1 -- India Background

Government & Foreign Relations


[Back to main page]


India's People

India has the second-largest population in the world with 1,014,003,817 people from the 2000 census. The government has encouraged people to have only 1 or 2 children, but as they are a democracy they cannot enforce this as a law. The population growth rate is at 1.77%, with a birth rate of 27.78 births/1000 population. This is a decline, mostly attributed to the recent advances in education of women. The death rate is 10.07 deaths/1,000 population. The country has a negative migration rate of -.8 migrants / 1,000 population. India has a young population, 35% of the population is under 15 years old, 61% is between the ages of 15 and 64, and only 4% is over 65 years. In the 0-14 age group there are 159,921,309 females and 168,812,255 males. In the 15-64 age group the male population is 296,145,798 and the female is 274,105,407. For the old people of 65 years or older there are 18,870,762 females and 18,690,283 males. The life expectancy is 59.04 years overall, 58.5 years for men and 59.61 years for women. On average 3.4 children are born/woman with an infant mortality rate of 76.3 deaths/1000 live births.

Ethnically India is less diverse then the US. 72% of the population is Indo-Aryan, 25% is Dravidian, and 3% is Mongoloid and other. Hinduism is overwhelmingly the most popular religion having 80% of the population. Muslims make up 14%, Christians 2.4%, Sikhs 2%, Buddhists 0.7%, Jains 0.5% and other 4%. The primary tongue of the government is English, used for national, political and commercial communication. Hindi is the primary tongue of the people, spoken by 30% of the people. Other languages include Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malaylam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit. Various minorities throughout the country speak some 200 other languages.

In India 65.38% of the population is literate. 75.96% of the men are literate, and only 54.28% of the women are literate. The literacy rate may seem low, especially for the women, but it is a 13.75% improvement over 1991. Thirty to forty percent of the population lives in poverty, and 70% make their living in the country from agriculture.

The history of India is unique and long. Humans on the Indian sub-continent can be traced to the Stone ages, around 400,000 to 200,000 BC. These early Indians were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in the regions of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar and the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. By the ninth millennium BC, five races of people had evolved in the Indian area, the Negrito, Proto-Australoid, Mediterranean, Mongoloids and Alpine people. Agricultural settlements evolved in India around the time they were appearing in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia.

The first "age" of Indian history is the Indus Valley Civilization. It stretched across Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Baluchistan, Sin and the Makran coast by the 3rd millennium BC. This was a highly developed, urban civilization.

The cities were well planned and built with uniformly sized bricks. The streets contained covered drains, and the cities included public buildings, baths and granaries. Domestic animals such as camels, goats, water buffaloes and birds were used, and cotton was cultivated for clothes. There is suggested existence of an organized government, and a marked class system. It is called the Indus valley civilization because it was originally thought to be only along the banks of the Indus River, but later discoveries showed that the civilization extended far past the riverbanks. Around 1700 BC the civilization declined, probably because of repeated floods and the resulting ecological changes.

The next civilization was the Vedic Age, which brought Aryans into India. They are said to have entered India through the fabled Khyber Pass around 1500 BC. The newcomers intermingled with the local population and accepted their agricultural lifestyle. They brought with them domestic horses, the language Sanskrit and their religion. Their horses facilitated warfare and consequently large empires. Sanskrit became the basis for most modern Indian languages as well as the foundation of the Hindu region. During this time the hymns of the four vedas, the basis for Hindu thought were written. Complex governments and social patterns evolved, as well as the caste system. This system of classes was originally flexible, but later it became very difficult for people to switch from one caste to another.

