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An Invisible Disaster

Endosulfan Tragedy of Kerala

The rationality of science and economics, and the politics of development often silence the struggles of individuals and communities exposed to the risks of indiscriminate use of pesticides. This article highlights the aftermath of aerially spraying endosulfan, a toxic pesticide, in Kasaragod District of Kerala. It analyses the economic and political forces that have come together to push aside the struggles of affected individuals and communities whose experiences contradict the science-dominant public discourse in the state. Though endosulfan has been banned, those suffering from serious disabilities due to its use are still to receive adequate help.

Industrial Growth in Two Border Cities of the Punjab

Did the Sikh militancy, beginning in the late 1970s and ending in the late 1990s, have a negative effect on the industrial sector of the Indian Punjab, especially in its northern districts? This note discusses and compares the industrial growth of Batala (in Gurdaspur District of the Indian Punjab) and Sialkot (a border city in the Pakistani Punjab), as both these cities had similar colonial origins of their industries, and these industries were shattered by partition. In the post-independence period, like in Sialkot, industry in Batala might have achieved an impressive growth if the Sikh militancy had not interceded. Batala and Sialkot had a similar industrial past, but they have a dissimilar industrial present. The comparison suggests that the argument for a special industrial package for Punjab is not without substance.

Immigrants and Immigration in India

A Fresh Approach

India has been receiving large numbers of immigrants, mostly from the neighbouring countries of South Asia, and some from other parts of the world, and hence she needs to be seen as a major immigration country. The article provides a detailed discussion of the problems and concerns of cross-border migrants, and India's policy stance in dealing with immigration. It argues that India needs to differentiate between the stocks and the flows of its immigrant population. Also, it would no doubt be in the larger interests of the country to control the unabated flows of migrants from across the borders and minimise their negative effects, but one must not lose sight of the components of a humane migration policy, including investment in the human capital of the migrant population.

Spectators or Participants?

Effects of Social Auditsin Andhra Pradesh

How does a hierarchical, top-down state respond to efforts to become directly accountable towards its citizens? This article analyses this question through India's experience with implementing social audits for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Andhra Pradesh. Drawing on an intensive survey with MGNREGA wage-seekers, it examines the role of social audits in providing a platform for citizens to engage with the state; the state's ability to respond to grievances raised through the audit; and the effects of the audit on the local corruption market.

Informal Employment Statistics

Some Issues

This article discusses issues of measurement of informal employment. It briefly traces the evolution of the conceptual framework on the informal sector, what defines the sector and informal employment, and the new questions that have been introduced in surveys to help capture informality. A snapshot of the findings on informal employment from National Sample Survey Office reports of the 61st (2004-05), 66th (2009-10) and 68th (2011-12) rounds is presented in the article.

Conflict of Kashmir and the Problem of Disappearance

The disappearance of young men without any trace in Kashmir over the last three decades of conflict is a reason for anguish and agitation in the region. For families and close relatives of the disappeared, the issue goes beyond the politics of freedom. In the context of the worldwide phenomenon of "enforced disappearances" this article looks at the problem of disappearances in a conflict region of India and the challenges faced by the families as well as those for a democratic society.

BJP's Youth Vote Dividend

An examination of age-wise voting and preferences in the 2014 elections reveals that the Bharatiya Janata Party benefi ted from youth and first-time voters showing a high preference for the party relative to other age groups.

Lake Fisheries in Kashmir

A Case More Undone Than Done

The Dal and Wular lakes produce 70% of the total fish production in Jammu and Kashmir. In addition to introduction of carps, negative externalities of tourism, excessive fertilisation of vegetable crops on floating gardens leading to algal blooms have all led to a consistent decline and destruction of the breeding grounds of the local fish species schizothorax. Though fish production in absolute terms may be increasing in the Dal lake, the rate of growth of even carp fish production is declining. The restoration of schizothorax fishery in the lakes of Kashmir on an even keel will ensure growth in socio-economic-cultural terms and the sustainability of fishery.

Regulating Air Pollution from Coal-Fired Power Plants in India

Coal remains the main fossil fuel for power generation in India. The health impacts of air pollution from these coal-fired power plants include numerous premature deaths and frequent asthma attacks. In the future, the amount of power generated from coal will remain high, at least through 2030, and unless we fi nd a better way to manage these power plants, the environmental effects of growing air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and the cost to human health will all be high.

NREGA in Kashmir

Opportunity for Social Protection Derailed

The research on the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act across India has bypassed Kashmir and what little analysis there is, is limited to official statistics. This article looks at how the official figures correlate with the impact of the policy on the socio-economic vulnerabilities in the state. The outcomes in the sample area are primarily rooted in the weak contextual design and a venal institutional apparatus, which are not captured by official figures. A comprehensive understanding of the outcomes of such schemes thus depends on analysis of ground-level data rather than offi cial figures alone.

