ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Technical Change in India’s Rural Organised Manufacturing Industries

Given the robust performance of India’s rural organised manufacturing industries in recent times, this study attempts to understand the nature of the technical change underlying it. Felipe and Kumar’s (2010) analytical framework is used to assess the direction of technical change in India’s rural industries in the period 1998–99 to 2016–17. The findings indicate that the direction of technical change was Hicks-neutral from 1998–99 to 2007–08 and Marx-biased from 2008–09 to 2016–17. At the disaggregated level, various industries exhibited diverse directions of technical change. The high growth seen in the economy in the first decade of this century was accompanied by a sustained rise in capital productivity. This ended subsequently, which contributed to a slowing down of the growth rate.

Assam’s Politics and the NRC

A response to “Assam’s 2019 Verdict and the Anti-CAB Mobilisations” by Akhil Ranjan Dutta (EPW, 28 December 2019) points to long-run strategies that the Bharatiya Janata Party and its parent organisation have used to consolidate power in Assam. Re-imagination of the “indigenous” has helped it build alliance with regional forces, but anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests exposed the vulnerability of this formula. The futility of the National Register of Citizens exercise in resolving the immigration conundrum in Assam should convince one that the answer to cultural anxieties lies in the political sphere.

Assam: BJP’s Consolidation, Congress’s Lost Opportunities

In the recent Lok Sabha elections, Assam’s Hindu vote consolidation shows as the highest in the country. The elections also brought into the limelight the irrelevance of ethnicity-based regional parties and the inability of the opposition to convert the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Bill protests into votes. How and why this happened is examined here.

Service Sector Growth in India from the Perspective of Household Expenditure

This paper aims to examine India’s recent service sector-led growth from the perspective of household expenditure. Using household-level expenditure data from three “thick” rounds of the Household Consumer Expenditure Survey (1993–94, 2004–05, and 2011–12), we present evidence of two empirical trends. First, a significant portion of demand for services comes from poor households; and second, a puzzling trend has emerged since 2004–05—the shrinking of the difference in the share of monthly expenditure spent on services between rich and poor households. We present a simple model of consumer behaviour with a hierarchy of preferences, lexicographic ordering, and consumption thresholds to evaluate this puzzle.

Farmer Suicides in India

In an effort to understand the trends of farmer suicides, this article uses data from the National Crime Records Bureau to estimate the suicide mortality rate of farmers and non-farmers for India and its states. The methodology used corrects for an error present in previous studies and alters some commonly held views about the level and trend of farmer suicides in India.

Employment Elasticity in India and the US, 1977-2011

This paper analyses the phenomenon of jobless growth in India and the United States through the lens of employment elasticity. We decompose the level and change of aggregate employment elasticity in terms of sectoral elasticities, relative growth and employment shares. Estimates of these decompositions are presented with employment and output data from relevant sources for both economies. In India, the agricultural sector was the key determinant of both the level and change of aggregate elasticity till the early 2000s. In the US, the service sector is the most important determinant of the level, but manufacturing remains an important driver of changes in aggregate employment elasticity.

Poverty-Hunger Divergence in India

The usual explanations for the divergence between calorie intake and consumption expenditure in India ignore the enormous squeeze on food budgets arising from dispossession (leading to loss of access to common property resources), rising migration (involving a loss of access to non-market food items) and the forced turn to the private sector for social sector services that are more expensive than public sector provision. It is the resulting squeeze on food budgets that has led to calorie intake declining even as per capita consumption expenditure has risen.

The Empire and Its Disasters

Natural Disasters and Indian History by Tirthankar Roy (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2012; pp xiii +165; Rs 195.

Early Twentieth Century Agrarian Assam: A Brief and Preliminary Overview

Unlike the rest of the subcontinent, Assam retained many elements of its tribal economy well into the 19th century. With the British invasion the picture began to change gradually. Opening up of the Brahmaputra Valley in 1826 brought about two major changes in the mode of surplus extraction. One, colonial capital flowed into tea plantations, along with indentured labourers from mainland India. Though immensely profitable for the planters, this had a limited impact on the larger peasant economy of Assam. A more fundamental second change - spurred by the revenue of the colonial state, infusion of merchant capital and immigration of peasants from East Bengal - started a process of land alienation, commercialisation and indebtedness. In time, the agrarian economy of Assam started to resemble, and become firmly integrated with, the rest of the subcontinent. This essay examines a few aspects of this economic change.

Political Economy of Contemporary India: Some Comments

Two of the most important characteristics of contemporary Indian reality are primary accumulation of capital and the continued existence of a huge pool of surplus labour. Partha Chatterjee's attempt (EPW, 19 April) at explaining these important features, though insightful, is fraught with numerous theoretical and empirical problems.

A Relook at the Bengal Famine

The Bengal famine of 1943 is arguably the worst economic disaster of 20th century south Asia. This paper traces the background of the famine and analyses the role of the land market in fuelling food price rise. It appears that in a monetised, already famished, agrarian economy, during situations of subsistence crisis, interlinking of food and land markets has the potential to cause an exponentially high degree of disaster. The role of a universal public distribution system, which carries over food from a surplus to a deficit year, and insulates the food market, thus becomes paramount.
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