India Leadership Conclave’s 9th Annual historic edition will debate the present state of affairs the nation is facing today with a dispassionate analysis of India’s progress since 71 years after independence, the India we know has made strong inroads globally as a country to reckon with.But back home,there are challenges.India’s biggest economic asset is fast turning into its most daunting challenge: hundreds of millions of young people. Two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people are below 35 years of age. That’s more than two times the total U.S. population. Unlike Japan, China and Europe, whose working-age populations have peaked, India’s is growing and is estimated to become the world’s largest. But the world’s second-most-populous country is struggling to tap this demographic dividend.We at India Leadership Conclave will attempt to scan the progress to prosperity & challenges into opportunities while listing the major agenda that india needs to address!

India’s biggest economic asset is fast turning into its most daunting challenge: hundreds of millions of young people. Two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people are below 35 years of age. That’s more than two times the total U.S. population. Unlike Japan, China and Europe, whose working-age populations have peaked, India’s is growing and is estimated to become the world’s largest. But the world’s second-most-populous country is struggling to tap this demographic dividend.

In 1947 life expectancy was 32, now it is 68; a per capita income of £20 has become more than £5,500; and now India’s GDP of £7.4tn ranks it third after China and the US. In 1947 only 1,500 villages – a mere 0.025% – were electrified; now 97% of villages have electricity. After two centuries of British rule, only 12% of the population had seen the inside of a classroom, now 74% are literate, with Kerala close to a 100% literacy rate – this in a country with 20 languages. And all this while every change of government since 1947 has been via the ballot box, with the army not involved – something Greece, Spain, Portugal or even France can’t claim.

Our world is undergoing a series of transformational shifts occurring at an exponential speed. These shifts bear promise as well as peril. Galloping progress in science and the advent of cutting-edge technological developments have made our environment more intelligent and interconnected than ever. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has created a unique inflection point for the world and smart innovations have enabled us to attain unprecedented accuracy and speed in information flow.

At the same time, we are facing significant global challenges, recurring as well as new, such as deepening income inequality, persistent jobless growth, escalating violence and conflicts around the world, threats to state stability, eroding public trust in federal governments, heightening geostrategic friction and, of course, environmental sustainability and climate change.

In parallel, however, we are witnessing the emergence of novel national and international political and governance systems with far-reaching impact on regional and global social contracts and interactions. From a unipolar global governance system, we are moving towards a multipolar and multiconceptual social order with precarious friction points. Bending under the weight of its own complexity, our world is fractured and engulfed in tumultuous social and economic transformations. Our future and the very existence of our world rely on our capacity – individual and collective – to evolve, adapt and optimally respond to these changes and global challenges.

Amid this metamorphosis, India presents an image of optimism and promise. Its unique demographic dividend, rising tide of entrepreneurial spirit, breakthrough innovations across sectors, and remarkable pace of bold and structural reforms have boosted the macroeconomic fundamentals and enhanced India’s long-term economic outlook.

Simultaneously, India is expanding its leadership in a wide range of global initiatives. Its leading role in the Paris climate agreement and International Solar Alliance, and efforts to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group demonstrate a quest for a more pivotal role in global geopolitics and a relentless pursuit of a renewed international identity akin to its potential as a major global player.

India’s extraordinary achievements – despite its complex federal governance structure and highly pluralistic and diverse society – corroborate that the country possesses a robust institutional mechanism for deftly counterbalancing pervasive diversity while projecting a single identity, a fact which bears important lessons for the world struggling to find equilibrium and move towards a harmonious multiconceptual existence. This is being made possible through the philosophy of ‘Together with all, Development for all’ (Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas).

The time is right for India to amplify its global influence and accelerate the development of robust and resilient economic, social and political foundations. For India to reap the benefits of its reforms process, it is imperative that it address some critical challenges at home.

In spite of significant economic and social progress, spatial, income- and gender-based inequalities persist, and access to core public services is disproportionate between rural and urban areas. There are concerns over high levels of air pollution and scope for improved infrastructure. For many of these challenges, the government is already scoping targeted initiatives.

