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('Developed Nation by 2020' is not a daydream - Vajpayeeji 15Aug2003 - Image Courtesy: PMO)
 
In politics, one should have the courage to tell the truth to the public, but we see that in some states there is an attempt to avoid it,” stated Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 30th July 2022. Mr. Modi said this while admonishing the States to clear dues of power generation companies. 
Alas, our beloved PM himself missed a golden opportunity to show the courage to tell the truth on ‘Developed India’ resolve on 15th August 2022. He avoided the honour to use “Tricolour as the witness”, to borrow a recurring phrase from his Independence Day (ID) Speeches.
The National Flag at the Red Fort witnessed twice Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee vow to make India a ‘Developed Nation’ by 2020. 
Similarly, President A. P. J. Abul Kalam articulated Mr. Vajpayee’s vision on two different solemn occasions. Mr. Modi lacked courage to disclose to citizens that BJP fought 2004 Lok Sabha polls with ‘Developed Nation’ promise embossed on the cover page of its manifesto. 
And there hangs a long tale of quest to see India leap into league of rich nations – an idea that dates back to the Nehru era. 
As Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister, Dr Kalam, was perhaps the first high-ranking Govt representative to expound the concept of Developed India with specifying any timeline. He did it during October 1998 while delivering the Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture-1998 organized by All India Radio. 
An official release dated 29th October 1998 quoted him as saying “India must be economically and commercially powerful with near self-reliance in defence and a standing in the world affairs.”
In the Lecture Captioned ‘Second Vision for the Nation and Developed India,’ Dr Kalam five thrust areas for realizing the vision of developed India. These are agriculture and food processing, electric power, education and health care, information technology and strategic sectors. He added: “Science and technology have all the ambience for transforming the nation into a developed India.”
The credit, however, goes to Mr. Vajpayee for setting for the first time a timeline to turn India into a developed country. In his Address to the Nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on 15th August 2002, he stated: “Our aim is to free India from the curse of poverty and unemployment. It is to make India a Developed Nation by 2020. When this country of one billion people works with a common resolve, then no goal is impossible to achieve.”
He added: “This fifty-fifth anniversary of Independence conveys one more message to us. And that message is that all of us strive to our utmost for the realization of the dream of making India a Developed Nation.”
On the subsequent ID/15th August 2003, Mr. Vajpayee articulated his resolve: “Dear Countrymen, today the nation is at such a turning point from where it can take a big leap forward. The yearning to achieve the lofty vision of making India a Developed Nation by 2020 is gathering strength all over the country. In just one generation, India can be liberated from the curse of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment. This is not a daydream. It can be turned into reality. Many countries in the world have demonstrated it.”
Like Mr. Modi’s five prans (vows) for ‘Developed India’ by 2047, Mr Vajpayee had unveiled a four-point mantra to turn his vision into reality. According to him, “What is needed is only this: That all of us move together. That all of us move with discipline. That we adopt a new work culture. That we work with a long-term perspective.”
Vajpayee ji dwelt on his passion for ‘Developed India’ at other platforms too. In the Foreword to 10th five-year plan document, he allowed his exuberance for this to flourish again. On 21st December 2002, he thus wrote: “I have a vision of an India free of poverty, illiteracy and homelessness – free of regional, social and gender disparities – with modern physical and social infrastructure – and a healthy and sustainable environment. Above all, an India which stands tall and proud in the comity of nations, confident in her capability to face all possible challenges. In short, I dream of an India which is counted among the ranks of developed nations before the end of the second decade of this new century.” 
Turn now to President A. P. J. Abul Kalam. In his Address to the Nation on Republic Day eve on 25th January 2003, Dr. Kalam stated: “India can become a developed nation only if everyone contributes to the best of his or her ability and capacity. The mission is: In transforming India into a developed nation by 2020, what can be the role of every citizen in addition to the governmental initiatives of launching programs for the vision of developed India.” The speech was aptly captioned ‘Developed India: Vision and Actions.’
Dr. Kalam expounded well the theme of ‘Developed Nation’ in his Address to Parliament on 17th February 2003.
