India’s high-tech services industry has set the country’s economic flywheel spinning. Growth is running at 9%-plus this year. The likes of Wal-Mart (WMT ), Vodafone (VOD ), and Citigroup (C ) are placing multibillion-dollar bets on the country, lured by its 300 million-strong middle class. In spite of a recent drop, the Bombay stock exchange’s benchmark Sensex index is still up more than 40% since June. Real estate has shot through the roof, with some prices doubling in the past year.
But this economic boom is being built on the shakiest of foundations. Highways, modern bridges, world-class airports, reliable power, and clean water are in desperately short supply. And what’s already there is literally crumbling under the weight of progress. In December, a bridge in eastern India collapsed, killing 34 passengers in a train rumbling underneath. Economic losses from congestion and poor roads alone are as high as $6 billion a year, says Gajendra Haldea, an adviser to the federal Planning Commission.
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