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

West BengalSubscribe to West Bengal

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.

Measuring Social Capital

A framework for the measurement of social capital at the local level applied in four forest protection committees in Midnapore district of West Bengal shows that mere establishment of institutions is not a guarantee that localised natural resources will be managed in a sustainable manner. The process of social capital formation is important. Increase in social capital of an institution is important for the achievement of its objectives in a sustainable manner.

The Vernacular in Sports History

A study of sports history is crucial not only to understanding the evolving sporting heritage of a nation, but to appreciate seemingly unrelated political processes such as nationalism, colonial culture, etc. Moreover, vernacular sources present a fundamentally different understanding of history as this paper demonstrates in its study of Bengali tracts on sport which sheds light on imperialist-nationalist politics in late colonial Bengal.

Rural Health Care in West Bengal

Health care institutions in West Bengal are in a state of flux, with new privatisation initiatives proposed by the World Bank posing a direct contrast to still-existing not-for-profit, traditional health systems. This essay based on a field study in West Bengal's Birbhum district looks at the dichotomy that prevails in rural health care initiatives, the juxtaposition of private vs public health care systems, and probes the villagers' resistance to innovations and the enduring popularity of traditional institutions.

Movements from Below

Peasant Revolts and Democratic Struggles in India by Suprakash Roy (translated by Rita Banerjee); ICBS, Delhi, Calcutta, 1999; pp 238, Rs 250.

Women Second in the Land Agenda

This study on two districts of West Bengal focuses on the status of rural women, and their equal right to productive resources, especially land, keeping in view the fact that the implementation and scale of land reform in the state has surpassed that of any other in India. Given the overwhelming desire of the women to be considered as individuals above all other classifications, and for direct ownership of property, to be able to emerge from the shadows of dependence, much needs to be done in the legislative, executive and legal spheres to address the issues pertaining to women's rights.

Enrolment, Dropout and Grade Completion of Girl Children in West Bengal

This paper studies the impact of household demand factors on the school participation and performance in four villages and two urban wards of West Bengal. The aim of the study was to assess the relative importance of these factors on the schooling choices made for girl children. The results indicated that some of the strongest enabling factors with regard to girls' school participation and grade attainment were household resource factors such as parental, especially maternal schooling, father's occupation, and family income. Urban residence, as expected, had a strong positive association, and significant cohort effects were observed with regard to the schooling outcomes. A girl child's labour force participation significantly reduced the demand for schooling, and the amount of schooling obtained. Religion and caste factors emerged as important determinants of schooling, as well.

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