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A Reply from the Mahatma

One year ago in January 2017 the chief economic adviser to the Government of India, Arvind Subramanian, in the Economic Survey, 2016–17 included a chapter entitled “Universal Basic Income: A Conversation With and Within the Mahatma.” While there continues to be significant publicity and debate about Universal Basic Income, there has been no focused reply to Subramanian’s conversation from the perspective that M K Gandhi might have taken. Here is a response as the Mahatma might have replied.

Rethinking Undergraduate Economics Education

Worldwide, a concerted and systematic criticism of the way economics is taught began after the onslaught of the 2007 global financial crisis. In India, postgraduate economics education has received more attention than its undergraduate counterpart. After identifying some structural constraints of undergraduate education in India, a set of curricular and pedagogic recommendations to improve undergraduate economics education is explored.

Kanyashree Prakalpa

The conditional cash transfer scheme of the Government of West Bengal, Kanyashree Prakalpa, has been hailed as a much-needed intervention to combat the high rate of child marriage in the state, and has received numerous awards since its inception. The scheme incentivises girls to continue education, while simultaneously delaying early marriages. However, an examination of the working of the scheme highlights the fact that rather than promoting higher education of women, the scheme has ended up entangled in the marriage economy of rural Bengal.

Singapore and the Smoke Haze Crisis

The 2013 and 2015 episodes of smoke haze over Singapore were some of the worst environmental crises in the nation’s history. Severe haze caused by land clearance fires in Indonesia blanketed Singapore for more than a month each time, leading to a dramatic shift in public attention and policies regarding the nation’s engagement with its neighbouring resource-extractive economies. This article reads the development of this crisis through the myth of the “air-conditioned nation,” arguing that it presents an opportunity to reconnect capitalism and regionalisation with their consequences.

Undermining Democracy in Pakistan

With an election due by late summer, the Pakistani military and its clandestine wings have begun attempts to manage, if not control and influence, events leading up to the polls. Journalists and bloggers have been picked up and beaten by “masked armed men,” and mentioning Balochistan or talking and writing about what is happening in one of Pakistan’s provinces is dangerous to life and liberty. The silenced, missing Baloch has become a symbol of the Pakistani state’s intransigence, not much reported in the local or international media.

Politics of Buddhism in Nepal

The Buddha was born in what is now the state of Nepal. Only about 10% of Nepal’s population is Buddhist, but many more feel an affinity for the religion and are outraged when outsiders claim that the Buddha was an Indian. Inside Nepal, however, the question of who has the right to speak for Buddhism is contested. Nepali Buddhists often see themselves as a discriminated minority; internally, they are divided by tradition, caste, region, and language.

Crises in the Judiciary

The press conference organised by four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court was a result of a long period of dissatisfaction over the way the institution was functioning. The problems are systemic and will require more than a short-term fix. The Supreme Court and the judiciary’s credibility have taken a battering over the last decade for many reasons, and the press conference is an acknowledgement to some extent of the rot within. What happens next is not very clear, but the status quo cannot continue.

Reformation of the Legal Profession in the Interest of Justice

The legal profession plays an important role in society—advocates are flag-bearers of the law and defend fundamental rights. They are also officers of the court. The Advocates Act, 1961, grants power to the Bar Council of India and the state bar councils to self-regulate the profession and establish rules relating to admission and enrolment, conditions of practice, standards of professional conduct and etiquette, disciplinary proceedings, legal education, recognition of law colleges, and welfare activities.

Repo Rate and Bank Credit

The Government of India has, on more than one occasion, mounted pressure on the Reserve Bank of India to reduce the rate of interest to encourage investment. The RBI has, however, remained cautious, but has reduced rates gradually since early 2015. At lower rates of interest, the fixed and administrative cost acquires more weight in the banks’ cost of funds which restrict their ability to reduce rates in proportion to the repo rate reduction and the gap between the two tends to widen. Lowering repo rates has not accelerated bank credit.

A Leader of Teachers

Kumaresh Chakravarty was a leader of teachers in Delhi and contributed to democratisation of the teachers’ movement in India.

BJP’s Sixth Victory in Gujarat

​The 2017 Gujarat assembly election revolved around Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was the main campaigner, and almost asked for a plebiscite—as the son of the soil. The Bharatiya Janata Party has managed to retain power, but the proportion of votes has reduced. Various agitations against the government in the last three years have not converted into votes in favour of opposition parties. The BJP’s party structure with committed cadres and aggressive campaign give it an advantage over the opposition parties.

Movements as Politics

The Dalits do not celebrate the victory of the British or for that matter even the defeat of the Peshwas. What they do celebrate is their own entry into history, which was denied to them for centuries, and what they assert, thereby, is the possibility of not being reduced to the underground ascribed to them by the caste system. The violence against them at Koregaon Bhima is a manifestation of the current contestation between homogenising Hindutva and its dissenting narratives. In turn, the Dalits manage to defeat political Hindutva through their movements.

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