In the sixth century new ways of thinking resulted in the emergence of two new religions, Jainism and Buddhism. New conflicts occurred over property and the caste-divided society. To solve these problems, organized power came in the form of the Mauryan Empire. By the 3rd century BC most of north India was under the control of Chandragupta Maurya, emperor of the Mauran Empire. Later, his son Bindusara extended the empire over the entire subcontinent. The greatest emperor of this rule was Ashoka the Great who lived from 286-231 BC. He was a great battle leader but later in life he renounced war and converted to Buddhism. This empire had an agriculturally based economy and the state owned huge farms cultivated by slaves and farm laborers. Alexander the Great conquered parts of Northwest India around this time but the Maurya regained them eventually.

The next age, the Gupta Age is said to be the "golden age" of Indian history. It peaked around the 4th century AD and lasted for over 200 years. The administration was less centralized then that of the Mauryas, but the empire neverless got larger with each ruler. The emperors were Hindus, but able to coexist peacefully with the Buddhists and other religions. During this time many classical arts and writings were done on subjects such as grammar, math, astronomy etc. Two great Indians, Kalidasa, a playwright, and Aryabhatta, an astronomer, lived at this time. The Gupta Age broke into smaller kingdoms with the invasion of the White Huns.

All of the above kingdoms were taking place mostly in the northern and middle parts of the Indian peninsula. The south has a very different history then the north. The south had a long-established trade with Egypt, Rome and other Asian countries by way of sea. While Jainism and Buddhism were gaining popularity in the north, Hinduism was still the major religion in the south, despite the arrival of St. Thomas and Christianity in 52 AD. The southern region was governed by a series of dynasties including the Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Chalukyas, and Pallavas who were constantly fighting for supremacy. The Chalukyas ruled over the Deccan region in central India. The Pallavas used Dravidian architecture and took Hinduism and Indian art forms to Java, Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia.

Temple from the Southern Kingdoms
In 850 the Cholas rose to power and the architecture spread as Raja Raja Chola spread the empire to southern India, Deccan, Sri Lanka, Sumatra and parts of the Indian peninsula. The Cheras hosted Arab traders who discovered a sea route to India.

Around 1000 AD the Muslims of the Northwest attacked India, lured by tales of the fertile plains and the wealth of the Hindu temples. The first big attack was by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1000 AD. Other small-scale raids followed, but the next big attack was in 1192 when Mohammed of Ghori broke into India and took Ajmer. His powers later took Varansi and Delhi. His general, Qutb-ub-din became the first Sultan of Delhi in 1206. The so-called Slave Dynasty was formed under the rule of Turkish and Afghan sultans. This coming of Islam permanently influenced all aspects of the Indian culture. The Muslim languages mixed with the native languages, and around this time the followers of Guru Nanak founded the Sikh religion. The most important Islamic Empire was the Mughal Empire, founded by Babur in the early 16th century. Under his successors the Indo-Islamic culture reached its peak with high religious tolerance, and the building of monuments such as the Taj Mahal. The Mughal Empire was ended with the conquest of the British.

The British, French, Dutch and Portuguese arrived in the 17th century and set up trading posts along the Indian coast. The Portuguese were the first to arrive, attracted by the exotic spices, but they soon lost control to other Europeans. Various European countries fought for control of India but the British were the ultimate victors. They established supremacy over east India after the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and gradually took over the entire subcontinent. The colony was under the control of the English East India Company who used Indian products as raw materials to boost the Industrial Revolution. The country was reorganized under the Zamindari system to raise taxes, and farmers were forced to switch from food to indigo, jute, coffee and tea, resulting in several huge famines. By the end of 1857 the British were in complete control.

