Is India Really Developing Essay

The Republic of India is considered as one of the emerging superpowers of the world.[1][2][3][4] This potential is attributed to several indicators, the primary ones being its demographic trends and a rapidly expanding economy and by GDP India became world's fastest growing economy in 2015 with 7.3% GDP rate.[5] The country must overcome many of the economic, social, and political problems before it can be considered a superpower. It is also not yet as influential on the international stage when compared to the United States or the former Soviet Union.

Factors in favour[edit]

View of the Himalaya and Mount Everest as seen from space looking south-south-east from over the Tibetan Plateau. The Himalayas in the north and north-east protect the subcontinent from bitter continental cold, save the monsoon winds from escaping, and replenish the river watersheds and flat arable lands that have spawned the Indian civilization.
The Metropolis of Mumbai as seen from above during night time. Mumbai is one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities in India

India lies in the cultural region of Indian Ocean - a zone with unprecedented potential for growth in the scale of transoceanic commerce, with many Eurasian and increasingly Afro-Asian sea-trade routes passing through or close to Indian territorial waters. The subcontinent's land and water resources, though strained, are still sustaining its massive population.[citation needed] According to George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston of the British Empire:

The central position of India, its magnificent resources, its teeming multitude of men, its great trading harbors, its reserve of military strength, supplying an army always in a high state of efficiency and capable of being hurled at a moment's notice upon any point either of Asia or Africa--all these are assets of precious value. On the West, India must exercise a predominant influence over the destinies of Persia and Afghanistan; on the north, it can veto any rival in Tibet; on the north-east . . . it can exert great pressure upon China, and it is one of the guardians of the autonomous existence of Siam. Possession of India gave the British Empire its global reach.[6]

Possible future advantage of location[edit]


In the future, the world is expected to exit the "fossil fuel age", and perhaps the "nuclear energy age", and enter the "renewable-energy age" or even further into the "fusion power age", if and whenever these technologies become economically sustainable.[7][8][9] Being a region in the sunny tropical belt, the Indian subcontinent could greatly benefit from a renewable energy trend, as it has the ideal combination of both - high solar insolation[10] and a big consumer base density.[11][12][13] For example, considering the costs of energy consumed for temperature control (a major factor influencing a region's energy intensity) and the fact that - cooling load requirements, unlike heating, are roughly in phase with the sun's intensity, cooling from the excessive solar radiation could make great energetic (and hence economic) sense in the subcontinent, whenever the required technology becomes competitively cheaper.[14][15][16] India also has 25% of the world's thorium resources.[citation needed]

Demographic factors[edit]

Main article: Demographics of India

High population[edit]

India has the world's second largest population.[17]The PGR for the country is 1.25. A very large number of India's population, about 50%, is below the age group of 24. This provides the nation with a large workforce for many decades, helping in its growth.[18] The government is training a 400 million-workforce, which is larger than the population of the United States and Brazil combined.[19]

Young population[edit]

Due to its high birth rate India has a young population compared to most aging nations. It has approximately 65% of its population below the age of 35. In addition, declining fertility is beginning to reduce the youth dependency rate which may produce a demographic dividend.[20][21][22] In the coming decades, while some of the powerful nations will witness a decrease in workforce numbers, India is expected to have an increase. For example, while Europe is well past its demographic window, the United States entered its own in 1970 (lasting until 2015), China entered its own in 1990 (and will last until 2025), India would not enter its own window until 2010 (and it will last until 2050).[23] In the words of Indian Scholar Rejaul Karim Laskar, "when greying population will be seen inhibiting economic growth of major countries, India will be brimming with youthful energy".[24] Regionally, South Asia is supposed to maintain the youngest demographic profile after Africa and the Middle East, with the window extending up to the 2070s.[25]

Global diaspora[edit]

More than 35 million Indians live across the globe.[26] Under fair opportunities, they have become socio-economically successful.[27]

Foreign language skills[edit]

