One of the best books on India from the economics and development point of view is Arvind Panagariya’s book, published in 2008. It gives a very good account of why India didn’t develop fast enough after Independence, and then the changes through the 1980s and 1990s that accelerated growth. He also gives an excellent account of the reforms carried out by Vajpayee’s NDA government from 1998-2004.
From the book jacket: “Why did the early promise of the Indian economy not materialize and what led to its eventual turnaround? What policy initiatives have been undertaken in the last twenty years and how do they relate to the upward shift in the growth rate? What must be done to push the growth rate to double-digit levels? To answer these crucial questions, Arvind Panagariya offers a brilliant analysis of India’s economy over the last fifty years–from the promising start in the 1950s, to the near debacle of the 1970s (when India came to be regarded as a “basket case”), to the phenomenal about face of the last two decades. The author illuminates the ways that government policies have promoted economic growth (or, in the case of Indira Gandhi’s policies, economic stagnation), and offers insightful discussions of such key topics as poverty and inequality, tax reform, telecommunications (perhaps the single most important success story), agriculture and transportation, and the government’s role in health, education, and sanitation.”