information and stories about India.

Soil Erosion in IndiaGlobally, soil erosion is threatening to reduce the availability of soil suitable for agriculture in the upcoming decades. In India, the rate of soil erosion is particularly alarming. As of 2017, the country saw an average soil erosion rate of 16.35 tonnes per hectare per year, a rate significantly higher than the 2020 global average of just 2.4 tonnes per hectare per year. As a result, soil erosion poses a great threat to India’s agricultural sector and economy as a whole.

Though a natural phenomenon to some extent, soil erosion has drastically increased as a result of activities that involve intensive agriculture, land use changes and deforestation. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), such activities have accelerated the rate of soil erosion by as much as 1,000-fold. Integral to the health of global ecosystems, soil supports all life, facilitating the growth of plants, providing vital nutrients and housing billions of microorganisms upon which all humans and environments rely. The consequences of soil erosion include reduced agricultural productivity, degraded ecosystems and reduced biodiversity. Furthermore, it can contribute to landslides, floods and other natural disasters and, ultimately, displace human populations.

Causes of Soil Erosion in India

In India, areas with steep slopes and heavy rainfall are particularly prone to soil erosion, as are areas with strong and persistent winds. Such factors heighten the risk of rapidly losing large amounts of soil. Since the start of the 20th century, increased demand for food production in India has resulted in the widespread use of intensive farming practices that do not prioritize soil health and conservation. Although intensive agriculture produces the highest possible yields for the lowest cost while maximizing profits and reducing the price of food products, it is not sustainable. Large amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides not only pollute water and air but also degrade the soil. Additionally, intensive agriculture applies crop irrigation practices that account for some 70% of global human consumption of freshwater.

Possible Solutions

With around 58% of the population employed in the agricultural sector, agriculture is the leading source of livelihood in India. The Indian Government has recognized the need to prevent soil erosion and protect the country’s remaining soils by encouraging sustainable farming practices. For example, crop rotation can help soils remain fertile because different plants drain the soil of different nutrients. Also, planting certain crops can also help heavily degraded soils recover, facilitating the restoration of healthy soils with sufficient nutrient levels.

Looking Forward

While it is clear that there is still room for work with respect to protecting India’s soils and ensuring the sustainability of its key industry, the country continues to make steps toward progress. In the 1950s, the Indian Government began introducing regulations and projects to address the growing concern of soil loss. More recently, Soil Health Card Schemes is promoting the use of appropriate amounts of fertilizer to reduce soil harm and educate farmers on sustainable soil practices. In 2022, the Indian Prime Minister also reinforced the “Save Soil Movement,” which focuses on making the soil chemical-free, saving its living organisms, maintaining its moisture, reversing the damage caused by a decrease in groundwater and stopping soil erosion due to deforestation. Despite the severity of the situation, a continuation of the current strategies and ongoing efforts to identify other innovative strategies could minimize the threat that soil erosion poses to Indian agriculture.

– Hannah Naylor
Photo: Flickr

Being Poor in IndiaThe economy of India is one of the fastest growing in the world yet the country experiences severe inequality as the wealthiest 10% in India own 77% of the wealth in the country while poverty is common for a significant portion of the population. For people who experience being poor in India, access to basic services is a struggle and meeting basic needs is difficult as many do not earn a decent income. The Government of India has not released official poverty estimates since 2011 but several other indicators show the extent of poverty in India.

Causes of Poverty in India

Poverty in India is a multi-dimensional issue. According to a study by the West Bengal State University (WBSU) in 2018, some of the main reasons for poverty in India are overpopulation,  unemployment, “poor agricultural infrastructure,” illiteracy and lack of quality education, lack of skilled labor, “unequal distribution of assets,” gender inequality and corruption.

According to the WBSU, the population in India has outgrown the growing economy, which means the nation cannot economically keep up with the growing number of people. Poor agricultural infrastructure also adds to the high number of people being poor in India according to the WBSU. Due to old and outdated farming practices, the agricultural sector of India is at a deficit.

