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Western Ghats Conservation

Experts’ Reports and a View from the Ground

While no one can disagree with the Gadgil Committee on the Western Ghats that we need to "develop sustainably - conserve thoughtfully", we must disagree with them that the strategy adopted so far has been to "conserve thoughtlessly", at least as far as the forests and wildlife are concerned. We need not fear that the Western Ghats will vanish if the expert panel recommendations are not accepted in toto: the forest area is still in safe hands, and the people's organisations (the village forest committees) are fully aware of the importance of conservation to their own survival and for serving global interests. The government has to set up workable arrangements that have the acquiescence of the population at large, so they need not feel rattled by the hard stance adopted by the environmentalists in public.

Cost and Benefit of Disinflation Policy in India

The Reserve Bank of India’s monetary policy stance is based on assertions that there is no trade-off between inflation and growth and that disinflation will result in more growth. This note examines recent empirical evidence on the direction of causality for growth and infl ation, and the short-run costs and long-run benefits of a deliberate policy of disinflation. There is no support for the first assertion because a regular trade-off does exist in India, imposing substantial short-run costs for deliberate disinflation. There is strong evidence for causality from growth to inflation, but the reverse cannot be ruled out. Under such conditions, the RBI should hold nominal growth of money supply and allow supply-side policies by the government to bring down inflation.

Strategy for R&D in Indian Industry

Urgent Needs and Assured Returns

India has the advantage of high quality researchers and growing markets at home and abroad. However, it is, at present, a very minor player in the global research and development arena. If the right steps are taken, such as enhanced R&D spending by industry with the government providing better incentives and a focus on fundamental research in the sciences and engineering, India can become an important R&D power. This article analyses the present scenario and suggests policy steps to achieve this goal.

Revisiting Drought-Prone Districts in India

The Drought-Prone Areas Programme and the Desert Development Programme launched by the Government of India during the 1970s used rainfall and irrigation as the two criteria to ameliorate the impact of drought in the targeted districts. This article revisits the eligibility criteria in light of the recent climatic classification and irrigation statistics.

Some Notes on the Indian Economy in Crisis

Assessment and Prospects

There is no sign of recognition among the political class and policymakers of the implications of the persistence of many adverse trends in the Indian economy and their underlying causes. That the socio-economic consequences of allowing present trends to continue will be serious is already manifest in widening disparities between castes and communities, classes, rural and urban areas, and individuals. Measures meant to counter this have not been pursued seriously and have had little effect on the ground reality of persistent inequality, slow growth, and an unacceptably high incidence of mass poverty and unemployment. This article calls for a radical retuning of policies aimed at achieving inclusive economic growth and a more egalitarian distribution of income.

Developments in the Workforce between 2009-10 and 2011-12

After a disappointing performance between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the Indian labour market showed some improvement between 2009-10 and 2011-12. During this two-year period, around 11 million jobs were created at an annual growth rate of around 1.1% per annum. Both rural and urban India witnessed a sharp decasualisation of employment, especially of females, and a significant improvement in the creation of regular wage employment as compared to previous rounds of the National Sample Survey. There was a faster decline in the share of workers in the farm sector during this period, while manufacturing and service sectors witnessed high growth rates in employment.

Performance-Based Incentives of the ASHA Scheme

Stakeholders’ Perspectives

A study of Accredited Social Health Activists in Shahapur taluka of Maharashtra, a drought-prone adivasi-inhabited area, shows that the remuneration of ASHAs is a growing concern both for them, as well as their families. Recognising their contribution to public health services, the government should provide fixed payment to them, beyond which task-based incentives should continue to be given, though at a revised rate. The current system of remuneration is making it difficult for ASHAs to meet their family's needs and the community's expectations. Further, payment and reimbursement procedures need to be simplified.

Democratic Decentralisation and Citizenship

This article discusses the scope of democratic decentralisation to deepen democracy for the poor. While processes and platforms for citizen engagement like the gram sabha have been incorporated into policy and operational guidelines, the capability of the poor and marginalised to access them is severely compromised, leading to a subversion of development initiatives meant for the poor. The article attempts to understand the local citizen space and governance space as distinct from and complementary to each other, and demarcate the role of panchayats and community-based organisations with respect to these spaces.

An Engagement with Camus

Thirty Years and Two Disparate Social Imaginaries

Existentialism and writers like Albert Camus have influenced literature and thought, including in India, since the 1960s. This account of the engagement of an Indian writer - from his teens to maturity - with Camus tries to look at this influence, its validity and its relationship with the Indian social imaginary. It argues that the content of "the absurd" and the realisation of the limitations of "modernity" were very different in Indian conditions from those prevalent in post-war Europe, even though there were overlaps.