The importance of the English language in the 21st century is a topic of debate,[28][29][30] nonetheless the growing pool of non-native English speakers makes it the best contender for "Global language" status.[31][32] Incidentally, India has the world's largest English speaking/understanding population.[33] It claims one of the largest workforce of engineers, doctors and other key professionals, all comfortable with English.[34] It has the 2nd largest population of "fluent English" speakers, second only to the United States, with estimates ranging from 150 to 250 million speakers, and is expected to have the largest in coming decades. Indians are also learning Dutch, Italian, French, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, and Spanish.[35][36]

Political factors[edit]

Main article: Politics of India

Democratic republicanism[edit]

India is the world's largest democratic republic, more than three times bigger than the next largest (the United States). It has so far been successful politically, especially considering its functionality despite its difficult ethnic composition.[37][38] The fact that India is a democracy has improved its relations with other democratic nations and significantly improved its ties with the majority of the nations in the developed world.[39]

Candidacy for Security Council[edit]

India has been pressing for permanent membership of the United NationsSecurity Council (as part of the G4 nations[40]) but with a clause that it won't exercise its veto for the next 15 years.[41] It has received backing from France,[42]Russia,[43] and the United Kingdom.[44] However, China[45] and the United States[46] have not been supportive of the bid. With improved India–United States relations, the United States is expected to reconsider its stand.[47]

As of 2016, India is said to have received support from all the five permanent members of United Nations Security Council for its candidacy.

Foreign relations[edit]

Main article: Foreign relations of India

India has developed relationships with the world powers like the European Union,[48]Japan, Russia, and the United States.[49] It also developed relationships with the African Union (particularly South Africa), the Arab World, Southeast Asia, Israel and South American nations (particularly Brazil). In order to make the environment favourable for economic growth, India is investing on its relations with China.[50] It has significantly boosted its image among Western nations and signed a civilian nuclear deal with the United States in March 2006. It is also working for better relationships with Pakistan.[51]

Role in international politics[edit]

Historically, India was one of the founding members of Non-Aligned Movement, and had good relationships with Soviet Union and other parts of western world. It played regional roles in South Asian affairs, e.g. its use of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in the Bangladesh Liberation War and in Sri Lanka. It took a leading initiative to improve relations between African and Asian countries. India is an active member of the Commonwealth and the WTO. The evolving economic integration politics in the West and in Asia is influencing the Indian mood to slowly swing in favour of integration with global economy.[52] Currently, India's political moves are being influenced by economic imperatives. New Delhi is also being observed to slowly, cautiously, and often hesitantly, step into the uncharted role of becoming one of the two major seats of political power in Asia,[53] the other being at Beijing. Some enlightened thinkers from the subcontinent have also envisioned, over the long run, of a South Asian version of free trade zone and even a Union, where the South Asian nations relinquish all past animosities and move to make economic growth a pan subcontinental phenomenon.[54][55]

Multi polarity[edit]

A new and highly controversial geopolitical strategy, being debated in the West, is whether India should be trusted/helped to become an economically strong democratic citizen of the world and be used to balance the powerful but non-democratic forces, to insure a more stable world.[56] Generally speaking it is discussed in the context of adopting a policy of offshore balancing on the part of the United States. A new American strategy towards India has been indicated in George W. Bush's recent visit to the subcontinent.[57]

Economic growth[edit]

India's current economic growth (as the world's fastest-growing major economy as of 2015) has improved its standing on the world's political stage, even though it is still a developing country, but one that is showing strong development. Many nations are moving to forge better relationships with India.[58][59]

Economic factors[edit]

Main article: Economy of India

Booming economy[edit]

The economy of India is currently the world's third largest in terms of real GDP (PPP) after the USA and the People's Republic of China. According to the World Bank India overtook China to become the fastest-growing major economy in the world as of 2015[60] Its record growth was in the third quarter of 2003, when it grew higher than any other emerging economy at 10.4%.[61][62] Interestingly, estimates by the IMF show that in 2011 (see List of countries by future GDP estimates (PPP)), India became the third largest economy in the world, overtaking the Japanese economy and the Seventh largest economy by GDP (Nominal). India has grown at 7.5% in 2015.