Lack of quality education and illiteracy also plague the poor in India and only exacerbate the issue. Due to poverty, disadvantaged families prioritize earning an income over child education and push children into child labor instead of enrolling them in school. This lack of education traps children in lower-paying, unskilled jobs, thereby continuing the cycle of poverty.

The lack of skilled labor in India also adds to the issue of poverty in the nation. While there is a large labor force in India ready to work, most workers are unskilled. This prevents India from reaching its full economic potential and putting more people to work in skilled sectors.

Corruption also stands as a barrier to poverty reduction. The WBSU stated in its report that the government attempts to alleviate poverty through government spending, but “allegedly only 30-35% actually reaches the beneficiaries” as a result of the corruption sweeping the nation.

Clean Water Access in India

Being poor in India takes shape in many ways, such as a lack of access to clean water. With 128 million people in India in need of clean water, the World Bank estimates that 21% of communicable diseases in India stem from unclean water.

Impoverished families, typically in remote areas, often travel hours to collect water for their families instead of engaging in more productive activities such as education and income-generating endeavors. This water is often unsafe and contains bacteria that can lead to fatal water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Water-borne diseases force a household to spend their limited finances on health care, which plunges the family deeper into poverty.

Hunger and Malnutrition in India

In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, India places 107th out of the 121 nations that were assessed. India has a score of 29.1, and this equates to a serious level of hunger. Poverty also manifests itself as malnutrition. The nation is home to the highest population of malnourished people in the world — 14.37% of the population or 194.4 million people, according to Feeding India. India is also home to about a third of the world’s malnourished children.

The government of India’s National Family Health Survey 5 (NFHS 5) indicates that about 36% of children under the age of 5 in India experience stunting due to malnourishment. Stunting has significant long-term impacts on individuals and countries as a whole, including impaired cognitive ability and educational performance, low wages, weak immunity and lost productivity.

Taking Action

A government relief program called the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana aimed to help impoverished people in India. The program began in March 2020 to respond to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the benefits included 800 million poor people receiving five kilograms of wheat or rice and a kilogram of pulses a month for three months. Additionally, 30 million low-income senior citizens, widows and disabled people received 1,000 Indian rupees.

Working in India for 50 years, Save the Children is committed to safeguarding the rights of children in India. The organization’s work in India is responsible for nourishing 85,000 children, lifting 86,000 children out of poverty and educating 210,000 children.

Looking Ahead

With immense poverty and living conditions that prove challenging, India is in need of significant support to spur lasting change. Organizations, like Save the Children, are working tirelessly to ensure that children have access to education, nutrition and a brighter future. Through these collective efforts, there is hope for a more equitable and prosperous India.

– David Keenan
Photo: Unsplash

Generational PovertyIn countries experiencing generational poverty, children from low-income families often have fewer opportunities than those from more advantaged backgrounds. The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) reports that poor parents have limited resources to invest in their children. For this reason, the affected children face challenges like poor mental stimulation and education. Additionally, living in poverty can negatively affect parenting.

The NCCP studied this lasting impact on children by examining the social and economic status of several families. The study revealed that individuals who grow up in poverty tend to remain poor in early adulthood. Breaking this cycle is nearly impossible without proper resources and education, and families in low-income countries continue to suffer the impacts of this issue. The following are three such countries suffering from generational poverty.

