Just 10 years ago, if you had told anybody any of this, she would give you an incredulous smile.
And yet, much of what was unthinkable back then is becoming a reality in today’s India. We are still very far away from the ideals of removing desperate poverty, raising per capita income to the point of dignified living, or ensuring justice or at least a legal level playing ground for the poor and underprivileged. But five recent trends have been unexpected, heartening, and harbingers of a fast-changing nation.
Let us examine five such trends which were inconceivable even a decade or two ago.
Trend one: India now has more women than men. According to the fifth National Family and Health Survey (NFHS) carried out by the government between 2019 and 2021, India has 1,020 women for every 1,000 men. In 2011, that figure was 943 females per 1,000 men and in 1991, it was 927 females per 1,000 men.
Governments and non-government agencies worked in rare cohesion on this. From awareness campaigns to crackdowns on sex determination clinics, the message was drilled into the psyche of the nation.
Trend two: There are more internet users in Indian villages than in the cities. Rural India has 20 percent more internet users than urban areas, according to a recent study by data and market measurement firm Nielsen.
The study titled Bharat 2.0 internet study shows that out of India’s 646 million active internet users aged two years and above as of December 2021, rural users have grown at 45 percent compared with urban users’ growth of 28 percent over 2019. The Internet user base for 12 years and above has grown by 37 percent in that period.
Trend three: India has seen a sharp decline in fertility rate among women. The recent National Family Health Survey has shown that India’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR, or average number of children a woman would bear) is 2.0, down from 2.2 in the 2015-2016 survey.
Fertility among Muslim has shown the sharpest dip at 2.36, while it is still much higher than that of Hindus and Christians at 1.94 and 1.88 respectively.
Trend four: India has surpassed every nation, including China and the US, in digital financial transactions. For a country which was so cash-reliant till just six years ago, this is extraordinary.
India had the highest real-time payments among businesses around the world, with over 40 percent of such payments worldwide in 2021 being done here. A report by payment solutions provider ACI Worldwide, data analytics firm GlobalData, and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that India made 48.6 billion real-time payments through 2021, more than 2.6 times higher than China, which is at the second place with 18.5 billion real-time transactions.
Trend five: Indian economy is just about one year away from overtaking that of Britain’s, it erstwhile coloniser.
The Indian economy is all set to become sixth largest in the world, says a recent report by British consultancy Cybr. It says that in 2022, the Indian economy will surpass France’s and in 2023, Britain’s. Toppling economies of first-world nations is a massive game changer, although there are several crucial parameters like per capita income, and social security and medical protection of its poorest citizens to fix.
Each trend has its unique implications, but what do these five trends mean together?
They testify to a transforming, maturing nation. A healthy sex ratio and a dipping fertility rate means that a new dawn has silently arrived for half of India’s population: women. The nation has started realising that without the mental and physical well-being of its mothers, sisters, partners, wives, and daughters, it cannot progress or prosper. While the tipping point seems to have come suddenly and remarkably fast, it provides the springboard for very important leaps in the future.
A rural India connected by the internet and digital economy is another sweeping change in a remarkably short time. The hinterland is a phenomenally powerful sleeping beast. Once it arises, the nation’s entire social and economic arithmetic is likely to radically change for the better.
The first four trends dovetail into the fifth, which marks the nation’s material wellbeing. But these trends go much beyond economic growth. They signal a civilisational revival, a great rise encompassing the social, cultural, financial and military.
When we are in the centrifuge of change, it is hard to notice it. Which is why we must listen to what the figures are telling us. This generation is both the witness and executor of defining change. It must take pride and keep chipping away silently at dismantling the old world and perfecting the new one.