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Beyond the Gender Binary

Given the complexity of the hijra identity, its legalisation requires an informed, non-paternalistic, non-partisan and participatory approach. A response to the editorial "The Third Sex" (EPW, 26 October 2013).

Boat Migration to Australia

A Rejoinder

This critique of "Sri Lankan Boat Migration to Australia: Motivations and Dilemmas" (EPW, 31 August 2013) argues that the article was a study based on subjective views expressed by a limited number of interviewees and was partisan in its fi ndings.

Romance and Marriage in Small-Town India

This response to "The Provincial Self in the Town of Love" (EPW, 21 December 2013) argues that while Shuddh Desi Romance is not a formula film, it is certainly not a "brave" film and in fact the politics of its "romance" is shallow and uninteresting.

Comments on Understanding of Livestock

Any analysis of India's livestock sector must take into account the region-specific growth of the sector, micro-level economic viability of production, and the role of women's unpaid labour, among other factors. All these are crucial to understand whether India's livestock sector will grow sustainably in the future.

The Nandy Conundrum

This is a response to K V Cybil's controversial poser (EPW, 12 October 2013) in the context of Ashis Nandy's comments on dalits at the 2013 Jaipur literary fest. Can Nandy's own writings on humiliation help us reflect on this controversy and what do the social scientists and the teaching community have to learn from this about the practice of social science in India?

Caught in NET

As a continuation of the debate on University Grants Commission- National Eligibility Test, this response argues that NET is only a symptom of the larger disease that plagues the system of higher education in our country. What is at issue is the disregard of secular and progressive ideals and the arrogance that marks such indifference. These must be thoroughly challenged.

Revisiting Subaltern Studies

Instead of responding meaningfully to the arguments in my book Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital, Partha Chatterjee ("Subaltern Studies and Capital", EPW, 14 September 2013) has chosen to throw up a smokescreen. He has ignored three tasks of the book - to distil from the key writings of Subaltern Studies the project's essential arguments, to assess the validity of their critique on empirical and conceptual grounds, and to offer an alternative theory, which succeeds where theirs fails. It seems he did not even recognise the reconstructed subalternists' arguments, including his own.

The Brent Crude Benchmark Is Fit and Well

The article in EPW “Reassessing the Brent Benchmark for Crude Oil” by Akshay Mathur (21 December 2013) asserted that the price assessment process for Brent crude is too complex and, at the same time, vulnerable to manipulation. This is not the case today, following concerted efforts over the past few years to improve the way that the Brent benchmark is assessed.

A Response

The price of oil moved from $45 per barrel in mid-2006 to about $145 in 2008, then corrected to $40 before surging to $130 over the next three years. It has been consistently trading at around $100 since.1 In contrast, the movement of oil production2 and its consumption3 between the years 2000 to 2012, stayed within a 10% band.

Mullaperiyar: Missing the Point

R Seenivasan’s article (“Historical Validity of Mullaperiyar Project”, EPW, 25 January 2014) on the Mullaperiyar Project, hereafter MP, is a scholarly, well-researched, informative piece of historical writing. Regrettably, he seems to have failed to understand the thrust of my criticisms of the project. When a critic says that the project was an unnecessary and indefensible onslaught on nature, it is no answer to argue that it represented the best engineering. Given a purely engineering perspective, the project might well have seemed very good in the 1890s.

Caste and the Mainstream Narratives

The changing nature and forms of the caste system are often assumed to be static in mainstream discussions, as the continuing debate on Ashis Nandy's remarks on corruption and the marginalised castes shows. Neither academia nor the state understands the changing dynamics of the nature and forms of caste.

Contextualising Language Studies: A Response

Responding to the commentary on "Chomsky and Wittgenstein: A Short Refl ection", by Ramaswamy R Iyer (EPW, 2 November 2013), this article questions the merit of a comparison of the two thinkers' views on language, and tries to place the discussion in a historical context.

On Cereal Consumption as a Proxy for Real Income

There is very little reliable information on indirect cereal consumption in India and a number of other developing countries. To, therefore, use such unreliable estimates to test for the links between total (direct and indirect) cereal consumption and income will lead to inaccurate results. This places a question mark on the exercise by Krishna Ram (EPW, 20 July 2013).

