This year's Indian Republic Day celebrations were infused with an unprecedented sense of optimism. US President Barack Obama's visit to New Delhi to attend the Indian capital's famed Republic Day parade was seen by many to be the ultimate representation of the the high esteem India is now held around the world.
The election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a new vigour to the country. However, Sanjay Jayagatia, Secretary General of the Hindu Council-UK, explains much remains to be done.
India is a country with widespread poverty. There are millions of people forced to survive on less than 25 rupees a day. India can never be considered a developed country unless and until it addresses the poverty, hunger and pain faced by the country's impoverished millions.
To do this, India needs to focus on the 'Aam Aadmi' (Common Man) - on the prosperity of the general public and on the living conditions that ordinary residents have to face.
It is not only the Government's role to bring progress to India but also that of its people.
Education and Job Creation are key. Collective efforts to educate poor children, empower women and develop rural economies can make a huge difference.
Women have a distinct role to play in the development of modern India. However, women of India are relatively disempowered and are yet to attain equal societal status as that of men. A gender gap exists with access to education, employment and political participation, as key examples. Household decision making power and freedom of movement of women vary considerably by age, education and employment status. Rural women are more prone to domestic violence than that of urban women.
The youth constitutes the major population of India and they are the most dynamic section of the society. They are the future. Young People need to be developed and inspired with a shared mission - a mission to change India for the better. As India witnesses a radical change in people's mindsets towards Governance and Polity, and increasing disenchantment due to continuous welfare issues, there is a rising need to address the grassroots challenges of development.
India finds itself far behind other nations on healthcare provision for its people. The situation is further complicated by inequality in healthcare access across states for the country's 1.2 billion people. Studies show that access to healthcare facilities in rural areas lags significantly behind metro cities in terms of infrastructure; and that about half of India’s rural areas either cannot afford, or have no access to, adequate healthcare.
Education is among the major concerns for India. Much needs to be done in this sector to enable the strong progressive growth of our nation. Free education for all will further lead to a workforce that is better trained and more able to help India rise out of poverty. Education will empower India's new generation of entrepreneurs, professionals and change-makers, and drive India forward.
Social media has helped give power back to the people. Indian social networking sites have emerged as a powerful and effective means for people to connect with the world but also expand their horizons. The 'Jagriti ("Awakening") generated through social media is helping mould India's next Generation. Developed countries have made it already a basic fundamental right, but India is some way away from embracing this change in the same way.
There is an urgent need for India to eradicate corruption and to bring back hundreds of millions swindled through corrupt practices; declare it national property, and to invest it in national reconstruction and development. Activists have been working hard to create awareness among Indians regarding black money and corruption and collectively implement the solutions and to bring about a complete change, in the national interest, in all the wrong policies and corrupt systems prevalent at present which is the root cause of corruption. This will ultimately build a healthy, prosperous and powerful India - free from poverty, unemployment, hunger and illiteracy, and propel India to be a great world power. Instead, today's political system in India is geared towards self-preservation and personal benefits, and not the 'Aam Aadmi'
The BJP Government came to power at the Centre riding on an unprecedented and historic mandate. People voted for development, stability, progress, showing yet again the resilience and vibrancy of India’s democracy.
But the huge mandate has come with an even bigger responsibility for Mr Modi and the nation is waiting to see how he delivers on the promises he made in the run up to polls. So what will be the strategy and various other upcoming challenges for Mr Modi?
How is he going to bring about the long-overdue ‘change’ in India and make ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ a true reality would be an interesting watch: Boost economic growth, control price rise
In his previous role as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi gained immense popularity as an economic moderniser. Now people are hoping that he will recreate the same model nationwide and put the economy back on track by bringing in investment. In Mr Modi’s own words, he will have to promote ‘Made in India’.
Rebuild relationship with Pakistan
Narendra Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister started with a masterstroke when he invited the heads of SAARC countries, especially his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Everyone hopes that a new chapter in the annals of Indo-Pak relationships will now be written. The country is hoping that PM Modi will be able to work towards a peaceful and meaningful dialogue with Pakistan.
Two thirds of India’s current population is under the age of 35. This simply means that it has a potential labour force of over 500 million people, which is similar to what China had in the 1980s when their economy surged. Mr Modi will have to positively utilise this huge work force in the organised sector by generating more employment opportunities. Demand for labour also has to be created through small and medium industries. Growth in economy will in turn fund social welfare schemes. For India to stand tall in the world order, PM Modi will have to take up the challenge of channelling the talent of India's youth.
Food, housing and education for all
The next challenge for the Government will be to provide education and housing for all. India’s future will truly shine if Mr Modi fulfills his promises made to India. He has also promised to set-up AIIMS, IITs and IIMs in every state of India; a dream to ensure quality education is accessible to all sections of the society. Mr Modi also needs to device a concrete plan to ensure that his promise to ensure housing for all by 2022 becomes a reality. The 100 smart cities he plans to build will be a key element of this plan.
Transparency in Governance
The 'Modi wave' played a role but the biggest reason for the massive mandate won by the BJP was the unmitigated corruption seen during the UPA government's tenure. Mr Modi has promised to root out corruption at all levels. He wants an enormous shift in the manner in which India's government machinery functions. He wants to run India in the way he managed Gujarat for 13 years – with bureaucrats running the show.
The Digital Future
Taking forward the promise of a new India, Mr Modi has decided to give India a digital future. According to him, ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ will only be realised when entire India will be connected digitally. The first step in this direction has already been initiated with massive investments in Digital Media. The next step has to be a greater emphasis on e-governance as it holds the potential to substantially reduce corruption.
After some recent barbaric incidents of gang-rapes and molestations, women’s safety should be a priority area for the Prime Minister, who has chosen to squarely put the onus on the male gender. Implementation of his promises that the government will run sensitisation programmes, enforce stricter laws and fast track women’s cases to make women feel safer, will remain a much awaited task for the government.
'Clean Ganga' campaign and sanitation
Mr Modi has taken up a highly ambitious plan to clean up river Ganga. A new ministry under Uma Bharti has specifically been created to clean up the holy river. The process to clean the river has already been initiated and hopefully, despite the challenges, the mission will see success so that the model can then be introduced for cleaning up other rivers. Sanitation is another such issue that PM Modi is working on. Besides providing dignity to women, the 'sanitation for all' mission will help the country wash off the negative image of India abroad, thereby aiding the tourism sector. ‘Swach Bharat' by 2019, is something India needs.
The World is watching India
The eminent British economist and historian Arnold Toynbee said in 1952: "Today we are still living in this transitional chapter of world history, but it is already becoming clear that the chapter which had a Western beginning will have an Indian ending, if it is not to end in self destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way”.