Articles by M A OommenSubscribe to M A Oommen

COVID-19 in the Indian Context and the Quest for Alternative Paradigms

The COVID-19 pandemic has provocatively challenged the extant paradigm of development whose theoretical underpinning is derived from the neoclassical ideology of market-mediated growth. The Indian context of the pandemic is examined, and a reimagining of the development path for a more rational and egalitarian democracy is argued for. Some of the postulates of Thomas Piketty outlined in his Capital and Ideology are brought home as a pointer to stimulate thinking by all, especially the social scientists.

The Epistemology of the Discipline of Economics

The ontological vocation of any social science is to interpret and transform the world we live in, creating a better society. The discipline of economics is no exception. It is argued that mainstream economics reduces social life into exchange value calculus and mathematical formalism, and fails to confront vital issues like widening inequality and poverty. The recent challenges thrown up by Thomas Piketty may help the discipline to re-examine its epistemological foundations to facilitate relevant teaching and research as well as policy choices.

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.

Bank and Poverty Reduction

A close reading of the World Bank's World Development Report 2015 shows that it works on the assumption that human beings generally think automatically, socially, and with mental models, and that future development policy, poverty alleviation, and even policy design need to be modified taking this into account. Poverty is a "cognitive tax" suffered because people are incapable of taking advantage of the opportunities that are open to them. The assumption that development experts improving the behaviour of the poor will reduce poverty, however, fails to confront the growing problem of unsustainable inequalities.

Implications for Local Governments

The subject of local governments has not been comprehensively treated by the Fourteenth Finance Commission. The implications of the new inter se distribution formula of the commission's award for local governments have not been thought through and important conditionalities have been changed or watered down.

Deepening Democracy and Local Governance

Kerala's decentralised experience has demonstrated that democracy is more than just balloting. But deepening democracy is a continuous quest for justice and freedom. While participatory democracy has powerful theoretical arguments, its empirical basis continues to be weak. This article explores how far local governance in Kerala has deepened democratic practice and argues that the local governance system in the state needs to be reformed and redefined.

The Third Tier and the Fourteenth Finance Commission

As a multilayered federal system, India needs a comprehensive and coordinated intergovernmental transfer system that includes the third tier as a dynamic component. This is particularly important because of the multiplicity of channels and the bewildering typology of transfer arrangements that exist today. This article points out that the Fourteenth Finance Commission's real challenge is to persuade state governments to carry on with the task of democratic decentralisation, while spelling out some issues it may consider to improve public fi nance and local democracy.

Free the Church

The editorial “Need for an Ecclesiastical Insurrection” (EPW, 6 April 2013) is contextual and timely. A professional journal devoted to the pursuit of secularism, social justice and scientific analysis has rightly raised the question, “Isn’t there a dire need for an ecclesiastical insurrection in...

Understanding Human Development

LETTERS Issn 0012-9976 Ever since the first issue in 1966, EPW has been India’s premier journal for comment on current affairs and research in the social sciences. It succeeded Economic Weekly (1949-1965), which was launched and shepherded by Sachin Chaudhuri, who was also the founder-editor of EPW...

Value of Democracy

This letter is to register my distress regarding the inference drawn by the two researchers in their paper “Democracy and Health: Evidence from Indian States” (EPW, 1 October 2011). After presenting infant mortality rate data on Indian states and drawing inference about India’s health status, they...

The 13th Finance Commission and the Third Tier

Evaluating the recommendations of the Thirteenth Finance Commission with reference to panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies and their implications for genuine fiscal federalism in India, this paper finds data related to local governments across states and over time to be wanting in many respects. Yet, as broad aggregates, they help throw some light on the magnitudes and trends in expenditure and own source revenue of the third tier from 2002-03 to 2007-08. It concludes that the commission's sins aside, it has in some ways departed significantly from the past and made suggestions that could strengthen democratic decentralisation if they are fully implemented.

Pages

Back to Top