29 September 2005

A hidden agenda?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, could photographs create a language of their own?

Photographic images are everywhere: from photo albums at home, to ads in newspapers and magazines, to posters and display material at stores. They are on our passport and our driving license. They are on television and the Internet.

A photo is essentially a record of a (past) reality and is often stored for its remembrance value. Sometimes, even as evidence. It’s a representation of a thought, an idea, a happening, or an event. Whether you look at it as a mere objective record, or subjectively from a photographer’s point of view, you can’t deny the fact that a photograph carries meaning. It speaks to us – often in a personalised manner – and contributes significantly to our perceptions of the people and the world around us.

Let’s face it: photographs are an essential part of our culture. Most of us have produced – or continue to produce even now – photos of our own, with our own cameras.

But, what of the act of photography? Why do we take photographs? Why do we look at photographs? Somewhere deep in our minds, is there a hidden agenda in our love for photography?

I don’t have the answers to these questions yet, but I can recommend an excellent essay on this very subject by Batia Boe Stolar called “To Shoot or Not To Shoot: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Photography.”

Ms Stolar starts off with ethics in photography, quoting from Susan Sontag, giving a detailed perspective to some of the issues I’ve written about in my earlier posts this month. Her focus being, the "social and historical value" of photographic images, which is possibly the most important issue in photojournalism.

When dealing with aesthetics, Ms Stolar’s topic becomes a little complicated because she still doesn’t leave the issue of ethics behind. As she talks about Walker Evans, James Agee, Diane Arbus and more, she quotes from Roland Barthes, mentioning "essence and sensibility" as critical ingredients in photography. And, I agree.

Incorporating aesthetics and ethics in the same frame is possibly the aim of every photographer. But, when Ms Stolar questions aesthetic ideals, metaphors and the "I" in photography, it all becomes rather mind-boggling.

23 September 2005

Taking ethics seriously

Here are some golden words – from “Ethics Matters” columns in News Photographer magazine written by Deni Elliott and Paul Martin Lester:

A photojournalist is a mixture of a cool, detached professional and a sensitive, involved citizen. The taking of pictures is much more than F-stops and shutter speeds. The printing of pictures is much more than scanner and computer settings. The publishing of pictures is much more than cropping and size decisions. A photojournalist must always be aware that the technical aspects of the photographic process are not the primary concerns.

A mother crying over the death of her daughter is not simply an image to be focused, a print to be made, and a picture to be published. The mother's grief is a lesson in humanity. If the photojournalist produces a picture without a thought for her tragedy, the lesson is lost. But if the photographer cares for her loss, is made more humane, and causes the readers to share in her grief, photojournalism has reached its highest potential.

Despite its frustrations and low moments, the lesson of humanity is why photojournalism is an extremely rewarding profession. For that reason, photojournalism is worthy of the most ethical actions possible toward the people you encounter through your photography yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Taking ethics seriously does not imply doing no wrong. We all make mistakes. We all knowingly choose, sometimes, to do what is expedient or what serves our own self-interest over what we know to be the most ethical.

Taking ethics seriously does mean, at a minimum, that we are trying to do our jobs without causing unjustified harm. It means, ideally, that we are looking for ways to do our jobs better than we have and to make our world, our profession, and ourselves, better as well.

Photographs have great emotional power. Those who take ethics seriously stay conscious of the power that they have and the responsibility that they have to use that power judiciously.

22 September 2005

Objectivity and ethics

Objectivity is valued by photojournalists, but nothing replaces the ecstasy of an attention-grabbing, technically-pleasing photograph. It might even win an award – and fame for the photojournalist. Sometimes, this feeling can go to the head, and a photojournalist may adopt unethical means to get that "one brilliant shot" and catch the limelight.

That’s where the question of objectivity and ethics arises.

How cool, detached and objective should a photographer be to let a situation become visually dramatic, and not help a subject in physical trouble? Or, in an extreme case, should a photographer encourage subjects to become more violent during a demonstration so that a dramatic picture can be taken?

How far should a photographer go to take a memorable photo? How involved should a photojournalist be to bring to us truths we love to see in our newspapers and magazines?

Here are some examples from Paul Martin Lester's Photojournalism: An Ethical Approach:

Let’s take the question of misrepresentation. Lewis Hine, at the turn of the century, posing as a company man, sneaked into a factory and took photographs of young, tired children working with dangerous machinery. When questioned for his actions, Hine replied, although it may be wrong to falsely represent himself, the greater injustice was the exploitation of children. And, he wanted the whole world to see that.

