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ABOUT INDIA -- at a glance

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India completed 62 years as a nation on August 15, 2009.   
During these 62 years, sizeable progress had been made, but there were also many failures. India has made numerous achievements, notably in agriculture, defence and industrial development. Other problems, such as population growth, law and order and corruption continue to be ignored.

India is a huge country, now with more than 1 billion people, and also a nuclear power. Yet, it does not account for much in the world. The 2009 Human Development Report ranked it at 134th out of 182 countries, wedged in between Lao and Solomon Islands. India is a globalization success but it cannot look after its children. Over 2.5 million children die in India every year, accounting for one in five child deaths in the world. Girls under five are 50 per cent more likely to die than boys, with the female death risk remaining higher till the age of 30. Poor mother and child health is one of the major factors that have kept India’s Human Development Index (HDI) rank low. The disparity between States remains phenomenal, with four States—Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh—accounting for over half of the child deaths in the country.

According to Economic Survey, 2009, economic growth decelerated in 2008-09 to 6.7 per cent. This represented a decline of 2.1 per cent from the average growth rate of 8.8 per cent in the previous five years (2003-04 to 2007-08). The five years of high growth had raised the expectations of the people. Few, however,  remember that during the preceding five-year period from 1998-99 to 2002-03 average growth was only 5.4 per cent, while the highest growth rate achieved during the period was 6.7 per cent (in 1998-99). Per capita GDP growth, a proxy for per capita income, which broadly reflects the improvement in the income of the average person, grew by an estimated 4.6 per cent in 2008-09. Though this represents a substantial slowdown from the average growth of 7.3 per cent per annum during the previous five years, it is still significantly higher than the average 3.3 per cent per annum income growth during 1998-99 to 2002-03.

The per capita income in 2008-09, measured in terms of gross domestic product at constant 1999-2000 market prices, was Rs. 31,278. In 2007-08 this stood at Rs. 29,901. Per capita consumption in 2008-09 was Rs. 17,344 as against a level of Rs. 17,097 in 2007-08. While there has been an increase in levels of per capita income and consumption, there has been a perceptible slowdown in their growth rate. The growth in per capita GDP decelerated from 8.1 per cent in 2006- 07 to 4.6 per cent in 2008-09, while the per capita consumption growth declined from 6.9 per cent in 2007-08 to 1.4 per cent in 2008-09.

The overall growth of GDP at factor cost at constant prices in 2008-09, as per revised estimates released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) (May 29, 2009) was 6.7 per cent. This is lower than the 7 per cent projection in the Mid-Year Review 2008-09 (Economic Division, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), December 2008) and the advance estimate of 7.1 per cent, released subsequently by CSO in February 2009. With the CSO drastically reducing their estimate of GDP from agriculture (based on third advance estimates), and given that the DEA’s 7 per cent estimate assumed normal agricultural growth, it would have had to be adjusted for any shortfall. The growth of GDP at factor cost (at constant 1999-2000 prices) at 6.7 per cent in 2008-09 nevertheless represents a deceleration from high growth of 9.0 per cent and 9.7 per cent in 2007-08 and 2006-07 respectively.

The deceleration of growth in 2008-09 was spread across all sectors except mining & quarrying and community, social and personal services. The growth in agriculture and allied activities decelerated from 4.9 per cent in 2007-08 to 1.6 per cent in 2008-09, mainly on account of the high base effect of 2007-08 and due to a fall in the production of non-food crops including oilseeds, cotton, sugarcane and jute. The production of wheat was also marginally lower than in 2007-08.

The manufacturing, electricity and construction sectors decelerated to 2.4, 3.4 and 7.2 per cent, respectively, during 2008-09, from 8.2, 5.3 and 10.1 per cent, respectively, in 2007-08. The slowdown in manufacturing could be attributed to the combined impact of a fall in exports followed by a decline in domestic demand, especially in the second half of the year. The rise in the cost of inputs during the beginning of the year and the cost of credit (through most of the year) reduced manufacturing margins and profitability. The growth in production sectors, especially manufacturing, was adversely affected by the impact of the global recession and associated factors. The electricity sector continued to be hampered by capacity constraints and the availability of coal, particularly during the first half of the year. As long as the coal sector remains a public sector monopoly (the only remaining nationalized sector), it could remain a bottleneck for accelerated development of the power sector.

