Growing Inequality Dulls India’s Sheen

India has enjoyed spectacular growth since 1990, but the nation’s wealth is concentrated and not trickling down to most people. “The surging economic growth has improved living conditions of its citizens, but these improvements were not uniformly distributed among India’s diverse population,” explains Riaz Hassan, visiting research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore and director of the International Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding at the University of South Australia. “Despite being among the richest countries in the world, India has attracted negative attention in recent years as the second most unequal country in the world, after Russia.” About 80 percent of India’s wealth is controlled by just 10 percent of the population and 60 percent by 1 percent. India’s challenges are rooted in the traditional caste system. Hassan concludes by reminding that widening inequality threatens societies by shrinking the middle class along with democratic systems and culture while increasing the potential for conflict. – YaleGlobal

Ashish Koul talks about Muslim Arains: reform and social mobility in colonial Punjab.

Ashish Koul is a Singh Postdoctoral Associate in the Council on South Asian Studies at the MacMillan Center. Her work focuses on caste, Islam, and politics in South Asia, with law and gender as components within that framework. We talk with Professor Koul about her essay, “Making new Muslim Arains: reform and social mobility in colonial Punjab, 1890s-1910s.”

Yale-affiliated program in Bangladesh named a top charity

A wooden sign with the Bangladeshi flag painted on, with a forest in the background.

A program that protects families in rural Bangladesh from seasonal income insecurity — established in collaboration with Yale economist Mushfiq Mobarak — is among the world’s most cost-effective anti-poverty interventions, according to charity evaluator

The program, No Lean Season, is a new addition to the website’s annual list of top charities, which identifies effective charitable organizations based on evidence of their impact per donation.

No Lean Season offers no-interest $19 loans to poor, rural families in northern Bangladesh to pay for round-trip bus fare. This enables families to send a migrant to cities to find temporary work during the lean season — the period between the planting of rice crops in August and the January harvest — when jobs are scarce in the countryside and food insecurity is widespread.

Facing an Aggressive China: The US May Be Inching Towards Asian Alliance

The juxtaposition of speeches and leadership show a stark contrast. Under Xi Jinping, China is strategic in expanding its influence, while the United States and the Donald Trump administration seem to be floundering, lurching about with policies. “Since the 2016 election of Donald Trump, Xi has projected himself as a responsible global statesman committed to maintaining global norms and leading on tackling challenges such as climate change and global trade,” explains Harsh V Pant, professor of international relations. Asian nations assess the strength of commitments as Trump undertakes a 12-day visit with stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. “The Narendra Modi government has invested significant diplomatic capital in building ties with Washington, with Modi visiting the United States four times during the last three years,” Pant explains, adding that China’s fast rise may not go completely unchallenged. He concludes that the United States and India along with Japan and Australia could “emerge as guarantors of free trade and defense cooperation across a stretch of ocean from the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean to Africa.” Again, much depends on the United States keeping its many commitments in word and deed. – YaleGlobal

Made in China: Millions of Hindu Gods

India – with a young, talented and entrepreneurial workforce and an economy that relies on low wages – could provide formidable competition to China as factory to the world. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promoted a “Make in India” campaign and likewise expects consumers to buy in India, too. But like consumers everywhere, Indians appreciate a bargain. Even fierce nationalists do not hesitate to snap up low-cost goods made in China from tiny figurines of Hindu deities to smartphones, explains Farok J. Contractor, a professor in the Management and Global Business Department at Rutgers Business School. Despite rising labor costs and long shipping distances, China manages to outcompete India’s producers for all types of goods. Contractor lists seven impediments for Modi’s campaign including burdensome regulations, an unreliable electric grid and pervasive corruption. “Despite the ‘Make in India’ campaign, India’s trade imbalance with China and the world has only worsened,” Contractor concludes. “Eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic interference could help someday turn India into a factory for the world.” – YaleGlobal

Mishandling the Rohingya Crisis May Open New Frontier for Terrorism

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar where they lack citizenship rights, and they head for Bangladesh. Myanmar, a country of 55 million, is more than 85 percent Buddhist; Bangladesh, with more than 160 million people and predominantly Muslim, reports a lower GDP per capita than Myanmar. The Myanmar military targeted villages in the Rakhine region, after a few hundred poorly armed fighters calling themselves the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army organized attacks on more than 20 police stations – and “in a single stroke, they have brought a profound impact on the region’s geopolitical balance,” explains journalist and author Bertil Lintner. “The West is losing ground, with the refugees and Bangladesh as victims while China and India scramble to take advantage of the crisis to advance their respective security and business interests.” The crisis disrupts regional security and heightens the potential for new religious extremism emerging in the region. The West’s condemnation of Myanmar’s harsh response is warranted, Lintner concludes, but the humanitarian crisis also demands swift, practical action to prevent what could become yet another frontier for terrorism. – YaleGlobal