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

West BengalSubscribe to West Bengal

Primary Schools in West Bengal

The Delivery of Primary Education: A Study in West Bengal (The Pratichi Education Report) by Kumar Rana, Abdur Rafique and Amrita Sengupta (with an Introduction by Amartya Sen); TLM Books in association with Pratichi (India) Trust, New Delhi, 2002; pp 127, Rs 150.00 ($5.0).

Unfinished Tasks

Beneficiaries of Land Reforms: The West Bengal Scenario by Anil K Chakraborti in association with Apurba Kumar Mukhopadhyay and Debesh Roy; State Institute of Panchayats and Rural Development, Kalyani, Nadia, Government of West Bengal, Spandan, Kolkata, 2003; pp 154, Rs 150.

Making Social Science Matter - II

Part I of this paper, which appeared last week, described the patterns of participation of the rural poor in state-sponsored schemes and the characteristics of political society in each of the blocks and districts studied. It also provided evidence on the scale and significane of rent-seeking behaviour, and a preliminary mapping of what has been called 'the anthropology of the everyday state'. We turn now to a discussion of an 'action research' project that followed on from our 'academic' research. This project involved the research team in a prolonged dialogue with different groups of actors in Malda and Bhojpur districts that we had identified as 'failing' districts from the point of view of effective pro-poor governance. We comment briefly on the background to this research and describe how we organised the action research process before proceeding to present the main findings of the workshops that we held in these two districts. These findings speak of the ways in which different groups of stakeholders, and members of the rural poor most especially, see the state in Bhojpur and Malda and how they would like to see certain practices of the state abolished, extended or reformed.

Education : Wheel Turns Full Circle

Wheel Turns Full Circle Early this January the West Bengal government gave a three-month extension to the Ranju Gopal Mukherjee committee with the brief to develop an

State of Primary Education in West Bengal

Successive efforts initiated by the Left Front government have played a positive role in the expansion of primary education in West Bengal. However, as the findings of this study establish, certain problems still prevail. Poor attendance, perceived class differences, poverty and gender discrimination prevent socially underprivileged groups from accessing education opportunities. On the other hand, the success of the government's experiment in providing cost-effective primary education, particularly to the most underprivileged sections of society must be recognised.

Shalishi in West Bengal

Traditional community/village level dispute resolution systems still coexist with formal processes of justice and administration. The `shalishi' is one such method of arbitration in West Bengal that has been used by NGOs to intervene effectively in settling domestic violence cases. Shalishi scores over the more formal legal avenues of dispute resolution because of its informal set up. But deriving its legitimacy as it does from the conventional norms and values of the community it works in favour of keeping the family intact, often compromising feminist notions of empowerment.

Comparative Panchayat Systems

State Politics and Panchayats in India by Buddhadeb Ghosh and Girish Kumar; Manohar Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, 2003; pp 243, Rs 475

West Bengal: Schools out of Shape

Schools out of Shape West Bengal still stands a dismal 18th position in literacy rates among 35 Indian states and union territories. The rate of literacy among the scheduled caste communities remains as low as 42.21 per cent. Almost 15 per cent of the population in the age group 6-11 were out of school in 1997-98. There is on average 2.98 teachers per school, a suffocating student-teacher ratio of 54:1 far higher than the declared ratio (40:1) of the government. These are among several findings of the Pratichi (India) Trust

Strategy for Economic Reform in West Bengal

During the last two decades West Bengal has led the rest of the country with regard to agricultural performance and implementation of panchayat institutions. But these developments have begun to level out. At the same time the state has fallen behind in other sectors - industry, higher education and state of public finances, particularly - to an extent that is seriously worrying. This paper reviews performance of these different sectors, discusses possible explanatory factors, and makes a number of suggestions for policy reforms. With regard to industrial revival, it stresses public investment in transport and communication, measures to improve higher education, foster industry-university collaborations, and help small-scale industries overcome specific market imperfections (access to credit, technology and distribution channels). In public finance, emphasis is placed on raising tax revenues (especially with regard to the service sector), limiting losses of public sector undertakings, and widening the scope of land taxes and user fees. In the agricultural sector, the need for a greater role of the government with regard to biotechnology, extension services, irrigation and flood control is emphasised, along with suggestions for encouraging and regulating contract farming with MNCs. Finally the article urges greater empowerment of panchayats with regard to social service delivery and agro-business development, and administrative reforms to enhance accountability of state government employees.

High Female Literacy, Low Child Population

This paper examines the relationship between rural female literacy and the size of the child population (0-6 years) using block level data from the population census of 1991 for West Bengal. Its purpose is to find out if there is any threshold level of female literacy associated with a rapid decline in the size of the under-6 population. The analysis is done separately for three social groups; the tribals, the scheduled castes and the rest or the 'general' population. The results have an important bearing on policy while processes behind these are of considerable significance to researchers. Further validation of these patterns using 2001 Census data and similar analysis for states is indicated.

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