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Special Articles

Behaviour of Trade Credit

This paper analyses the trends and features of trade credit of the entire economy, public limited companies, private limited companies and foreign companies in India from 1966-67 to 2000-01, and estimates both time series and panel data models for empirically identifying the determinants of trade credit. The period analysis has also been carried out to gauge the impact of liberalisation on the determinants of trade credit. The paper finds that the government sector has remained a substantial user of trade credit through the entire period. The nature of behaviour of trade credit and the changes in it over the years clearly depend upon the type/ownership of companies.

Behaviour of Bank Capital

This paper looks at empirically assessing the determinants of risk-weighted bank capital ratios of state-owned banks in India during 1996-2002. Bank-specific characteristics, variables at the banking industry level and general macroeconomic factors have been taken into consideration for this purpose. The findings suggest that bank specific factors play an important role in influencing bank capital ratios in India.

Effect of Fiscal Deficit on Real Interest Rates

This paper examines the proposition that an increase in the fiscal deficit, financed by government borrowing, necessarily raises the real rate of interest and thus 'crowds out' private investment. It finds that theoretical positions that affirm this point of view assume that the economy is in full employment, a condition that is not fulfilled in most developing countries. The existence of a definitive positive relationship between real rates of interest and the fiscal deficit-GDP ratio is tested empirically for India and for a number of other countries in the world. The finding is that interest rates do not necessarily depend on the fiscal deficit and that policies based on this understanding are erroneous.

Income Stability of Scheduled Commercial Banks

Of late, banks have been increasingly diversifying into non-interest income activities as against traditional banking. This phenomenon, seen globally, is also being witnessed in the case of Indian banks. In this context, this paper attempts to compare the behaviour of interest and non-interest income of scheduled commercial banks in India for the period from 1997 to 2003. The paper further tries to examine whether non-interest income has helped in stabilising the total income of scheduled commercial banks in the country.

Rural Finance: Role of State and State-owned Institutions

Governments have a critical role to play in development of agricultural and rural financial institutions. But state involvement in the management and implementation of rural financial system has proven expensive and inefficient. Subsidised credit programmes which are part of state intervention in rural financial markets undermine the institutional sustainability of financial institutions, distort rural finance markets and discourage savings mobilisation and fail to develop market-driven sources of funding. The revitalisation of the state-owned rural financial institutions is possible without a wholesale structural and ownership change.

Corporate Debt Market

The healthy development of the corporate debt market hinges on a significant level of reforms in regulations governing the primary and secondary markets in corporate debt. The recent initiatives of both Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on the issuance and trading of corporate debt and the RBI's investment guidelines to its regulated entities like banks and primary dealers in this area comprise essentially the first set of reforms. Further initiatives are needed to consciously shape the corporate debt markets, upgrade them and bring them on par with our equity markets in terms of efficiency in trading, price discovery process, transparency, and investor friendliness. In this article an attempt is made to explain the rationale behind the recent measures announced by RBI and SEBI and then draw out the broad contours of the future directions needed to deepen and widen the corporate debt market, both through the stock exchange and banking mechanism.

Is Bank Debt Special?

Despite reform programmes in the capital market in the last decade, for most firms banks and internal sources remain the most important financing sources. The uniqueness of bank debt is evident in its many flexible loan schemes and credit sanctions as well as in options that exist which facilitate tailor-made structuring of debt. This paper attempts to understand specifically the role of banks as a source of debt capital for different groups of firms in India. Even as firms continue their dependence on banks for funding, this paper examines the determinants of various forms of bank finance - short-term, long-term and overall bank debt.

Regulation of India's Financial Sector

This paper assesses the role of the state in regulating the financial sector in India. It attempts to find the rationale for the role of state in a regulatory system, develops a framework for a regulatory mechanism and reviews state policy as well as the existing regulatory structure in India. An assessment based on standard parameters indicates that all regulatory agencies have the state's presence. Also, an assessment made on the basis of international codes and standards shows a high degree of compliance of supervisory standards in the banking segment. In obtaining and maintaining these standards the state has played a significant role through legislative, consultative and supportive measures.

