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Decentralising Accountability

Ensuring good governance while devolving the 3Fs— functions, funds and functionaries—is a formidable challenge. An action research conducted in Sikkim from 2010 to 2016 focused on four questions: where is the corruption, what are the different types of corruption, how much is the quantum, and how do we reduce it effectively? A set of anti-corruption tools was integrated in the programme delivery, and corruption practices were broadly grouped into “easy to prevent,” “difficult to prevent but easy to detect,” and “difficult to prevent and detect.” By applying this strategy, we found that the corruption level dropped more than three times from 1.74% to 0.55%, and the savings from sanctioned cost rose to 20% (₹30.16 crore). This reduction was achieved despite weak enforcement, highlighting that a dynamic anti-corruption strategy that increases the probability of being caught can significantly reduce corruption by decentralising accountability.

Not Quite Black

From Frantz Fanon, via Edward Said, to Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, we have learnt how, in instances of encounters between people of different national, ethnic and racial provenances, skin colour has been held up as a conspicuous marker of culture (or thereby lack of), as well as a parameter for measuring vice and virtue. There are, however, shades of difference among the people who thrive within this hierarchical arrangement of skin colour. These debates are analysed by looking at Indian popular culture, especially Hindi cinema.

Thinking Clearly about Suicide in India—III

The rapid rise in suicide rates above 15 per lakh persons for teenaged males generated great public concern in Australia in the 1980s. Considered a “crisis” level, this led to an intense study of the causes of youth suicide as well as intensive efforts to devise public health programmes to assist young people at the risk of suicide. Reaching a peak in 1991, teenage male suicide rates have fallen steadily and are now less than 10 per lakh. In India, youth suicide rates vary greatly between states for males and females. For young males, suicide rates in 28, and for females in 12 states and union territories were at or above the crisis level. Yet there has been virtually no public recognition of the level or seriousness of youth suicide.

Public Hearings in Environmental Clearance Process

A public hearing is the only medium in the environmental clearance process through which people can interact directly with government officials and the project proponents regarding project-related concerns. The relevance of public hearings—underlining principles of “democratic participatory governance,” “sustainable development” and “natural justice” for people—can never be undermined. However, this single procedural step is at the centre of so many legal disputes in the Indian courts (Supreme Court and high courts), and the National Green Tribunal had to repeatedly step in and clarify its importance in public policy and the environmental clearance process. This article reviews a series of judicial and quasi-judicial decisions on the question of the public hearing process in India.

Recent Trends in Wealth Inequality in India

An analysis of the trends in wealth ownership and its inequality in India between 1991 and 2012 using three rounds of All-India Debt and Investment Survey data reveals a greater concentration of wealth with the top 10%, particularly after 2002. A dramatic shift in the decile-wise patterns of annual growth rates of assets in favour of the top deciles, particularly the topmost, has also been witnessed. The study considers the extent of wealth inequality by sector, state, and social and religious groups as well. It is hypothesised that the rising levels of wealth inequality are deeply linked to the growth strategy being followed, by which the gains from growth have been redistributed among those who were already wealthy.

Water War between Punjab and Haryana

Much has been said and written about sharing of river waters between Punjab and Haryana from time to time since the reorganisation of the state of Punjab in 1966. Various agreements, accords, tribunals, commissions and water sharing formulas have been worked out time to time, but the problem still remains unsolved. Haryana is stressing for the completion of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link to carry its share of surplus Ravi-Beas water (3.5 million acre-feet) awarded to it in 1976, while Punjab argues that it has no surplus water to share with Haryana, and is adopting various measures to check this outflow of water. Such awards and agreements are generally politically-induced, and therefore, remain unimplemented. This study highlights the ground realities related to irrigation to evaluate the claims and counterclaims of both the states.

Minority Claims and Majoritarian Anxieties

An exploration of the judicial and legislative responses to the claim for minority status by the Jains in post-independence India reveals the state's deep-seated disquiet about the idea of minority rights. Both the state and the courts, notwithstanding their commitment to these rights, viewed the demand of Jains with suspicion and detrimental to "national unity." This article hopes to demonstrate that the case of Jains is in fact quite central to the way in which definitions and understandings of minority and majority have come to be interpreted in our polity.

Ambedkar's Gita

As the Bhagavad Gita becomes an agent of a deeper sacralisation of the public sphere, it becomes necessary to read it from Ambedkar's perspective. Just as Thomas Jefferson--a deist, a proponent of the Enlightenment and a signatory to the American Declaration of Independence--took a pair of scissors to the Bible and cut out all references to miracles, time has come for us to ask: What would Ambedkar--an admirer of Buddha and John Dewey, a tireless advocate for the annihilation of caste and a signatory to the Indian Constitution--cut out of the Gita? What would Ambedkar's Gita look like?

Financial Inclusion in India

Existing literature on financial inclusion works with indices that use supply-side information on financial services and fail to capture demand-side information. These indices thus have a serious limitation: they might overestimate the extent of financial inclusion due to multiple bank accounts held by the same individual. Using micro-level data available from a pan-India survey, we compute a financial inclusion index for 22 states based on demand-side information. We find evidence of disagreement between the ranking of the states done on the basis of a supply-side information-based index and our demand-side information-based index. Also, exploiting the microstructure of the data, we attempt to identify some determinants of borrowing from formal sources. We find that being male, having a bank account and higher educational qualification are positively correlated with the likelihood of formal borrowing.

Law without Order

Rape trials in India continue to subject female victims to archaic notions of shame and honour. In a scenario where conviction rates are low, sentencing is the new site for stereotyping, and patriarchal structures in the criminal justice system lead to increasingly sexist results. A system of guidelines is required to govern sentencing in this unregulated thicket of prejudices.

Self-fulfilling Equilibrium and Social Disparities in Urban India

This article examines the persistence of group-based disparities in education and labour market outcomes in India. It argues that a possible reason responsible for this phenomenon is the existence of a self-fulfilling equilibrium trap. The social belief that certain groups are inferior leads to discrimination against them; over time, however, these communities start behaving in a manner that justifies society's perceptions about them, reinforcing and perpetuating initial disparities. The study uses NSSO data from the 68th round.

Estimation of the Size of the Black Economy in India, 1996-2012

This article attempts to make an advance in the estimation of the size of the black economy in India by bringing in the institutional aspects of black income generation and taking the macroeconomic variables they affect into consideration. The fiscal approach recognises that black incomes are generated through many different ways in various sectors. The size of the black economy is projected on the basis of the share of the services sector and trade in gross domestic product, with the crime rate representing the extent of illegality.

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