Two decades ago, a dramatic shift took place in the rules governing the provision of piped municipal water supply in Mumbai. In this shift, access to municipal water for residents of the city’s popular neighborhoods and “slums” became linked to the rules governing eligibility for inclusion in slum rehabilitation housing schemes.
India in Transition
On May 26, 2014, Narendra Modi invited the heads of all the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries to his swearing-in ceremony. While this important gesture could have marked a new beginning for regional cooperation, such cooperation in South Asia still takes place mainly in the bilateral sphere. Since 1985, India has been a key founding member of four regional initiatives, none of which have achieved any tangible results.
Near the end of President Obama’s recent visit to India, he recorded a radio broadcast with Prime Minister Modi. On the air, Obama indicated a desire to work on public health issues in India once his term ends. One of the issues he referred to, in particular, was obesity, a growing health challenge worldwide. Obesity contributes to several non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that have been garnering more international attention. NCDs refer to health challenges that are largely chronic, evolve gradually, and get progressively worse until tackled.
The lead up to the UN climate change summit in December 2015 is increasingly peppered with speculation about possible outcomes, globally and for India. In preparation, each country is to submit an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” or INDC by the middle of the year, ahead of the conference of parties. The attention is on India, given the emphasis in the current US-India relationship about prioritizing a response to climate change.
Environmental governance in India is increasingly – and inevitably – contentious. Environmental quality is declining sharply on most indicators such as air, water, and forest cover. At the same time, there are calls for regulatory flexibility to enable pursuit of a “development agenda.” Demands for regulatory and institutional reform are frequently raised by various stakeholders, albeit with widely varying motives.
Russia’s interests in India have been growing since Stalin’s death in 1953. Khrushchev and Bulganin inaugurated a Third World policy that brought the leaders to India and took Nehru to Moscow, all in 1955. In the same year, when Asian and African nations met at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, Russian newspapers celebrated the event as a “sign of our age.” The Indian establishment was enthusiastic that Stalin’s successors had discarded his “dim view of India.” During the Cold War, the relationship had more flow than ebb.
Is NREGS suffering a mid life crisis or are we staring at its death? From a budget of INR 401 Billion in 2010-11, it has plummeted to INR 330 Billion in 2013-2014. Given the much higher wages currently offered to workers, it has taken a serious hit. The position taken by government officials (and many economists) is that there is a general lack of interest in NREGS. The rise in agricultural real wages over the period 2004-05 to 2011-12, coupled with a general dismay regarding quality of assets produced and evidence of corruption, has led to a call for a scaling down of NREGS.
Addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin and the media last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “the character of global politics and international relations is changing. However, the importance of this relationship and its unique place in India’s foreign policy will not change.” Expressed on the sidelines of the 15th Annual India-Russia Summit in New Delhi, Modi’s statement conveyed his intention to enhance cooperation with Russia. Concurrently, it also implied India will not support western sanctions against Russia.
In an effort to enhance accountability within the state, Prime Minister Modi launched a new surveillance system to monitor the attendance of public employees.
In a recent New York Times article, Pankaj Mishra painted a portrait of the modern Hindu Indian psyche in colors of “victimhood and chauvinism,” arguing that “many ambitious members of a greatly expanded and fully global Hindu middle class feel frustrated in their demand for higher status from white Westerners.” Mishra’s controversial statement is apt not just for its description of contemporary politics, but also because it captures something more ingrained and enduring in the Indian psyche.