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

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From Balmikis to Bengalis

The reorganisation of informal household garbage collection work in Delhi is analysed, as migrants from eastern states like West Bengal have begun doing manual waste work, even as their Balmikis deal only with monthly cash payments. Drawing on fieldwork, the effect on the Balmiki jamadars is noted, and the Bengali Muslims, who newly contend with the practices of untouchability in their neighbourhoods of work, are focused on. These newer migrants come to justify the shame they experience by focusing on the equivalence of scrap with money, which has redemptive potential. This reveals a dynamic process through which caste differences are being remade—”casteification”—in relation to economic life.

The 2015 Gram Pradhan Elections in Uttar Pradesh

The 2015 gram pradhan elections in Uttar Pradesh present a distinct picture of local elections as compared to state-level and national elections. Three factors— money, power, and violence with localised overtones— have driven the course of elections lately. Large-scale monetary benefits accruing from the position of pradhani motivate the contestants to make substantial investment in elections. The second important element is power that is primarily based on caste status. Although caste positions have changed, the power of caste remains intact. Middle castes have gained salience but relative empowerment of certain communities within the Scheduled Castes is a notable feature in rural societies. The most visible expression of power assertion is violence which is colloquially referred to as dabangai.

Can Jan Dhan Yojana Achieve Financial Inclusion?

While there has been a tremendous increase in the number of bank accounts opened, the data show that the average balance in these accounts is low and a significant proportion of the accounts are inoperative. Although there was a rise in the average deposits during demonetisation, they later settled at a lower level. Further, financial inclusion means not just the opening of bank accounts but, more importantly, access to credit from formal sources. The limited data available in this regard show that after the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana was launched there has not been any increase in the credit–deposit ratio and the share of small loans has continued to decline. Very few people have benefited from the overdraft facility that is supposed to be provided by the accounts under the scheme. Issues of access to banking in rural areas remain.

Deciphering Financial Literacy in India

Utilising a nationally representative data set, an index of financial literacy consisting of financial knowledge, behaviour, and attitude is constructed. The findings suggest significant variation in financial literacy across states with an over 60 percentage point difference between the state with the highest financial literacy and that with the lowest. Multivariate regressions show that there exist large and statistically significant gender-, location-, employment-, education-, technology-, and debt-driven differences in financial literacy. Much of the observed regional divergence persists even after we control for cohort effects.

Can Central Banks Reduce Inflation?

To explore the empirical validity of the proposition that a rise in the interest rate would necessarily lead to a lower rate of inflation, empirical evidence from 158 countries, during 1981 to 2013, is used to critically evaluate this widely accepted idea. Based on the findings, it is argued that from a policy perspective, the so-called “inflation targeting” should be revisited.

Some Analytics of Demonetisation

Given the difficulty of a reasonably rigorous assessment of the long-term effects of demonetisation, its macroeconomic consequences in the short run are analysed. Standard macroeconomic tools are moulded for this purpose. It is found that there is a fall in demand as well as in supply-constrained output.

Money and ‘Demonetisation’

Like in the rest of contemporary capitalism, the Indian monetary system is based on state-backed credit money. Yet this hierarchical system of credit/social relations appears to us as a system of fiat money. This fetish of fiat money, analogous to Marx’s commodity fetish, is produced in the operation of credit system. The institutional and political arrangements of the Indian state amplify this inherent fetish. This conjuncture of elements produces a particularly robust fetish of fiat money in India, giving the Indian state more degrees of freedom over money than other states enjoy, a margin that the current government is now exploiting.

Calm before the Storm?

It is generally believed that India is doing far better than most emerging market economies in these times of global economic turmoil. Emerging markets are facing capital flight, with large-scale outflows, especially since the second half of 2015, with the trend expected to continue in 2016. India has been less affected than others, but is clearly vulnerable due to the large number of Indian firms that are exposed to external borrowings, a weak rupee, a year or more of declining merchandise exports, falling corporate profitability, and stressed corporate balance sheets.
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