Safety of Healthcare Workers from Occupational Exposure to Infections

As India's healthcare industry has expanded continuously, the risk of nosocomial infections has increased proportionately. Measures to prevent it and put in place a mechanism to control the injuries are needed urgently, especially when there is not only an increase in domestic demand but also an impetus in health tourism. The protection of the country's skilled health workforce is a national need.

Academic Performance Indicators

Straitjacketing Higher Education

The Academic Performance Indicator, the University Grants Commission's method of assessing teacher performance, curtails academic freedom, reduces all academic engagement to time spent, and has created an academic environment that is driven by competition for points.

Open Defecation in India

This study identifies 11 issues that have inhibited the spread of a comprehensive sanitation programme. It emphasises the complexity of issues and helps avoid the facile targeting of the poor as deficient citizens, whose latrine practices are viewed as a "primitive" source of social disorder and disease. Recognition that many factors are involved and interrelated might also serve as a warning against patchwork policies that disregard local context in their haste to proclaim another district an "open defecation free zone".

BJP's Victory in Haryana

Riding on the Modi Wave or a Smart Social Coalition?

The Bharatiya Janata Party pulled off a win in Haryana despite never having had a significant support base in the state or projecting a specifi c leader as its chief ministerial candidate. Aided by infighting in the Congress and the ineptness of the Indian National Lok Dal, the BJP's strategy was to sell the benefit of having the same party in power at the centre and in the state. Barring Jat-dominated west Haryana, the Narendra Modi factor and a social coalition of brahmins, other upper castes and dalits saw it win support in all regions, especially in urban constituencies and among educated and upper-class voters. Yet, it is still early days, and the Congress could prove worrisome if the BJP does not make good on its promises.

Is the Recent Reduction in India's Poverty Inclusive?

It is said that reduction in poverty has been the highest ever in India between 2004-05 and 2009-10. But evaluating the data across various population subgroups, it turns out that this reduction is not inclusive. It entirely excludes some groups with very high incidence of poverty, while there has been an increase in relative deprivation in some states.

The Poverty Line

Getting It Wrong Again…and Again

This brief note is a critique of (solely) the money-metric poverty identifi cation procedure recommended by the Rangarajan Committee on measurement of poverty. The contention in this note is that apart from some changes in matters of detail, the analytical basis of the identifi cation methodology proposed in the report displays an essential (and unfortunate) loyalty to the flawed methodology advanced in the reports of its distinguished predecessor committees and expert groups. This is a particular pity, in view of (a) the critiques of extant procedures which are numerously available in the literature; (b) the fundamental importance of the problem of poverty in our society; and (c) the fact of yet another missed opportunity to lend some useful direction to the assessment of money-metric deprivation in India.

Cultivating Communal Hatred in Bengal

Blasts in Khagragarh in Bardhaman district in West Bengal on 2 October 2014 have led to growing anti-Muslim propaganda in the state. Such incidents related to political violence have their roots in the political-economic structure of central Bengal where rural surplus has led to uneven economic growth, paving the way to political domination of one class over another. This can be seen from the class structure of the rice belt of Bardhaman, Hooghly and part of Birbhum districts, where the proportion of agricultural labour is still very high, between 40% and 50%. There is an urgent need to separate such instances of criminal activities, related to the political economy, from those of the purported Islamic jihad.

Lady Tata Memorial Trust and Leukaemia Research in Europe, 1932-53

The Lady Tata Memorial Trust, established in 1932 in Bombay, was among the earliest philanthropic foundations created to support leukaemia research globally. Very little was known about leukaemia, a major mystery in medical science, at the time. The trust provided fellowships and grants to some of the leading international researchers and contributed signifi cantly to the advancement of knowledge about leukaemia. This article presents an account of its work during the first two decades and throws light on a little known aspect in the history of international and Indian medical philanthropy as also leukaemia and cancer research.

Nationalism, Ideology and Consensual Democracy

A Study of the Kuki Zale’n-gam

Since its inception, the Kuki National Organization's objective was the creation of a state, Zale'n-gam, in India and Myanmar. The KNO advocated a liberal democratic political system. However, in the course of the movement, the KNO evidently departs from this ideology. From 2013 it advocates what it calls "consensual democracy" as a new political ideology. These contours of Kuki nationalism, the KNO's political ideology and the changing political landscape post-2013 are analysed here.

Reorganisation of States

A Different Approach

State reorganisation as an exercise needs to be pursued from a scientific perspective that looks at physiographic regions, natural resource distribution, agroclimate and river basins in addition to population distribution and cultural characteristics of the proposed new states. A new analytical framework suggests a limit on population size of a state, resulting in the creation of up to 50 states for better governance.

