Kolkata: With India set to become home to the world's largest working population by 2022 and a global supplier of workforce, education, skill development and enhancing employability are the most urgent needs, former President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday.
If India harbours the hope of reaping demographic dividends, it must make sure its people are educated and skilled enough, Mukherjee told a large assembly of young entrepreneurs at a special session organized by Young Indians, the youth wing of the Confederation of Indian Industry.
India's potential is huge, but the failure to tap the potential in the right manner will frustrate its aspiration to become a global power, he said.
"The oldest civilisation will be younger and younger. The responsibility lies on you to remove disparity, inequality and provide leadership. Otherwise, I am afraid, demographic advantage will turn into a demographic disaster," Mukherjee said.
He exhorted the country's youth to work towards ending the growing wealth gap. There is an emerging divergence of haves and have-nots, he said, adding disparity exists not just on health and education parameters, but also on income distribution.
Such a situation is "unacceptable" and the youth must a celook inward" if they are keen to end this, Mukherjee said.
According to the former head of state, developmental paradigm must be shifted to equality and harmony.
"A recent report on the Indian economic situation between 2013 and 2017 states that 71 per cent of the total wealth generated in India is accumulated by 21 per cent people; while remaining 79 per cent of the population are left with 29 per cent of the wealth. This cannot go on for long. Change has to be brought about by the young people, not by me, not by anybody else," he said.
The former President cited yet another study that brings to fore some other social disparities. As per the report, 40 of the least developed countries have only 13 per cent of the girl child getting enrolled in schools; and just 11 per cent of the men and women have access to some sort of healthcare.