J Ross Baughman’s photographs of Rhodesian soldiers torturing their victims were withdrawn from the Overseas Press Club competition because of "so many unresolved questions about their authenticity." Baughman, apparently, had worn a Rhodesian soldier’s uniform, carried a gun and joined a Rhodesian cavalry patrol for two weeks in order to get the pictures.

One school of thought suggests, "When a photographer misrepresents him- or herself and becomes a participant to violent actions, credibility should be severely questioned."

Then there’s involvement. Bill Murphy took photographs of a man jumping to his death. He was criticised by readers for not helping to convince the man not to jump instead of taking photographs. Stormi Greene, while doing a story on families near the edge of serious abuse, was criticised for taking photographs of a mother spanking her child when she could have easily helped the mother with her work or by giving money. "The mother needed some help... not the documentation of her treatment of those poor kids on film."

Is this what objectivity and ethics are all about? When taking that memorable shot, are news photographers completely without compassion?

When questioned, Murphy had confessed, "I did all I could" to persuade the man from jumping, and had to live in agony for years for this decision to shoot the pictures. Even Greener explained, "I was guilt-ridden and frustrated with the ethics that I had to live with, [but] the first rule of journalism is to divorce yourself from your subject... and do nothing but document and record..."

Would Greener have dropped her objectivity if the mother had severely beaten her child? Greener had asserted that, had the mother abused the child, she would have intervened.

Where does objectivity end and ethics take over? When does compassion override objectivity? There are limits to interpretations of objectivity and ethics. Photojournalists – and editors – ought to know that.

Lewis Hine child labour photographs can be found here.

J Ross Baughman Rhodesia photographs can be found here.

[Citation: Paul Martin Lester, Photojournalism: An Ethical Approach]

20 September 2005

Real, or manufactured?

Many photojournalists ‘cross the line’ in order to get a great shot. They exaggerate or romanticise scenes and subjects to create a greater impact for their audience. When they should ‘capture’ the scene and report it as it is, sometimes, they go as far as to ‘create’ it, specifically asking subjects to pose for a picture… or allowing themselves to be manipulated by the subjects, who pose for the camera to justify their means.

If photojournalism is about finding and reporting the truth, then a posed picture – or one that exaggerates a scene or emotion – is a lie.

When we see a photograph on the front page of our morning newspaper, how can we be sure that the photograph is an accurate image of the event or scene being reported? How do we know if it is real, or manufactured? Does photojournalism correspond to the same standards of objectivity that guide news reports? Or does the medium, by its very nature, require artistic influence?

Some authorities say, for news photographs, photographers should abide by strict standards to ensure objectivity: there should be no intentional blurring or unusual composition or framing. Any scene that misleads the news consumer is a violation of photojournalistic ethics.

The New York Times, for example, sets this standard for the integrity of news photos: "Images in our pages that purport to depict reality must be genuine in every way. No people or objects may be added, rearranged, reversed, distorted or removed from a scene… Pictures of news situations must not be posed… And it also means that the journalism we practice daily must be beyond reproach."

This submission in poynter.org tells you more about the guidelines set by The New York Times.

[Citation: backspin]

18 September 2005

Restricted space

A photograph is also news. When it appears in newspapers and magazines, a photograph can have tremendous impact in shaping our views. Perhaps more impact than even words on headlines. And, by doing so, a photograph can influence our decisions, leaving lasting impressions of world or local events.

Yet, in many cases, a photographer doesn’t have the freedom to place his or her photograph on the covers – or in the inside pages – of newspapers and magazines. Is it an editorial decision that blocks the way? Sometimes yes; but not always so. There are other forces that determine which photographs end up on the covers of our newspapers and magazines. Here are excerpts from war photography from a story, Calling The Shots, Paul Woolf filed in

“After Vietnam, the American government accused the media of causing it to lose not only the war itself but, perhaps more importantly, public support for the war. As far as the American government was concerned, photographs of Vietnamese children in agony, their skin flayed off by American napalm, were rather unhelpful.”

“The British were aware of this. When the Falklands War came along in 1982, Mrs Thatcher was keen not to make the same mistake that the Americans had made. So, she introduced the ‘pool system’. This saw the military choose – officially, at random – just a few journalists and photographers to be granted access to operations. These few then supplied all media organisations with their words and pictures.”