Primary sector[edit]

India, growing at 9% per year, is the world's second largest producer of food next to China. Food processing accounts for USD 69.4 billion as gross income.[63]

Secondary sector[edit]

India is still relatively a small player in manufacturing when compared to many world leaders. Some new trends suggest an improvement in future, since the manufacturing sector is growing at 11-12%.[64][65][66][67][68][69]

Tertiary and quaternary sector[edit]

India currently has an expanding IT industry which is considered one of the best in the world. Some have begun to describe India as a technology superpower.[70][71] It is considered the World's Office and is leading in the Services Industry. This is mainly due to the availability of a large pool of highly skilled, low cost, English speaking workforce.[72][73]

Science and technology[edit]

Main article: Science and technology in India

India is trying to develop more highly skilled, English speaking people to fit in the future knowledge economy.[74][75] India is becoming one of the world's leading producers of computer software and with mushrooming R&D centres it is experiencing a steady revolution in science and technology.[76][77][78] A typical example of India's rising scientific endeavours is that it was the 3rd nation to found a National Space Agency called ISRO, after the USSR and the U.S. It was the third Asian nation to send satellites into space after China and Japan in 1970, starting with Aryabhata in 1975.[79][80] In January 2007, India became the fourth nation to complete atmospheric reentry[81] In October 2008, India launched its first unmanned lunar probe, Chandrayaan 1, which operated until August 2009.[82][83][84] On 14 November 2008, the Moon Impact Probe separated from the Chandrayaan orbiter at 20:06 and was deliberately made to strike the Moon near the south pole, making India the fourth country to reach the Moon's surface. Among its many achievements was the discovery of the widespread presence of water molecules in lunar soil. On 24 September 2014 India became the fourth nation to have a satellite orbiting Mars. India is the first Asian nation to achieve this and the first to do so in its first try.[85] India and the United States have increased mutual cooperation in space-travel related technologies, such as increasing the interoperability between Indian and US systems, and prospects for a commercial space launch agreement with India that would allow US satellites to be launched on Indian vehicles.[86] India is among the world leaders in remote sensing,[87] a technology coming to great use, among others, to Indian fishermen & farmers.[88] India is also trying to join international R&D projects - e.g. it has recently joined the European Galileo GPS Project[89] and the ITER for fusion energy club.[90] Some Indian educational and research institutions like IIT,[91]IISER[92], NIT, BITS Pilani, IIM, IISc, TIFR and AIIMS are among the world's best.


To reduce the energy crisis, India is presently constructing ~ 9 civilian nuclear power reactors and several hydro-power stations. On 25 January 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin offered to build 4 more reactors on a visit to India and India is expected to clinch this deal of strategical importance.[93] Recently it also made a civilian nuclear energy deal with the US[94] and EU.[95] In recent years, India joined China to launch a vigorous campaign to acquire oil fields around the world and now has stake in several oil fields (in the Middle East and Russia).[96][97][98][99]

Mass transit system[edit]

India is in the process of developing modern mass rapid transit systems to replace its existing system which is seen as inadequate to cater to present and future urban requirements. A modern metro rail system is already in place in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Kochi. Work is in progress or would be commencing shortly for developing similar mass transit system in cities of NOIDA, Hyderabad, Indore and Ahmedabad. Indore is leading the track by implementing world class GPS enabled, low floor buses in a Rapid Transport System. With growth in economy and technology, India is welcoming modernisation. The Indian rail network traverses the length and breadth of the country, covering a total length of 63,140 km (39,200 miles). It is one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world, transporting over 9 billion passengers and over 350 million tonnes of freight annually.[100] Its operations covers twenty-seven states and three Union territories and also links the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, other public transport systems, such as buses are often not up to the standards followed in developed countries. India is heading towards implementation of high-speed rail in the country.