The construction industry consists of different segments like housing, infrastructure, industrial construction, commercial real estate, etc. While the industry went through a boom phase with growth as high as 16.2 per cent in 2005-06, and continued to grow thereafter (albeit with moderation), the increase in the costs of construction due to a rise in the prices of inputs like steel and cement and interest costs had started impacting the industry. In certain segments of the industry, there was an excessive price build up in the form of a speculative bubble, related to limited supply of urban land for those segments. The rise in interest rates and the slowdown in housing loans also moderated demand. The double squeeze on the costs, as well as the demand side, and the fall in the liquidity in mid-September 2008 precipitated a sharp downturn in this sector.

A notable feature of the growth of the Indian economy from 2002-03 has been the rising trend in the gross domestic capital formation (GDCF). Gross capital formation (GCF), which was 25.2 per cent of the GDP in 2002-03, increased to 39.1 per cent in 2007-08. Much of this increase is attributable to a rise in the rate of investment by the corporate sector. The rise in the rate of investment has been on account of various factors, the most important being the transformation in the investment climate, coupled with an optimistic outlook for the growth prospects for the Indian economy.

The growth in capital formation in recent years has been amply supported by a rise in the savings rate. The gross domestic savings as a percentage of GDP at current market prices stood at 37.7 per cent in 2007-08 as compared to 29.8 per cent in 2003-04. Private sector savings dominated the total savings in 2007-08 and were at 33.2 per cent of GDP. Of this, the household sector savings was 24.3 per cent of GDP while the private corporate sector accounted for 8.8 per cent. Savings by the public sector was 4.5 per cent of GDP.

For three consecutive years (2005-06 to 2007-08), foodgrain production recorded an average annual increase of over 10 million tonnes. The total foodgrain production in 2007-08 was estimated at 230.78 million tonnes as against 217.3 million tonnes in 2006-07.

Some of the major social sector initiatives for achieving inclusive growth and faster social sector development and to remove economic and social disparities in the Eleventh Five Year Plan include: the Bharat Nirman programme, Mid-day Meal Scheme, National Rural Health Mission, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). Central support for the social programmes has continued to supplement efforts made by the States.

Under NREGS, over four crore households were provided employment in 2008-09. This is a significant jump over the 3.39 crore households covered under the scheme during 2007-08. Out of the 215.63 crore person-days of employment created under the scheme during this period, 29 per cent and 25 per cent were in favour of SC and ST population respectively. 48 per cent of the total person-days of employment created went in favour of women. The agriculture debt waiver and relief scheme implemented during the year was able to restore institutional credit to farmers and helped to support demand and revive investment in the rural and the agriculture sector.

General: India is a country of huge dimensions, measuring 3,214 km from north to south, and 2,933 km from east to west. The total area is 32,87,263 sq km, with a land frontier of 15,200 km and a coastline of 6,083 km.

Occupying a strategic position in the Asian continent, the country shares its borders with Pakistan on the west, Bangladesh and Myanmar on the east; along the northern boundary are Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and the Sinkiang province of China. Just across the seas are Arabia and Africa on the west, Malaysia and the large Indonesian Archipelago on the east.

Indian rivers carry about 1,683,000 million cubic metres of water every year. The main rivers of the Himalayan system, both snow-fed and rain-fed, are the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra, all of them flowing throughout the year. The Indus has five tributaries—Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej; it runs through the Himalayas, then flows into Sind (Pakistan) and finally into the Arabian Sea.

The major rivers of the Deccan system are Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery, Mahanadi, Damodar, Sharavati, Periyar, Narmada and Tapti. Being all rain-fed, many of them are reduced into rivulets during the summer. These rivers contribute about 30 per cent of the outflow.

Area and Population: India has only 2.4 per cent of the total world area but contains about 16 per cent of the population. It is the second most populous country in the world, next to China which accounts for over one-fifth of the world’s total. India’s 2001 Census put the total population at 1,027,015,247, comprising 531,277,078 men and 495,738,690 women.

The decadal growth, however, declined from 23.86 per cent in 1981-91 to 21.34 per cent in 1991-2000. In real numbers, India has registered a fall in its decadal growth rate by 2.52 per cent, the sharpest of its kind in Independent India. Bihar beat everyone in the decadal growth percentage with a high of 28.43 per cent, against Kerala with the lowest at 9.42 per cent.

