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

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Education: Panchayat and Decentralisation

Since the 1950s, primary school education has seen a significant decline across certain regions of West Bengal. In this paper that focuses on three districts of the state, the sorry state of affairs that prevails in the panchayati system is largely to blame for the debacle. Panchayati raj institutions, instead of spearheading the decentralisation of the educational process, became a tool in the hands of the major political parties, which sought to implement populist policies like 'no detention' rather than bringing in a thorough revamp of the entire system.

Recent Reforms in the Panchayat System in West Bengal

The experience of West Bengal under the panchayat system stands in sharp contrast with that of other states and, together with land reform, it has been credited for playing an important role in the impressive economic turnaround of the state since the mid 1980s. West Bengal is the first and the only major state to have had timely panchayat elections on a party basis regularly every five years since 1978. However, despite its pioneering status in terms of reforms of the panchayat system, West Bengal lags behind several other states today in terms of devolution of power, finances and functions to the panchayat. Also, the extent of people's participation in the planning process is significantly less compared to that in Kerala. This paper studies a particular component of a set of recently introduced reforms of the panchayat system in West Bengal that is aimed precisely at addressing this concern - the introduction of mandatory village constituency (gram sansad) meetings.

West Bengal : Recipe for Industrial Revival

The report by a group of economists on what ails industry offers an interesting prescription: revitalisation of the small sector following the Chinese model of 'people's capitalism' with a thrust on labourintensive technology throughout the state. Will the new cabinet with a dynamic chief minister pay heed to the voices of reason?

Left Front Rule in West Bengal

Left Front Rule in West Bengal Domination without Hegemony ACHIN GUPTA West Bengal has experienced more than two decades of Left Front rule. Diverse explanations have been offered by social scientists to explain this unique phenomenon. Atul Kohli (1990) has characterised this rule as

Tebhaga Movement in Bengal: A Retrospect

Operation Barga, the showpiece land-reform package of the Left Front government in West Bengal, was projected as the culmination of the failed Tebhaga movement of the 1940s. But just as in the Tebhaga movement, Operation Barga has left untouched the question of the future of the recorded bargadars and of giving 'land to the tiller'. The author provides a historical perspective of the attempts at land reform in Bengal.

Infant Mortality Variations in Space and Time

Efforts to reduce infant mortality rates (IMR) in India appear to have reached a plateau in recent years, while the national population policy has set an ambitious goal of bringing these down to 30 by the year 2010. To achieve this, it is necessary to disaggregate the mortality data to identify groups or regions with high IMR levels and to intensify efforts to reduce mortality among these sections. Only then can a rapid reduction be made in the aggregate mortality levels. However, given wide variations in mortality levels among different states, such analyses should be state-specific. This paper analyses the infant and child mortality data for West Bengal in space through the district-level estimates and in time through the state-level estimates, comparing these with all-India figures. While the performance of the state has been well above the all-India average, mortality levels are high in certain regions and among certain groups. It is necessary to intensify efforts to reduce these through specific micro-planning. Similar state-specific analyses are necessary for other states and will serve useful purpose for design of policy.

Irrigation Statistics in West Bengal-1

West Bengal lacks an integrated system of collection of data on irrigation. Collection of data on different types of irrigation systems in the state has been left to different agencies. These agencies are not geared to systematic collection of statistics and the data provided by them are not regular and are often inconsistent. As a result, no reliable statistics exist that could be used to identify patterns of irrigation at the state-level - leave aside doing such exercises at district, block or village levels - with a level of accuracy that is possible for some of the other states. This paper provides an overview of the different sources of data on irrigation in West Bengal and discusses the nature of the data available from each source.

The Left after the Elections

Now that the dust of the elections has settled, several questions need to be addressed by the Left, if it is to seriously think of chalking out its future. After its debacle in Kerala, will the Left now remain content with its electoral power confined to Tripura and West Bengal? In the rest of India, will it reconcile itself to the role of a minor ally of various regional and centrist parties? Shall we see more of spectacles like the CPI and the CPI(M) tying themselves to the apron strings of the likes of Laloo Yadav and Jayalalitha? Will they be seen on the same platform as the Shiv Sena and the RSS-led Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh in anti-WTO agitations, as witnessed recently in Maharashtra?

Left Front Win in West Bengal

A far-reaching consequence of long Left Front rule has been the manner in which debate and discussion have been made subservient to the CPI(M) party line with the result that to mount any critique of entrenched positions is difficult due to the lack of space for autonomous thinking. The challenge from Saifuddin Chowdhury's Party for Democratic Socialism, its organisational weakness notwithstanding, has perhaps provoked the beginning of some changes within the CPI(M) and the LF. Buddhadev Bhattacharya alluded to this in the run-up to the elections. Whether the substantial issues are addressed or swept under the carpet yet again after the LF victory remains to be seen, but in the long run the CPI(M) has to come to terms with the changing conceptual prisms through which it has habitually viewed the world.

'Civic Community' and Its Margins

Analysing India's democracy demands a move beyond a study of social capital in the civic community. It calls for a focus on how the civic community seeks to 'assimilate' the political society in response to the historical separation between the two and how political society in turn tries to make use of institutions of civic community to serve its distinctly different interests. This study ventures to examine the margins of India's civic community in West Bengal - village school teachers in Purulia and Bardhaman - in relation to the classes and segments of rural society.

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