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

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Urban Jungles

In an exploration of the processes through which urban India acquires or loses green spaces, this article examines how parks and urban publics are mutually constituted in Delhi. Social change has led to a re-imagination of cultural meanings and modes of ecological management. Ecological change, in turn, has created new social relations around the use and protection of nature. Analysing Mangarbani, a sacred grove on the edge of the metropolis, and the Delhi Ridge, a “wilderness” domesticated for recreational use, the author argues that the creation and preservation of certain forms of urban nature relate to the shifting sensibilities of elites, especially the section that acts as a self-appointed vanguard of environmental causes. However, other users of public green areas challenge the far-reaching effects of this “bourgeois environmentalism.” The contested meanings and practices around urban natures create new alliances and understandings that may promote ecology and justice.

Migration, Caste and Marginalised Sections

A spatial overview on availability of urban basic services reveals disparities across urban India. Although various levels of government, including the parastatals, have strived to achieve sufficiency in provisioning of urban basic services, the coverage is far from satisfactory. The growing urban population creates deficiencies on the limited urban infrastructure. The condition is even more precarious for the new migrants who are poor and belong to socially marginalised groups. Using secondary data from the census and National Sample Survey Office, the distribution of basic amenities, including housing across states and size classes of urban centres, and the disparity in their distribution disaggregated by new migrants, marginalised groups and poverty levels are analysed.

Insights on Demonetisation from Rural Tamil Nadu

Drawing on survey data from rural Tamil Nadu, the effects of demonetisation are documented. Serious concerns arise with regard to the achievement of its stated goals. The rural economy was adversely affected in terms of employment, daily financial practices, and social network use for over three months. People came to rely more strongly on their networks to sustain their economic and social activities. Demonetisation has probably further marginalised those without support networks. In a context such as India, where state social protection is weak and governmental schemes are notoriously subject to patronage and clientelistic networks, dense networks of supportive relatives, friends and patrons remain key for safeguarding daily life. With cashless policies gaining currency in various parts of the world, we believe our findings have major implications, seriously questioning their merit, especially among the most marginalised segments of the population.

Rural Construction Employment Boom during 2000–12

Amid (near) jobless economic growth during 2000–12, construction employment boomed at over 9% annually. It was part of a 10 percentage point rise in fixed capital formation rate in 13 years, to 35% of gross domestic product. The boom was rural, growing 2.5 times (at over 12%) as fast as in urban areas (at a mere 5%). National Sample Survey Office primary data reveals that a rise in rural private residential construction is the principal factor explaining the boom. This suggests improvements in rural housing status: conversion of kutcha houses into pucca houses. Decline in price-to-income ratio—of cement to rural wages—expanded rural construction demand. The popular perception (or explanation) for the rural construction employment boom in terms of rural–urban migration—of short-term, circular or seasonal—does not hold water.

Changes in Rural Economy of India, 1971 to 2012

The transition in the rural economy in the last four decades is examined based on the analysis of growth and composition of output and employment. A reduction in the share of agriculture, and a dominance of non-farm activities in the rural economy is noted from 2004–05 onwards. However, agriculture continues to be the predominant source of employment. Employment in the construction sector increased substantially, but was not large enough to absorb workers leaving agriculture, resulting in a decline in rural employment after 2004–05. A serious imbalance has emerged in output and employment in different sectors in rural areas requiring urgent attention to create jobs in manufacturing, services, and construction. Creation of jobs in rural areas requires a complete rethink of rural industrialisation.

Comparing Public and Private Agricultural Extension Services

Using primary data from the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam, a comparative analysis of the impacts of public and private agricultural extension services on acreage share of horticultural crops in total cropped area, and on farm business income generation is presented. It is revealed that farmers accessing either public or private extension services devote larger proportion of cropped area to cultivation of horticultural crops relative to farmers who do not access any type of extension services. Public extension service has been found to be marginally more effective than private extension service in this regard. Further, only public extension service is found to have a significant impact on income generation. It is suggested that outreach of the public extension services should be improved.

How Does Government Microfinance Impact the Rural Poor?

While microfinance companies have been studied and there is a growing consensus that they exclude the poorest, the impact of government microfinance programmes is relatively less understood. The National Rural Livelihoods Mission, which aims to reduce rural poverty by organising women into self-help groups, building capacity and providing access to microcredit is evaluated through a survey of 2,615 households in five districts of Madhya Pradesh. The focus is on four key questions. Who benefits and who gets left out? What is the pattern of household investment priorities? Is sustainable asset accumulation happening? What should be the exit strategy? It is found that the NRLM benefited the poor, while the very poor are struggling to repay the loans and getting left behind in poverty.

Agriculture Insurance in India

The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (during kharif 2016) and Weather-based Crop Insurance Scheme (kharif 2007–kharif 2014) are assessed by considering a set of performance indicators, namely average sum insured per insured cropped area, percentage of loanee and non-loanee farmers covered, average area insured per farmer, total claim ratio, farmer claim ratio, premium as percentage of sum insured, gross profit to insurance agencies. The study finds that claim payout can increase farmers’ coverage under PMFBY while subsidy and actuarial premium rate significantly impact farmers’ coverage for WBCIS. However, as recourse to complement the performance of two schemes, we propose a total insurance package like seed insurance through replanting guarantee programme, crop cycle insurance, prepaid insurance card, to name a few.

It Is Not Just about Fences

Discussions on human–wildlife conflict in India typically take place within a narrow frame, viewing the problem as a result of human “encroachment” into wildlife territories, and hence, one that primarily needs to be addressed by “compensating,” relocating or “protecting” local communities. Most research focuses on protected areas and severely underestimates the scale of the problem. This study, based on field surveys in Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, throws up a different picture, where conflict is a major problem, but one to which structures and practices of forest management in the country are a central contributor. It also points to how more democratic and rights-respecting approaches to forest management must be an essential part of any solution.

Inhabiting or Interrogating Faith

Against the growing literature on Muslim piety movements, this paper analyses the practices of faith among a young generation of educated middle-class Muslim women in Mumbai in the context of a liberalising economy, which offers them greater employment opportunities and draws them out of the ghettos to work and interact with people of different social and religious backgrounds. The paper shows that these women question and reason with their faith, while the earlier generation abides by a quieter piety. The findings are grounded in Mumbai’s specific history in which the riots of 1992–93 were a defining moment for Muslims. While focusing on everyday religiosity, it also connects with a larger canvas by arguing that piety movements, though located in society, are not unattached from the ways in which states may constitute secularity or define religious freedoms.

Women and Religiosity

The everyday life of the congregations of slave castes involved the active support of women, right from the mid-19th century when Dalit communities began to accept Christianity. Prayers in the family and in congregations were occasions in which women were substantially involved, wherein hymns/songs became powerful articulations of the critique of caste slavery and prayer was used as an effective tool to resist instances of caste oppression. However, relatively blurred gender hierarchies in the pre-Christian phase among the slave castes were transformed by the conscious intervention of the missionaries in favour of the secure family structure with an assertive male head.

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