Sunday, May 17, 2009

Can Congress Deliver in India?

The convincing victory of Congress party in India has been an embarrassment for the pollsters and the pundits. They predicted a close contest between the Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA coalitions. With all but two results declared, the Congress-led alliance is projected to win 260 seats with the BJP on 157. They also said that the Third Front of regional and caste-based parties would determine the ultimate winners in Delhi. In fact, the Third Front has fallen apart, with its main components, the leftists, suffering a huge defeat, according to media reports. The BJP leadership has gracefully conceded defeat and congratulated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his party's success in the world's largest democracy.

Congress routed BJP in the major cities of Delhi and Mumbai while the states of Karnataka and Gujarat remained in the BJP column, indicating a split verdict from India's middle class. Unlike Pakistan's ruling PPP whose vote bank is almost entirely rural, it seems that Congress has succeeded in putting together an effective coalition of the urban middle class and rural voters.

Congress made significant gains in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh, where Nehru dynasty's heir apparent Rahul Gandhi campaigned energetically, winning plaudits and establishing his credentials as the next leader of Congress party. But UP Chief Minister Ms. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party is still ahead of Congress. Her BSP remains a powerful force as it came in a close second for as many as 50 seats in UP.

Voters appear to have backed Congress for pro-farm policies like the $5bn rural work scheme and a waiver of loans for indebted farmers. Five consecutive year of good monsoons, a booming rural market and pay increases for millions of government workers seem to have swung both the urban and rural voters towards the party that led India to its independence. As analysts and Congress party workers point out, there have been no major religious riots in the past five years, and so a vote for the party seemed to be a "vote for peace and harmony".

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his party engaged in angry rhetoric and issued verbal threats to Pakistan after Mumbai attacks, they did not act hastily in spite of the hostile Indian media and the BJP's attempts to take political advantage of the situation. Hopefully, the election results will also mean continuity in India's relations with its neighbors and the US, and early resumption of dialog with Pakistan to ensure peace and stability in South Asia. This is specially important as Pakistani military is in the middle of an offensive against the Taliban.

With a strong mandate in hand, Congress faces a serious challenge in delivering to its urban middle class and rural constituents in the midst of global economic slowdown. According to an OECD report published in 2007, India generated 11.3 million new jobs per year on an average during 2000-2005.

India’s phenomenal growth and job creation of the last five years were fueled in large part by huge inflow of cash and investment. Investment accounted for about 39 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in fiscal year 2008, up from 25 percent five years ago. At its peak, more than a third of investment came from abroad, according to Credit Suisse. But in the last three months of last year, foreign loans and direct investment fell by nearly a third, to their lowest level in more than two years, according to a report in New York Times.

The decline in foreign investment has taken a big toll on sectors like real estate, manufacturing and infrastructure. In the last quarter of 2008, the economy’s growth rate plummeted to about 5.3 percent, the lowest in five years. While consumer demand has kept the economy growing so far, the sudden slowing in the flow of foreign funds and rising unemployment will make it harder for the country to grow fast enough to pull hundreds of millions of people out of grinding poverty. Widespread poverty, chronic hunger, non-existent sanitation facilities, poor infrastructure and lack of opportunity continue to be a cause for serious alarm for India's democracy.

India, often described as peaceful, stable and prosperous in the Western media, remains home to the largest number of poor and hungry people in the world. About one-third of the world's poor people live in India. More than 450 million Indians exist on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank. It also has a higher proportion of its population living on less than $2 per day than even sub-Saharan Africa. India has about 42% of the population living below the new international poverty line of $1.25 per day. The number of Indian poor also constitute 33% of the global poor, which is pegged at 1.4 billion people, according to a Times of India news report. More than 6 million of those desperately poor Indians live in Mumbai alone, representing about half the residents of the nation's financial capital. They live in super-sized slums and improvised housing juxtaposed with the shining new skyscrapers that symbolize India's resurgence. According to the World Bank and the UN Development Program (UNDP), 22% of Pakistan's population is classified as poor.

