The State The Republic of India, located in southern Asia, gained independence from Britain in 1947. After gaining independence, the country became a Federal Republic (Chakrabarty 39). Because of the countries enthusiasm for democracy and its sheer size, India has been “branded as the biggest democracy on the globe” (Chakrabarty 1). Many scholars describe India’s government as a hybrid of the US and the UK because of its parliamentary system, federal set-up, and reliance on its constitution (Chakrabarty 31).
Although the country is a democratic world power, it is still considered a developing country, due to its vast income inequality. India’s constitution was written in 1950, shortly after the country gained independence. The constitution calls for freedom, equality, and unity (Chakrabarty 5). India’s constitution is the “longest basic law of any of the world’s independent countries. It contains, at latest count, 444 articles and a dozen schedules. Since its original adoption, it has been amended more than one hundred times, and now fills about 250 printed pages” (Mehta). India derives its rational-legal legitimacy from its constitution.
India’s executive branch consists of a President, Prime Minister, and Council of Ministers. The president heads the central government and presides over a bicameral legislature or Parliament (Park 80). In theory the President is “the constitutional head without even an iota of activism in real politik” (Chakrabarty 57); but in practice many Presidents have “sought to attribute vastly greater powers to the office of the President (Chakrabarty 60). Only people with exceptional qualities and stature or who are blessed by the leader of the ruling party are elected as President (Chakrabarty 57).
The President serves a five-year term and is elected by the parliament and state legislature. The current president of India is Prathiba Patil, the first woman president of the country. Patil is a member of the Indian National Congress (INC) (Park 80). The Prime Minister acts as the effective source of executive power in India (Park 81). The Prime Minister’s position has no term limits, but he can be voted out by the lower house through a vote of no confidence. India’s current prime Minister is Manmohan Singh, also a member of the INC. The Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister, is meant to advise the President (Chakrabarty 67).
India’s bicameral Parliament consists of a lower house and an upper house. The lower house is called Lok Sabha (the People’s Assembly) and is the more powerful of the two houses. There are 545 Lok Sabha members, and each member of the Lok Sabha represents approximately two million people. Members of the Lok Sabha serve five year terms and are elected by the people. The main purpose of the Lok Sabha is to pass legislation (Chakrabarty 92). The upper house is called Rajya Sabha (the Council of States). Rajya Sabha houses 250 members each of whom serve a six year term.
Twelve Rajya Sabha members are elected by the President and the rest are chosen by state representatives (Chakrabarty 89). The State Executive is set up much like the Central Executive. States in India have a very low degree of functional autonomy and capacity; the state executive usually looks to the central government for guidance (Chakrabarty 108-109). The Governor acts much like the President (110); the Chief Minister acts much like the Prime Minister (Chakrabarty 117); and the state’s Council of Ministers acts much like the central government’s Council of Ministers (Chakrabarty 124).
Because there are so many states with so little power, they do not function very well and are often rife with corruption. The central government is bogged down in state issues that it would not have to deal with if it gave each state greater autonomy and capacity (Chakrabarty 107). India’s Supreme Court is similar to that of the US. There is one chief justice and 25 associate justices. All are appointed by the president and remain in office until the age of 65 (Chakrabarty 132). In addition to the Supreme Court, there are High Courts and lower level courts in each state (Chakrabarty 173).
The lower levels of the judiciary are corrupt and most citizens cannot secure justice through the courts. Because the court system is backlogged and understaffed there are currently 38 million pending cases. This means that people waiting in pretrial detention serve time longer than many of their sentences would call for (Chakrabarty 163). All of India’s courts are meant to interpret and implement the Constitution of India (Chakrabarty 141). Although there are clear guidelines for how the government should function, the effectiveness of the government is undermined by political corruption.
Out of 180 countries surveyed for a 2009 corruption index, India ranked 84. India’s electoral system relies on “black money” that is obtained through tax evasion and various other means. Politicians are regularly caught accepting bribes, bribing others, and generally engaging in illegal and corrupt behavior. In the 2009 election campaign, allegations of vote-buying were widespread. In 2005, the Right to Information Act was created to “improve transparency,” but most requests for information continue to be denied, due to poor record-keeping.
In general, people who try to expose corruption “often receive threats or are otherwise penalized in terms of career prospects” (“Country Report: India”). The party system in India has “entered the phase of full blown coalition governments whereby two diametrically opposed political formations in the name NDA and UPA have come to occupy the substantial political space in the country” (Chakrabarty 220). The Indian National Congress or Congress Party (INC) is the largest political party in India. It is the leader of the UPA coalition. The INC is becoming increasingly less powerful because of the divisions within the party (O’Neil 291).
