Construction workers at a building site in the Indian capital New Delhi

Political situation Creating jobs, reducing poverty

Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, India has been a republic with a parliamentary democracy and functioning separation of powers. The country has an active civil society with a large number of non-governmental organisations.

Despite a low tax ratio, the Indian government provides substantial amounts of funding for development initiatives and programmes, and has adopted some innovative approaches to actively involve the private sector and the public in development efforts.

Given the high number of people in extreme poverty in India and the fact that, each year, up to ten million young Indians enter the labour market for the first time, the government's policy focus is currently very much on economic policy and on creating jobs. In the past few years, fundamental economic reforms have been launched, they include: introducing a uniform value-added tax throughout the country; opening the country to more foreign investment; reorganising the licensing system in the extractive sector, which has been prone to corruption; and a restructuring programme for government-owned banks.

Furthermore, various social programmes have been set up, although many poor people are not aware of them. A lot of the development cooperation activities are therefore geared towards improving access to these programmes. This particularly benefits disadvantaged people such as women and indigenous communities.

Obstacles to development

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, Hindu nationalist influence on Indian politics and in society has increased notably. The situation has become more difficult for religious minorities. Compared to other countries in the region India stands out as a country with robust democratic mechanisms, constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and a diverse civil society. Nevertheless, press freedom and freedom of opinion and social participation have all experienced a decline.

The low capacity of public administration at both the central government level and the level of the individual states is also an obstacle to development. Despite reform efforts, ambitious political programmes often cannot be implemented effectively. Measures to fight corruption have so far only had limited impacts.

Human rights

Many population groups face systematic discrimination because of their ethnic or social background or their religious beliefs. The main causes for these common human rights violations continue to be the low level of education among parts of the population and deeply rooted social and cultural practices. Although the caste system was officially abolished in 1949, for example, it still dictates social life in many parts of the country.

Gender equality may be enshrined in the constitution, but girls and women still face structural disadvantages not only in Indian society but also in politics and business. While their access to educational and health facilities has improved, in many families there continues to be a bias towards the male members when it comes to food, medical care and education.

Women's labour force participation continues to be very low because of traditional gender roles and because of the lack of safety in public transport. Widespread violence against women continues to be a problem as well. Inadequate access to land rights, financial services and decision-making processes is making it difficult for women, especially rural women, to become economically independent.

As at: 06/06/2023