Before I go to the real reason behind this piece, I think it is worthwhile to narrate an experience at a very early stage in my career. I had joined Dalal Street Investment Journal (my first job) a few months back. A few days after the budget, my colleague and I went to talk to the then Minister of State for Finance. To our sheer irritation and dismay we realized that he is not the least clued to anything finance and economics and only wanted to talk about POTA. With the time well wasted, we the exasperated lot came out of the room pondering over the unexpected turn of events.
But then, was it really unexpected when quite often we have wrong people handling wrong portfolio and making mess of things. We want to spend humongous sums of money to tackle hunger when the main problem facing the country is malnutrition. We want to show the world that literacy levels in India are improving (and dropout rates falling) while turning a blind eye to the quality. At a particular eureka moment a wise minister (and his coterie) decided to eliminate the concept of failing a student till the 8th standard. Result – poor quality of students getting even poorer. Repeated learning outcome surveys conducted by both the government and by independent education think-tanks have shown a consistent dip in reading and math levels coinciding with the introduction of the policy. While the industry laments employability of graduates in India, the situation will only get worse because a minister thought he had a revolutionary idea. This is another example of how clueless we Indians are about harnessing the dividend that a positive demography entails.