“In Gulf War Two, a new element was added to the ‘pool system’: the concept of ‘embedding’ selected journalists with the armed forces. While on the surface ‘embedding’ appears to give greater and closer access to what’s ‘really’ going on, in reality it gives the military an even greater control over what journalists and photojournalists can see and say. Any deviation from the official line, and the photographer or journalist is sent back to HQ.”

The concept: the government controls what’s ‘allowed out’. The result: fewer photographic viewpoints on an event.

Woolf says,
“most photojournalists have not welcomed the ‘pool system’, nor the ‘embedding’. They feel that these systems curb their freedom to take photographs that, they believe, uncover the truth of a news story or an event.”

In fact, Woolf talks about Peter Turnley, an American photojournalist, who has broken away from this ‘restricted space’ to create his own. With help from
www.digitaljournalist.org, Turnley has been able to showcase some of his outstanding photographs from the recent Iraq War. You can see these photographs here. To see more of Peter Turnley’s work visit his website.

16 September 2005

Is photojournalism a political statement?

[Citation: brochure of the 17th International Festival of Photojournalism – symposium held on 1 & 2 September 2005 in Perpignan, France.]

In 2004 the Visa pour l’Image symposium was concerned with ethics and ethical behaviour. These are terms that photojournalists always use with a great deal of caution. We are only too aware that the work of ethics committees often ends up restricting freedom of expression, while citing lofty arguments as justification.

How then can the work of photojournalists be assessed when contributions to democratic debate are given little credence?

Where does it stand in societies where democracy has been restricted by the commoditization of communication and discussion?

How can this form of expression be used to go beyond standard approaches that present war and disasters as mere stories or anecdotes?

How can the content ensure that photojournalism is granted the full status it deserves, i.e., to use a term often scorned today, “political” status?

For when ethics disappear, the true political import of the news conveyed by photojournalistic reports becomes the subject for discussion. Of course the term “political” or “politics” is being used here to denote the broad context of society and the life of citizens.

If photojournalists are recognized as key links in the news chain in democratic societies, if free and independent news covering a diversity of opinions is also seen as an integral part of democracy, just as the right to vote is, then photojournalism stands as a political statement and must be treated as such, as a tool for democracy that cannot and must not be circumvented, either in form or content, so as to continue as a service to citizens.

Do I need to say more?

14 September 2005

Every bit counts

Drinking champagne and watching photos of dead people? Surely, that’s not the future of photojournalism, worries photojournalist Stanley Greene, according to reports from the International Festival of Photojournalism, which was held earlier this month (27 Aug to 11 Sept) in Perpignan, France. It’s called Visa pour l’Image and you can access their website here.

The task of photojournalism – to witness and to inform – may be disappearing, fears another photojournalist, Alain Frilet, when he considers photojournalism exhibitions in galleries across the world. Isn’t there a moral side to photojournalism that stops short of displays in galleries and museums?

Not necessarily, argues Luc Delahaye, who considers himself an artist. However, not every photojournalist can switch and become an artist selling his or her work to collectors and galleries. But, looking at alternative sources of revenue is something that many photojournalists are considering.

A photojournalist’s life is not easy. Investigative work is hard and long hours are commonplace. Earnings and fame are hard to come by. Being at the right place at the right time for that great shot is a matter of luck. Finding a buyer for it is extra work. Then, there’s competition. Every bit counts.

Jonas Bendiksen has a more pragmatic point of view on this. He feels, galleries are new places to showcase works of photography that do not receive much exposure. Of course, any income from this is welcome.

www.editorsweblog.org - 05 September 2005]

13 September 2005

Don't believe me?

It always delights me to see visitors to my blog. And, the proof lies in the comments left in the ‘comments’ box. I don’t get too many of these, apart from the spam that leaves me enraged and hopeless, but when they genuinely do come in, they fill my heart with gratitude. So, thank you Charu, Arzan and Govar for your comments on my “Redefining the rural” post.

It’s interesting that each of you should present a varied point of view because that’s exactly how it seems to me too. There are so many varied points of view and statistics presented by varied ‘authorities’ that I’m not sure which to believe. So, I decided to offer you a glimpse into two schools of thought.

The one I grew up with – the India of poverty – is one perspective which has haunted me for decades and, on purpose, I presented it here as the old school. That’s because, the new school – of the rapidly-prospering rural India – seems to be the mantra of the day as far as corporate India is concerned. And, the media is a ‘partner’ in this process.

