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Issn 0012-9976
Ever since the first issue in 1966,
EPW has been Indias premier journal for
comment on current affairs
and research in the social sciences.
It succeeded Economic Weekly (1949-1965),
which was launched and shepherded
by Sachin Chaudhuri,
who was also the founder-editor of EPW.
As editor for thirty-five years (1969-2004)
Krishna Raj
gave EPW the reputation it now enjoys.


Paranjoy Guha Thakurta


Lina Mathias
Deputy Editor

Bernard DMello
copy editors

Prabha Pillai
jyoti shetty
Assistant editorS

P S Leela
lubna duggal


u raghunathan
s lesline corera
suneethi nair
Circulation MANAGER

B S Sharma
Advertisement Manager

Kamal G Fanibanda
General Manager

Gauraang Pradhan

K Vijayakumar



Economic and Political Weekly

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Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel
Mumbai 400 013
Phone: (022) 4063 8282
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published by him on behalf of Sameeksha Trust
from 320-321, A-Z Industrial Estate,
Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai-400 013.
Editor: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

For Amnestys Sake

ccording to media reports, the Bengaluru Police have filed a criminal

case against Amnesty International India
for organising an event as part of a campaign to seek justice for human rights
violations in Jammu and Kashmir. The
event involved discussions with families
from Kashmir, who were featured in a
2015 report, and who had travelled
to Bengaluru to narrate their personal
stories of grief and loss.
News Minute has reported that a first information report (FIR) was filed on the
basis of a complaint by the Akhil Bharatiya
Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student organisation affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is linked to
the Bharatiya Janata Party. The FIR reportedly mentions a number of offences including sedition, unlawful assembly, rioting and promoting enmity. Amnesty
International India has not yet received a
copy of the FIR.
Merely organizing an event to defend
constitutional values is now being branded anti-India and criminalised, said
Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India. The police were
invited and present at the event. The filing of a complaint against us now, and
the registration of a case of sedition,
shows a lack of belief in fundamental
rights and freedoms in India.
Among those who spoke at the event
were the family of Shahzad Ahmad
Khan, one of the men killed in the Macchil extrajudicial execution, where five
army personnel were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Bengaluru Police were informed
about the event well in advance. Amnesty
International India also invited representation from the Kashmiri Pandit community in Bengaluru to speak at the
event about the human rights violations
faced by members of the community. Towards the end of the event, some of
those who attended raised slogans, a
few of which referred to calls for azaadi
Amnesty International India, as a matter of policy, does not take any position
in favour of or against demands for

self-determination. However, Amnesty

International India considers that the right
to freedom of expression under international human rights law includes the right
to peacefully advocate political solutions,
as long as it does not involve incitement to
discrimination, hostility or violence.
The Supreme Court has ruled that
expression can be restricted on grounds
of public order only when it involves incitement to imminent violence or disorder. Indias archaic sedition law has been
used to harass and persecute activists
and others for their peaceful exercise of
their right to free expression.
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code
defines sedition as any act or attempt to
bring into hatred or contempt, or excite disaffection towards the Government. Mahatma Gandhi had called the
law the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed
to suppress the liberty of the citizen.
Amnesty International India

Beyond Capital

n the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution in

China, Bernard DMello (1966, 1917,
and 1818: Let a Hundred Schools of
Thought Contend, EPW, 13 August
2016) has revisited the emancipatory
possibilities of the Chinese road to
socialism. This propels me to revisit the
Chinese road to capitalism in the postMao years, from the perspective of
workers. Zhiming Chengs study, The
Changing Pattern of State Workers Labour Resistance in Shaanxi Province,
China (Communication, Politics and
Culture, Vol 45, Part 2, 2012) bears testimony to the reverse journey in China of
the resistance of workers in the Shaanxi
Nearly 30 million or 60% of workers
in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were
dismissed in China by 2005, and the
share of the state sector in urban employment decreased from 82% to 27%
between 1978 and 2005. Protests and
demonstrations were very often seen in
the compounds of SOEs and the streets
up to the early 2000s.

august 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


The state sector in Shaanxi province

had been the backbone of the provincial
economy in the pre-reform and early
post-reform years. Significant resistance
on the part of workers was witnessed in
the province in 200810 against the retrenchment of workers. In the early
2000s, workers negotiated with the local
government to solve their problems, in
spite of their distrust of state officials.
The fragile understanding and reconciliation between the local state and workers began to erode in the late 2000s. In
August 2008, the Shaanxi Study Group
of Mao Zedong Thought was formed
among the workers, mostly in their 40s
or older. One of the leading organisers
of the study group, Zhao Dongmin, was
a committed Maoist and labour advocate. In October/November 2008, the
group established the Shaanxi Union
Rights Defense Representative Congress (SURDRC), and soon it came into
conflict with the provincial branch of
the All-China Federation of Trade
Unions (ACFTU), the only legal trade
union under the Communist Party of
China, while representing the interest
of workers.
After initial online activism, the
SURDRC turned its attention to real-life
activism and posed a challenge to the
dominant trade union. It asked for supervisory power over management of
the SOEs and the enterprise branches of
the Provincial Trade Union. The officials
of the dominant union asked the local
authorities and the police for suppression of the new initiative, particularly
targeting the rebel leader, Zhao Dongmin. On 19 August 2009, Zhao was detained and isolated from his family and
the public. His wife died by the time he
was finally released from jail in 2011.
This story of accumulation by dispossession is not an isolated instance. This
is the general story of dispossession of
labour in China and elsewhere. In the
context of resistance of workers in different parts of the world against the forward march of capital, we should not
hesitate to state our position, as Bernard
DMello did, upholding optimism of the
will against pessimism of the intellect.
Arup Kumar Sen
Economic & Political Weekly


