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

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A Limiting Perspective on Universal Coverage

The report of the High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage for India reaffirms the principles of universality and equity in access to healthcare and the central role public services have to play in bringing this about. However, the HLEG pays inadequate attention to regulating the deeply entrenched private health sector, which is not only embedded within an intricate and interdependent web of power relations, but also has a marked influence on policy.

Gender in the HLEG Report

Apart from referring to gender concerns in its chapters addressing critical areas of the healthcare system, the High Level Expert Group's report on Universal Health Coverage for India has a separate chapter on gender and health. While the report as a whole and this chapter make several sound suggestions, what comes through is that much more could have been done. In the absence of a gender and health analysis framework, the report tends to address gender issues in an ad hoc and uneven fashion.

Universal Health Coverage in India

India's steps towards universal health coverage began in the early years after Independence but they faltered because of various factors, including resource constraints. The context has vastly changed since then but the need remains as urgent as it always was. This overview to the special issue on the report of the High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage notes that the report takes into account the complex nature of the health situation in the country and puts forth an integrated blueprint for achieving UHC. There may be a few shortcomings, but if the interlinked proposals are implemented in a carefully planned manner, a long-delayed promise to the country's people could be largely fulfilled.

Agrarian Transition and Emerging Challenges in Asian Agriculture: A Critical Assessment

Green revolution technologies and a vigorous smallholder sector have seen Asian agriculture make giant strides in the last five decades. But agricultural transition has not been uniform across Asia and the future of smallholder agriculture faces several challenges arising from a range of socio-economic, demographic, structural and institutional factors that could adversely affect its sustainability. This paper critically reviews the divergent experiences of agricultural transformation in five Asian countries - Bangladesh, India, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam - from a comparative perspective and points to the need for evolving new perspectives and policies towards sustainable and non-disruptive transformation of smallholder agriculture in Asia.

Temporary and Seasonal Migration: Regional Pattern, Characteristics and Associated Factors

The regional pattern of temporary and seasonal labour migration in India assumes sharp focus when seen in the light of data from the 64th round of the National Sample Survey. The phenomenon is more prevalent in rural areas of the country's northern and eastern states. This paper also examines the association between temporary migration and its determining factors, particularly economic status, landholding and educational levels. It observes that there is a significant negative association between economic and educational attainment and temporary migration, both in rural and urban areas. In general, socio-economically deprived groups such as adivasis and those from the lower castes have a greater propensity to migrate seasonally, which also reflects its distress-driven nature.

Khap Panchayats: A Socio-Historical Overview

Khap panchayats have had a long innings in the Jat-dominated areas of north-western India and some of their decisions that go against individual rights have led to heated controversy. This paper gives a brief account of how these informal social institutions for conflict resolution took root and the reasons for their continuing influence. It also looks into how big landlords have come to use khaps for their own interests and the causes that prompt these bodies to interfere in marriages that do not conform to traditional norms. Interrogating the modern state's failure to check the unwritten powers of khap panchayats, it suggests some remedial measures that could be taken.

Panchayat Finances and the Need for Devolutions from the State Government

One of the key tests to real empowerment of panchayats lies in the ability of local self-governing institutions to finance their own expenditures through internal generation of resources. Based on an analysis of three villages in Tamil Nadu, this paper argues that many gram panchayats are today in a position to substantially finance themselves and build a culture of self-sufficiency, independence and accountability to their citizens, reducing their dependence on devolutions from state governments. It concludes that by incentivising competition among panchayats and instituting a rural development fund to enable them to access debt capital, the perverse incentives they now face can be mitigated to a large extent, leading to several significant positive outcomes.

Institutional and Policy Aspects of Punjab Agriculture: A Smallholder Perspective

Punjab's agricultural sector and allied activities are now in a crisis. This paper examines the role of policy and institutions in perpetuating or tackling it. It looks at the major initiatives taken by various organs of the state in the absence of any other major institutional alternatives and analyses their class and social biases from a smallholder perspective. It also discusses new mechanisms such as contract farming, corporate farming and policies granting agricultural incentives and subsidies before putting forward suggestions to benefit smallholders and ensure the sustainability of the farm sector.

Rural Water Access: Governance and Contestation in a Semi-Arid Watershed in Udaipur, Rajasthan

A significant focus of policy in recent years has been to devolve decision-making and management of water systems to the community level. This paper is based on a study of a minor irrigation project in the semi-arid Udaipur district of Rajasthan, where the livelihoods of people in the watershed are dependent on canal water and there are serious inequalities in the distribution of water within and between villages. This study points to both the social and spatial dimensions of inequalities in access to water. It also focuses on governance arrangements and highlights inequalities that arise from the delegation of management of water systems to communities. These reflect the democratic deficit in local governance institutions and, in turn, the larger political economy.

Planning as Commoning: Transformation of a Bangalore Lake

The transformation of human settlements over time can affect the relationship between communities and commons when, for example, social geographies change from rural to urban, or from traditional systems of management to modern bureaucratic systems. Communities that were dependent on particular commons could become less dependent, or abandon those commons. New communities of interest might emerge. Examining the transformation of a lake in Bangalore, this paper argues that in the community struggle towards creating and claiming commons, claiming the sphere of planning is fundamental. Further, the making or unmaking of the commons involves the making or unmaking of communities and vice versa. In the case of the Rajapalaya Lake studied here, this occurred and occurs at the interface where democratic struggles and bureaucratic systems meet.

What the Eye Does Not See: The Yamuna in the Imagination of Delhi

This article traces the shifting visibility of the river Yamuna in the social and ecological imagination of Delhi. It delineates how the riverbed has changed from being a neglected "non-place" to prized real estate for private and public corporations. It argues that the transformation of an urban commons into a commodity is not only embedded in processes of political economy, but is also driven by aesthetic sensibilities that shape how ecological landscapes are valued. However, the commodification of the riverbed must confront the fact that the Yamuna is an ecological entity with dynamics that can defy attempts at domestication.

No Estoppel: Claiming Right to the City via the Commons

The right to the city, an idea mooted by French radical philosophers in 1968, has become a popular slogan among right to housing activists and inclusive growth policymakers. In Indian cities unprecedented and unregulated growth, incremental land use change, privatisation and chaotic civic infrastructure provisioning are fracturing resources created over centuries and reducing the right to the city to mere right to housing and property, thus short-changing the concept's transformative potential. Urban actors need to draw inspiration from the way social movements world over including in India have deployed the notion of the commons as a defence against corporate exploitation of biodiversity. Envisioning the right to the city as the fundamental human right, a demand for a just and sustainable social order where collective resources are respected and regenerated to support life, entails a democratic approach to the creation of knowledge about our cities. Such knowledge creation is necessarily a collaborative effort involving citizens who are differentially located in relation to the commons - policymakers, neighbourhood residents, workers and academic researchers.

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