Which is the true India? To which India do I belong? I really don’t know. All I know is that the India I grew up in is not the India I read about, nor see, in the media these days. Of course, that’s expected. Of course, there has been some progress. I can feel it in my bones, but I can’t explain it.

As Charu says, some of the progress has already begun. And, I agree. Then again, as Arzan and Govar point out, the benefits of this progress may not be visible, nor experienced, by the rural population at large. From my shallow experience of rural India, I believe this too.

Is this progress only in rural India? Of course not. But that’s where corporate India seems to be heading. Don’t believe me? Wait until you see the media reports this month-end.

12 September 2005

India rules

Until the late 1990s, India didn’t really matter to the world from a political point of view. Yes, of course, India did have an attraction because of its strategic location, commanding the Indian Ocean, but India’s military prowess was considered small and non-threatening. Pokran II changed all that. India became a “regional security” issue for the Americans, its allies and other nations keenly watching India’s military progress. In doing so, over the last ten years, India’s military strength has created a divide between India and the rest of the world.

In the heart of India, there’s another story in progress. To start with, there’s the conflict between secularism and the Hindutva. Then there are regional disparities, the caste issue, a religious divide (hence, secularism and the Hindutva), and the urban-rural divide I’ve been blogging about recently. Look at India’s history and you’ll see these same issues haunting us for centuries. We blame the British for it, of course, but, we cannot deny the fact that India is still a country of “divides”, each “divide” commanding its own presence in the minds of the Indian people… with the potential to explode into something dangerous at any moment.

Yet, at the same time, India has begun a long process of economic development… skilfully leveraging its competitive strengths from a global perspective. We have our software skills, our knowledge skills, our command of the English language, our ample supply of low-cost skilled manpower. India has the world’s best software engineers and medical practitioners. India is the world’s largest back-office service provider. India has the largest – and the fastest growing – base of consumers for goods and services. In the economic world order, you now have the four pillars: the U.S., the European Union and Russia, China, and India.

Despite the “divides” that govern India internally, India has developed into a nation of considerable military strength. India is no longer about poverty or the spice trade of yesteryears. It now has everything to do with information technology, cost-effective knowledge skills and the growing clout of Indians around the world. Shaking off its legacy of British colonialism, India has positioned itself as an Asian power and a part of the new global order.

11 September 2005

Redefining the rural

I grew up learning that rural India was about poverty. That three-quarters of the population of India who lived in rural India were engaged in agriculture and, although they ensured the food on my table everyday, a great majority of them lived below the subsistence level. They had no electricity, nor education, nor healthcare. People in rural India died – by the millions – from hunger, scarcity of water, pestilence. I grew up learning that rural India was poor – no one had any money there.

Today, the newspapers and the media tell me a different story. Rural India is buying up tractors, trucks, 4-wheel drive vehicles and motorbikes. They are living in houses made of bricks and cement, with electric bulbs and tubelights lighting up their nighttimes. They are watching television, talking over mobilephones, wearing branded jeans, taking personal care using branded soaps and shampoos, eating branded glucose biscuits with their branded teas, and cooking meals in branded cooking oil. Some are even using the Internet.

It seems a huge change has come over rural India. No longer are people poor there. Now, they seem to have the disposable income and the eagerness to spend it – not just on essentials, but on lifestyle products as well. For corporate India, this is a tremendous opportunity. And, like a band of brothers, they are making their way there. They forecast that sales from rural India will give them the much-needed growth they are looking for (as urban markets are becoming saturated)… and fatten their bottomlines.

Soon, corporate India will redefine the rural. Rural India will no longer be the same.

09 September 2005

Unequal societies

In the 1 August 2004 article ‘Amid China’s Boom, No Helping Hand for Young Qingming’ in The New York Times, Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley narrate the plight of millions of young Chinese who, although once a part of urban China, now “…are being left behind in the money-centered, cutthroat society that has replaced socialist China.”

The article states, “China has the world’s fastest-growing economy but is one of its most unequal societies. The benefits of growth have been bestowed mainly on urban residents and government and party officials. In the past five years, the income divide between the urban rich and the rural poor has widened so sharply that some studies now compare China’s social cleavage unfavorably with Africa’s poorest nations.”

Yet, every year, millions of Chinese migrate to the nearest cities in search of a living… braving poor living conditions, uncertain incomes, and exploitation.

