Author: Research, Reference and Training Division
Publisher: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, GoI
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The Lok Sabha elections are just round the corner. This may be the only time of the year when the number of political pundits in our country exceeds the number of potholes on our roads. Like it or not, this is democracy at work. With our much respected universal adult franchise, every adult, no matter how ignorant or prejudiced he or she may be, has the right to express opinions and cast votes to choose their leader, same as any other rich, poor, learned or illiterate adult soul in this country. But, as Sir Winston Churchill said, the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
Well, I don’t think any of us wants to be an average voter helping a smug Churchill prove his point. The only way to be active participants in a democracy is to engage in informed debates with correct facts. India 2013 is a book which provides all the information you may possibly need about every policy initiative of our government. Let the govt. bashing begin – this time not by our prejudiced perceptions but by criticizing its policies with facts – just for a change.
What this book is:
India 2013 is a reference annual published by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. It is a giant yearbook with over a thousand pages and over thirty chapters of national interest like the polity, demography, agriculture, defence, education, environment, health and family welfare, finance etc. It is an oft-prescribed reference book for civil service aspirants, as it attempts to condense the current Indian story from a bureaucratic point of view. The book is filled with tables, charts and lists with data from the latest census and socio-economic surveys conducted by NSSO etc.
What this book is NOT:
It is not a book which can be read front-to-back like a regular non-fiction book. Well no harm trying, but its long descriptions of govt. policies in graphic-free pages have amazing soporific powers. It is strictly a reference annual. If you want to know about the govt.’s mid-day meal programme, go to Health and Family Welfare section, read about it and close the book. Same with Right to Education Act or Bharat Nirman or National Manufacturing Policy.
The book does not contain analysis of policies or their outcomes. It simply gives a collection of facts with no commentary. Also, this year’s book lacks data from the latest census of 2011. We can hope that it will be included in next year’s edition. Another major drawback is the far-from-complete section on India and the World. The relationship with Pakistan is described in three sentences and with Sri Lanka in about five sentences, with no mention of the many outstanding bilateral issues.
So the best way to use the book is to get the facts, and then do our own critical analysis on the topic. As Christopher Hitchens puts it: That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Now, with the right facts, our opinions may not be tossed aside lightly.