A proposal for ‘MIG’ 2047

A proposal for ‘MIG’ 2047

Sustainable economic growth, human capital enhancement and the decentralisation of power are key drivers of India's innovation and prosperity.

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Last Updated : 09 July 2024, 21:57 IST

The reader might think that this column is a proposal for a new fighter aircraft development project in partnership with Russia, especially in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to that country. After all, the acquisition and operation of the MiG aircraft have been a cornerstone of India-Russia defence ties. The MiG-21 became the backbone of the Indian Air Force in the early 1960s and was the most prominent aircraft supplied by the Soviet Union.

The MiG-21 played a stellar role in the India-Pakistan war of 1971, and both the MiG-21 and MiG-27 were highly effective in Kargil in 1999. The experience of operating and maintaining the MiGs significantly contributed to India’s indigenous aircraft programme, with HAL’s Tejas as a testament to that development. There is a MiG-29 upgrade programme with enhanced avionics, radar, and weapon systems.

There are no ‘MIG’-47 aircraft in sight (and some confuse the Sukhoi-47 with the ‘MIG’-47). Besides, India seems to be veering away from the MiG series towards Tejas and Dassault’s Rafale. This column is about a new and more ambitious project, ‘MIG’-47, which is Make India Great by 2047. This may sound like the ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA) campaign by former United States President Donald Trump, or in the same spirit of ‘Viksit Bharat 2047’ announced by Modi, which aims to see India as a developed country by 2047 when we celebrate 100 years as an independent nation.

‘MIG’-47 is about working for the glory of our nation. Before we proceed, we need to ask a question: Is nationalism going out of fashion, or is there a resurgence? The concept of nations bounded by geography is perhaps only three centuries old; hence, the nation-state is a relatively new concept. The factors leading to its waning influence are globalisation, technology, and the existence of supranational entities such as the European Union, customs unions, military alliances, and trade blocs.

Nationalist sentiments can be diluted by exposure to international and multi-cultural influences. Member states in entities such as the EU happily surrender their sovereignty, at least partially. For instance, the member nations do not control monetary policy and have to abide by free trade rules applicable across two dozen nations. The recent electoral outcome in the United Kingdom might be a vote to roll back Brexit.

The movement of refugees and the presence of a large diaspora also somewhat dilute nationalist sentiments. Conversely, there is evidence of a resurgence of aggressive nationalism, especially manifesting in anti-refugee and anti-immigrant movements. We see some of this in Hungary, Poland, or in subnational independence movements in Catalonia and Scotland. There is anxiety about unemployment, often blamed on outsiders, i.e., people from other nations (e.g., Bangladeshi
illegal migrants).

Remember when former president of the US, Barack Obama, campaigned about how jobs were being stolen from Buffalo by Bengaluru? Or by China? Nationalist feelings are also stirred by geopolitics, border conflicts, threats to national security, and sabre-rattling rhetoric. Additionally, there is a muscular and sometimes ugly manifestation on social media. The jury is out on whether nationalism is going out of fashion or will become even more entrenched.

Hence, let’s talk about ‘MIG’-47. This has economic dimensions, such as raising India’s per-capita income into the high middle-income bracket (say, $20,000 per person in current terms). For that to happen, the national income must go up tenfold in the next 25 years. This means an annual growth rate of 9.6 per cent in dollar terms. Since the Indian rupee as a currency may remain stable, or if inflation is under control, it can even become stronger, this growth rate is quite feasible. It has to be sustained for more than two decades.

‘MIG’-47 also has an ease of living dimension, referring to the availability of safe and abundant drinking water, housing made from environmentally sustainable resources, extensive public transportation availability in cities, and much less toxic air. Since income growth will be energy intensive, it is imperative that renewable energy growth be faster by a factor of two or three. India is the global leader of the solar alliance.

The night storage of solar energy should be planned in a distributed and diffused manner, using millions of small automotive rechargeable batteries. That is, we invert the role of car and scooter batteries: they drain at night, running household electricity, and get recharged by solar energy during the day. Each one of us, like the proverbial squirrels who, along with monkeys, helped build the stone bridge to Lanka for Ram, acts as solar energy storage devices.

Air quality will improve greatly with a focus on sustainable strategies in the automotive and housing sectors. The latter consumes cement, which is made from calcium carbonate, a major source of carbon dioxide. Hence, the construction sector must be radically reoriented to reduce its carbon footprint.

The third dimension of ‘MIG’-47 is the building of human capital through education, skilling, training, and enhancing productivity and innovation capabilities. This is the toughest task, calling for herculean effort and reforms on multiple fronts. Education (along with agriculture) continues to be unreformed and shackled, although the National Education Policy 2020 is a step in the right direction. Here is a small tweak.

How about mandating that senior civil servants educate their children until Class 5 in the panchayat or municipal schools where they are posted? That will align incentives magically. How about having parent-teacher associations assess the performance of teachers in every government school annually? This means parents will have a say in school governance. 

The fourth dimension of ‘MIG’-47 is aggressive, relentless, and continuous decentralisation of power to the lowest, i.e., the third tier of government. This is the closest to the people but is least empowered in terms of decision autonomy, funding, and functioning. The more power gets centralised, the more we sink into the quicksand of power politics. The only long-term solution is a massive effort to decentralise governance and power.

The fifth dimension of ‘MIG’-47 is cultural, social, religious, and spiritual. Our country has been blessed with unimaginable diversity in every conceivable facet, and yet we are also the world’s showcase for harmony and unity in diversity. The key message of India to the world is samanvay, not tolerance but acceptance, not just co-existence but co-flourishing and blooming. 

(The writer is a Pune-based economist)
(Syndicate: The Billion Press)


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