INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.

INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.
The Zero Sum Year

What will 2000 be remembered for? Bill Clinton's conquest of India or A.B. Vajpayee's conquest of his knee? Kaun Banega Crorepati's celebration of vicarious greed or Azim Premji's more conventional millions? These 365 days, in a way, were a tortuous journey back to square one. India began the year recovering from Kandahar, ended it by tending to the wounds of Red Fort. The nation had beauty in abundance as Miss Universe Lara Dutta, Miss World Priyanka Chopra, Miss Asia-Pacific Diya Mirza and Mrs World Aditi Gowitrikar proved, but a world away, a drought affected 10 crore people. The triple O year was a tribute to Indians who invented the zero; pity they forgot about the hero.

Cricket Match-Fixing Scandal

Unusual Suspects: Early in cricket's never-ending match-fixing scandal, sports writers turned their gaze to the 1919 baseball rigging scandal in the US. Eight decades later, Hansie Cronje read from an identical script. And the CBI admits that nailing the cricketers is well nigh impossible.

-By Sharda Ugra


    Azim Premji on becoming the world's richest Indian

"I feel like a zoo animal. And my privacy has been completely invaded."

When you meet a billionaire for the first time, you expect him to do something billlionairish. Like attending to his continuously buzzing cell phone, sauntering through a stream of admirers and onlookers, talking big ideas, big money, telling tales of his success and wealth, and displaying it through flashy cars and expensive clothes. But Azim Hasham Premji-estimated current value Rs 2,00,000 crore-is both embarrassed and dismissive of being rated among the five richest persons in the world and the richest Indian ever on earth. Wipro shares, with a face value of Rs 2, had touched a high of Rs 9,600 on the stock markets last week. To gauge the power of the wealth Premji, 54, commands, sample this: he could pay for the entire fiscal deficit of the Centre and still be left with Rs 40,000 crore. For Premji though, much of these calculations would be mere fantasy. The man who avoids staying in five-star hotels, travels economy class and uses made-in-India clothes, watches and cars would rather talk business than his wealth. "I feel like a zoo animal these days," he complained, adding, "I would rather concentrate on doing my job, insulated-as far as possible- from what happens on the stockmarkets."

-By Rohit Saran, March 6

Did you Know?

That in a survey, 3,000 of Mumbai's schoolchildren said alcohol was not harmful and enhanced self-confidence. In 1999-2000, 226 people were fined for drunken driving in Chandigarh. Nearly 40 per cent were teenagers. The Maharashtra Police statistics too show that in 1999 there were 244 accidents linked to drunk teens.

P.T. Usha, India's ace athlete

"I didn't want to be an Olympian. I just wanted to keep breaking my record."

"We socialists never supported cricket. Ram Manohar Lohia had once said that cricket was a waste of time and a colonial hangover."

Nitish Kumar, now Bihar chief minister

High Point
Clinton's India Visit

March 23 was Bill Clinton's day out with Indian women and he seemed to enjoy every minute of it. At the end of the visit, it was clear that the US recognised India as a major player in ensuring security not just in the region but in Asia. More significantly, the US may increasingly view India as a counter to communist China. Much now depends on the follow through or what former foreign secretary J.N. Dixit calls "the operational rules" to the vision statement and other agreements signed. There are major differences between the two nations that have to be overcome. But the trip has gone a long way to build mutual trust and holds the promises of a major shift in relations.

-By Raj Chengappa, April 3

Low Point
Kandahar Hijacking

Terrorists seized control of Indian Airlines flight IC-814, and so began the longest hijack drama in India's history. Hostile terrain, angry relatives and increasingly desperate hijackers make the government succumb to terrorist blackmail, exposing India as a soft target. Different countries have different approaches to hostage crises. There is the US approach of an inflexible "no surrender". The Israelis release prisoners if necessary-but do their best to eliminate the criminals post-exchange. India takes the easiest option-cringe and surrender. Accord is welcome-but it can never flow from the barrel of a gun.
Editorial, August 21