There is widespread hunger and malnutrition in all parts of India. India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70. The first India State Hunger Index (Ishi) report in 2008 found that Madhya Pradesh had the most severe level of hunger in India, comparable to Chad and Ethiopia. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fell in the 'serious' category. "Affluent" Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69. The authors said India's poor performance was primarily due to its relatively high levels of child malnutrition and under-nourishment resulting from calorie deficient diets.

India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan in providing basic sanitation facilities, a key reason behind the death of 2.1 million children under five in the country.

Lizette Burgers, chief of water and environment sanitation of the Unicef, recently said India is making progress in providing sanitation but it lags behind most of the other countries in South Asia. A former Indian minister Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told the BBC that more than 65% of India's rural population defecated in the open, along roadsides, railway tracks and fields, generating huge amounts of excrement every day.

With the economy expected to slow to about 5%, employment generation in India has fallen by 49 percent during January-March this year, largely due to a slow growth of services industries like IT and banking, according to an industry lobby survey.

"The Assocham placement parameter (APP) Index (the body’s index for measuring employment generation) has shown a steep fall of 49 percent and has came down to 509.72 from the base value of 1,000," the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) said in a statement.

The APP index Series consist of 26 sectoral indices and a composite index giving an overall picture. The composite index is developed on the principle of weighted average quarterly job creation and has a base value of 1,000.

The study, which tracked employment generation across various sectors throughout metro and non-metro cities, said most of the highest employment generating sectors have curtailed their hiring.

The worst performer in terms of job creation is the IT sector, with its share in the overall index falling to 34 percent from 41 percent, the original allocation for the segment in the base value.

"The IT sector is facing major challenges with contracted demand due to recession in the primary client countries of the US and Europe. The value of the APP IT index has substantially declined by 50.8 percent," the report said.

The sectors that have recorded maximum decline in employment generation include education, hospitality, IT and IT enabled services, real estate, banking, media, textiles, auto, construction, and engineering.

However, some sectors like telecom and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) have bucked the trend and created more jobs during the same period.

The telecom sector was a leading job generator with its share in the composite index rising from 3 percent to 3.35 percent during the period.

"The pressure on employment, confidence and price levels would be more burdensome than in the past... Moreover, India could be impacted by the return of migrant workers or declining remittances," Citigroup India economist Rohini Malkani said in a recent report.

Citi further said that the Ministry of Labor has indicated that over 5,00,000 jobs were lost during October-December 2008, with export-oriented sectors such as gems and jewelery, autos, and textiles being most impacted.

However, the Citi report stated that this statistic only covers the organized sector, which comprises just 10 per cent of the country's workforce of close to 385 million.

Pakistan, too, has a huge youthful population as India: roughly 105 million out of 170 million Pakistanis are under 25 years old. It will be these people who drive Pakistan's economy in the decades ahead, according Pakistani economist Salman Shah, who talked with the Wall Street Journal recently.

Like India, Pakistan had an economic boom led by construction, manufacturing, telecom, banking and consumers during 2001-2007, under Musharraf-Aziz administration. With annual economic growth approaching 7-8%, it created about 2.5m jobs a year during this period. Talking about foreign direct investment (FDI) in emerging economies, former US Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan said in his book titled "The Age of Turbulence" : “But clearly the Licence Raj (in India) has discouraged foreign direct investment. India received $7 billion in FDI in 2005, a sum dwarfed by China’s $72 billion. India’s cumulative stock of FDI at 6 per cent of GDP at the end of 2005 compares with 9 per cent for Pakistan, 14 per cent for China, and 61 per cent for Vietnam. The reason FDI has lagged badly in India is perhaps no better illustrated than by India’s unwillingness to fully embrace market forces. That is all too evident in India’s often statist response to economic problems. Faced with rising food inflation in early 2007, the response was not to allow rising prices to prompt an increase in supply, but to ban wheat exports for the rest of the year and suspend futures trading to ‘curb speculation’ — the very market forces that the Indian economy needs to break the stranglehold of bureaucracy.” (p. 322 of "The Age of Turbulence" by Alan Greenspan.)

While Indian economy has experienced strong growth during this decade, the majority of its people have not been touched by it. Recently, British Minister Alexander contrasted the rapid growth in China with India's economic success - highlighting government figures that showed the number of poor people had dropped in the one-party communist state by 70% since 1990 but had risen in the world's biggest democracy by 5%.