august 20, 2016

The current issue marks the 50th year of the publication of the
Economic & Political Weekly. Its first issue was published on 20 August
1966, six months after the Economic Weekly (19491965) wound up.
EPW has reached this day in large measure thanks to the support of
the larger EPW communitycontributors, readers, well-wishers and
its staff.

Plight of Nagada

he nondescript hilltop village, Nagada,

in Sukinda block of Odishas mineral-rich Jajpur district, which was unknown to everyone, has been in the
news recently and the centre of attention for the death of 19 tribal children in
a span of three months, allegedly due to
malnutrition. Though the state government identified about 20 malnourished
children in the village, it is yet to admit
that the 19 children died due to lack of
nutritious food within the last three
months. The village has 24 families of
the Juang community, a Particularly
Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), having
122 children. Each family has eight to
nine children (according to a local
newspaper). There is no road connectivity, electricity, drinking water or education facilities. According to the treatment centre, malnutrition has become
the root cause of child mortality, and
clinical signs of other micronutrient deficiency disorders have also been observed.
Not only Nagada, but there are more
villages in the area surrounded by dense
forests, inhabited by wild animals, like
tigers and elephants, and far from the
basic necessities of life. Just after the incident came to light, though the government opened a Nutrition Rehabilitation
Centre in the village for providing special care and treatment, it was still unreachable to them. Even the tribal families of the village, which is located on a
hilltop and is inaccessible due to very
difficult hilly terrain, are reluctant to
settle down in the foothills.
It shows that even after 70 years of independence, the government has not
been able to provide basic services like
nutritious food, drinking water, and
vol lI no 34

education in the village. Many families

of Nagada have not yet received a ration
card under the National Food Security
Act. Though the government has made
many policies and programmes for the
development of tribals as well as for the
eradication of poverty and malnutrition,
most tribal communities have not been
covered under those safety nets.
After this disheartening incident, the
government is focusing on making
Nagada a model village for development
of the Juang community. But, the question arises in our mind: when will the
plan be made to change the fate of other
villages that are also stuck with problems like acute malnutrition? Villages
nearby, like Tumuni, Guhiapal, Ashokjhar, Naliadaba and other villages are
also suffering from the same problem.
Like Nagada, many villages of Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri and
Koraput districts also tell the same story
regarding the failure of government
The states inability to provide feasible
healthcare and sanitation facilities that
are accessible and affordable indicates
the failure of the system. The inadequate
understanding of the issues by policymakers has not only the tribes but others
paying the price too. So, now the time
has come that the government should
identify villages like Nagada in the state
and try to provide more attention and
facilities towards reducing malnutrition.
A comprehensive child survival programme with supplementary feeding,
growth and development monitoring,
immunisation, and prompt medical attention during ill-health needs to be devised and implemented with care and
active participation of the community.
Prakash Kumar Sahoo


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Economic & Political Weekly

320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate
Ganpatrao Kadam Marg,
Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013, India

august 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly

AUGUST 20, 2016

EPW at 50the Small Voice

Your capacity to say no remains the basis of our hope in you.
Bernard DMello writes:
s the stuff of folklore goes, you came into the world by
default. There came a time when your founder-editor
Sachin Chaudhuri felt that those who owned your predecessor, the Economic Weekly (EW), had failed to fulfil a far-reaching
obligation and he snapped his ties with them. Fortunately, by
then, he had many well-wishers and admirers; they mobilised
the capital and pooled together their talents to recreateshould
I say, reincarnatethe EW as the Economic & Political Weekly on
20 August 1966. But tragically, your founder-editor passed away
barely four months after you came into being.
For your readers and writers, friends and enthusiasts, the
weekly had to go on, for they depended on you for much of their
information and understanding of India, this deeply felt need becoming all the more evident when the EW suspended publication.
Krishna Raj held the editorial fort until R K Hazari, well-known
for his research on the concentration of economic power in Indias
private corporate sector, put you firmly on your feet in the two
years, September 1967 to November 1969, of his editorship.
Indias very own 1968, a decade of rebellion in various
parts of the world directed against capitalism and also in opposition to the old left, was already in motion when Krishna
Raj took the editors baton from Hazari. What began at Naxalbari in May 1967 and at Srikakulam in late 1968 has turned out
to be the worlds longest running peasant insurgency in more
recent times. Indeed, Naxalbari and Srikakulam were, in many
ways, defining moments in Indias 1968, and you viewed
them as such. The period also witnessed the Chipko movement
which began in April 1973 and set the tone for Indias ecological quest. Inspired by the AfricanAmerican Black Panther
Party, the Dalit Panthers burst on the scene in Maharashtra
around that time. The harsh, yet candid, social realism of the
Panther poets gave expression to the feelings of one of the
most oppressed and downtrodden sections of Indian society.
There was also that very distinctive public outcry from
women, cutting across class, caste and political affiliation,
when in 1978 the Supreme Court acquitted two policemen who
had committed custodial rapea defining moment that gave
birth to the womens movements. The origin of the second
phase of Indias civil liberties and democratic rights (CLDR)
movement in the early 1970s, the 20-day strike in the Indian
Railways in May 1974, the popular upheavals in Gujarat and

Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34

Bihar preceding the Emergency, the Emergency itself, the

DalliRajhara Spring of the contract workers led by Shankar
Guha Niyogi, all these groundbreaking happenings were passionately documented and dissected in your columns. Surely
the scholar interested in subjecting Indias 1968 to serious
historical scrutiny will find in your digital archives an invaluable mine of information and analyses.
Of course, as far as you go, each reader picks and chooses
what she/he wants to read; to each her/his own poison, as the
saying goes. So here I am looking at you from the perspective
of those readers who were politically motivated and wanted to
know and understand all that was required for them to be
politically effective. You satisfactorily provided this content to
them and it is in this sense that you came of age in the 1970s.
What sort of culture made it possible for you to help politically
motivated persons to become politically effective? Your editors, Krishna Raj and Rajani Desai, close colleagues, tried their
best to reach you to politically motivated people. They gave
increasing attention to the CLDR issues. Power at the EPW then
seemed to be in their able hands. Not merely editorial decisions, it was also the general political direction of the weekly
that they seemed to have then shaped, and they tried to reach
more readers through the content that you carriednot only
students and political activists, but also the large pool of political prisoners then forced to inhabit many an Indian jail.
The size of the editorial team was thenduring the 1970s
and 1980salmost always very small, and there was practically, no detailed division of labour. Given the long workday,
its division between necessary and surplus labour, and with
pay not far from subsistence levels, everyone, including the
editor, seems to have subjected themselves to intense exploitation.
However, clearly, a few were management and the others
were labour, the latter, those who didnt have anything to do
with hiring and firing. On a comparative scale though, lower-level
employees didnt get very much of a lower pay than the bosses.
As a business enterprise, you were then, always at the margin
of economic viability, surviving not merely through subscription
and advertising revenue, and small donations, but importantly,
through paying the skeletal staff subsistence wages. The sixth
floor of Skylark was a sweatshop with a differencethe bosses
too engaged in sweated labour; the workplace was egalitarian


with a sense of belonging. The last forme going to press usually

called for relaxed beers at Caf Universal or the Press Club.
Bringing you out was really a collective labour of love, though at
times the personal strains of that relationship brought forth
mixed and conflicting emotions. If it was not for the self-exploitation that Krishna Raj and the entire EPW staff had subjected
themselves to right through the latter half of the 1960s, the 1970s
and 1980s, you would not have been what you are today.
And here I need to mention, and readers need to know, of
Mounus (I dont think I have spelled his name correctly) and
Pandurang Aakade, both contract labourers who carted on a
handcart the EPW copies from the Janmabhoomi press to the
office, and then the packed copies to the General Post Office,
week after week, for years on end. Readers already know of
and have read what the few scholars who gave the best of their
research output to the EPW wrote in the magazine, so I dont need
to mention their names, just that I have great regard for these
academics. And there are those who were/are on the staff, and
who gave/have given almost their entire working lives to the
EPW. A whole lot of names come to mind, but I would not be
doing justice if I were to mention only some of them. Like the
editors, and the Sameeksha trustees, they too were there for
the EPW, especially in those hard times, and the EPW belongs
to them too. In the good old Sachin times, governor-like, the
editor came in mostly in the late afternoon, by which time
Krishna Raj, Rajani Desai, Alphonso Fernandes, C M Singh
and Karan Singh had already clocked six hours of work. Essentially, there are two words that really sum up what I am trying
to get at, struggle and conviction, which defined the working
lives of Krishna Raj, Rajani Desai and the rest of the EPW team.
But come 1989, the period of capitalist triumphalism that
began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and then the collapse of
the Soviet Union, and in India, the inexorable rise of the utterly
callous, malevolent twins, Hindutva and neo-liberalism, your
times too were a changing. Institutional funding ushered in
modernisation; the egalitarian labour-of-love guild began to
give way to the institutionally-funded non-governmental organisation (NGO). The context, of course, was the metamorphosis of India itself into a grab-what-you-can-for-yourself
capitalist system. More than ever before, one could no longer
survive on progressive ideas alone. As an acute discerner of
the writing on the wall, Krishna Raj had, in the latter half of
the 1980s, already embarked on crossing the river by feeling
the stones. By the mid-1990s, he had reached the neo-liberal
bank, even to the extent of endorsing markets for corporate
control. However by then, Raj had already made a great contribution to Indias intellectual life, but his gruelling work
schedule had taken its personal and physical toll. Whenever I
visited Mumbai in the 1990s and dropped by, I couldnt but be
concerned by the sheer exhaustion written large on his face, a
dark, half ellipse shading on to his expressive eyes. Nevertheless
he persevered until the very end, this in January 2004. Indeed,
with S L Shettys help, he even fulfilled Hazaris mission of
putting in place an EPW Research Foundation.
I am certain that Krishna Raj, the 68er that he was, could
never have embraced neo-liberal capitalismcapitalism with

