India today Essay

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india today

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Government in India, Today

India's present constitution went into effect on Jan. 26, 1950. At that time, the nation
changed its status from a dominion to a federal republic, though it remained within the
Commonwealth. A president, chosen by an Electoral College replaced the governor-general,
appointed by the British Crown. The president is the official chief of state, but the
office is largely ceremonial.

In parliamentary government, the people in a country elect members of at least one house
of the legislature (by any variety of means: proportional representation as in Israel,
single member districts as in Britain). The party or coalition of parties (coalition
means a group working together) whose members together form a majority (more than
one-half) of the legislature form the government. This means that they select the Prime
Minister (the leader of the government) as well as members of the Cabinet (the PM and the
Cabinet are known collectively as the government; the parties not in power form the loyal
opposition). A key aspect of the parliamentary system is that the executive (the Prime
Minister and the Cabinet) is elected by the legislature. This contrasts with our own
system with its separation of powers. In the US, the president (leader of the executive
branch) and Congress (the legislature) are elected separately by the people.

The Lower House of the legislature is called the Lok Sabha. Currently, up to a week or
two ago, the Congress Party held a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha, so its leader was
the Prime Minister of India. The other house of the legislature is the Rajya Sabha and
like the English House of Lords it has less power than the Lower House. The other parties
in the Lok Sabha form the opposition. These parties include: the Bharatiya Janata Party
(a Hindu nationalist party), Janata Dal as well as a whole host of regional parties.

Parliamentary government is distinguished from presidential government by the following:

- Voters only vote for a legislature;

- The legislature then selects the executive from the party or coalition of parties that
have the confidence of a majority of the legislature;

- The executive will then govern until it finishes its fix term (I believe India it is 5
years), OR until it loses in a vote of confidence in the legislature, usually or some
important legislation.

Laws are enacted by a Parliament consisting of two chambers--the popularly elected Lok
Sabha, or House of the People, with not more than 545 members and the Rajya Sabha, or
Council of States, with not more than 250 indirectly elected members. The Prime Minister
is elected by the majority party or coalition in Parliament and then formally appointed by
the president. The appointed Council of Ministers, or cabinet, under the leadership of the
Prime Minister exercises executive power. Elections to the Lok Sabha are held at least
every five years; if there is a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister's government,
the president must call for new elections. The Supreme Court decides on the
constitutionality of federal laws, handles disputes between the central government and the
states or between the states themselves, and judges' appeals from lower courts.

The federal constitution includes a lengthy list of fundamental rights. It guarantees
freedom of speech and religion, among many other rights, and abolishes untouchability. It
also specifies a set of Directive Principles of State Policy, designed to guide the
government in the interests of the people. In periods of national emergency, which only
the president can declare, the government may legally suspend certain rights for a limited
period. Such an emergency was in force in India from June 1975 to March 1977.

In foreign affairs India tried to maintain a policy of nonalignment in the political
rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It supported
independence movements in areas subject to colonial rule, opposed racism in South Africa
and elsewhere, and championed the nations of the Third World in their economic dealings
with the affluent countries of Europe, North America, and Japan. India has played a
prominent role in the United Nations and in many of its specialized agencies.

India consists of 25 states and seven union territories. The governments of the states are
organized in much the same way as the central government. The federal constitution gives
the states control over certain issues, such as agriculture, and retains control over
almost 100 others, such as foreign affairs. There is a third list of subjects, such as
price control, on which both the central and state governments may pass laws. The union
territories are controlled directly by the central government. The most important of these
territories is Delhi, which includes the capital, New Delhi, and the rest of the Delhi

Village government is in the hands of a democratically elected council, known as a
panchayat, presided over by a village headman. In former days virtually all panchayat
members were men of the upper castes, usually those who owned the most land. Now many
states require that a certain number of women and members of scheduled castes are
included. Increasingly, elections are held by secret ballot. The panchayats are expected
to work closely with the government-sponsored Community Development Program, which has
divided the entire country into community development blocks, averaging about a hundred
villages each. Village-level workers within each block are the chief links between the
government and the villagers. They bring news to the villagers of developments that might
benefit them and report back the sentiments of the people.

Party politics are energetically pursued at both the national and state levels. There are
many parties, and their orientations are diverse. The Indian National Congress, or its
dominant faction, has governed India since independence except for the three years from
1977 to 1980 and now (1997). It has been committed to a form of democratic socialism, with
a mixture of private and state enterprise. Several other Socialists and Communist parties
are ideologically to the left of Congress, while other parties are to its right. In
addition, there are a number of parties that represent the interests of particular
regions, language groups, and religions. With so many parties contesting parliamentary
elections, independent candidates have a fairly good chance of being elected. Despite the
high level of illiteracy, voter turnouts in Indian elections are normally large.