The second largest party in India is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is the leader of the NDA coalition (Chakrabarty 220). The BJP has grown in popularity because it is a Hindu nationalist organization that is benefitting from the spread of Hindu nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiment in India (Luce 167). The INC currently holds 208 seats in the Lok Sabah and the BJP holds 116 seats (“Lok Sabah Members”). Part II: Society Just as there are political problems, there are societal problems that plague India. Two major issues in India are the caste system and Hindu nationalism. India’s caste system can be dated back to 1200 BCE (Ganguly 70).
The system consists of five groups: Brahmin—priests and scholars; Kshatriya—rulers, warriors, and landowners; Vaishya—traders and merchants; Shudra—laborers, artisans, and agriculturalists; and Dalit, or the “untouchables”—outcasts and scavengers who are seen as unworthy of the cast system. People in the lower castes and those outside the caste system want the system abolished, but many people in the upper castes have fought to keep the system (Dossani 163). In an attempt to assist those of the lower castes and those outside the caste system, laws were written into the constitution outlawing caste discrimination and “untouchability. Government positions and spots in schools are reserved for lower castes, but upper castes are fighting this reform. Government involvement, economic growth, urbanization, and education have begun to help break down the old social structure (Ganguly 70). But the caste system still exists, “particularly in rural areas” (Ganguly 70). There is still stigma attached to untouchables, and they continue to be discriminated against (Rothermund 170). It is hard for authorities to convict upper caste members of discrimination because they discriminate through avoidance rather than aggression, but that doesn’t mean there is not ever aggression.
For example, on October 15, 2002, five untouchable men were lynched by upper caste members because they were carrying a dead cow—a sacred animal in Hinduism—to their village (Luce 166). Welfare schemes that are meant to benefit the poor should be helping the Untouchables. But because many of these schemes are run by members of upper castes, Untouchables are often denied welfare. Only when the government gets involved does discrimination lessen, but government involvement is sporadic and unreliable (Rothermund 171).
Although Untouchables face brutal discrimination, their fight for equality is not a lost cause—lately, “Illiterate Untouchable peasants have been voting in larger numbers than Delhi-based executives” which could eventually lead to the rise of the lower castes and, possibly, the end of the caste system all together (Ganguly 81and Luce 105). Another societal issue in India is Hindu nationalism and ethnoreligious violence. Hindu nationalists believe that “A salad bowl does not produce cohesion; a melting pot does. Hinduism, to Hindu nationalists, is the source of India’s identity. It alone can provide ational cohesiveness. ” Hindu nationalists argue that non-Hindu groups can only be part of India if they assimilate. Muslims became the main adversaries of the Hindu nationalists mainly Muslim homeland in the form of Pakistan caused India’s partition in 1947, but also because of their numbers. Muslims’ and other religious groups’ refusal to assimilate has provoked brutal Hindu nationalist violence (Varshney). For example, in 2002 the State of Gujarat was struck by large mobs of Hindu nationalist roamed the streets of Gujarat and systematically massacred the state’s Muslim community. No one was spared: young, old, men, women, children and newborns, the disabled and the destitute, Muslim members of the Opposition Party, and business establishments” (Kamat). This genocide is just one example of the many violent acts committed by Hindu nationalists. Ethnoreligious violence and Hindu nationalism has caused much debate in the government, and little has been done to stop the conflict. The BJP, the second largest party in the country, supports Hindu nationalism and seeks to build a united India as well as “Hinduize” the polity and the nation; the INC wants India to be a secular state (Varshney).
Because of the governments mixed messages on the issue, many states ignore the constitution’s call for secularism—some have even passed anti-conversion laws (“Caste prejudice”). Until the government can agree on a solution or compromise, there will continue to be ethnoreligious violence and caste discrimination. On the outside, India seems to have a very strong and active civil society, but on the inside, the well-off upper classes have little to no use for civil society and the impoverished lower classes have little access to it (Ganguly 154).
This is because, unlike parties in established democracies, India’s political parties do not perform interest-aggregating functions (Ganguly 143). Because of development-oriented NGOs, “citizens become objects of civil society rather than participants in civil society” (Ganguly 143). Small social movements that actually represent the people’s interests are poorly funded, and cannot compete with the amply funded NGOs (Ganguly 152). Many NGOs are funded by foreigners, and therefore represent foreign interests more than the interests of India’s oppressed (Ganguly 156).
Part III: Economic Institutions/Political Economy Until recently, India’s economy was one of the worst in the world. The country was closed off from the global economy and manufacturers and factories were almost non-existent. Since1991, India has undergone an all encompassing process of economic transformation. A command and control economic structure has been replaced by a liberal and competitive sector. As a market-driven economy, India has become an easier place to do business. Its progress has been spectacular, with an average annual growth of GDP in the last ten years of more than 6 per cent.
External trade in merchandise goods now accounts for 33 per cent of GDP. Robust growth has generated additional savings and investment, which are necessary for capacity expansion and sustained growth. (Chidambaran) The country’s current GDP is $1. 3 trillion (“India”). In addition to the country’s new openness to the global economy, it has a “young and growing workforce. ” A bigger workforce means more production and more production leads to greater consumption (“India’s Surprising Economic Miracle”). Domestic consumption and investment have played a key role in driving India’s economy.
