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

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Thailand's Universal Health Coverage Scheme

Thailand achieved universal health coverage by 2002 with three public health insurance schemes covering the entire population. Of these, the Social Health Insurance scheme for private sector employees has been run on a capitation contract model since 1991. The Universal Coverage Scheme followed its example, with capitation payments for outpatient services and a global budget with diagnosis-related group-based payments for inpatient care. There are several arguments in favour of this closed-end payment system such as administrative simplicity, efficiency, prevention of supplier-induced demand and long-term cost containment.

Medicines for All

The recommendations on access to medicines, vaccines and technology made in the report of the Planning Commission's High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage for India are welcome and should go a long way towards rectifying many existing problems. Yet, it would have been reassuring if a few more details had been spelled out. Given the array of vested interests that stand to lose out if they are implemented, it also remains to be seen if they will be accepted in full.

A Limiting Perspective on Universal Coverage

The report of the High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage for India reaffirms the principles of universality and equity in access to healthcare and the central role public services have to play in bringing this about. However, the HLEG pays inadequate attention to regulating the deeply entrenched private health sector, which is not only embedded within an intricate and interdependent web of power relations, but also has a marked influence on policy.

Agrarian Transition and Emerging Challenges in Asian Agriculture: A Critical Assessment

Green revolution technologies and a vigorous smallholder sector have seen Asian agriculture make giant strides in the last five decades. But agricultural transition has not been uniform across Asia and the future of smallholder agriculture faces several challenges arising from a range of socio-economic, demographic, structural and institutional factors that could adversely affect its sustainability. This paper critically reviews the divergent experiences of agricultural transformation in five Asian countries - Bangladesh, India, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam - from a comparative perspective and points to the need for evolving new perspectives and policies towards sustainable and non-disruptive transformation of smallholder agriculture in Asia.

Temporary and Seasonal Migration: Regional Pattern, Characteristics and Associated Factors

The regional pattern of temporary and seasonal labour migration in India assumes sharp focus when seen in the light of data from the 64th round of the National Sample Survey. The phenomenon is more prevalent in rural areas of the country's northern and eastern states. This paper also examines the association between temporary migration and its determining factors, particularly economic status, landholding and educational levels. It observes that there is a significant negative association between economic and educational attainment and temporary migration, both in rural and urban areas. In general, socio-economically deprived groups such as adivasis and those from the lower castes have a greater propensity to migrate seasonally, which also reflects its distress-driven nature.

Khap Panchayats: A Socio-Historical Overview

Khap panchayats have had a long innings in the Jat-dominated areas of north-western India and some of their decisions that go against individual rights have led to heated controversy. This paper gives a brief account of how these informal social institutions for conflict resolution took root and the reasons for their continuing influence. It also looks into how big landlords have come to use khaps for their own interests and the causes that prompt these bodies to interfere in marriages that do not conform to traditional norms. Interrogating the modern state's failure to check the unwritten powers of khap panchayats, it suggests some remedial measures that could be taken.

Panchayat Finances and the Need for Devolutions from the State Government

One of the key tests to real empowerment of panchayats lies in the ability of local self-governing institutions to finance their own expenditures through internal generation of resources. Based on an analysis of three villages in Tamil Nadu, this paper argues that many gram panchayats are today in a position to substantially finance themselves and build a culture of self-sufficiency, independence and accountability to their citizens, reducing their dependence on devolutions from state governments. It concludes that by incentivising competition among panchayats and instituting a rural development fund to enable them to access debt capital, the perverse incentives they now face can be mitigated to a large extent, leading to several significant positive outcomes.

Institutional and Policy Aspects of Punjab Agriculture: A Smallholder Perspective

Punjab's agricultural sector and allied activities are now in a crisis. This paper examines the role of policy and institutions in perpetuating or tackling it. It looks at the major initiatives taken by various organs of the state in the absence of any other major institutional alternatives and analyses their class and social biases from a smallholder perspective. It also discusses new mechanisms such as contract farming, corporate farming and policies granting agricultural incentives and subsidies before putting forward suggestions to benefit smallholders and ensure the sustainability of the farm sector.

Rural Water Access: Governance and Contestation in a Semi-Arid Watershed in Udaipur, Rajasthan

A significant focus of policy in recent years has been to devolve decision-making and management of water systems to the community level. This paper is based on a study of a minor irrigation project in the semi-arid Udaipur district of Rajasthan, where the livelihoods of people in the watershed are dependent on canal water and there are serious inequalities in the distribution of water within and between villages. This study points to both the social and spatial dimensions of inequalities in access to water. It also focuses on governance arrangements and highlights inequalities that arise from the delegation of management of water systems to communities. These reflect the democratic deficit in local governance institutions and, in turn, the larger political economy.

No Estoppel: Claiming Right to the City via the Commons

The right to the city, an idea mooted by French radical philosophers in 1968, has become a popular slogan among right to housing activists and inclusive growth policymakers. In Indian cities unprecedented and unregulated growth, incremental land use change, privatisation and chaotic civic infrastructure provisioning are fracturing resources created over centuries and reducing the right to the city to mere right to housing and property, thus short-changing the concept's transformative potential. Urban actors need to draw inspiration from the way social movements world over including in India have deployed the notion of the commons as a defence against corporate exploitation of biodiversity. Envisioning the right to the city as the fundamental human right, a demand for a just and sustainable social order where collective resources are respected and regenerated to support life, entails a democratic approach to the creation of knowledge about our cities. Such knowledge creation is necessarily a collaborative effort involving citizens who are differentially located in relation to the commons - policymakers, neighbourhood residents, workers and academic researchers.

Three-Town Revolution: Implications of Cinema's Politics for the Study of Urban Spaces

The point of convergence between cinema and constituents of the urban commons is the crowd and everything that the crowd connotes at any given point of time and in any discourse. Popular Telugu cinema is replete with examples of the crowd and what cinema does with it. This phenomenon of constituting and naming social formations and the misrecognitions it gives rise to are most instructive in a discussion of the urban commons. This paper analyses Eenadu, a 1982 Telugu film that is centrally concerned with crowds, to illustrate how cinema brings the mass gathered before the screen face-to-face with a version of itself on the screen, framing a new mode of political participation pivoted on the popular appeal of larger-than-life superstars.

Urban Commons

From an understanding of the commons as a rural artefact, the concept has expanded to include urban spaces and practices. The destruction of common resources and the communities that depend upon them is a long-standing outcome of capitalist expansion. It is also a cause for concern, given the ultimate centrality of the commons to the reproduction of urban populations and ecosystems.

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