In spite the recent Congress efforts in rural areas, the rural landscape in India still remains troubled. On its inside pages, the Times of India in 2007 reported Communist Party leader Sitaram Yechury's as saying that "on the one hand, 36 Indian billionaires constituted 25% of India’s GDP while on the other, 70% of Indians had to do with Rs 20 a day". "A farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes. The gap between the two Indias is widening," he said. Over 1500 farmers committed suicide last year in the central state of Chhattisgarh alone.

According to the new UN-HABITAT report on the State of the World's Cities 2008/9: Harmonious Cities, China has the highest level of consumption inequality based on Gini Coefficient in the Asia region, higher than Pakistan (0.298), Bangladesh (0.318), India (0.325), and Indonesia (0.343), among others." Gini coefficient is defined as a ratio with values between 0 and 1: A low Gini coefficient indicates more equal income or wealth distribution, while a high Gini coefficient indicates more unequal distribution. 0 corresponds to perfect equality (everyone having exactly the same income) and 1 corresponds to perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, while everyone else has zero income).

Violence is rising in India because of the growing rich-poor gap. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has called the Maoist insurgency emanating from the state of Chhattisgarh the biggest internal security threat to India since independence. The Maoists, however, are confined to rural areas; their bold tactics haven't rattled Indian middle-class confidence in recent years as much as the bomb attacks in major cities have. These attacks are routinely blamed on Muslim militants. How long will Maoists remain confined to the rural areas will depend on the response of the Indian government to the insurgents who exploit huge and growing economic disparities in Indian society.

With the clear mandate for his Congress Party, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has huge challenges in front of him. Being a sincere man of intelligence and integrity, I expect him to make a serious effort to confront those challenges. I congratulate him and wish him well. If Mr. Singh succeeds, a prosperous, self-confident India under his leadership can become a positive example in South Asia that India's neighbors can look up to and follow.

Here is a video about Indian democracy:

Related Links:

Is Indian Democracy Overrated?

Mumbai's Slumdog Millionaire

Can India Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

Poor Sanitation in India

Stable, Peaceful, Prosperous India

No Toilet, No Seat in India

Poverty Tours in India, Brazil and South Africa

South Asia's War on Hunger Takes Back Seat

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Pakistani Children's Plight

Poverty in Pakistan


Anonymous said...


India is far better than pakistan. Singh is the person who had lead india from 1991 from near insolvency. Indian election has proved that india is still secular and is more concern about development rather than moving backward on medival path.

You have the right to throw stones on india and india can use the same to build its forts.

Anonymous said...

If Mr. Singh succeeds, a prosperous, self-confident India under his leadership can become a positive example in South Asia that India's neighbors can look up to and follow.

Indeed. India is surrounded by fire at the moment. It's a wonder that the most exciting thing happening in India was an election. A look at the neighborhood is depressing: Pakistan in civil war flames, Bangladesh in political/military flux, Sri Lanka in civil war flames, Nepal in jeopardy, Myanmar being stubborn.

The first task is to bring the poverty rate from 25% (or 35% depending on who you listen to) down by 10 points in the next 10 years. Then get to fixing the neighborhood using big power strategies: soft power as far as possible with hard power guarantees. And push the encroaching Chinese sphere of influence back.

Anonymous said...

good news is fascist party in India missed becoming a majority by 5 - 10% votes. Bad news is there are still a lot of extreme nationalistic fascism and inferiority complex among Indians. Nazi type party getting second highest vote count would be concern in any other country but we can breath sight of relief it did not come first in India.

Anonymous said...

The Indian stock market loves what happened.

Now MM Singh - I'm no fan of his - has no excuse. He's got to deliver. The word is he'll be PM for a couple of years and then usher Rahul Gandhi in. Always though that dude was a dodo. But reading and hearing about what he did in UP has changed this reader's mind. Better to have an energetic youngster who wants to make things happen, has a servant mindset and makes mistakes along the way than the geriatric fools who spout old tired ideology. Omar Abdullah in J&K gives this reader the same hope. Too bad Sajjad Lone did not win.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC story about Indian MPs:

"At least 153 of the newly-elected MPs in India have criminal cases pending against them, according to a study by civil society groups.

