Silicon Valley, 2015: As I was approaching the last stages of writing this book, I felt it was important to hear from my friends, family, and countrymen and -women about India’s new Golden Age. So I started a survey and made it available on my Facebook page. I also sent e-mails to over a thousand contacts and called some of them. I was pleasantly surprised by the responses, which came from India, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They represented all ages from eighteen to those over seventy-five.
The responses were varied. Majority of them were optimistic about building a golden India. Some were concerned about the harsh realities facing many and the need to address the basics. Finally, a few were downright pessimistic. Interestingly, “excellent education at all levels” was ranked the most important factor that would make India golden. It was closely followed by “access to food, housing, sanitation, water, and electricity”, and “corruption-free governance at all levels of government”. Discussion on India’s previous golden age was, surprising to me, quite contentious.
Irrespective of our views on history, it is important that the new golden era must be golden for all 1.3 billion Indians. There will be many naysayers and those with vested interests to stop or stall the Gray Revolution. On the other hand, the opportunity to build India’s new Golden Age is historic. By transforming the higher education system and unleashing the passion, power, and potential of 1.3 billion, it would truly place the PM, CMs, political leaders, and party in the same league as legendary leaders such as Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Chandra Gupta II, Rajaraja Chola I, Akbar, and Shivaji. As the leaders of a united and independent India, they indeed could change the course for the nation and its people for the next thousand years.
However, the leaders must act now. The demographic dividend is a time-sensitive phenomenon. And it takes time to establish new world-class institutions and transform the entire higher education system. All the past and present evidence from India and around the world suggests that India can create a golden era for its 1.3 billion people. With over nine hundred million people below the age of forty, this is the time to do it. The upside from the transformation is delivering a demographic dividend and India’s new Golden Era. The downside, from not making the necessary changes, could well be an unmitigated disaster. The stakes are high, and so are the payoffs.
Let’s begin building a golden India, now!
(Shail Kumar is the author of Building Golden India: How to unleash India's vast potential and transform its higher education system. Now. To find out more about the author and the book, visit: www.shailkumar.com)