US-India Global Review

65 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JANUARY-MARCH 2018 Even more striking was the improvement in Dalits’ social sta- tus. The proportion of cases in which Dalits were seated sepa- rately at weddings was down from 77.3 percent to 8.9 percent. The proportion of non-Dalits accepting food and drink at a Dalit house went up from 8.9 percent to 77.3 percent. Halwaha (bonded labor) incidence was down from 32 per- cent to 1 percent. The proportion of Dalits using cars for wedding parties was up from 33 percent to almost 100 percent. Dalits running their own businesses went up from 6 percent to 37 percent. And the proportion of Dalits working as agricultural laborers was down from 46.1 percent to 20.5 percent. Beyond all expectation, thou- sands of Dalits have emerged as millionaire businesspeople and established a Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Its president, Milind Kamble, says that just as capital- ism killed feudalism, it is also killing casteism. In the fierce com- petition of a free market, what matters is suppliers’ prices not their caste. This fierce competi- tion, brought about by economic reforms, has opened new com- mercial space that did not exist during the license-permit raj, and Dalits have been able to occupy part of the new space.28 In the two decades since 1991, India’s literacy rate has shot up by a record 21.8 percentage points, to 74 percent (see Table 6). In the earlier two decades, it rose by less: 17.8 percentage points. India’s literacy rate remains poor by global standards, but it has improved much faster in the era of reform than in the earlier era of socialism. In the past decade, the improvement in all-India literacy (9.7 percentage points) was vastly exceeded by several poor back- ward states — Bihar (16.8), Uttar Pradesh (11.5), Orissa (10.4), and Jharkhand (16.1). Female literacy improved even more dramatically, by 11.8 percentage points across India, and at still higher rates in Bihar (20.2), Uttar Pradesh (17.1), Orissa (13.9), and Jharkhand (15.3). Life expectancy in India is up from an average of 58.6 years in 1986-91 to 68.5 years. Infant mor- tality is down from 87 deaths per 1,000 births to 40. These are major improvements. Yet they lag well behind achievements in other countries.29 The Main Failures over the Past 25 Years Despite 25 years of economic reform, India remains substantially unfree and plagued by poor gov- ernance and pathetic delivery of all government services. Neoliberalism or Neo- Illiberalism? Leftist critics accuse India of going down the path of neoliberal- ism. The actual process could bet- ter be called neo-illiberalism. Although many old controls and licenses have indeed been abol- ished over the past 25 years, many new controls and bureau- cratic hurdles have appeared, mostly in such areas as the envi- ronment, forests, tribal rights, and land and in new areas like retail, telecom, and Internet-related activities. Many state governments have failed to liberalize sufficiently. Hence, entrepreneurs complain bitterly of red tape and corruption. A survey conducted in January 2016 by the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy showed that proj- ects worth Rs 10.7 trillion ($160 billion) were stuck for various rea- sons, up from Rs 10.5 trillion ($158 billion) in September 2015.30 The Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index places India at just 123rd out of 178 countries. Of the foun- dation’s five categories — free, mostly free, moderately free, mostly unfree, and repressed — India falls into the “mostly unfree” category. The Fraser Institute’s index of economic freedom ranks India at 114th of 157 countries. India’s freedom score as calculat- ed by the Fraser Institute has actually declined in recent years, from a peak of 6.71 in 2005 to 6.43 in 2013.31 The World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business report puts India at 130th of 189 countries in the ease of doing business in the country. That change is an improvement from its earlier 142nd position, but it still leaves India in the bottom half of countries. India ranks espe- cially low in the ease of getting construction permits (183rd), enforcing contracts (178th), pay- ing taxes (157th), and starting a business (155th).32 Poor Governance, Pathetic Delivery of Government Services Source: Government of India, Census of India 2011, . Literacy 18.3 28.3 Table 6. Literacy Growth in India (%) 1950-51 1960-61 34.4 43.6 52.2 64.8 74.0 1970-71 1980-81 1990-91 2000-01 2010-11