Groups working on electoral reforms say the opposition BJP has the highest number of tainted MPs at 43 while the Congress party is number two with 41.

The group has written letters to senior Congress party leaders with an appeal to keep these MPs out of the cabinet.

Corruption and criminalization of politics are major issues in India."

sunny said...

Haq Saab!
Its an nice article !
I read your article's regularly!

You are a surprisingly sane voice in the world of "mad jingoistic senseless patriotism " so common to the web/blog world of "Indo-Pak".Even such harmless and beautiful thing such as a "smile of child" or birth of an "endangered animal in some zoo on the sub-continent"
turns in ludicrous "Indo-Pak" issue finally zeroing on choosy abuses on each others religions and mothers!

Frankly as an Indian I feel Pak is better in many ways but always had bad luck .In a lighter vein I say Indians are lucky that pakistan is obsessed with religion ,or else it would have been far far ahead!

amit said...

Mr.Haq,articles like these seems like a big(may be desperate)effort on your part to tell to the world that india has got many flaws,people are unnecessarily praising india,pakistan is better than india etc(you also go all the way to provide numbers to support your claim).
It seems apart from your work the only thing you do is to collect information about anything which shows india in a bad light. Mr.haq,a learned person like you ( i see you have worked on 80386 micro chip and all) instead on focussing so much on india can focus on pakistan and try to find solutions for the millions of problems facing your country.In india noboby is going to be that interested in what you say but in pakistan i am assuming many people will defenitely listen to your views.
We know we have problems and are trying to fight it out.Atleat we don't poke our nose in our neighbour’s problems(poverty,slums,civil wars etc)and write articles about them.
As the saying goes "those who themselves live in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones at other's"
China is definelty doing better than india when it comes to fighting poverty.But the fact you were not interested in mentioning was that it hides it poverty from the world,it doesn't fight it openly.When you say mumbai with six million poors have you ever realised why there are no poors in shanghai.All poors were thrown out to rural areas.In a democratic country nobody would dare to do that.So you see democracy has it's pros and cons.
India has got a population of 1 billion plus.even if 20% of our population is poor,it would turn out to be a big number.It really doesn’t make sense on part of scholar like you to compare that number with that of countries like Angola,Nigeria,Pakistan etc because even if 100% of their population is poor it would still be less than India.
Sir as an indian i would invite you to come to india and check out all the places here rather than just some slums,poverty which you seem to be interested in highlighting in your articles.

Riaz Haq said...

amit: "Sir as an indian i would invite you to come to india and check out all the places here rather than just some slums,poverty which you seem to be interested in highlighting in your articles."

Thank you for invitation but I have visited India many times and my impressions are based on personal experience and backed by credible published data."

You suggest "India has got a population of 1 billion plus.even if 20% of our population is poor,it would turn out to be a big number.It really doesn’t make sense on part of scholar like you to compare that number with that of countries like Angola,Nigeria,Pakistan etc because even if 100% of their population is poor it would still be less than India."

All the published are normalized for population differences and the fact remains that in terms of hunger and poverty and quality of life for gthe vast majority of Indians is compatable or worse than the people in sub-Saharan Africa.

You say "It seems apart from your work the only thing you do is to collect information about anything which shows india in a bad light."

You should worry about how to fix the problems India has rather than hide them because any discussion of India puts your country in "bad light".

BTW, if you read more of my posts, I am also very critical of the terrible governance in Pakistan. In fact, I believe the entire South Asian region is among the worst governed and the most deprived in tems of human development, hunger, poverty, disease etc.

Riaz Haq said...

Biggest Land Grab After Columbus

By Devinder Sharma

14 November, 2009
Devinder Sharma Blog

I think the eulogisation of Tata's has gone too far. Behind all the glamour, sobriety and humanitariasm that we read and hear about Tata's, there is a dark hidden side which is kept under wraps. It is time we look at the destructive role Tata's have played over the years in uprooting thousands of poor families, and the resulting destruction of livelihoods and the environment.

