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Estimating Agricultural Productivity in Mysore and South Canara from Buchanan's Journey (1800-01)

In 1800 and 1801 Francis Buchanan conducted one of the first agricultural surveys in the erstwhile Mysore state and its adjoining regions. By subjecting data contained in his survey to rigorous analytical study, estimates of agricultural productivity in terms of per capita grain output for two regions in Southern India; the erstwhile Mysore state and South Canara district can be obtained. Given that reliable estimates of agricultural productivity for the pre-1800 period outside of North-West Europe are relatively sparse, the present study adds to the archive of known estimates of agricultural productivity so as to enable comparative studies of economic performance. Moreover, since agricultural productivity had a direct bearing on the standard of living in medieval and early modern economies, the findings of this paper have important implications for India's position in the Great Divergence debate.

Capitalisation of Nature

Trading in environmental commodities like various forms of "offsets" has started with its questionable premise that any loss or damage to environment at a particular space-time can be offset by a supposedly pro-environmental action in another space-time through the mediation of capital and market. In India, a rather disguised offset process known as compensatory afforestation has taken off under state and judicial patronage quite some time ago. Besides, India also has the strong credential of having hosted a more common form of offset trading in the Clean Development Mechanism. Referring briefly to both but discussing mainly the philosophy and practices of various forms of offset markets in vogue, this article tries to show that this concept is in sync with the evolution of capital and capitalism in history.

Democracy and Identity Politics in India: Is It a Snake or a Rope?

The politics of recognition has dual effects while empowering marginal communities during democratic participation in India. On the one hand, identity politics provides democratic empowerment to a few communities or specific sections of communities, while, on the other, it disempowers people of the same communities who are not yet able to understand the language of democratic state and lag behind in creating group visibility. Thus, identity politics in democracy includes a few and excludes some others, while it is fuelled by tendencies of inclusive exclusion. Through a case study of Chamars in Uttar Pradesh, a low Dalit caste that has now been politically empowered, this paper shows how identity politics alone cannot handle horizontal inequalities among marginal groups.

Fetishism of Hinduism and Its Secret Thereof

With the emergence of right-wing Hindutva forces backed by corporate monopoly capitalists and the media industry, and legitimised by the general culture of liberal democracy, a fresh understanding of fascism in India is necessary. This new understanding of fascism in India links the politics of Hindutva to Hinduism proper and claims that Hindutva, whilst being influenced by European fascism, also emerges from the general contradictions of Hinduism and uses caste-based, alienated social divisions to demonise Muslims and construct its authoritarian politics. The liberals imagine a secular opposition to Hindutva fascism from within the parliamentary system and the established left posits mere economism accompanied by parliamentary tactics. In opposition to them, this essay argues for an "Indian Fanonism" where the radical subaltern critique of Hinduism of B R Ambedkar, helped by Walter Benjamin's critique of culture in the era of late imperialism, takes the role of the Marxist weapons of critique.

Silver Lining in Odisha's Organised Manufacturing Sector

Odisha's industry sector began a phase of high growth in 2002-03. It contributed just 24% to the gross state domestic product in 1980-81, but 38% in 2007-08, before declining to 33% in 2012-13. This paper points out that organised manufacturing, especially in basic metal and alloys, has been the driver of growth in the last decade. The average productivity of labour in organised manufacturing increased during 1981-90, peaked in 1989-90, declined in 1991-2002, and has been rising again from 2002-03. Labour productivity has grown the most in basic metal and alloys, and capital accumulation in paper and paper products. Capital productivity shows a negative trend overall. Total factor productivity fell in manufacturing as a whole and three major sub-sectors, barring basic metal and alloys, and chemical and chemical products.

The Economic Legacies of Colonial Rule in India

The essay reinterprets the British colonial empire in India (the Raj, for short) as a state. Based on that reinterpretation it offers fresh assessments on three issues: how its policies shaped the economy of India, what lessons the postcolonial state drew from history, and the gains and costs of the postcolonial development strategy.

