Culture and Civilization Matters

January 20, 2010

Economic Tension: Addressing Poverty – India’s Biggest Opportunity and Most Difficult Challenge

Filed under: Term 3 Delhi — Tags: , , , , , , , — wadatripp @ 8:31 pm

Despite India’s significant rise in overall economic status in the world, more than a quarter of Indians (300 Milllion people) still live below the absolute poverty line of $1/day.

The contrasts between rich and poor are perhaps more striking today as they have ever been. In thriving urban areas such as Delhi, are experiencing what Edward Luce calls “Affluenza.” Today, one in five children in Delhi is obese while in the country as a whole 42% of the child population is malnourished.

This inequality is a rising problem for India. With annual GDP growth rates upwards of 8% and with the poverty only falling by 1% there remains a significant challenge in bringing prosperity to the bottom of the pyramid, that if not addressed in an appropriate timeframe could yield social unrest.

In this excerpt, Shashi Tharoor outlines the future economic progress for India and the opportunity it represents for pulling people out of poverty.

To see complete interview with Shashi Tharoor click here.

Similarly, Gurcharan Das, former CEO of Procter and Gamble India and noted consultant and author, presents a bullish overview of India’s economic future and compares it to China.

Hint: To better view ^ the presentation click the full option on Slideshare.

Both Tharoor and Das discuss the significant potential that this economic gain will have on bringing the bottom 300 million out of poverty.

Noted academic C.K. Prahalad also suggests that focusing on the bottom of the pyramid can be a win-win solution for both customers and the enterprise.

This book was created based on a paper that Prahalad and Hart published in Strategy + Business in 2002. You can read the paper by clicking here.

In the following video excerpt, Dr. Prahalad outlines three false assumptions we make that impede us from seeing the opportunity that lies at the bottom of the pyramid.

In video excerpt, Cyril Shroff outlines the history of India’s Economy from being a Basket Case at the outset of Independence to becoming the a key player in today’s World Economy.

To view the complete interview with Shroff click here.

In a similar vein, Nandan Nilekani outlines here why India was initially reluctant to embrace globalization but not that the reforms of the 80s and 90s have taken hold globalization is widely accepted in India.

To view complete interview with Nilekani click here.

In both cases, Saroff and Nilekani highlight that the India initially turned its back on globalization in favor of more socialist reform. With the arrival of Economic reform in the 1980’s/1990’s India has grown significantly, but this growth does not come without significant challenges.

In this video excerpt, Edward Luce, emphasizes the fact that that the disparity between rich and poor presents to India is a significant challenge and can be attributed to the inefficiency of the Indian state.

In this excerpt, Cyril Shroff explores the widening poverty gap and the challenge that the government faces in closing it.


  • How has the caste system contributed to the ongoing (and perhaps widening) disparity between rich and poor?
  • What is it about Indian society that enables it to be so tolerant of religious equality and economic disparity?
  • Why have the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s not been successful in reaching the bottom 300 million?
  • Consider the tension of a country with 8% GDP growth with poverty only falling by 1%. How can a parliamentary system with a 24 party coalition government implement rapid reform to address this gap?

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Political Tension: Independence, Nationalism, Fundamentalism and the Multi-Party Coalition

Filed under: Term 3 Delhi — Tags: , , , , , , , — wadatripp @ 8:31 pm

Today, some 63 years following India’s Independence, India is the world’s largest democracy.

Mahatma Gandhi is credited with leading the Civil-Disobedience campaign that ultimately led to the demise of the British Raj and the ushering in of an Independent India led by Jawaharlal Nehru.

In 1947, many westerners were quick to dismiss India’s ability to maintain stable democratic rule. While there have been a number of challenges in Independent democratic rule over the past 60 years, last year, since India’s voting population is growing by more than 20 million people per year, India celebrated the biggest exercise in democratic franchise in human history

Furthermore, five years ago during the elections India witnessed the extraordinary phenomenon of an election being won by a woman Italian Origin and Roman Catholic Faith, Sonia Gandhi, wo then made way for a Sikh, Manmohan Singh, to be sworn in as Prime Minister by a Muslim President, Abdul Kalam, in a country that is 81 percent Hindu.

However, as tensions between Pakistan and India have ebbed and flowed with more violent amplitude in recent decades the rise of Hindu Nationalism and Islamic Fundamentalism within India creates significant challenges for this pluralistic democratic system.

As we learned from Tom Standage in London, the East India Company came came to rule large swaths of India for100 years following the Battle of Plassey.

In 1857, following the Indian Rebellion, the British Crown assumed direct administration of India under the British Raj. Noted historian, Michael Wood, in his BBC documentary entitled The Story of India, delves into the history of the British Raj by visiting its Archives.

To view the Michael Wood’s interview about the British Raj click here.

The following excerpt from the BBC documentary “Gandhi the Road to Freedom” chronicles the role that Gandhi played in bringing Independence to the India in 1947 and highlights some of the issues that emerged following the dissolution of British Rule.

Please view the first 6 minutes of this video.

In this short video excerpt below , Edward Luce, author of “In Spite of the Gods,chronicles the emergence of the current multiparty coalition system of the worlds largest democracy from its tenuous embryonic roots.

In this excerpt, Luce also explores the impact that this democratically elected government is having on the gradual dissolution of the caste system.

You can view the the Edward Luce’s Talk here.

The world’s largest democracy is also one that is quite complex in its governance. In this brief excerpt, Shashi Tharoor helps us navigate the complexities of India’s modern-day coalition government system.

To view the complete interview with Sashi Tahoor click here.

In this video excerpt, Edward Luce explores Hindu Nationalism. Luce describes fundamentalism as “tradition made aware and self defensive,” and explores the interplay and impact of fundamentalism and the caste system on the current government system in india

In the next excerpt, Luce further explores the challenges in reforming the multi-party coalition government in India. He also outlines some of the opportunities that digitization of government operations can help with this reform. This presents a clear tie to the work that Nandan Nilekani is doing with India’s Universal ID program.


  • What is it about Indian society and culture that allowed one figure, (Mahatma Gandhi), through a campaign of non-violent civil-disobedience, was able to rally a nation to bring down the British Raj?
  • How has India managed to maintain a functioning pluralistic democracy despite its significant religious differences and caste-based hierarchical structure?
  • How will Hindu Nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism test the multi-party coalition system? Can it be sustained?
  • What issues do you foresee emerging with a parliamentary system with a 24 party coalition government needing significant reform to maintain India’s continued stable growth?

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