the gloves offoutright. In neo-liberal capitalism, all personal

relations become reified as relations between things. Indeed,
in neo-liberal ideology, society is no longer viewed as a human
creation subject to human control; instead, it is conceived of as
a blanket entity, pervasive and obscure, with its own inexorable
logic and compulsions to which human beings must be driven
into subservience. Certainly, Krishna Raj didnt embrace neoliberal ideology in this sense, for K Balagopal and Sumanta Banerjee were still highly valued as regular correspondents passionately articulating the cause of democratic rights, which
when fought for and gained through protracted struggles, enable human beings to live with dignity and self-respect.
The next editor, C Rammanohar Reddy, generous, considerate
and non-hierarchical, didnt take long to earn the affection and
respect of his colleagues, and a large section of your readers
and writers. Donors too opened their purse strings more than
once. He gently calmed, at least for the moment, establishment
academics insisting on EPW transforming itself into a refereed
journal; rightly, he subjected a fair proportion of the Special
Articles to peer review and appointed honorary academic consultants for the special issues. Honest-to-the-core, he took the
words of the Board of Trustees of the Sameeksha Trust, the
promise it made in your columns way back in February 1967,
solemnly: the authority of the Editor of the Economic &
Political Weekly will be unfettered in all matters related to the
journal. In his controversial departure, just when you needed
him most, you have lost one of the most dedicated and hardworking editors youve ever had.
What then of the road ahead? As a person who has known
some of your editors of the 1970s and 1980sand here I mean
editors, deputy editors, assistant editors, and the likeI can
confidently say that I have come across journalists who have
been more politically engaged and knowledgeable than many
academic economists, sociologists and political scientists
working on India. To attract and retain such talent is the greatest challenge you face today. Moreover, you need journalists
who will write without fear, favour, prejudice or malice. In
addition, you need an economic journalist with an intimate
knowledge of the real business worldshould I saylike
Marx or Keynes in their own times. Tough standards these, in
a world in which the elite has embraced a cynical view that all
culture, ideas, and expressions are no more than mere commodities in the capitalist marketplace. As a poet once quipped,
a market that knows the price of everything but the value of
nothing. So the far-reaching notion of nature as a subject with
rights that must be respected is also diminished and devalued
to the status of just another commodity in the capitalist marketplace of ideas and expressions. Even Herbert Marcuses profound idea and expression, Nature too awaits the Revolution
will soon be commoditised, if it hasnt already.
Clearly, you need to be able to distinguish between authentic
and spurious, ethical and unscrupulous, aesthetic and ugly,
civilised and barbaric, more so as millions of people are subjected to the barbarity of imperialism, this at the very zenith
of civilisation. The capacity of your editors to say no
remains the basis of our hope and faith in you.
AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


From the first issue of EPW

20 August 1966

Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Goods and Services Tax

An Exercise in Controlled Federalism?
Alok Kumar Prasanna

While the union government

repeatedly emphasises its
commitment to cooperative
federalism, its role in the
destabilisation of, and
interference in, opposition-ruled
governments in Arunachal
Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi
suggests otherwise. Apart from
these specific instances, the
structure of the recently approved
Goods and Services Tax Council,
far from promoting cooperative
federalism, also seems to create
the institutional basis for further
control of state governments by
the union, especially in matters
relating to states fiscal policies.

he National Democratic Alliance

government has repeatedly foregrounded the importance of cooperative federalism as a cornerstone
of its governance and policy initiatives.
It has been called an article of faith for
the government by the Prime Minister
(Chakraborty 2016). While it is a term
that has no clearly defined normative
aspects, cooperative federalism is generally understood as referring to the
joint efforts made by the union and the
states in a federal polity such as Indias,
to attain common development goals
(Jain 1968). If this is the definition that
the union government also had in mind,
it would mean that it intends to direct its
energies to work in cooperation with
state governments and institutions to
meet common goals, while recognising
its own constitutional limits and operational limitations.
Events in Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi
and Uttarakhand over the last several
months suggest otherwise.
Interference and Tussles

Alok Prasanna Kumar (alok.prasanna@ is Senior Resident Fellow at
Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, New Delhi.


In Arunachal Pradesh (Press Trust of

India 2016a) and Uttarakhand (Press
Trust of India 2016b), a sudden defection of members of legislative assembly
(MLA s) from the ruling party in the
states saw the existing state governments fall apart resulting in Presidents
rule being imposed. The exact manner
in which this was done differed in
either case, but there was no gainsaying that the governors appointed by
the union government played an
entirely partisan role in the process.
Whether it was in trying to usurp
the functions of the speaker of the
Arunachal Pradesh legislative assembly
or in sending a report for imposition of
Presidents rule in Uttarakhand before
the floor test was held, it was hardly the

