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

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Women at the Crossroads

While the transformation of rural gender inequalities was not an intended goal of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, this study draws on evidence from two villages in western Tamil Nadu to show how the scheme has benefited rural women in particular. Major attractions of the MGNREGA work include local availability through the year, it being perceived as relatively "easy" work with fixed, regular, gender equal wages, and free from caste-based relations of subordination and discrimination. The gendered impacts of MGNREGA are partly due to the universal, right-based and women-friendly nature of the policy, and partly to the specific ways in which this policy is implemented in Tamil Nadu, where it has received significant cross-party political support.

Direct Cash Transfer System for Fertilisers

The challenges in implementing a direct cash transfer system for fertilisers are daunting. This paper points out that they range from the very large number of beneficiaries to volatile fertiliser prices, necessitating market price indexation of cash transfers and controlling the market power of dealers, especially in remote areas. The imbalance in the use of different fertilisers is also a growing problem. If designed properly, a DCT should be accompanied by significant investment in soil testing and the payment should be tied to balanced use of fertilisers, including micronutrients.

Sorghum and Pearl Millet Economy of India

Coarse cereals such as pearl millet and sorghum, the hardiest and least risky cereals, are mainly grown in India's arid and semi-arid regions. These crops possess high nutritive and fodder value and are primarily consumed by their producers. On the supply side, there has been a large shift in the area under cultivation to rice and wheat and other commercial crops. On the demand side, the distribution of rice and wheat at subsidised prices through the public distribution system has led to a fall in the consumption of sorghum and millets. The decline in cultivated area could result in a problem for the livestock sector in many regions. It is crucial that the sorghum and millet sector be supported by strong government policies and programmes for food, fodder, and better nutrition through value addition and demand creation.

Moving around in Indian Cities

Seven years after the National Urban Transport Policy was announced by the central government, the problems identified in it remain the same, or have worsened. Land use planning has not enabled the lower-income groups to live closer to work, road use is more dominated by private vehicles, and there is little money to improve facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists. This paper notes that though much of the basic data on urban transport in India is unreliable, there is enough to show that the challenge is to keep the share of non-personal transport at 70% as incomes increase in our cities. For this, walking and bicycling have to be made safer and public transport more attractive by making it readily available.

Review of Twelfth Plan Proposals for Urban Transport

The Twelfth Five-Year Plan aims to foster more inclusive and sustainable growth. Urban transport finds mention in its chapters on sustainable development, environment, and urban development, which focus not only on aspects of public transport, but also urban planning and governance. Identifying the three main themes that emerge from the Plan's recommendations, this paper takes a critical look at them. It comments on what appears to be a significant divergence from the policy recommendations in the Plan and the Plan outlays, both in the first phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and what is proposed in the second phase, before going on to make specific recommendations on how matters could be improved.

Car Sewa

Knowing full well that the private motor car is more a bane than a boon in terms of the various costs it entails, the time for policymakers in India to encourage greater use of public transport and non-motorised modes is past. Illustrating the politics of privileging car users over the vast majority that uses public transport like buses, this paper points to the vicissitudes the bus rapid transit system in Delhi has gone through from its introduction in 2005 to the present. Given that there is already little space and energy for more cars in India's cities, and the social and political problems they engender, the vicious cycle within which the system is trapped has to be broken. But that is easier said than done.

Ahmedabad's BRT System

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the National Urban Transport Policy have given a boost to bus rapid transit systems in many Indian cities and Ahmedabad's Janmarg is the largest such network now in operation. This paper shows that while catering to latent transport demand, Janmarg has not promoted inclusivity or encouraged a shift away from private motorised transport. It has also given short shrift to non-motorised transport systems, which are important for inclusivity and for reducing the city's carbon footprint. The study raises the pertinent question of whether public transport ought to be viewed as a technological fix or as part of a wider solution of urban or social issues.

Accidents and Road Safety

Among all countries, India has the highest number of deaths due to road traffic-related accidents. Road accidents are the sixth leading cause of death in the country, and there were nearly 1,40,000 deaths from road accidents in 2012. Despite being a major public health issue that affects the most vulnerable and also the most productive sections of society, road safety has not received the attention it deserves. This paper discusses how the government has not recognised road safety as a key mobility, health, and equity issue, and has been slow in enacting legislation to establish the institutional mechanisms to promote it.

Is Public Interest Litigation an Appropriate Vehicle for Advancing Road Safety?

Public interest litigation has value as a tool for enhancing road safety. But it is unlikely to succeed if it asks courts to give directions to the government on a wide range of road safety policies, or if it asks for amendments to the law, or if it asks the judges to direct the government on desired legislation. It has a fair likelihood of success in a high court if the petitioners focus on aspects of road safety for which laws are already on the books but are not being enforced properly. The Supreme Court is likely to consider the issue favourably only if the petitioners make a convincing argument that unsafe roads have a negative impact on a fundamental constitutional right

Towards Recognition through Professionalisation

While discussing the existing scenario of domestic workers in Kerala, this paper explains the processes involved in building "recognition" for domestic workers through the professionalisation of their work. The process is explained through the history of the organisation of Self Employed Women's Association-Kerala and locating within it the personal experiences of workers and service takers. The institutional setting of SEWA was fundamental in creating spaces for negotiation in terms of work regularity, decent wages, safe work conditions and social security.

Bargaining over Wages

Focusing on wage determination, this paper looks at the various economic, social and cultural dimensions that enter the calculation of the wage and bargaining around it. Given the specificity of paid domestic work in urban employment, this study argues that both the supply of labour and negotiation of the wage are as much influenced by ideologies of feminine domesticity, performance of work in familial spaces and the social construction of skill, on the one hand, as by competition and lack of alternative opportunities and social security, on the other. In exploring the process of bargaining, it critically examines the role of recruitment agencies and unionisation. While the former becomes simply a "middleman", the latter moves at a slow pace caught between the dual role of organiser and employer.

Minimum Wages for Domestic Work

Apart from labour market issues that govern legislative interventions, a critical factor in understanding the responses of the state to the issues domestic workers face is the social understanding of household work. Minimum wages for domestic workers in the few states where it is mandated are among the lowest in the informal sector, reflecting the undervaluation of housework even when it enters the market. Better statutory minimum wages for domestic workers would not only help protect their rights, but could also shake the social and political foundations of household work, leading to a new valuation of it.

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