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Premature Obituary


Issn 0012-9976

Ever since the first issue in 1966, EPW has been India’s premier journal for comment on current affairs and research in the social sciences. It succeeded Economic Weekly (1949-1965), which was launched and shepherded by Sachin Chaudhuri, who was also the founder-editor of EPW. As editor for thirty-five years (1969-2004) Krishna Raj gave EPW the reputation it now enjoys.


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Economic and Political Weekly 320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel Mumbai 400 013 Phone: (022) 4063 8282 FAX: (022) 2493 4515

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Closure of Primary Schools

here has been a hue and cry ever since the Government of Karnataka announced the shifting or merger or relocation of primary schools in rural areas due to lack of student strength. Many arguments relating to caste, language and communal issues bas been given to explain this which is rather unfortunate since it appears that no objective assessment has been done to analyse the situation.

Fertility in Karnataka was very high in the 1960s and 1970s with the estimated birth rate around 42 per thousand of the population. The decadal growth rate of population in Karnataka during 1961-71 was a little more than 24.2%. In order to contain this rapid population growth, the Government of Karnataka launched massive family planning programmes, as elsewhere in the country. This programme could not make much headway in the initial stages due to various sociocultural reasons, but thanks to thousands of selfless health and family planning workers, doctors, programme managers and administrators, fertility started declining and today the state has achieved its demographic goal of a birth rate of 18 per thousand population. In some districts, like Udupi, fertility has gone below replacement levels, while others are on the threshold of reaching this stage. Some districts, like Chikmagalore, recorded negative population growth between 2001 and 2011. Thus, Karnataka can be said to be in an advanced stage of demographic transition.

It appears that the sharply falling birth rate in Karnataka, in particular the rural areas, is compelling the government to merge or relocate primary schools in rural areas. This problem is confined not just to Karnataka. All the states which have been experiencing a rapid fertility decline will have to face this problem.

Instead of politicising such an important issue, all those interested in providing good quality education to children – Kannada activists, writers, educationists, administrators and representatives from the government – must come together and find an amicable solution.

G B Venkatesha Murthy


february 25, 2012

Small Farmers Benefit

ost readers may agree with Sukhpal Singh (“FDI in Retail: Misplaced Expectations and Half-truths”, EPW, 17 December 2011) that foreign direct investment (fdi) in Indian retail market is a monster ready to gulp down farmers. However, many of us fail to appreciate another aspect, the lasting impact that FDI can have on India’s farming sector. The retail multinational corporations (MNCs) will have to procure perishable food items such as fruits and vegetables from the local farmers without a middleman. The distance between the producer and consumer would be reduced and the heavy commission claimed by the middleman will be eliminated. In a recent incident in Punjab, farmers threw their potatoes on the road as a protest against the poor prices offered in the market. Even the cost of production was not being covered. As government procurement dominates the agriculture sector in wheat and rice, Indian farmers have become victims. And thus diversification has not been accepted by the farmers. With FDI the purchase of fruits and vegetables by the MNCs will give a boost to diversification especially in horticulture.

This diversification will restore the ecological balance. States like Punjab have experienced a falling water table and a huge loss of soil nutrients due to its farmers remaining prisoners of the vicious cycle of wheat and rice.

The Indian farmer may not understand the terms and conditions of FDI and the laws but a shift towards other crops will certainly give a new direction to Indian agriculture and reduce the chances of a farmer committing suicide. Mostly, small farmers will be the beneficiaries of the opening of markets.

Another aspect would be the improvement in the quality of agricultural produce, given the technical inputs from these international firms. It will further encourage contract farming which would also give a new dimension to traditional agricultural practices.

The terms and conditions of allowing FDI should be debated and formulated accordingly but the positive effects it can

vol xlviI no 8

Economic & Political Weekly


have on agriculture cannot be ignored. This door to the open world for the small farmers should not be completely shut.

Gaganjyot Kaur Narwal

University of Delhi


Premature Obituary

his refers to the editorial “Starting to Unravel” (EPW, 14 January 2012). It is not entirely unexpected that the voices of disagreement and disillusionment with India’s post-1990 growth model would start emerging the moment there is a hint of an economic slowdown. While the Indian economy’s growth behaviour remains cyclical, the dissenting voices remain, alas, stubbornly structural!

