The size and reach of India’s developmental state has increased significantly in recent years, marked by a dizzying array of programs intended to improve the lives and livelihoods of India’s rural citizens. For instance, a plethora of welfare “schemes” related to health, education, infrastructure, food security, housing, employment and other sectors are regularly created (and re-created) by the state and central governments.
Society & Culture
The latest round of talks between India and Pakistan on the Siachen glacier ended on June 12th without a breakthrough. It’s been twenty-eight years since India launched Operation Meghdoot to pre-emptively occupy the dominating Saltoro ridge on the glacier. It’s been twenty-seven years since Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and President Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan agreed to begin talks at the level of defence secretaries on the Siachen dispute. Thirteen rounds of talks have taken place over these years and both sides have expended considerable amounts of lives and treasure.
This year, India celebrates the 20th anniversary of the 73rd amendment. One of the most striking aspects of the modern Panchayati Raj defined by the amendment is the systematic reservation of political positions (pradhans, sarpanchs, and ward members) for villagers from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/ST).
One of the flagship programs of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has been hailed by leading health economists as one of the “the most ambitious rural health initiative ever.” The stated goals of the NRHM were to “provide effective healthcare to rural population, especially women and children, with special focus on eighteen states – Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, the eight north-east states, and the three hilly states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand – which
Over the last two years, the corruption pervading India’s government has received remarkable media attention, thanks, in part, to scandals surrounding the Commonwealth Games, 2G telecom licenses, and the Adarsh housing society. This has shaken the complacency of many citizens who heretofore saw bribes and kickbacks as an inevitable part of daily life, and has provided fodder for the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare.
Practicing Bharatanatyam in India today means negotiating a dance form with a sensitive past and a problematic present. It means living with appropriations and dealing with notions – inherited, construed, and sometimes fallacious. It also means addressing history and navigating identities of class and sexuality.
Human trafficking is in the news a lot these days. Many of these reports follow the predictable storyline of sex workers enslaved in the back alleys of bleak, third world cities. India often features prominently in these narratives. For instance, Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist and author of over forty-six op-eds on the subject of sex trafficking, recently conducted undercover raids in Sonagachi, Kolkata’s largest red-light district, along with U.S. abolitionist organization, the International Justice Mission.
Confronted with the question about what he liked to do in his free time, Gaurav Dalal promptly said “repeat.” He was quite sure he knew the answer, but the question didn’t sound familiar as the eighth grade student had become more accustomed to specific questions about his hobbies. Other children in the classroom on the second floor of SR Memorial School, an English-medium private school in Haryana that advertises its motto as “Pedagogy is not a profession but a mission,” retreated in the back.
As elections are held in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s largest state, attention has been drawn again to the question of whether the numbers and boundaries of India’s states ought to be reconsidered. In a move unthinkable sixty years ago when UP was presented as an indivisible “heartland” territory of the whole of India, UP’s incumbent leader Mayawati went to the polls calling for the division of the state into four parts. Of all federal systems in the world, India (along with Pakistan) has the fewest number of states or federal sub-units per capita.
This month, a great deal has been written on “criminals” in the electoral domain, as voters have been going to the polls in five states across India. It is perhaps a sign of the times that one of the most often quoted statistics on modern Indian politics is that more than a quarter of the sitting Members of Parliament (MPs) face criminal indictment (at the state level, that number hovers around twenty percent).