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.
Society & Culture
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.”
For over sixty years, in few areas, has the idea of India been more strongly challenged as in the tiny state of Nagaland, located well east of Kolkata (Calcutta). It was here that the first shots for an independent breakaway nation were fired within a decade of India securing independence from Britain in 1947.
Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which aims to use the courts to advance social justice, began in India about thirty years ago when procedures for expanding access to justice were developed. The judiciary, aiming to recapture popular support after its complicity in Indira Gandhi’s declaration of Emergency rule, encouraged litigation concerning the interests of the poor and marginalized. In doing so, it loosened rules and traditions related to standing, case filing, the adversarial process, and judicial remedies.
Although nowhere near as high profile or politically dramatic as the 2008 Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, India’s proposed $10 billion procurement of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) may have a much more profound impact on India’s strategic relations, particularly if a U.S. Platform – either Lockheed’s F-16 E/F or Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F – is selected as the winning bid.
A massive expansion of the number of educated Indians is needed for Indian economic growth to continue at the desired rapid pace. This requires not just an expansion, but also a qualitative upgrading of Indian higher education. However, current trends – and the contrast with East Asia and China – cause a certain level of pessimism about when this will come about.