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

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NREGA Wage Payments: Can We Bank on the Banks?

The government of India has shifted from cash payment of wages under the renamed Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Scheme to settlement through bank accounts. This has been done in order to prevent defrauding of workers and to give them greater control over their wages. Has this been achieved after the switch? Based on a survey in December 2008 in one block each in Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) and Ranchi (Jharkhand) districts, this article probes questions related to payment of wages through banks.

Mashelkar Report on IP Rights Version II: Wrong Again

The fi rst report of the Mashelkar Committee on patent issues was accused of plagiarism and the committee was asked by the government to rexamine its recommendations. The second report of this committee poses a different set of problems. This article argues that the revised recommendations are not warranted by the TRIPs agreement of the World Trade Organisation, that they are not supported by the weight of academic opinion and that the conclusions do not rest on any reasonable assessment of national interest in pharmaceutical policy.

An Evaluation of India's Defence Expenditure

This essay attempts to make a realistic assessment of current levels of defence spending in India by evaluating the effi cacy and intensity of military expenditure. The media is largely ignorant or chooses to ignore the issue of defence spending. The view across the political spectrum and the strategic community is that any exercise to limit this spending amounts to compromising national security and is therefore not a viable consideration. Whilst it is true that development cannot take place in an insecure environment, defence expenditure in a developing country has a direct impact on the outlay on social spending. The "guns versus butter" argument is valid especially when the guns are not buying the security the country needs against asymmetrical threats from within and without.

Maharashtra Polls: Continuity amidst Social Volatility

The outcome of the Maharashtra assembly elections of 2009 cannot be associated with any particular moment in the history of the state's politics; nor can it be attributed to the organisational prowess of the ruling alliance. The second consecutive electoral victory of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance is an outcome of four factors: the overall favourable political atmosphere created by the Congress' performance nationally in the Lok Sabha elections, the utter ineffectiveness of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine coupled with their internal party factionalism, the rise of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in urban constituencies, and a perception that the state government had not done a bad job.

Direct Taxes Code: Need for Greater Reflection

A new tax code that overhauls the complexities that have emerged in the Income Tax Act of 1961 has been long overdue. The draft Direct Taxes Code put out by the Finance Ministry for discussion and comment does just that in a number of areas. At the same time questions must be posed of the sweeping reduction in rates and restructuring of slabs in income tax, which are likely to rob the exchequer of a significant amount of income. Questions must also be asked of the proposed taxation of not-for-profit organisations.

The Clinical Trials Scenario in India

The government is aggressively promoting India as a location for clinical trials even before setting up the structure to regulate the conduct of these trials. Clinical trials are conducted by contract research organisations which are making inroads into small towns, identifying trial sites in small private hospitals and developing databases of potential trial participants. Medical professionals are given substantial incentives to recruit their own patients into these trials thus creating a major conflict of interest that threatens the well-being of patients.

Shortcomings in Governance of the Natural Gas Sector

There has been a consistent lack of transparency and several governance lapses in the natural gas sector which have led to various kinds of concerns in important areas such as investment levels in blocks, availability of information regarding gas finds, content and process of arriving at pricing and utilisation policy, regulatory weaknesses and emerging market concentration. The objective of this article is to look behind the media glare and highlight the governance shortcomings that need urgent attention. Interestingly, a number of these issues were highlighted about two years ago on these very pages.

Right to Food Act: Beyond Cheap Promises

This article attempts to flag some of the issues that are likely to come up in the debate on the Right to Food Act in the coming months. It is important to ensure that this debate focuses on the substantive issues. In the run-up to the enactment of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the debate was somewhat derailed by a loud anti-NREGA lobby, particularly vocal in the business press. Hopefully, the debate on the RTF Act will be more productive. Politically, the main challenge is to ensure that the Act is not trivialised, by reducing it to the electoral promise of "25 kgs at Rs 3/kg for BPL households". The ultimate shape of the RTF Act will depend on whether the government merely seeks to gain "political capital" from it, or whether it is guided by its responsibility to the people of this country.

Financial Integration, Capital Controls and Monetary Independence

It has been argued for India that the increase in capital mobility has made existing controls ineffective, eroding the central bank's influence over the short-term interest rate and that it is time, therefore, to abandon the managed exchange rate regime to regain monetary control. This note shows that the "loss of monetary independence" argument lacks empirical basis. Convergence between India and the rest of the world, though increasing, is as yet incomplete. A variety of tests shows imperfect financial integration, suggesting the Indian economy to be in the intermediate stage, i e, on the transition to full capital mobility, a feature that allows an eclectic monetaryexchange rate policy combination. With no strict trade-offs between the three policy goals posited under the trilemma, there is, as yet, no compromise on monetary independence that would justify a shift towards a free float.

Bt Cotton and the Myth of Enhanced Yields

It is presumed that remarkable increases in cotton productivity in India have come about through bacillus thuringiensis cotton and that this approach therefore must be replicated in other crops. This article explores the myth of rising yields of genetically modified crops and points out that genetic engineering has been at best neutral with respect to yield and in many cotton growing countries the average cotton yields have stagnated since the adoption of Bt cotton.

Electoral Politics and the Manipulation of Statistics

The 2009 Lok Sabha election campaign has witnessed political parties making widespread use of constituency-wise data on economic and social indicators to attack each other and central/state governments. They have included statistical "evidence" in their manifestos and a number of large media outlets have cited these "data" as part of their efforts to educate the voter. Most unfortunate is that the mass of data on social and economic indicators provided by independent and private agencies to the media is of very doubtful value. These data do not appear to be based on any official/reliable sources, are inconsistent and have been created for years and for geographical units where no such data have ever been known to exist.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies: For Whose Benefit?

In the last three decades, India has witnessed a proliferation of Assisted Reproductive Technologies clinics. Apart from the domestic demand, the infertility treatment services of these clinics (unregulated by any law) are attracting huge numbers of foreign clients due to the comparatively lower costs. The central government and the Indian Council of Medical Research have drafted the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill and Rules 2008 and invited comments. A critique of the draft reveals that it is inadequate in protecting the health and well-being of women (donors and receivers of the services) and children and favours the private sector providers of these technologies.

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