1 A tale of two IndiasMARY FITZGERALD in IndiaSat, Oct 02, 2010 india is booming, but as the Commonwealth Games brings the country to the world s attention, can it bridge the dangerous divisions and inequality that hold it back?TO GET A SENSE of the india that officials hoped to showcase at next week s Commonwealth Games, before the event became mired in controversy, it is best to leave behind Delhi s main stadium, with its collapsed footbridge, and head south. In the sprawling suburb of Gurgaon a dizzying transformation is taking place, providing as good a metaphor as any for the changing face of india . Once little more than a cluster of villages in Delhi s hinterland, Gurgaon is now home to swathes of the capital s wealthy elite. Its inhabitants live in gated communities with such names as Malibu Town and Nirvana Country, where property is priced at more than 300 times the average Indian s annual income.
2 They work in gleaming glass towers housing multinationals such as Pepsi, Honda and Nestl .Drive down Gurgaon s main artery, called Mall Road because of its endless stretch of shopping malls, and you could be in Los Angeles. With its call centres and software companies, sushi restaurants and designer outlets, this is the beating heart of a thrusting india buoyed by an economy expected to grow by nearly 9 per cent double the global average by the end of this year. This is the brave new india , powered by a burgeoning middle class and driven by superpower aspirations, that the world will find impossible to ignore , as foreign secretary Nirupama Rao puts you don t have to look too closely to see the signs of a very different india among the glitzy malls where consumption is nothing if not conspicuous.
3 At one busy intersection a scrawny barefoot boy weaves in and out of traffic, selling plastic-wrapped copies of Architectural Digest. Here and there are half-finished buildings where squatters have set up home. As dusk falls, the less fortunate hunker down for the night in makeshift tents beneath a nearby view from Gurgaon s high-rises invariably includes teeming slums filled with families drawn from desperately poor villages on Delhi s india is a world away from the image of a booming nation that this week saw 17 freshly minted billionaires added to a Forbes rich list, or the Incredible india of the tourism advertising slogan. The india they inhabit is home to an estimated one-third of the world s poor. It is a country where, government figures show, almost 40 per cent of the countrys billion citizens struggle to survive below an official poverty line equivalent to less than 6 per month in rural areas and just over 9 in urban areas, a threshold that one Indian analyst says would be more accurately termed a starvation July, ironically on the day that india launched several advanced satellites, a UN poverty index calculated that the country s number of impoverished people was higher than the figure for the 26 poorest African nations combined.
4 Nearly half of india s young children are malnourished, and more than a third of the world s malnourished under-fives live here. Despite soaring economic growth since 1991, india has failed to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition. Meanwhile, affluent Indian parents fret about the growing trend of childhood 1 af - A tale of two Indias - Sat, Oct 02, 201022-10-2010 There are two Indias , said Thierry Geiger, an associate director at the World Economic Forum (WEF), earlier this month. While there is widespread poverty, poor health and education facilities, and poor infrastructure in rural india , the other india is experiencing rapid growth. He was speaking following the news that india had slipped two places, to 51st, in the WEF s global competitiveness rankings, while rival China had risen to Commonwealth Games debacle, and the unwelcome International attention it has drawn to some of india s deeper structural weaknesses, has acted as a timely reminder that the shiny edifice of what some term india Inc stands on fragile foundations that could jeopardise its future shambolic run-up to the games has highlighted a public sector that, despite almost two decades of reforms, remains hobbled by inefficiency, corruption and incompetence.
5 Much to the chagrin of a vibrant private sector that considers itself world has also shone a spotlight on the challenge of overhauling india s infrastructure creaking in some areas, utterly inadequate or non-existent in others to fit its economic ambitions. And it has thrown into sharp relief the shortcomings of a political elite whose commitment to addressing the country s multiple woes has yet again been called into OBSERVERS SEE numerous storm clouds gathering, one of the most worrying of which is the growing Maoist insurgency that has carved out a so-called Red Corridor across poverty-stricken central and eastern india . The stated objective of the Maoists is to overthrow a government that they claim with some justification, as even some of their most virulent critics will concede has failed to deliver equitable development.
6 They have gained such momentum in recent years that the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has described their rebellion as india s greatest internal security than 1,000km from the bright lights and highways of Gurgaon lies the tiny village of Takara Guda, in Chhattisgarh, a state considered the epicentre of the Maoist resurgence. The people of Takara Guda, mostly small-scale farmers who depend on crops such as rice and chickpeas, have become key actors in one of the hundreds of bitter land-acquisition and displacement dramas playing out across india s mineral-rich by Tata, one of india s biggest conglomerates, to establish a steel plant in the area are being resisted by the residents of Takara Guda and several other villages under pressure to sell their land.
7 Hidmo Mandavi, the village chief, is scornful of Tata s offer of a job for one member of each affected family. What kind of work would we do? he asks. We have worked this land for is the only life we know. If we leave, where will we go? How would we survive? The question of how to survive in the new india is one asked with increasing urgency by the more than 70 per cent of its population that lives in hundreds of thousands of hardscrabble villages not unlike Takara Guda. The convulsions triggered by displacement constitute just one of the tragedies that have befallen rural india as it struggles to cope with harsh, often brutal, new is the fate of indebted farmers, thousands of whom have escaped penury by drinking fatal doses of activists such as the Booker Prize- winning novelist Arundhati Roy, the mention of whose name often prompts rolling of eyes in official circles, the plight of those who struggle on the margins in villages and urban slums is the story of globalised india and its discontents.
8 In a recent essay in the Indian current affairs magazine Outlook, accompanied by a front-page headline that Side 2 af - A tale of two Indias - Sat, Oct 02, 201022-10-2010 Emerging Power? Ha! , Roy wrote of the refugees of india s shining; the people who are being sloshed around like toxic effluent in a manufacturing process that has gone berserk .The prospect of wider instability looms large as disenchantment and resentment percolate among the millions whose lives remain untouched by the much-trumpeted miracle of india s economic growth. There is a tremendous potential for violence, and that is exactly what is being tapped into by the Maoists, says Ajai Sahni, director of the Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management. That potential for violence arises out of the extreme poverty, backwardness, marginalisation and isolation of a very, very large proportion of the population.
9 india has always grappled with divisions and inequalities, whether between north and south, urban and rural, rich and poor, or women and men and that s not to mention the hierarchies borne of caste, clan and religion that inspired VS Naipaul s 1991 description of a country with a million little mutinies .While the changes india has seen since the start of economic liberalisation in the early 1990s have, in some cases, served to loosen the bonds of tradition, in others they have accentuated its faultlines. And unlike in the past, when villages such as Takara Guda were largely cut off from the rest of the country, the gradual advent of electricity in india s more remote corners means that Hidmo Mandavi, and others like him, are all too aware of the excesses of boom india through TV shows in thrall to Bollywood glamour and the new rich.
10 People are now realising the extent of inequality and the extent of inequitable growth and development, says Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who heads Biocon, india s leading biotechnology firm, and who is said to be the country s richest woman. A person who is living on the fringes is no longer ignorant of the fact that there are others who live very different lives .. I think, therefore, you are going to find a lot of unrest and tension between the two economic sections of this society. Mindful of this, and the possibility that such a scenario may trip up its much-prized goal of a double-digit growth rate, official india s mantra has become one of inclusive growth , but there is much scepticism regarding the government s ability to translate such rhetoric into action.