A path towards sustainability and inclusive growth

It is well established that India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world and is set to surpass some of the major economies of the world in the years to come. But what is imperative to note is its inclusiveness. Its Human development indicators show that often economic growth does not translate into inclusive growth and India’s 130th position out of 189 countries speaks of the bitter truth.

Inclusive growth meaning reducing the rural-urban gap, quality education to everyone, reducing gender discrimination, decent standard of life and employment opportunities, should go parallel to economic growth.  Besides, India’s dismal record in inclusiveness, its record in sustainable growth is also abysmal. Economic growth often comes at the cost of environment, which eventually affects the people. It could be understood by the fact that out of 20 most polluted cities in the world, 15 are Indian. 

Indian economy is growing through a jobless growth (i.e. fewer jobs creation), hence, unemployment is rising, consequently affecting the standard of living. We are already aware of India’s rickety agriculture economy. Farmers are enmeshed in the debt traps. This increases the rural and urban gap. Income disparity after a certain point is not sustainable, especially when it starts affecting the social indicators. This shows that the Government can no longer afford to continue its lackadaisical approach towards inclusiveness. Inclusive growth cannot be achieved without sustainable development; both should go hand in hand. Since the environment is closely associated with quality life and economy, economic growth should not be at the cost of the environment. Hence, sustainable development is necessary, especially when India is staring at a myriad of problems like groundwater depletion, droughts, climate change, etc.

India has always followed a policy of centralization where development projects are implemented in a top-down approach but if we have to achieve inclusive growth with sustainable development, it needs to follow a bottom-up approach, means there is a need for decentralization. The way to inclusiveness goes through villages, therefore, villages should be made self-sustainable. Self-sustainability can be achieved by giving people responsibility and making development projects participatory.

Way Forward

Macro to Micro

India needs to shift its focus from big infrastructure projects to small ones. For instance, Ken-Betwa river linking project to provide irrigation water will submerge a large part of Panna National park which is a crucial habitat for tigers. Lakhs of trees will be cut down. Should development come at the cost of the environment? Big projects like this can only be beneficial if implemented in a plausible manner. India should start making a self-sustainable ecosystem instead of pumping money in large projects like big dams. Instead of big dams, the government can start constructing lakes and ponds for rainwater harvesting, it can invest in better irrigation facilities like drip-irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, this can save a huge amount of water which is now invariably wasted. The government can make it mandatory to install rain-water harvesting in all newly constructed houses.

Sustainable villages

Urban and rural areas suffer from lack of sewage treatment infrastructure, hence a robust sewage infrastructure can be put in place and treated water then can be provided for irrigation. In villages, mostly traditional system of cooking is practiced like chulha. This is a major source of air pollution. Although, the government is pushing for LPG affordability becomes an issue. To solve this problem, cooperatives can be set up to install biogas plants to generate energy and fertilizers by providing financial assistance. This can not only help in generating employment but also reduce waste and pollution significantly. Employment generation in the villages will reduce the pressure on urban areas where most of the people migrate in search of work. After initial help, these cooperatives will be able to work on their own since they will be generating revenue from not only biogas but also from bio-fertilizers. In the long run, bio-fertilizers can replace chemical fertilizers, consequently reducing soil pollution, eutrophication, etc.


To reduce gender discrimination, the government can push for feminization of agriculture and can also provide assistance to women to set up self-help groups which it is already doing. If the traditional industries like handlooms can be revived, this can further reduce the problem of unemployment.

Education and Health

The biggest hurdle in achieving inclusiveness is the lack of quality education and sturdy health care system. Although Right to Education has been a tremendous success in achieving overall enrolment it falls short of focusing on quality. Quality of education is highly dependent on the quality of teachers and their approach. Since teachers in government-run schools get paid regularly even if they do not impart education, it is the students who suffer. To eliminate the lackadaisical approach of teachers, the government needs to bring in punitive measures with appropriate rewards. A basic pay of teachers can be fixed and the rest payment can be paid on the basis of their performance based on numerous indicators such as the method used, the performance of students. The focus should be on capability development rather than rote-learning. For that, there is a need to revamp the examination system.

The government-run schools provide meals to students in order to fulfill their nutritional requirements but there is hardly any system placed in the schools to check the nutrients that children lack. Nutritional deficiencies are directly related to regions and the kind of crops that are rampant in the region. Hence, there should be regular checks on the nutrient intakes so that diet plans can be prepared accordingly.

Economic growth can only be sustainable only if everyone contributes to it. Thus, development should start at the lowest level with taking into consideration the environment. We need to make sure that everyone gets and gives his/her due share in the economy.

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