India: About India – Part 2

2015-06-12

Demographic profile, government and political structure

Demographic Profile

Contrary to its image, India is a surprisingly young country, with a median age of 24. Around 40% of its population falls in the rage of 20-44 years. Compared to the older generation, this younger generation is more confident, has more liberal and consumerist values, and is more ambitious.

This is a quite recent change in the country’s demographics, and has implications for changes in cultural values.

There is a wide urban-rural divide in India. Indian society is primarily agrarian. More than 70% of India’s population lives in villages, and subsists on agriculture. However, the contribution of agriculture is only 23%.

India has one of the largest populations of technically qualified manpower, comprising around 15 million doctors, engineers and scientists. On the other hand, the literacy rate in the country is just over 50%.

India has a large linguistic diversity. It has 18 constitutionally recognized major languages, in addition to around 1,600 other languages and dialects. There is no single language which is spoken by all Indians. According to the constitution, Hindi is the official national language. However, less than 40% of people in India can speak or understand Hindi. English is the co-official language, since it is spoken by most of the educated Indian class, and is the common language used in business situations.

Government and Political Structure

India achieved its freedom from the British in 1947, and opted to be a parliamentary democracy. Its constitution, which was adopted in 1949, incorporates many features of the constitutional systems of the western democracies, specifically of the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

The parliament is bicameral, consisting of Rajya Sabha [council of state or upper house] and Lok Sabha [house of the people or lower house].

India has a federal structure and is divided into 28 states and seven Union Territories. Each state and Union Territory also has its own elected parliamentary assembly.

India is the world’s largest democracy with an electorate of more than 600mn people. The parliament consists of more than 534 elected MPs [Members of Parliament]. In the 2004 parliamentary elections, India also used indigenously developed electronic voting machines for conducting the elections.

India has 7 national political parties, and more than 40 political parties recognized by the Election Commission.

The President is the head of state, but it is largely a ceremonial post. The actual legislative power resides with the council of ministers, headed by the Prime Minister, who is the leader of the party in the majority.

Voting age is 18 years.

A cadre of civil servants, who represent the bureaucracy, support the political leadership for executing the government policies. These government officers are selected through a very tough competitive examination across the country, and represent an intelligent and elite class.

The judiciary in India is independent of political/ governmental influences. It has often made decisions which are critical of–or even against–the government’s official policies. This occurs if such policies are believed by the judiciary to go against the basic spirit of the Indian Constitution.

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