India is the land of contradictions and, as outlined by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, it certainly does have An Uncertain Glory ahead of it. It could very well be the 2nd largest economy in the world by 2050, or it could slip out of the top ten and hover three quarters of the way down the top 20 list. Why?
Despite the fact that the Republic of India boasts the 2nd largest population in the world, and the fact that it boasts the largest number of English speakers outside of the United States (Source: Wikipedia) it currently faces more challenges than any emerging country, and certainly any emerging country in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and on some metrics, ranks worse than some of the poorest countries in Africa!
While it does have a great opportunity before it, it also suffers from some of the greatest misfortunes of any country on the planet, despite the fact that it is, at the same time, probably the greatest example of democracy on the planet. Consisting of 28 states, 7 union territories and 3.288 Million square kilometers, India has 22 languages of official status in the eighth schedule to the Indian Constitution, 7 major religious groups (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Animist, & Jain), and caste based reservations as a result of the caste system that plagued India until the end of British rule! It also has 6 recognized national parties and 47 recognized state parties. (Imagine the difficulty of getting anything agreed on with that many different viewpoints butting heads!) To put this in perspective, in contrast, the United States, consisting of 50 states and 4 [unincorporated organized] territories, only has to deal with, at most, 2 major languages [English and Spanish] and almost 96% of Americans who declare religion are Christian. Furthermore, there are only 2 major parties and 3 minor parties (Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties). So, the fact that India has survived, and grown (over the past thirty years in particular), as a constitutional democracy for 66 years is quite impressive.
But the fact remains that this constitutional democracy is plagued with problems and issues that have to be addressed, and solved, if the country is to continue to grow, and flourish in the coming decades, as some optimists are predicting. In the next twelve posts (over the next twelve weeks) in the series, SI will dive into twelve of the most prominent issues to present you with a clear picture of the major challenges that lie ahead of India in its quest to become the next great Asian superpower and the center of your global supply chain.