The satellite television “revolution” of the mid 1990s has dramatically transformed the landscape of media in India. The entry of multinational media companies, as well as a spurt in the number of English and regional language television channels with various patterns of indigenous ownership, have unleashed a new “visual regime.” Indian Readership Surveys show a consistent increase in the number of newspaper readers and other media audiences. Industry estimates paint a blistering image of an exploding media sector, with television occupying a pivotal position in such predictions.
Society & Culture
In the aftermath of India’s most recent national elections in 2009, a number of theories surfaced to explain the resounding victory of the Indian National Congress. These theories included the personal skill of the Congress party’s leadership – in particular that of party president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul – and the factional disputes within prominent challengers such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Both of these explanations are deeply unsatisfying, mostly because they are empirically unfounded and difficult to verify.
In recent years, Sheldon Pollock, Professor of Sanskrit at Columbia University, has pointed out that there is a crisis in the study of not only Sanskrit, but all the classical languages of India. After rich histories spanning many centuries, these languages have arrived at a point from which it may no longer be possible to ensure their preservation into the future.
India is currently undergoing a rapid economic and demographic transformation. Since 1980, average living standards have experienced a sustained and rapid rise. The gross domestic product per capita has risen by 230 percent; a trend rate of 4 percent annually. Poverty declined at an annual rate of 0.88 percent from 1983-94, and at a slightly lower rate of 0.77 percent from 1993-05. Life expectancy has risen from 54 years to 69 years while the (crude) birth rate has fallen from 34 to 22 between 1980-2008.
Despite only trickles of reports in the media, there is tremendous significance about what is happening to land in India. From the remote areas of Adivasi/tribal habitations to the centers of the metropolises, land has become the single most important commodity in India and the nation itself has become one big real estate. It is not a mere coincidence that the richest person in India, and one of the world’s wealthiest persons, is a real estate developer.
The creation of the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) and the appointment of Mr. Nandan Nilekani (former CEO of Infosys) as its Chairperson, have generated a great deal of excitement around the Unique Identity Numbers (UIN) project. The Authority’s commitment to produce the first batch of UINs within a period of two years has prompted a celebratory round of applause in the media. It would certainly be a significant technological and logistical feat to meet this self imposed target.
“India’s problem is that we have never imposed a price on any nation for action taken against us,” former Deputy National Security Adviser Satish Chandra said back in September. “We keep silent and accept whatever comes our way.” Chandra is echoing a feeling that is widespread among the Indian elite and even general public.
In September 2009, while speaking at the inauguration of the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that India could have 470 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity by 2050.
In mid 2008, India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) announced a new strategy for addressing India’s child labor problems: it asked state governments and export promotion councils to monitor supply chains, and to certify that no children had worked on products heading for export markets, clearly hoping to offer some protection from international consumer boycotts designed to punish companies that exploit children.
In 2007, a constable on duty in Allahabad remarked to me, “this job is exploitation in the name of discipline.” His statement summarized a litany of complaints about the job that I have heard from numerous constables: abysmally low salaries, long and undefined hours of duty, few to no avenues for promotion, little access to safe, clean, and affordable housing, dangerously inadequate equipment, and routine lack of recognition for “good work.”