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.
Society & Culture
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.
Every year, the Indian government spends considerable resources on public infrastructure programs designed to provide citizens with access to basic amenities such as water, sanitation, electricity, and roads. Although such efforts have the potential to greatly improve the standard of living of ordinary citizens, these programs have been widely criticized for being mired in political influence. But how does political influence actually shape the implementation of public infrastructure programs in India?
The Indian Constitution ensures certain protection for communities deemed as having Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. However, which groups should be accorded that status has been contentious. Getting ST status means that members of the group have access to highly desired tangible benefits such as political representation, reserved seats in schools, and government jobs. Over the years, social and political mobilization has led to the number of STs growing from 225 in 1960 to 700 today (with overlapping communities in more than one state).
It has been nearly one year since India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued its draft drone guidelines. Given the criticality of these regulations in shaping a relatively young industry in India, several industry bodies and start-ups had provided feedback and pushed for timely action. That drones have tremendous practical applications can no longer be disputed. Some of India’s start-ups are revolutionizing drone applications in areas as diverse as disaster management, precision agriculture and crop insurance, mining, infrastructure projects, and land records.
In part one of this two-part series on India’s informal slum leaders, we discussed how some slum residents rise to become leaders of their settlement, and the range of activities in which they are involved. In this issue, we draw on our second survey, conducted in the summer of 2016, of a sample of 629 actual slum leaders across those same settlements. Finding slum leaders, let alone a systematic and large sample of them, is extremely challenging, and to our knowledge, has not been previously attempted in India.