Collateral Monitoring and Banking Regulation

It is well recognised that in the event of massive defaults or significant accumulation of non-performing assets, the government or a super regulator such as the central bank bails out public sector banks. Banks usually ask for collateral to hedge against defaults. However, we argue that they might not be careful in monitoring the quality of collateral, particularly when they think that the success probability is reasonably high and they will be protected in case of defaults. Limited liability and the definite possibility of a bail out in case of a default can impose severe costs on the regulator who, due to political or social reasons, cannot shift the risk onto the depositors. This is very likely to happen in poor developing countries. We design an incentive mechanism for public sector banks that calls for auditing in the 'good states' of nature. The regulator does not need to regulate when the probability of success is very high or very low. But there is a range of probabilities for which private monitoring by banks falls short of optimal monitoring desired by the regulator. Our scheme helps to implement the desired outcome.

Dalit Question and Political Response

In the existing literature the concept of mobilisation is used to analyse electoral strategies employed by political parties to obtain votes from a section of the population - in this case dalits. This aspect has been extensively covered for both Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh during the 1990s. The attempt here is to understand the response of political parties to fundamental shifts in the democratic arena in the 1990s in these two states: the decline of the single-dominant party system and the emergence of narrower political formations based on identity which has created a more competitive environment. The differential patterns of mobilisation employed by the BSP and the Congress in the two states using state power from above to put into effect programmes for dalits in order to enlarge their support base among them are examined.

Public Sector Reform and Corruption

Many states in India have undertaken reforms in property registration through computerisation. In Andhra Pradesh computer-aided property registration has attracted much attention nationally and internationally. Surprisingly, there has been little evaluation of the reforms from the user perspective. This paper reports a study examining the impact of CARD reforms on service delivery. Has the new service saved people time and money in the registration of property? The key lesson that emerges from the study is that top-down ICT-based reforms are unlikely to lead to improved service delivery performance.

Governmentality, Population and Reproductive Family in Modern India

In the 20th century and now into the 21st, 'overpopulation' presides over its own industry of institutions, discourses and practices which in turn produce the terrain on which questions regarding the nature and import of reproduction in India can both be asked and answered. Rather than viewing population control as a mechanism of regulation/repression, this article is about what population control discourse produces: the erasure of the very possibility of thinking historically about population control in India. It presents a preliminary history of population as an object of knowledge in modern India, highlights the smooth ahistoricity of overpopulation discourse and addresses the history of the relationship between population and governance as it has interpolated the reproductive family.

Combating Negative Externalities of Drought

An important impact parameter visualised and utilised under the watershed development programme (WDP) is its role in augmenting groundwater recharge. In hard rock areas, the life of irrigation wells and their groundwater yield is gradually declining due to many factors especially the interference of irrigation wells due to violation of isolation distance among wells, overdraft of groundwater, etc. Interference among wells is a negative externality. This study is a modest attempt to estimate the impact of WDP in reducing the cumulative interference externality by augmenting groundwater recharge for irrigation in Basavapura watershed in Gowribidanur, a drought prone area in Karnataka.

Primary Education in Jharkhand

This paper details the results of a survey conducted in selected areas of Jharkhand's Dumka district. While inadequate infrastructure and the lack of teachers affect the quality of teaching, poverty is responsible for the alarming rates of non-enrolment, dropouts and poor attendance of pupils. Scheduled tribe children are particularly at a disadvantage as education is not imparted in their mother tongue. The state of primary education, as this paper suggests, needs a multi-pronged effort to ensure its greater effectiveness. While the government can step in with incentives such as midday meal schemes, community participation in the governance of the primary schooling system has to be ensured.

Why Fiscal Adjustment Now

Fiscal adjustment is needed not to stave off an imminent crisis, but because postponing reform would place long-run sustained growth in jeopardy. Alternatively, a phased adjustment that begins immediately and is implemented over the Tenth Plan period will improve spending composition in a manner conducive to faster growth and poverty reduction, and reduce deficits gradually.

