Field Notes: India’s Development Challenges: A Nation at Crossroads

We were fortunate to hear experts from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on the issues that India faces in developing.  Speaking to us were Dr. Shalini Bharat (Deputy Director (Acad.), Centre for Health and Social Sciences), Dr. Amit Bhide (Dean, School of Habitat Studies), and Satyajit Majumdar (Professor, Centre for Social Entrepreneurship).

The Tata Institute is an eighty year old organization and is now a fully publicly funded university with programs are around India.  The schools have 1,200 students.

India has many advantages.  There are rich natural resouces including forests, fertile soil, and water.  There are mineral resources.  India has a functional democracy and is a global spiritual leader.

There are contasts.  Poverty is extreme in some states.  Some educational levels are excellent; some are terrible.  Health care is quite variable.  There is great economic disparity, particularly between the north and the south.

Indian cities are emerging as centers of growth, but are acquiring deep problems of urbanization.

The labor power of women is highly restrained.  Only 17% of women in urban areas work–less in rural areas.  Two hundred million people seasonally migrate.  Much of the labor force engages in employment that forces retirement from the workforce in their forties.

The caste systems still has remants remaining.  Disproportionately, opportunities seem to favor the upper castes.

The proportion of the middle class has been stagnate at 19%.  It is also increasingly focused on consumption.

Vast diversity of the nation is a challenge.  There is active conflict by groups that are anti-government (revolutionists).  There is a decline in political parties and institutions–anti-politics and anti-people.  Corruption is part of everyday life and it is a huge issue because it is ubiquitous.

Big issues include land, urbanization, skilling, focus on manufacturing, conserving vibrancy of civil society, halting the decline of institutions, raising performance standards, and making industry accountable to society.

The first priority for India needs to be the development of India.  Within that demand, development of sustainability systems are important.

Social Entrepreneurship

TISS is engaged in three aspects of social entrepreneurship development: Knowledge, education, and practical extension. They have supported 37 ventures thus far with a far ranging geography. Twenty-three are operating at this writing. Entrepreneurship, understanding society, and management are the main foci of the teaching program.

The program is very practically oriented. There are currently 23 ventures in the TISS Incubation Center. Sectors include agriculture, education, women’s issues, energy, water, health, culture. and the environment.