The question Can India become a superpower? is in minds of many who have seen the country’s explosive growth in the years after the IT boom. But before we do the entire math, we have to understand what a superpower really means. The way popular media has defined it is way too restrictive with all points given to growth rate, defense power and foreign influence. Time has come for us to look at the bigger and more realistic picture.
In the real world, big growth numbers and huge military without good health care system, equal access to education and jobs for women and minorities and good care of environment does not mean much. Let us look at ; the country is good very good in production, technology and also in defense. But the human rights situation, restriction in freedom of expression and the discrimination against women that is forcing parents to abandon their daughters is frightening. is powerful nation in terms of economic capacity but it is not a superpower.
Same would apply for . The country has tremendous strength in terms of trained human resources but then more than 40% of ‘s population is illiterate. For a country of billion people, that number is quite huge. Also there are more than 300 million living under poverty, most of whom are women and children.
Boom created by the call centers and outsourcing has touched only the urban and middle class people while millions are left behind. Talking about the outsourcing and call center boom, we have look at the issue of north and south divide too. Southern India is far more developed than the north. South has higher percentage of educated population, lower birth rate, and better situation for women and also is better run. South is the one taking all the benefits of the IT boom. Most call centers and technology centers are located in Bangalore, Chennai and other southern cities. Although there are some in Pune too, south is the real IT hub. North is falling behind, it has high rate of population growth, lower literacy rate and women are much behind compared to women is south. When I raised this question about the North South divide, influential leader of the ruling party Indian Congress, Ms. Ambika Soni said that because of the federal way of government the central government cannot force anything to the states. The states will run their own way, right or wrong. What I believe is that the central government should have a national policy on education, women rights, environment and health. Then only will the divide be closed otherwise the people of north, which holds the largest section of population, will stay in poverty while south moves ahead.
Thus for India to become a superpower in real sense, it has to bring down the number of people living in poverty, provide better health care and also improve the situation for women. Then only can it become a power superpower.
(A part of this article has been presented in Talking Point aired by BBC, on Sunday October 16, 2005)