Economic Implications of Inertia on HIV/AIDS and Benefits of Action

The HIV epidemic affects people in their most productive ages with adverse impacts on life expectancy, the productivity of the labour force and household incomes. It has not always been possible to measure the economic impact of AIDS empirically with a reasonable degree of precision. Moreover, while there is some evidence of negative individual, household and firm level impact, the empirical evidence on the impacts at the sector and national levels is still weak. While purely humanitarian considerations may be relevant in supporting investments in HIV/AIDS intervention, they may not always appear to be so for finance ministers and planners in developing countries. To justify spending more on policies to address HIV/AIDS in a regime of tight resource constraints, it is sometimes important to justify investments in AIDS prevention and treatment as being more critical relative to other investments. To the extent that HIV/AIDS has large adverse impacts on economic indicators and other socially desirable goals of society, policy action may be desirable, preferably early in the epidemic, rather than later.

Religion and Nationalism

While claiming full respect for the political and civil rights of all citizens, the BJP has in its political practice throughout the years demonstrated that its version of Hindu nationalism often clashes with generally acknowledged features of Indian democracy, especially minority rights. This essay analyses the ideology of the BJP relating it to a general theoretical discourse on nationalism and also to the contemporary debate on citizenship within political theory.

Regional Growth and Disparity in India

Has regional disparity widened in the post-reform period? This study attempts to probe this question by analysing growth rates of aggregate and sectoral domestic product of major states in the pre- and post-reform decades. The results indicate that while the growth rate of gross domestic product has improved only marginally in the post-reform decade, regional disparity in state domestic product (SDP) has widened much more drastically. Industrial states are now growing much faster than backward states, and there is no evidence of convergence of growth rates among states. Disturbingly, there is now also an inverse relationship between population growth and SDP growth. This has serious implications for employment and for the political economy of India.

Relationship of Caste and Crime in Colonial India

The discourse of caste, in many instances, cannot be constituted in separation from discourses on several other aspects of the Indian social structure. This paper, however, seeks to understand a relationship of a different order, that between caste and crime which in colonial India came to be linked in socially significant ways. Administrative discourse in colonial India sought to classify castes lower in the hierarchy and aboriginal tribes as criminal tribes and castes. Colonial administrative and metropolitan ideas and practices were thus used to classify certain groups as 'criminal'. Even as the state specified due requirements in the classification of such groups, these were prompted by broader imperatives - the consolidation of the colonial administrative edifice.

Impact of Reservation in Panchayati Raj

A necessary condition for the efficacy of the reservation policy in panchayati institutions is that elected representatives have independent power and autonomy over and above not only the direct control of the villagers, but also above the control of the bureaucracy, party hierarchies and the local elite. Two important questions that must be asked to establish whether or not reservations make a difference for political outcomes and governance are (a) do panchayat leaders matter at all and (b) do they make decisions that better reflect the interest of their own groups? This paper summarises findings from a research project on local decentralisation conducted in two districts of West Bengal and Rajasthan. The findings establish that reservation introduced as a tool to ensure adequate representation also assists in adequate delivery of local public goods to disadvantaged groups.

Reforming Public Spending on Education and Mobilising Resources

The problems with the structure of public spending on elementary education are threefold: high share of teacher salaries in recurring expenses, higher fiscal priority accorded to secondary education at the state level, and sustainability, as external funding for DPEP runs out. This paper examines the scope for reform in the pattern of education spending and considers ways to mobilise additional resources for elementary education, including earmarking funds for the same.

Making Services Work for India's Poor

This paper builds an analytical and practical framework for using resources more effectively by making services work for poor people. It focuses on services that have the most direct link with human development - education, health, water, sanitation and electricity - and uses examples of service delivery from India, elsewhere in south Asia and the world to illustrate the framework.

State of India's Public Services

This paper assesses the state of public services in India from a user perspective and offers a set of benchmarks for future comparisons. Five services, namely, drinking water, health care, PDS, public transport and primary education are covered by the study. Each service is assessed in terms of four dimensions, viz, access, use, reliability and user satisfaction. State level data are used to compare the performance of different states with reference to these attributes. The paper also examines the experience of poor households and the less developed states with these services.

Why Do the Poor Receive Poor Services?

India exhibits a large reliance on targeted transfer payments and subsidies, and significant underprovision of social services such as education. These are puzzling outcomes because the poor in India, who vote in large numbers, would benefit most from more of the latter and less of the former. This paper argues that inadequate social services and excessive targeted transfers can be explained as a consequence of the incomplete information of voters, lack of credibility of political promises, and social polarisation.

