Here are some key facts about India
Source: India News Network Digest
The following are key facts about India:
- POPULATION: 920 million (Source: Planning Ministry). About 75 per cent
live in rural areas (Source: 1991 Census). Registered voters 590 million
(Source: Election Commission estimate, 1996).
Religions: Hindus (82 per cent), Moslems (12 percent), Christians (2.3
percent), Sikhs (2.0 percent), Buddhists (0.8 percent), Jains (0.4 per
cent). (Source: 1991 census)
Official language: Hindi in the Devanagari script. Regional languages
are widely used, as well as English.
Literacy: 52 percent (Source: 1991 census).
AREA: 1.3 million sq miles (3.3 million sq km) stretching from the
Himalayas in the north to the Indian ocean in the south. India shares
borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Bangladesh.
CAPITAL: New Delhi.
ARMED FORCES: (Source: Institute of Strategic Studies, 1994)
Total strength in 1994 -- 1.27 million men plus 300,000 reserves and
900,000 in paramilitary forces, including 465,000 in Home Guard which have
Army -- 1.1 million, 3,400 tanks, 1,057 armoured fighting/personnel
Air Force -- 110,000 men; 799 combat aircraft including Jaguars,
MiG-21s, MiG-23s, MiG-27s, MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s, 36 armed helicopters.
Navy -- 55,000 men, two aircraft carriers with 18 Sea Harrier attack
aircraft, five destroyers, 18 frigates, 15 corvettes, six missile craft, 15
submarines. Naval Air Force has 65 combat aircraft, including 23 Sea
ECONOMY: Annual per capita income in 1993/94 (April-March) 8,855.35
rupees ($260) (Source: World Bank, 1995). Some 19 percent live below the
poverty line, unable to afford minimum adequate nutrition and non-food
essentials (Source: Planning Ministry)
Agriculture is the main occupation for more than 70 per cent of the
There is substantial industry in urban areas, including aircraft,
ships, railway rolling stock, passenger and commercial vehicles, textiles,
atomic energy, electronics and gem cutting.
Labour force: 314 million, with 36.7 million registered at government
employment bureaux for jobs (Census, 1991).
Annual GDP growth rate: 6.3 percent in 1994/95, slowing to 6.2 percent
in 1995/96 (Source: Planning Ministry)
Main exports: Gems and jewellery, ready made garments, cotton yarn and
fabrics, handicrafts, cereals, marine products, transport equipment. Main
imports: Crude oil, petroleum products, chemicals, machinery, electrical
machinery, fertilisers, iron, steel, pearls, precious and semi-precious
Total external debt: $93.84 billion at end-September 1995, up from
$92.70 billion at end-March 1994 (Finance Ministry).
MODERN HISTORY: India, which traces its civilisation back 5,000 years,
won independence from Britain in 1947 in a welter of sectarian bloodshed as
the subcontinent was partitioned into predominantly Hindu India and Moslem
India has since fought three wars with Pakistan, two of them over
disputed Kashmir. In 1962, India also fought a short border war with China.
India is a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the
Commonwealth. During the Cold War it had close relations with the Soviet
Union, which was a major arms supplier.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, India and the United States
have strengthened ties, particularly business relations, but Delhi remains
close to Moscow.
India exploded an atomic bomb in 1974 but says it has not built any
India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, apostle of neutralism
and a founder of NAM, died in 1964. Two years later his daughter, Indira
Gandhi, became prime minister.
She was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984, in
retaliation for her dispatch of the army into Amritsar's Golden Temple,
Sikhdom's holiest shrine. More than 1,000 people were killed in the June,
1984 operation to oust separatist militants using the temple as a
Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, took over as prime minister with India in
turmoil as Hindus massacred some 2,700 Sikhs in revenge.
Two months later Rajiv Gandhi led the Congress party to a landslide
election win. He pledged to modernise India's regulation-bound economy but
achieved little in concrete terms, although he set the tone for later
He lost power in a November 1989 election. Two centre-left governments
followed but fell in quick succession, plagued by internal divisions. Polls
were called for May 1991.
On May 21, with one day's voting completed, Gandhi was killed by a
woman suicide bomber while campaigning in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
India blamed Tamil Tigers fighting for independence in Sri Lanka,
against whom Gandhi had sent Indian troops. The Tigers denied all
From Congress conclaves, P.V. Narasimha Rao emerged the new leader at
the age of 70 and little more than a year after major heart surgery. After
the elections were finally over, Rao formed a minority Congress government
whose position was strengthened by divisions within the opposition.
He made the ailing economy, based for 40 years on socialist precepts
and protected from outside competition, his priority as India came close to
default on $71 billion in foreign debt.
After just one month in office, Rao introduced revolutionary reforms,
sweeping away the pillars of the "Licence Raj" businessmen said choked
them, invited foreign firms to take majority holdings and eased trade
Rao took office some 18 months after the outbreak of a separatist
rebellion in Kashmir, where armed Moslem guerrillas were fighting for
independence or merger with Pakistan. More than 20,000 people have died in
the violence. Parliamentary elections set for May would be the first in
Jammu and Kashmir state since the insurgency erupted.
In December 1992 Hindu zealots tore down a 16th century mosque in the
northern town of Ayodhya, sparking nationwide riots in which some 3,000
people, mostly Moslems, died.
Three months later a series of bomb blasts rocked Bombay, killing some
260 people. The government accused Moslems tied to the Bombay underworld of
setting off the explosions in retaliation for the razing of the Ayodhya
mosque and the subsequent riots.
In a setback for India's liberalisation programme, the rightwing Hindu
government of Maharashtra cancelled a $2.8 billion power project led by
Enron Corp (ENE.N) of the United States in August 1995. It was the biggest
foreign investment in India under Rao's free market programme.
Enron and Maharashtra eventually renegotiated the deal at a lower
price, but only after the stalemate sent shivers down foreign investors'
India has a two-chamber parliamentary system of government. The head
of state is an indirectly elected president with mainly ceremonial powers
except in political crises.
India's 26 states elect their own assemblies, but Delhi has the power
to impose central rule, as it did in Punjab in 1987 and in Jammu and
Kashmir in 1990 to curb separatist movements.