The public discourse on school education in India is dominated by debates around textbooks. Here too, we find anxieties around history textbooks overriding other concerns. Perhaps it is natural; textbooks seem to be the only tangible object in the scheme of school education which can be analyzed or debated. The attitudes of teachers, children, parents, or the community are thought to be of importance but not as crucial as the textbooks themselves. Textbooks are considered the bearers of officially validated knowledge.
Society & Culture
Prior to the 2009 general elections, the Indian National Congress promised twenty-five kilograms of food-grain per month, at three rupees per kilogram, to every poor family in India.Reports indicate that there are moves to deliver on this promise. Congress’ eagerness to make good on this promise can be traced to the widely-held view that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) played an important role in the victory of the Congress.
A specter is haunting India; a specter of clean, safe, and affordable access to goods and services for all. Policy makers find themselves at a cusp, not quite sure whether to follow the model of automobile-dominated urban development that characterizes twentieth century North America, or to look at contemporary cities in Northern Europe instead, where pedestrians, bicyclists, and users of public transit are given far greater priority than car drivers.
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.
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.