The struggle for Indian independence began around 1857 when the Indians in the British army mutinied and then rose against the British under the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah. This revolution was cruelly suppressed, but proved useful in unifying the Indians. In 1858 the rule of India was transferred to the Crown from the East India Company. The British built railways, and educated some Indians in hopes of creating a local elite. These people studied democracy and freedom and took over the freedom movement. They formed an Indian National Congress in 1885, and began a more underground freedom movement. After the turn of the century the people of India were completely united under one of the most respected and influential people of the century, Mohandas Ghandi. Ghandi was a man of Indian descent who had been trained in England as a lawyer. He renounced his law practice and began a resistance of non-violent agitation against the British in India. He won popularity for his simple style of living and tolerant beliefs, as well as being close to the people of India. He launched several effective movements, among them the Non Cooperation movement (1920-22) and the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930). All castes and classes of India, as well as the women backed him when, in 1942, the Quit India movement was launched. The Indians made it so difficult for the British to maintain the empire that after WWII full independence was granted to India. The Indian independence movement is an admirable one because it achieved its goal completely non-violently. After being granted Independence, India chose to remain within the British Commonwealth of Nations and became a parliamentary democracy. (Indian Government)

- The Arts
- Religions
- Holidays and Festivals
- The Caste System
- Languages
- Food
- Clothing

The Arts:

The mix of religions and cultures in India has created an array of arts unique to the country. Some of the arts included in this are music, theater, dance, art, and films.

The art of India features spirals, curvaceous lines, vines and tendrils, round figured goddesses, circular amulets, colored gemstones, arches and domes, halloed deities, crescent moons and sun globes. The art is very diverse and colorful, varying from region to region.

Classical Indian Music is based on the 9 nava rasas or basic emotions of love, humor, pathos, anger, heroism, terror, disgust, wonder and serenity. The Indian Sage Bharata from around 1 AD believed all musicians should work to evoke a particular mood or emotion, and classical music is still based upon his ideas. Indian music is divided into Ragas, a raga being a musical mode forming the basis of an entire musical event. A tala is a fixed time cycle within a piece that repeats itself and allows for improvisations and variations. Indian music can be divided into two main strains, Carinac, or South Indian and Hindustani, or North Indian. These strains have the same philosophy and heritage, however the ragas and articulation are different. Every Indian musician belongs to a gharana house or school, and each gharana has a unique set of traditions and styles for the music it produces. Indian music is produced primarily by four types of instruments: tantu or stringed, susir, or wind, avanda or percussion and ghana, bells, cymbals and gongs.

In India, dance has been a part of the culture for thousands of years, and the earliest archeological evidence of dance is a statuette dating from 6000BC. All aspects of semi-modern Indian classical dance are recorded in Bharata's Natya Shastra, written between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD. This work is so important that it is regarded as the fifth veda. The Natya Shastra takes bits from the preceding four vedas and contains information on postures, handformations, emotions, attire, stage, ornaments and the audience.

Figure of Shiva, king of dancers 
All dance is based around the nine rasas, with hand gestures and forms for each separate rasa, some varying according to local alterations. Aside from these standard dances India also has folk dances for seasonal, ritual, sacrificial, celebratory, or instructional purposes. These dances vary from village to village. Dance is very important to Hinduism, according to the religion Shiva, the king of dancers engages in a cosmic dance believed to influence, creation, preservation, and destruction. He holds symbols of life as he dances and his dance is a metaphor for the belief of life as a balance of good and evil. (See picture)

The original Indian theater was heavily connected to Hinduism, and well as the traditional dance and music. The Natya Shastra is the earliest and most detailed theater book, containing information on make-up, costumes, direction, production, dance mime, drama, etc. In early theater there were two types of plays: lokadhami, or realistic portrayal of the story, and natyadhami, a more conventional form which shows themes though gestures and symbolism. After the early theater developments Indian theater can be classified under 3 categories. The first is Sanskrit, an old form of theater with elaborate rituals where all plays are based on the nine bhavas and nine rasas. The next is Folk Theater based on epics, folk stories and local accounts where a narrator tells the story while mimes act it out. Finally is modern theater that portrays a realistic reflection of environment and is heavily influenced by independence feelings and western culture.

Indian cultural arts are still very much today as they have been for thousands of years. There are new additions from the western world, but they seem to be branching into new divisions, not altering the old customs. Every year the Sangeet Natak Academy Awards are given to outstanding musical performers in India. The categories are Hindustani music (vocal), Hindustani music (instrumental), Carnatic Music (vocal), Carnatic music, (Instrumental), classical dance, theater and playwriting. These awards, as well as the importance of music to festivals, holidays and religion are proof that traditional arts are still very much alive in India today.