A year later, in India, the story is no different. One of the biggest demographic changes to be recorded over this century has been the shift away from rural towards urban living. Everyday, fighting poverty in rural India, millions migrate to the cities for work, income and hopes of a better life. However, going by Rahul Srivastava’s story in
www.infochange.org (the link I provided in my post yesterday), a great majority of this population faces a fate very similar to the one they left behind in their villages.

This raises an important question: Is the lure of urban India so great that it offsets the hardships and the costs of living for the rural immigrant?

Here things become a little ambiguous. Shelter costs in rural India are certainly lower compared to urban areas. Logically then, people in rural areas would not need as much income and would not have to spend as much on shelter to achieve the same enjoyment out of housing. If shelter costs less in rural areas, then clearly, a lower income in those areas is not necessarily an indication of a lower standard of living.

There are also food costs, which are lower in rural areas because of the greater likelihood of home-cooked food, as opposed to the greater appeal and consumption of restaurant or hotel food in urban areas.

In terms of overall consumption, the rural consumer, having smaller disposable income, spends less. If material goods are counted, ownership of household items such as cooking gas, refrigerators, TVs and washing machines – not to mention consumption of electricity – the rural consumer is way behind his urban counterpart. If you go even higher on income spends, ownership of cellular phones, two-wheelers, cars, home computers or air conditioners, the rural market is no match for the rising demands of the urban consumer.

Then there’s better health and better education. [Don’t forget safe drinking water.]

Perhaps, that’s where the urban lure lies… in the ownership of material possessions… in the ability to afford better healthcare and better education. These are the true indicators of a better quality of life. And perhaps that’s why the rural Indian, like his Chinese equal, is willing to test his fortune against poor living conditions, uncertain incomes, and exploitation.

But then, the rural Indian, much like his Chinese equal, has a long way to go.

08 September 2005

The urban story

According to the 2001 Census, approximately 28% of India’s over one billion population resides in urban centres. That makes more than 280 million people. As a single collection, it’s the equivalent of a country as large as the US. Providing food, water, shelter, electricity, roads, transport, etc. to a population of this size is no easy task. But, it’s important to do so.

You see, this urban population contributes 60% of the national income. Surely it deserves some special treatment. Compared to rural India, with its massive 750 million, which is still struggling with agriculture, this population is in a privileged position… Thanks to the recent entry of the aspiring urban middle class, which is converting the urban landscape into a picture we had earlier associated with New York or Paris or London.

“What is significant is that these aspirations are also expressed as policies of governance for urban infrastructure and planning, best epitomised in the move to create world-class business centres and high quality roads favouring private transport…” says Rahul Srivastava in a thought-provoking article, “First cousins: The ties between rural and urban India” in www.infochange.org.

But this is only a part of the urban story. That’s because the picture of 60% contribution to national income by the urban population is slightly skewed. It’s not the entire urban population that is responsible for this contribution. Economists suggest that it’s more like 25% of the urban population that contributes 75% of the 60% contribution to national income. The fact is, a great portion of the urban population is poor.

Srivastava adds,
“The poor in India’s expanding urban areas do not get the requisite amount of calories or nutrients specified by accepted Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) norms… that absorption and assimilation of food by the urban poor is further impaired by non-food factors such as inadequate sanitation facilities, insufficient housing and woeful access to clean drinking water.”

The article presents some statistics worth considering:
“…more than 21% of India’s urban population lives in slums, 23% of urban households do not have access to toilet facilities and nearly 8% of urban households are unable to find safe drinking water.”

As Srivastava says,
“In many ways the above description reminds us painfully of the situation in many rural areas as well.”

07 September 2005

Urban bias

Reality is made up of many different perspectives. Yet, we often fail to accept this.

The needs and problems of those residing in rural areas are different from those of us living in urban cities. When we step out to address rural issues, our lack of awareness, understanding and appreciation of the problems faced by India’s rural population become serious barriers in servicing them. To that, add our urban attitudes, and you have a clear gap between the two geo-cultures… the urban-rural divide.

While speaking to rural folks sometime ago, an interesting fact emerged. They indicated “a lack of sensitivity” in urban people when the urban people – be it government or private agencies – approached them with development programmes, or goods and services for sale. According to them, urban people overtly displayed a lack of recognition and appreciation of their cultural, ethnic and racial differences. They felt this was the biggest obstacle in accepting urban concepts, goods and services.

