Rx for the New Year to be happier

The pandemic’s pall of misery has not lifted, but looms lighter than a year ago. Apart from effective vaccines, treatments are now available. Economic recovery is underway and unlikely to be majorly disrupted by total lockdowns of the past. Inflation is a worry, but the rise in policy interest rates in the US and Europe triggered by inflation is a bigger worry. However, even after the likely rise in policy rates, real interest rates promise to remain negative. That is a favourable condition for capital mobilisation and investment, what India needs to regain economic momentum on a scale that will provide sustainable incomes to its vast population. Of course, it would call for some proactive government action.

The physical illness can be contained with vaccines and such. The malaise of sectarian division that afflicts the polity will also need to be treated. No country can achieve sustained prosperity without internal, societal cohesion. Achieving such cohesion must be recognised as a vital goal in the new year. And this is something to which all political parties and religious organisations will have to contribute, prioritising national unity and strength. India is poised to reap its demographic dividend, with global supplies of capital, access to global technology and talent, and a global market to sell to and buy from. To realise the transformative, emancipatory potential of this demographic dividend, India needs, apart from internal cohesion, a new kind of politics, a politics that allows infrastructure and large urbanisation, industrial and mining projects to be built, by releasing the needed land without conflict, and a culture of full recovery of cost of infrastructure and other services. The core of such a politics is common stakeholdership.

Those who lose land must gain from the economic projects that come up on their erstwhile land, and institutional arrangements must be created to ensure this. And India must factor in the needs of combating climate change, in all that we do. If we do all this, we can have not just one happy new year, but a happy future for all Indians.


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