The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), suffered a crushing defeat in the 2015 Bihar state election. In the 2014 national election, the NDA won 172 out of 243 assembly constituency (AC) segments. But in the 2015 Bihar election, just 18 months later, the NDA won only 58 ACs. As the standard election post-mortem draws to a close, it is useful to think about how this election informs our understanding of the Indian electorate.
India in Transition
In an assessment of the quality of India’s implementation of anti-poverty programs in 1985, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi famously said: “For every rupee spent by the government for the welfare of the common man, only seventeen paise reached him.” That state of affairs was one of the motivations for the 1993 passage of the 73rd amendment, which decentralized the implementation of government anti-poverty programs to local governments.
Indian national security policymaking has traditionally suffered from a lack of central strategic planning: an organized process, fully integrating civilian and military defense institutions, that sets long-term defense objectives, then ensures these are met through procurement and posturing fulfilments. Instead, defense policy development largely consists of a combination of procurement wish lists submitted separately by the three military services, alongside intermittent initiatives principally formulated by the Prime Minister.
In India, legally established Protected Areas have historically been the most important means adopted for biodiversity conservation. Protected Areas (PAs) primarily include National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, and more recently, Community Reserves and Conservation Reserves. Today, there are as many as 703 PAs all across India, covering almost 5 percent of its land area. With burgeoning demands on land and water, and a high population density of 382 people/square km, the area commitment to PAs shows the national importance placed on biodiversity.
Unmanned aerial vehicles are flying robots that provide some of the benefits of manned flight without its attendant risks and inconveniences. Commonly known as drones, they’ve entered the limelight in the past two decades due to advances in electronics engineering and computer science. Having proved their worth on the battlefield during both the 1973 Yom Kippur and the 1982 Lebanon wars, numerous military forces began implementation of their surveillance and weaponized drone programs.
Healthy mothers give birth to healthy children who grow up to be productive adults. By contrast, women who begin pregnancy too thin and do not gain enough weight during pregnancy are far more likely to have low birth weight babies. In India, low birth weight is the leading cause of neonatal mortality, or death in the first month of life. Indeed, neonatal mortality accounts for about 70 percent of infant deaths in India—and is far higher than would be predicted by India’s GDP. India’s high neonatal mortality rates is a symptom of widespread maternal malnutrition.
India’s Afghanistan policy seems to be witnessing a shift as Kabul seeks rapprochement with Rawalpindi. Despite multiple requests from Afghan officials, Delhi refused to hold a bilateral Strategic Partnership Council meeting to discuss and review the much-hyped Strategic Partnership Agreement that the two countries signed in October 2011. Adding insult to injury, Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, did not attend the Sixth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, held in Kabul on September 2-3, 2015.
It is a universally-acknowledged truth that human beings experience their lives as embedded not just in time, but in history. To interpret history, they employ a variety of instruments: personal experience and cultural memory, political ideology and historiography, even (and sometimes especially) myths and stories. Among these instruments, a somewhat late-arriving one in India – only 150 years old – is the novel.
In late June, the Indian government launched an ambitious and forward-looking urban program, a centerpiece of Prime Minister Modi’s developmental agenda. The Smart Cities Mission will involve building state-of the-art new cities and modernizing old ones. It has generated reams of newsprint and massive anticipation. India is urbanizing rapidly and haphazardly, and is expected to add four hundred million new city dwellers to its urban population over the next three decades.