As the Lok Sabha elections draw near, the focus is back on the Indian voter. Media, scholars, and policymakers often perpetuate the erroneous view that the Indian voter is relatively unsophisticated, responding only to short-term benefits and thus can be easily manipulated. Consider, for instance, the recent calls by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to ban opinion polls in the run up to the election for fear of undue influence, or the constant media stories of vote bank politics and government sops.
Society & Culture
India is facing major challenges in higher education. In 2007, Prime Minister Singh noted that in almost half of India’s districts, higher education enrollments were “abysmally low” and that two-thirds of Indian universities and 90 percent of Indian colleges were rated as below average on quality parameters.
The incentive to create lies at the heart of the classic utilitarian justification for copyright protection. The broad structure – one of exclusive rights and monopolies with public interest exceptions – indicates the dominant, if not singular, role played by utilitarianism while formulating intellectual property law in India. Indeed, if copyright law were only meant to honor creators and respect their creativity, the State could confer prizes and awards on them. The State, desirous that they create more, provides for economic incentives.
The image of the cow conjures up every oriental stereotype about unchanging India, mired in tradition, religious belief, and obsolete agricultural methods. Yet, the cow has emerged as an index for India’s changing political economy and regulatory politics over the last decade. Statistics show that over the last few years, beef consumption in India has risen and is greater than the combined consumption of other meats.
In recent years, whenever India and China have met at the highest level, the issue of water has been prominently put on the negotiating table. Much of the unease has been over a truculent temperamental trans-border river, the Yaluzangbu-Brahmaputra-Jamuna (YBJ) system, which exhausts its full watery course only after having traversed three sovereign nations: China, India, and Bangladesh.
A week ago, cyclone Phailin raged through Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. With wind speeds up to 200 km/h ripping through the countryside, it’s no surprise that electricity transmission infrastructure in coastal areas took a significant hit. Certain districts, particularly in Odisha, are still suffering from major electricity shortages after thousands of distribution poles and hundreds of kilometres of wiring were knocked out of service.
Last week, approval of the critical Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill (Pension Bill) sailed through the Rajya Sabha without much drumbeating in the press. Overshadowed by news of the weakening rupee, the bill, nearly ten years in the making, will allow 26 percent foreign direct investment in the insurance sector, seeking to create some sort of regulation for the country’s almost nonexistent formal pension system.
Deciding how to put the abstract democratic ideal into practice isn’t easy. Some decisions are large institutional ones, such as whether a country should opt for parliamentarianism; others are more microscopic – how electoral districts should be mapped, how electoral speech should be regulated, and so forth. The specific institutionalization of the democratic ideal can radically impact its functioning and even threaten the ideal itself. While India has managed non-partisan election administration reasonably well, other features of the system are poorly regulated and understood.
We are just weeks beyond the fifteenth anniversary of the 1998 nuclear tests, and less than a year from the fortieth anniversary of India’s 1974 “peaceful nuclear experiment.” India is justly proud of what its nuclear scientists have accomplished. In the face of an international regime to slow their progress, Indian scientists, engineers, and even bureaucrats and politicians collaborated to find a way to build an increasingly diverse nuclear energy infrastructure and the ability to produce nuclear weapons. To overcome these obstacles, India built a closed, close-knit nuclear enclave.
Identity politics is the workhorse of most analysis of human interaction in India. For decades, the cleavages of caste and community have been viewed as the most important forces shaping social, political, and economic dynamics. The extent to which individuals participate in violence, act collectively, succeed in delivering public goods, or make decisions on Election Day – all of these are perceived to hinge on issues of ethnic identity.