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

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The Microcredit Alternative?

Microcredit has been receiving a significant amount of attention all over the world, especially in developing countries. It is felt that by providing microcredit to the "poorest of the poor", the gap in the formal rural credit sector can be filled. A majority of such projects are now being controlled by non-government organisations in the hope that they will be able to overcome the weaknesses in the banking system. However, while small-scale rural credit is necessary, overall credit policy must build on the strengths of the banking system in India as its mainstay.

Errors of Targeting

A reduction of food subsidies by means of targeting a select group is an important way of lowering government spending within the framework of an orthodox structural adjustment programme. Targeted food subsidy schemes, however, have costs, which are ignored or not fully accounted for by policy-makers. This article focuses on costs arising out of the two types of targeting errors - errors of exclusion and errors of inclusion - in the system of public distribution of food in India or the PDS. Using primary data from a village in Maharashtra, at two subsequent surveys, the authors show that errors of wrong inclusion decreased while errors of wrong exclusion increased with a shift from universal to targeted coverage. The article also demonstrates the pitfalls of identifying a target-group based on an income indicator.

Food for Profit

Food for Profit Madhura Swaminathan Hungry for Profit: Agriculture, Food and Ecology edited by Fred Magdoff, Frederick H Buttel and John Bellamy Foster; Monthly Review, Vol 50, No 3, July- August 1998.

Changing Trajectories Agricultural Growth in West Bengal, 1950 to 1996

in West Bengal, 1950 to 1996 Vikas Rawal Madhura Swaminathan This paper examines the record of agricultural growth in West Bengal over the last 50 years. What is interesting and remarkable about the West Bengal experience is that acceleration in growth occurred during and after major changes in agrarian institutions and land relations. This experience underlines the importance of changes in agrarian structure and agrarian reform for economic growth in a backward agrarian economy.

Close Questioning

Review of the Indian Economy 1947-92, Volume 2, Population, Poverty and Employment by V M Dandekar; Sage Publications, 1996; pp 405, Rs 375. THIS is a collection of essays written by the late V M Dandekar over the last 40 years; most of the essays were revised and updated in preparation for this volume. The papers are organised under the three broad themes of population and education, poverty, and employment.

Investment Gaps in Primary Education-A Statewise Study

Investment Gaps in Primary Education A Statewise Study V K Ramachandran Vikas Rawal Madhura Swaminathan Though systems of non-formal schooling are valuable, universal education and mass literacy cannot be achieved without the establishment of universal formal schooling.

Structural Adjustment, Food Security and System

Structural Adjustment, Food Security and System of Public Distribution of Food Madhura Swaminathan In many countries, a reduction in food subsithes has occurred as part of programmes of orthodox structural adjustment and has adversely affected consumption and nutrition. In India, too, consumer food subsithes have fallen since 1991. The reduction in food subsithes has come about, despite little change in the budgetary allocation to food subsidy', by means of sharp price increases for commodities sold in fair-price shops, by a fall in quantities supplied to the system of public distribution, and by a reduction in entitlements in certain cases. In a period of low growth and high inflation, the public distribution system failed to ensure that the prices of major food staples were low and stable.

Nutritional Status of Slum Children of Mumbai-A Socio-Economic Survey

A Socio-Economic Survey IN June 1993, the authors and a group of students conducted a sample survey of households in a slum settlement beside the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research in Gorsgaon, Mumbai. As part of this socio-economic survey of households, we collected anthropometric data on all children in the surveyed households who were five years of age or below. These anthropometric data included information on the height, weight and midarm circumference of each child. In this paper, we present a brief account of the socioeconomic characteristics of households in the surveyed settlement, and attempt to identify the prevalence of undernutrition among children using the available anthropometric data.

Revamped Public Distribution System-A Field Report from Maharashtra

The revamped public distribution system' - introduced as part of the government's new economic policies was to reach all households in the target area and ensure that they had easy access to fair-price shops. How has the scheme worked?

Food for People Limits of Reform

The Politics of Food in Mexico: State Power and Social Mobilisation by Jonathan Fox; Cornell University Press, 1993; x+280. THIS book contains a useful discussion of an important policy intervention by the Mexican government in the early 80s in the system of food production and consumption. The" programme known as the Sistema Alimentario Mexicano (SAM), or the Mexican Food System, attempted to increase production of basic food products (cereals, beans) and to provide a basket of essential food products at reasonable prices to the poor in rural and urban areas. In theory, the SAM programme involved a reversal of agricultural policies pursued since the 1940s, which had favoured export-oriented large producers on irrigated land and private ranchers and not small, maizeand bean- growing peasants. The essence of the SAM programme was the provision of producer and consumer subsidies that were financed by revenues from the oil sector.

DISCUSSION

validity, it reflects the current mood of triumphalism on the Right and pessimism on the Left. As we have seen, the Soviet system was a travesty of the socialist ideal which envisions a radically democratic polity, a highly productive and rationally managed economy, and an egalitarian social order. In this perspective, the demise of the pseudo-socialist Soviet regime could be seen as a blessing in disguise. However, the matter is a good deal more complicated than that. A large number of socialists who had no illusions about the Soviet Union, nevertheless, viewed it as a strategically significant entity; 'The Soviet Union needed to be there as a defective model so that, with one eye on it, we could construct a better one. It created a non- capitalist space in which to think about socialism" [Cohen 1992, p 5]. It is the loss of a viable alternative to capitalism, however inadequate it might have been, which induces pessimism.

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