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

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‘Old’ and ‘New’ Trade Union Activism

Drawing on primary research on trade unions that mobilise women workers in the informal sector in Tamil Nadu, the possibilities for diverse union strategies to emerge, sustain themselves over time, and even win contingent victories in particular contexts are enquired into. Ethnographic accounts of union struggles highlight when trade unions resort to workplace-based activism for wages and when they prioritise agendas such as skill-enhancement, “development,” or workers’ welfare rights. What conjuncture of local contexts and circumstances enables one and which makes the other necessary? A discussion on three case studies shows how both “old” and “new” forms of collective organising co-constitute trade union activism involving women labouring in precarious livelihoods in the informal sector.

Subverting Policy, Surviving Poverty: Women and the SGSY in Rural Tamil Nadu

The Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana was launched as an integrated programme for self-employment of the rural poor. Being a targeted anti-poverty intervention, the sgsy prescribes quotas for women (40%) among the eligible poor and also mandates that 50% of self-help groups formed in an administrative block under the scheme be women's shgs. This essay, through the prism of the sgsy scheme, attempts to understand how policy seeks to "mainstream" rural women from low-income households into market-oriented economic activities that seemingly facilitate a linear movement out of poverty. It examines how women themselves perceive the sgsy policy and the entrepreneurial identities it proposes they assume, and how selected women swarozgaris strive to engineer a fit between the imperatives of policy and their divergent life circumstances.

An Anthropological Critique of Microfinance in Bangladesh

Microfinance and Its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh by Lamia Karim (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press), 2011; pp 296, $25.

Microcredit Wins Nobel: A Stocktaking

The Nobel Peace Prize euphoria over Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank will soon recede. But the fundamental issues of the microcredit/micro-finance programmes, like the incorporation and retention of the very poor, challenges in offering a variety of financial services and enhancing participation of the poor in decision-making, will remain.

Shifting Trajectories in Microfinance Discourse

Microfinance was earlier viewed as a "silver bullet" that could pull poorer households out of poverty. Since the 1990s, the approach has been more cautious emphasising the "protectional" aspects as opposed to the "promotional" dimensions of microfinance. A defining feature of the micro-credit scenario in India, as opposed to the Bangladeshi experience, has been the significant role played by public sector formal lending institutions in the establishment and expansion of financial intermediation through self-help groups. Today, the SHG-bank linkage programme is arguably the world's largest microfinance programme in terms of outreach. In the light of issues and concerns raised by research on the Bangladesh microfinance experience, this paper asks whether these could adequately serve as a lens through which Indian SHG-based microfinance could be critically examined, given the crucial organisational and institutional differences between Indian and Bangladeshi microfinance.
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