To overcome their guilt, and that too aimed at pacifying the liberal voices in the urban centres, I am sure Ratan Tata would be thinking of setting up schools and funding some NGO activities in the tribal lands as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

What a sophisticated way to cover your dark underbelly !

I was quite taken aback today to see a frontpage headline in The Hindustan Times: The biggest land grab after Columbus. As the blurb says: Government report criticises corporate exploitation of tribal lands; tribals turn to new friends: Maoist. And if you remember only a few days back, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had publicly accepted, and made a promise: "The systemic exploitation of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated."

Do you think Manmohan Singh will do anything to stop this? You bet, he will simply push for more such projects that will eventually destroy the social fabric of these tribal lands. If you think I am wrong, let us take the land-grab in Bedanji, a remote rural expanse in Bastar in Chhatisgarh, as a test case. The Tata's plan to set up a Rs 19,500 crore steel plant for which ten villages have to be emtied.

Interestingly, a report of the PM-appointed Ministry of Rural Development committee on Land Reforms has succinctly said: "This open declared war will go down as the biggest land grab ever, if it plays out as per the script." The Hindustan Times report quotes the just-released government report warning against the corporate takeover in the Bastar hinterland: "The biggest grab of tribal lands after Columbus."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are "Reflections on India" published by an American traveler-blogger:

First, pollution. In my opinion the filth, squalor and all around pollution indicates a marked lack of respect for India by Indians. I don't know how cultural the filth is, but it's really beyond anything I have ever encountered. At times the smells, trash, refuse and excrement are like a garbage dump. Right next door to the Taj Mahal was a pile of trash that smelled so bad, was so foul as to almost ruin the entire Taj experience. Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai to a lesser degree were so very polluted as to make me physically ill. Sinus infections, ear infection, bowels churning was an all to common experience in India. Dung, be it goat, cow or human fecal matter was common on the streets. In major tourist areas filth was everywhere, littering the sidewalks, the roadways, you name it. Toilets in the middle of the road, men urinating and defecating anywhere, in broad daylight. Whole villages are plastic bag wastelands. Roadsides are choked by it. Air quality that can hardly be called quality. Far too much coal and far to few unleaded vehicles on the road. The measure should be how dangerous the air is for one's health, not how good it is. People casually throw trash in the streets, on the roads. The only two cities that could be considered sanitary in my journey were Trivandrum--the capital of Kerala--and Calicut. I don't know why this is. But I can assure you that at some point this pollution will cut into India's productivity, if it already hasn't. The pollution will hobble India's growth path, if that indeed is what the country wants. (Which I personally doubt, as India is far too conservative a country, in the small 'c' sense.)

The second issue, infrastructure, can be divided into four subcategories: roads, rails and ports and the electrical grid. The electrical grid is a joke. Load shedding is all too common, everywhere in India. Wide swaths of the country spend much of the day without the electricity they actually pay for. With out regular electricity, productivity, again, falls. The ports are a joke. Antiquated, out of date, hardly even appropriate for the mechanized world of container ports, more in line with the days of longshoremen and the like. Roads are an equal disaster. I only saw one elevated highway that would be considered decent in Thailand, much less Western Europe or America. And I covered fully two thirds of the country during my visit. There are so few dual carriage way roads as to be laughable. There are no traffic laws to speak of, and if there are, they are rarely obeyed, much less enforced. A drive that should take an hour takes three. A drive that should take three takes nine. The buses are at least thirty years old, if not older. Everyone in India, or who travels in India raves about the railway system. Rubbish. It's awful. Now, when I was there in 2003 and then late 2004 it was decent. But in the last five years the traffic on the rails has grown so quickly that once again, it is threatening productivity. Waiting in line just to ask a question now takes thirty minutes. Routes are routinely sold out three and four days in advance now, leaving travelers stranded with little option except to take the decrepit and dangerous buses. At least fifty million people use the trains a day in India. 50 million people! Not surprising that waitlists of 500 or more people are common now. The rails are affordable and comprehensive but they are overcrowded and what with budget airlines popping up in India like Sadhus in an ashram the middle and lowers classes are left to deal with the overutilized rails and quality suffers. No one seems to give a shit. Seriously, I just never have the impression that the Indian government really cares. Too interested in buying weapons from Russia, Israel and the US I guess.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ExpressIndia story of a Gujarati Muslim killed in Surat:

Mehboob Pathan (50) of Valak village on Surat’s outskirts wanted was a job in the city. Having a Muslim name, he felt, came in the way. So, to get himself a job in Surat’s diamond units, he passed himself off as Jayenti Bhatti, and managed to find work in two separate units in the Kapodara area.

