Like a recurring rash, a little war of words has broken out in the media and Twitterverse about the extent of inequality in India and whether it is growing. The catalyst this time is the publication of James Crabtree’s book The Billionaire Raj. The same thing happened last year when Luke Chancel and Thomas Piketty published their paper “Indian Income Inequality, 1922-2015: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj?” Both are solid contributions that agree on one thing—economic inequality in India is very high and increasing because of the rise of a super-wealthy class.
Society & Culture
Indian farmers realize extremely low revenues. Revenues can be low either because farmers are unproductive and/or because they receive low prices for their output. While productivity relates mostly with technical aspects of farming, price realization depends on the state of the agricultural economy and can potentially be addressed by economic policy. In this article, I will discuss two dimensions of prices—wedges and dispersion—and shed light on some common misconceptions.
Are Intermediaries Bad?
The study of India in the United States was relatively modest prior to India’s independence. In 1939, the great Sanskritist, W. Norman Brown, who established the first academic department of South Asian Studies in the US reflected, “It takes no gift of prophesy to predict that [during the second half of the twentieth century] the world will include a vigorous India, possibly politically free, conceivably a dominant power in the Orient, and certainly intellectually vital and productive.
Indian historians have expended much labor and analytical acumen in deconstructing the colonial construction of Indian women and gender relations in India. The British had highlighted the “low status” of Indian women by citing cultural practices such as purdah (veiling), sati (widow immolation), child marriage and dowry, not to mention female infanticide. Since then, these practices began to metonymically represent Indian women to the outside world as being subjugated and lacking any rights or agency of their own.
How do rebels quit armed groups and return to the same political processes they had once sought to overthrow? A lot has been written on why men and women rebel. But we know very little about why and how rebels quit. This is, however, a predominant concern among policymakers now, from Nepal to Colombia.
Why do the lights go out more often in some Indian states than others? While India has recently seen great gains in generation capacity and rural electrification, many utilities are still trapped in a vicious cycle of underpayment, underinvestment, and dismal performance. The effects are huge: in 2010 the World Bank estimated the cost of electricity shortages at 7 percent of India’s GDP.
India’s Africa policy over the past few decades has oscillated between passive and reluctantly reactive at best. Strategic apathy toward the continent was obvious on many fronts. Not only did countries in Africa not feature in New Delhi’s larger foreign policy matrix, but until recently there wasn’t any significant attention paid to the continent. Indian leaders seldom travelled to African nations and very rarely did they feature in conversations surrounding New Delhi’s foreign policy ambitions.
Imagine moving countries for a brand-new job, only to discover that you have been sold to your employer for $4,700. It sounds preposterous, but is the real-life story of Salma Begum, a 39-year-old Indian Hyderabadi woman, which made headlines last year. Salma, duped by fraudulent recruitment agents, was sold to her employer, who tortured her after she refused to marry him. While Salma made it to Mumbai after an intervention by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, hordes of blue collar migrants in similar positions are not as fortunate.
Are rural Indian voters sophisticated enough to navigate the complexities of local elections in India? The 1992 passage of the 73rd amendment gave constitutional status to village councils—rural India’s lowest tier of government— and mandated regular elections for village council (gram panchayat or GP) members and the GP president, resulting in millions of elected positions in local government. This empowered village leaders, and particularly the GP president (sarpanch) with substantial discretion over the local implementation of government programs.
Inclusive Growth—also called “pro-poor” growth—has become an important idea in the development discourse in India. It has widespread support because it combines the two most important ideas in development: income growth along with a progressive (or more egalitarian) distribution. The term was first embraced in the early 2000s by the UPA-1 government under PM Manmohan Singh. It has since been taken up by the NDA government under PM Narendra Modi. But is “inclusive growth” anything more than a slogan like “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas?”