India Today - - NEWS -

Even for a na­tion in a per­ma­nent state of cam­paign, 2018 is go­ing to be a chal­lenge. In the run-up to the Gen­eral Elec­tion of 2019, there will be eight assem­bly elec­tions. Megha­laya, Tripura, Mi­zo­ram and Na­ga­land in the Northeast will be go­ing to the polls, as will Ch­hat­tis­garh, Mad­hya Pradesh, Ra­jasthan and Kar­nataka. The year will see the BJP-led govern­ment’s last full Union bud­get. It will also be a year when the arts will have to square up against in­creas­ingly restive in­ter­est groups who have de­clared them­selves to be guardians of pub­lic moral­ity. Even as the world seem­ingly em­braces greater tech­no­log­i­cal change, In­dia seems to be re­gress­ing into a ca­cophonous ar­gu­ment with it­self, ques­tion­ing the very foun­da­tions of its ex­is­tence, al­low­ing forces of caste, faith, and eth­nic­ity to be at war with each other, with de­vel­op­ment fall­ing way be­hind ex­pec­ta­tions.

Partly to an­swer my own cu­rios­ity about the fu­ture and partly be­cause it is our job to tell read­ers where the na­tion is headed, in­dia to­day com­mis­sioned 12 of the best ex­perts in their field to de­tail In­dia’s road map. Read­ing them, I re­alise there are some sig­nif­i­cant trends we have to be pre­pared for. The five main ones are the fol­low­ing:

As Ireena Vit­tal, for­merly of McKin­sey, writes, a new bot­tom-up democ­racy is emerg­ing, which will show a new way to gov­ern In­dia. Al­ready com­pet­i­tive fed­er­al­ism is a re­al­ity. In this next phase, our 7,935 cities and 250,000 pan­chay­ats will throw up a new en­gaged cit­i­zen, whether from within the gover­nance struc­ture or civic in­sti­tu­tions, who will find lo­cal so­lu­tions which can be scaled up to the na­tional level. This new way of gov­ern­ing will re­sult in con­sid­er­able dis­rup­tion in ex­ist­ing power struc­tures, but it should en­sure that In­dia’s sloth­ful state will serve its cit­i­zenry more ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently.

The new norm for eco­nomic growth will be 7 per cent GDP growth. Any­thing less will be prob­lem­atic and in the year ahead this will not be easy. Ja­hangir Aziz, chief econ­o­mist, JP Mor­gan, be­lieves the pres­sure on GDP this year is not merely be­cause of de­mon­eti­sa­tion, dif­fi­cul­ties with GST and re­struc­tur­ing of bad debt in banks. It is more struc­tural and he warns that grow­ing at 7 per cent for the next 25 years will raise In­dia’s per capita in­come to just 15 per cent of de­vel­oped coun­tries and half that of its Asian peers. Man­ag­ing dis­ap­point­ment will be one of the great­est prob­lems this govern­ment will face as it goes to vot­ers in 2019, on the back of the achhe din it promised.

The twin forces of in­creas­ing ru­ral dis­tress and a warped ur­ban­i­sa­tion will head to­wards a con­flict. Ev­ery­where we turn, cities are col­laps­ing un­der the weight of be­ing su­per­fi­cially smartened, ac­cord­ing to Gau­tam Bhan, a scholar who works on ur­ban plan­ning. Lakes in Ben­galuru are foam­ing, Delhi’s win­ter air seems apoc­a­lyp­tic, Mum­bai’s bridge col­lapse un­der­lines the ve­nal­ity of civic bosses, and in Chen­nai, wet­lands are un­der siege from ag­gres­sive re­de­vel­op­ment plans. He be­lieves a pol­icy of re­pair and retro­fit, which al­lows the foot­path to co­ex­ist for the ven­dor and pedes­trian, and the slum to be up­graded with elec­tric­ity and sewage, is a more ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion.

The mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism that we all grew up with is be­ing re­de­fined and re-ex­am­ined. Whether it is in the legacy of our built her­itage or the his­tory that we grew up with, old no­tions are be­ing chal­lenged by those who see them­selves as cus­to­di­ans of a new In­dia that does not want to ac­knowl­edge cen­turies of rule by Mughals and the English as part of its new Hin­dutva nar­ra­tive, con­ve­niently wrapped in na­tion­al­ism.

The march of new tech­nol­ogy will have an un­prece­dented im­pact on our daily lives whether it is Aad­haar, e-gover­nance, dig­i­tal bank­ing, elec­tric cars or so­lar en­ergy. It will also de­pend on how we use it, to our ben­e­fit or detri­ment.

There’s much more to read and ru­mi­nate about fu­ture trends in the next few pages of the spe­cial is­sue, cu­rated by Man­ag­ing Editor Kai Friese. With all the re­forms in­tro­duced by this govern­ment dur­ing its ten­ure, it will be a year of reck­on­ing for them, where re­al­ity will col­lide with claims. This is the year that will de­ter­mine how Gen­eral Elec­tion 2019 will pan out. It’s a year full of un­cer­tain­ties, but one thing I am sure of—it will be a big one for news. Keep watch­ing this space.

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