3 Countries Suffering From Generational Poverty

  1. India: According to a 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) report on global social mobility, Indians born into low-income families suffer from generational poverty. According to the report, it would take seven generations for an Indian raised in poverty to reach India’s mean income. The report defines social mobility as a person’s “movement” upwards or downwards relative to their parents. It found that countries with high social mobility scores have lower income inequality, while countries suffering from generational poverty have a higher variability in income. In response to the issue of generational poverty, India established the Integrated Rural Development Program in 1978. The program’s goal is to provide opportunities for people living in poverty to learn and practice skills to improve their living conditions while increasing small-scale agricultural production. The government allocates a 25% subsidy to small farmers and 33.5% to rural craftsmen, farmers, and agricultural laborers. The remaining 50% goes toward castes and people with disabilities.
  2. South Africa: South Africa is another country suffering from generational poverty. According to the World Inequity Lab’s research, the social structure catering to white people for nearly three centuries has made South Africa “the world’s most unequal society.” Black South Africans, who faced restricted access to resources and opportunities during the apartheid era, suffered negative impacts that lasted through generations. Today, the richest 10% of South Africans own over 85% of household wealth, leaving only 15% for the remaining 90%. The social system in South Africa perpetuates the cycle of generational poverty. The World Bank suggests three policy measures to break this cycle. These measures include expanding and improving the quality of education, increasing access to production and land in rural areas and investing in social protection systems that safeguard the impoverished from climate risks and economic vulnerability.
  3. Honduras: Generational poverty is permanent and occurs when at least two generations are born into poverty. In a video produced by the nonprofit organization Children Internation, a young girl from Honduras expresses sadness about her grandparents, who are her adoptive parents, growing up in the same poor living conditions that she currently lives in. The girl is among the 75% of Hondurans living in rural areas below the poverty line, where access to food and shelter is often scarce. Sponsorships through organizations such as Children International provide resources to help break the cycle of generational poverty for children. The Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) provides financial services for families who live in poverty in Honduras, with 55.5% of borrowers being women. It provides individual loans, village banking loans, rural and agriculture loans and insurance to more than 60,000 clients.

Looking Ahead

Although many citizens in the aforementioned countries are still dealing with the challenges posed by generational poverty, there are ongoing initiatives that provide the required support to help them break the chain and create better opportunities for their children.

– Olivia Maillet
Photo: Flickr

Disabled People in IndiaThere are around 1 billion disabled people in the world. And the prevalence of disability within a nation’s population is often higher in the developing world. Disabled people in India are more likely to miss out on education and employment opportunities and experience higher poverty rates than their able-bodied counterparts. In India, one organization that is fighting to improve the lives of disabled people is the Spark Minda Foundation, and it is doing this through its SAKSHAM program.

The Challenges of Being Disabled

Individuals with disabilities encounter numerous challenges in their daily lives, ranging from inaccessible transportation and buildings to inadequate access to mobility and adaptive aids. They also face social stigma and discrimination, which is widespread. The Covid-19 pandemic has also caused lasting repercussions for many disabled individuals, impacting their health and access to transportation and education.

Disabled people in India also face challenges that are a result of the country’s infrastructural weaknesses. And socially, some perceive disabled Indians as a burden to their families if they cannot contribute to their household income or medical expenses. Unfortunately, this kind of outlook further perpetuates discrimination.

On the bright side, the Spark Minda Foundation continues working to alleviate the challenges and issues of discrimination that affect people living with disabilities in India. The following is a brief look into the organization’s efforts.

SAKSHAM and the Spark Minda Foundation

The Spark Minda Foundation’s SAKSHAM program is committed to empowering individuals with disabilities in India. It provides employment training and develops and fits mobility aids to help create a harmonious and inclusive society where disabled individuals can realize their potential. The program aligns with the Indian government’s Accessible India Campaign, which kicked off in 2015. It employs the following key strategies to improve the lives of disabled individuals.

  1. Providing accessible and assistive technologies
  2. Offering on-the-job training to improve their skills
  3. Ensuring inclusive workplace environments
  4. The incorporation of ergonomic changes into workplaces
  5. Employing more people living with disabilities

The Spark Minda Foundation employs more than 300 disabled individuals throughout India and has aided disabled Indians in securing employment elsewhere. In December 2019, the SAKSHAM program held a week-long camp in Chimbali Phata, Pune, which included a job fair for local disabled individuals to connect with potential employers. Companies such as Aegis Global, Sodexo, and Accenture participated in the job fair, resulting in 265 disabled individuals finding employment in Pune alone thanks to the program’s efforts.

The SAKSHAM program has also distributed almost 8,000 assistive devices in India. In addition, the program has helped over 500 disabled individuals in Indonesia and Vietnam, granting them life-changing disability aids. The fitting of 1,335 assistive aids took place at the Pune camp in Maharashtra.