True, the global economy, which never fully recovered from the 2008-09 crisis, is further slowing down and at home too, there are concerns and constraints galore: fiscal, monetary and, more important, governance related. However, whether the time is really ripe for writing an obituary of the growth model itself calls for dispassionate debate and seems to be premature at this stage, to say the least.

The elite private investment and consumption-led growth model has no doubt given rise to several critical issues which have a strong bearing on India’s healthy, sustained economic development. But, let us not make haste and ignore what has been already delivered by this very same model. Contrary to popular perception, the last decade has not only generated good growth numbers (8%, 9% and a good 7% in the face of the global slowdown), but has also led to faster poverty reduction. The evidence on employment generation is mixed at best. Enormous new job opportunities have opened up across sectors and regions of India, but skill deficits remain a critical block. As regards regional, inter-state economic disparities, recent evidence clearly suggests that many of the erstwhile laggard states are generating growth and catching up. Intra-state disparities, even in a state like Maharashtra, remain a genuinely disturbing phenomenon. The colossal neglect of governance is the villain in the piece and not corporates or private investors who have generated at least some pockets of rural prosperity, despite the political and administrative constraints.

Admittedly, we are still far away from genuinely inclusive and participatory growth. The recent evidence on primary education status as well as on health and nutrition is clearly a crying shame. But, one shudders to even think where we would have been as a country in the absence of high economic growth that has provided us the tax revenues which could finance pro-poor schemes.

In the EPW editorial, an undue emphasis has been given to the adverse effect of liberalising short-term capital flows, foreign direct investments, etc. Important as they are in the overall scheme, no one should seriously argue that our “growth mode” almost entirely hinges on the inflow/outflow of foreign capital as is being projected in the editorial.

Many mid-stream corrections are necessary, but within the framework of greater market-reliance, private sector investment and keeping a more open economy, domestically and globally.

Indeed, there is a lurking danger that, taking wrong signals from the present malaise, the State may register an untimely comeback with a heavy hand, nullify the gains of the last two decades and the Indian economy may shrink back to the pre-1990 growth model. Finally, capitalism – even the emerging Indian version of it – is entirely compatible with democracy, far more than socialism (or its Indian version) ever was.

Chandrahas Deshpande


Disgraceful Award

t is with great dismay and outrage that the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) condemns the award of the

President’s Police medal to Dantewada Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg. He is the officer accused by Soni Sori of having inflicted grave sexual violence upon her while she was in his custody in Dantewada. Soni Sori is an adivasi teacher who was indicted for having Maoist links and arrested in October 2011. Soni Sori’s case is pending before the Supreme Court under whose direction her medical examination was done outside Chhattisgarh and severe sexual torture was established. Pebbles were found in her private parts and were produced before the Supreme Court.

It is pertinent to note here that Ankit Garg has been awarded this medal for an encounter in Mahasamund district of Chhattisgarh in 2009 in which eight alleged Maoists were killed. Of these eight, two were innocent village residents, including one who was speech and hearing impaired and was shot dead inside his house. Thus even the alleged bravery is dubious.

It is baffling and shameful to see that instead of taking any serious note of the charges, or initiating action against the alleged perpetrator of such heinous sexual torture, the Government of India decides to award a gallantry medal to him. It is indicative of the utter disrespect and disregard that the government has for the weakest citizens of this country. PUDR considers this award to SP Ankit Garg as an encouragement to the continued use of sexual violence as a tool to punish women whom the police and the government see as offenders or as belonging to the enemy.

PUDR therefore demands immediate retraction of the award and an apology from the Government of India for having displayed its disregard towards the oppression of a citizen by a state official.

Paramjeet Singh, Preeti Chauhan

PUDR, delhi

EPW at New Delhi World Book Fair Economic and Political Weekly will be at the New Delhi World Book Fair, February 25, 2012 to March 5, 2012. Do visit us at Hall No. 8-9, Stall No. 51. We look forward to seeing you there.

Economic & Political Weekly

february 25, 2012 vol xlviI no 8

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