Main article: Tourism in India

India, with its diverse and fascinating history, arts, music, culture, spiritual & social models has witnessed the growth of a booming tourism industry.[101] India is a historic place with a diverse history of over five millennia. About 3.9 million tourists travelled to India in 2005, each spending approximately $1,470 per person, higher than that of France (the leading tourist destination in the world).[101] Foreign visitors in 2005 spent more than US $15.4 billion annually in India.[102][103][104] Many travellers find the cultural diversity an enriching experience, despite the hassles inefficiency, pollution and overcrowding.[105][106] Monuments like the Taj Mahal are among the many attractions of this land.[107][108] As of 2006, Conde Nast Traveller ranked India the 4th most preferred travel destination.[101] The Planning Commission expects 5.8 million tourists travelling to India by 2010. The World Travel and Tourism Council believes India's tourism industry will grow at 10% per annum in the next decade, making it lead the world in terms of growth.[101] Tourism contributes 6% of India's GDP and employed 40 million people, making it an important factor in India's economic growth.[101] More than 8 million foreign tourists arrived in the year 2015 against 7.68 million in 2014 recording a growth of 4.4 percent over 2014.[109][110]

Medical services[edit]

"First World medical services at Third World prices" - Indian Metros have emerged as the leading destination of medical tourism. Last year, an estimated 150,000 foreigners visited India for medical procedures, and the number is increasing at the rate of about 15 percent a year.[111]

Military factors[edit]

Main article: Indian Armed Forces

Total strength[edit]

The Indian Armed Forces, India's main defence organisation, consists of two main branches: the core Military of India and the Indian Paramilitary Forces. The Military of India maintains the third largestactive duty force in the world after China and the United States,[112] while the Indian Paramilitary Forces, over a million strong, is the second largest paramilitary force in the world. Combined, the total armed forces of India are 2,414,700 strong, the world's third largest defence force.[113]


The Army of India, as the Indian army was called under British rule before 1947, played a crucial role in checking the advance of Imperial Japan into South Asia during World War II. It also played a leading role in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Today, the Indian Army is the world's third largest army after United States Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army.

Air force[edit]

The Indian Air Force is the fourth largest air force in the world.[114][115] India recently inducted its second indigenously manufactured combat aircraft. India is also developing the fifth generation stealth aircraft.


The Indian Navy is the world's fifth largest navy.[116] It is considered to have blue-water capabilities with sophisticated missile-capable warships, aircraft carrier, minesweepers, advanced submarines and the latest aircraft in its inventory, along with a significant use of state of the art technology that is indigenously manufactured.[117] It operates two aircraft carriers and also plans to induct the INS Vikrant by 2018 followed by a larger INS Vishal.

Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP)[edit]

India started the IGMDP to be a self-reliant nation in missile development. The IGMDP program includes five missiles like the Prithvi and Agni of ballistic missiles, surface to air missiles Trishul and Akash and also the anti tank Nag missile. Prithvi and Agni missiles are inducted into the armed forces and form the basis of Indian nuclear second strike capability. Trishul missile is declared a technology demonstrator. The Akash (Sky) is in service with the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. While Nag and Helina missiles are undergoing user trials. Recently, a new weapons system, the beyond visual range air-to-air Astra missile was added to the project. Also India has fielded many modern missiles like the anti ballistic missiles like the AAD and PAD along with submarine launched ballistic missiles for its Arihant class of nuclear ballistic submarines. The expertise in developing these missiles has helped Indian scientists to contribute to joint weapon development programs like the Brahmos and Barak-II. India is also developing long range cruise missiles similar to the Tomahawk class of missiles called Nirbhay. There are reports of India developing an intercontinental ballistic missile beyond the range of ten thousand kilometers.[118] India is self-reliant in missile technology.[119]

Nuclear weapons[edit]

India has possessed nuclear weapons since 1974, when it did the Pokharan I nuclear tests, and the means to deliver them over long distances. However, India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (on grounds of security concerns and that India condemns the NPT as discriminatory).[120][121]