Looking Ahead

The United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development asserts that disability should not hinder access to development programs or fundamental human rights. Seven of the agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals directly reference the rights of disabled individuals, which are often under threat, particularly in developing countries. The Spark Minda Foundation is working to help realize these goals in India and beyond by creating more employment opportunities and providing vital assistive aid to those in need.

– Martha Probert
Photo: Flickr

UK Aid to IndiaThe United Kingdom and India have had a long history of partnership. The two regularly collaborate in fields such as technology, education and trade. The U.K. has also given India valuable aid that has supported its progress and development over the past decades. According to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, the U.K. supplied India with £2.3 billion in aid between 2016 and 2021. However, in recent years, as India’s economy has flourished, the U.K. has moved away from bilateral aid to the country. Instead, the focus is now on investment that will not only help India but will also yield considerable returns for the U.K. Here’s everything you need to know about the U.K.’s aid to India.

Official Development Assistance (ODA)

The U.K. is a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee. And as such, it makes contributions toward ODA. According to the parliament, ODA has the development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective.

In 1970, the U.N. set a target for all countries that supported ODA to donate 0.7% of its gross national income. Before meeting the target for the first time in 2013, the U.K. consistently failed to do so in the years prior. The International Development Act of 2015 only solidified the country’s commitment to this goal. So, for the first time since 2013, the U.K. decided to reduce ODA spending to 0.5% of its GNI due to financial challenges during COVID-19.

Past Efforts: UK Aid to India

The U.K. has been providing aid to India for a while now, but it has gradually shifted its focus over the years. In the past, bilateral aid was the main form of support to India. The U.K. government gave particular importance to social sector programs in India between 2008 and 2011. According to a framework paper, aid focused on “areas such as health, education, rural livelihoods and urban slum improvement” via Indian-government-led programs. The target states for such programs included Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

In 2011, the U.K. directed its focus to the Indian private sector. According to an accord made in July of that year between the countries, the U.K. provided financial and technical assistance predominantly in Odisha, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The government also approved the Private Sector Development Initiative in eight Indian states where the U.K. could provide aid in the form of “returnable capital”.

The U.K. reevaluated its aid strategy again in 2012 and agreed with the Indian government on a new direction for support after 2015. It decided to cease financial grants to government sector programs after 2015. Instead, the country looked to focus on technical cooperation in areas like governance, growth, education and skills, trade and investment and health. The government also pledged to support small entrepreneurial projects which would lead to more opportunities in the private sector.

Changing Priorities

In recent years, the Department for International Development (DFID) and other agencies are investing to modernize and improve the Indian economy. In 2018, out of all the bilateral aid given to India, 85% of it was directed toward economic development. The top three funded programs that year were National Infrastructure Investment Fund, Infrastructure Equity Fund and the Poorest States Inclusive Growth Program.

According to a policy paper, “the U.K.’s support in India is helping stimulate prosperity, generate jobs, develop skills and open up new markets for both countries.” Besides supporting Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 7, 8, 9 and 11, DFID promises results in other areas.

A major focus is on skills training and start-ups. The target is to invest in 50 enterprises, with an estimate to generate 25,000 jobs and yield high returns on investment. DFID will additionally fund urban development for 700,000 people, creating 20,000 jobs and securing around £1 billion in financing.

DFID will also support clean energy in India and potentially yield a return of £6.5 billion for the private sector. It is set to prevent 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by providing clean energy to 1.8 million people. Furthermore, it aims to help 2 million people living in poverty in India deal with drought, flood and extreme heat.

Looking Ahead: UK Aid to India

According to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, India ranked n0. 11 as the largest recipient of the U.K. bilateral aid in 2021. While this shows that India still receives aid from the U.K., its objective has changed substantially over the past decades, as it has been the “largest recipient of the U.K.’s development investment.”

Out of the £2.3 billion donated to India between 2016 and 2021, £129 million was invested in Indian ventures. British International Investment (BII) also invested £1 billion in the country during that time, representing 28% of its global portfolio. All these investments have been generating profitable returns for the U.K.

