Environmental governance in India is increasingly – and inevitably – contentious. Environmental quality is declining sharply on most indicators such as air, water, and forest cover. At the same time, there are calls for regulatory flexibility to enable pursuit of a “development agenda.” Demands for regulatory and institutional reform are frequently raised by various stakeholders, albeit with widely varying motives.
India in Transition
Russia’s interests in India have been growing since Stalin’s death in 1953. Khrushchev and Bulganin inaugurated a Third World policy that brought the leaders to India and took Nehru to Moscow, all in 1955. In the same year, when Asian and African nations met at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, Russian newspapers celebrated the event as a “sign of our age.” The Indian establishment was enthusiastic that Stalin’s successors had discarded his “dim view of India.” During the Cold War, the relationship had more flow than ebb.
Is NREGS suffering a mid life crisis or are we staring at its death? From a budget of INR 401 Billion in 2010-11, it has plummeted to INR 330 Billion in 2013-2014. Given the much higher wages currently offered to workers, it has taken a serious hit. The position taken by government officials (and many economists) is that there is a general lack of interest in NREGS. The rise in agricultural real wages over the period 2004-05 to 2011-12, coupled with a general dismay regarding quality of assets produced and evidence of corruption, has led to a call for a scaling down of NREGS.
Addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin and the media last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “the character of global politics and international relations is changing. However, the importance of this relationship and its unique place in India’s foreign policy will not change.” Expressed on the sidelines of the 15th Annual India-Russia Summit in New Delhi, Modi’s statement conveyed his intention to enhance cooperation with Russia. Concurrently, it also implied India will not support western sanctions against Russia.
In an effort to enhance accountability within the state, Prime Minister Modi launched a new surveillance system to monitor the attendance of public employees.
In a recent New York Times article, Pankaj Mishra painted a portrait of the modern Hindu Indian psyche in colors of “victimhood and chauvinism,” arguing that “many ambitious members of a greatly expanded and fully global Hindu middle class feel frustrated in their demand for higher status from white Westerners.” Mishra’s controversial statement is apt not just for its description of contemporary politics, but also because it captures something more ingrained and enduring in the Indian psyche.
Prior to 2014, India witnessed seven consecutive elections (1989 to 2009) in which no single party won a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha, resulting in minority governments, including unwieldy minority coalitions, dependent on external support.
In the last couple of decades, the number of two-way commuters between rural and urban areas on a daily basis has seen an explosive growth. This includes a large number of workers engaged in menial service sector jobs who do not have a fixed place of work. One could go out on a limb and claim that migration is passé and commuting is chic, but the time has come for conversations on labor mobility to move beyond one that is migration centric to one that also includes commuting.
India’s unemployment rate currently sits at 9 percent. Yet, one in three citizens with at least a bachelor’s degree is out of work. Its working age population,is projected to rise from over 750 million today to almost a billion by 2020. At the same time, agricultural employment is in decline, accounting for less than 50 percent of total employment for the first time in Indian history. These market pressures are pushing the labor force towards higher skilled occupations. Yet, even young, college-educated,Indians often lack the requisite skills to obtain these jobs.
Jammu and Kashmir, in northern India, is currently facing a severe flood crisis. In Kashmir Valley, the ferocity of the waters has led to several deaths and large-scale destruction of property. While many groups and individuals are involved in rescue and relief operations, the Indian Army has so far been the biggest savior. Many are now hoping that this leads to the Kashmiris looking at the Indian military personnel in a different light. Given Kashmir and its embittered history of the last twenty-five years, that will take much more than a rescue operation.