Arms imports[edit]

India is currently world's largest arms importer, spending an estimated US$16.97 billion in 2004. India has made military technology deals with the Russian Federation, the U.S., Israel and the EU.[122]

Current major roles[edit]

The Indian Armed Forces plays a crucial role in anti-terrorist activities and maintaining law and order in the disputed Kashmir region. India has also participated in several United Nations peace-keeping missions, currently being the largest contributor to UN peace keeping force and is the second-largest contributor to the United Nations Democracy Fund behind the USA.[123]

Cultural factors[edit]

Main article: Culture of India


Main article: History of India

India is one of two ancient civilizations, dating back to at least 5,000 years, which have stood the test of time and survived against all odds. Indians invented the numbering system (introduced into the West by Arabic mathematicians, Arabic numerals), the concept of zero, logic, geometry, basic algebra, calculus, probability, astronomy etc.[124][125][126][127][128][129][130][131] India has a long history of cultural intercourse with many regions of the world, especially within Asia, where its cultural influence has spread through the philosophy of religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, etc. - particularly in East and Southeast Asia. Many religions with origins outside the Indian subcontinent - Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Bahá'í Faith - have found followers in India. Indian culture has spread to foreign lands through wandering traders, philosophers, migration and less through conquest. According to Chinese ambassador to the United States, Hu Shih:

India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border. - Hu Shih[132][133]


Main article: Cinema of India

India's film industry produces more feature films than any other.[134] In a year, it sold 3.6 billion tickets, more than any other film industry in the world (In comparison, Hollywood sold 2.6 billion tickets).[135] The cinemas play a major role in spreading Indian culture worldwide. Indian cinema transcended its boundaries from the days of film Awara, a great hit in Russia. Bollywood films are seen in central and west Asia.[136][137][138][139] Indian films have also found audience in eastern societies.[140] India's film industry is now becoming increasingly popular in Western society, with Bollywood festivals occurring numerous cities[141][142] and Bollywood dance groups performing in New Years Eve celebrations, treatment which other non-English film industries generally do not receive.[143]

Unity in diversity of world view[edit]

India has a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society living together. The subcontinent's long and diverse history has given it a unique eclectic culture. It is often associated with spirituality. Thanks to its history of both indigenous and foreign influences - like the ancient Indian religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism and the ancient Middle East Asian schools of thought (Abrahamic - Islam, Christianity, Judaism etc.) - the current Indian civilizational psyche is evolving into a complex mix of them - sometimes a superposition of religious philosophies with acceptance of the conflicting cosmologies, sometimes striking a middle ground, and sometimes taking the practical attitude - popular with the young - of "filtering the common best, and leaving the rest", thus leading to the creation of many syncretic mix of faiths (such as Sai Baba of Shirdi). Since Independence, India has regained its more progressive schools of thought, like - democracy, secularism, rule of law, esteem for human rights, rational deductive reasoning, development of Science and Technology, etc. - are making slow but steady inroads into the collective modern Indian psyche. India's diversity forces it to evolve strong foundations of tolerance and pluralism, or face breakup. The Indian public is now also accepting modern western influences in their society and media - and what is emerging is a confluence of its past local culture with the new western culture ("Social Globalisation"). For some futuristic social thinkers, the miscegenation of diverse ancient culture with modernity, spirituality with science/technology, Eastern with Western world-view is potentially making India a social laboratory for the evolution of futuristic global-unity consciousness.[144][145][146]

Points against the rise of India as a superpower[edit]

Political obstacles[edit]

India has had border disputes with both China and Pakistan. This has led to 3 wars with Pakistan and a war with China. Mapped is the location of the 1999 Kargil Conflict, which is the most recent of India's direct military encounters with the Pakistani military.

