There are several important themes that define India's contemporary politics. The essays in this anthology focus on some of the critical developments and the ways in which long-standing structures of society and the working of democracy have reconfigured Indian political society. Many of them examine important aspects of democratic politics after Nehru. Many look at the debates over secularism, representation, redistribution, social justice, and caste, class and gender, and the changing nature of the State in the wake of ...
There are several important themes that define India's contemporary politics. The essays in this anthology focus on some of the critical developments and the ways in which long-standing structures of society and the working of democracy have reconfigured Indian political society. Many of them examine important aspects of democratic politics after Nehru. Many look at the debates over secularism, representation, redistribution, social justice, and caste, class and gender, and the changing nature of the State in the wake of globalization and liberalization. Besides, they explore the politics and policy of group differentiated rights, regional politics, caste assertion, minority rights and women's rights and how these endeavours have impacted the pursuit of equality in India. India is famous for its democracy; its government's are elected by its citizens at regular intervals. India has consolidated a democratic system despite the absence of the preconditions often associated with democracy in the 1950s when India first became a democratic, secular republic. From the late 1980s legislatures have become more socially representative contributing to a shift in the balance of political power in the state and society. But in the process Indian democracy has also become predominantly a means of electoral empowerment of different groups--lower castes, dalits, or even majoritarian Hindus who claim to have been weakened by the privileges accorded to religious minorities. India has not been successful in reducing inequalities between its citizens. The inequalities in wealth and income have not been reduced; an unconscionably large number of people are poor even by the most modest standards of living; universal literacy is yet to be realized; a high dropout rate from schools and a very small proportion of the population go on to higher education. This leads into another related aspect of socioeconomic and political asymmetries: regionalism and the growing importance of states in the political system after economic liberalization. India is undeniably one of the world's most unequal societies. Social inequality revolves around the axes of class, caste, religion and gender. These inequalities are rooted in the caste system, property, income, employment and education. The upper castes are the most advantaged in India and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes among the poorest and most disadvantaged. However, the Indian state has made significant attempts to address these pressing concerns through constitutional provisions and above all, through the policy of mandatory reservation for these two groups since 1950 and for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) following the implementation of the recommendations of the Mandal Commission from 1990 onwards. Whilst the constitutional effort to reduce social inequalities has met with considerable success, it also created many new problems because it did not enable governments to ensure substantive equality. The political leadership is more representative but only in respect of caste. Change is limited to the institutions of representation and to caste groups who have gained from it; it does not extend to Muslims and women. Some of the aforesaid developments have transformed the tenor and quality of democratic politics and whether this will lead to a greater social deepening of democracy broadly hinges on efforts to resolve three key issues. How will the political system, now more than ever based on egalitarian democratic values, accommodate the changes taking place in its social arrangements? How will the state balance the need to ensure social good by defining an overarching vision for a country that, on the one hand, is galloping ahead on a high growth path just as the state acts to promote private business, and on the other, is divided by huge inequalities in economy and society? And, in the face of the declining legitimacy of the state and the continuing expansion of civil society, can the state redevelop
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