India in Transition
Medical devices form a $200 billion global industry, which develops and manufactures essential healthcare equipment ranging in complexity from simple devices like thermometers and stethoscopes to complex devices like pacemakers, ultrasound machines and surgical robots. India’s medical devices market was worth $3 billion in 2011 and grew at roughly 15 percent annually in that year. It is expected to grow at a 16 percent compounded annual clip during the 2010-2015 period, far better than the 2-3 percent growth expected in this sector in the U.S. and Europe.
In India today, matters of public interest seem to get their due only when the Supreme Court has added its two cents. Interest groups, representing both general and special interests, petition the judiciary actively. Debate on any topic often leads to the importance and activism of the Indian Judiciary. In an era where virtually all institutions in India have been vulnerable to political capture, the judiciary seems like the last hope for citizens to receive a fair hearing.
Last month when the song, “Bolo Na” from the 2012 film, Chittagong, got the national award for best lyrics, many music lovers not having heard it before immediately logged onto the Internet to hear the number. Written by Prasoon Joshi, the song talks about hesitant love; it has the flavor of early spring, of flowers yet to bloom. The words go: Bolo naa, bolo naa // Rituon ko ghar sey nikalne toh do // Boye the mausam khilne toh do // Hothon ki munder pe ruki // Motiyon si baat bol do // Pheeki pheeki si hai zindagi // Cheeni cheeni khwab ghol do (Say something // let the seasons step out of home // let the season we had sowed blossom // the words at the edge of your lips // let those pearls emerge // our life is drab // sugar them with your dreams).
Despite favorable geopolitical conditions such as concern over the nature of China’s rise, the relationship between India and Japan remains one of unfulfilled potential. The persistence of a “perception gap” between the two is preventing deeper engagement. At first glance, India and Japan appear natural partners. Located on the periphery of Asia, both are examples of economic growth developing in line with democratic values. Furthermore, India and Japan share no territorial disputes or historical animosity. Since a nadir following India’s nuclear tests in 1998, relations have evolved apace yet certain sticking points are holding back its promise.
In 1993, shortly after the discovery of the largest scam in the history of the Indian capital markets, the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) banned the use of badla. The badla mechanism, which allowed trades to be carried forward without settlement, based on borrowed shares or cash, had already attracted criticism from such disparate sources as the International Finance Commission and the then-esteemed firm of Arthur Andersen. An article which appeared in Economic and Political Weekly a few years after the ban, noted that SEBI’s antipathy to badla extended to a reluctance to even use the term, preferring instead the euphemism “carry forward.”
If globalization is a game, India would seem to be one of its winners. The past decade has seen India record impressive economic growth and move into fast-moving high tech sectors. Nowhere is this transition more apparent than in information and communication technology (ICT). While China has made a name for itself making ICT hardware, India is known for its prowess in software. Multinational corporations from Microsoft to Adobe have set up R&D centers in India, while home-grown firms like Infosys and Wipro have taken advantage of the outsourcing boom to become global players.
On December 31, 2012, India completed its seventh two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), the world’s foremost multilateral institution for the maintenance of international peace and security. At the beginning, many analysts had described this period as an “audition” for a potential permanent seat, much desired by Delhi. By the end, many of the same analysts concluded that India had failed to impress. Contrary to playing a constructive role in making the UNSC a more effective body, India was accused of being a “spectator nation” at best and spoiler at worst.
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.
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.