How is the Union faring?
The challenge is to spread the growth more equitably and share the pain more evenly
Mohan Guruswamy Delhi
The question that bothers us Indians from time to time is “who are we?” Modern anthropologists classify us Indians as belonging to one of four ethno-racial groups, Caucasoid, Australoid, Mongoloid and Negrito. Geneticists say that the modern Indian population derived from two ancestral populations – ancestral north Indians (ANI’s) and ancestral south Indians (ASI’s). ANI’s are related to the West Eurasians and the ASi’s are distinctly related to the indigenous groups like the Andaman Islanders. We are now an admixture of these two groups.
Modern India now has over two thousand ethnic groups. Modern Indian languages have evolved from all the world’s four language families. Indo-European, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman. We also have a language that belongs to neither of them – Nihali, spoken in parts of Maharashtra. India has 1652 individual mother tongues. The 2001 Census tells us that 30 languages are spoken by over a million each, and 122 by over 10,000 each.
India has almost 1.2 billion people, and the Union of India consists of 31 States and Union Territories, with some more being currently midwifed. The biggest of these is Uttar Pradesh with a population of 199.6 million or 16.49 per cent of India’s. It is as big as Brazil. The smallest political unit is Lakshadweep which has just 64,000 (0.01 per cent). Quite clearly the omnibus term India, incidentally derived from the name of a river that hardly flows through it, masks a diversity of nations.
In late 2012 India became the world’s third largest economy in PPP terms and has grown at an average rate of over 7 per cent since 2000. Between 2008-11 it grew at more than 9 per cent. In consonance with global trends India’s growth also has tapered off in the past two years. Nevertheless overall the trends have never been like this before and there is optimism about the long term, despite recent troubles.
It’s a country where many state GDP’s are bigger than many large countries. For instance the biggest regional economy in India, Maharashtra at $233 billion is bigger than South Korea and would rank at number nine in the world. The next biggest, Andhra Pradesh is as big as Switzerland in GDP terms. Many Indian cities too have large economies. Last year Mumbai’s GDP in PPP terms was $209 billion and it would rank ahead of Denmark.
This overall performance however masks a diversity of performances. The HDI of Kerala is India’s highest at 0.790 while the other end of the spectrum is Chhattisgarh with 0.358, which would place it just alongside Chad, one of the world’s poorest and most backward countries. At 0.790 Kerala would find a place in the high HDI list of nations.
While in 2011-12 India grew at 6.88 per cent, large states like Uttar Pradesh (6.23 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (6.87 per cent) grew at less than the national rate. States like Tamil Nadu (12.39 per cent), Gujarat (13.79 per cent) and West Bengal (17.06 per cent) excelled while India’s most prosperous state, Punjab, languished with just 5.79 per cent growth.