India has many religions, and it is around these religions that most of the culture is based. The main religion is Hinduism, practiced by an overwhelming 80% of the country. This religion gives its followers a choice of gods to worship, and a feeling of humanism towards their gods. The most important gods are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the creator, preserver and destroyer. There is no unique philosophy or holy book, and the deities are represented with images and idols housed in temples. Some popular holidays are Deepawali, Holi, Dussehra, Genesh, Chaturthi, Pongal, Janamasthmi and Shiva Ratri. The next most popular religion in India is Islam. India has the second-highest Islamic population in the world, mainly from the Muslim Invasions. This religion is based on the worship of one god, Allah who is worshiped in mosques. The holy book is the Koran, based on the teachings of the great prophet, Muhammad. Initially the strict-ruled Muslims conflicted with the Hindus, but today they get along well enough. St. Thomas brought Christianity to India around the first century. Christianity is based upon the worship of one god, and the teachings of his son, Jesus Christ. Sikhism was founded in the early 16th century by Guru Nanak and is documented in the Guru Granth Sahib. It is based on a mix of Hinduism and Islam, as the followers believe in karma and rebirth like Hindus, but worship one god and are against the caste system like Muslims. Sikhs can be recognized by five symbols, uncut hair, a comb, steel wrist guards, a sword and breeches. Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism based on the law of caustation, where nothing occurs due to chance. It was founded by Buddha in the sixth century. The main idea is that to prevent suffering one has to conquer craving and desire. The final religion practiced by a significant number of Indians is Jainism, a religion that emerged around the same time as Buddhism. The followers of Jainism renounce worldly goods, accept the god of Hindus and focus on purification by conduct, faith and knowledge. A primary belief is complete non-violence; Jain monks wear masks to cover their noses and mouths as to not accidentally kill insects while breathing.

Holidays and Festivals:
Festivals in India are celebrated with dances, music, color, feasts and religious rituals. Each of the religions has their own holidays, and each region of India has different festivals. Because these festivals and holidays number in the hundreds, describing them all would be impossible. It should just be noted that there are many festivals and holidays, and it is within these holidays that most aspects of Indian culture are mixed and displayed.

Government as well as religious holidays are celebrated in India. One such festival is Republic day, the celebration taking place the day of the Gujarat earthquake. Republic day is celebrated every year on January 26th. It is celebrated in commemoration of the pledge for establishment of a Sovereign Democratic Republic of India started in 1930. The holiday was first celebrated when the country was established in 1950 and the Constitution of India came into force. (One should note that August 15th is Independence Day, a separate event) The festivities include marching of the army, folk dances, parades, and jet plane demonstrations. The President and governors take salutes to the armed forces and music plays. This holiday is one of the best for a demonstration of the diverse demography of India, as so many traditions, cultures, dances and dress combine to celebrate. (http://www.indiaa2z.com/festivals/republicday.htm) The festival was canceled in Gujarat this year because of the earthquake, however the festivities did not seriously affect the outcome of the earthquake because it occurred too early in the morning. Sadly, a few tragedies were caused by the festival, such as the death of 4,000 schoolchildren who were marching on the streets when buildings collapsed around them.