The number of literate people in the country too has gone up significantly, comprising three-fourths of the male population and more than half of the female population, while, for the first time since independence, the absolute members of illiterates have shown a significant decline. The literacy rates among the population seven years and above stood at 65.38 per cent and the corresponding figures for males and females were 75.85 and 54.16, respectively. Kerala continued its lead in literacy rate with 90.02 per cent, followed by Mizoram (88.49) and Lakshadweep (87.52), while Bihar recorded the lowest literacy rate of 47.53 per cent. West Bengal has shifted from 6th to 11th position when it comes to literacy.

Uttar Pradesh continued to be the most populous State with 16.7 per cent of India’s population, followed by Maharashtra (9.42 per cent) and Bihar (8.07 per cent). Due to creation of Jharkhand, Bihar has become the third populous State after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Till the 1991 census composite Bihar was the second most populous State.

Kerala recorded the lowest population growth rate of 9.42 per cent, followed by Tamil Nadu (11.19) and Andhra Pradesh (13.86).

The sex ratio in the country is 933 females per 1000 males, which is an improvement of six points over 927 recorded in 1991 census.

The highest sex ratio of 1058 women per 1000 men has been reported from Kerala, while Haryana recorded the lowest ratio of 861. The sharpest decline in sex ratio of child population has been observed in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra and Chandigarh.

West Bengal is the most densely populated State with 904 persons living per sq km, followed by Bihar with 880.

National Population Policy: The Union Cabinet adopted the National Population Policy, 2000 detailing several promotional and motivational measures, including extension of the freeze on Lok Sabha seats till 2026.

Seeking higher investments in social infrastructure, and a comprehensive package of reproductive and child health services, the policy stated that sustainable development with more equitable distribution was not possible without stabilising population. The annual increase of 15.5 million people was neutralising the efforts to conserve the environment or to boost development. A national commission on population, chaired by Prime Minister, has also been announced, which would monitor and guide the implementation of the policy.

Free Schooling: The Union government decided to make free and compulsory elementary education, for children in the age group of 6-14 years, a fundamental right. The Muhiram Saikia Committee estimated that an expenditure of Rs 40,000 crore over a period of 5 years was required to set up the necessary facilities.

The Lok Sabha, on November 28, 2001, unanimously passed a Constitution amendment making education for children in the age group of 6-14 years a fundamental right.

Education is the eighth in a set of fundamental rights recognised by the Constitution as basic privileges due to every Indian citizen. Among them are right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation and right to freedom of religion.

The new fundamental duty in the Constitution requires parents or guardians to provide opportunities for education, while not penalizing them for failing to do so. The legislation also incorporates a new Directive Principles of State Policy—a list of principles the government is expected to work towards—that says: “the State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children till the age of six.”

Critics, however, say that the move has two major flaws—it does not talk about compulsory education for children up to six years, and it shifts the main responsibility of providing education from the State to parents.

Most parents, they argue, don’t have the means to provide education, or lack the inclination. It would be difficult to translate the right into action. Most poor parents don’t have enough means to accord priority to education. The State should have taken the responsibility.

Religious Communities: India has several religious communities and sects, the important among them being: (1) the Hindus (who constitute 82.72 per cent) of the total population and the majority (60 per cent and above) in most of the States and Union Territories; (2) Muslims (11.21 per cent); (3) Christians, the third biggest community (2.60 per cent). Over 60 per cent of the Christians live in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh; (4) Sikhs (about 1.89 per cent) are concentrated largely in Punjab where they form 60.22 per cent of the population; (5) Buddhists form only 0.73 per cent of the population. Over 85 per cent of them live in Maharashtra, and most of the others in Arunachal Pradesh; (6) Jains form only 0.47 per cent of the population. They live mostly in the Western region—Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat. A small number reside in other States; (7) Zoroastrians (only around 90,000 in number) are concentrated in Mumbai.

Census of religions: The Census Commissioner of India released in September 2004, for the first time, data on population, number of literates, category and types of workers for each major religious group, to give valuable insights into the developmental patterns of each major community.

