River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India’s Future
Victor Mallet, OUP, £20.00
Optimism about India abounds, within and without the subcontinent. Its strengths are well known: its youthful population, its dynamism and economic growth rates, which, even if slowing of late, remain the envy of most of the rest of the world.
At the same time, the challenges that India faces in transforming itself remain those that have been noted for decades: such things as bureaucratic inertia; infrastructure constraints; corruption and skills deficits. To these can be added emerging problems, notably climate change and pollution.
Like the average number of legs per person − slightly under two, if you wondered − the problem for India, and for those writing about it, is that the average of its strengths and weaknesses makes little sense.