India — June 2008

Sociopolitical Situation

Over the last few months, Indian politics have been turbulent. Across the subcontinent, fragile coalitions between rival political parties have jointly governed state and local governments. In Kerala, for instance, the Communist party runs the executive branch and the opposition party dominates congress. In the neighboring state of Karnataka, the BJP (Hindu Fundamentalist party) won recent elections, gaining control of the state assembly and ending a six-month period in which the president directly governed the state. The BJP also won several additional parliamentary seats in elections in other states.

India’s parliament recently tabled the controversial Women’s Reservation Bill, which would guarantee women one-third of parliament’s seats.

A new measure in the recently revised federal budget earmarks Rs. 60,000 crores (U.S. $1.5 billion) to assist small farmers with loan repayment, bank debt and other financial problems.

The spread of infectious diseases such as chikungunya increased dramatically during last year’s monsoon season, causing tremendous suffering and death in many communities across the country. Many fear the likely return of similar outbreaks this upcoming monsoon season and new cases have already been reported in several locations.

Although India’s economy continues to grow at a record pace, prices have skyrocketed on many essential commodities, namely food and fuel. In addition to a dramatic rise in food and oil prices, inflation recently topped 8.1 percent. No longer able to afford the basics, Indians have taken to the streets. In recent weeks, fierce protests and other public disturbances have erupted across the country.

The crisis has underscored India’s need to achieve food security. Recently, federal and state governments have responded, putting forward a number of initiatives that would ensure a more stable food supply.

The federal government also has intervened in the country’s oil markets, cutting taxes on imported oil in an attempt to bring down exorbitant prices that consumers are paying at the pump.

For most Indians, the month of June marks the start of a new academic year. In Kerala, the state school system begins this school year steeped in financial troubles. The Communist-led government’s new rules and ordinances have financially drained most schools. Moreover, state authorities have signaled that they intend to usurp control of private schools, including Catholic and other Christian schools. For parents, the price of school supplies and school fees have increased drastically since the previous year — a minimum increase of 20 percent on everything from tuition to stationary and uniforms.

Religious Situation

Although the conveniences of modern life appeal to most Keralites, religious life remains vibrant and faith continues to grow among all members of the various religious communities, including youth. Many people prefer to be united on the basis of religion. Religious leaders tend to exercise greater influence over their respective communities than political leaders. As a result, no political platform in India has a chance of surviving if it attempts to limit religious freedom in any way.

This pluralist tradition serves to preserve each community’s unique ethnic, religious and linguistic identity. Nonetheless, state authorities closely monitor the activities of fundamentalist groups that might intend to inflict harm on other communities. Apart from a few rare and isolated assaults on members of the Christian community, relations between different religious groups in India are peaceful. As parliamentary elections slotted for 2009 approach, every political party is cautious about not maligning its image.

In other news, police in Kerala have been investigating several fundamentalist sects that appear to be growing in number among several different faith communities. Charismatic leaders, who style themselves as “God men,” tend to lead these sects, some of whom commit acts of violence or desecration against other religious groups or their places of worship. Reportedly, ordinary citizens, angered by and fearful of these fundamentalist sects, have preemptively attacked sects they wrongly believed violent and subversive.

Recent Posts

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español