Early this week, his “cover” was blown, after he was brutally killed over a monetary dispute. As the distraught family stepped forward to admit that Jayenti Bhatti was indeed Mehboob Pathan, they worried that having been cremated as a Hindu, the practising Muslim’s soul may not find peace.

In the ledgers of Surat’s diamond units, there are many leading a double life like Pathan. His son Mushtaq is registered as Mukesh and daughter Samina as Sharmila, and both are afraid of losing their jobs if the fact was known.

Diamond industry sources and workers say many Muslims assume Hindu names to find work in the city’s lucrative diamond business.

One of them, Allarakha Khan, admits to having passed himself off as a Hindu like many others from his village. “We would not get a job if we are known to be Muslims. We have been doing this for a long time, and we take great care not to reveal our real names or addresses at work,” he told The Indian Express.

Rohit Mehta, president of the Surat Diamond Association, however, denied knowledge of Muslims passing themselves off as Hindus for jobs. “We will inquire into this,” he said.

Pathan’s story came to be known after his body was found in a farm at Antroli last Monday, with the head smashed in. The police registered a case and kept the unclaimed body in the Palsana Primary Health Centre mortuary till Thursday. Then they arranged to give Pathan alias Bhatti a Hindu funeral, with all the rites.

His family, who had been looking for Pathan, had filed a missing complaint. Then, seeing news stories in local newspapers about an unclaimed body, Mehboob’s brother-in-law Iqbal Pathan decided to check. By that time, Pathan had been cremated, but the brother-in-law identified him from a photo of the body.

The family says Pathan was a pious Muslim and the change of name was just so that he and his children could find and keep a job. “We are too poor to do anything, but how could the police dispose of his body the Hindu way?” asks son Mushtaq. “A genital examination would have shown he was a Muslim.”

Sub-Inspector of Kadodara police V R Malhotra said they had kept the body in the mortuary hoping someone would turn up. “We disposed it of according to Hindu rites not knowing he was a Muslim. The family turned up too late and we are now helpless.”

Kapodara police inspector S J Tirmizi, who is probing the murder, confirmed that Pathan had passed himself off as Bhatti for work. Manoj Rokad, who is the manager of the Varachha unit in which Pathan’s daughter Samina works as a diamond polisher, has reportedly confessed to the murder.

According to the police, Rokad had become a family friend of the Pathans and knew their real identities. Two years ago, Pathan had reportedly loaned Rokad Rs 60,000 for an emergency, which he never returned. Pathan used to call Rokad repeatedly asking him to return the same, and the latter reportedly asked Pathan to meet him on December 20. They went to Antroli village, where Rokad allegedly killed Pathan with the help of two other diamond polishers, who have been identified as Chhanya Rathod and Sanjay.

While Rokad has been held, and has reportedly admitted that they beat Pathan to death, Rathod and Sanjay are on the run.

Riaz Haq said...

India(49) has more than twice as many billionaires as Japan (22) which is a far richer country.

Indian and UNICEF officials concur that Indians are much worse off than Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in basic nutrition and sanitation.

Meanwhile, India is worse than Bangladesh and Pakistan when it comes to nourishment and is showing little improvement in the area despite big money being spent on it, says Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed.

India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan in providing basic sanitation facilities, a key reason behind the death of 2.1 million children under five in the country.Lizette Burgers, chief water and environment sanitation of the UNICEF, said India is making progress in providing sanitation but it lags behind most of the other countries in South Asia.

Most of the 8-9% growth has fattened the bottom line of a small percentage of India's population, with the rest getting poorer. India's Gini Index has increased from about 32 to 36 from 2000 to 2007.

India now has 100 million more people living below the poverty line than in 2004, according to official estimates released on Sunday. The poverty rate has risen to 37.2 percent of the population from 27.5 percent in 2004, according to a Reuters report.

