After few decades of Congress monopoly, other parties came to power. Since then, Indian politics has become more aggressive and hectic, but also less predictable and transparent. The parallel growth of media, civil society and political awareness among lesser social groups has brought about new dynamics, especially heightened expectations and increasing political participation. What has been the impact of globalization? This can at best be answered only tentatively, since both globalization and democracy are evolving stories. However, there are two distinct trends.
Firstly, the economic impact of globalization in India has been hugely uneven. Poverty has indeed declined, from 36 percent of population in 1990 to 26 percent in 2000, but the resulting economic growth has largely been limited to big cities. Even a cursory visit to India’s rural areas shows the extent to which they have remained stagnant and backward. While there is new energy and optimism in the cities, as also a flood of new money and surging real estate prices, rural India remains disconnected from globalization’s mainstream.
Secondly, there is now a growing thirst for education in India, driven by a rapidly expanding middle class which is saving, borrowing and toiling for the right academic opportunity for its children as never before. Going abroad for studies has now become rather standard, with more than 50,000 Indian students joining foreign universities each year. By the end of 2002 India already surpassed China as the leading country of origin for international students in the United States. In both trends, there is a positive side as well as a precarious edge. An enlarged urban middle class or a better educated population are both very desirable features in any democracy, but the opportunities and changes in India are too narrowly focused in an urban setting. India is now on a dangerous double track, with the rural-urban linkage being extremely uneasy and artificial, which in large...
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