he found the ICPF Report the best among all the commission reports.


How to acquire the necessary will for this accomplishment? Many people say we should confine ourselves to talking only about what is practically possible. This guideline may be appropriate for administration; but for the leadership of a country that desires to high achievement, what is needed is commitment. Alone facing Hitler after all other European nations, including France, had offered surrendered, England did not choose to follow their lead. The nation did not question how its 248 bombers could ever be a match for Germany's 745 bombers. Nor did it ask how or where it would get the money needed to wage war single-handed. England's will to survive and defeat Germany arose from its commitment to accomplish, not from its evaluation of what was reasonably possible. Commitment comes first, then evaluation of what is possible.

No nation debates whether it should survive or not. India should not only survive, it must survive as a prosperous nation. This is a goal to be achieved. We should never whether it is possible. It is our duty to make it possible. The nation is astir. The leadership must rise to the occasion. If not, the leadership that can accomplish will soon emerge.


India will achieve the position of a middle income nation sooner or later and one day she will rise higher still. Having achieved such a target, she will know HOW she achieved it. That knowledge, if we can acquire it now, will hasten the accomplishment. Such a knowledge is available, since many nations have already passed through the experience. India should endeavour to acquire the knowledge from their experience - the underlying principles and theoretical knowledge that can then be applied appropriately to our own distinct context.


Development Model

The achievements of other nations do not inspire. What will inspire us are representative achievements in our own country. Let us create a MODEL, the size of one district, and experiment with all our enthusiastic endeavours in the model. The real purpose of the MODEL is to inspire other parts of India. It will serve a great purpose if all the problems which the nation will face in future can be met and overcome on these pilot projects. This will serve as field for testing the validity of ideas full of future potentials.

Vision 2020 anticipates a quadrupling of India's per capita income, which means that within two decades an average family of five will have an annual income of more than rupees two lakhs. The result may be several-fold greater if the following approach is adopted for implementing the model. Choose a district where no political leader has a vested interest and by an ORDINANCE suspend the operation of all existing laws there for the project period. Provide the project a corruption-free administration. Implement in this concentrated area all the presently available schemes. Draw up new schemes to utilize the maximum potentials for all existing organisations - banks, universities, voluntary agencies, insurance companies, newspapers, etc. This alone is capable of raising the GDP 25-fold. Make the essentials of development such as universal education, deep ploughing, recharging the aquifer, and guaranteed employment compulsory by law. Let all the physical infrastructures like roads, and the social infrastructure like phones be created there in saturation. Give vast scope for the most talented. Admit no foreign aid to operate in the project area. Let the productivity of land be raised as high as possible, not so much for increasing food production but to lessen the percentage of population in agriculture. Encourage all private initiative. Evolve values based on Spirituality to address water scarcity and all other scarcities. Break the vicious cycles and initiate virtuous cycles wherever possible. Replace competition by cooperation. Impart to the population-at-large a wide range of practical work values such as punctuality, orderliness, cleanliness and systematic organization, which are expressions of spiritual principles in life. Implement all known strategies to achieve full-employment in the district. Do not try to create jobs; rather create conducive conditions for productive activity. Saturate the model area with vocational institutes offering training on the entire gamut of vocational skills. Institute legislation requiring major industries in the area to establish such institutions on a commercial basis.


Spirituality in Life

Draw upon the reservoir of Spirit. Spirituality is common to all religions and does not clash with the secularism of the nation. In the 1950s when former Madras Presidency was suffering from drought, Rajaji, as the then Prime Minister of the State, gave a call to the people to pray for rain at the temples, mosques and churches. The leftist opposition chided him. Rain came down copiously to the relief of all. It is a spiritual principle that whatever you pay attention to will grow to abundance. Maximum utilisation of water is attention to water. Recharging the aquifers and rain-water harvesting, measures good in themselves, are expressions of a spiritual principle that in action will wipe out water scarcity.

We are not shy of using the mind and being intelligent in our work. Spirit is, like mind, a higher principle. Let us not be shy of being SPIRITUAL. All life can be spiritual. Acting spiritually, efficiency rises. Utilizing all available resources and opportunities is a spiritual principle. For example, there are dozens of financial services prevalent in the West, such as various types of insurance, that can be adapted to local conditions here. Extending insurance to fields such as education and agriculture will go a long way towards making the country prosperous. Each such approach should be demonstrated in the MODEL. Integration of different services will yield far greater results than successful individual activities. A spiritual approach also tells us that further progress can only be made when the existing potentials are exhausted and that enormous creativity surfaces by integrating each organisation with every other existing organization. The rural side is naturally replete with a wisdom which the people are not conscious of.

The greatest spiritual principle is self-reliance, which can only emerge when foreign aid is refused and our own resources are drawn upon. The Future of India lies in following the Inspiration of 1947. India resorted to soul-force rather than armed struggle to win freedom. She did so out of her superior force, not out of weakness. This approach should be applied by the military, administration, trade, commerce, education, culture, finance, internal harmony and every conceivable walk of life. More than half a century after attaining freedom, we find we are bodily free but still enslaved by ideas and attitudes acquired from others that do not bring out our native strengths. Once we win back this freedom of Mind, we will be free to borrow anything from others as mental adults, not as subservient beings.

A few decades ago, people spoke about ‘economics as if people mattered.' The West, having built up a modern civilisation, is in danger of losing its mental freedom to limited, dehumanised economic conceptions of its own creation and we are in danger of following where they lead. Dr. V. Kurien, who pioneered the White Revolution, illustrated the obvious fact that all economics starts with people when he exclaimed, "It is the man who made the cow yield more milk. What is the idea of praising the cow?" Life is for man. Our economics must be human-centred. This makes both common sense and Spiritual sense.

For this vision of 2020 to be realised, the centre of that vision must be the human being. Man should not be subordinated to outer circumstances. These circumstances can be brought under our control, provided we choose to exercise our free will. Circumstances should be made to evolve around people, for people and with people at the centre and as the dominant force. Such an approach will release the school student from the tyranny of rote memorization, man from the thralldom to money, and the citizen from subservience to society. In the process India will not only prosper but give rise to a higher type of individuality and show a way for other nations to follow.