The Future of Tribals in Telangana State

This response to "A Separate Telangana: Promises and Prospects for Tribal People" by R Ramdas (20 July 2013) looks at the Andhra Pradesh government's initiatives for tribals, as well as their future in the new state to be, Telangana.

Confronting Casteism?

Apathy and the Atrocities Act

Legislation against discrimination like the Prevention of Atrocities Act can be as much a starting point as an outcome of campaigns against discrimination. A comment in the context of the acquittal of the convicted in the Laxmanpur Bathe and Bathani Tola cases.

Critical Look at the Narayana Murthy Recommendations on Higher Education

This response to "Engaging the Corporate Sector: Narayana Murthy Committee Recommendations on Higher Education" (EPW, 20 July 2013) says that while the committee seems to be concerned about the poor quality of higher education, its recommendations or formulae appear to treat higher educational institutions like factories. There seems to be a mismatch between its recommendations and the objectives of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan.

Ideology of Pan-Islamism

Taking off from Sumanta Banerjee's book review in the EPW ("The Left and Political Islam", 30 March 2013) on the left's understanding of political Islam, a comment on the ideology, politics, and the internal dynamic of the Islamic community.

In Struggle, Education of the Educator

Welcoming C P Bhambri’s call to debate (10 August 2013) the propositions in the article “‘The Near and the Far’: Why Is India’s Liberal-Political Democracy Rotten?” (1 June 2013), the author of this article argues that expecting a peaceful mass movement aimed at carrying out a “revolution” is only daydreaming. A mass movement that has revolution as its ultimate goal will, almost inevitably, necessarily assume a violent form in the face of state repression. But cruelty and brutality must never be a part of the means of revolution. We educators need to be educated, and our best education can take place only in struggle, for correct knowledge is also a struggle, and can be a deep one at that.

Open-Economy Macro and Inflation Targeting: A Tutorial

Economic theory tells us that there should be at least as many instruments as there are targets. But the Reserve Bank of India does try to kill two birds with one stone: increasing interest rates so as to shoot down infl ationary expectations as well as bring capital into the country. This is poor macroeconomics. A comment that elaborates on Partha Sen's "India's Current Account Woes: An Attempt to Clarify" (EPW, 12 October 2013).

Real Estate Price Is Reversible

Sanjoy Chakravorty in "A New Price Regime: Land Markets in Urban and Rural India" (EPW, 27 April 2013) argued that the real estate price rise in India over the last 10 years or so is not reversible. This response says that prices can fall in real terms if the government effectively does away with the licence-permit-quota raj in the real estate sector.

Caste and the Bar Dancer

While Maya Pandit identifi es the State's wrath against lower-caste female sexuality as the root cause of the ban on dancing, this comment on dance bar debate argues that the very reason for the legal ban can be found in the caste and gender politics in globalising India and "caste governance" by the Maharashtra state government.

Why Question the Pace of Growth in Gujarat?

To question Gujarat's recent growth record on the ground that it has been based on the petroleum refinery industry, which in the state is import-dependent, capital-intensive, coast-based and export-oriented, is conceptually and factually wrong. A comment and a response to "Have Gujarat and Bihar Outperformed the Rest of India? A Statistical Note" (EPW, 28 September 2013).

A Response

Austerity or Fiscal Stimulus?

On Modern Macroeconomics and the Importance of Context

This comment is on the article “Strange Defeat” by J W Mason and Arjun Jayadev (EPW, 10 August 2013). Though in general, the paper rightly points out the similarities in the New Keynesian and New Classical macroeconomics and the prescriptions that follow from them concerning austerity vs fiscal stimulus, it fails to highlight the importance of context in resolution of such debates. According to me the austerity issue in the European Union (EU) has to be treated differently from that in the United States (US) and it is certainly different in countries like India.

A Response to Waknis

We thank Parag Waknis for his comment. If nothing else, it succeeds – albeit unintentionally – in providing a fine illustration of the problems with contemporary economics that our article described.

