India will have six megacities with over 10 million residents each, and will witness an urban explosion never seen before
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In September 2015, at the historic Session of the UN General Assembly, 193 countries adopted arguably the most ambitious global agenda of our times, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity and peace. Never before had a process of formulating the global agenda been as collaborative and inclusive; and never before had it been equally obligatory on countries, whether developed or developing to uphold the fundamental and transformational principle of leaving no one behind.
The time is right. Never before has a generation been more equipped to affect change, nor confronted with more complex and interconnected problems - climate change, poverty, the energy crisis, gender inequality and natural disasters that no longer recognize national borders. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted, we are the first generation that can end poverty and the last generation that can save the planet.
India has played an important role in shaping this ambitious agenda; and as the country where challenges and opportunities go hand in hand, India is the stage where this new global agenda will be achieved. The challenges are immense. While poverty has declined significantly over the last two decades, one in every five individuals is still poor and malnutrition threatens the future of India's young. Gender inequality and violence against women is a key concern. Only 26 of out every 100 people have access to the internet. Forty-five million children below the ages of 5 are stunted and 237 million people still lack electricity.
Yet no one doubts, that India is where unprecedented change is happening, where every day more people are connected, whether to healthcare or sanitation, to financial services, or the digital revolution. They are being helped by an impressive array of government flagship initiatives including Swachh Bharat for a clean India, Beti Bachao to empower women and girls, Make in India to propel manufacturing, or the JAM trinity of Jan Dhan, Aadhar and mobile telephony to bring millions into the ambit financial security. They represent the very best of the global agenda and the Sustainable Development Agenda, each aiming to reach the furthest, fastest.
India has realised that achieving its ambitions cannot happen through business as usual. Innovation will be the driver of a different world, and will be led by millions of the country's innovators, entrepreneurs, young leaders, and change makers. From developing the world's smallest device to help the blind move freely, to the cheapest car, and a mission to mars that costs India INR 7 a kilometre, ideas for the future are being born every day.
I imagine a 2030 where India's role as the incubator of the world's ideas, is complimented by realizing the potential of young people. As the Secretary-General said "Youth engagement can help turn the world we want into the world we deserve". India will continue to have one of the youngest populations in the world till 2030. I imagine a future, where young people are skilled, educated and able to realize their dreams.
With 300 million internet users, India's user base has already surpassed the population of the United States. But imagine an India where every citizen has access to the internet, fuelling entrepreneurial innovators that can help find solutions to the biggest development challenges of our time. India's ambition to provide high-speed broadband service to 250,000 gram panchayats, connecting nearly 600 million people in rural India, can go a long way in realizing the digital revolution.
Even as the world economy continues to be subdued, India continues to grow. For the first time in 150 years, India's economy surpassed that of the United Kingdom this year. Imagine a 2030 where an empowered and educated workforce of 600 million women participated equally in this phenomenal growth story and the opportunities that would bring.
By 2030, India will have six megacities with over 10 million residents each, and will witness an urban explosion never seen before. Imagine a 2030 where India builds on the Government of India's smart cities, weaving together a host of smart solutions improving the quality of life in the cities for millions. With an estimated 6 out of 10 people expected to live in cities globally by 2030, the lessons from India would be immense.
At the heart of India's efforts to address the drivers of poverty will be to ensure equity. I envision that in 2030, India would have lifted more people out of poverty than the world has seen. I imagine an India in 2030 which will be stronger, more equal, and far more prosperous than it has ever been before. It will be a prosperity driven by how inclusive and sustainable it is. It will be an India that lives in clean smart cities, thriving rural communities, connected and empowered by information technology, fuelled by clean and renewable energy.
India's decision to develop a Vision Document, led by NITI Aayog at the centre and the state governments at the federal level is a testament to its commitment to planning for the long term. As India addresses its challenges, I imagine that approach will be through collaboration and partnerships, with a blended finance model - the coming together of government, the corporate sector, citizens and communities - each leveraging its special strength, to make the big difference to the lives of millions of Indians.
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