Indians care about skin color. Doctors will tell you there are two things that parents want to know about a new born: their gender and their skin tone. In 2014, people in India spent Rs. 3,695 Crores ($550 million) on fairness products; cosmetic conglomerate advertisements constantly remind consumers that success in marriage and the job market are only a fairness cream away. But can fair skin enable candidates to win elections?
India in Transition
In summer 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered the inaugural speech for the launch of Digital India, his program to “transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.” In the speech, Modi announced that “IT + IT = IT” or, as he elaborated, “Indian Talent + Information Technology = India Tomorrow.” Modi went on to say that technology is the most important thing India should teach its children.
A momentous task awaits Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and the newly elected Prime Minister of Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba. The two prime ministers have to maintain the momentum of the India-Nepal relationship (revived by former Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal) and alleviate the bitterness that had crept in during Dahal’s predecessor, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli’s term. While several reasons can be cited for the plummeting of India-Nepal ties during Oli’s tenure, his accusation of India initiating an economic blockade against Nepal is noteworthy.
The “habitat” of the Western Ghats is constructed of particular landforms—ridge and valley, peak and plateau, escarpment, and plains. Today, these features are at the heart of the development-environment conflict that has escalated since the 2012 UNESCO designation of the Ghats as a World Heritage Site. The use of this language of landforms can be traced back to colonial texts; but the roots of the image behind it are more difficult to unravel, being embedded in visual articulations of geographic maps and object drawings.
The results of the five recently concluded elections to the state assemblies—Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa, and Manipur—this past March, the by-elections to ten assembly constituencies across states, and the municipal elections in Delhi in April, in which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has done very well, have important implications.
Every year, from June through the end of September, the summer monsoon rains sweep up from India’s southern coasts and gradually spread to the north, supplying 80 percent of India’s annual rainfall. Rivers flow, fields are sown, and aquifers and reservoirs get replenished, setting in motion a burst of agricultural activity after the scorching summer heat. Underlying this euphoria, however, lies a deeply stressed agricultural system.
Cities are increasingly seen as sites of strategic action on clean energy and climate change. The United Nation’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals includes an explicit urban goal for the first time, and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement enables new spaces to promote climate outcomes in national development contexts. The attention on cities in the energy-climate nexus is particularly timely for India, which is projected to account for a quarter of the rise in global energy use by 2040. This growth is driven in large part by the country’s ongoing economic and social transitions.
India needs its roads. Our road network is essential to the free flow of goods and people across the country and connects rural villages to the rest of the nation. India’s roads, together with the railways, make us one. The question that should be asked, however, is how many roads does India need? It is obvious that there is an upper limit to the area that any nation can allocate to its road network. Aside from the fact that building roads is expensive, the opportunity cost must also be considered; the land given over to building a road can now no longer be used for other purposes.
Every year, the Indian government spends considerable resources on public infrastructure programs designed to provide citizens with access to basic amenities such as water, sanitation, electricity, and roads. Although such efforts have the potential to greatly improve the standard of living of ordinary citizens, these programs have been widely criticized for being mired in political influence. But how does political influence actually shape the implementation of public infrastructure programs in India?
The Indian Constitution ensures certain protection for communities deemed as having Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. However, which groups should be accorded that status has been contentious. Getting ST status means that members of the group have access to highly desired tangible benefits such as political representation, reserved seats in schools, and government jobs. Over the years, social and political mobilization has led to the number of STs growing from 225 in 1960 to 700 today (with overlapping communities in more than one state).