Imagine moving countries for a brand-new job, only to discover that you have been sold to your employer for $4,700. It sounds preposterous, but is the real-life story of Salma Begum, a 39-year-old Indian Hyderabadi woman, which made headlines last year. Salma, duped by fraudulent recruitment agents, was sold to her employer, who tortured her after she refused to marry him. While Salma made it to Mumbai after an intervention by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, hordes of blue collar migrants in similar positions are not as fortunate.
Society & Culture
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.
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?”
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.
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.
The Government of India’s Economic Survey of India this year bemoaned that India’s states are more interested in “competitive populism” (handing out goods and services) than “competitive service delivery.” As a result, India continues to suffer from weak state capacity, which means the Indian state is very inefficient at providing health care and education, or at implementing programs which are intended to support the poor.
Indians care about skin color. Doctors will tell you there are two things that parents want to know about a new born: their gender and their skin tone. In 2014, people in India spent Rs. 3,695 Crores ($550 million) on fairness products; cosmetic conglomerate advertisements constantly remind consumers that success in marriage and the job market are only a fairness cream away. But can fair skin enable candidates to win elections?
In summer 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered the inaugural speech for the launch of Digital India, his program to “transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.” In the speech, Modi announced that “IT + IT = IT” or, as he elaborated, “Indian Talent + Information Technology = India Tomorrow.” Modi went on to say that technology is the most important thing India should teach its children.
The “habitat” of the Western Ghats is constructed of particular landforms—ridge and valley, peak and plateau, escarpment, and plains. Today, these features are at the heart of the development-environment conflict that has escalated since the 2012 UNESCO designation of the Ghats as a World Heritage Site. The use of this language of landforms can be traced back to colonial texts; but the roots of the image behind it are more difficult to unravel, being embedded in visual articulations of geographic maps and object drawings.
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.