In May 2021, the UK government released a policy paper tagged 2030 Roadmap for India-U.K. Future Relations. It contains guidelines that will ensure a deepening partnership with India on issues like trade, defense and clean energy. The U.K. investment in India is creating opportunities in both nations, leading to a more prosperous U.K. While certain sectors still need aid in India, history suggests that effective partnerships and support can uplift the entire nation.

– Siddhant Bhatnagar
Photo: Flickr

Dalit womenThe caste systems found in countries such as India and Nepal are socially hierarchical systems that divide people into five primary groups: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Sudra and Dalit. Those in the Dalit caste rank as the lowest and are considered societal outcasts. As a result, they suffer harsh treatment and discrimination. Due to the patriarchy in these societies in addition to widespread support for caste systems, Dalit women face high levels of discrimination. This reality creates great disparities in overall life and health outcomes.

Access to Care

Dalit women’s health outcomes largely depend on their access to health care. This access, however, is limited considering Dalit women’s low socioeconomic status. For example, in the southwest Indian state of Karnataka, which is home to over 61 million people and is the eighth-largest state in India by population, about 74.4% of Dalit women reported having issues regarding health care access. This number is about 70% at the national level, according to 2018 India’s National Family Health Survey. Partially due to this struggle in accessing health care, Dalit women have a 15-year shorter lifespan on average than upper caste women.

When they do have access to care, it can be very costly. Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health revealed that some unlicensed private doctors exploit Dalit women and other lower-caste women by charging them high fees, forcing many of them to take out loans for treatment. This practice contributes to the cycle of poverty among Dalit women and can make access for many extremely difficult. These issues with health care access often lead to negative health outcomes considering women’s greater vulnerability to diseases such as malnutrition and anemia, as well as maternal mortality.

Mental Health Disparities

Two main issues face Dalit women in terms of mental health: firstly, mental health issues are more prevalent in their caste than for those in higher-ranking castes, and secondly, these women have less access to care. In 2020, the Journal of Global Health Reports conducted a study in which 12 Dalit participants from Nepal talked about their experiences with mental health. From the outset, the researchers made it known that Dalits in Nepal “face the greatest discrimination and have a greater prevalence of depression and anxiety when compared with high castes.”

In terms of the actual results of the study, a number of the participants stated they believe that gender-based discrimination in Nepal makes issues of mental health for Dalit women more difficult, as it causes them to “receive more stigma for mental health conditions.” The stigmas that these women receive can lead to dangerous outcomes for them. Two participants in the study stated that Dalit women are at considerable risk when they are cast out from their families, as they become homeless and therefore are more vulnerable to exploitation, rape and abuse.

Some research also indicates that Dalit and other low-caste women may have experienced worsening mental health outcomes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2022 study, lower-caste women tended to have a greater fear of COVID-19 than higher-caste women. The study also found that Dalit women and women of other backward castes (OBCs) suffered from more severe anxiety and stress symptoms than higher-caste women.

Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO)

In light of the continuing discrimination against Dalit women, several organizations are taking action to create better opportunities for this underprivileged community. Perhaps one of the most prominent is the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), which is a nonprofit organization that was founded by a group of Dalit women in 1994. The organization works to address and fight back against the various inequalities experienced by affected women in Nepal.

FEDO is present in 56 of Nepal’s 75 districts, seeking to improve the lives of Dalit women by advocating for human rights and economic empowerment initiatives. This includes helping Dalit women become financially literate so that they can have opportunities to own small businesses and break the cycles of poverty found in Dalit communities throughout Asia. The work of organizations like FEDO could bring about upwards social mobility for Dalit women, therefore giving them greater access to health care services and improving their overall quality of life.