India's Economy and People, Today

Economically, India often seems like two separate countries: village India, supported by
primitive agriculture, where tens of millions live below the poverty level; and urban
India, one of the most heavily industrialized areas in the world. Although the traditional
textile industry is still important, the emphasis is on heavy industry, which produces
iron and steel, machine tools, transportation equipment, and chemicals. Cut gems, jewelry,
and, increasingly, computer software are important exports.

About 70% of the work force are engaged in agriculture, growing rice, wheat, peanuts,
corn, and millet for subsistence; cash crops are sugarcane, tea, oilseeds, cotton,
tobacco, and jute. The opium poppy is also grown both for the legal pharmaceutical market
and illegal drug trade; cannabis is produced as well. Improved irrigation, the
introduction of chemical fertilizers, and the use of high-yield strains of rice and wheat
have led to record harvests, and by the late 1970s India was self-sufficient in grain,
becoming an exporter in the early 1980s. India has perhaps more cattle per capita than any
other country, but their economic value is severely limited by the Hindu prohibition
against their slaughter.

Among the country's rich mineral resources are coal, zinc, iron, manganese, mica, bauxite,
and lead. India is the world's second most populous country (after China). The ethnic
composition is complex, but two major strains predominate: the Aryan, in the north, and
the Dravidian, in the south.

More than 1,500 languages and dialects are spoken; Hindi (spoken throughout the north) and
English (used in politics and commerce) are the official languages, and 14 other languages
are recognized by the constitution. The population is overwhelmingly Hindu, but there are
significant numbers of Muslims (more than 10% of the population), Christians, Buddhists,
Sikhs, Jains, and Parsis. About 80% of the population are rural. The caste system, under
which people are socially classified at birth, is an important facet of Hinduism, and thus
a dominant feature of Indian life; the 1950 constitution abolished the lowest caste, known
as untouchables.

Today's Indian Government - How It Came Into Being?

The Indus Valley Civilization (2500-1500 B.C.) was the first to flourish on the Indian
subcontinent (in present-day Pakistan). It fell c.1500 B.C. to Aryan invaders from the
northwest, which dominated the area for 2,000 years and developed Hinduism, the
socioreligious system that is the basis of India's institutions and culture.

Under the Maurya dynasty (325-183 B.C.)-Especially Asoka (323 B.C.), who established
Buddhism as the state religion-Indian culture had its first great flowering. A golden age
of Hindu culture was achieved under the Gupta dynasty, in the 4th-5th century A.D.
considered India's classical period. By the 10th century, Muslim armies from the north
were raiding India, and in 1192 the Delhi Sultanate, the first Muslim kingdom in India,
was established.

The small Muslim kingdoms that succeeded it were swept away by Babur, a great Muslim
invader from Afghanistan, who established the Mogul Empire in 1526. Portugal, which
captured Goa in 1510, was the first European nation to gain a foothold in India, but the
British, French, and Dutch were soon vying with the Portuguese for Indian trade. With the
weakening of the Mogul Empire in the 18th century, the struggle was renewed-this time
between France and Britain, with the British East India Company emerging dominant.

In 1857, after the bloody Indian Mutiny against the British, the East India Company was
abolished and control of India was transferred directly to the British crown. Discontent
with British rule became intense during the early 20th century, and the Indian National
Congress (founded 1885), led by Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, mounted a movement
for independence. The British instituted a program of gradual power-sharing, but Congress
leaders, frustrated by the slow pace, organized the Quit India movement during World War
II. The desire of the Congress to maintain a united front against Britain was frustrated,
however, by the Muslim League, which demanded the partition of India into separate Hindu
and Muslim states.

During World War I Indian troops served the British loyally, but nationalist agitation
increased afterward. The British Parliament passed a reform act in 1919, providing for
provincial councils of Indians with some powers of supervision over agriculture,
education, and public health. Far from satisfied, the extreme nationalists, led by
Mohandas K. Gandhi, gained control of the Congress. Gandhi preached resistance to the
British by "noncooperation" Hundreds of thousands joined his civil disobedience campaigns.
The Congress party quickly gained a mass following.

Rioting broke out when Parliament placed no Indians on the Simon Commission appointed in
1927 to investigate the government of India. The British imprisoned Gandhi and his
associates. In 1929 Jawaharlal Nehru was elected president of the Congress. Like Gandhi,
Nehru was passionately devoted to the cause of freedom. He had absorbed Western ideas at
Harrow and Cambridge, however, and, unlike Gandhi, wanted to bring modern technology and
industrialization to India.

After three "round-table" conferences in London had considered the commission's report,
Parliament passed a new Government of India Act in 1935. It provided for elected
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