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

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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.

The Wheat Market: Distortions Caused by Government Interventions

Wheat stocks are rising again, well beyond the minimum required, and a large procurement is expected from the 2009-10 wheat marketing season that begins on 1 April. India appears set once again for yet another phase of rising stocks, mounting carrying costs, and a crisis of plenty. The volatile cycles of rising and falling stocks appear to be the result of poor government intervention, in particular, poor procurement policies. It is argued here that unidirectional revisions in the minimum support price create serious demand and supply imbalances and extreme volatility in buffer stock cycles.

The Siachen War: Twenty-Five Years On

Siachen has become a symbol of India's military capability and staying power, somewhat like the Pakistani incursion in Kargil, which achieved nothing for that country. The human cost is staggering, yet India and Pakistan continue to bracket Siachen with issues like Sir Creek, Wular and trade and commerce. This shows a lack of concern for the rank and file of both armies by their political and military leaders. Continuing with the occupation of the Siachen glacier heights not only amounts to poor strategy but also poor generalship.

Maytas, Hyderabad Metro and the Politics of Real Estate

In the 10 days since the revelation of the massive fraud at Satyam, there has been much speculation that the holes in the software company's books were caused by the promoters' links with Maytas, the infrastructure company that in recent years has become the favourite of the government of Andhra Pradesh. This article puts under the magnifying lens the award in 2008 of the massive Rs 12,000 crore contract to Maytas to build and operate the Hyderabad Metro.

Can Community Monitoring Improve the Accountability of Public Officials?

This article discusses the nature and characteristics of monitoring the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme's implementation with a focus on the community control mechanisms existing in the two pioneering states of Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. These two states represent two relatively diverse models. Elements of both models need to be incorporated in order to make the process of community control of public programmes effective and sustainable.

The International Experience of Auctioning Spectrum

This article analyses the early experiences of spectrum auction in some advanced countries and distils lessons from them. An issue that has been examined in this context is whether auction necessarily leads to a market-efficient outcome. This is of topical interest in India at the current juncture since the department of telecommunications is on the verge of holding an auction for allotting the spectrum for the third-generation (3G) of mobile phones.

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