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Black Money and Politics in India

The issue of black money in politics in India is multifaceted. A number of questions about its role in politics, how it is generated, its volume, its ill effects, and how it can be eliminated do not have answers that are always specific or clear-cut, and are often interlinked. A few of the answers can at best be partial or anecdotal and circumstantial. This article is an attempt to clarify some of these issues.

Is the ‘Pink Tide’ Ebbing?

Starting from Hugo Chávez’s electoral victory in 1998 to the resounding victory of the Bolivian indigenous leader Evo Morales in 2006, a sequence of leftist governments with explicitly anti-neo-liberal programmes rose to power in various regions of Latin America. But a little more than a decade later, there are indications that the “pink tide” is beginning to ebb. In Argentina, the centre-right is in power, ending 12 years of left rule. Even in Venezuela and Brazil, recent trends point towards an unmistakable resurgence of right-wing forces. How does one interpret these changes? Does the current crisis mark the end of the Latin American left? While seeking to answer some of these questions, an understanding of the achievements and limitations of the “left turn” in Latin American politics is presented.

Mothers-in-Law and Son Preference in India

Mothers-in-law are often portrayed as the most powerful entity in the household in Indian popular culture and media. In most literature too, the influence of Indian mothers-in-law is often taken for granted. However, most of the empirical evidence relies on qualitative data or on small samples. Looking at stated son preference and using the third National Family and Health Survey data set, the authors show that mothers-in-law do indeed have an influence on their daughters-in-law. Given the stronger son preference among mothers-in-law, this contributes to the high imbalance in the male to female sex ratio observed among children in India.

Indebtedness among Farmers and Agricultural Labourers in Rural Punjab

The paper examines various hitherto unexplored aspects of indebtedness among farmers and agricultural labour households in rural Punjab. It analyses the extent and distribution of indebtedness among farmers and agricultural labourers, their sources of debt and the per household debt incurred for various purposes. The paper also compares and contrasts variations in the rate of interest paid by different categories of farmers and agricultural labourers.

Quality of Rural Education at Elementary Level

A study of rural schools in Mansa district of Punjab reveals the dismal quality of education and academic performances at both government and private unrecognised schools. Though private schools are mushrooming and preferred by the poor, there is no evidence that they provide better school infrastructure or quality of education. Quality of education is especially crucial in rural areas where the majority of children are constrained by parental illiteracy, poverty and poor facilities. The neglect of government and government-aided schools is further marginalising the marginalised.

Determinants of Child Malnutrition in Tribal Areas of Madhya Pradesh

A research study conducted in three tribal districts— Alirajpur, Barwani and Khandwa—of Madhya Pradesh, based on a sample of 294 women with their last child in the age-group of six months–five years analyses the status and determinants of malnutrition and child death.

Targeting and Effects of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana on Access to Care and Financial Protection

This article provides evidence on the impact of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana on access to healthcare and financial risk protection; its coverage across selected states and whether the targeting is effective. Overall, just about 11% of households were enrolled and almost half of these households actually belonged to the non-poor category. Although the scheme has increased hospitalisation rate, we do not know if it has enabled people to access the “genuinely needed” inpatient care which they could not afford earlier or whether hospitals are inducing the demand by suggesting unnecessary inpatient care to the people. Disturbingly, it has hardly had any effects on financial protection. These evidences unequivocally indicate that targeted health insurance coupled with a healthcare delivery system dominated by private providers cannot be the means to achieve universal healthcare.

Social Identity and Wage Discrimination in the Indian Labour Market

Existing studies on caste- and religion-based wage discrimination in the Indian labour market have mainly focused on the wage gap between broadly classified social groups at the mean ignoring the gap at various points on the wage distribution. Using four rounds of unit level data from the National Sample Survey covering the period 1983 to 2011–12, this study shows that the wage gap and discrimination against socially disadvantaged groups vary markedly across the entire distribution. Further the wage discrimination against the two historically disadvantaged groups, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, is underestimated when the comparison is with other communities. The wage inequality among social groups has widened for Muslims and remained more or less the same for STs and SCs during the post-reform period (1994–2012) and there is an increase in wage discrimination against SCs, STs and Muslims. A strong message that emerges is that social identity-based wage disparity and discrimination have not disappeared despite affirmative actions.

Precarious Measures and Precise Numbers

This article features the history of the placement of the milestones along the long road from Calcutta to Benares in the late 1820s. It inquires into the practices of measurement in early colonial India and attempts to understand how the numbers were produced as fixed and final entities of measurement practices. It exposes the confusion, recalcitrance, guesswork and reckoning behind the emergence of this numerate culture. The confusion over distance measurement was often attributed to the inauthenticity or absence of instruments, to the variation of routes followed by the surveyors. But in spite of all practical difficulties, the administration demanded precise distance charts to fix the payments of the postal runners. The officers had no options but to choose from a multiple number of distance charts and finalise the numbers inscribed on the milestones. This was the way “scientific” measurements were done and “exact” numbers were produced.

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