As per the Census figures, Hindus continue to comprise an overwhelming majority of the country—80.5%—although their growth rate has declined by 4.8% in the period 1981-91 to 1991-2001, from 25.1% to 20.3%.

Muslims account for 13.4% of the population, but their growth rate has nudged up by 1.5%, from 34.5% to 36%. In other words, for every Muslim there are six Hindus in the country.

The highest, and perhaps puzzling, growth rate has been among Jains—from 4.6% to 26%. In the same period, Sikhs’ growth rate declined by a significant 6.1%, from 24.3% to 18.2%, while Buddhists’ growth rate dipped even more sharply—by 10.6%, from 35.1% to 24.5%. The Christian growth rate has, however, gone up by 1.1%, from 21.5% to 22.6%.

Literacy-wise, Jains top the list with 94.1%, followed by Christians at 80.3%, Buddhists 72.7%, Sikhs 69.4%, Hindus 65.1% and Muslims 59.1%. The national average for literacy is 64.8%. For female literacy, the national average is expectedly lower at 53.7%. Jains take the lead with a female literacy figure of 90.6%, followed by Christians at 76.2%, Sikhs 63.1%, Buddhists 61.7%, Hindus 53.2% and Muslims 50.1%.

At the national level, among the major religious groups, Christians had the highest sex ratio of 1009, growing from 994 in 1991. They are followed by Buddhists (953) and Jains (940). Sikhs have the lowest sex ratio (893) among all major religious communities. The sex ratio among Hindus is 931, a shade lower than the national average of 933, while that among Muslims is 936. ‘Other religions and persuasions’, the term that clubs together various smaller groups like the Parsis, the Jews and animists, do rather well (992) on this count.

Excluding the Muslims of J&K from the 2001 figures, the growth of the Muslim population from 1991 to 2001 was 29.3%, significantly lower than the near 33% growth figure of 1981-91. The adjusted Hindu growth rate comes to 19.9%.

Languages: India is a country of hundreds of languages and dialects. The 1961 census had listed 16,752 languages as mother tongues spoken in the country. Of these mother tongues, only 33 are spoken by one lakh or more people, the others being minor ones.

India’s official language, as prescribed in Article 343 of the Constitution, is Hindi in Devanagari script. Eighteen regional languages are officially recognised by the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. These are: (in alphabetical order) Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu.

Article 343 also provided that for a period of 15 years from the commencement of the Constitution, the English language would continue to be used for all official purposes of the Union. In view of the demand from the Southern States, which were reluctant to accept Hindi as the country’s sole national language, English was continued as an additional official language. No date was fixed for elimination of English and adoption of Hindi as the language for official use throughout the country.

Constitution and Political set-up: India is a Union of 28 States and 6 Union Territories, including National Capital Region Delhi, the largest in area being Rajasthan and the smallest being Sikkim.

India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic with a parliamentary system of government. The country’s Constitution came into force from January 26, 1950. The overall structure is federal with several features of the unitary system.

Article 79 of the Constitution says that the Parliament shall consist of the President and two Houses known as the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and House of the People (Lok Sabha).

Though the President is not a member of either House, he is an integral part of the Parliament and performs certain functions relating to its proceedings.

The Parliament has the following functions: a) to make legislations for development and for benefit of society, b) exercise control over the Executive, c) it supplies members of the Council of Ministers, d) it has financial control over the Executive and e) provides an opportunity to deliberate various policies and measures before implementation.

Rajya Sabha: The Rajya Sabha consists of two categories of members, elected and nominated. They have a term of six years, and one-third of the members retire every two years. Article 80 says that the Rajya Sabha will consist of a) 12 members to be nominated by the President and b) not more than 238 representatives of the States and Union Territories. At present the strength of the Rajya Sabha is 245, of which 233 are elected and 12 nominated. The persons to be nominated by the President shall consist of persons having special knowledge or experience, such as literature, science, art and social service. The Vice-President is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The Deputy Chairman is elected by the Rajya Sabha from among its members.

