Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Letter from the Editor: The Rise of India's States

Centralised, top-down planning models must now give way to participative, bottom-up planning

Published: Feb 22, 2013 06:03:08 AM IST
Updated: Feb 21, 2013 05:27:26 PM IST

What would it really take for India to reclaim its growth story? Here’s our hypothesis: For several decades now, business and economics have been viewed through a very New Delhi-centric prism. How the Central government managed its affairs was the only thing that mattered in national discourse. We believe there is an immediate need to change that. Else, we could miss a big inflection in our economic history.

The states that constitute our country are demanding the freedom to open up their economies, reform administration and drive progress. The demand is a fair one because in a country as large as India, a one-size-fits-all strategy is not tenable. Spending monies through big policy initiatives from Delhi is wasteful and ineffective. Therefore, centralised, top-down planning models must now give way to participative, bottom-up planning.

The good news is that states like Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh—and unbelievably, even West Bengal—are now signing up to meet the challenges. For the first time, they’re asking the Centre to assist, and not dictate terms. This has far-reaching political implications.

But the question is, if the Centre is forced into a corner and plays only the role of a catalyst, the ruling classes in Delhi will have to ask how to extract political capital from the development agenda it now enables. When this shift is looked at against the backdrop of the 2014 general elections, you’ll witness a fascinating story unfold over the next couple of months.

As we head into Union Budget 2013—an exercise that is by now passé—we thought it an apt time to raise these questions. To find answers, my colleagues Dinesh Narayanan and Udit Misra spoke to practically all the actors, both at the Centre and the states. The story they got home is a complex one that has far-reaching consequences. Read it on page 30.

This edition has two other compelling stories around the courage of conviction. Former Sebi chairman DR Mehta is in the middle of a massive scaling up effort at Jaipur Foot, an incredible innovation effort to provide artificial limbs completely free of cost. He steadfastly refuses to charge for the service, despite advice from every quarter.

And then there’s the story of Parag Parikh, one of India’s best known stock market players, who is at an important crossroad in his life. After having taken nearly 30 years to build a reputation in the Indian equity market, he is staking his entire reputation on a new plan.

The India story is far from over. Enjoy the journey!

Indrajit Gupta
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id: @indrajitgupta  

(This story appears in the 08 March, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)