India Overview

India Literacy Support Programs

India is the 6th biggest country in the world and hosts a population of just over one billion people who collectively speak over 1500 languages. It is located in southern Asia (with an area of 3,287,590 sq km) bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan. India has been home to several ancient civilisations and empires, some dating back to more than 2,000 BC. Culture and religions have flourished over the millennia, and foreign influence has ebbed and flowed.

Poverty remains a major challenge for India’s people. According to the revised official poverty line, 37.2% of the population (about 410 million people) remains poor, making India home to one third of the world’s poor people.

Key Challenges

India has made progress on a scale, size and pace that is unprecedented in its history. Economic growth rates have averaged 8 per cent since 2006. The impact of the global recession on the Indian economy has, however, critically affected growth in India with a lower growth rate of 6.4 per cent predicted in 2010. According to the World Bank. India is grappling with the fact that citizens are demanding better delivery of core public services such as water and power supply, education, policing, sanitation, roads and public health. And as physical access to services improves, issues of quality have become more central.

Economic growth has not been inclusive. Substantial and persistent disparities of opportunity in education, health and economic prospects exist and reflect geographical, ethnic and gender differences. There is a significant gulf emerging between richer and poorer states in the country. Infrastructure has been unable to keep pace with the country’s needs. Access to safe water and adequate sanitation is emerging as a critical challenge, as is the threat of HIV/AIDS.

The following are critical policy areas:

Education: While India has made huge progress in getting more children into primary school, learning outcomes have yet to make more headway in many locales especially rural areas.

Health: Although population growth has fallen below 2% per year due to declining fertility, there has been little improvement in maternal mortality. And, despite the fall in child mortality, these rates remain high as they are strongly related to child malnutrition where little progress has been made.

Infrastructure: Power networks, roads, transportation systems and ports are facing huge demands from India’s rapidly growing economy. But, shortages are eroding the country’s competitiveness and hurting the growth of labor-intensive enterprises, particularly export-oriented manufacturing which has the potential to absorb India’s fast-growing working population.