One pertinent development which occurred in 1991 was the advent of Star TV. I think it was the first one to come. Today people like me who are serving in a particular force are not very much affected but the kids who are growing up. They have a much wider exposure to events, opportunities and environment than the people of my generation. They are growing up in the information age which has undoubtedly stimulated the growth of this country. People became more and more aware of the opportunities that they have and realized that the government may not be the only source of employment, you can create your own employment now.
Various restrictions that were in place were eased down enabling the flexibility of business to the people by Narasimha Rao. Then he revoked the regime of licenses and control and slowly, people became more aware of the opportunities. So the people started participating in the progress of India. Before that it was more or less a government initiative.
Another big change was that banks started giving out loans for cars etc, which increased people’s purchasing power. There has also been a very big change in metropolitan cities. As far as villages are concerned because of C-Dot every village had an STD phone. So the people could communicate more and exchange ideas. Further the mobile revolution took place. All this led to exchange of ideas and thought on a very vast scale. IT youngsters in fact have 2 phones. It may not always be constructive but they have their uses. So, these things happened and it changed lives in rural India also. Plus, newer technology became available. Thus, the production by the farmer improved, infrastructure and transportation improved so they could take their produce to different places.
In those days If you had to communicate something to someone in a hurry then either you could phone him or the phone was dead, which was not infrequent. That time we didn't have any state of the art technology, we were using the technology which was 10-15 years obsolete. Now there is newer technology and the ’91 reforms have played a part.
These have been the vast changes from the time before 1991 and they are going to continue to change. Interestingly the real difference of it will be apparent when people who are born after 1991 come into decision-making where perception and inputs for decision-making are going to be phenomenally different from what we had. There has been a good change.
(Anil Sharma is a retired Commander, Indian Army)