They said, urban goods and service providers – even education and healthcare providers – need to address not only their economic and physical conditions (they being poor), but also the historical values and beliefs of the group to which they belong (who they are). In fact, they even suggested that, before the urban people stepped into their towns and villages with a mission to convert and sell, the urban people should be provided with (what I would classify as) “cultural sensitivity training”. What a wonderful thought, really!

What does “a lack of sensitivity” and a need for “cultural sensitivity training” really mean? Perhaps that, it’s not just a matter of economics or money that separates the urban from the rural in India. What really separates us is our failure to acknowledge non-urban world views. To see “their point of view”. In turn, this results in our failure to provide culturally, ethnically and racially appropriate care, goods and services… Slowing down rural economic growth, prosperity and empowerment of the poor.

Or perhaps that, even today, our Indian society is far from being an inclusive one for all.

05 September 2005

Water for the poor

Economics dictates that water is a public good. Its availability is a basic human right. Yet, over a billion poor people around the world lack access to safe drinking water. Every year, 12 million from this billion population die from drinking disease-contaminated water.

On this account, the UN’s Millennium Development Project has taken on a huge responsibility – that of reducing by half this one billion population which lacks access to safe drinking water – by the year 2015. Since water is a human right, the disbursal of safe drinking water is a job of the government. Yet, in the developing countries, to which this one billion population belongs, the governments (both existing and past) have failed to recognise this basic human right for centuries. How then will the UN achieve its target?

Here’s more: Typically, in developing countries, drinking water supplies are channelled to the rich, the politically-connected and the middle class. The poor, without safe drinking water, either fall ill, fall ill and die, or end up paying for water supplied to them in tankers by contractors. What this means is this: the rich get water cheap, while those who actually cannot afford to pay, pay for their drinking water. Sometimes, the monies the poor pay for drinking water is way above the rates the rich pay for branded water like Evian or Perrier.

As an answer to this, some developing countries have turned to the private sector for supplying safe drinking water to the poor. India is one of them, though things have not worked out exactly the way everyone anticipated. This UN report explains some of the problems faced by India’s poor. [PDF file]

03 September 2005

Maharashtra bags a big one

After returning from his visit to Andhra Pradesh, Paul Wolfowitz, the World Bank President, had lots of good words for the rural women there. According to him, rural women in Andhra Pradesh were leading the way in India’s growing self-help movement.

However, it was Maharashtra, and not Andhra Pradesh, which bagged the first deal with the World Bank. It was a US$325 million loan agreement for the Maharashtra Water Sector Improvement Project (MWSIP). Apparently, repair, renovation and restoration of water bodies were national priorities and the MWSIP was singled out to initiate the development process… with the World Bank’s help. It had been approved almost two months ago.

Of course, the focus was still rural, but not on women alone.

“Home to 96 million people, Maharashtra is India’s second largest state. It faces complex challenges in managing its water in a changing environment. Nearly 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas, of which about 80 percent are engaged in agriculture, consuming 80 percent of the state’s water. At the same time, Maharashtra is moving rapidly into urbanization and industrialization, increasing the pressure on scarce resources.”

For the Indian government, building basic infrastructure in the rural areas will be in focus for the next four years. But for the moment, Maharashtra is in celebration.

I guess the rural women in Andhra Pradesh will have to wait.

02 September 2005

World Bank comes to India's aid

Rural India represents the heart of India. In terms of sheer size and spread, variety of culture, language, polity, religion and customs, rural India is a case study not just for economists and marketers in India, but for the whole world. Rural India comprises of nearly 700 million people living in close to 627,000 villages, covering 128 million households. This means, the rural population is nearly three times that of the population inhabiting India’s urban centres.

However, there are points of concern. Low per capita income of the rural wage earner is on top of that list. There are not enough resources to provide power in every home, education, and sufficient healthcare to every rural Indian. A lack of proper roads is a serious issue as well. Communication and access to information are other deterrents in the growth of this market. If the government and the private sector can work together, rural India – and India as a country – can leverage the power that India has over the rest of the world: i.e. the power of human capital that India is endowed with.

Happily for us, this concern for rural India is also shared by the World Bank and its President, Paul Wolfowitz, who visited India recently. According to Mr Wolfowitz, "though it is making rapid strides, India has an unfinished agenda. It is still home to a quarter of the world’s poor people, most of whom reside in the rural areas. Infrastructure constraints are an impediment to growth. The government has rightly made provision of rural infrastructure and investments in hard infrastructure a priority. The World Bank feels privileged to support these efforts."

To find out more on this, read Sudip Mozumder’s story from World Bank here.