Cost of democratic republicanism[edit]

Democratic republicanism has its value,[147] more so in a multi-ethnic country like India.[148] However, the applicability of the "theoretical" virtues of republicanism on a country like India is sometimes questioned.[149][150][151] Some thinkers consider India's diverse democracy to levy a huge tax on its economy.[152] The Indian government has to consider many interest groups before decision making. However, it should be noted that India is relatively a much younger republic when compared to other major democracies. Moreover, it is predicted that in the long run, India being a democracy will provide it an edge over non-democratic[citation needed] competitors like China.[153][better source needed]


India has had significant successes with quelling many insurgencies, most prominently the Punjab insurgency (Khalistan) and the surrender of large sections of insurgent outfits like the United Liberation Front of Asom in 1992 and National Liberation Front of Tripura in 2000-2001. However the Indian government has acknowledged that there has been a dramatic increase in support for the Maoists (Naxalite) insurgency in the last decade.[154] Maoist rebels have increased their influence over the last 10 years, especially in regions near Nepal, particularly by targeting and gaining support from poor villages in India. The boom in support appears to have been also boosted by the successes of the nearly 10-year-old Maoist rebellion in Nepal. The maoist insurgency exploits the poor by forced conscription. India's government has recently taken a new stance on the Maoist insurgency, pulling the affected states together to coordinate their response. It says it will combine improved policing with socio-economic measures to defuse grievances that fuel the Maoist cause.[155]


India's growth is impeded by disputes with its neighboring China and Pakistan (over historical border and ideological issues) and disputes with Bangladesh (over water availability and the Farakka Dam). Hence, India's neighbors such as China and Pakistan remain distrustful towards India. It is also occasionally burdened with instability issues within some localised-regions of the subcontinent. In an effort to reduce political tension and increase economic cooperation, in recent years, India has improved its relations with its neighbors.[156]

Lack of international representation[edit]

India is not a permanent member of the UNSC, although currently it is one of the four-nations group actively seeking a permanent seat in the council. Thus India lacks the ability to extend its influence or ideas on international events in the way superpowers do.[157]

Economic obstacles[edit]

See also: Economy of India § History


As of 2011, approximately 21.9% of India's population lived below poverty line.[158][159] Poverty also begets child labour.

The increased Indian population has prompted the creation of high rise apartment blocks in numerous cities, including relatively minor cities like Gurgaon, where this apartment block was built.
The Machinery of the world's largest democracy: Sansad Bhavan, the Parliament of India
The Mumbai Pune Expressway, part of a series of modern high-traffic roads in India

As the world's largest democracy prepares to go to the polls, we've invited five people from India, the US and the UK who have expertise on economics, women's rights, youth movements, disability rights and urban development to answer the question: "Do you perceive India to be a developing country?"

Jayati Ghosh, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The development project in India is nowhere near complete – indeed it has barely begun. It is still a poor country: per capita income iremains below $2,000 (£1,206) at actual exchange rates, and there is still widespread destitution. Development is supposed to involve job creation, with more workers in formal employment in large units, but that has not happened.
Manufacturing still counts for less than one-fifth of both output and employment. More than half of all workers languish in low productivity agriculture, while another quarter or so are in low grade services. About 95% of all workers are in informal employment, and roughly half are self-employed. What's more, the recognised and paid participation of women in working life has actually been declining in a period of rapid income growth.

This basic failure helps to explain several other failures of the development project so far: the persistence of widespread hunger and very poor nutrition indicators; the inadequate provision of basic needs like housing, electricity and other essential infrastructure; the poor state of health facilities for most people; and the slow expansion of education. Growing inequalities do mean that a rising middle class is emerging, but this should not blind us to the lack of fulfilment of basic social and economic rights for the bulk of people.

Raka Choudhury, urban planner and writer for the Wall Street Journal

India is developing at a breakneck pace. Literally. Over the past decade, India has added local roads and highways that prioritise the speed and efficiency of vehicles with no consideration for human safety. The World Health Organisation reports that the death rate in road crashes in India has been consistently rising. Approximately 134,000 people died in traffic crashes in 2010, about half of whom were pedestrians, bicyclists, and riders of two- and three-wheelers; as many as four times this number were injured.