kind of impartial role envisaged in the

In both instances, the judiciary had to
step in to restore the primacy of the
elected state government and stop the
union governments interference. The
Uttarakhand High Court struck down
the imposition of Presidents rule in
Uttarakhand (Harish Chandra Singh
Rawat v Union of India 2016) for being in
violation of the rules laid down in the
Supreme Courts judgment in S R Bommai v Union of India (1994). The Supreme
Court, in the Arunachal Pradesh case,
went a step further and even restored a
dismissed government to office after
finding the governors actions in swearing in a new government entirely illegal
and unconstitutional (Nabam Rebia v
Deputy Speaker 2016).
The tussle between the union government and the government of the National
Capital Territory of Delhi, over the scope
of their respective powers, has been taking place with almost monotonous regularity ever since the Aam Aadmi Party
(AAP) won 67 out of 70 seats in the election to the Delhi legislative assembly in
early 2015. These tussles resulted in the
filing of multiple writ petitions in the
Delhi High Court by persons aggrieved
by the Delhi governments decisions,
and the Delhi government against the
union governments interference in its
The Delhi High Court interpreted Article 239AA of the Constitution to hold
that the Delhi government could not
have taken the decisions it did without
the approval of the lieutenant governor
of Delhi, appointed by the union government (Government of NCT of Delhi v
Union of India 2016). It firmly re-established Delhis status as a union territory
and not a state for the purposes of the
Constitution. The Delhi High Court has,
for the moment, settled matters in favour
of the union government, recognising
the unelected lieutenant governor as
the final authority on all executive and
administrative matters. Yet, the uncomfortable implications of this judgment
that the Delhi government and the
legislature are merely recommendatory

August 20, 2016

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Economic & Political Weekly


bodies, while the lieutenant governor

wields true power in Delhibegs the
question, is Article 239AA an elaborate
constitutional prank on Delhis 18 million residents?
Centralising Fiscal Policy
The absence of any cooperation in the
manner in which the union government
has dealt with the three instances mentioned above can perhaps be dismissed
on the grounds that this is a result of
competitive party politics in India. It
could be said that these were exceptional situations brought on by the confrontational nature of the persons involved and do not really reflect the true
approach to cooperative federalism that
the present government brings to the
table. Perhaps, we should look at the landmark Constitution (101st Amendment)
Act, 2016, which puts into place the framework for the Goods and Services Tax (GST);
a measure that is essentially impossible
to undertake without cooperation between the union and the states.
Here, too, we find that the framework
that has been put in place to operationalise the GST is deeply flawed and constitutionally suspect insofar as it relates to
the federal character of the Constitution.
The key institution being set-up under
the amendment, necessary for the smooth
functioning of a GST, is the GST Council.
It has representation from the union and
all the states (including Delhi and Puducherry) and will have the power to decide
on a range of issues concerning the GST,
the most crucial of which will be the
rates of the GST, the goods and services
which might be exempt, and the turnover limit for the applicability of the GST.
Whereas the earlier draft of the
amendment bill required decisions of
the GST Council to be taken on the basis
of consensus,1 the GST Council as it
stands will now take its decisions on the
basis of a majority. This sounds reasonable, but there is a catch. A majority is
defined as three-fourths of those present
and voting, with the union having onethird weightage of all the votes. This
effectively gives the union a veto over
every decision of the GST Council. Even
if all the states want a higher GST rate in
their own interests, the union will be
Economic & Political Weekly


August 20, 2016

able to veto it, and force them to levy the

GST at lower rates. This effectively gives
the union government veto power over a
states fiscal policies.
With the sole exception of Tamil Nadu,
this aspect of the GST Councils structure
seems to have escaped all states; even
those ruled by regional parties, who
voted enthusiastically in favour of the
GST amendment in Parliament. Indeed,
there has not been a single response from
either the union government or the proponents of the GST Amendment Bill to
the concerns raised in the dissent note
by an All India Anna Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam member of the Rajya Sabha
about the GST Council (Rajya Sabha
2015: 97105).
It is likely that the implications of this
veto will only be realised by the states
once they actually participate in a GST
Council meeting, by which time it will
be too late to make changes. A constitutional challenge to the GST Councils
framework looks inevitable, and, perhaps, it will be once again up to the
courts to uphold the federal character of
the Constitution.

been setbacks too. The Delhi High Court

judgment, for instance, while being
technically correct, ignores the implications of its own interpretational conclusions. This judgment has been challenged in appeal and one hopes that
the Supreme Court addresses the implications for federalism and democracy
of such a narrow interpretation of the
The federal character of Indias Constitution is not an accident of history or
just an administrative division of functions for utilitarian purposes. It is the
only manner in which an extraordinarily diverse nation can share a common government and economy. It is perhaps the only framework in which the
conflicts over resources, language, identity and governance in such a diverse
region can be resolved in a peaceful and
lasting manner. It is time that union governments, irrespective of the size of
their election victories, take federalism

See Clause 12 of the Constitution (115th

Amendment) Bill, 2011.

Cooperative or
Controlled Federalism?


