The country known as the world’s largest democracy has a population of over one billion, and almost half of them are under 25 years of age. India’s economy has grown by about 6 per cent per year since the 1990s and by more than 9 per cent between 2005 and 2008. Since then it has slowed down, slightly.
Growth, particularly within the IT and other service sectors, has made an impression on the rest of the world. India’s middle class is growing and it is estimated that about 1 per cent of India’s poor is able to climb above the poverty line every year. However, economic development has mostly benefited those who live in cities and poverty remains a major challenge for the country.
The rapid economic development is divided unequally between rich and poor states. Half of India’s poor live in the north and northeast states, in what is known as the “cow belt”. People in these regions are extremely poor. States in western and southern India have reached economic and social levels that are fully comparable to middle-income countries. According to the UN’s Human Development Index 2013, India is in 136th place among 187 countries.
A society full of contradictions
According to laws and regulations, all Indians have the right to basic education and health care. In practice, the government is not capable of delivering these rights and large groups do not have access to reasonable education or health care. India has launched extensive welfare programmes but the problem is that they do not always reach the people in need.
One of the biggest challenges for India is the fight against the high incidence of tuberculosis and malaria as well as reducing the number of malnourished children and adolescents. India also has a high maternal mortality. There is a gender aspect to all of these problems since they affect women and girls the most.
But there is also another aspect of the country. India is the world’s largest democracy with a well-developed civil society. The literacy rates have gone up and the infant mortality rates have decreased. Elections are held every five years, and the country has an independent judiciary and a well-developed legal system. Despite many languages, religions and cultures, the country has handled and solved many serious conflicts within the framework of democracy.
In recent years, however, India has been plagued by corruption, insurgency and terrorism. The country has nuclear weapons and has for many years been in conflict with neighbouring Pakistan over the Kashmir region.
Severe environmental degradation
Economic development in India has taken its toll on the environment and environmental awareness in the country is low. Each year, reoccurring natural disasters, particularly floods and droughts, affect millions of people. Climate change, with glaciers in the Himalayas melting fast, affects both coastal areas and the densely populated river deltas in northern and eastern India.
Due to its size and fast-growing economy, India is a key player in the work against global climate change.
The country accounts for a significant part of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.. India also runs the risk of being seriously affected by climate change. The environment and climate are topics that are consistently rising in importance on India’s political agenda and there is an increased awareness of the importance of improved waste management and transition to renewable energy sources. Sweden has played an important role in developing contacts between Indian and Swedish actors, and increased the interest and knowledge of Swedish expertise and environmental engineering.
Sida’s focus areas in India:
- Climate and environment
- Health care
Read more about Sida's work in India.