The rising gap between abject poverty and obscene wealth in India is fueling anger, and insurgencies such as the Maoists'.

Riaz Haq said...

More people in India, the world’s second most crowded country, have access to a mobile telephone than to a toilet, according to a set of recommendations released today by United Nations University (UNU) on how to cut the number of people with inadequate sanitation.

“It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet,” said Zafar Adeel, Director of United Nations University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health (IWEH), and chair of UN-Water, a coordinating body for water-related work at 27 UN agencies and their partners.

India has some 545 million cell phones, enough to serve about 45 per cent of the population, but only about 366 million people or 31 per cent of the population had access to improved sanitation in 2008.

The recommendations released today are meant to accelerate the pace towards reaching the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on halving the proportion of people without access to safe water and basic sanitation.

If current global trends continue, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) predict there will be a shortfall of 1 billion persons from that sanitation goal by the target date of 2015.

“Anyone who shirks the topic as repugnant, minimizes it as undignified, or considers unworthy those in need should let others take over for the sake of 1.5 million children and countless others killed each year by contaminated water and unhealthy sanitation,” said Mr. Adeel.

Included in the nine recommendations are the suggestions to adjust the MDG target from a 50 per cent improvement by 2015 to 100 per cent coverage by 2025; and to reassign official development assistance equal to 0.002 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to sanitation.

The UNU report cites a rough cost of $300 to build a toilet, including labour, materials and advice.

“The world can expect, however, a return of between $3 and $34 for every dollar spent on sanitation, realized through reduced poverty and health costs and higher productivity – an economic and humanitarian opportunity of historic proportions,” added Mr. Adeel.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Newsweek calling for overhaul of India's judicial system after the ludicrous Bhopal verdict:

More than 25 years after a pesticide plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal spewed a toxic cloud that killed as many as 25,000 people, an Indian court last week finally sentenced seven former executives involved in the disaster. They’ll receive two years in prison (pending appeal) and pay fines equivalent to $2,100—the maximum punishment allowed under current law, but one considered so lenient that many in India are demanding far tougher corporate liability laws.

But what India really needs is an overhaul of its judicial system. The Bhopal case is hardly unique in its length: the country’s trial courts have a backlog of close to 30 million cases, and Delhi alone has more than 600 pending civil cases and 17 criminal ones dating back 20 years or more. The Delhi court’s chief judge estimates that it would take 466 years to work through the backlog. A major reason for the pileup is that there are simply too few people on the bench: India has only 11 judges per million citizens (America has 110 per million). India likes to call itself a nation of laws. But as the Bhopal verdicts prove, having laws is one thing—delivering justice is quite another.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani legislators' average assets tripled in six years, according to a report in Daily Times today:

* PILDAT report reveals average value of MNAs’ assets was just below Rs 27 million in 2002-2003, figure increased to Rs 81 million in 2008-2009

* PPP’s Mehboobullah Jan richest MNA with total assets of Rs 3.2 billion

* PML-N’s Nuzhat Sadiq richest woman lawmaker

* Assets of Muhammad Kamran Khan grew 42 times within 1 year

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: A comparative analysis of the assets declared by members of the National Assembly (MNAs) belonging to the 12th and the 13th National Assemblies reveals that the average value of an MNA’s assets has increased threefold during the past six years (2002 to 2009).

According to a report titled ‘How Rich are Pakistani MNAs?’ released by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), the average value of an MNA’s assets in the previous National Assembly was just below Rs 27 million. However, this value rose to Rs 81 million in 2008-09, a threefold increase in six years.

The analysis also indicates that an average MNA of the current National Assembly is twice as rich compared to his/her counterpart in the previous assembly.

The findings are based on assets declared by MNAs for the years 2003 to 2006, 2007 to 2008 and 2008 to 2009 through three separate reports. The latest of this series of reports, comparing assets declared by MNAs belonging to the current National Assembly, has used data contained in the gazettes published by the Election Commission of Pakistan on October 15, 2008 and October 27, 2009.