Social Security Pensions in India

An Assessment

Social security pensions in India have acted as a vital source of stability for approximately 2.6 crore elderly, disabled and widowed persons today. A 10-state survey in 2013 revealed that the pension scheme was running reasonably well. There is strong evidence to support the fact that the money is reaching the intended benefi ciaries without any major leakages. The patterns of usage of the pension are indicative of its importance in the lives of the benefi ciaries. An evaluation of the scheme also brings to the fore issues related to the diminutive amount, inefficient disbursal mechanism, cost of collection and the lack of a fixed pattern of payment.

Is Enough Being Done to Regulate Global Commodity Markets?

Commodity markets are becoming interconnected, with large global financial investors choosing to invest directly in these markets. With this comes the question of how one is to regulate markets which are truly global, with investors many a time being from outside national regulatory jurisdictions. All these issues have been acknowledged by the G-20 and governments, and regulations will have to be made keeping in mind the constantly changing trading strategies in commodity markets that are increasingly becoming systemically important.

One-Dimensional Cinema

India’s New Imaginary Spaces

This article addresses the transformation of dissent in Indian cinema over the past decade. In analysing two films by Vishal Bhardwaj and Dibakar Banerjee, the author argues that the incorporation of critical ideas on society and politics into the mainstream cinema reflects the diminishing potential of dissent in India, and is related to the rise of neo-liberalism and consumer culture. The present fascination with rural India and the subaltern figure in films means that the latter is being consumed as a product by the spectators of the films, as opposed to concern with social and political topics in politically committed cinema.

Politics of Tribal Land Rights

Notes from Andhra Pradesh

The Tribal Advisory Council constituted under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India, aimed to protect the land rights of tribals residing in the scheduled areas. The law clearly says that the governor of a state may make regulations to provide for peace and good governance of the scheduled areas but not without consulting the TACs. But in the notified scheduled areas of Andhra Pradesh, although the TAC is an independent constitutional body, in reality, it remains subservient to dominant non-tribal political interests. An exploration into the functioning of the TAC between 1976 and 2010.

Regional Inequality in India in the 1990s

A District-level View

This note examines changes in regional inequality in India in the 1990s using data for 210 of India's districts, spread across nine states. The methodology is that of cross-section growth regressions, which seek to explain longer-run growth rates in terms of initial conditions of development. By identifying these connections, it seeks to illuminate the role of physical infrastructure, financial development, and human capital in infl uencing regional patterns of growth. In turn, this may have implications for government policies at the national and state levels.

Price Subsidies versus Income Transfers

The impact of the price subsidy under the National Food Security Act on consumption of cereals, and, therefore, welfare, will be different from that of an unconditional direct income transfer equal to the cost of the price subsidy only if the price subsidy is regressive among the set of people covered. This note argues that restricting the subsidy to an inferior good such as coarse grains alone may work better from both the fi scal and equity points of view. It recommends raising the entitlement for coarse grains to 7 kg a person per month, but keeping it unchanged for wheat and rice at 5 kg a person per month.

Plugging PDS Pilferage

A Study of an SMS-based Monitoring Project

The targeted public distribution system is fraught with leakages. With the Food Security Act in place now, policymakers face a greater challenge in curtailing leakages and improving delivery on a much larger scale. This article studies a project in Uttar Pradesh which uses mobile phone SMS to monitor PDS supplies and fi nds an enthusiastic response from the users, even if the project itself has not worked well.

Women Voters in Indian Democracy

A Silent Revolution

An analysis of the political participation of women by comparing the turnout of women voters to men in all the state elections from 1962 till 2012 reveals a steady and sharp decline in the gender bias in voting over time. This phenomenon is seen across all the states, including the traditionally "backward" states of north India.

Bengal Famine of 1943

An Appraisal of the Famine Inquiry Commission

Comparing the secret transcripts of the hearings of the Famine Commission that went into the reasons for Bengal's 1943 famine with its published report reveals serious omissions and obfuscations. These call into question scholars' reliance on the commission's published figures of the availability of rice in the famine year.

Microfinance: To What End?

Findings from Pakistan

While Pakistan's poverty reduction strategy paper emphasises microfinance as an important development tool, the sector is well on its way to becoming an important part of the country's mainstream banking industry, focusing more on achieving commercial viability and a resulting dilution in the sector's social mission, i e, poverty eradication. This comparative analysis based on the findings from fieldwork conducted during 2010-12 points out that this sector has experienced mission drift and is no longer serving the poorest.

