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Sunday, February 19, 2012

EPW Readings

1- Accessing Institutional Finance: A Demand Side Story for Rural India

Under the Reserve Bank of India’s “financial inclusion” campaign, the provision of institutional finance has been progressing at differential rates across the country. However, when we pair administrative banking data on availability of bank branches in a state with the All India Debt and Investment Survey (2002-03) capturing both institutional and non-institutional borrowing by households, we find that states with the most access to institutional finance, or supply, are not necessarily the ones with the most demand for finance. Looking at household level data within each state we identify determinants of institutional borrowing, and some of the strongest predictors for accessing institutional finance. A number of empirical regularities emerge in terms of the importance of having assets like land for borrowing, which undermines the basic philosophy of financial inclusion.

2- Crop Insurance in India : Scope for Improvement

The National Agricultural Insurance Scheme is vital for providing insurance cover to farmers, across regions, across seasons and across crops. This paper comprehensively reviews the NAIS and suggests changes to make it more effective. The paper is based on a detailed analysis of exhaustive data for 11 crop seasons, covering the rabi season of 1999-2000 onwards up to the same in 2004-05. Field investigations were also conducted in Haryana, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to assess the response of farmers, bankers and other stakeholders. The authors also rely on discussions with knowledgeable persons like government functionaries from the department of agriculture, bankers, academicians and farmer representatives in Nagpur, Jaipur and Hyderabad.

3- Case for Caste-based : Quotas in Higher Education

The roots of discrimination in India go so deep that social and economic disparities are deeply intertwined, although in increasingly complex ways. We still need reservations for different groups in higher education, not because they are the perfect instruments to rectify long-standing discrimination, but because they are the most workable method to move in this direction. The nature of Indian society ensures that without such measures, social discrimination and exclusion will only persist and be strengthened.

4- Can We De-Stigmatise Reservations in India?

The “politics of recognition” that Other Backward Classes have set into motion has its own set of terms and dynamics that contrast well with that of the dalits’ political discourse. The politics of obcs have now brought into the public domain issues that are likely to change the very terms of discourse in which the debate on reservations was pursued for the last three decades. The obc discourse on reservations has de-stigmatised policy; obcs have also articulated their demands beyond community concerns by bringing up issues related to regionalism and linguistic assertion. These can influence the very grounds on which public institutions, policy and political processes have, so far, been perceived and pursued in Indian politics.

5- Caste, Politics and Public Good Distribution in India: Evidence from NREGS in Andhra Pradesh

This paper attempts to measure the effect of castereservation policies on the provision of public goods and services in gram panchayats in Andhra Pradesh using data from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The investigation finds that the effect of reservation varies tremendously in different social, political, and institutional contexts, shedding light on the conflicting results of similar studies. It provides important lessons for future research and policy about the caste-political conditions in which reservation can produce positive or perverse results.

6- Understanding the Andhra : Crop Holiday Movement
Why would farmers keep their own land fallow as part of a voluntary “crop holiday protest movement” in a part of Andhra Pradesh is a question that has puzzled many. A field visit to the Konaseema region reveals that the dynamics of class contradictions in the area are also responsible for the nature of the movement that goes beyond the issue of remunerative prices.

7- Developmental Crisis and Dialectics of Protest Politics : Presenting the Absent and Absenting the Present

There is not just a crisis of development today, but also a crisis of ideas for emancipatory forms of development. What is needed from progressives is a rigorous theory that must acknowledge what is present (class exploitation, imperialism, national and social oppression, profit-driven ecological destruction, gross commercialisation of all spheres of human life including  culture and social relations) but also what is absent (collective democratic control over our lives, our planet, our bodies, our destiny, our culture). That should be the start of the process of bringing about fundamental changes in the status quo.

8- Building a Creative Freedom : J C Kumarappa and His Economic Philosophy

Joseph Cornelius Kumarappa (1892-1960) was a pioneering economic philosopher and architect of the Gandhian rural economics programme. Largely forgotten today, Kumarappa’s life-work constitutes a large body of writings and a rich record of public service, both of profound significance. A critical intellectual engagement with his life-work can shed new light on some of the most fundamental constituents of the human economic predicament, and also contribute to a more nuanced understanding of one of the most fecund periods in modern Indian history.

9- Diary of a Moneylender

Debates about the role of the moneylender in the rural credit scenario tackle two conflicting images. One sees the moneylender as a resilient entity calling for his future involvement in the process of rural development, and the other sees him as an exploiter to be slowly weeded out. To get a more nuanced account of his role, a diary kept by a moneylender operating in a village in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh is analysed here. Even a cursory reading of this diary gives rich details on the scale and importance of the transactions carried out by the moneylender. Through this diary, formal lending agencies, be they banks or microfinance institutions, which have plans to supplant the moneylender will gain rich insights into the role played by this ubiquitous entity.

10- Critique of the Common Service Centre Scheme

The Common Service Centre scheme aims to establish nearly three lakh rural internet kiosks across India. A recent evaluation study, however, found poor demand among users and delayed roll-out of government-to consumer services, causing losses and attrition among private operators of the scheme. There is space, therefore, for greater engineering of public good outcomes by tying financial incentives to computer education goals.

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