Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

India Needs to Move Towards Greater Freedom

India is getting ready for the next freedom struggles, the next million mutinies

Published: Aug 9, 2013 06:47:22 AM IST
Updated: Aug 8, 2013 05:09:34 PM IST

For a country that became politically free in 1947 and took a stab at economic freedom in 1991, the script in 2013 could not have been worse: An economy going downhill, a currency into free fall, and a widespread feeling of despondency and frustration. A more full-blooded embrace of markets should have brought corruption down and increased competition for the benefit of customers and citizens alike. But that was not the path we took over the last decade. An expanding pie should have provided adequate resources for offering safety nets to the really poor even while leaving enough with the exchequer to fund public goods. But India is currently eating the seedcorn of future growth with mindless social spending.

India Needs to Move Towards Greater Freedom
Corruption has scaled new heights, politicians have been found hand-in-glove with businessmen to hijack state resources for private ends, and a weakened state is opting for even harsher laws and an ever-expanding system of unaffordable doles to maintain itself in power. Politicians have raided the treasury for private purposes, and businessmen find more profit in rent-seeking behaviour than in competing fairly in the marketplace. As for the citizen, she is angry with the steady whittling down of freedoms, a crumbling education and health care system, and pathetic public services.

The current political power arrangement between centre, states, cities and villages is coming apart at the seams. The impending carve-up of Telangana from Andhra shows that super-large states are not inclusive enough, even as super-cities such as Mumbai and Delhi are being misgoverned due to a misalignment between political power and accountability to citizens.

Indians are not taking it lying down anymore—as the Anna Hazare movement and the public protests over the Delhi gangrape of 2012 indicate. Governance has become the talking point of the next election. The people are fighting back. They may not have succeeded in organising themselves too well, but they are speaking up.

India, in short, is getting ready for the next freedom struggles, the next million mutinies.

In our Independence Day special issue that is now in your hands, we asked several eminent businesspersons, experts, independent thinkers and non-conformists to share both their diagnosis and remedies for India’s next phase of growth and movement towards greater personal, political and economic freedom.

This year’s I-Day comes when the country is on the cusp of major political change. The ideas in this issue should thus be fodder for the electoral battles of 2014 and beyond.

R Jagannathan
Editor-in-Chief, Forbes India
Twitter id: @TheJaggi

(This story appears in the 23 August, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)