It is against this backdrop, we are presenting a list of the most important challenges that India must overcome in building New India.
1. Unemployment: Despite the measures for the increased employment opportunities through Skill India, Make In India and labour reforms among others, the unemployment rate has been on an upward swirl in recent years. As per the Fifth Annual Employment – Unemployment Survey (2015-16), the unemployment rate rose to 5%, as compared to 4.9% in 2013-14, 4.7% in 2012-13 and 3.8% in 2011-12.Moreover, the unemployment rate was significantly higher among females as compared to males. At the all India level, the female unemployment rate was estimated to be 8.7%, whereas for males it was 4.0%. Lower levels of employment rate among women are of much concern for the society as a whole.

2. Demographic Challenges: India’s current population is 1.34 billion and at the rate of growth of more than 1% per annum, it is estimated to reach 1.40 billion by 2022. As the resources – land, water, mineral and energy – are limited, the productivity of farms and the industries should be enhanced at the same rate. Given the investment and technology required to make it possible and India’s experience in recent years in doing so, it seems like a formidable task. We should also take note of the fact that, overcoming this challenge is of vital significance to reap demographic dividends as about two thirds of population is below the age of 35 years.
3. Infrastructure Bottlenecks: To build New India by 2022, it is essential to have quality social and economic infrastructure. The country has made considerable progress on the infrastructure front in recent years. As per the Global Competitive Index – Infrastructure of the World Economic Forum (WEF), India’s rank has gone up from 81 in 2015-16 to 68 in 2016-17.
However, this improvement is not sufficient and is far below the expectations of the ever increasing population. The WEF report identified that – “inadequate supply of infrastructure” as one of the most problematic factors for doing business in India.
4. Health and Education: Though independent India has witnessed considerable growth in the fields of education and health over the 70 years, the progress is not adequate. So far, the focus has been on ‘quantity’ or expansion of services through more schools, colleges and hospitals; But less emphasis was on quality aspect. The neglect on the quality aspect of vital sectors like – education and health – has been showing adverse impact on the quality of life, which is evident in the latest Human Development Index of the United Nations. In the 2016 rankings, India slipped to the 131st rank among the 188 countries surveyed. India’s human development index (HDI) value of 0.624 puts it in the “medium human development” category alongside Pakistan and other countries such as Congo and Namibia. Hence, to build New India, renewed efforts must be undertaken to improve the quality of life through better health and education facilities.
5. Defence and Security: India has been facing lot of security challenges from internal and external sources. Problems like – cross border terrorism, infiltration, border issues with China and Pakistan, separatist tendencies in the North East and Left Wing Extremism have been posing challenges to the national security. In view of China’s recent aggressive posture in Doklam standoff and nine-dash line in the South China Sea coupled with the encirclement strategy, and the One Belt One Road initiative and the associated China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is expected to pose major challenge to the Indian Defense establishment in the coming five years.
The threats to cyber security and space security are also expected to increase in the coming years. The growing digitalization of the financial activities and organizational processes and the race for the supremacy in the space may pose serious security threats and warrant increased an allocation of financial and human resources in the coming five years.
6. Disaster Management & Climate Change: Apart from man-made disasters, India is vulnerable, in varying degrees, to a large number of natural disasters. More than 58.6% of the land mass is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity, 12% of its land is prone to floods and river erosion, close to 5,700 kms, out of the 7,516 kms long coastline is prone to cyclones and tsunamis and 68% of its cultivable area is vulnerable to droughts.
The frequency and severity of disasters like floods and droughts has been accentuated by the adverse impacts of global warming and associated climate change. The recent flash floods in Mount Abu (2017), Chennai (2015), Kashmir (2014) and Uttarakhand (2013) indicates this trend. In view of the expected rise in the disasters and its impact on the economy, especially on agriculture, and social life should be reduced to the extent possible and it is a no mean task for the government due to the magnitude of complexities involved.
7. Governance Issues: During his speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to embrace a New India, where people are not driven by the system, rather the system is driven by the people. To realize this, major irritants in the county’s governance issues such as corruption, criminalistation of politics and red tapism should be addressed with more vigor. Despite reduced corruption levels, the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 declared India as only the 79th cleanest country among the 176 countries surveyed. Since the administrative corruption impact the common man severely and a major road block to the transformation of India, the policy makers should address this issue.

8. Social Problems: To build a prosperous and secure New India, the Indian society must get rid of social evils like – discrimination and violence based on caste, religion and gender. Communal violence has been on the rise in recent years, which was also noted by the report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Similarly, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reported 751 conflicts between religious communities, which resulted in 97 deaths and 2,264 injuries in 2015, jumping from 644 communal incidents, resulting in 95 deaths and 1,921 injuries in 2014.