Health Care Delivery in Rural Rajasthan

This paper reports on a survey conducted in rural Udaipur to gauge the delivery of health care and the impact it has on the health status of the largely poor population of the region. The study shows that the quality of public service is extremely low and that unqualified private providers account for the bulk of health care provision. The low quality of public facilities has also had an adverse influence on the people's health. In an environment where people's expectations of health care providers seem to be generally low, the state has to take up the task of being the provider or regulator.

Strained Mercy

The quality of medical care is a potentially important determinant of health outcomes, but remains an understudied area. The limited research that exists defines quality either on the basis of drug availability or facility characteristics, but little is known about how provider quality affects the provision of health care. We address this gap through a survey in Delhi with two related components. We evaluate 'competence' (what providers know) through vignettes and practice (what providers do) through direct clinical observation. Overall quality, as measured by the competence necessary to recognise and handle common and dangerous conditions, is quite low albeit with tremendous variation. While there is some correlation with simple observed characteristics, there is still an enormous amount of variation within such categories. Further, even when providers know what to do they often don't do it in practice. This appears to be true in both the public and private sectors but for very different, and systematic, reasons. The study has important policy implications for our understanding of how market failures and failures of regulation in the health sector affect the poor.

Poverty Alleviation Efforts of Panchayats in West Bengal

This paper examines poverty alleviation efforts of West Bengal panchayats, comprising implementation of land reforms and pro-poor targeting of credit, agricultural minikits, employment programmes and fiscal grants. The sample includes 89 villages and covers four successive panchayat administrations. While average levels of poverty alleviation efforts were high, there were significant variations both across and within villages over time. Poverty alleviation efforts within villages improved when land was distributed more equally, the poor became more literate, there were fewer low caste households and local elections were more contested.

Delivering Basic Public Services in Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh, ranked fifth overall, is categorised as the fastest mover of the 1990s. But there is concern about the financial sustainability of this success. There are also questions about the quality of the success on the human development front and whether it has really prepared the state to prosper in a globalising world. This article looks at possible explanations for both the relative success as well as falling short on indicators of sustainability and quality. It also explores the possible route to sustainable delivery of better quality basic services and the strategy that can enable adoption of such a route.

Ethical Dimensions of Public Expenditure Management

Although there are no standards, there are generally accepted ethical principles. Experience shows that their non-observance may have contributed to policy distortions, uneconomic practices, consolidation of the unaccountable bureaucratic state and to continuing fiscal crises in many governments. The achievement of the goal of a civic society requires the formulation and observance of an ethical code on the part of the government and the development of adequate management tools that facilitate this monumental task. Recent efforts by international financial institutions (IFIs) in this direction do not address these issues and even if their recommendations are implemented in full, there would be no relief from the original sins. The first part of the paper explains the nature of the sins and the second considers the alternatives proposed and their viability.

Calling a Spade a Spade

The IMF's second self-evaluation report on capital account crises in Indonesia, Korea and Brazil shows the same degree of independence of judgment, nuanced economic reasoning and forthrightness discernible in its first. Some of the Fund's most controversial prescriptions, in terms of fiscal and monetary policy in all three countries, are meticulously analysed but its conclusion on both is ambivalent. The sharpest criticism of the Fund is in the report's laudable observations that it should avoid prescribing a long agenda of reforms, when it has high leverage with countries which approach it during times of crises.

How Contemporary Are IIMs?

A unique benchmarking methodology is used to examine how the core curriculum at the Indian Institutes of Management (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, and Calcutta) compares with the business curricula of the world's best business schools. The evidence presented here indicates that the IIMs are facing difficulty in adjusting to the new paradigm that requires specialisation and close cooperation with the innovating enterprises aiming to world-class performance rather than with planners and administrators. Curriculum change in the IIMs seems to be based on feasible incremental change rather than on new knowledge, the needs of the students or the demands of an increasingly globalised and interconnected business world. With a greater focus on integration and knowledge creation along with changes in internal systems and processes, the IIMs can match the best business schools in the world.