Interstate Water Disputes

Perils and Prospects of Democratisation

The politicisation of interstate water disputes in India is an inevitable fallout of the historical and structural conditions that obtained at the time of forming the Indian union. Looking at the 2012-13 escalation in the Cauvery river water dispute, this article examines how politics plays a part in shaping such disputes and sets limits on our responses to them through legal means. Considering the effects of politicisation, it argues that contrary to predictions of water wars, these politics may have a positive impact on accentuating interdependencies between states and deepening democratic spaces if they are supported by appropriate institutional responses.

Politics of Pre-election Riots in Kishtwar

The communal clashes that broke out in Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir on 9 August 2013 on the eve of Eid are going to cast a long shadow on the forthcoming elections as well as on communal relations. As it is, the Islamic nature of the later phase of the Kashmiri movement and the creation of the village defence committees have led to the two communities choosing sides and to the shrinking of common spaces. The division which seemed to be political in the initial phase has now entered the social and cultural spaces.

Vicissitudes in the Acquisition of Land: A Case Study

After touching on a few issues related to the increasing cost of land in the country and hence input costs, this article examines the case of Maan village near Pune in Maharashtra. There has been a sea change in the attitudes of landowners to land acquisition and compensation. Three phases can be identified in this saga and the landowners are now not only coming up with alternatives, but are also more confi dent about demanding what they want. They have become business savvy in their dealings with the authorities

Resistance to Market Regulation

Caste and Capitalism in Pakistan

Developing countries like Pakistan and many others face the challenge of taxing and regulating markets. Describing the textile sector in Pakistan at the turn of this millennium, this note discusses the push from international fi nancial institutions on Pakistan's national policy to regulate markets, and the resistance by the national capitalist class that find it in their interest to operate on traditional caste lines, thereby rejecting transparency of accounts and even taxation.

Locating Lohia in Feminist Theory

The general populace, academics, and feminists in India have been largely oblivious to Ram Manohar Lohia's liberating thoughts on Indian women. This article points out that their relevance has not diminished with the passage of time as the patriarchal domination of Indian women, enmeshed in a pernicious caste system riddled with class divisions, continues. Summarising Lohia's radical and insightful position on the subjugation of Indian women and the ways he suggests for their emancipation, this article makes an attempt to locate his thoughts in the variegated landscape of feminist theory.

Jammu and Kashmir

A Confederate within a Federal System

A constitution is the legally permitted matrix for exercise of power and access to power. The Constitution of India is a federal constitution that establishes a dual polity, which consists of the union at the centre and the states at the periphery, each endowed with sovereign powers assigned to them by the Constitution. Jammu and Kashmir, however, stands out as the only state in the Indian union that is not governed by the general scheme of distribution of powers. A special departure was made, defi ning what powers ought to belong to which government, which perhaps leans towards a more confederal than federal arrangement.

FDI in India

Ideas, Interests and Institutional Changes

This article examines the pattern of foreign direct investment infl ows in India through three periods: (1) 1969-75, when the policy regime was "anti-FDI", (2) 1975-91, when promotion of FDI was "selective", and (3) after 1991, when the policy regime is "pro-FDI". It shows how the ideas and interests of different political groups have affected the institutional changes that have infl uenced FDI infl ows. It also suggests that competition between provincial states has positively contributed to the growth of FDI infl ows since the economic reforms of 1991.

Climate Change, Uttarakhand, and the World Bank's Message

The devastation in Uttarakhand in June 2013 showed that some of the effects of climate change are already upon us. It ought to serve as a wake-up call to desist from a development model that upsets fragile ecosystems on a large scale and impoverishes people who are already highly vulnerable to a wide range of social and economic problems. This article points out that we need to heed the consequences of climate change projected in a new report by the World Bank and think of viable ways to tackle the challenge ahead.

Underestimation of Suicide

A Study of the Idu Mishmi Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh

Reliable suicide statistics are a prerequisite to understanding vulnerability to suicide, its monitoring and prevention. The present study examines the existing offi cial suicide estimates, which are compared and analysed with fi eld data collected from the Dibang Valley and Lower Dibang Valley districts of Arunachal Pradesh. The study validates the reliability of offi cial data and addresses the issue of underestimation of completed suicides in the study area.