A Response to Waknis

thank Parag Waknis for his comment. If nothing else, it succeeds –
albeit unintentionally – in providing a fine illustration of
the problems with contemporary economics that our article described.

our article, we suggested that the methodology that has dominated
economics for the last generation leaves economists
unequipped to make arguments for active macroeconomic policy. Since
agents know the true parameters of the distribution of future
outcomes and inter-temporally optimise at all points based on that,

Austerity or Fiscal Stimulus?

On Modern Macroeconomics and the Importance of Context

comment is on the article “Strange Defeat” by J W Mason
and Arjun Jayadev (EPW,
10 August 2013). Though in general, the paper rightly points out the
similarities in the New Keynesian and New Classical macroeconomics
and the prescriptions that follow from them concerning austerity vs
fiscal stimulus, it fails to highlight the importance of context in
resolution of such debates. According to me the austerity issue in
the European Union (EU)
has to be treated differently from that in the United States (US)

Mandela and the Politics of Representation

Responding to Premesh Lalu ("Nelson Mandela Is Very Much with Us", EPW, 13 July 2013), this article calls for a reassessment of Mandela's legacy, which goes beyond the pre-liberation critique of liberal trusteeship. A reassessment of the nature of the politics of representation and their relation to popular presentation is essential in a postcolonial setting.

A Dalit Reason for Character

Inheritance and Re-emergence

In the context of Ashis Nandy's comments on dalits earlier this year, there have emerged debates as to what mediates the relationship of the humanities and social sciences to the question of caste, as well as that of corruption and democracy to the character of the dalit. A comment on the responses of Gopal Guru ("Freedom of Expression and the Life of the Dalit Mind", EPW, 9 March 2013) and Dilip Menon ("Minding One's Words", EPW, 20 April 2013) to the Nandy controversy.

Mapping the Heraka Identity

Are We Engaged Truly?

This response to "Cultural Positioning of Tribes in North-east India: Mapping the Evolving Heraka Identity" by Soihiamlung Dangmei (EPW, 5 January 2013) attempts to set the record straight on the Heraka reform movement, the religious practices and how it emerged from traditional Naga animism.

In Defence of Relaxed FSI Limits

We are responding to Shirish B Patel’s “More FSI, More Welfare?” (EPW, 29 June 2013).

On Claims Regarding Non-Cultivating Peasant Households

A response to claims made about non-cultivating peasant households in rural areas.

'New Landlords'

‘Too Poor to Farm’ or ‘Too Busy to Farm’?

Providing evidence that more than 90% of those whom R Vijay construes as "new landlords" are really owners of marginal and smallholdings of land, this article argues that it is important to distinguish classes on the basis of surplus and insufficient means of subsistence to understand the displacement of cultivators to the non-farm sector. It further argues that a rise in non-cultivating landed households and declining tenancy is not a paradox, but consistent with the trends in agriculture that eliminate marginal cultivators.

Whatever Has Happened to Caste in West Bengal?

Taking the discussion in EPW on caste in West Bengal further, a comment on the mobilisation and autonomy of the lower-caste movement post-Partition, the reduced scope for the lower castes to develop a hegemonic politics or strategy, and the importance of a bahujan samaj in this context.

Revisiting the Question of the Kashmiri Pandits

The Battle of the Narratives

Failing to acknowledge the painful experiences of the other and continued resentment have led to poisonous confrontations and virulent debates between the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims regarding the "exodus" of the former and the ensuing violence infl icted on the latter. Two parallel narratives have developed over the course of time, leaving a dismal gap between the two communities. The process of reconciliation between them and with the state is a challenge to be dealt with at many levels. A continuation of the discussion following Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal's review (EPW, 27 April 2013) of Rahul Pandita's book, Our Moon Has Blood Clots.

Myths and Realities of Child Nutrition

In his article Arvind Panagariya argues that (a) the prevailing narrative of child malnutrition being worse in India “than nearly all Sub-Saharan African countries with lower per capita incomes” is false, (b) that this notion is an “artefact of a faulty methodology”, and (c) that the nutrition situation and recent trends in India are not so bad anyway.

