Ten years ago, when then-prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi promised India bullet trains, he probably did not bargain for the system's resistance to high speed. The journey from an average speed of 60 kmph to a bullet speed of over 300 kmph would take longer than expected. It required an entirely new state-of-the-art infrastructure and a new mindset. However, that did not dissuade the pragmatic Modi as PM Modi from bringing greater speed to the railways by introducing the Vande Bharat trains that run at 120 kmph.
The real world has a way of confounding textbook economics. Macroeconomics, the branch that deals with the big things like growth, inflation and interest rates, seems broken when used to implement policy. In medicine, a drug is not approved for use if it has potentially serious side-effects. Or, if it's approved, it is administered with care, in the right doses. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and the pressure on other US banks suggests that economists still don't quite appreciate the side-effects of their actions.
Can India create a higher education system worthy of its aspirations as a full-fledged knowledge economy? That’s still to be determined. But India is on the verge of taking a major, long-awaited first step in the right direction: With the recent release of draft rules by the country’s higher education regulator — the University Grants Commission — India is moving closer to allowing high-quality foreign universities to set up campuses to help meet the country’s growing appetite for advanced education.
Like previous Budgets, this too will be tailored to PM Modi’s longer term, prosperity-oriented approach to governance, rather than a short term, populist approach. One of the standard features of office buildings and residential complexes of a certain, not so distant, vintage in India’s major cities is the absence of any designated space for parking cars. Urban planning hasn’t been one of the country’s great strengths. In fact, most cities have grown unplanned. However, the lack of parking spaces for cars (there may be some for two-wheelers) was quite deliberate. Urban planners simply did not believe that India would become prosperous enough for masses to own cars in any reasonable time frame (infrastructure is built for at least 30 to 50 years). And to be fair it wasn’t just urban planners, but most of the nation.
Eleven months ago, in a first for inland waterway cargo movement in India, the MV Lal Bahadur Shastri, a river cargo vessel, transported 200 metric tonnes of food grain over 2,350 km from Patna to Guwahati via Bangladesh. Now, the MV Ganga Vilas, a luxury liner, has begun to operate the world's longest river cruise, across 3,200 km, from Varanasi to Dibrugarh via Bangladesh.
Until last year, Air India was a chronically underperforming public-owned airline. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has often said that the government has no business being in business. Yet after eight and a half years of his tenure, Air India is one of only two enterprises that have been successfully privatized.