Double-Digit Inclusive Growth

Not without Robust Agricultural Growth

India aspires for a double-digit growth rate. For that, agriculture will have to grow at least 4% annually to support gross domestic product growth rates in excess of 8% if we are to constrain imports at slightly higher levels than at present. Such agricultural growth can be attained with a total factor productivity growth rate of 2%, along with developing the net irrigated area to 90 million hectares. But in the past two decades, agricultural growth has been less than 3% and productivity growth has been lower than 2%. Surface irrigation has not grown and groundwater is being overexploited in many parts of the country. Achieving the required agricultural growth for double-digit growth of the economy is a signifi cant challenge.

Human Rights, Honour Killings and the Indian Law

Scope for a ‘Right to Have Rights’

This article argues that in the absence of normative criteria that can identify a set of universal human rights, the "right to have constitutional rights" can take on the onus of being that universal human right. In the case of honour killings, the right to have and, more importantly, access legitimate fundamental and legal rights is under severe doubt. A universal standard framework - such as a reading of "right to have rights" would have it - justifies the very purpose of human rights itself. The origin of human rights, thus, shifts from the matter of "being human" to a matter of social, political and legal constructivism.

Conceptualising Indian Diaspora

Diversities within a Common Identity

This article attempts to provide a framework for understanding the Indian diaspora, which encompasses a diverse set of people living outside India. This diversity is not only a representation of the plurality of Indian society and heterogeneity in the phases and patterns of migration, but also emerges out of the host country variations. However, regardless of this diverse framework, the Indians in the diaspora derive a commonality from their Indian origin, thus making their identity a play between the divergences and the unifying Indian stamp.

A Robust and Forward-looking Industrial Production Indicator

Against the backdrop of growing criticism of the index of industrial production, which provides information only about the past and sometimes fl uctuates wildly, this article seeks to provide a more robust and forward-looking economic indicator of industrial growth. Such an indicator, based on past IIP numbers, can also serve as a benchmark for future IIP numbers when they are released. Using data on the IIP's three sub-series - manufacturing, mining, and electricity - it seeks to isolate the "noise" from the "signal" in two steps, enabling predictions for the two past months and four months into the future using the latest available IIP numbers in any given month.

Bureaucratic Literacy and the Politics of Complaint

Untold Story from Rajasthan

While analysing the Dhanka's scheduled tribe status in Rajasthan, this anthropological account sheds light on the complications faced by the members of this backward community while they struggle to access their legal rights with insufficient means to access the institutions that are supposed to ensure these very rights.

Cultures of Violence

A Woman without a Past or a Future

Based on the story of Manisha, a homeless mentally-ill woman who met with an untimely end in a mental hospital, this article raises questions about the cultural practices of the scientific-medical paradigm, the state legal system, and society that allows a vulnerable woman to vanish without a trace. It ponders the ways in which we can talk about the cultures of violence even in apparently benevolent institutions, and how science and the law are complicit in the violence that takes place in the name of helping the helpless.

Cultures of Violence

A Woman without a Past or a Future

Based on the story of Manisha, a homeless mentally-ill woman who met with an untimely end in a mental hospital, this article raises questions about the cultural practices of the scientifi c-medical paradigm, the state legal system, and society that allows a vulnerable woman to vanish without a trace. It ponders the ways in which we can talk about the cultures of violence even in apparently benevolent institutions, and how science and the law are complicit in the violence that takes place in the name of helping the helpless.

Shadow Banking in India and China

Causes and Consequences

Shadow banking has always played a part in India and China to meet credit needs not catered to by the formal banking sector. This article argues that financial liberalisation and deregulation have seen shadow banking institutions in both countries becoming more interconnected and more systemically important. India and China require better regulatory supervision based on the functions of shadow banks to reduce any scope of regulatory arbitrage even if this is at the cost of lower economic growth. Prudential regulation like Basel III is not of much help. What is required is better structural regulation of shadow fi nancial institutions to curb their explosive growth.

Social Security System and the Informal Sector in India

A Review

India's social security system, whose origin dates back to 1947, carries little for the workers in the informal sector. However, over the years, a large majority of the Indian workforce has joined the informal sector. Lack of social security to this section of workers is a serious question mark on the productivity of the entire Indian economy. This article reviews the concept of social security, as applicable to developing countries like India, in view of its growing informal workforce and makes an assessment of the available social security schemes for this category of workers.

Conditions of SC/ST Households

A Story of Unequal Improvement

The economic and living conditions of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe households have experienced changes during the phase of accelerated economic growth in the last decade based on 2001 and 2011 Census data. There has been considerable progress in the well-being of SCs and STs during the last decade, but the gap between SCs and STs and of both these groups and the rest of the population has widened.

