New Delhi: It was a year when much of the world waited for things to get worse (with the world), and India waited for things to get better (in India) and, sometime before 2012 ended, it became evident that it would disappoint on both counts.
Notably, among the happenings of 2012, the global economy continued to sputter, the Americans decided to keep Obama in the White House, and India, and its government, survived.
And notably, among the non-happenings, the world didn’t end and the euro zone didn’t break up.
The year did not end on a happy note in India, with the death on 29 December of a gang-rape victim whose trauma shocked the nation and whose fight for her life captured its imagination. The crime highlighted everything wrong with India and Indians. And the reaction to the crime and the brave young woman’s death could address many of those ills if carried through to its logical denouement.
From better laws to deal with crimes against women to police, judicial, even social reform, the possibilities of what could happen are, as is always the case in India, almost endless. And, as past events, including the heinous terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 have shown, it is just as possible that the nation forgets and moves on.
If India and Indians overcome inertia, 2013 may be a better year for some in India.
Just as it promises to be a better year for the Indian economy than 2012. After years spent focusing its resources on entitlements for India’s hundreds of millions of underprivileged, without ensuring the growth of the economy that could have funded these social-minded programmers, the government, in the last few months of 2012, embarked on a law- and policy-making drive that, if it lasts into 2013, bodes well for the economy. Again, the possibilities are endless—and the eventualities, extreme.
It is easy to be bearish about India, a country that needs every kind of reform— economic, social and political—but there is reason for hope. Events of the past 18 months have shown an increasing willingness among people to take to the streets if their demands are not met—a marked change from the apathy and fatalism they once displayed. The results of state-level elections in the same period have shown that people are more worried about jobs, livelihoods and economic development than they are about caste or religion. And both the events and the election results have happened against the backdrop of an information revolution that has made it all but impossible for governance (and misgovernance) to continue in the opaque manner in which most established political parties would like it to.
Sure, India will falter; there will be moments and movements that promise much, only to deceive; but there’s a feeling now—stronger than it has ever been before—that 2013 will be better.
On that note of hope, I’d like to invite you, Constant Reader, to sample what some of the best thinkers of our time have to say about 2012, and a 2013 that could be better—even if marginally so.
Happy reading. And a happy new year.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.