Sunday, November 4, 2012

Haryana: facing the 21st Century challenges

Amar Nath Wadehra & Randeep Wadehra

Ever since its formation on November 1, 1966, Haryana has been striving hard for all round development. During the initial decades, agriculture remained the successive state governments’ top priority. However, industrialization and building up of world-class infrastructure became vital to the state’s rise to the next higher phase of development. Consequently, today, with its per capita income growth at over 17% and state GDP growing at over 9% Haryana stands proud as one of the wealthiest states in the country. In fact, the Hooda government can legitimately take pride in converting Haryana into a surplus state on an enduring basis.

However, we all know that eventually economic growth reaches a plateau from where a new roadmap to higher level of development needs to be formulated. For this, special attention has to be paid to the following:

1. Power and other infrastructure;
2. Human Resource;
3. Societal attitudes;
4. Law & order; and
5. General governance.

In order to facilitate the next phase of development the state government has been focusing on secondary and tertiary sectors, viz., industry (especially hi-tech) and services. So, what sort of roadmap for future development would be? It is true that the state government is doing everything to become self-sufficient in power. It is also focused on having IT enabled structures of governance as well as development. Yet, several aspects need to be factored in. For example, how do we transform the work culture and socio-economic environment in order to attract the best of capital and entrepreneurial talent to the state of Haryana?

The obvious first step would be to provide quality education that is essential for developing human resource. Higher the level of education, better would be the absorption of sophisticated skill-sets by young people who would be working in a highly competitive 21st century work environment. The Haryana government already seems to be aware of this fact as evidenced by its emphasis on establishing high quality centers of educational excellence in the state. Nonetheless, along with specialized institutions of higher learning there is a need for providing quality education at the primary school and undergraduate levels, which would be more in tune with the requirements of 21st Century way of life – not just in the urban areas but in villages too. We cannot underestimate the influence of education on societal attitudes, too.

With greater movement of labour force from one region to another, challenges to the government regarding provision of infrastructure, and general governance, especially law and order, are going to become more complex. Young and highly educated workers from different parts of the country, even from around the world, are coming to Haryana – not just the ultramodern townships like Gurgaon but also to the older towns and even the countryside. This demands provision of such facilities and amenities as affordable and high quality housing, transportation, education, marketing, recreation etc. Similarly, with people from varied backgrounds coming together in social and professional spaces there is always a possibility of social stress and clash of cultures leading to violent crimes. Therefore, policing will have to be more up to the scratch than it has been so far. The various organs of governance too will have to be prompt in their responses to the demands of dealing with consequent challenges in order to ensure that people coming from outside the state feel safe enough to live and work in Haryana.

There are certain non-tangible but vital inputs for economic growth like social attitudes, beliefs and practices. How a society treats its vulnerable sections decides its acceptability to the more demanding sections of skilled professionals, entrepreneurs and capitalists. One worrying factor is the general societal attitude towards women. In the 21st Century Haryana there is no place for the 18th Century mindset. Alas, despite the government’s best efforts such anachronisms persist. The recent visit of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi underscores the government’s concern vis-à-vis rising crime against women and dalits. A lot has been done but still much more ought to be done to protect the dignity of women in the state. Violence against them gets magnified in the media. Even one criminal attack on a woman gets repeated so many times that it would appear that the entire state has become hostile to the female population. This has dangerous potential for social unrest as more and more cases of random as well as caste-based violence against girls come under the media scanner. If such negative impulses are not checked in time the vibrant economy of Haryana may have to tackle the perils of socio-economic destabilization, which also carry with them portents of Haryanavis getting stereotyped. Let us not forget how stereotyping – whether justified or not – has damaged Punjab’s once vibrant economy.

In order to attract the best talent from around the country the state will have to project itself as socially secure and friendly. This challenge can be successfully met if certain aspects of the state’s socio-economic attitudes and quality of governance are addressed proactively. Let us not forget that both capital and labour invariably move towards peaceful areas having such socio-economic conditions as are conducive to their growth.

Haryana has the potential for becoming a model 21st Century state. We are sure this potential will be realized.

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