– Adam Cvik
Photo: Flickr

gyan shalaEducation is the key. According to the World Bank, “education promotes employment and earnings,” which consequently affects health and helps with poverty reduction. On a larger scale, this enables the country to experience long-term economic growth, innovation, strengthened institutions and better social cohesion. In countries experiencing population and economic growth, such as India, it is therefore critical to invest in education, to make sure that economic gains are translated into better education for all; which could then lead to a self-reinforcing mechanism by which a more educated population could help lift certain areas of the country out of poverty.

Education in India

India ranks 121st out of 163 countries on the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Index Rank. The fourth SDG is quality education – which consists in ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. In this domain, challenges do remain and progress is stagnating. There is an obvious disparity between the quality of education offered in private and municipal schools.

Moreover, although India is reaching its target of universal coverage, an absurd amount of children leave school before grade five and studies revealed that most of them had a hard time reading in their own first language. Down the line, they would quickly revert back to illiteracy; which would maintain approximately half the Indian adult population as illiterate in 2025-2030. In other words, there has been some progress in quantity, but not quality.

Gyan Shala

Gyan Shala schools are one of the largest non-governmental school education programs for the poor in India. It covers programs from elementary school, which is free; to middle school and high school education, which take minimal charges.

The NGO tries to reduce disparities between low-income and high-income families. It fulfills this mission by offering high-quality education in urban slums at a low cost, effectively closing the educational gap between the rich and poor in India. To save on costs, the organization keeps its infrastructure minimal and typically rents spaces for 25 students on average.

Social Impact

The organization works in across nine districts and four states and counts more than 45,000 students. On top of that, they have also reached more than 600,000 government school students by providing assistance to 7,300 government schools. Its Affordable Private Schools (APS) model has permitted the organization to offer education at a cost five to 10 times lower than other elite Indian schools. Overall, they have reached hundreds of thousands of children, who have proven to obtain marks 100% to 150% higher than their counterparts in government schools. Students’ gains in learning outcomes have also proven to be 25% to 65% higher.

On top of that the organization wishes to persist, the organization resists, as seen in its annual report for 2021-2022; it reiterates its vision, which is to “become one of India’s most effective NGO programs to address the schooling quality gaps and help India improve its ranking in social development indicators.” Not all heroes wear capes.

– Alexandra Piat
Photo: Flickr

Water Scarcity in India
Leading alcoholic beverage production company Diageo India is making sustainability a core part of its values. Using innovative technology that turns air into water, Diageo will become the first company of its kind to use sustainably sourced water in its products. Considering the current crisis of water scarcity in India, such practices and others could serve as a necessary model for manufacturing in water-stressed countries.

Water Scarcity in India

India is currently experiencing its worst water crisis to date. A report that the Government of India released this past June revealed that changes to the country’s typical monsoon season and surging exploitation of groundwater are increasing water scarcity at an alarming rate.

The policy commission responsible for the report, the National Institution for Transforming India, estimated 600 million Indians to be living in high to extreme water stress. But this number will likely only grow. By 2030, millions more will face water scarcity in India as the demand for water doubles the actual amount available.

The Indian state of Rajasthan in particular is witnessing the early effects of these recent trends. Of the state’s 302 blocks, 219 are overexploiting their groundwater, according to a usage report that the government released in 2022.

Initiatives such as the National Groundwater Management Improvement Program, or Atal Bhujal Yojana, hope to educate those in the agriculture sector responsible for much of the overuse. The World Bank is supporting the plan, which focuses in part on incentivizing farmers to reduce their use of irrigation systems through equivalent compensation for the energy saved.

SOURCE® Hydropanels

The SOURCE® Hydropanels that Diageo is installing in Rajasthan will operate without electricity, and create water rather than take it. Using patented SOURCE® Hydropanels, fans powered by solar energy draw in air and trap the water vapor within. The condensed water then accumulates in a reservoir to await the addition of minerals that make it ready to drink.

This innovative technology by SOURCE Global, PBC is unlike any the world has seen before. Although invented less than 10 years ago in 2014, Hydropanels are now producing water across the globe in locations like South Africa, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates. These installations provide water for schools, communities and resorts. SOURCE’s collaboration with Diageo India, however, is the first of its kind.