Recalling PM’s 2002 ID speech in which he set 2020 as timeline to turn India into a Developed Nation, Dr. Kalam stated: “Our people are impatient to achieve 100 per cent literacy, health for all, shelter for all, prosperity through knowledge-driven productivity, and a better quality of life—all of these enriched with our value system.”
He continued: “Hence, it is time India launched a new vision, which I would call 'Vision-2020'. I would like Parliament, which is celebrating its Golden Jubilee, to discuss this subject." 
And Parliament later did discuss the theme ‘Developed India’ 2020. Participating in debate on motion of thanks on President’s address, Yogi Aditya Nath stated in Lok Sabha on 25th February 2003: “Any country which does not fix its target cannot even imagine about reaching there. And this Resolution which hon. President has clearly stated in his address that by 2020 AD India will be among developed countries of the world, and would be Superpower of the world, clearly reflected in the works of the last five years.”
In Rajya Sabha, DR. P.C. Alexander cautioned on 20th February 2003: “if education is not given the importance that it deserves, we would be failing in the objective which we have placed before us of lifting India to the level of a developed nation in 2020 and that dream may have to be extended further by 20 years more.”
How true was his prophecy one can mull over now at the present state of education in schools, colleges and higher institutions.  
Opposing the motion of thanks on President's address in Rajya Sabha, Dr. M.N. Das, a renowned historian, said on 25th February 2003: “ideas are very easy to conceive and entertain, and promises are most easy to make. But when we come to the question of achievement of these pregnant achievements and promises, it would only deliver a still-born child.”
Dr. Das added: “This is ‘Vision - 2020.’ Any vision is or may be just an illusion.”
Illusion it was. Hence the voters gave no credence to it in Lok Sabha polls during 2004. 
On the coverage page of its 2004 Vision-cum-Election Manifesto, BJP exuded: “An idea whose time has come: India as a Developed Nation and a Great Power
It added: “Our vision is to make India a Developed Nation by 2020; strong in security, strong in national unity, strong in economy, strong in democracy, strong in diplomacy, and, above all, strong in every parameter of human development of all her one billion people.”
The manifesto also promised eradication of poverty by 2015.”  The fact is that poverty has increased under Modi Government – a truth articulated time and again by the World Bank. 
Without using the label “Developed India,” Parliament earlier too discussed why India failed to become a developed country and what it should do to transform itself as wealthy nation.
The idea of India emerging as a developed nation figured directly or indirectly in few Government studies and reports. A study ‘The New India - Progress Through Democracy,’ released in 1958 is a case in point.
Prepared jointly by experts from Planning Commission and Ford Foundation, the Study noted that India seeks, “to bring about its rapid transformation from a backward to a developed nation by democratic means.”
Referring to challenge of population explosion, the Study concluded: “India must run fast merely to stand still. An essential condition for actual progress in incomes and level of living per person is an effective curb in population growth.”
After UPA came to power in 2004, Dr. Kalam didn’t let his passion for Developed India to wane. He thus spoke on this theme at public events including seminars. He drew up 10 wished-for features of India 2020 in his farewell speech at Parliament on 3rd July 2007. 
He urged MPs to “Adopt a Resolution that India will be transformed into a safe, prosperous, happy and socio-economically developed nation before the year 2020 using National Prosperity Index (NPI) as a measure.”
The discourse on developed India has had a tinge of sycophancy too. The most glaring case in point is statement from The Union Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. On 19th November 2014, Mr. Paswan declared India will become a developed nation in four years under Modi.
While Mr. Modi maintained studied silence over Developed Nation 2020 vision, the United States felt emergence of India as developed country. In February 2020, US Trade Representative notified India as developed nation to deprive it of certain benefits extended to developing countries. 
It is apt to conclude saga of developed nation illusion by citing Planning Commission report - India Vision 2020 – released in December 2002. 
The Report says: “Some may regard this vision as an anxious attempt to imitate and catch up with the West. But there is an important distinction to be made between blind imitation and intelligent emulation that draws upon the discoveries and experiences of others to address universal needs common to all human beings and all societies.”
The report added: “India, with its rich cultural heritage and thousands of years of history of civilisation, need not aspire to become like country A or B. For India, realising the vision for 2020 is not an end in itself, but rather an essential condition for allowing the spirit of this country to emerge and flourish”.
 
 
 
 
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