The Tenacity of the Hindu Undivided Family

Gender, Religion and Tax Concessions

The key houses of business, both old and new, found ways to maintain control over decision-making through the institutional structure of the family-run business house. This article attempts to point out the unique interstices of gender, property and religion in the facilitation of the family-run business house as the locus of organisation of industry and commerce in India.

Inequality, Income Distribution and Growth in Maharashtra

The inter-district inequality of per capita incomes in Maharashtra for the period 2001-09 is analysed here and it is found that inequality rose for the period 2001-05 and subsequently declined. Though it has been rising, it is at a lower level than that observed for 2001-05. This has been accompanied by shifts in the relative ranking of different districts across the income distribution. Data does not point to the convergence of per capita incomes across districts. The historical composition of incomes, in particular the share of the tertiary sector in GDP, is an important predictor of divergence in district per capita incomes.

Subaltern Studies and Capital

Vivek Chibber's critique (Postcolonial Theory and the Spectre of Capital) of the Subaltern Studies school deals largely with the early work of three authors - Ranajit Guha, Dipesh Chakrabarty and Partha Chatterjee. This note critically examines Chibber's arguments.

Socio-economic Profile of Muslims in Maharashtra

A socio-economic profi le of Muslims in Maharashtra commissioned by the Maharashtra State Minority Commission indicates dismal conditions on the social, economic and educational fronts as also poor representation in the legislature and the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service cadres.

Development of Muslims

Comparing Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh in the early 2000s

By the early 2000s Muslims in Gujarat were far behind those in Andhra Pradesh in terms of indicators of community well-being, such as educational attainment, industrial employment and public sector employment. Studying the well-being of the Muslim community in Gujarat is important in the context of the claims of Narendra Modi's much hyped "Gujarat development model". This article seeks to understand the status of the Muslim community in Gujarat in the period prior to the 2002 violence and compare the situation with that in AP, which has a somewhat similar profile.

Unequal Citizens

Field Notes from Rajouri and Poonch

In the militarised border regions of Rajouri and Poonch (Jammu and Kashmir), the boundaries are blurred. Violence had breached the security of people's homes, changing their lives forever. Despite the enormity of the violence done to their lives and livelihood, the cry for justice seems to be missing. The region appeared to have been enveloped in hopeless resignation.

What Ails Panchayati Raj?

Two decades have elapsed since the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act institutionalised panchayati raj as the mandatory third tier of governance in India. Yet due to a lack of extensive devolution of the three Fs - functions, functionaries and funds - most panchayati raj institutions still operate as poor adjuncts to the bureaucracy and higher level governments. This paper reviews the process of devolving power to them and pinpoints the main obstacles in the path of establishing truly self-governing local bodies in rural areas. On the basis of this, recommendations are made to make them more effective.

A Separate Telangana

Promises and Prospects for Tribal People

This article looks at the agendas and interests of the tribal people of Telangana region, who perceive that they have been continuously neglected and deprived of their legitimate rights and entitlements right from the time of the Nizam's rule. The present "democratically elected governments", dominated by the upper castes and landlords, have continued to exploit them. Can the plundering of the tribal people be stopped? Will the formation of a separate Telangana state generate a set of strategies that will ensure social justice for them? Will it bring about a better interface between tribals and non-tribals?

The 300 Ramayanas and the District Mental Health Programme

The web version of this article corrects a few errors that appeared in the print edition.

With the completion of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, an appraisal of the mental health initiative in the space of state-sponsored health delivery seems appropriate and timely. Discourses in health delivery usually tend to implement similar sets of tools. This article argues that to achieve some form of clarity it may be appropriate to look at health delivery through the lenses of the social sciences. In this attempt, the article uses the metaphor of 300 Ramayanas and the tools of A K Ramanujan to review thinking about the District Mental Health Programme.

Policy Shifts in Land Records Management

The National Land Records Modernisation Programme’s objectives cannot be understood in isolation from the broader policies of economic and governance reform. The shifts in the policy objectives of computerisation and updating of land records must be seen in the light of the “rightward drift in Indian politics” of the Indian state and its virtual abandonment of the state-led land reform measures. The possibility of radical land reforms appears remote as the policy objective is to provide secure land title and property rights for facilitating the growth of the land market.

Displaced from Private Property

Resettlement and Rehabilitation Experiences from Mumbai

Baseline data for planning the resettlement and rehabilitation of persons affected by the Mumbai Urban Transport Project lumped persons situated on private property with slumdwellers leading to protests and delays. This study, based on empirical research, confi rms that compensation offered was far below rightful entitlements and suggests that R&R should be a separate full-scale project in large urban settings.