Adding value to India's demographic wealth

Illustration: Ajaya Mohanty
It is said that age is just a number, and that this number will be an advantage for India in years to come as it inches closer to becoming the youngest country in the world, and perhaps the most populous.

 

With women accounting for just 23 per cent of the workforce in India today as compared to China’s 46 per cent, we need to look beyond the current paradigm of job seekers and job creators. Demography and economy must go hand in hand, and considering how diverse India is, our economy needs its people to fuel growth. I am confident that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already sensed this as it is aligned with his vision for launching “Skill India”.

 

Our ultimate objective is to eradicate poverty and create employment for youth and this requires some visionary thinking. The government is already shifting focus to the growth of manufacturing industry. If we compare our economy to that of our neighbours, China for instance, as of 2015, the manufacturing industrial sectors contributed 40 per cent of China’s GDP, while in India this contribution is just 25 per cent.

 

India is blessed with a very rich geology, and I strongly believe that India's journey to self-sufficiency in the natural resources sector, including oil and gas, has the capacity to create millions of job opportunities, which will overcome some of the greatest impediments to growth on the socio-economic and political front. We have a large amount of headroom, as mining accounts for only 2.5 per cent of India’s gross domestic product, whereas in other mineral-rich countries such as Australia, it is around 10 per cent.

 

This process will also encourage the development of thousands of SMEs, which will lead to the building of a modern economy that will empower people and improve their lives, ultimately fuelling growth and encouraging young entrepreneurs. Efforts must also be made to ensure empowerment of women, so that they are placed in the forefront to contribute more actively towards the country’s GDP.

 

Across the globe, educating and empowering women has proven time and again to be the catalyst for rapid socio-economic and political growth. Women form a very significant part our society and demonstrate great skill, intelligence, hard work and innovation. If we harness the potential of these attributes through a proper skill development programme, India’s growth will be very equitable and inclusive.

 

In order to secure the future of India, we have to safeguard the present. I pledge to give 75 per cent of my wealth for the social good. To strengthen the foundation of children below the age of seven years — their nutrition, health and education — I am prepared to spearhead this responsibility in association with the government in a very structured manner. This includes nurturing 7.5 crore underprivileged children living in remote rural areas, below the age of seven years, who are in need of proper nutrition, health care and education. Our primary focus, therefore, is to start at the grass root level with the holistic development of children and women, who form the future of our nation.

 

It is with these objectives that we have reimagined the concept of Anganwadis, as project “Nand Ghar” (symbolising the child avatar of Lord Krishna), or “home for young ones” as centres of learning for both women and children. The project, which addresses issues relating to pre-primary education, health care, nutrition for children and economic empowerment for women in rural India, has been designed in partnership with the ministry of women and child development. These Nand Ghars have clean toilets, safe drinking water and electricity through solar panels and various education and recreation facilities.

 

Today, our pilot of 100 Nand Ghars across three states has shown a marked improvement in attendance, learning abilities and school readiness, by deploying e-learning modules in education and soft skills in collaboration with world-class partners. To make the model integrated, we are ensuring that the women undergo entrepreneurship training, including skill enhancement, to start their own micro enterprise with credit linkages, thereby increasing their contribution towards the Indian economy.

 

Nand Ghars will prove to be a stepping stone for future human capital that would be value-based, productive, passionate, and full of energy and ideas. With this upbringing, these children will contribute positively towards society and live a dignified life in future.

 

I firmly believe that strong social initiatives will be a game changer in terms of delivering long-term benefits to communities, and will place India at the top in the global economic arena. It is always better to bring change in the system if it simplifies procedures and brings the desired results. By incorporating facilities to empower women and children we aim to add value to India’s unmatched demographic wealth. 

 The writer is Chairman, Vedanta Resources Plc


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