India: yesterday's heritage, tomorrow's hopes
Two months ago the UNESCO Courier devoted a special issue to Australia, a young nation celebrating its bicentennial. This issue is given over to a country which is heir to one ofthe world's oldest civilizations.
The second most populous nation on Earth, India is a vast and multifarious land which encompasses desert andfertile soil, the towering Himalayas and tropical lowlands, mighty rivers, great cities and villages without number. Over 800 million people perhaps one sixth of humanity speak some 180 languages including 14 major ones.
For many readers India will evoke images of ancient customs and omnipresent religions: Hindus bathing en masse in a sacred river, ascetic holy men praying by the roadside, caparisoned elephants joining in temple festivals, villages where the gods are worshipped asfamiliars. But side by side with these timeless scenes a modern India is growing. Industrialization has made great strides in a country which today manufactures her own cars and has her own steel mills, fertilizer plants, atomic power stations and heavy engineering industry. To sustain her economic development she has one ofthe world's largest networks ofscientists and technicians. Yet today, like many nations, India faces difficultproblems, especially perhaps the risk that the benefitsfrom her considerable economic achievements in industry and food production will be spread more and more thinly because of demographic growth the population is estimated to have increased by 18 million in 1986 alone.
In the four decades since Independence India has made unsparing efforts to improve living standards and become a modern democratic nation while preserving her linguistic, cultural and ethnic wealth and diversity. Within the limited editorial space at our disposal, this issue attempts to reflect the many facets ofthis situation and bring to readers a glimpse ofwhat is happening in this vast and dynamic subcontinent.