Diamonds in the Dust
When we look back on 2021, most of us look back with a feeling of gloom. The devastating second wave of Covid-19 was a physical as well as an emotional drain on the country. However, in spite of this, there were many positives to celebrate – what senior journalist and author TN Ninan calls, “Diamonds In the dust”.
According to Ninan, there were at least six milestones we crossed or achieved, which give us the ability to look at the future with hope. The first are the accomplishments in sports. “Not just cricket, in which India has arguably been the best year-round, all-format team performance, but also the most promising performance at the Olympics to date. The medal hall is admittedly still modest, but there is a revival in field hockey, a breakthrough in track and field, continuing strength in badminton, and promise (especially among women) in wrestling, weightlifting, shooting, archery, middle-distance running and even golf”
The second area to celebrate is the stock market. “Indeed, there have been double-digit increases in Sensex values for three years running, the only such period since the financial crisis of 2008”
2021 was also the year Indian entrepreneurship entered a new age. Ninan wonders if “those in the forefront of today’s emerging sectors (electric vehicles, green energy, electronic goods manufacture and retail) and tech-driven unicorns prove to be worthy successors” to entrepreneurs like Sunil Mittal and Uday Kotak who came before them. This will depend on “whether their enterprises are grounded in sound business logic and ethics – unlike those who in the last couple of decades led the charge, only to fail, in real estate, infrastructure and aviation”
The fourth positive is the governments capacity to deliver targeted welfare benefits at scale. Ninan credits the Prime Minister, the civil servants and the tech ecosystem which developed the backbone through which these benefits are being chiefly delivered.
Another major positive is the development of domestic defence manufacturing capabilities at a time of growing security challenges. “The light combat aircraft has made it to production, as has the light combat helicopter. India has turned out its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, is about to commission its second nuclear-powered submarine, and has developed a full-spectrum of missiles”.
Finally, the results of investments in physical infrastructure will start bearing fruits in the years to come. Ninan cites the completion of the western dedicated freight corridor, a string of highways, the end of the era of power shortages and the internet revolution that has allowed millions access to banking and fintech services as examples.
He concludes by saying “In a country that is often or usually focused on the ways in which it falls short, the start of a year is a good time to remind oneself of such positives”.