The Caste System:
The effect of Hinduism on the Indian culture has added an interesting aspect, known as the Caste System. The caste system is a rigid social system of classes in which people can only associate with others of their caste. There are four main castes, Brahmins, Ksatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. Brahmins are priests and teachers associated with the color white, Ksatriyas are warriors and rulers associated with the color red, Vaisyas are farmers. Merchants, artisans etc. associated with the color brown and Sudras are laborers associated with the color black. The caste system also contains outcastes called untouchables who are polluted laborers, considered much below any other caste. According to Hinduism each of the castes are different according to born powers. Brahmins are known for peace, self-harmony, austerity, purity, loving-forgiveness, righteousness, vision, wisdom and faith. Ksatriyas are known for a heroic mind, inner fire, constancy, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and noble leadership. The Vaishya have the gifts of trade, agriculture and cattle raising while the Shudra have only service. These four main castes are divided into thousands of subcastes, all based upon birth. The colors associated with castes a related to skin color, which has led people to believe originally they referred to the "white" Aryans from Central Asia who invaded and took control of the high positions while the darker ("black") natives were put into service. The first three castes are known as the "twice born", which means they are given a coming-of-age ceremony like a Bar Mitzvah. These twice-born make up 48% of Hindus, the rest being Shudras or untouchables. Untouchables, or outcastes make up 20% of Hindus and are given the jobs no one else wants, such as dealing with dead bodies, cleaning up waste, janitor jobs etc. Someone becomes an untouchable by getting kicked out of his or her caste. Today, the Indian government has designed policies for the advancement of Shudras and Untouchables, causing considerable turmoil within the Hindu community.

India has 15 national languages that are spoken in over 1600 dialects. The official language is Hindi, but English is often used as a working language. Hindi is the first tongue of 40.22% of the population, mainly in Bihar, Madhya, Pradesh, Rajesthan and Uttar Pradesh. Some other languages are:
- Assamese, the language of Assam, dating the to 13th century
- Bengali, the official language of West Bengal spoken in Eastern India
- Gujarati, state language of Gujarat and Indic in origin
- Kannada, state language of Karnataka
- Kashmiri, the state language of Jammu and Kashmir written in Persio-Arabic and Devnagri script.
- Konkani, spoken in the Konkan region and based on classical Sanskrit
- Malayalam, a thousand-year old Dravidian language spoken in Kerala
- Marathi, the 13th century language of the state of Maharashtra
- Oriya, the language of Orissa
- Punjabi, spoken in Punjab. This language is Indic in origin, and written in a 16th century script called Gurumunkhi.
- Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages in the world, the language of classical India
- Sindhi, spoken in the North-West, uses Devnagri script
- Tamil, a 2000 year old Dravidian language spoken in Tamil and Nadu
- Telugu, a Dravidian language spoken in Andhra Pradesh
- Urdu, language of Jammu and Kashmi, the primary language of most Indian Muslims and closely related to Persian

Indian food is a very diverse and delicious cuisine. Many aromatic spices are used to enhance dish flavors. Some main ingredients are milk products, lentils and vegetables. The styles of cooking depend on the region and religion of the chef. Hindus tend to be vegetarian, while Muslims cook a good deal of meat, such as kababs, kormas and nargisi koftas. The North Indian food is mostly baked or fried unleavened bread, rice, and an assortment of dals, fried vegetables, curries etc. Dessert is often rice and bread pudding as well as kulfi, a type of nutty ice cream. In South India the staple diet is rice, served often with thin soup and vegetables. Coconut is used often, and dessert is usually betel leaves with an assortment of spices.

Traditional Indian clothing is very colorful and interesting, and still worn by a lot of the population. In general Indian women dress traditionally, while the men tend to wear more western clothes. For women a common article of clothing is the sari, a dress made of only one piece of cloth. It is five to six yards in length and the color and material vary. The way in which a sari is worn is often indicative of status, age, occupation, region and religion of the woman. Under a sari women wear a choli, a tightly fitted, short blouse. Another style for women is the salwar-kameez. Salwars are pajama-like trousers drawn in at the waist and ankles, and a kameez is a loose tunic worn over the salwars. Although, as previously mentioned, men are wearing more western clothing, village men still dress traditionally in lengass, lungis, and dhotis. A lungi is a short length of material worn around the thighs. A dhoti is a long lungi with additional material around the legs and lengas are pajama-like trousers. The exact colors, styles and fabrics of clothing vary from region to region.

