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The Week That Was:

From: Vartaa Editorial Team on Apr 24, 2016

Uttarakhand: President's rule or not?

Political machinations in the state of Uttrakhand underwent new developments this past week. The Uttrakhand High Court in a ruling set aside the Central Government's proclamation of President's Rule in the state and reinstated the Harish Rawat led Congress government while also ordering a floor test of the government's numbers. However, within a day, the Supreme Court, on hearing the government's appeal had stayed the High Court's order and President's Rule was back in Uttrakhand. CM Harish Rawat, reinstated for a night, lost no time in clearing populist schemes while the Congress has served a notice to corner the government in Parliament over this matter through a motion for a discussion in the Rajya Sabha.

Tit for tat diplomacy

China and India flexed muscles in a diplomatic tit for tat this past week. After the Chinese blocked the addition of Maulana Masood Azhar's name in the list of global terrorists at the UN, the Indian government went ahead issued visa for rebel Uyghur leads to visit Dharamsala. Uyghurs are a minority group in China and their dissidence has faced sever clamping down by the Chinese government. Not all the competition between the two countries was hostile though - a recent report has indicated that India displaced China as the destination for the largest FDI inflow in 2015, backed mainly on account of higher infrastructure investments.

Draught in India

As the summer escalates, drought conditions are only worsening across many parts of India. Water reservoir levels are at an alarmingly low level of 22%, well below their 10 year average of 76%. In parts of Maharashtra, Section 144 has been imposed to avoid water rioting. There are also unfortunate incidents where young children are falling to their deaths as they attempt to scrounge wells for water. The Central Government has issued a package for drought relief across states and Parliament is all set to discuss the issue in the coming days.

Dipa Karmakar qualifies for Olympics

Dipa Karmakar became the first Indian woman gymnast ever to qualify for the Olympics. She will be representing India at the Rio Olympics later this year. She is one of only five gymnasts to have successfully completed the Produnova, a notoriously difficult vault. You can watch her awe-inspiring performance in this clip and a short profile of her made by BBC Magazine.

Opinions you must read:

  • How can India tackle increasingly hotter summers in the era of climate change? The Hindu offers a perspective.
  • Is a dole addicted middle-class to be blamed for Delhi's transportation woes? The Mint examines.
  • Are the government's FDI in e-commerce policies facilitating or frustrating the Indian market?

Chart of the Week

In the Economic Survey report released along with the annual budget, the government released data regarding the number of new bank accounts opened (Jan Dhan Yojana), new Aadhaar (identification) cards issued, and Mobile phone penetration. To track the progress of this trifecta of issues, the writers of the report have coined the acronym 'JAM' and improving these metrics is frequently referred to as 'spreading JAM.' At Vartaa, we too thought that the 3 metrics were important to track to get a better idea of overall socio-economic progress in the country. In this 3rd and last of the series we will examine the progress of Mobile Connectivity.

As of early 2016, total number of mobile subscribers in India stands at a staggering 1.05 billion! For a population of almost 1.3 billion this represents an incredible mobile Teledensity of 81%. Teledensity is the number of telephone connections per hundred individuals. Granted several individuals have multiple subscriptions but even the unique subscribers are estimated to be around 0.5 billion according to GSMA, a global group of telecom companies. At an average of 100 million new subscribers added per year for the past 10 years, this is indeed impressive growth which is vital to the country's progress. India still trails China which has a Teledensity of roughly 95% but despite having fifth the GDP per capita of China, India has managed to do well.

Why is mobile connectivity so important? We believe there are 3 broad reasons. First and foremost, communication infrastructure essentially is a basic necessity- it improves health and well-being and spurs economic activity. With wireless technology, India has performed the classic 'technology leapfrogging' act where a developing country bypasses steps on the conventional technology ladder and catches up with the developed world. Secondly, it provides millions of Indians who do not have a broadband connection, a gateway to the internet- another leapfrog act in process. Lastly, mobile technology can be used innovatively to bring essential services such as banking, disbursement of benefits from the government, education, governance, healthcare etc. The possibilities are endless and with a billion subscribers, innovators have a solid foundation to build upon.