Lok Sabha: Members of the Lok Sabha are elected by the people of India, except for two members of the Anglo-Indian community nominated by the President. In the Constitution, the strength of the Lok Sabha was provisioned to be not more than 552, with 530 members from States, 20 from Union Territories and 2 nominated from among the Anglo-Indian community. The Parliament has fixed the strength of the Lok Sabha to be 545 (530 + 13 + 2). The 42nd Amendment had frozen the representation of States and UTs at 543 till the year 2001. The 91st Amendment further extended the freeze till 2026, as an incentive aimed at population stabilisation. However, readjustment and rationalisation of territorial constituencies within the States has been allowed. This means that while the number of constituencies allotted to each State will remain constant, the territorial boundaries of the constituencies will be redrawn to balance out the electorate represented by each of them.

The normal tenure of the Lok Sabha is 5 years. But the House can be dissolved by the President before the end of the normal tenure. It can also be extended by the Parliament beyond the normal 5-year term during a national emergency proclaimed under Article 352. This extension is not more than one year at a time. Under Article 83 the normal tenure was 5 years, which was extended to 6 years by the 42nd Amendment but the 44th Amendment again fixed the normal tenure of 5 years.

To become a member of Lok Sabha, a person must: a) be a citizen of India, b) be not less than 25 years of age, c) be a registered voter in any Parliamentary constituency, and d) should not hold any office of profit.

The Speaker is the Chief Presiding officer of the Lok Sabha. He is elected from among the members of the Lok Sabha but continues to hold office even after dissolution of the House. He is responsible for the dignity and privileges of the House since the Speaker represents the Lok Sabha as an institution.

The quorum to constitute a meeting of either House of Parliament is one tenth of the total number of members of the House.

The Constitution states that there should not be a gap of more than 6 months between two consecutive sittings. There are 3 types of sessions:
a) Budget session, between February and May
b) monsoon session, July-August
c) winter session, November-December
The Lok Sabha can be dissolved by the President but the Rajya Sabha is a permanent body not subject to dissolution.

50 years of Lok Sabha: 2002 marked the 50th year of the constituting of the Lok Sabha. The official notification of the constituting of Lok Sabha was made on April 17, 1952. During the first two years it was known as ‘House of People’. It began to be known as Lok Sabha on May 14, 1954.

Presidential Elections: The President of India is the Constitutional head of the executive. He is elected for five years by an electoral college comprising all elected M.P.s and M.L.A.s. The real power rests with the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister, as provided in Article 74(1). The Ministry is collectively responsible to the House of the People (Lok Sabha).

Similarly, in the States the Governor is the executive head, but all effective power rests with the Ministry, which is collectively responsible to the State Legislative Assembly.

The Vice-President is elected by an electoral college consisting of members of both Houses of Parliament.

The legislative powers are distributed between the Parliament and the State legislatures, the residual powers being vested in the Parliament.

The Parliament comprises two Houses, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha (with a total strength of 244 of whom 12 are nominated for distinction in arts, science and social service).

State Executive: The Governor is the executive head of the State and acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers of the State. Generally one Governor is appointed for each State but after the 7th Amendment (1956), a Governor could be appointed for two States. The Governor is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers at the Union. A Governor must: a) be a citizen of India, b) must have completed 35 years of age, c) must not hold any office of profit and d) if an MP is appointed as Governor, his seat becomes vacant.

Fundamental Rights and Directives: Several basic freedoms are guaranteed by the Chapter on Fundamental Rights (Part III of the Constitution, Articles 12 to 35) which are justiciable (can be enforced by courts). The Constitution also lays down certain Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV of the Constitution, Articles 36 to 51) which are not justiciable but are important guidelines and are fundamental to the governance of the country. It is the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws. These Directives require the State to strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting, as effectively as it may, a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of national life.

In a judgement delivered on July 1, 1993, the Supreme Court ruled that the Right to Life (Art. 21) included the right to livelihood. Arbitrary dismissal of an employee after paying him one month’s salary in lieu of statutory notice was held to be violative of the Constitutional rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21.

The Fundamental Duties of citizens are enumerated by the 42nd Amendment (Article 51A), enjoining upon every citizen to follow the noble ideals of the founding fathers and promote harmony and brotherhood among all the people.

The Constitution is supreme, not the Parliament. The Supreme Court, the final tribunal of appeal, has the authority to adjudicate on the constitutionality of any law passed by the Parliament.

ABOUT INDIA -- at a glance Reviewed by sambasivan srinivasan on 3:15:00 PM Rating: 5

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