More Information:

For more information on the culture, history and demography of India, check these web sites:

Modern-day caste system: http://adaniel.tripod.com/modernindia.htm
Famous monuments: http://www.indiagov.org/monuments/monuments.htm
General demography: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/in.html
History: http://adaniel.tripod.com/history.htm

Melanie B.















India's Government and Foreign Relations

The government of India is a federal republic government which consists of three branches: the executive branch, the judicial branch, and the legislative branch. The executive branch is divided in to three different sections. The executive consists of the President (Kicheril Raman Narayanan), Vice President (Krishnan Kant), the Prime Minister (Atal Behari Vajpayee). The Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by the president. The president is elected by the people; in order to vote, a person must be at least eighteen years old. An electoral college consisting of elected members of both houses of Parliament and legislatures of the states officially names the president ( the next election is to be held in July 2002). The prime minister is elected by parliamentary members of the majority party following legislative elections. The Legislative branch consists of the Council of States, a body consisting of no more than 250 members, up to 12 are appointed by the President; the remainder are chosen by the elected members of the state and territorial assemblies, which are members that serve six year terms. The third and final branch of the Indian government is the Judicial Branch, which consists of all the courts.  
The Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president and stay in their office until they reach the age of sixty-five. All the other judges are elected into their offices. The Indian government resembles the American Government in several ways. Many people view India as a completely different country from America and although it is very different, India shares many common traits and one is that they have very similar governments.

Currently, the Indian government is dealing with many things other than the earthquake. Although India has strict labor laws (a result of a more socialistic government), the unemployment rate is high. Many of the large companies are government owned, but in order to compete in a global economy, the Indian government is increasingly privatizing the government owned enterprises. Recently India has been atempting to partially privatize defense companies (companies that produce equipment for the military). Unfortunately, the privatization of companies usually leads to many layoffs and low wages. The labor unions of India are protesting against the government, claiming that the Prime Minister is not keeping close watch on this, and they are threatening massive strikes protests. In Kashmir, more Pakistani terrorists have been attacking and India has now joined the US in counter-terrorism efforts. There has also been an elusive "Monkeyman" on the loose in Delhi, and has already claimed two lives and attacked over 100 people in one night, leaving the police and government baffled. In New Delhi, an army court has found five senior officers guilty of misconduct and corruption in the Tehelka Tapes case, and the court is going to take disciplinary actions against them. The government is not only dealing with the aftereffects of the earthquake, they are also dealing with labor strikes, terrorists, corrupt military officials, and a crazed killer.

India has strong ties with some countries and bad relations with others. India was one of the founders of the United Nations(UN), and this has helped it to have stronger relations with other countries. India works to keep good relations with its neighbors, which include: Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Nepal. Whenever there is a natural disaster within its neighbors' territories, India sends in help. For instance, when Bangladesh had floods, India sent in military forces to help, and when Afghanistan had an earthquake in 1998, India sent help, as well. India is currently helping Afghanistan solve their fratricidal conflict without violence. India also is corresponding with China about different issues, and the trade relations between the two countries continues to grow.

Although India tries to be on good terms with its neighbors, there is one country that India is having problems with, Pakistan. Pakistan used to be apart of India up until 1947(India's independence day), but then broke away and formed a separate country. From then on, India and Pakistan have been fighting.

Pakistani terrorists have been attacking the Indian borders, and there is a major dispute about whether Kashmir, located in the mountains, and the valley of Jammu are part of India or Pakistan. India requested a "cease-fire" in the area, but Pakistan recently oriented nuclear and missile programs and is testing weapons in response to India's nuclear testing. US and India have also had an unsteady relationship. US was not very pleased with India for conducting the nuclear tests because they saw this as a challenge to the non-proliferation regime, which the US and other nuclear powers have put in place to preserve the monopoly of nuclear weapons. India and America have been meeting and having discussions about this incident to try and keep friendly relations. Currently they are discussing four issues: Exports, CTBT, FMCT, and defense posture. US as recently lifted some restrictive measures against India and now they are trying to work out their differences. The trade between the US and India is about US $1.922 billion. Overall, India has good relations with many countries, and the ones that they are having problems with, they are attempting to fix the damages.