ANAIDA: It's being touted as "the first international album by a female Indipop singer". Take that with a spoonful of salt. But yes, Anaida-of the skimpy clothes and the duet-with-the-hunky-Peter-Andre fame-has all this going for her album Quest: it's been recorded in Greece and Belgium, produced by Joey Balin of the US, and is soon to be released in Europe. "It's alternative, experimental and complex," she gushes.
Eyecatchers, September 18




NAZIM RIZVI: The producer of Salman Khan-Preity Zinta-Rani Mukherji starrer Chori Chori, Chupke Chupke was arrested by the Mumbai Police for his alleged underworld links. It showed how the mafia is muscling its way again into Bollywood.
Year in Review, December 1



"What we do now will determine what the next generation inherits"

By Pratap Bhanu Mehta

SARDINE CAN: Too many, but by no means a Malthusian scare

The milestone that India reached in 2000 represents both its greatest challenge as well as opportunity. With baby Astha's birth, India's population reached a billion and left many wondering how many more Indians were to come. But there has also been a subtle shift in our confidence about handling population growth. Depending on whose figures you believe and what assumptions you make about decline in fertility rates, the population is projected to stabilise somewhere between 1.6 and 1.9 billion. Too many for some, but by no means a Malthusian nightmare.

The real challenge regarding India's population lies in its distribution. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have fertility rates close to replacement; Bihar and Uttar Pradesh twice those of the replacement level. The male-female ratio is alarmingly skewed, and both the causes and consequences of fewer females per hundred males have not been fully fathomed. The rate of movement of this population from rural to urban centres, which are ill-equipped to receive a large number of migrants, will be the huge story of the next two decades. We are grossly ill-prepared for the urban future that our demographic trends are pointing towards.

The opportunity and the challenge are best exemplified by the age distribution of the population. Typically, there are three stages in the age composition of a growing population. Initially, the number of young people rises. In stage two, their proportion declines, that of old people increases. The proportion of working-age adults also increases dramatically. And finally, the proportion of working-age adults falls, while the proportion of old people increases significantly. The OECD countries are in stage three; China is fast approaching it.

India's working-age population, on the other hand, will continue to expand till 2035. This represents an opportunity as the growth, given the right conditions, is associated with higher savings and higher productivity.

If we don't save and create a propitious environment for investment now, prosperity will elude us forever. The next 30 years or so are India's last opportunity for becoming an economic powerhouse. To take advantage of this window, we have to act not now but yesterday. Each delay in economic reform, every rupee of public investment being squandered, every bottleneck to investment in manufacturing is going to shorten this window of opportunity immeasurably.

The demographic opportunity will not automatically yield dividends. Whether this opportunity is realised depends on a number of assumptions: savings will be possible only if there is enough employment, which in turn requires a climate encouraging investment in labour-intensive manufacturing; savings can be translated into investment only if there is a propitious climate for it. This population will require a range of public services, which in turn depends crucially on the quality of governance, and venal governance problems can entail a social catastrophe. How competitive this pool of workers will be depends on how skilled and educated it is.

Education may yet prove to be the Achilles' heel of the economy. We are already in a paradoxical situation: there is a serious skills shortage in some of the most dynamic sectors in the economy, yet employment generation is less than impressive. This mismatch between the demands of the economy and labour supply can only be bridged by a different kind of education system, which requires investment, public and private. Yet, we continue to stifle both. What we do now will determine the opportunities that Astha's generation will inherit. The future of humanity may hang on the question: Will India squander its propitious demographic prospects?

(The writer heads the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi.)


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INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.
DECEMBER 26, 2005

Living On The Edge


Living Legends

Market Matters



Triple Whammy



30 on 30

Towards A Creative And Daring India

Getting Ready for a Global Role

Not Second Best, Not Best Either

Cast in a Divisive Mould

From Monochrome to Neon Lights

The True Nature of the Beast
Songs, Dance, Spectacle

Another Country, Another Era

From Bharat to India

Big Bucks, But Still No Bang


South Asia's most influential and most read newsweekly presents the fourth Conclave India Tomorrow 2005 : Perception vs Reality