India. The 76-year-old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has just recovered after a heart surgery, gained the confidence to reign for five more years since he led the Congress party and its allies in April in the parliamentary elections. The so-called United Progressive Alliance received 262 of the 543 directly elected seats, against 158 of the National Democratic Alliance led by the Hindu BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). A “third front”, formed shortly before the election of regional parties, received 76 seats. The Congress Alliance also had great successes in several state elections during the fall.
According to countryaah, several Singhs of the faithful generation were allowed to remain in the new government, but even the youngest politician generation was represented, including 28-year-old Agatha Sangma from an ethnic minority group in the northeastern state of Meghalaya, India’s youngest minister to date. The BJP’s great loss created tensions within the party, and in December 82-year-old party leader Lal Krishna Advani resigned. He was succeeded by Sushma Swaraj, the party’s first female leader. Shortly before, Advani and other prominent BJP politicians had been designated by a state inquiry as responsible for the demolition of a mosque in the city of Ayodhya in 1992 and the bloody riots it triggered.
The new government’s first budget was marked by large investments in agriculture, the rural population and the very poor, financed by increased borrowing and at the price of an increased budget deficit. A report commissioned by the government showed that at least 38 percent of residents live in extreme poverty, which is significantly more than the authorities expect, despite other reports – which the government has not accepted – previously mentioned even higher figures.
|Gross domestic product (GDP)||$ 9,474,000,000,000|
|GDP growth rate||6.70%|
|GDP per capita||$ 7,200|
|GDP by sector|
|Proportion of the population below the national poverty line||29.8%|
|Distribution of household income|
|Industrial production growth rate||7.40%|
|Investment volume||32.3% of GDP|
|National debt||71.20% of GDP|
|Foreign exchange reserves||$ 407,200,000,000|
|Number of visitors||7,679,000|
In August, Parliament passed a law on free and compulsory schooling for all children from 6 to 14 years. New state schools should be started and private schools forced to reserve at least 25 percent of their places for poor children.
The need for rural investments became more acute when the country suffered its worst monsoon rains since 1972. The rainfall was 23 percent lower than average and put many farmers in a difficult economic situation. Rural initiatives could also be viewed from an even more serious political perspective. Maoist guerrillas became increasingly active in large parts of India, in a wide north-south belt through the eastern hinterland. The guerrillas were active in at least 180 of the country’s 630 districts, mainly in poor and disadvantaged areas dominated by ethnic groups of origin that are largely outside the Indian community. A large number of guerrilla assaults occurred during the year against soldiers and police, mines and trains.
The security forces planned a major counter-offensive during the fall, and Prime Minister Singh described the Maoists as the most serious threat to the Indian state. In November, he called the heads of government from all the states and ordered them to put an end to the discrimination of the so-called tribes who are breeding grounds for the growth of the Maoists. While the state of Kashmir has stabilized to such an extent that the army could withdraw 30,000 soldiers from there, in December a new unease in the south arose.
The government’s announcement that it is planning to create a new state, Telangana, in northern Andhra Pradesh has sparked strong protests from local politicians and organizations opposing the split. When the government faltered and invited a political dialogue about a division, the groups that had propagated for decades for the creation of Telangana instead protested. Strikes and street protests paralyzed parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Economically, India was surprisingly strong in the global financial crisis. During the third quarter, the economy grew by 7.9 percent, compared with the same period in 2008, thanks in large part to large government stimulus measures and facilitated loan opportunities. At the same time, inflation was record low, close to 0 percent. As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India has a relatively strong middle class of hundreds of millions of people, who are beginning to realize the dream of a more comfortable life.
In April, vehicle manufacturer Tata initiated the sale of its new car model Nano, which at a price of between SEK 13,000 and SEK 25,000 is the world’s cheapest car.
Foreign policy was softened in relations with Pakistan following the terrorist attacks in Bombay 2008. Pakistan’s interior minister admitted that the attack had a Pakistani connection, and some high-level political meetings were held during the year. However, India refused to formally enter into a new dialogue with the neighbor as long as those responsible for the terrorist act were not brought to justice and convicted.