While the safety standards of automobiles are an issue, a lack of consideration for all road users by traffic engineers and planners is largely to blame. Cars are a tiny fraction of all road users in India, but we continue to design roads without sidewalks and crosswalks in dense urban areas, and avoid providing traffic signals altogether to promote "free-flow" of cars. New development patterns such as suburban, gated residential communities continue to feed this reliance on cars. And in cities like Kolkata, cyclists are now banned from most city streets during business hours.

Until India begins to value the lives and needs of all its road users, and move away from its current middle-class aspiration of car ownership, in my opinion, India's growth is backwards and inequitable.

Akhil Paul, director of Sense International India

The question of whether or not India is a developed or developing country is not so simple that it can be measured by the yardstick of the number of billionaires or a mission to the moon. To understand the real India, we need to look at many other indicators, such as health and education too. I think the level of development in a country is directly proportionate to the way we choose to treat our children, elderly and the disabled.

As far as India is concerned, we might score very highly in terms of growth of physical infrastructure, but most of the public places are inaccessible to people with disabilities. As per the 2011 census, India has about 2.7 million people with disabilities, and only a handful of those enjoy education and/or employment. We are spending less than 4% of our GDP on important areas of education and health. Almost 12% of our children (between 5 and 15 years) are identified as child labour, and we have about 2.4 million people living with HIV/Aids.

Almost 25% of my fellow Indians are poor – in the same India where millions use smartphones. Within India, there are many different countries. One is high-flying and tech-savvy, [with people] driving flashy cars in and out of top-starred hotels and clubs. Another is white-collared middle class. And another is still struggling to survive. There is no doubt that in some areas we are a developed country and, as far as people with disability are concerned, we have created facilities and a support system. But in many areas we still have long way to go. Now I leave it to you to decide whether you perceive India as developing or not!

Shirin Rai, professor of politics and international studies at Warwick University

John Stuart Mill wrote in The History of [British] India: "The condition of women is one of the most remarkable circumstances in the manner of nations. Among rude people the women are generally degraded, among civilised people they are exalted." If the stories of rape and torture of women in India that have hit the headlines recently are anything to go by, then can we consider India to be a developing (civilised?) country?

However, if we reflect upon what the Mill quote invites – the "exaltation of women" as a discourse legitimising the colonial occupation of India – then we might also question the whole notion of "developing country". While no one can deny the problems that women face in India – from the skewed sex ratio in favour of males to violence in their everyday lives – it is also important to note that this violence is experienced by women across the world.

The figures from the World Health Organisation show that the differences between the developed world and the developing are less than what we would expect, especially where we take war and the breakdown of public order into account. So, why elide these two politicised discourses – development and women's status? Why not instead focus on the struggles being waged every day in India against the banality of violence and for dignified and productive lives?

Mansha Khemka, chair of the International Youth Council, India chapter

Even after 66 years of independence, India is still labelled as a developing country. I think as a nation, we have miles to go. The nation is undergoing this unearthing surge of political, cultural and social change. In the past, issues around which political parties used to build their campaigns essentially surrounded the promise of basic necessities.

Now, these have evolved to focus on the "safety of women" and "corruption", among other [themes]. Corruption has mired growth to a great extent, and past and present governments have so far been unsuccessful in finding a permanent solution. The young Indian faces challenges stretching from a poorly administered education system to the lowest average wage rates in the world.

The youth of India today lives in a society defined by multiple languages, religions, ethnicities and political thought, among other things. Yet they define their own generation, which is starkly different from their fathers and grandfathers. This puts them in a unique position to take their country towards positive growth and development.

In the past few years, the country has seen anti-corruption campaigners battle parliament for the formation of better laws, huge mass protests and angst over the state's failure to prevent the increase in rape incidents, and historical changes in political power in the capital. The forthcoming elections hold much promise in terms of prime ministerial candidates strategising to lure young voters to the polling booths, promises to change the nation, and constant conjecture over the ideological revolution in the Indian political diaspora.

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