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The NREGA, the Maoists and the Developmental Woes of the Indian State

The United Progressive Alliance government's much touted fl agship programme under the National Rural Employment Act is aimed at countering some of the developmental woes of the Indian state in the backward regions. The Maoists are active in some of the most backward areas and the government has been accusing them of stalling development. Hence, the current solution as operationalised by the government is to fl ush out the anti-developmentalists by force and then proceed with development. We examine these issues through a case study of the NREGA in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa. The districts chosen were from the fi rst 200 where the NREGA has been implemented from 2006 onwards and are also under the infl uence of the Maoists.

The Bhopal Catastrophe: Politics, Conspiracy and Betrayal

Despite the Union Carbide Corporation being criminally liable for the Bhopal catastrophe, the government, though being the sole representative of the victims, colluded with the UCC and compromised the interests of the affected people. The UCC and its Indian subsidiary, the Union of India and the state of Madhya Pradesh made sure that the victims would not obtain compensation comparable to the damages awarded in similar mass tort actions in the United States. Moreover, even with the re-institution of criminal liability, the UCC accused have been allowed to evade prosecution. The trial court in Bhopal had no option but to hand down a sentence, equivalent to what is given for causing death by negligence in a traffic accident! Bhopal has hastened the decline in the standards of judicial decisions on the environment more than any other case.

The Politics of Not Counting Caste

In the debate on whether or not to count caste in the 2011 Census, there has been too little reflection on the implicit assumptions and analogies about both the census and caste that underpin the positions that have been taken. This article attempts to identify the major models that have been tacitly at work. Questioning the view that the status quo is benign or neutral, it argues that not counting caste has defeated the desire to transcend caste, and suggests that "caste blindness" be rejected in favour of a fresh beginning.

Slumdog Millionaire and Epistemologies of the City

Much of the critical and popular controversy surrounding the 2009 fi lm Slumdog Millionaire is derived from misconceptions over the representational possibilities of popular fi lm, as well as the overwhelming national framework of fi lm criticism. By locating the ways in which the dystopic aesthetic of Danny Boyle's earlier fi lm, Trainspotting, is energised when it meets the Mumbai slum, this essay argues that Slumdog explores the role of informal knowledge in the navigation of changing urban landscapes. In this way, it is not despite, but through, the fi lm's refusal of realist generic conventions that it offers its interpretation of the city.

India's Social Question in a State of Denial

In the four and a half years of its existence the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector submitted nine reports exploring a variety of conditions in India's "unorganised" sector. It is not surprising that the analyses and recommendations of these reports have been ignored by the government, for they call attention to the urgent need to address the inequality and non-inclusiveness in India's growth process. A refl ection on the NCEUS' reports, in particular the last report of the commission on the challenge of employment.

State of Research on Forced Migration in the East and North-East

Among the major aspects of forced migration in India's east and north-east that deserve attention are border and boundary confl ict, security, and refugees, the large presence of internally displaced persons in the region due to various confl icts and development projects, and mass-scale displacement due to natural disasters and environmental degradation leading to resource confl icts in recent times. A workshop organised by the Calcutta Research Group in Guwahati in February 2010 refl ected on the present body of work and future trends in research on forced migration in India's east and north-east.

Bt Brinjal: Need to Refocus the Debate

The Bt brinjal debate has featured technological worries relating to genetically modified crops, which appear relatively minor in comparison to the critical issue of who controls Indian agriculture and therefore who controls food security in India. While there cannot be a mere technological fix to the problems of Indian agriculture, technology - and therefore GM - will still be part of the solutions. Sadly, techno-worries - pitched by many who are opposed to technology and modernity - have held centre stage in the Bt brinjal debates.

Civilians and Citizenship: Perspectives on Civil War in South Asia

We need to go beyond conceptions of civilians caught up in civil war as direct participants or supporters of insurgent parties or innocent victims and objects of humanitarian intervention. We need to see them as citizens whose choices and predicaments influence the course of such wars. When such a paradigmatic approach is adopted, new normative and theoretical concerns arise. A discussion of issues that emerged at a workshop on civil war in south Asia.

Financial Sector Regulation in India

Financial sector reform has taken a new meaning all over the world. Until the global crisis, reform of the fi nancial sector meant deregulation. Today's truth is that, globally, reform of the fi nancial sector means reregulation and improving the quality as well as effectiveness of regulation. In moving forward, we must take into account both the global realities and the Indian context. In effecting change, India must be aware that (a) the fi nancial sector and its reform is not an end in itself, (b) the risks are amplifi ed if the reforms in the fi scal and real sectors are not in consonance with the pace of reform in fi nancial sector regulation, and (c) the highest priority should be accorded to effi cient intermediation of domestic saving and investment with a wide participation of the people of India. The three major proposals/ decisions on the fi nancial sector announced in the Union Budget are also discussed here.

The Insulation of India's Constitutional Judiciary

The Indian judiciary is insulated from vibrant checks and balances. Its "democratic" insulation arises from its use of contempt law to restrict criticism, its permissive view of libellous speech directed against "other" public officials, and, controversially, the use of English as the official language of the courts. Its "political" insulation arises from its ability to determine its own composition, and the inability of the political establishment to effectively remove allegedly tainted members of the judiciary. Both these forms of insulation embolden the judiciary on the one hand, while directly and indirectly restricting participation on the other, and further threaten to exacerbate the severe problems of judicial administration, delay and corruption in India.

Lessons from the 2008 World Food Crisis

The global food price spikes of 2008 should not have come as a surprise. There were a number of long-term trends that were working towards the surge in food prices, which was fi nally occasioned by some proximate causes. While global prices have eased since then - though not in India - there are lessons to be drawn from the 2008 crisis. There is a need to increase food production without raising prices to consumers. This calls for signifi cant public support for food production. Yet, the poverty and much more limited fi scal capacity of developing countries as well as the liberalised agricultural trade regulations over recent decades constrain them from being more supportive of food security efforts. In addition, international public support has fallen off since the 1980s as agro-business corporate interests increasingly infl uence public policy, trade regulations and access to technology.

Mediating between Violence and Non-violence in the Discourse of Protest

As long as the present generation of the powerful, whether the rulers in Washington or in New Delhi, persists with the practice of depending on its armed infrastructure to lord over the political space and establish hegemony over civil society, and fails to learn that such a policy invariably escalates a cycle of violence, the language of discourse in the relationship of the powerful and the powerless will be dominated by violence. In India today, how can there be a non-violent resolution of the major confl icts that are plaguing our society?


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