Far from being a case of cooperative

federalism or even competitive federalismwhere states and the centre
compete to find different solutions to the
same problemswhat we have seems to
be a case of conflict federalism, where
states and the centre have different and
competing visions of what federalism
itself means. If one were to find a common thread between the unionstate
tussles over Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi,
and Uttarakhand, and the GST Councils
structure, it is that the union government believes in a controlled federalism, a system where the states are little
more than mere appendages to the
unions overarching goals. This is an
approach that tries to set the clock back
on the growing involvement and assertiveness of state governments on matters of national policy.
Thanks to Indias still independent
judiciary, there has been pushback on
some encroachments of states constitutional position and powers. There have

Chakraborty, Sumit (2016): Cooperative Federalism an Article of Faith for Government:

P M Narendra Modi on 11th Inter-State Council
meet, Financial Express, 16 July, viewed on 13
August 2016,
Harish Chandra Singh Rawat v Union of India
(2016): SCC, Utt, Online, 502.
Government of NCT of Delhi v Union of India (2016):
SCC, Del, Online, 4308.
Jain, M P (1968): Some Aspects of Indian Federalism, Zeitschrift fr auslndisches ffentliches
Recht und Vlkerrecht, Vol 28, pp 30164,
viewed on 13 August 2016, http://www.zaoerv.
Nabam Rebia v Deputy Speaker (2016): SCC, SC,
Online, 694.
Press Trust of India (2016a): Arunachal Pradesh
Crisis: What Happened & When, Economic
Times, 13 July, viewed on 13 August 2016,
(2016b): Uttarakhand Constitutional Crisis: A
Timeline, Hindu, 6 May, viewed on 13 August
2016, timelines/uttarakhand-constitutional-crisis-atimeline/article8565931. ece.
Rajya Sabha (2015): Report of the Select Committee on the Constitution (One Hundred and
Twenty Second Amendment) Bill, 2014, presented to the Rajya Sabha on 22 July, Parliament of India, New Delhi.
S R Bommai v Union of India (1994): SCC, SC, 3, p 1.

vol lI no 34



The Heart Has Its Reasons

A Story Untold
Ashok Mitra

This is the first in a series of

articles that will be published
over the next 12 months to
mark the 50th anniversary of
the Economic & Political Weekly.
A prolific writer in English and
Bengali, 88-year-old Ashok
Mitra is former finance minister
of West Bengal, and a former
trustee of the Sameeksha
Trust, which brings out the
EPW. His reminiscences about
Sachin Chaudhuri, founder of
the Economic Weekly which
preceded the EPW, include famous
personalities from different
walks of lifepoliticians,
academics, journalists, novelists
and film personalities.

Ashok Mitra can be contacted at ashokmitra.


he story really begins a century or

more ago. Narendra Narayan
Chaudhuri who hailed from Pabna
in north Bengal (Bangladesh) was a
practising lawyer at the Dacca District
Court. He had eight childrenfour sons
and four daughters. The eldest was
Sachindra Narayan, commonly known as
Sachin. He was a student of economics
in the newly-started University of Dacca
during 192226. According to A K Dasgupta, an economist who was his classmate and lifelong friend, Sachin was
the most outstanding student in the university. He was known for his sharp intellect, wit and sparkling conversational
exchanges. However, he had little interest in sitting down and performing well
in his examinations. He disappeared for
three months before his semester exam,
roamed around the Himalayas and
returned just a few days before the
scheduled dates of his exam. He scraped
through the exam and yet again, disappeared from Dacca.
He, along with his cousin, Ajit Chakravarty (brother of Amiya Chakravarty, poet
and one-time secretary to Rabindranath
Tagore), set up a flat in Calcutta (now
Kolkata) where they provided private
tuitions as a means of living. But they
really engaged themselves in meeting
eminent people from various spheres of
life. Sachin would charm everybody. It
was during these days that he grew
close to eminences such as Pramatha
Chaudhuri, an author who was married
to Rabindranath Tagores niece Indira,
and D P Mukerji, who was from the
Lucknow University but would come
down to Calcutta during vacations.
Things were upset when Ajit committed
suicide. Sachin decided to leave Calcutta and proceeded to live in Bombay
(now Mumbai) from the mid-1930s

The third of the Chaudhuri brothers,

Hiten, exuded magnetic charm. He had
left Dacca after completing his Intermediate Arts degree and wound up in
Bombay where he did various jobs,
including running chores for groups of
businessmen. He simultaneously worked
as a volunteer for the Congress party and
Sarojini Naidu was a friend of his. Soon
he began mingling with people from the
then nascent film industry. He was a
very close friend of Himanshu Rai and
Devika Rani. Hiten helped Rai set up the
Bombay Talkies film studio. At the same
time he himself began producing films
and accumulated immense wealth. He
loved spending as freely as he earned and
was an extraordinarily generous person.
Sachins second brother, Deb Narayan
Debutoo soon arrived in Mumbai.
Debu had studied physics with S N Bose,
a physicist known for his work with
Albert Einstein, at the University of Dacca
and had obtained a first class masters
degree. An American firm specialising
in the business of electrical goods offered
him an appointment in Bombay.
Sachin would live with his two brothers alternately. He had no interest in
holding on to a regular job. He would
sometimes write a column on films for a
newspaper or write political or economic
commentaries for some daily or the
other, including the Indian Express. It
may sound unbelievable but he was even
general manager of Bombay Talkies
after Himanshu Rai passed away. Sachin
had developed a very wide circle of
friends and acquaintances among politicians, journalists and share-market buffs.
Simultaneously, he would be in close
touch with scholars of economics and
sociology at the University of Bombay.
For some time, he worked as a research
scholar in the university. In the 1940s,
when the research department of the
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was established, he developed friendships with a
number of young scholars working there.
The two younger brothers held Sachin
with tremendous respect and silently
bore with his angularities. Hiten arranged
to rent a flat in a new apartment building that had come up in the early

