This Opposing Viewpoints title is a melange of essays by academics, reporters and activists. In this volume, some authors are incendiary, all are informative and each provides a unique and evocative perspective about life in India - a multicultural, multilingual, often contradictory place. The first section of the book focuses on India's economic and environmental role in a global context, presenting counter-arguments about whether regulations curbing carbon dioxide emissions dampen the growing economy. Charts demonstrate the link between increasing household affluence and emissions. Two essays address outsourcing, neither of which sees the practice as advantageous to India. One essay argues off-shoring is barely offsetting the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs. Alternately, the influx of Western corporations is described as creating a sort of "technological bondage," with intellectual property developed in India often belonging to the foreign companies funding research. Two essays examine efforts to limit family size and another details the dark history of sterilization bribes. In an essay on how family planning will help contain India's population explosion, a reporter from the Christian Science Monitor contrasts two states, Kerala and Rajasthan, which have radically different average ages at the time of marriage, family sizes and literacy levels.
This anthology of essays touches upon sometimes misunderstood aspects of Indian subcontinental culture, including the competition between arranged marriages and love matches and the lingering effects of an entrenched caste system. One author suggests, despite the legacy of caste-related legal strictures, "no one believed they are of a backwards caste" (p. 137). Others argue the necessity of a system of affirmative action known as "caste-based reservations." Two essays discuss the role of the wives in an extended and occasionally abusive family situation. Though the 498-A laws were enacted to shield women from demands on the part of the husband's family, the 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act gave women greater latitude to lodge legal claims against their in-laws. Some say this gives rise to frivolous lawsuits.
The second section of the book breaks with the dialogic nature of the series to offer several issues in contention for "India's most serious crises," including an examination of the rise of secularism in India since the 1947 partition, Hindu-Muslim tensions, mounting militantism in Kashmir and child labor and trafficking atrocities. Much of the human rights debate centers on the status of women, including the prostitution and human rights abuses resulting from female feticide: "UNICEF said India is missing 7,000 girls a day or 2.5 million a year" (p. 69).
In the fourth and final chapter, which speculates on India's role in the future, the first topic looks at the relative benefits of a secular state, while the second pair of essays is about economic priorities, spending for education and political reform versus spending to alleviate poverty and food shortages.
The essays vary in tone, but all present readable accounts documenting the contrasts within a nation with a robust population and increasingly educated work force, but nonetheless a pronounced need for political reform and attention to human rights. Bleak statistics recur. India's incidence of food shortages ranked 137 of 139 countries surveyed and nearly half of all children there are malnourished (p. 50).
Indexed, with ample book resources for further reading and periodical articles to supplement the themes in each chapter and discussion questions throughout. Offers simultaneous support for a range of curricular objectives ranging from globalization to off-shoring to women's rights. Recommended for school libraries.