Diageo India

On November 30, 2022, Diageo India announced its partnership with SOURCE Global. The stewardship initiative aims to install 200 Hydropanels in Alwar, Rajasthan, on a farm of their own building. Within six months of installation, the panels should generate 9,000 liters of water. After a year, that amount should triple to 27,000 liters per month. The water produced will then go into the production of Diageo India’s premium malt whiskey, Godawan.

The partnership is part of Diageo’s Society 2030: Spirit of Progress program. Created just last year, the program exists to ensure the company’s practices align with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By 2026, it aims to replenish more water than water-stressed regions use. Additionally, in 2030, it hopes to use 30% less water in every drink it makes.

Considering Diageo PLC is responsible for the distribution of top alcohol brands including Smirnoff, Ketel One and Captain Morgan, this sustainable mindset has the potential to serve as a model in the production industry. As summarized by SOURCE Global Brand President, Neil Grimmer, “…Diageo India is serving the growing demand for premium, sustainable products in an incredibly unique and powerful way.”

– Rachel Smith
Photo: Pixabay

iPhone ManufacturingMultinational technology company Apple Inc. first launched its smartphone, the iPhone, in 2007 and the company has since grown to hold about 24% of the global market share for smartphone trading. As of late 2022, the Taiwanese firm Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd., produced an estimated 70% of the world’s iPhones, largely out of its Zhengzhou plant in Central China. As one of Apple’s most lucrative products, the iPhone accounts for around 50% of Apple’s revenue and around 45% of Foxconn’s revenue. Apple and Foxconn are now working to increase iPhone manufacturing in India, which will serve Apple’s corporate interests while also stimulating the Indian economy and easing unemployment by creating job opportunities.

China has long been the backbone of iPhone production. However, Apple’s significant dependence on China has become an increasing concern due to rising labor costs and strict, zero-tolerance COVID-19 policies, which have hampered production since the start of the pandemic. India’s lower labor costs and rising technology manufacturing sector make it an inviting location for production.

The Make in India Initiative

In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Make in India initiative to encourage investment in various economic sectors and boost employment rates. According to the World Bank, the unemployment rate in India stood at 7.7% in 2021 compared to 4.6% in China. Make in India highlighted electronics manufacturing as a critical area of development for the country and Modi sees great potential in making India a global technology manufacturing hub. The government also introduced Production Linked Incentive Schemes, which provide financial incentives for investing in various sectors, including electronics manufacturing, that are promising for the creation of new jobs.

Job Creation and Gender Equality

Given that India began producing smartphones less than 10 years ago, it is notable that India is now the second-largest mobile phone manufacturer after China. India’s rapid progress helped attract Apple’s attention, spurring the company’s transition into this growing sector. According to current estimates, India will manufacture around 25% of iPhones by 2025.

As part of Apple’s move into India, its key manufacturer, Foxconn, plans to invest $700 million to construct a new factory in the state of Karnataka in Southern India. Planned for a 300-acre site near Bengaluru, Karnataka’s capital and India’s IT hub, the factory is expected to create some 100,000 jobs. The investment demonstrates Apple and Foxconn’s shared commitment to increasing production in India and decreasing reliance on China.

Apple and its collaborators also hope to build women’s hostels near new factory complexes in India. These would provide female workers with safe accommodation and reduce travel times. The goal is to encourage more women to enter the workforce as manufacturing expands in India, thereby strengthening gender equality in India.

Labor Laws

Additionally, Apple and the Indian Cellular and Electronics lobby group, which represents the company and its suppliers, are pushing for labor law reforms that would make working hours more flexible. Eager to garner a higher share of global technology production, Indian authorities have been receptive to the proposed reforms. In February 2023, the state of Karnataka passed the Factories Bill, which introduces working hours akin to those of China’s iPhone factories.

