FROM THE ED­I­TOR-IN-CHIEF

India Today - - NEWS -

In a new es­say, Pico Iyer says our lives are shaped by un­ex­pect­ed­ness. Noth­ing has been truer of 2016. Eng­land vot­ing to exit the Euro­pean Union, Don­ald Trump win­ning the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the wors­en­ing Syr­ian refugee cri­sis, un­abated ter­ror­ist at­tacks across the world and In­dia declar­ing 86 per cent of its cur­rency il­le­gal were only some of the high­lights. It was a truly topsy-turvy year. Ev­ery­thing that the pun­dits pre­dicted of the world was up­ended. The con­se­quences of all that hap­pened will be played out in the com­ing year, and it may not be a pretty sight. It seems that it will be the Year of Liv­ing Dan­ger­ously but it is also true that ev­ery end­ing has a new be­gin­ning .

In that spirit, we have a great col­lec­tion of es­says from the finest schol­ars of the world who point us to­wards what is new and newsy in the Brave New World. On De­cem­ber 31, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi called the pub­lic re­sponse to de­mon­eti­sa­tion noth­ing short of a satya­graha. UCLA an­thro­pol­o­gist Akhil Gupta ac­knowl­edges the trans­for­ma­tive na­ture of that de­ci­sion but points to Cuba and two par­al­lel move­ments that made Fidel Cas­tro such an en­dur­ing icon—the mass mo­bil­i­sa­tion that got cit­i­zens in­volved in the task of rais­ing lit­er­acy and the gov­ern­ment-ini­ti­ated in­sti­tu­tion-build­ing that en­sured eq­ui­table ac­cess to health, pro­vi­sion of good pri­mary health­care, and train­ing of a large cadre of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als. For de­mon­eti­sa­tion to morph into a long-term war on cor­rup­tion, Gupta says cer­tain wide-rang­ing struc­tural changes are re­quired in In­dia which need tough po­lit­i­cal and bu­reau­cratic re­forms.

In the global arena, the big event was the un­ex­pected win of busi­ness ty­coon Don­ald Trump as Pres­i­dent of the United States and ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional af­fairs ex­pert, Kishore Mah­bubani, it could be the best thing to hap­pen to In­dia, as it re­po­si­tions it­self as a geopo­lit­i­cal equal to both Amer­ica and China. This will not be easy. Amer­ica’s GNP is $18 tril­lion, China’s is $ 11 tril­lion while In­dia’s is only $2.1 tril­lion. By turn­ing ad­ver­sar­ial against China, says Mah­bubani, Trump has ef­fec­tively put China and Amer­ica at two op­po­site ends of a see-saw. In­dia should seize the op­por­tu­nity by leap­ing on to the mid­dle of the see-saw, even as it grap­ples with the bit­ter af­ter­taste of its over­tures to Pak­istan go­ing up in flames. Mah­bubani as­signs a new mean­ing to a fa­mil­iar acro­nym CIA—China ,In­dia, Amer­ica. There are other trends to watch out for in 2017—the re­treat of lib­er­al­ism, the rise of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and the de­cline of in­ter­na­tion­al­ism. The econ­omy re­mains a con­cern and Credit Suisse’s Neelka­nth Mishra flags four con­tin­u­ing ef­fects of de­mon­eti­sa­tion—on the real es­tate mar­ket, the in­for­mal econ­omy, bank­ing econ­omy and rev­enue col­lec­tion.

2017 will also wit­ness politi­cians be­ing forced to en­gage with do­mes­tic forces, with as many as seven state elec­tions com­ing up, in­clud­ing in Ut­tar Pradesh where a fam­ily drama has cap­tured eye­balls with its daily sack-and-sal­vage op­er­a­tions, and in Gu­jarat which saw un­prece­dented de­mands for back­ward sta­tus from seem­ingly bet­ter-placed castes, which raises a fun­da­men­tal ques­tion about the na­ture of af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion in In­dia. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Goods and Ser­vices Tax Act will test the no­tion of co­op­er­a­tive fed­er­al­ism, one of Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s favourite mantras. It is per­haps no ac­ci­dent that this year’s theme for the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos is re­spon­sive lead­er­ship. Ev­ery po­lit­i­cal leader wants his na­tion to as­pire to and achieve great­ness— from Trump’s Make Amer­ica Great Again slo­gan to Boris John­son’s claim that Brexit would be Bri­tain’s In­de­pen­dence Day. But how many can sum­mon the will to bridge the dis­tance be­tween rhetoric and re­al­ity, mak­ing in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment and eq­ui­table growth more than mere slogans? Those who want to track the an­swers to that ques­tion and many more, use this spe­cial is­sue as your own per­sonal GPS to 2017. It will get you there.

OUR JAN­UARY 31, 2000 COVER

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