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Economic & Political Weekly


1940sChurchill Chambers, located on

Merewether Road, right behind Taj
Mahal Hotel near the Gateway of India.
Sachin began to live there in a lord-like
fashion. There was a constant stream of
visitors to his flat: politicians, academics,
journalists, cinema and stage artistes
the list is indeed very long. Among them
were Yusuf Meherally (the socialist
freedom fighter), Sadiq Ali (a Congress
leader) and his wife Shanti, Sadhana
Bose (an actress and renowned dancer),
Ashoka Mehta (the Congress leader who
helped establish the partys socialist
wing), Sharda Pandit (sister-in-law of
Jawaharlal Nehrus sister Vijaya Lakshmi
Pandit, the first woman governor of
Gujarat), Ram Manohar Lohia (the socialist leader). Anybody visiting Bombay
from Calcutta would, at Sachins insistence, drop byincluding individuals
such as communist leader Hiren Mukerjee. Lohia used to stay with his friend
C G K Reddy who at that time was working with the Hindu and was the father of
C Rammanohar Reddy who went on to
become editor of the EPW.
Economic Weekly Is Born
Something unexpected occurred in
1948. Hiten went to the United States
(US) with a group of industrialists and
businessmen to explore trade prospects
between the US and newly-independent
countries. An eminent economist with
the highest degree from the London
School of Economics and who was teaching in Madras (now Chennai), was picked
up by the Birlas to edit an economic
weekly published from New Delhi. He
was also part of this group of businessmen. Hiten was deeply disappointed
with this gentleman. In him he could
find no spark of brilliance and on returning to Bombay kept cajoling Sachin to
agree to edit an economic weekly. He
insisted that if that rather dull so-called
economist could edit an economic
periodical, he, Sachin, given his depth of
knowledge and circle of friends and
acquaintances, would surely be able to
produce a far superior periodical.
Sachin succumbed with great reluctance and his friends in academia from
all over the country were delighted. Hiten
discussed the problem of financing the
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

proposed periodical with his business

friends and a family of traders known as
the Sekhsaria Group agreed to provide
the entire equity capital for the new venture. With finances no longer the problem, Sachin had to concentrate on the
shape and contents of the proposed new
weekly. It was his personal decision to
have two distinct halves of the journal
the first half would consist of editorial
articles, commentaries and discussions
on contemporary events, while the second half would have a 100% scholarly
flavour with learned papers on economics
and other social sciences. It was typical
of him to carry anonymous editorial
pieces written by eminent scholars and
others from all over the country.
The first issue of the Economic Weekly
(EW) was published on the first day of
January 1949. I was then studying with
Dasgupta at the Banaras Hindu University and I still remember the thrill and
joy that greeted the appearance of the
first edition of the weekly. The very first
editorial, Light Without Heat, was
written by D P Mukerji. Advertisements
were few and far between but that did
not deter Sachin. From the very beginning, the EW led a hand-to-mouth existence. A gentleman hovering on the
fringe of the business world, Alphonso
Fernandes, who was a bachelor like
Sachin, joined the weekly as its manager.
The weekly subsisted on occasional
releases of funds from the Sekhsaria
Group as there were very few advertisements, that is, whatever that could be
arranged by Sachins brothers. Sachin
took pride in his cottage industry and
Fernandes was a wonderful help. Very
soon, the weekly began to receive serious
attention not only from scholarly circles
in the country but in the US and the United
Kingdom as well. The only other journal
of this kind with a combination of discussions on contemporary themes alongside scholarly articles was the Ekonomiste in the Netherlands. Few in this
country or in the English-speaking world
had heard of this Dutch journal.
The first half of the EW mostly consisted of articles and notes written by the
young crowd close to Sachin, not just
from Bombay but also from Calcutta,
Delhi and elsewhere. Foremost among
vol lI no 34

those economists residing in Bombay were

K S Krishnaswamy and B V Krishnamurthy.
Others included Vinoo Bhatt (who was
part of the RBIs research department
then), Ramdas Honavar, Deena Khatkhate
(who was also working for the RBI and
later with the International Monetary
Fund), Dharma Venkataraman (who became Dharma Kumar after she married
civil servant Lovraj Kumar). Among the
sociologists was M N Srinivasan, who
went on to become the chairman of the
Sameeksha Trust in the 1990s. Scholars of
international repute contributed articles
that the EW published over the years.
Others who helped in the editorial work
included Rama Varma, a long-time friend
of Sachin who was scion of the royal
family of Cochin and had immense faith
in the Marxist analysis of the social process. (In the early 1970s, the then leftleaning Government of Kerala had
appointed him as chairman of the Coir
Nehru and Mahalanobis
Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (the
statistician and architect of the Second
Five Year Plan) was extremely influential in government circles those days because of his proximity to Prime Minister
Nehru. His views were considered extraordinarily radical in comparison to
those who then constituted the Planning
Commission or successive Finance Ministers, such as T T Krishnamachari (TTK)
and C D Deshmukh. Nehru encouraged
Mahalanobis to prepare a draft of the
Second Five Year Plan. The First Five
Year Plan was altogether timid and had
set extremely limited targets. The Second
Five Year Plan drafted by Mahalanobis
came as a thundering shock to the conservative crowd but they could do nothing about it.
Mahalanobis was in complete charge.
He invited leading economists from
across the world to visit his baby, the
Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), and to
help him elaborate on the contents of
the Second Five Year Plan. These visitors
included Oskar Lange and Michal
Kalecki (both Polish economists who
adopted the Marxist doctrine to critique
capitalism), Shigeto Tsuru (a politician
and economist from Japan), Richard


