India’s suicidal development

  Time magazine recently spotlighted India’s “high-octane” ascent to global power status. Policymakers in Washington, meanwhile, have been busy promoting the impending US-India nuclear deal with talk of India’s modernization: India as the world’s largest democracy, India as a strategic counterweight to China, India as a rising economic star, and even India as a partner ...

 
Time magazine recently spotlighted India's "high-octane" ascent to global power status. Policymakers in Washington, meanwhile, have been busy promoting the impending US-India nuclear deal with talk of India's modernization: India as the world's largest democracy, India as a strategic counterweight to China, India as a rising economic star, and even India as a partner in the war on terror. All this recent attention is great, and probably well-deserved with the Indian economy starting to grow as rapidly as China's. FP, in fact, ran a story in January on India's long term advantages over China. Amid all the heady praise however, it's easy to forget that India's rural poverty is so bad that the country is experiencing a suicide epidemic.

Since 1997, more than 25,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide - mostly because of drought, crop failure, debt, and an absence of government help. Luckily, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is finally doing something about it. In a highly-publicized visit to rural western India - where 745 farmers have comitted suicide just this year - Singh vowed to provide relief packages to farmers hit by debt and crop failure. Nobel Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen famously remarked that "[n]o famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy." To date, authoritarian China has been more successful in lifting its rural populations out of life-threatening poverty than democratic India. Now might be India's time to catch up. 

 


Time magazine recently spotlighted India’s “high-octane” ascent to global power status. Policymakers in Washington, meanwhile, have been busy promoting the impending US-India nuclear deal with talk of India’s modernization: India as the world’s largest democracy, India as a strategic counterweight to China, India as a rising economic star, and even India as a partner in the war on terror. All this recent attention is great, and probably well-deserved with the Indian economy starting to grow as rapidly as China’s. FP, in fact, ran a story in January on India’s long term advantages over China. Amid all the heady praise however, it’s easy to forget that India’s rural poverty is so bad that the country is experiencing a suicide epidemic.

Since 1997, more than 25,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide – mostly because of drought, crop failure, debt, and an absence of government help. Luckily, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is finally doing something about it. In a highly-publicized visit to rural western India – where 745 farmers have comitted suicide just this year – Singh vowed to provide relief packages to farmers hit by debt and crop failure. Nobel Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen famously remarked that “[n]o famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.” To date, authoritarian China has been more successful in lifting its rural populations out of life-threatening poverty than democratic India. Now might be India’s time to catch up. 

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