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Impact of Aadhaar on Welfare Programmes

India’s ambitious biometric identity documents project, Aadhaar, was portrayed as one that would enhance India’s welfare efforts by promoting inclusion and reducing corruption. From being a voluntary ID, it has become de facto compulsory for most welfare programmes. Despite early warnings of its limited role in achieving its stated objectives, successive governments have ramped up its use. Using a variety of sources, a review of the impact of Aadhaar on welfare programmes is presented. It is found that far from being inclusive and reducing corruption, Aadhaar is becoming a tool of exclusion. The government’s estimates of savings also do not stand up to scrutiny, and whatever is termed as savings is often the result of a denial of legal entitlements. In its current form, the Aadhaar project undermines the right to life.

The Woman Question

The entwined and conflicted histories of feminism and Marxism could yield new understandings of the problems besetting the women’s movement in 21st century India, particularly issues concerning sex work, and caste. Spanning the socialist feminists of early 19th century Europe, Marx’s own writings on the “woman question,” and the scholarship that emerges from the 1960s and 1970s, this paper suggests that recent post-Marxist work can offer a fruitful site for pushing the boundaries of feminist approaches to capitalist development in India today.

Aadhaar and Food Security in Jharkhand

Aadhaar-based biometric authentication is now compulsory for most users of the public distribution system in Jharkhand. Based on a recent household survey, this paper examines various issues related to this measure, including exclusion problems, transaction costs, and its impact on corruption. The findings raise serious questions about the appropriateness of this technology for rural Jharkhand.

Out-of-School Children

The figures for out-of-school children put out by various official sources in India show wide variations. The problems lie not just in the definitions but also in methods of estimation. A glaring lacuna in this process is that sporadic or irregular attendance is not taken into account when estimating the number. This paper unpacks the phenomenon through an intensive micro-study of enrolment and attendance of all children in a single panchayat in India. It shows that irregular attendance accounts for a much larger proportion of out-of-school children, with wide variation in attendance across social groups. It also conducts a regression analysis to analyse school and household-level factors that affect student attendance. It finds that school-level factors play a much larger role in determining student attendance.

Wage Determination under Imperfect Competition

This study empirically analyses the relationship between market imperfections and wage growth in the Indian manufacturing sector, underscoring rising inequality and unemployment in the sector. Using concentration indices, Kaleckian “mark-up,” and wage rate, relationships between market concentration, monopoly power, and wage growth are examined. A panel data analysis shows that the impact of market competition on industry wage structure is dialectical: firms with higher market power pay higher wages compared to competitors; however, if the market power translated into a monopoly position, then the company may resort to cost-cutting, leading to relatively decreasing wage growth. The panel regression shows that, other things held constant, fewer firms with prudential regulation for monopoly power would lead to higher wage growth.

Mukti Kon Pathe?

In the 1930s, for the first time in Indian politics,Ambedkar jointly addressed caste and class, unravelling the connections between caste, class, and religion in Indian society. A focus on the anti- khoti struggle in the Konkan region and the working class struggle in Bombay, under Ambedkar’s leadership through the Independent Labour Party during 1936–42, allows for a deeper exploration of this ideological position. Ambedkar’s formulation and emphasis of the “untouchables’ question” in class struggle, then and now, has continued to disrupt traditional formulations of working class solidarity.

Bureaucratic Rationality, Political Will, and State Capacity

The successful implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in undivided Andhra Pradesh underlines the triumph of citizen formation over patron–client politics, aided by a democratic politics. This article argues that its success in Andhra Pradesh depended heavily on how the ideas within the rural development bureaucracy interacted with the political executive. This synergy engendered a state’s capacity to insulate a committed bureaucracy from powerful farmers and construction companies who had a clear interest in thwarting the programme. Elections can in a democracy elevate citizen concern over particularistic populism, when political will is matched by ideational conviction in the bureaucracy.

Viewing National Water Policies through a Gendered Lens

Despite the international recognition accorded to the key role played by women in issues around water, the extent to which India’s national water policies accommodate gender concerns remains to be examined. Based on an in-depth content analysis of the three nwps—of 1987, 2002, and 2012—this paper argues that incorporation of women in the planning, provisioning, and management of water resources continues to be disregarded. Women’s concerns in the water sector are articulated around their domestic roles and subsumed under notions of “household” and “social equity.” The larger questions of water rights of women, both in terms of access and control over decision-making, remain unaddressed.

Service Sector Growth in India from the Perspective of Household Expenditure

This paper aims to examine India’s recent service sector-led growth from the perspective of household expenditure. Using household-level expenditure data from three “thick” rounds of the Household Consumer Expenditure Survey (1993–94, 2004–05, and 2011–12), we present evidence of two empirical trends. First, a significant portion of demand for services comes from poor households; and second, a puzzling trend has emerged since 2004–05—the shrinking of the difference in the share of monthly expenditure spent on services between rich and poor households. We present a simple model of consumer behaviour with a hierarchy of preferences, lexicographic ordering, and consumption thresholds to evaluate this puzzle.

‘Timepass’ Development

​Significant empirical gaps between the technocratic discourse and the grass-roots experiences of technology are exemplified by the growing usage of social and digital media in rural areas where Information and Communications Technologies for Development and e-governance pilot projects have failed to meet their goals. Based on an ethnographic study of information and communication technologies in two villages of Rajasthan, the paper aims to situate social and digital media in the complex rural society and media ecology using co-constructivist approaches. Focusing on context-sensitive meaning-making of icts, the paper seeks to contribute to an empirically sound discourse on media, technology and rural society in India.

On the Importance of Triangulating Data Sets to Examine Indians on the Move

A chapter dedicated to migration in the Economic Survey 2016–17 signals the willingness on the part of Indian policymakers to address the linkages between migration, labour markets, and economic development. This paper attempts to take forward this discussion. We comment on the salient mobility trends in India gleaned from existing data sets, and then compare and critique estimates of the Economic Survey with traditional data sets. After highlighting the data and resultant knowledge gaps, the article comments on the possibility of using innovative data sources and methods to understand migration and human mobility. It also offers ideas on how an enhanced understanding of mobility is important for policy interventions for those individuals who change locations permanently and those who move seasonally.

Kayasthas of Bengal

A study of the legendary migration of five Brahmins, accompanied by five Kayasthas, from Kannauj in North India to Bengal to form an elite subgroup in the caste hierarchy of Bengal, combines genetic analysis with a reappraisal of historical and genealogical works. This combination of historical and genetic analysis creates a new research tool for assessing the evolution of social identities through migration across regions, and points to the potential for interdisciplinary research that combines the humanities and genetic science.

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