On May 26, 2014, Narendra Modi invited the heads of all the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries to his swearing-in ceremony. While this important gesture could have marked a new beginning for regional cooperation, such cooperation in South Asia still takes place mainly in the bilateral sphere. Since 1985, India has been a key founding member of four regional initiatives, none of which have achieved any tangible results.
Society & Culture
Near the end of President Obama’s recent visit to India, he recorded a radio broadcast with Prime Minister Modi. On the air, Obama indicated a desire to work on public health issues in India once his term ends. One of the issues he referred to, in particular, was obesity, a growing health challenge worldwide. Obesity contributes to several non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that have been garnering more international attention. NCDs refer to health challenges that are largely chronic, evolve gradually, and get progressively worse until tackled.
Is NREGS suffering a mid life crisis or are we staring at its death? From a budget of INR 401 Billion in 2010-11, it has plummeted to INR 330 Billion in 2013-2014. Given the much higher wages currently offered to workers, it has taken a serious hit. The position taken by government officials (and many economists) is that there is a general lack of interest in NREGS. The rise in agricultural real wages over the period 2004-05 to 2011-12, coupled with a general dismay regarding quality of assets produced and evidence of corruption, has led to a call for a scaling down of NREGS.
In a recent New York Times article, Pankaj Mishra painted a portrait of the modern Hindu Indian psyche in colors of “victimhood and chauvinism,” arguing that “many ambitious members of a greatly expanded and fully global Hindu middle class feel frustrated in their demand for higher status from white Westerners.” Mishra’s controversial statement is apt not just for its description of contemporary politics, but also because it captures something more ingrained and enduring in the Indian psyche.
In the last couple of decades, the number of two-way commuters between rural and urban areas on a daily basis has seen an explosive growth. This includes a large number of workers engaged in menial service sector jobs who do not have a fixed place of work. One could go out on a limb and claim that migration is passé and commuting is chic, but the time has come for conversations on labor mobility to move beyond one that is migration centric to one that also includes commuting.
India’s unemployment rate currently sits at 9 percent. Yet, one in three citizens with at least a bachelor’s degree is out of work. Its working age population,is projected to rise from over 750 million today to almost a billion by 2020. At the same time, agricultural employment is in decline, accounting for less than 50 percent of total employment for the first time in Indian history. These market pressures are pushing the labor force towards higher skilled occupations. Yet, even young, college-educated,Indians often lack the requisite skills to obtain these jobs.
Jammu and Kashmir, in northern India, is currently facing a severe flood crisis. In Kashmir Valley, the ferocity of the waters has led to several deaths and large-scale destruction of property. While many groups and individuals are involved in rescue and relief operations, the Indian Army has so far been the biggest savior. Many are now hoping that this leads to the Kashmiris looking at the Indian military personnel in a different light. Given Kashmir and its embittered history of the last twenty-five years, that will take much more than a rescue operation.
If we consider recent elections in India, one could say that the seeds for alternative politics have been sown. But why, despite so much support in the media and its spectacular debut in Delhi, did the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) secure only four Lok Sabha seats? An understanding of the sociology of the elections, through the lens of Mewat, attempts to explore one aspect of this. While specific to Mewat, these observations are not necessarily unique to the region.
The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were founded almost five decades ago with the objective of providing technological leadership to a new and resurgent India, driven by Nehru’s deep commitment to science-led development. Whether they provided technological leadership to India or not remains debatable given the large numbers of their (under) graduates who have migrated abroad or have shifted to non-technical careers.
Two months ago, India conducted the largest democratic exercise in history. The 2014 General Election, enacted in nine phases over a five-week period, witnessed 553.8 million voters cast ballots to constitute the 16th Lok Sabha. The resurgence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) captured headlines and, in effect, diverted attention from a disconcerting growth in gross electoral spending. With an estimated $5 billion price tag, including a cost of nearly $600 million to the government exchequer, the recent election ranks among the costliest in the history of democracy.