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Compensatory Afforestation

Compensatory afforestation is a dubious and controversial environmental “offset” that is adding to environmental damage instead of mitigating or compensating it. Compensatory afforestation may actually be accelerating the invasion of India’s forests by big corporations, in collusion with a permissive state, by legitimising the destruction of forests, greenwashing the land grabs, and encroaching on common property resources and community-held lands. This article is based on a study of the Polavaram multipurpose project in Andhra Pradesh, the Durgapur mines in Maharashtra, the Teesta hydroelectric project in Sikkim and the Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh.

Towards Streamlining Panchayat Finance in India

Local governments have become the third tier of governance in Indian federal polity. For decentralisation to be successful, fiscal systems that make governments accountable to their citizens are needed. The absence of consistent data and reporting has made evaluating decentralisation difficult. In this paper, we utilise data from a well-designed sample of gram panchayats in Kerala to document fiscal management systems, extent of decentralisation of revenues, and local governments’ response to raising revenues using local capacity. Our findings suggest that the pressure to spend on welfare and development activities has outstripped development of revenue. However, there is some evidence that local governments have untapped revenue potential in their property tax. Importantly, we also find that state and federal government support vis-à-vis intergovernmental grants is not crowding out revenue mobilisation.

Labour Law, Governance Reforms, and Protests

Employers and critics of labour regulation have been arguing for the liberalisation of labour laws, and for governance and compliance systems, following the liberalisation of the product market to enable firms to respond swiftly and suitably to fast-changing market conditions. The trade unions opposed this even as the government was seemingly favourably disposed towards employers’ demands. The countrywide strikes that have taken place since 1991 have become controversial not merely due to their high frequency but also for their lack of legitimacy as reforms appear to be a foregone conclusion and the protest politics seems to be vain and economically hurting the nation. This paper explores the dynamics of the countrywide strikes and examines whether some of the demands of trade unions are justified.

We Are the River, the River Is Us

As per the recent ruling of the Uttarakhand High Court, the Ganga and Yamuna rivers have rights as a “juristic/legal person/living entity.” It raises a complex set of questions. What does it mean for a river, and its associated natural elements, to have rights? What does it mean for them to have rights as a “person?” How would such rights be implemented, given that rivers and other elements of nature would not be able to claim and defend such rights for themselves? What implications do these two decisions have for not just the rivers and those living in/on/along them, but for the relationship between humans and the rest of nature? This article addresses these questions in order to find solutions.

Privacy and Security of Aadhaar

The article investigates the privacy and security issues of Aadhaar from a technology point of view. Specifically, the possibilities of identification and authentication without consent using the Aadhaar number or biometric data, and unlawful access of Aadhaar data in the central repository are examined. The analysis suggests that privacy protection in Aadhaar will require an independent third party that can play the role of an online auditor; study of several modern tools and techniques from computer science; and strong legal and policy frameworks that can address the specifics of authentication and identification in a modern digital setting.

Status of Denotified Tribes

A study on the socio-economic and educational status of denotified tribes reveals that members of these tribes are plagued by chronic poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, health complications, and substandard living conditions, apart from the label of ex-criminals. They face an identity crisis in the absence of statutory documents and therefore, need special policies for their welfare and upliftment.

Social Responsibility of the Historian

Recent conflicts in India over what constitutes historical facts or "truths" have forced historians out of their ivory towers and into the public arena, adding urgency to reflections on the historian's social responsibility. Is it the historian's responsibility to expose manipulations of the historical past, point to social dysfunctions, and identify remedies? Or should the citizen historian nourish public debate on sensitive topics without taking a clear-cut position on them? This paper explains how the French journal, the Annales d'Histoire Economique et Sociale, established in 1929, has interpreted these questions, attempting to deal with problems of contemporary concern, but without making the shift from debate to polemics. Annales has been in favour of a non-emotional history, inviting historians to work with data, and reminding them that their primary role is to strengthen the citizen's understanding of the social mechanisms of change, not to take ideological positions themselves.

The Derozio Affair

Hindu College was set up in Calcutta in 1817 as a pioneering institution to impart Western learning to its students. In 1831, its most outstanding teacher, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, then only 22 years old, was compelled to resign. A look at the circumstances that forced his resignation attempts to reconstruct Derozio's ideas and his teaching methods. The episode offers a glimpse of the intellectual ambience of early 19th-century Calcutta.

Neo-liberal Political Economy and Social Tensions

August 2017 marks a year of the Una agitations. The informal neo-liberal political economy of Gujarat has seemingly given a new lease of life to primordial identity politics by promoting social capital for social security. A revival of traditional cultural ethos legitimises and reinforces caste bonds, perpetuating social tension among the competing castes. The growth of education and urban middle class among Dalits is not tolerated by the non-Dalits who still hold them in contempt whilst struggling to seek opportunities for maintaining their status. The

Futures Markets

The National Agricultural Policy announced in 2000 recognised “the role of the futures markets as one that would contribute to price discovery and would help in risk management by reducing volatility in the prices.” The rationale for futures markets is that they reduce uncertainty, but with the online trading system replacing the open outcry method, there has been a large flow of investment capital. On the one hand, liquidity is required for efficient functioning of the market and on the other, it may lead to excessive speculation, therefore defeating the objectives of price discovery and reduction in uncertainty. The analysis of futures markets begs the question with respect to agricultural commodity markets: are prices determined by real supply and demand or are they affected by financialisation and presence of speculators?

Distortions in Land Markets and Their Implications for Credit Generation in India

Data shows that land is collateral in a large proportion of loans in India. Yet, the several structural, regulatory, and information-driven distortions that afflict Indian land markets force lenders to adopt conservative policies ex ante, affecting both the availability of credit and the collateralisation of land. The paper examines some of these distortions and highlights their significance to the current debate on reforming bankruptcy framework in India. The first part of the paper discusses structural, regulatory, and informational gaps that limit lenders’ ability to lend against land as well as recovery after default. In the second part, some opportunistic and structural reforms in the land markets that could effectively monetise land in credit markets have been proposed.

Trade Liberalisation and Women’s Employment Intensity

Whether trade can be used as an instrument for generating greater employment opportunities for women is an important question for policymakers in developing countries. This paper analyses the role of various trade-related factors in determining female employment intensity in a panel of India’s manufacturing industries during 1998–2011. Import tariff rate is found to exert a negative effect on female employment intensity, supporting the hypothesis that firms, when exposed to international competition, tend to reduce costs by substituting male with female workers. Further, the relative demand for female workers increases to the extent that trade liberalisation leads to resource reallocation in favour of unskilled labour-intensive industries. By contrast, greater use of new technology biases the gender composition of workforce against females. Liberalisation has not led to large growth of female employment in India because the resource reallocation effect has not been strong enough to offset the negative technology effect.

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