Neeta K.







India's Economy

India has been experiencing financial struggles since its independence from the British but has begun to get back on its feet. India's government has been helping the country make the important, economic change from agrian to industrial and commercial. The vast majority, 67%, of India's workforce are employed in agriculture, 18% are employed in services (tourism, banking), and only 15% in industry (1995). This is one of the major differences between India's economy and the United States' economy. The majority of the US is employed in fields such as sales, manufacturing, services, transportation, and crafts; while only 2.6% is employed in agriculturally based jobs such as farming, forestry, and fishing.

India's workforce is made up of 32% women which is a number that has been growing over the past few years. In the picture above you can see women harvesting rice. Currently, women are primarily employed in agriculture. India's workforce is also made up of a significant number of children. Children are employed as carpet weavers, match manufacturers, as help in small businesses, and as servants in private homes. The estimated number of children employed is anywhere from 14 to 115 million. The range is huge because there is no formal government count. The lack of a formal count is probably due to the fact that child labor is illegal in India. Another problem occurring in India's workforce is the lack of permanent employment. There are very few people with permanent jobs, and many people are employed part time. Unemployment problems often occur in the agriculture related industries. Agricultural workers are often employed seasonally and are out of work often. In oerder to decrease the unemployment level, the govenrment has established plans to build roads and other public works. This plan gives people who need jobs work and makes people better able to provide for their families. Though this plan helped people there is still a large number of people who are unemployed.

The poverty level in India is high. In 1996 over 32% of of the country was unable to keep an adequate diet; also less than 5% of the heads of families have an annual income of $2,300 or more. In the US the average family makes $25,000 a year. Though the cost of living in India is much lower than it is here in the United States, it still serves as clear illustration of India's unfortunate poverty.

Agriculture makes up a significant portion of India's economy and employs two-thirds (including forestry and fishing) of India's workforce. Agriculture also makes up, on an average, about 30% of India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Most of the land in India ifs farmed in small holdings (less than 4 acres) and about half of the land in India is farmed in 10 acre holdings but their are few farms larger than 50 acres because of limited land reform. In India the land reform is limited because land is typically kept in the family and not sold.

The most important crops in India are sugar cane, rice, wheat, tea, cotton, jute, cashews, coffee, oilseed, and spices. These crops are most commonly used inside of the country, though Indian nuts and spices are often imported to other countries.
Most Indian farmers, specifically those who own smaller holdings, work their land by hand or with oxen (as shown in the picture to the right). For this reason, raising livestock is a important part of India's agricultural economy. Along with oxen India breeds cattle, buffalo, and goats. India surpasses all other counties with their livestock population of 215 million cattle (1999). Along with tilling land the cattle are also used for draft animals and for leather. Buffalo is mainly used for producing milk. A decade ago the distribution of milk increased because the government began a dairy program. As the ability to afford milk increased the demand for milk increased which caused the production to increase causing buffalo milk to become a growing industry. Sheep and goats are also important animals in India. Sheep are raised for their wool and goat is the primary meat for Indians. Unlike the US there is very little cattle breeding. Due to religious reasons, a large number of Indians refuse to eat beef.
Though the livestock industry is currently booming in India, an increasing number of farmers are using machinery to cultivate their land. It is expected that the number of livestock raised in India will decrease over the next few years.

Forestry and fishing is another part of India's agriculture industry. In 1996 fishing alone represented 1.2% of India's GDP. Fishing is fundamental in some parts of India, such as the southern coast. Independent fisherpeople fish in bodies of water of all sizes and sell their catches at street markets. In 1997 the government estimated an annual fish catch of 5.4 million metric tons. For many people who live on the southern coast fishing is a way of life. Forestry is also important. Forests make up 22% of India's total land area and fruits,nuts, fibers,oils, gums, and resins are all produced in India's lush forests.

