India: A Land of Silent Revolutions
SEOUL, February 15, 2011 - A diverse land of silent, internal revolutions, is how H.E. Skand Ranjan Tayal, Ambassador of India to the Republic of Korea, described India's development in speaking at Asia Society Korea Center's monthly luncheon series here at the Lotte Hotel Seoul.
While most people are well informed on the topic of India's foreign policy, very little is known about India's own "silent revolution" that has been going on for the last 64 years, said Tayal. Independence after the colonial legacy changed the social and economic consequences for what could be achieved and built in the country, with new opportunities for revolutionary concepts in India. As the culture of political education developed, the transfer of opportunities was made readily available for those who did not have access to those opportunities prior to independence, such as affirmative action.
"In the civil service, 50 percent of the sector is reserved for the deprived section of society because these professionals were coming from the top ten percent. Now, you see that real change has occurred in leadership, in political parties, and among the masses," Tayal noted. "Real revolution has grown with the masses by these grassroots people."
Another important aspect of India's silent revolution has been meeting the growing demands of the villages. "With the green and white revolutions, we addressed famines and starvation but food production has jumped 30 or 40 percent. It's not something you normally talk about but it has transformed the villages." By concomitant increases in food production and labor rights, individual family members no longer have to migrate to the cities by their guaranteed 100 days of labor per each family unit. The enforcement of labor rights has been so successful in the rural areas that the cities are now complaining about the lack of domestic workers. However, the government must also try to address equality in development, as landless farmers in villages, such as Maoist insurgents, see growth passing them by.
Tayal reflected that democracy in India means trying to achieve equitable growth and the eradication of poverty over a period of time. "Complete equality is not possible but that is still our objective. We could do better but with all the diversities and tensions in society there is lots of work that has been done to empower the individual nature of democracy. There is a Right to Information Act where any citizen can ask a question to a government official about any policy or expenditure. This brings transparency to the administration, and government levels are conscious and cautious as they make decisions."
One of the biggest changes so far is the movement for gender equality and the presence of what Tayal calls "very strong lady leaders." He said, "There is oppression of women at home with denied opportunities and not being treated properly, but 33 of all government seats are reserved for women. This has had a dramatic effect on the distribution of power within the family with menfolk now having to come to the women."
As for investors looking to invest in India, Tayal advises looking at India's industry sectors rather than as a whole industry, "India and Korea have what is a comprehensive economic partnership, with Korean companies having more than 2 billion dollars in investment in India and India having almost 1 billion in Korea. Korea's industrial and manufacturing capabilities match with India's intellectual capacity."
But even with increasing investment by foreign direct investments and government administration, two challenges still loom on the horizon: energy issues with the limits on hydrocarbons and serious water shortages in the future. And yet Tayal remains hopeful with the ongoing silent revolution of peaceful, nonviolent changes, "India is a land of a million mutinies with so many conflicts but we somehow manage those within these limitations. We have a diverse group of 1.2 billion people. That statistic is not one that we are proud of; however India is a fairly successful example of a diverse group of people with diverse beliefs trying to have a common destiny."