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

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Eco-labour’s Challenge to the Neo-liberal Understanding of Nature

A conversation is constructed around three themes that mediate the encounter between labour and nature. The first is external pollution and internal hazards, that workers know it is the same toxins affecting their workplace that are responsible for the impact on the environment. The second is collective labour and cumulative nature, that as workers collectivise at work to press their demands for justice, they become conscious of the cumulative impact of labour on ecosystems. The third is externalities and exertions, that the invisible costs of production immanent in waste streams are similar to the invisible appropriation of labour’s surplus. These three streams are brought together to show how labour’s alienation from nature is not rooted in the nature of labour, but is a construct of capitalism that can be overcome only when industrial society is challenged and transformed.

The Scientific Worker and the Field

Drawing attention to scientific work as labour, the need for a closer examination of the subjectivities of educated, trained government employees in charge of field data collection on marine fisheries is emphasised. Field sciences such as fisheries science offer an opportunity to examine how workers engage with the field to produce value. Tracing historical influences that contribute to dissimilar identities and experiences with the field among scientific workers in India today reveals how value in routinised forms of field-based scientific labour is better understood through embodied skills and cultural relations forged by fieldworkers.

Many Environments

An ethnographic analysis of the interconnectedness of labour and landscape in North Andaman reveals a distinct discourse on the environment among the descendants of settlers there. They acknowledge that the labour of their ancestors created the landscape they inhabit. Yet, this entanglement of labour and nature seems irrelevant to their current understanding of the environment. This shift in discourse mirrors development and conservation expertise that imagines the environment of the Andaman Islands as devoid of labour. Unpacking the discursive, environmental and material circumstances in which the descendants of settlers produce their lives, allows us an insight into the widespread legitimacy accorded to the state to remake nature in the Andaman Islands today.

Towards a Conception of Socially Useful Nature

This article provides some theoretical and methodological reflections on the way in which the relationship between humans and nature has been captured in dominant forms of valuation of nature.It makes a critique of these methods and highlights the need to articulate a concept of “socially useful nature.” It uses this concept to interrogate dominant perspectives in the contemporary debates and methods on valuing nature from a Marxian perspective and shows the limitations of the tools and conceptual frameworks based on the principle of the commodification of nature in and for the market. In the context of this general theoretical framework, the article considers the methods promoted by the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting in valuation of nature and shows its inadequacy in arriving at a non-commoditised conception of “socially useful nature.”

Water and H2O

The contemporary water crisis is dehydrating, disturbing and undermining the foundation of the existence of all living beings. The most significant aspect of this crisis is the efforts to make manufactured water (h 2 o) available for human beings, leaving behind contaminated poisonous water for all non-human living beings. To tide over this crisis, it will be necessary to recognise that only the hydration of non-human living beings will ensure water availability for human beings. The primordiality of water in landscapes (and not h 2 o) will have to be given a foundational position in the modern world view, as the reflexive labor it metabolises can restrain the instrumental labour metabolised by h 2 o.

Capitalist Development and Rural Livelihoods

Indian agriculture has been facing intrusion of large capital into its domain in various forms, such as contract farming, industrialised agriculture, forcible acquisition of agricultural land for industrial plants. The impacts of such capitalist development on rural livelihoods are explored. It is argued that reform in agriculture—through setting up of special agricultural zones and other similar means—needs to be undertaken for further rural economic development, in general, and for protection of agriculture-related livelihoods, in particular. The prospects of the rural industrial sector are also examined and, in this context, it is argued that the clustering of rural non-farm enterprises can pave the way for an alternative development paradigm.

Crop Insurance in India

Crop insurance is a vital component of agriculture, especially in a country such as India, where the majority of farmers are small and marginal with low savings that reduces their ability to weather agricultural risks and fluctuations. Programmes extending insurance cover for crops in India have long been in operation, but have not been able to include the majority of the agricultural sector within their ambit. Analysing the 70th Round Situation Assessment Survey data, collected by the National Sample Survey Office, the performance of crop insurance at the household level is examined and factors that determine its adoption are identified using an econometric analysis. The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is then analysed by looking more closely at the structure of the scheme.

Statewise Report Cards on Ecological Sustainability of Agriculture in India

The dependence of agriculture on natural resources requires sustainable management of these resources for risk mitigation and management, particularly in the context of increasing farmer distress and vulnerability to risks associated with climate change. Using a framework of indicators in the domains of pest management, fertiliser use, soil health, water conservation, biodiversity, and efficient use of inputs, statewise report cards on ecological sustainability of agriculture are provided. There is much variation in the sustainability of production practices across the country, with some states characterised by high use of pesticides, low soil organic content, depletion of groundwater levels, low crop diversity, high energy use, and widespread nitrate contamination of groundwater.

Uncertain Climate, Vulnerable Livelihoods

With limited water resource endowments and a predominantly agrarian base, livelihoods in the semi-arid tropics are particularly vulnerable to climatic uncertainties and frequent droughts. The low levels of development of diversified livelihood options in the non-farm sector and a lack of skill base compel households to seek multiple low-income livelihoods to sustain the household in lean resource years. Among these, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has provided the most significant coping mechanism for most households, particularly the poorest and most backward sections. The scheme may thus be seen as a prominent drought risk reduction policy. However, challenges of implementation arise when the policy manifests on field realities which tend to reduce the effectiveness and weaken its impact.

Rural Economy, State and Public Policy

The contemporary situation of Punjab’s rural economy has been a subject of serious concern. One of the important reasons for the disappointing outcomes in the state is the proliferation of the expenditure heads of public outlays by successive governments at different levels. Further, the rural sector has consistently lost its importance in the state’s public outlays, with a progressive diversion of public spending on the rural sector towards local-level administration, bypassing key sectors of rural development such as human resources development. This aspect has been a major driver of the unending rural crisis in the state. The evolving levels and patterns of the public expenditure on the rural sector over time are examined.

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