After the general elections in 2014, a newly ambitious India appeared to emerge: a manufacturing hub with clean cities and villages, where farmer incomes would double and everyone would have houses and bank accounts. Assumed in this vision, though never articulated, was an effective government apparatus converting these ideas into concrete reality.
India in Transition
The year 2018 started on a somber note when reports of Cape Town running out of public water supplies shook the global news cycle. A little-known fact that did not get much attention in popular media was that for a quarter of the city’s residents living in informal settlements, “Day Zero” has long been part of everyday life. As scientists have begun to count down this looming crisis in other major cities, especially in the developing world, the socio-political implications of inequitable access to basic need services have become exigent.
How do rebels quit armed groups and return to the same political processes they had once sought to overthrow? A lot has been written on why men and women rebel. But we know very little about why and how rebels quit. This is, however, a predominant concern among policymakers now, from Nepal to Colombia.
India is reported to have approximately fifteen million NGOs in the education sector. Combined with the proliferation of social enterprises in recent years, the space for non-government education innovations is rapidly becoming a network of cottage industries, with interventions often reinventing the wheel and successful practices not being appropriately leveraged to address India’s learning crisis at scale.
The Ganges, or Ganga, is India’s holiest river, worshipped as a goddess by more than a billion people. It accounts for 47 percent of India’s irrigated land and feeds 500 million citizens. Despite its importance, it is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Rapid population growth, urbanization, and industrial development have raised the levels of domestic as well as industrial pollutants in its waters.
Why do the lights go out more often in some Indian states than others? While India has recently seen great gains in generation capacity and rural electrification, many utilities are still trapped in a vicious cycle of underpayment, underinvestment, and dismal performance. The effects are huge: in 2010 the World Bank estimated the cost of electricity shortages at 7 percent of India’s GDP.
India’s Africa policy over the past few decades has oscillated between passive and reluctantly reactive at best. Strategic apathy toward the continent was obvious on many fronts. Not only did countries in Africa not feature in New Delhi’s larger foreign policy matrix, but until recently there wasn’t any significant attention paid to the continent. Indian leaders seldom travelled to African nations and very rarely did they feature in conversations surrounding New Delhi’s foreign policy ambitions.
Imagine moving countries for a brand-new job, only to discover that you have been sold to your employer for $4,700. It sounds preposterous, but is the real-life story of Salma Begum, a 39-year-old Indian Hyderabadi woman, which made headlines last year. Salma, duped by fraudulent recruitment agents, was sold to her employer, who tortured her after she refused to marry him. While Salma made it to Mumbai after an intervention by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, hordes of blue collar migrants in similar positions are not as fortunate.
Are rural Indian voters sophisticated enough to navigate the complexities of local elections in India? The 1992 passage of the 73rd amendment gave constitutional status to village councils—rural India’s lowest tier of government— and mandated regular elections for village council (gram panchayat or GP) members and the GP president, resulting in millions of elected positions in local government. This empowered village leaders, and particularly the GP president (sarpanch) with substantial discretion over the local implementation of government programs.
Cooperative federalism is a governance mantra in India these days. Between GST, Aadhar, demonetization, Swacch Bharat and more, the assertiveness of the Central government in prescribing wide-ranging technocratic policy solutions is at an all-time high. And for good reason—some of these interventions may have long-term benefits, even if they are painful in the short-term. But these benefits are rarely uniform across regions, and the long-term distributional and spatial consequences of these policies are often not well understood.