Macro Economy & Trade
Two hundred years of British rule left India drained. We became Independent, but were lagging on all social and economic indicators. The average Indian then could hope to live for less than 40 years. Average incomes were a little more than Rs 250. Imagine then the transformation the country has made. Our per capita income is 500 times higher than what it was in the 1950s. Our economy is now far more globalised with a stock market that’s been booming for the past 40 years. TOI brings you the big picture to show how it is a (far) Better India today compared to when the British left in 1947
Food & Agriculture
Nearly 2 to 3 million people died in the 1943 Bengal Famine that many say was manmade. Four years later, India was partitioned. India inherited 82% of the population but only 75% of the cereal production of the undivided country. Food security was a major concern. The next step was the Green Revolution that introduced a scientific approach to agriculture in a country where most of the farming was still rain-fed. Another step was market intervention and price support to stabilise agricultural prices. India is now a net exporter of foodgrains and there has been a massive jump in production and availability of all items of daily consumption.
In the 1950s, railways were the main mode of long-distance travel. In 1950-51, non-suburban passengers constituted the bulk of rail travellers. Today, more than half the passengers are those who use railways for their suburban commute while long-distance travel has moved to highways and airlines. Compared with 20,000km of national highways in the 1950s, the total length has increased to 1,26,000km. And from 30 lakh, the number of registered vehicles in the country has risen to about 30 crore. Air travel saw rapid expansion after the 1990s. As against 37 million fliers in 1995-96, 2018-19 saw 345 million people getting on a plane.
Democracy was a tough challenge in a country with an 18.3% literacy rate. The number of childbirths was 6 per woman and there were more than 180 infant deaths per thousand live births. Life expectancy was less than 40 years. From strengthening the new republic’s democratic foundations to planning a successful health and education policy, they must have all seemed like Herculean tasks to India’s first policymakers. We have come a long way and these data from when India was a newly independent country might seem hard to believe now.
Centuries of colonial rule deindustrialised India. Almost everything had to be imported and many items that are necessities today were luxuries for the common man in the 1950s. Essentials are more affordable now though real estate has seen an exponential rise. Here’s how long it would take to earn the equivalent of the prices of key items then and now based on annual average incomes.
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