In fact, “Private domestic consumption accounts for 57% of GDP in India” (Schuman). Because of the countries many scientists, a plethora of “multinational companies have established large research and development centers in India. ” The country is fast emerging as an export hub. India has also become a leader in software services; many of the country’s software companies are now recognized as multinational world brands. India’s economy also relies heavily on “outward foreign direct investment by Indian companies. In the last three years this [investment] has been estimated at $1. 5 billion, $4. billion and $7. 5 billion” (Chidambaran). All of these trends have integrated India into the world economy.
Despite the boom in India’s economy, there is a large income gap between the rich and the poor. A quarter of the population is below the poverty line (“India”), “living on less than US$1 a day” (O’Neil 302). People living in poor communities and the countryside “lack safe drinking water, sanitation and electricity, and lead a life of meager subsistence with little access to health care, education, markets and economic opportunities” (Chidambaran). There are two main reasons for India’s income nequality: “too many people and too little education” (O’Neil 302). India’s population is currently at 1,155,347,678, and it is growing rapidly. The population is growing so rapidly that it is expected to surpass China’s by 2050. This puts great pressure on civic structure and hampers the availability of housing in major cities (“India’s Population”). India’s literacy rate illustrates the quality and attainability of a public education. The country only has a 63% literacy rate, meaning just under half of the population is illiterate (“India”). In addition to over population and poor education, unemployment has created an even greater gap.
For example, the IT industry—one of the largest industry’s in India—only employs approximately 1 million laborers out of the 500 million. To make matters worse, “Only six of India’s twenty-eight states receive virtually all of India’s foreign investment. ” All in all, an elite middle class minority sits atop a huge lower class that is mostly rural, illiterate, and unemployed (O’Neil 303). The government believes that “growth is the best antidote to poverty. ” To sustain economic growth, India is working on developing its infrastructure like roads, railways, telecommunications, power, seaports, and airports.
In addition, India is working to ensure that all children are schooled and each child is taught a special skill or trade. The country is doing this in the hopes of producing thousands of teachers and administrators, technologists and engineers, managers and accountants, and doctors and nurses. The government’s current priorities are: augmenting infrastructure, reviving agriculture, acquiring competitive strengths in manufacturing, investing in the development of human resources, and maintaining leadership in the services sector (Chidambaran).
But what the government says it will spend money on and what it actually spends money on are very different. Most public spending fails to reach the poor. Instead it is consumed by a vast and corrupt bureaucracy. This is explains why “only five countries have a lower portion of health spending in the public sector; over half of urban children are educated privately; and nearly all investment in irrigation is private” (“India’s civil service”). Part IV: Conclusion/Evaluation: Although India is suffering from many problems, the country is successfully ddressing the lack of children’s education in the country. In 2010, the government passed the Right to Education Act.
The act makes it “legally enforceable for every child to demand free and elementary education between the ages of six and 14 years. ” When asked about the new act, a UNICEF representative said, “‘It serves as a building block to ensure that every child has the right to guaranteed quality elementary education. The state, with the help of families and communities, has a legal obligation to fulfill this duty. ” The act has had a good impact on India’s education system. There are now approximately 192 million children enrolled in elementary school as opposed to the 57 million in 2003. In addition, the number of children out of school declined from 25 million in 2003 to 8. 1 million (“India Launches”). This act would be a good model for other developing countries with poor education systems. One area in which India has not been so successful is the public health system. India has the lowest rank on the Human Development Index regarding its public health system.
The system suffers from “insufficient funding, shortage of facilities leading to overcrowding and severe shortage of trained health personnel. There is also lack of accountability in the public health delivery mechanisms. ” In addition, the country has a shortfall of six hundred thousand doctors, 1 million nurses and two hundred thousand dental surgeons. “This has led to a dismal patient-doctor ratio in the country. For every 10,000 Indians, there is just one doctor. ” Because of these issues, the government has proposed the National Urban Health Mission. NURM is aimed at providing accessible, affordable, effective and reliable primary health care facilities” In addition, “The scheme plans to monitor and improve the health of 220 million people living in urban slums in 429 cities and towns. ” NURM was meant to be launched in mid 2008, but as of yet the mission is not functional (“Public Health System”). When it comes to freedom and collective equality in India, theory and practice are two very different things. Although the constitution stands for collective freedom and equality, in reality, India is lacking in both areas.
Income inequality and caste discrimination indicate that India has still not attained equality, and religious intolerance shows that not all people are free to express themselves and their religious beliefs. India has a long way to go before it can be considered a developed democracy. If it wants to be a true world power, the country must tackle income inequality, infrastructure, religious violence, caste discrimination, and continue to improve its education system. If India is this powerful as a developing country, just think how powerful it will be once developed.