From Policy to Practice

A survey in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh—sstates that have extended social pension coverage beyond "below poverty line" families and increased pension amounts—sprovides a window into the challenges of scaling up such programmes. The survey reveals that increased coverage and higher pension amounts do not render the social pension regressive in its distribution; levels of leakage remain low and tractable. Yet, in practice, the schemes are unable to reach all of their target populations. A major challenge in expanding the pension net lies in ensuring entry for the poor. If pension programmes are to be scaled up, entry needs to be facilitated through stricter monitoring of inclusion errors, proactive identification, enrolment camps or other means.

From the Phased Manufacturing Programme to Frugal Engineering

Although the structural reforms, initiated in 1991, did not lead to any appreciable increase in either the efficiency or the export orientation of Indian manufacturing firms, unexpectedly, there has been a visible improvement in manufacturing design capabilities in certain segments, for instance, in the motor vehicle sector. The paper suggests that the development of "frugal engineering"--an approach of "frugality" in resolving complex design problems--is a real advance. It suggests, further, that this approach developed from the experiences of the procedures laid down in the phased manufacturing programme of the 1950s, and first found expression in the successful forays into some specific export markets by Indian vehicle manufacturers in the late 1970s and 1980s. Although this design expertise cannot solve the problems of manufacturing efficiency, particularly across the wider industrial sphere, it indicates that Indian firms have the expertise to resolve problems related to the manufacturing sphere if strategic goals are appropriately set by managers.

Secularism in a Pluri-Religious Society

The idea of secularism as expressed in our Constitution and as articulated over the years through the political process is embedded in the concepts of equality and democracy rather than in the Western concept of secularism which denies religion any space in the public sphere. This secularism, admittedly, is a peculiar Indian invention. But it is one necessitated by the historical conditions of Indian society in which a modern democratic state is being introduced into a traditional and religious society by our national leadership and our Constitution makers at the time of independence. It demands an affirmation of religious freedom against religious oppression, of religious tolerance against religious chauvinism. What this calls for is an open-ended but value-committed dialogue between believers of various faiths and followers of different traditions in an "heretical response" to our present challenges, or in other words, in a search for collective alternatives to modernity and secularisation. Neither the "positive secularism" of the Hindu right, nor the Nehruvian version of the liberal left, nor the anti-secularism of the anti-modernist are able to provide an adequate basis for such a quest in the changing socio-religious situation of our times. Rather we need to recapture the inspiration of our freedom struggle as expressed in the vision of our Constitution.

MGNREGA Works and Their Impacts

This study reports on a survey of 4,881 users of more than 4,100 works created under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Maharashtra. It provides evidence that MGNREGA works support agriculture, and benefit a large number of small and marginal farmers. An overwhelming 90% of the respondents considered the works very useful or somewhat useful, while only 8% felt they were useless. Further, most works continue to be maintained and are in a good condition. Overall, this study suggests that the widespread perception that the MGNREGA does not create anything productive appears to be misplaced, although there is scope for improving the choice of works, their design, and their execution.

Unfinished Tasks in the Liberalisation of Spectrum for Mobile Services

After a command and control paradigm of spectrum management lasting from 2001 to 2008, India has gone in for a phased transition to a liberalised regime. Notable elements of this change include the unbundling of spectrum from the service licence, the choice of the auction mechanism for the assignment of spectrum and the freedom to use a spectrum block with any technology. However, elements of the current scenario of spectrum markets in India indicate that there remains an unfinished agenda in spectrum liberalisation. These include a high price of spectrum compared to international benchmarks, low spectrum holding per operator, and vast tracts of unutilised spectrum in rural areas. The lacunae in the current framework of spectrum management leading to persisting inefficiencies are elaborated upon and solutions proposed.

The Golden Cage

The form and nature of marriage and family life have changed over the past few decades in Western societies and in East Asia, but they have taken different pathways. Reproduction is becoming delinked from marriage in the West, while in East Asia remaining single has become more of a norm. Looking at how the various factors operating in these societies impinge on marriages in India, this paper finds that while development has contributed to a significant rise in age at marriage, it has not altered the ultimate proportion of the population getting married by 0-34. These figures are in stark contrast to what is observed in the West and Japan. Deeply rooted in religion and caste, and with marital breakdown facing punishing social and economic costs, the institution of marriage is strong in India and unlikely to show signs of a breakdown in the near future.

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