Stunting among Children

Facts and Implications

Indian children are very short, on average, compared with children living in other countries. Because height reflects early life health and net nutrition, and because good early life health also helps brains to grow and capabilities to develop, widespread growth faltering is a human development disaster. Panagariya acknowledges these facts, but argues that Indian children are particularly short because they are genetically programmed to be so.

Methodologically Deficient, Ignorant of Prior Research

Are Indian statistics on the extent of under-nutrition exaggerated and based on faulty yardsticks? Is there a case for moving away from the World Health Organisation standards? Can "genetics" really explain the low heights and weights among Indian children? Is it a puzzle and does it say something about the Indian estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa shows lower levels of under-nutrition than India though the former suffers from higher infant mortality? A set of six articles addresses these and many other questions in the light of the arguments presented in the paper "Does India Really Suffer from Worse Child Malnutrition Than Sub-Saharan Africa?" by Arvind Panagariya (EPW, 4 May 2013). The articles also critically comment on the methodology, analysis and findings of the paper.

Reconstructing Facts in Bt Cotton

Why Scepticism Fails

The case that the "triumph narrative" of Bt cotton in India comes mainly from economists, the biotech industry and their academic allies is a difficult one to sustain when dozens of studies show the positive effects of insect resistance in Bt cotton. Yields are driven by numerous factors, and there will be variance - field-to-field, season-to-season. Despite this, Bt cotton has been agro-economically successful because of the lower cost of production per unit and thus higher net returns - facts that are consistent with the near universal adoption of Bt technology by farmers.

A Response to Herring and Rao

Bt Cotton Yields and Performance

Data and Methodological Issues

This article rebuts the argument that shortcomings in Bt cotton studies and divergence between yield gains and extent of adoption of Bt hybrids make it impossible to conclusively say anything about the impact of genetically modifi ed seeds. Further, it points out that there have been numerous studies that have controlled for selection and cultivation bias, and concluded that Bt cotton has had statistically significant positive yield effects.

United Front of the Oppressed

Bernard D’Mello’s clinical analysis of India’s “rotten liberal political democracy” from the perspective and standpoint of the oppressed and exploited “underclass” compels him to focus attention on the reasons for the continuation, survival and “stability of this form of democracy”, and on the goal of real “democratisation” of Indian society.

Kashmir: A Tale of Two Communities, Cloven

Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal's review ("A Moon of Many Shades", 27 April 2013) of Rahul Pandita's book, Our Moon Has Blood Clots, led to responses from Pandita ("Selective Memory, Collective Amnesia", 1 June 2013) and Sualeh Keen ("Inconvenient People", 8 June 2013). Two more articles engage with the contentious issue of the migration/exile of Kashmiri Pandits in early 1990 and the responsibility for the same, which this discussion has opened up.

'Insulting Facts With Fiction to Suit One's Narrative'


The other day an acquaintance from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district wanted to know my opinion on the issue of “migration” of Kashmiri Pandits in the early 1990s. He asked about my view through Facebook chat – the preferred communication tool in today’s age of information and technology – and I willingly agreed. Migration of Pandits? Exodus? Flight? Departures? Fleeing? Or a blend of everything?

One Event, Multiple Narratives

Limitations of the Anti-Floor Space Index Position

Floor space index is only one of the tools in a planning kit that has zoning, growth boundaries, inclusionary housing and the like. This article holds that plans for higher densities in cities such as Mumbai should include urban peripheral nodes and not just the urban core and central business district. Managing land uses and supplying infrastructure is easier in emerging urban nodes, which can encourage a balance between housing and jobs, and help establish an efficient use of expensive transportation infrastructure. To make this a reality, the development focus should equally be on improving institutional capacity.

Music and Nationalism

Tejaswini Niranjana’s paper “Music in the Balance: Language, Modernity and Hindustani Sangeet in Dharwad” (12 January 2013) ponders the relationship between Hindustani music and Kannada nationalism in the Bombay-Karnataka region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a welcome move since there is a vacuum of scholarly discussion in this area. However, there seems to be a certain hasty conclusion about the very nature of this relation between Kannada nationalism and Hindustani music.