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Rough Cut: India: Calcutta Calling
Background Facts and Related Links
Learn more about the world's second most populated country and its laws governing adoption.

General Background

India is located in southern Asia and borders Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Burma. With a total landmass of 3,287,590 square miles, it is slightly more than one-third the size of the United States.

India is the birthplace of one of the world's oldest civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization, which emerged more than 5,000 years ago. Since then, India has witnessed several waves of foreign invaders, including the Aryan tribes in 1500 B.C., the Arabs in the eighth century, the Turks in the 12th century and European traders beginning in the 15th century.

India became a colony of Great Britain in the early 1800s and gained its independence in 1947. In 1948, the Indian subcontinent was divided into the secular state of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan.

New Delhi is India's capital. Located in northern India, flanking the Yamuna River, it is home to 13.8 million people.

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is India's industrial and financial capital and also its largest city. Located in the central region of India's western coast, it has a population of approximately 18 million, making it the sixth largest city in the world.

Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is India's cultural capital and home to 14 million people. It is located on India's eastern coast, along the Ganges River.


By ethnicity, Indians are 72 percent Indo-Aryan, 25 percent Dravidian, and 3 percent Mongoloid and other.

By religion, Indians are 81.3 percent Hindu, 12 percent Muslim, 2.3 percent Christian and 1.9 percent Sikh. The other 2.5 percent of the population includes Buddhists, Jains and Parsis.

India's population surged 21 percent from 1991 to 2001, and as of 2003, it stands at more than 1 billion, making it the world's second most populated country, after China. India grows by 16 million people every year (or 43,836 a day), just 2 million less than the entire population of Australia.

Forty percent of the world's poor live in India, with 28 percent living below the poverty line. More than a third live on less than a dollar a day, and 80 percent live on less than two dollars a day.


India is a secular democracy with a federal form of government. It is the world's largest democracy, with approximately 600 million voters.

Executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers, a cabinet led by the prime minister, who is appointed every five years. India's current prime minister is Dr. Manmohan Singh, an Oxford-trained economist who is widely regarded as the architect of India's economic reform program. Appointed in May 2004, Singh is the first Sikh to hold this position.

India's bicameral parliament consists of the Lower House, known as the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), with 543 members, and the Upper House, known as the Lok Sabha (House of the People), with more than 250 members.


India's economy is driven by traditional village farming, modern agriculture and a wide range of modern industries, including textiles, cement, mining and software.

India's labor force is composed of 60 percent agricultural workers, 23 percent service workers and 17 percent industrial workers. Software exports, which grew by 30 percent in 2003, now constitute 32 percent of India's total exports.

Adoption in India

In 1956, the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act made adoption of Indian children by non-Hindus, including foreigners, illegal. To this day, Indian law does not specifically allow foreigners to adopt Indian children. However, foreigners can petition an Indian district court for the legal custody of a child whom the court has declared to be destitute or otherwise abandoned. At that point, the child can be taken to the foreigner's home country and must be adopted there within two years.

Indian law mandates that non Indians must go through an adoption agency in their home country that is approved by India's Central Adoption Resource Agency, a department of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

There are several restrictions on who may adopt children from India. Only married couples and single women may adopt. Couples who wish to adopt infants must have a combined age no greater than 85. Priority is given to families of Indian heritage.

In 2004, approximately 406 Indian children were adopted by U.S. citizens.

Sources: CIA Factbook; Lonely Planet Guide: India; PBS; BBC; U.S. Consulate; WACP;

Related Links

BBC Profile: India
The BBC's profile on India provides readers with information on India's history, its political leadership, its demographic landscape and its major media outlets. Users can also access an interactive timeline of India's modern history, from the beginnings of British colonial rule to present-day territorial skirmishes with Pakistan.

Directory of Indian Government Web Sites
This portal site directs users to various official Web sites maintained by the Indian government. Users can find links to leading politicians and the Indian judiciary and legislature as well as to government organizations focused on sports and culture.

The Prime Minister's Office
This is the official Web site of India's prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The site contains a profile of the prime minister, copies of his speeches, descriptions of his recent initiatives and more.

Indian Adoption

A comprehensive resource for adopting children from India, this site features information on the adoption process, mailing lists and support groups. Personal stories and photos from families with adopted Indian children are included, as is a separate section for adoptees from India.

Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA)
A division of the Indian government's Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, CARA oversees the placement of Indian children for adoption. The site includes information on placement agencies, guidelines for adoption, and a list of do's and don'ts for adoptive parents.

U.S. Department of State
This site provides information for Americans interested in adopting from India, including instructions for filing an adoption petition, obtaining a visa for the adopted child and completing the adoption process after the child arrives in the United States.

General Adoption

World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP)
The WACAP supports adoptive parents and adopted children. The organization's site includes information on regional meetings, classes and support groups for adoptive parents.

The Ties Program
This is a travel program for adoptive families who would like to visit their adoptive child's birth country, learn about their child's heritage and reconnect with people connected to the child's adoption.

National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC)
Part of the Children's Bureau under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the NAIC provides information on programs, research, legislation and statistics to promote the safety, permanency and well-being of children and families.

Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS)
The JCICS is the largest affiliation of licensed, nonprofit international adoption organizations in the world. The site includes country-specific adoption information, an FAQ for adoptive parents and information on filing complaints about unethical or unsatisfactory practices in international adoptions.

Media Resources

The Times of India Online
The Times of India, founded in 1838, bills itself as India's largest English-language daily, with a circulation of more than 2 million. It is published in 10 cities across the country and offers financial and political news as well as cultural and entertainment features.

New Delhi Television
Formed in 1988, New Delhi Television was India's first -- and is its largest -- private producer of television programming. It offers entertainment and sports programming as well as two 24 hour news channels, one in English and the other in Hindi. The Web site also offers online news coverage, polls and message boards.

All India Radio
This is the Web site of India's government-run radio station, which broadcasts in 27 languages and 146 dialects and reaches more than 90 percent of the country.

Daughter From Danang
This Academy Award nominated PBS documentary follows a young American woman adopted from Vietnam as she reunites with her birth mother and family. The bittersweet reunion finds mother and daughter desperately at odds in their cultural and personal beliefs.