The planned reforms include moving from three eight-hour shifts per day to two 12-hour shifts. While full-time weekly working hours will remain capped at 48, overtime allowance will increase from 75 to 145 hours across a three-month period. Women will also be allowed to work night shifts, which is currently prohibited in much of the country. With their written consent and employers’ agreement to fulfill certain security measures, such as ensuring safe transport and restroom facilities, women in Karnataka will be permitted to work between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Growing Economies

Such reforms aim to increase the flexibility of work patterns and women’s presence in the workforce while reducing unemployment and encouraging investment in the technological sector in India. Eager for continued economic growth, the Indian government sees Apple’s expansion in the country as an opportunity to create jobs, increase Indian workers’ disposable income and boost overall GDP. In the long term, local sourcing and manufacturing of iPhone components will help further stimulate local Indian economies and lower production costs. Finally, Apple and Foxconn’s demonstrated confidence in India’s technological manufacturing capabilities will encourage further investments.

The Indian government, via the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), has not released official poverty statistics since 2011, but other estimates indicate that millions of people in India still endure poverty. Transitioning iPhone manufacturing to India is a mutually beneficial development. Not only will it serve Apple and Foxconn as businesses but it will also strengthen the present and future Indian economy while lifting people out of poverty through job opportunities.

Sophie Sadera
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Kashmir
The region of Kashmir is home to the “oldest unresolved international conflict” in the world. Since 1947, both India and Pakistan have laid claim to the entirety of the Kashmir region. Today, control over Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. The conflict has claimed thousands of lives and has caused the rise of poverty in Kashmir. The issues stem from the political instability and repressive government policies of the Indian state.

Factors Influencing Poverty in Kashmir

Several factors contribute to poverty struggles in Jammu and Kashmir, also known as Indian-occupied Kashmir. Many years of political instability, soaring inflation rates, the destructive earthquake of 2005 and the 2010 military Indian occupation of Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh, have severely impacted the lives of many communities residing in poverty in Kashmir.

One of the most pressing issues is the repressive and oppressive military occupation by the Indian Government. The U.N. condemns the human rights violations occurring as a result of military actions. In Kashmir, people are subject to a military curfew, which hinders their ability to engage in income-generating activities and attend school. Moreso, the area struggles with a shortage of necessities like clean water, food and health care services. Rising inflation also inhibits people’s ability to purchase basic necessities.

Poverty in Numbers

India’s first-ever Multidimensional Poor Index (MPI) report by NITI Aayog in 2021 reveals that around 12.5% of the population of Jammu and Kashmir lives in multidimensional poverty. The report derives data from the reference  2015-16 National Family Health Survey. Multidimensional poverty assessments considered several factors, such as the proportion of the populace facing deprivations of school education, maternal health and nutrition.

The report stated that, in Jammu and Kashmir, almost 26% of people endure nutritious food deprivations, 12.7% lack maternal health care and 47% endure a lack of proper sanitation. The largest proportion of people suffering from multidimensional poverty, 35.26%, lives in the Ramban district while Srinagar, the largest city in the state, noted the lowest percentage at around 1.5%.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated some of the issues related to poverty in Kashmir as citizens found themselves grappling with soaring rates of unemployment and the dangers of the coronavirus. During the height of the pandemic, three lockdowns impacted thousands of families that derived income and employment from the tourism, horticulture and trade industries.

As a result, many lost their jobs and their families’ sole sources of income. In March 2021, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy reported that almost 600,000 Kashmiris lost their jobs. Many Kashmiris live paycheck to paycheck and people working in the informal sector faced the harshest effects. In addition, the president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Sheikh Aashiq, said that the situation in Kashmir was worse than in the rest of India due to the additional impacts of the government-led clampdown in August 2019.

While the government may not be adequately addressing the issues of the military occupation in Kashmir, it has recently completed several infrastructure projects in the area. Through the execution of the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) projects, the government is accelerating developments in infrastructure in Kashmir. These projects include improvements in hydroelectricity, schools and roads. So far, 21 projects have reached completion and the government had looked to complete nine more by the end of 2022.

These projects seek to improve the region’s economic situation and may well address some of the issues of poverty in Kashmir. However, for lasting change to occur, the government must also look to prioritize peace, stability and good governance in the area.

– Saad Haque
Photo: Flickr