Silence of the Bengali Dalits of Barak Valley

A Marxist Interpretation

This article explores the nature and attributes of caste in the Barak Valley, situated in south Assam. It draws upon the Gramscian concept of hegemony and ideological domination to illustrate the silence of the Bengali dalits there. While caste as an institution of domination shows a direct pattern in other parts of India, in the Barak Valley it shows varied patterns - domination that is well accepted by the dalits.

Trade Facilitation and 'Hollowing-out' of Indian Manufacturing

Since the early 2000s, India's manufacturing sector has been showing signs of "hollowing-out" - domestic value addition in total output has been steadily declining, both in the aggregate manufacturing as well as disaggregated manufacturing industries. This has also been accompanied by falling domestic value addition in exports, even in traditional export-oriented industries. In this context, the article discusses the likely implications of the new WTO (World Trade Organization) Trade Facilitation Agreement on India's manufacturing sector.

Reading between the Poverty Lines

The proposed Rangarajan method on measurement of poverty in India borrows elements from three earlier methods - those of Alagh, Lakdawala and Tendulkar. An important departure in the Rangarajan method is to compute the poverty line commodity basket by combining items from two fractile groups to address the relatively higher expenses for some essential non-food items. This, while being statistically plausible, poses a behavioural dilemma, as there will be no fractile group that will satisfy both. As an alternative, we suggest dual poverty lines where the fi rst is computed on the basis of average calorie, protein and fat requirements which are region- and state-specifi c and the second uses the combined median fractile group after adjusting the distribution with price differentials.

Multitude, Living Labour and Dead Labour

Mediatised Labour and AAP

The Aam Aadmi Party's recent fight with the media has inaugurated and deepened the idea of the mediatised labour as expounded by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt in their manifesto Declaration written in the aftermath of the Occupy Wall Street movement and Arab Spring, events that used the media and yet did not collude with the logic of global capital. AAP has not just opened a new space and vocabulary in Indian politics but its tirades against local exploitation and global capital have changed the grammar of political and social ideology in spite of its recent defeats.

Lessons from Science: Need for a Rethink of Concepts in Economics

The recognition of two important concepts in science, namely, the assimilative capacity of nature (resilience) and the entropy law of thermodynamics enables the formulation of an alternative framework for factor utilisation in economics. This framework, which explicitly includes environmental capital as a factor, enables the llustration of the entropy law being the driver of diminishing marginal returns and the limited ranges of substitutability between factors. Such revisions have profound implications for policy formulation. Stabilising environmental capital becomes an important instrument of policy at all levels.

Legalising Defamation of Delinquent Borrowers

Disregarding the Constitution and the Law

In their attempt to ensure speedy recovery of loans, banks in India have begun publishing photographs and details of defaulting borrowers. It has proven to be an effective method of putting social pressure on defaulting borrowers. However, it is argued that the act of publishing details and photographs of borrowers in public fora is not only extrajudicial, but that it fundamentally violates the rights of borrowers.

International Comparison Program of the World Bank

How Meaningful Is the Exercise for India?

Are the purchasing power parities estimated by the International Comparison Program all that meaningful for large countries such as India and China? The article provides empirical evidence from India that suggests that the ICP practice of providing economy-wide PPPs that treat all countries (large and small) as single entities severely limits its usefulness. It also provides evidence that questions the usefulness of multilaterally determined PPPs in the context of bilateral comparisons between countries far removed from the numeraire country, namely, the United States. This note also argues that the lack of price information that is relevant for the poor severely limits the usefulness of the ICP PPPs in the poverty comparisons. Some suggestions are provided for improving the relevance and usefulness of the ICP.

An Identity Card on the Wall

Identities in Flux and Ethics of Technology Change

This article raises and deals with a set of questions and reflections on identity construction, projection and interpretation of a particular context in rural India. It revolves around the story of V Venkataswamy, a cotton handloom weaver in Adilabad in Telangana. It is also based on a particular narrative about this individual and a photograph of an identity he projected of himself. The article pleads for an engagement with the ethics involved in technology change and the impact it is having on millions of people across the length and breadth of the country.

A Poet and a Landlord

The Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Rabindranath Tagore in 1913 included a prize money of £8,000. It is commonly assumed that Tagore spent this entire sum on the asrama school in Santiniketan, and later for setting up his dream project – the Visva-Bharati University. The truth, however, is quite different. This note attempts to revisit the “will” of the poet, arguing that his decision regarding the investment of the substantial sum reveals a complex story in which the need of the peasants of his zamindari and that of the community in Visva-Bharati were held in a delicate ethical balance.

Sector and Cluster Effects of FDI in R&D in India

Emerging Trends

India has been attracting foreign direct investment in research and development over the past decade. This article provides a quantitative assessment of the FDI in flow for R&D from 2003 to 2009, and the sector and cluster preferences of multinational corporations investing in R&D in India. FDI in R&D is limited to the information technology, pharma/ biotechnology, and automotive sectors. This infl ow of FDI has not caused growth, but rather has chased growth-oriented sectors.

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.