Electricity Act 2003

The provisions of the Electricity Act 2003 are intended to introduce competition in every link of the power supply chain in order to enhance efficiency and reduce costs. However, certain controversial provisions in the Act need to be clarified. For instance, the provisions on open access, surcharges and cross-subsidies could lead to many interpretations and cause legal tangles. Regulatory commissions must also adopt uniform procedures for tariff-fixing so that uncertainty is minimised and investments are encouraged. Simple remedies, by means of clarifications and norm-fixing are required, some of which are offered in this paper.

Indian Seed System and Plant Variety Protection

This paper analyses the Indian seed system and raises questions about the need for developing countries - which are predominantly agricultural and where plant breeding is done by public agencies - to have plant variety protection (PVP). It also looks at the Plant Varieties Act in India, where a series of policy developments have opened up the domestic seed sector to large companies and foreign direct investment. The paper stresses the role of public sector investment in plant breeding that is not PVP-driven and acts as a counterbalance to expanding research activity by the private sector.

Antenatal Care and AIDS Knowledge among Married Women

This study explores the relationship between antenatal care and AIDS awareness and knowledge of methods of prevention, and shows a strong connection between the two. But AIDS awareness and knowledge among married women is disturbingly low. Outreach and intervention efforts therefore need to focus on promoting comprehensive knowledge about prevention of AIDS, especially through the broadcast media.

Deprivation of Basic Amenities by Caste and Religion

In a modern market-oriented economy, possession of basic social and physical necessities of life can be considered the basis of a dividing line of different levels of deprivation. This paper, by using consecutive NFHS data (1992 and 1999), attempts to estimate levels of deprivation based on possessions at the household level of some basic amenities of life. It examines changes in levels of deprivation, categorised as 'abject deprivation', 'moderate deprivation', 'just above deprivation' and 'well above deprivation' across Indian states and also analyses changes in terms of caste and religion.

Female Work Participation and Child Labour

This study examines female work participation and child labour rates using occupational data from NFHS and compares this data with the 2001 Census and NSS data. Attempts are made to identify the determinants of both female work participation and child labour. It is found that the larger the size of the family, the lower is the ability of a woman to participate in economic activity. Household size is not a determining factor for the participation of children in the workforce.

Secluded and Proximate Illiterates among Couples

This paper uses NFHS-2 (1998-99) data to explore certain linkages between literacy status of a couple (husband and wife) with outcomes like household standard of living index (SLI) and others having implications on women and child health. An attempt has also been made to link the proximate criterion in literacy in the couple domain with outcome variables such as SLI, instances of sickness among women from specific diseases as asthma, TB, malaria and jaundice; linkages with indicators like under-nutrition in women have also been analysed. The exercise affirms the advantage of proximate illiteracy over the secluded illiterate in terms of outcome measures of women and child health as well as household SLI. On the other hand, while patterns are not distinct in terms of a comparison between proximate female illiterate and proximate male literate, indications point to the latter doing comparatively better.

Second National Family Health Survey

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has now come to be regarded as a storehouse of demographic and health data in India. The papers in this issue draw on the data generated in NFHS-2 on a range of social, health and demographic indicators. While the second round has come in for some criticism with regard to the quality of data, and the cost of the survey, it would be useful to undertake a repeat survey between the two censuses.

Inputs and Process

NFHS-2 was launched in November 1998, covering a representative sample of more than 90,000 women from 26 states in India and was completed by June 1999, except for Tripura which completed fieldwork in July 2000. The all-India report was released in October 2000. This article goes down memory lane throwing light on the whole process, the problems and the successes.

Respondents and Quality of Survey Data

This paper attempts to bring out how far the quality of response in the NFHS data varies with the changing educational levels of the respondents for standard demographic variables like age and sex. The analysis of the data shows that information gathered from uneducated respondents is more erroneous than that from educated groups.

Indicators of Nutrition for Women and Children

This article summarises some of the key NFHS-2 findings on nutrition in women and children and presents policy and programme recommendations based on the findings. Estimates of key nutrition indicators in NFHS-1 and NFHS-2 provide insights into the changes which took place in the intervening period.

