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India: corruption affecting investment and economic growth December 13, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Gustavo Mendiolaza

Transparency International released the results of its annual Corruption Perceptions Index on 5 December 2012. India was ranked 94 out of 174 countries in corruption, a claim highlighted by the scandals that have hit the Indian National Congress-led government this year.


India, and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in particular, have felt increasing pressure over the levels of corruption. This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) illustrates that although the situation has improved since last year, an underlying culture of corruption still exists in India. Such endemic corruption may cause a decline in India’s attractiveness for foreign direct investment (FDI).


The cell phone: India’s society shaker December 11, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Doron, Assa, India, Jeffrey, Robin , comments closed

Robin Jeffrey and Assa Doron

In a country where one of the ancient texts declares that “if a Sudra [low-caste person] … listens in on a Vedic recitation, his ears shall be filled with molten tin”, cheap mobile phones can be explosive (Patrick Olivelle (ed. and trans.), The Dharmasūtras. The Law Codes of Ancient India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 12.1, p. 98). In India between 2000 and 2012, the telephone, and communications generally, have passed from the control of a tiny elite to become the daily experience of the mass of the population.

                Credit: A Doron

In the year 2000, India had 2 million mobile-phone subscribers. It had 900 million in August 2012, and the cost of a basic phone is as little as a week’s wages for a poor labourer (about INR 500 or SGD 12), and three hours of talk-time can be bought for half a day’s wages. For millions of poor people, a mobile phone has become the first ‘consumer durable’ they have ever owned. In the film The Gods Must Be Crazy, a single Coca-Cola bottle, dropped into a stable society, caused disarray and disruption. The mobile phone is no passive Coke bottle. It’s an interactive, talking, writing, picture-taking, data-keeping, broadcasting trouble-maker – trouble-maker, at least, if you believe that societies are fine as they are and that change and challenge are problems.


Land ownership for secure peasant livelihood in Pakistan December 9, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Aly Ercelan, Karamat Ali and Muhammad Ali Shah

Our story is simple. We believe that enormous imbalance in political power requires mass deprivation and exclusion so as to weaken resistance to oppression. Redistribution of wealth is urgently required.

Living in Karachi, we focus on land redistribution in rural Sindh. We find that food sovereignty can be attained by all landless and near-landless tenants by an ownership award of around an acre per capita, using private land of the wealthiest with 50 or more acres, supplemented by diverting public land from wasteful use. Cooperatives would enable ecological sustainability instead of the current large private farms that persistently degrade land and water.

Several surveys attest to pervasive impoverishment. These include the official National Nutrition Survey (e.g. over 70% households deemed food insecure with varying degrees of hunger, and over one-fourth of children under five were found severely stunted); Household Integrated Economic Survey (e.g. over 40% of workers in elementary occupations, whose average earnings were well under the already inadequate national minimum wage); Labour Force Survey (e.g. one-third of all wage workers received less than Rs 5,000 a month), Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (e.g. well over one-half the population has never attended any school; net enrollment at matriculation level was less than 20% even for males). (more…)