The report puts the current average value of assets held by an MNA at Rs 80.89 million, based on the 2008-09 declarations. This figure demonstrates an increase of 9.5 percent from the 2007-08 figure of Rs 73.92 million. The average value of assets owned by non-Muslim MNAs (Rs 20.35 million), is 75 percent lower than the overall average of almost Rs 81 million.

In terms of individual wealth, the 2008-09 declarations reveal the wealthiest MNA to be Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Mehboobullah Jan from Kohistan, with total assets of Rs 3.2 billion. He is followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi from Rawalpindi with total assets of Rs 1.6 billion. Pakistan Muslim League-Functional’s Jahangir Khan Tareen from Rahimyar Khan has total assets worth Rs 1.095 billion, while independent MNA Saeed Ahmed Zafar from Nankana Sahib has assets worth Rs 1 billion and PML-N’s Nuzhat Sadiq has total assets worth Rs 912.81 million.

According to the previous year’s declarations, Mehboobullah Jan had assets of Rs 3.252 billion, followed by PML-N’s Nuzhat Sadiq with total assets of Rs 1.514 billion, PPP’s Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal from Punjab with assets amounting to Rs 1.248 billion, PML-Q’s Chaudhry Nazir Ahmed Jatt from Vehari with assets worth Rs 843 million and Jahangir Khan Tareen with assets amounting to Rs 716 million.

At the other end of the spectrum, MNAs with the least assets in 2008-09 were: PPP’s Saeed Iqbal Chaudhry from Punjab with approximately Rs 29 million net liabilities, followed by PPP MNA Roshan Din Junejo from Sindh, PML-N’s Sheikh Rohale Asghar, PPP’s Ghulam Farid Kathia and PML-N’s Ayaz Amir.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Maplecroft risk warning for investing in India, according to Times of India:

LONDON: The United Kingdom-based Global Risks Atlas 2011 on Friday described India as the 16th riskiest country to invest in for the security hazards it poses and rather embarrassingly clubs it with Niger, Bangladesh and Mali. The Atlas is published by Maplecroft, a consultancy founded by Alyson Warhurst, chair of strategy and international development at Warwick Business School.

The evaluation is structured on seven key global risks including macroeconomic risk and threats around security, governance, resource security, climate change, social resilience and illicit economies.

Maplecroft assessed India faces simultaneous threats of terrorist attacks from Islamists and Maoists. It also points at India's lack of social resilience despite a robust economic growth and cites its poor human rights record. It says large sections of the population lack access to basic services such as education, healthcare and sanitation, and highlights its less productive workforce, greater susceptibility to pandemics and susceptible to social unrest.

A press release by Maplecroft lumps Pakistan with Russia on investment risk:

Dynamic political risks constitute immediate threats to business and Maplecroft rates 11 countries as ‘extreme risk.’ Most significantly, the emerging economy of Russia has moved up five places from 15th to enter the top ten for the first time, whilst Pakistan has also moved two places up the ranking to 9th.

The ‘extreme risk’ countries now include: Somalia (1), DR Congo (2), Sudan (3), Myanmar (4), Afghanistan (5), Iraq (6), Zimbabwe (7), North Korea (8), Pakistan (9), Russia (10) and Central African Republic (11).

Russia’s increased risk profile reflects both the heightened activity of militant Islamist separatists in the Northern Caucasus and their ambition to strike targets elsewhere in the country. Russia has suffered a number of devastating terrorist attacks during 2010, including the March 2010 Moscow Metro bombing, which killed 40 people. Such attacks have raised Russia’s risk profile in the Terrorism Risk Index and Conflict and Political Violence Index. The country’s poor performance is compounded by its ‘extreme risk’ ratings for its business environment, corporate governance and the endemic nature of corruption, which is prevalent throughout all tiers of government.
Jim O’Neil, Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, states: "Growth is happening where political risk is most challenging. So, meticulous monitoring and mitigation now will enable business to flourish and benefit from the opportunities presented by the future growth economies of the BRICs and Next 11".

Looking to the longer term, the BRICs countries are witnessing increasingly worse structural political risk trends for 2011. China (25), India (32) and Russia (51), rated ‘high risk’ and Brazil (97) medium risk, have all seen risks increase compared to scores from last year’s Atlas.