India needs its roads. Our road network is essential to the free flow of goods and people across the country and connects rural villages to the rest of the nation. India’s roads, together with the railways, make us one. The question that should be asked, however, is how many roads does India need? It is obvious that there is an upper limit to the area that any nation can allocate to its road network. Aside from the fact that building roads is expensive, the opportunity cost must also be considered; the land given over to building a road can now no longer be used for other purposes.
In a televised address to the nation on November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a spectacular announcement. At the stroke of midnight, rupee notes in the denomination of ₹500 and ₹1,000, corresponding to an estimated 86 percent of all cash (₹15 trillion) in circulation, would cease to be legal tender. Currency holders were asked to exchange or deposit the demonetized notes in the bank by December 30, 2016.
American small businesses—over twenty-eight million, of which eight million are minority owned—accounted for 64 percent of net new jobs created between 1993 and 2011, and employ nearly half of the U.S. workforce. Small business performance is therefore expected to be critical for the success of the Donald Trump presidency. It can be safely construed that the supplier diversity ecosystem fostered for decades will not suffer cuts and lashes given its unique status. Minority-owned firms generate $1.4 trillion annual gross receipts and employ 7.2 million people.
Earlier this year in mid-April, the Prime Minister officially launched the National Agricultural Market (NAM), designed to serve as a “pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities” (e-nam.gov.in). First proposed in the Union Budget for 2014-15, the NAM, currently in its pilot phase, includes 21 markets across 8 states and 11 commodities.
February 2016 marks a decade since India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) came into force. NREGA is both revolutionary and modest; it promises every rural household one hundred days of employment annually on public-works projects, but the labor is taxing and pays minimum wage, at best.
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.
Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake on April 25th, and aftershocks – including a powerful one on May 12th – have continued to rock the country. Over eight thousand people have died. Over 600,000 houses are completely destroyed or partially damaged. Eight million people have been affected in some shape or form. Thousands of school buildings lie in ruins. Kathmandu has lost much of its cultural heritage. The tragedy is just unending, as millions remain homeless with monsoon season four weeks away. There is a resource crunch and supplies of essentials are inadequate.
Singapore’s defense minister Ng Eng Hen stated last month that his country wanted India to play a bigger role in the South China Sea. The leaders of Vietnam and the Philippines have also made similar statements in recent years. This “invitation” extended to India by the leaders of Southeast Asia to participate in that region’s security affairs is tantamount to India’s emergence as a great power in Southeast Asia, and by extension, in Asia itself.
The lead up to the UN climate change summit in December 2015 is increasingly peppered with speculation about possible outcomes, globally and for India. In preparation, each country is to submit an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” or INDC by the middle of the year, ahead of the conference of parties. The attention is on India, given the emphasis in the current US-India relationship about prioritizing a response to climate change.
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.