Malnutrition in India

This paper analyses trends in malnutrition over the past two decades and shows that improvements in nutritional status have not kept pace with the reduction in poverty and the current level of malnutrition is unacceptably high. About half of the pre-school children are malnourished and are exposed to the risk of functional impairments. Malnutrition levels are uneven across states. Some middle income states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu have comparatively better nutritional achievements than higher income states like Maharashtra and Gujarat. North-eastern states are comparatively better performing states and some of them have even out-performed Kerala.

Social Inequalities in Health and Nutrition in Selected States

While a large number of primary health centres and subcentres have been created as part of the government's 'Health for All' programme, surveys such as NFHS-1 and 2 reveal that health services either do not reach disadvantaged sections or are not accessed by them. This paper assesses the extent of inequalities in health care and nutritional status across states with a focus on caste and tribe. It examines how far these inequalities are a result of caste/tribe per se or whether they can be attributed to differential economic and educational conditions of individuals belonging to different caste/tribe categories.

Health Behaviour in Context

This paper aims to describe the socio-demographic and economic patterning of smoking, drinking and tobacco chewing behaviour in India. It also studies the effect of micro (individual households) and macro environments (local areas, districts, states) on health behaviour. The study finds strong, independent effects of socio-economic position and social caste, with the better-off smoking, drinking and chewing tobacco less. Significant local area, district and state variations suggest the importance of contexts in shaping health behaviours. It follows that more than individual behavioural change, the direction for policy may well be to focus on changing the macro environments.

Women's Empowerment in India and Its States

This paper uses data from the NFHS-2 to document women's empowerment as a whole and in each of 26 states with 1999 boundaries. In general, it finds that the average woman in India is disempowered absolutely as well as relative to men, and there has been little change in her empowerment over time. This result is obvious no matter how empowerment is measured, be it in terms of the indicators of the evidence, sources or setting for empowerment. However, there is great variation in the level of women's empowerment across the different states and across indicators.

Maternal Health Care Services

This paper studies the pattern and correlates of utilisation of antenatal care services and assistance received during delivery in these three recently formed states, which have distinct geographical and topographical characteristics. The study throws up results specific to the particular features of the three states. It is necessary for the reproductive and child health programme to evolve a strategy giving due consideration to the geographical and socio-economic factors.

Thinking with Handlooms

The persistence of handloom weaving right into the present calls for in-depth exploration. Conventional official perception relegates handlooms to a small, niche market and goes on to suggest how this niche demand should be catered to through further design innovation and variation. This article draws on handloom weaving in Andhra Pradesh to contest this viewpoint. Analysing the numerous dimensions within the handloom sector offers insights into how to address and understand different forms of industrial activity in the country, particularly in realms considered as being the peripheries of a dominant industrial core.

Performance of the Northern States

The northern states, which contribute about a half of the country's foodgrains production and over a four-fifths of milk, sugar cane and potato, have reached the limit of their agricultural growth for various reasons. This in turn, has led to the falling growth of its industry and services sectors as well. Employment in agriculture has remained high at two-thirds of the labour force in the big states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. An attempt has been made in this paper to understand the various facets of underperformance of the northern states in comparison with other regions and to suggest the possible ways by which these states could improve their future economic and social performance.

Mohalla Committees of Mumbai

Mohalla committees, a civil society initiative that involved members of the police and the public, helped heal some of the severe communal wounds of the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai. The experience of the committees has important insights to offer to democracies in a plural, diverse society. In the case of Mumbai, participants drawn from the police and from among the public turned out to be not adversaries in opposite camps but partners involved in a symbiotic relationship to maintain peace and harmony in an area.

Forest Protection Policies and Local Benefits from NTFP

As part of its joint forest management programme the West Bengal government has offered a 25 per cent share of returns from the rotational harvesting of timber as well as from intermediate biomass yields as an incentive for protecting its reserved forests and preventing illegal extraction. Why then does such illegal extraction take place? Using the postulate that expectations of regular and steady returns from non-timber forest produce (NTFP) constitute the backbone of preservation-oriented extraction by village communities, this study attempts to identify and quantify the range of benefits other than the returns from the illegal felling and sale of timber obtained by these communities due to the existence of the forest, so that policy can be formulated on this basis.