History of India

The history of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent, from c. 3300 to 1300 BCE. Its Mature Harappan period lasted from 2600-1900 BCE. This Bronze Age civilization collapsed at the beginning of the second millennium BCE and was followed by the Iron Age Vedic period, which extended over much of the Indo-Gangetic plains and which witnessed the rise of major kingdoms known as the Mahajanapadas. In two of these, in the 6th century BCE, Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were born, who propagated their Shramanic philosophies among the masses.

Later, successive empires and kingdoms ruled the region and enriched its culture - from the Achaemenid Persian empire[1] around 543 BCE, to Alexander the Great[2] in 326 BCE. The Indo-Greek Kingdom, founded by Demetrius of Bactria, included Gandhara and Punjab from 184 BCE; it reached its greatest extent under Menander, establishing the Greco-Buddhist period with advances in trade and culture.

The subcontinent was united under the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. It subsequently became fragmented, with various parts ruled by numerous Middle kingdoms for the next ten centuries. Its northern regions were united once again in the 4th century CE, and remained so for two centuries thereafter, under the Gupta Empire. This period, of Hindu religious and intellectual resurgence, is known among its admirers as the "Golden Age of India." During the same time, and for several centuries afterwards, Southern India, under the rule of the Chalukyas, Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas, experienced its own golden age, during which Indian civilization, administration, culture, and religion (Hinduism and Buddhism) spread to much of south-east Asia.

Islam arrived on the subcontinent in 712 CE, when the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan in southern Punjab,[3] setting the stage for several successive Islamic invasions between the 10th and 15th centuries CE from Central Asia, leading to the formation of Muslim empires in the Indian subcontinent, including the Ghaznavid, the Ghorid, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. Mughal rule came to cover most of the northern parts of the subcontinent. Mughal rulers introduced middle-eastern art and architecture to India. In addition to the Mughals, several independent Hindu kingdoms, such as the Maratha Empire, the Vijayanagara Empire and various Rajput kingdoms, flourished contemporaneously, in Western and Southern India respectively. The Mughal Empire suffered a gradual decline in the early eighteenth century, which provided opportunities for the Afghans, Balochis and Sikhs to exercise control over large areas in the northwest of the subcontinent until the British East India Company[4] gained ascendancy over South Asia.

Beginning in the mid-18th century and over the next century, India was gradually annexed by the British East India Company. Dissatisfaction with Company rule led to the First War of Indian Independence, after which India was directly administered by the British Crown and witnessed a period of both rapid development of infrastructure and economic decline.

During the first half of the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress, and later joined by the Muslim League. The subcontinent gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, after being partitioned into the dominions of India and Pakistan. Pakistan's eastern wing became the nation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Central and State Governments Of India

The central government exercises its broad administrative powers in the name of the President, whose duties are largely ceremonial. The president and vice president are elected indirectly for 5-year terms by a special electoral college. The vice president assumes the office of president in case of the death or resignation of the incumbent president.

The constitution designates the governance of India under two branches namely the executive branch and the legislative branch. Real national executive power is centered in the Council of Ministers, led by the Prime Minister of India. The President appoints the Prime Minister, who is designated by legislators of the political party or coalition commanding a parliamentary majority. The President then appoints subordinate ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. In reality, the President has no discretion on the question of whom to appoint as Prime Minister except when no political party or coalition of parties gains a majority in the Lok Sabha. Once the Prime Minister has been appointed, the President has no discretion on any other matter whatsoever, including the appointment of ministers. But all Central Government decisions are nominally taken in his name.

The constitution designates the Parliament of India as the legislative branch to oversee the operation of the government. India's bicameral parliament consists of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). The Council of Ministers is held responsible to the Lok Sabha.

The government can enact laws and ordinances as required for the governance of the country. However, laws and ordinances have to be passed by the legislative branch in order to be effected. Parliament sessions are conducted to discuss, analyse and pass the laws tabled as Acts. Any law is first proposed as a bill in the lower house. If the lower house approves the bill in current form, the bill is then proposed to be enacted in the upper house. If not, the bill is sent for amendment and then tabled again so as to be passed as an Act. Even if the bill is passed in the lower house, the upper house has the right to reject the proposed bill and send it back to the government for amending the bill. Therefore, it can be said that the governance of India takes place under two processes; the executive process and the legislative process. Ideally, the governance cannot be done through the individual processes alone. After the Acts are passed by both the houses, the President signs the Bill as an Act. Thus the legislative branch also acts under the name of the President, like the executive branch.