Industry employs only 15% of India's workforce. Although one cannot tell from the statistics mentioned above, India has begun to become more and more industrial.

The government had been pushing for the industrialization of India since the 1950's. This helped India develop a manufacturing sector. Since that time important industries have included textiles, iron, steel, electrical machinery, and transportation equipment. Also within these recent years India has become a significant producer of computer software. In 1990 India's computer software industry grew a huge amount. In India computers and other high-technology items are often manufactured in cooperation with foreign companies. A growth in India's exports is expected because of the current strong demands.

An important part of both India's agriculture and industrial growth is electricity. The vast majority (80.3%) of India's electricity is supplied by the burning of fossil fuels, most of which is coal. The government took notice of this in the mid-1990's. A plan was put into place by the government to double the number of refineries, as well as the number of nuclear reactors. India also tried to increase the use of renewable kinds of energy (powered by nature) such as wind and solar energy.

Comapared to other countries, India does very little trade. This low trade activity is due to the fact that India's economy is still struggling. The country's import and export partners are mainly the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan (1999). India's major exports are textile goods, gems and jewelry, engineering goods, chemicals, leather manufactures. Click here to learn more.

Generally India's economy is doing well. The GDP purchasing power parity from the 1999 estimate is $1.805 trillion dollars, which isn't much compared to the United States's $9.255 trillion. India's per capita GDP is $1,800.

Though there are obvious problems, India is also making many gains. In 1999 India's international payment position remained strong, and with the government always working to reverse it's economic struggles, India is on it's way to true economic stablity.

Ngani N.




CIA World Factbook



India's Geography

India is located in southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. India is between Bangladesh and Pakistan. The total area of India is 3,287,590 sq. km. The land area is 2,973,190, which is slightly more than 1/3 of the size of the United States. The capital of India is New Delhi.

India has many natural resources, such as: coal, iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, titanium ore, chromite, natural gas, diamonds, petroleum, and limestone. India also has the fourth largest reserve of oil in the world. The land has a wide variety of uses. Fifty-five percent is arable land, twenty-three percent is forest and woodland, one percent permanent crops, four percent meadows and pastures, and seventeen percent of other uses.

In India, the summers are very hot, and the temperatures will go as high as 107°, while the winter temperatures rarely go below 44°. The night after the earthquake in Gujarat, it was 55°. India has an average rainfall of 660.4mm. The lowest point in India is the Indian Ocean, which is 0 m, and the highest point is Kanchenjunga (8,598 m).

The land in India is mostly flat to rolling plains along the Ganges, upland plain in the south (which is often referred to as the Deccan Plateau), deserts in the west, and mountains in the north. The Himalayas are the mountain range in the north. India is near the important Indian Ocean trade routes, which are used frequently. There is much trade through India. India trades other commodities, gems & jewelry, rice, tea, manufactures of metals, drugs, pharma & fine chemicals, guargum meal, leather footwear components, RMG wool, and RMG of other textile materials. This is in order of the amount of trade.

In addition to earthquakes, there are also droughts, flash floods, and severe thunderstorms, which are very common. There are many environmental issues, such as: deforestation, soil erosion, overgrazing, desertification, air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions, water pollution from raw sewage and runoff of agricultural pesticides, tap water is not potable throughout the country, and a huge and growing population is overstraining natural resources. Agricultural products exported include foodgrains, tobacco, cashew, oilmeals, sesame and niger seeds, groundnut, beverages, guargum meal, oilseeds extractions, shellac, sugar and molasses, horticulture and floriculture products, processed fruits and juices and meat preparations etc.

India has much mining. Because coal is such an important natural recourse, there is much mining. The government of India regulates and promotes the sector, other than coal lignite, oil and natural gas, and atomic materials.

Marisa P.