Despite profoundly negative health consequences of indoor air pollution, about half of the households in the world cook using solid biomass fuels. The situation is much worse in India where 83 percent of rural households and nearly 20 percent of urban households still use firewood or animal dung as the primary source of energy for cooking. Burning these unprocessed biomass fuels in traditional open fire burners, or “chulhas,” results in an estimated half a million premature deaths and nearly half a billion illnesses each year.
Society & Culture
With the emergence of India on the global scene as a player parlayed by the information technology revolution, its aspirations have received a new boost. Aside from being an economic power, it now aspires to be a knowledge power; a center of innovation and creative ideas. However, it is not on track to do so. While India has the resources to make this happen, the absence of fundamental institutional change makes reaching this goal very unlikely.
Women in Independent India have evolved with the flow of history, but it has only been over the last thirty-five years that they have experienced the post-industrial revolution and subsequent positives of globalization. These developments have radically transformed their gender relations at home, the workplace, with peers, and possibly in society at large, quite similar to the kind of social transformations women in the United States experienced in the 1960s.
India, home to four percent of the world’s billionaires, and with approximately four hundred million people living below the poverty line, has both the need and the resources for private philanthropic actors to make a dramatic contribution to its socio-economic development. Two decades of economic liberalization, which has pulled the country into middle income status and opened the doors to growing domestic inequality, has resulted in more pressure on both national politics and domestic sources of redistribution.
On the eve of India’s founding, no one could have imagined how successfully it would come to navigate the international system. At that time, there were legions of skeptics who believed that the half-life of this new country would be measured in years, perhaps decades at most. The question of when India would split apart was one of the staples of public discussion going back to Churchill’s celebrated remark, “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator.” Since then, legions of commentators believed that it would be a miracle if India survived.
As the United States and India grow ever closer as partners, they cannot escape the challenges posed by Pakistan, which has been a complication in the bilateral relationship between Washington and New Delhi since 1947. The next American President and his Indian counterpart will find it impossible to ignore the dangers and opportunities posed by Pakistan today. Cooperation between Washington and New Delhi on how to deal with these challenges is crucial and fortunately seems to be improving especially as we prepare for the 2014 transition in Afghanistan.
When it comes to social policy in India, everywhere one turns these days you seem to find a right. The Indian Supreme Court has declared a right to food, a right to a clean environment, a right to shelter, and even a right to sleep. The Indian Parliament has passed acts that guarantee a right to education, a right to information, a right to rural employment, and is currently considering sweeping legislation that would provide rights concerning food security.
The troubled state of civil-military relations in India has attracted much attention in recent times. Many, especially within the military, argue that it has been in a state of prolonged crisis as far back as 2006 when disputes over the Pay Commission created bad blood between civilians and the military. These tensions, however, paled in comparison to the controversies that erupted earlier this year. General V.K.
The leadership of most major Indian cities aspires to transform them into “world-class” metropolises. Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, models her vision for Kolkata on London, complete with a Kolkata Eye. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh supported a plan to transform Mumbai, just as Shanghai was transformed, into a “world-class” emblem of modern India. And Singapore, that paragon of order and control that is the antithesis of India’s messy urbanism, is widely admired by India’s bureaucratic elite.
India is steadfastly urbanizing and in just under two decades its urban population is likely to approximately double to reach 600 million, a figure twice as high as its present urban population. Much of this growth will be due to the migration of people of economically weaker sections from rural areas which will further exacerbate the issue of urban poverty. If India aspires to be an equitable society where the void between the “haves” and “have-nots” is diminished it will have to ensure the inclusion and integration of the poor migrants into its urbanization agenda.