Ordinances are laws that are passed in lieu of Acts, when the parliament is not in session. When the parliament is in recess, the President assumes the legislative powers of both the houses temporarily, under Part V: Chapter III - Article 335 of the Constitution of India. The government has to propose a law to the President during such periods. If the President is fully satisfied with the bill, and signs the bill, it becomes an ordinance. The powers of ordinances are temporary, and each ordinance has to be tabled in the parliament when the houses reassemble. The President also has the right to withdraw an ordinance.

States in India have their own elected governments, where as Union Territories are governed by an administrator appointed by the central government. Some of the state legislatures are bicameral, patterned after the two houses of the national parliament. The states' chief ministers are responsible to the legislatures in the same way the prime minister is responsible to parliament.

Each state also has a presidentially appointed governor who may assume certain broad powers when directed by the central government. The central government exerts greater control over the union territories than over the states, although some territories have gained more power to administer their own affairs. Local state governments in India have less autonomy compared to their counterparts in the United States and Australia.

Indian Government

INDIAN POLITICS ENTERED a new era at the beginning of the 1990s. The period of political domination by the Congress (I) branch of the Indian National Congress came to an end with the party's defeat in the 1989 general elections, and India began a period of intense multiparty political competition. Even though the Congress (I) regained power as a minority government in 1991, its grasp on power was precarious. The Nehruvian socialist ideology that the party had used to fashion India's political agenda had lost much of its popular appeal. The Congress (I) political leadership had lost the mantle of moral integrity inherited from the Indian National Congress's role in the independence movement, and it was widely viewed as corrupt. Support among key social bases of the Congress (I) political coalition was seriously eroding. The main alternative to the Congress (I), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP--Indian People's Party), embarked on a campaign to reorganize the Indian electorate in an effort to create a Hindu nationalist majority coalition. Simultaneously, such parties as the Janata Dal (People's Party), the Samajwadi Party (Socialist Party), and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP--Party of Society's Majority) attempted to ascend to power on the crest of an alliance of interests uniting Dalits (see Glossary), Backward Classes, Scheduled Tribes (see Glossary), and religious minorities.

The structure of India's federal--or union--system not only creates a strong central government but also has facilitated the concentration of power in the central government in general and in particular in the Office of the Prime Minister. This centralization of power has been a source of considerable controversy and political tension. It is likely to further exacerbate political conflict because of the increasing pluralism of the country's party system and the growing diversity of interest-group representation.

Once viewed as a source of solutions for the country's economic and social problems, the Indian polity is increasingly seen by political observers as the problem. When populist political appeals stir the passions of the masses, government institutions appear less capable than ever before of accommodating conflicts in a society mobilized along competing ethnic and religious lines. In addition, law and order have become increasingly tenuous because of the growing inability of the police to curb criminal activities and quell communal disturbances. Indeed, many observers bemoan the "criminalization" of Indian politics at a time when politicians routinely hire "muscle power" to improve their electoral prospects, and criminals themselves successfully run for public office. These circumstances have led some observers to conclude that India has entered into a growing crisis of governability.

Politics Of India

Politics of India takes place in a framework of a federal parliamentary multi-party representative democratic republic modelled after the British Westminster System. The Prime Minister of India is the head of government, while the President of India is the formal head of state and holds substantial reserve powers, placing him or her in approximately the same position as the British monarch. Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the Parliament of India. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

According to its constitution, India is a "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic." India is the largest state by population with a democratically-elected government. Like the United States, India has a federal form of government, however, the central government in India has greater power in relation to its states, and its central government is patterned after the British parliamentary system. Regarding the former, "the Centre", the national government, can and has dismissed state governments if no majority party or coalition is able to form a government or under specific Constitutional clauses, and can impose direct federal rule known as President's rule. Locally, the Panchayati Raj system has several administrative functions

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