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.
India in Transition
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.
Inclusive Growth—also called “pro-poor” growth—has become an important idea in the development discourse in India. It has widespread support because it combines the two most important ideas in development: income growth along with a progressive (or more egalitarian) distribution. The term was first embraced in the early 2000s by the UPA-1 government under PM Manmohan Singh. It has since been taken up by the NDA government under PM Narendra Modi. But is “inclusive growth” anything more than a slogan like “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas?”
In early November, a Russian news website claimed that the Indian Navy allowed a US technical team to inspect the Russian Akula-Class nuclear submarine loaned to India in 2012. Although the report turned out to be false, the issue raised eyebrows in strategic circles, for two reasons. First, it brought into focus Indo-Russian cooperation in the domain of nuclear submarines. India is the only country in the world to have operated a nuclear submarine on loan from a nuclear-weapon state and Russia is the only such state to have leased one.
On July 2, 2015, an unusual Iftar party in New Delhi attracted media attention. Indian political leaders regularly host Iftar parties, an evening meal for Muslims to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. However, after becoming Prime Minister in 2014, Narendra Modi had neither hosted nor attended an Iftar event.
Women have made significant contributions to agriculture in India. The current situation of rural transformation has brought to light women’s roles in agriculture. Typically, any discussion on this topic tends to focus on the most obvious trends; the proportion of women working in the agricultural sector as self-employed, unpaid help or wage labor. What is ignored is an important and interesting shift in women’s roles: women are increasingly participating in farms as managers and decision-makers.
Recent political developments between India and South Korea have created an opening for the two countries to share mutual security interests in Asia. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who celebrated his administration’s 100th day in office two months ago with strong public support, is taking a bold step by inviting India into South Korea’s diplomatic domain.
The Supreme Court of India’s recent verdict (Justice Puttaswamy v Union of India) affirming the right to privacy has been followed by a frenetic state effort to link multiple identification numbers and welfare programs with the nation’s controversial biometric program, Aadhaar. This attempt to present a fait accompli of sorts when the constitutional challenge to Aadhaar comes up for hearing is not a new development; the linking between Aadhaar and Permanent Account Numbers used for taxation purposes is a case in point.
A democracy derives its legitimacy by functioning through its elected institutions. Parliament plays a central role in India’s democracy by performing several important functions. The Prime Minister (and the cabinet) require the majority support in the directly-elected lower house, Lok Sabha, at all times. Both Lok Sabha and the indirectly-elected Rajya Sabha scrutinize the work of the government through several procedures such as asking Questions in Question Hour and debates and motions on important national issues.
In his landmark speech, “Confluence of the Two Seas,” delivered in August 2007, during his earlier stint as the Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe remarked that “the Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity.” Over the past decade, the geniality between Japan and India has increased, a sharp contrast to the lukewarm relationship that previously existed.