National Priority

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Dear friends, the social media was abuzz with messages that we should not purchase Chinese products on Diwali and at other times. It was considered to be the right patriotic thing to do to support our soldiers guarding our borders.

When people started looking for Indian make alternatives for Chinese lights, decorations, statues of our Gods etc. there were none. The influx of cheap Chinese products has completely eliminated the small and medium scale manufacturing businesses of our country. All this happened because we consumers were completely intoxicated by the cheaper, technologically superior Chinese products. We are today unable to even manufacture statues of our very own Gods. If you want to be patriotic you have to buy statues of Gods from the local potter which in no way compares with the imported, colorful resin statues decorating the markets. The same applies to almost all other products.

Where are the Indian small and medium scale business houses? Under fire from the open market policy these businesses did not receive any support or subsidy. The gates of a sleepy, closed economy were suddenly thrown open and the glittering, technologically advanced products from the world over moved in. We did not support our business houses in the fight to become world class. We abandoned our small and medium scale manufacturing businesses and they curled up and died. Did it happen overnight? No, we allowed it to happen over the decades. At that point there were no vision, trade barriers, no public education, no foresight and no hindsight. Our myopia shifted Indian jobs to China.

Today we blame others for trade imbalances. Well, what do we make cheaper or better that could possibly interest others? We must rebuild our smaller businesses using modern technology. Government must support this activity.

Further, we were supposed to have a demographic advantage over the rest of the world with 65% of our population under the age of 35. Well, with the kind of skills that this massive, mind boggling chunk of humanity has, we are at best staring at a demographic disaster. Sensing this, a ministry was set up to enhance the skills of our young people. However, this effort needs a lot of brain storming and intensive action. A door to door approach coordinated from the panchayat level. Farmers and their families are to be trained in low-tech activities like handicraft or assembling components by hand to produce items in demand. They can pursue these activities in the relatively free months of the farming cycle and supplement their family income. The Indian alternative of products and services has to develop.

In the prevailing circumstances what percentage of children of any school manage to get into institutions of repute like the IITs, IIMs etc.? Five percent is a very, very optimistic estimate. What percentage have prosperous businesses waiting for them to come and join after school? Another five percent? Again, a very, very optimistic estimate.

Staying in the same upbeat, optimistic mood you can take out another ten percent of students who are lady luck’s darlings and would make it big on their own in spite of their mediocre academic achievements. Still we are left with a whopping eighty percent of students who we have no plans for. They will end up as unemployed or underemployed frustrated youths. Let's use this qualified, young workforce to enhance our markets. They are very creative youngsters.

All we need is a plan to tap the immense work potential of this great nation. We have to find jobs for the people we have while continually trying to improve their skill sets. This should be top national priority. A lot of out of the box thinking and initiative in this direction is required. Another bout of intoxicated euphoria will not help. This immense work force, if not used correctly, could, God forbid, translate into an immense disaster which no government can handle.

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