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.
Discussions of wealth inequality are now in vogue following the global financial crash of 2007 and Thomas Piketty’s best-selling Capital. This is a welcome departure from the exclusive focus on poverty using calculations based on consumption surveys. Wealth is crucial for consumption smoothing and acts as a buffer to draw upon during times of distress. In many ways, wealth is more aligned with the concept of wellbeing than income or consumption. Wealth is also recognized for its role in creating opportunities for future generations.
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.
The drastic increase in trade volumes over the last few years is an impressive testament to the new Indian pivot to Sub-Saharan Africa; trade between India and Sub-Saharan Africa stood at $60 billion in 2012. Still, trade volumes in the same year were markedly eclipsed by those of the EU ($567.2 billion), the U.S. ($446.7 billion), and China ($220 billion). Nevertheless, India’s engagement shows a successful new focus on the region where it has implemented specific programs in the economic, political, and, especially, pan-African sphere.
The outbreak of conflict in South Sudan last December led to the shut down of India’s multi-billion dollar oil project in the young country. The instability sent Indian diplomats scrambling to play damage control as ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL), the international arm of India’s national oil company, was forced to evacuate its personnel from the region. Competition from China is often regarded as the biggest challenge for India in acquiring global oil resources.
Do parties and their local agents condition access to government services and benefits from government welfare schemes on how voters vote or are expected to vote? This political strategy, which social scientists refer to as clientelism, depends on a massive investment in local leaders who collect information on voters’ party preferences, vote choices and intentions, as well as which inducements will convince voters to support their party at the polls. This strategy also importantly depends upon the credible threat of punishment when a voter is found to vote the wrong way.