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

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Underbelly of the Great Indian Telecom Revolution

While the phenomenal growth of telecommunications in India is often attributed to deregulation, the other side of the coin is the equally massive spread of crony capitalism based on scams and corrupt practices. These scandals are a consequence of poor regulatory oversight and deliberate manipulation of policies and norms to favour select privately-owned corporate entities. The most brazen of these scandals pertains to the questionable manner in which mobile spectrum was priced and allocated under the former communications minister Andimuthu Raja. This article traces the history of telecom scams in India and explains the nature of the present 2G corruption.

The HPV Vaccine: Science,Ethics and Regulation

A recent civil society-led investigation has highlighted serious ethical violations in a trial of the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine on girls in Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh. The findings are presented along with a review of clinical trials of the hpv vaccine in India and an analysis of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules. Together they illustrate how the promotional practices of drug companies, pressure from powerful international organisations, and the co-option of, and uncritical endorsement by, India's medical associations are influencing the country's public health priorities.

Silicon Valley's Integrated Water System

California's Santa Clara Valley, widely known as the Silicon Valley, manages its water resources admirably, integrating surface water, groundwater, artifi cial recharge, waste-water treatment, imported water, water conservation and public participation. As India seriously tackles its water challenges, the Silicon Valley's case history provides insights into how citizens of a hydrological basin may take control of their indigenous water resources based on an understanding of the essential attributes of hydrological systems, and drawing upon the best available science to achieve sustainable management. This case history also highlights the fact that even with the most sophisticated integrated water management, there are defi nite limits to the extent to which indigenous resources can satisfy water demands.

Broadband Policy: What Do We Know? What Do We Need to Know?

In some technology sectors in India, particularly in software services, public policies and private initiative have yielded rapid growth and good private and social returns. But this has not been true in the case of the internet, more so for broadband. Broadband adoption in India is and remains low, even falling short of modest official projections by half. This article summarises the current state of knowledge and argues that (a) we do not have a good understanding of the drivers and economic effects of broadband in India, and (b) this lack of understanding is largely due to the absence of a systematic way of monitoring the technological pulse of the nation.

Ensuring Minimum Public Holding in Listed Companies

There have been long drawn-out offi cial attempts to ensure a minimum public shareholding in listed companies. The latest attempt, announced in June 2010, made the 25% limit mandatory for all companies. The limit for public sector enterprises was, however, lowered to 10% in August. This note argues that if the policy challenges identifi ed in the fi nance ministry's discussion paper of January 2008 are to be addressed, the issues of defi nition of the public, the maximum desirable promoter shareholding and identifi cation of promoter group's control should be taken up seriously.

Understanding the Backward Classes of Muslim Society

The identifi cation of and reservation for the backward classes among Muslims has been a contentious issue, most recently in Andhra Pradesh. However there is a clear case, on constitutional grounds, for such reservation. A detailed discussion of the national situation and reservation measures in some states.

The Saga of Sompeta: Public Deception, Private Gains

On 14 July, two persons were shot dead by the police in Sompeta village in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh when hundreds were protesting against an attempt to forcibly take possession of land for a private 1,980 megawatt coal power plant that was planned in the area. On 15 July, the National Environment Appellate Authority quashed the environmental clearance that had been given to the project. The saga of Sompeta is one of many arms of the central and state governments colluding with the promoters to turn fact into fi ction and give clearance to a polluting project in a fragile ecological area, disrupting thousands of livelihoods.

Judicial Setback for Panchayats and Local Bodies

The Supreme Court's rulings in the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme case and the Arkavathy Layout in Bangalore case could have alarming consequences for panchayati raj and municipal bodies. Since the Court has upheld the validity of MPLADS, the preference of MPs for an executive role rather than for law-making may now well be reinforced. With these two judgments the political leadership will not be required to assign the functions and fi nances to the local bodies. State agencies not answerable to the elected local bodies may then take over the functions in the panchayat and the municipal domain.

Justice Denied to Tribals in the Hill Districts of Manipur

How should the district council elections that were held in Manipur in April 2010 be understood? What was the need to rush through the elections on an issue which had waited nearly 40 years for a fair resolution? By denying the legitimate demand of tribals for the Sixth Schedule and ignoring their sustained democratic struggle, the Manipur government has weakened its case for "territorial integrity". Tribals fear that in the name of "development" the state government wants to gain control over their lands. Peaceful coexistence is possible only if rights are fulfi lled and historical injustices corrected.

Have the State Finance Commissions Fulfilled Their Constitutional Mandates?

The State Finance Commission, although a technical and quasijudicial constitutional entity like the Union Finance Commission, has to help local governments plan for economic development and deliver social justice and public services at the local level. This article evaluates the history of the performance of SFCs in general and shows that they have missed a great opportunity to contribute to the process of building a more inclusive, participatory and environmentfriendly fi scal federalism via promoting decentralised governance in the country. It argues that the blame is to be collectively shared and shouldered by the union, state and local governments.

Brazil's 'Fome Zero' Strategy: Can India Implement Cash Transfers?

Brazil has the largest cash transfer scheme in the world and it has had a measure of success in fighting poverty. Its experience shows that cash transfers, when implemented properly, are at best a necessary condition for poverty alleviation. Supply side constraints have to be removed if the increased purchasing power is not to lead to unbridled inflation that will hurt the poor badly. While a case can be made for a cash transfer system in India, in the existing situation of an incomplete transition to a multi-level structure of government, with insufficient clarity on intergovernmental relations, and an overarching set of civil services fighting for turf at the union and state levels, it will be difficult for India to design suitable programmes.

Foreign Direct Investment Concepts: Implications for Negotiations

Free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties make privileges for and treatment of foreign direct investors legally binding. However, apart from the concerns of being able to capture the "real" fi nancial and economic contribution of foreign direct investment infl ows, developing country governments promoting such investment need to be aware that FDI defi nitions are also about protecting the "rights" of the so-defi ned investors in the host country. Keeping this in mind, the article analyses India's current FDI policy.

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