Goodwin (from the US, who was President John F Kennedys speechwriter),
Joan Robinson (eminent British economist renowned for her growth model)
and Nicholas Kaldor (another prominent
British economist). Other visitors to the
ISI included Paul Baran, the American
economist who edited the path-breaking
work on creative destruction by Joseph
Schumpeter, and Abba Lerner, a Russian-born British economist, who was
one of the earliest to speculate on what
should constitute welfare economics.
(There was a general expectation that
Lerner would emerge as a major persona
in the academic world but that did not
happen; he withered away by the 1940s.)
Charles Bettelheim, one of the leading
French Marxist economists also came to
the ISI. Mahalanobis had the foresight to
accord an invitation to Milton Friedman
as well and politely listened to what this
extremely conservative Chicago-school
economist suggested.
I might have missed a few names. But
each of these visiting scholars would be
trapped by Sachin. They fell in love with
the EW and contributed more than once
to it. The EW was tremendously appreciated by historians and American sociologists, particularly because of a series of
village studies which Sachin had published on different occasions. Many of
these economists such as Bert Hoselitz,
when visiting India, would spend hours
enjoying Sachins company and were
regular contributors to the journal.
George Rosen was an American scholar
who arrived in Bombay in the early-1950s
for conducting research on issues related
to public finance. He was passionately
attracted to both the EW and to the
Churchill Chambers flat. He regularly
wrote for the EW and later, for the
EPW. He retired to Chicago. Frank Harris, the British teacher of sociology
would also write frequently on issues related to the sociology of education for
both the EW and the EPW. I had been in
touch with both of them for a very long
time until a couple of years ago.
Daniel Thorner, the celebrated agricultural economist, and his wife Alice, a
sociologist, had an interesting past. They
were very close to V K Krishna Menon, who
had led the overseas wing of the Indian

independence movement in London and

set up the India League in 1929. Both of
them had been driven out of the US at
the time of the McCarthy campaign
against communists. They came with
their children and settled down in a flat
in Bombays Warden Road. They became
a part of the EW family and were on most
intimate terms with Sachin. I still remember learning about how their teenage daughter once broke out into tantrums and Sachin had to go across to
where they lived to calm her. He had a
particular charm that pacified the girl.
An entire generation of young economists who later became celebrities, like
Amartya Sen, Sukhamoy Chakraborty
and Jagdish Bhagwati, were encouraged
to write for the EW. They complied with
Sachins requests. The resulting experiences helped them attain maturity. The
sociologist who used to write frequently
for Sachin on gender gaps in India was
Rama Mehta, whose husband Jagat was
a member of the Indian Foreign Service
(IFS) who later became Foreign Secretary. Unfortunately, Rama died fairly
early, even before the EW had completed
its first quinquennium.
Impact of the Weekly
Let me give you two specific examples of
how seriously the EW was taken by
officials those days. The year was 1956.
TTK was the Finance Minister and Benegal
Rama Rau was the Governor of the RBI.
On a specific issue, the RBI Governors
decision was nixed by TTK with some
caustic comments. Sachin wrote an angry
editorial suggesting that if Rama Rau
had any self-respect, he should not swallow the offensive remark of the Finance
Minister with quiet fortitude. Within
24 hours of the publication of the editorial, Rama Rau resigned. TTK had been
taught the lesson of his life.
The second instance I recall relates to
the time I was in Washington DC between
January 1959 and January 1963 as a
member of the family of the Economic
Development Institute. I went to a reception arranged by the Indian Embassy to
celebrate 15 August 1959. A smart aleck
belonging to the IFS, presumably of the
rank of First Secretary, was pontificating
to a group of American journalists in a

relatively loud tone that the then Defence Minister of India Krishna Menon
was the main culprit preventing the development of friendly relations between
India and the US. He added that plans
were afoot to expel Krishna Menon from
the government. Sachin had insisted
that I must send a couple of articles for
the EW on whichever subject I thought fit.
I sent a note on what had transpired at
the Independence Day reception. It
raised a furore in Parliament and Nehru
himself had to intervene to pacify the
upset MPs. Besides me, among the anonymous contributors to the EW were two
persons with the same name, Samar
Ranjan Sen, a diplomat who was stationed in Moscow and Samar Ranjan
Sen, an economist and civil servant.
By then, the EW had been recognised
as the foremost social sciences journal to
be published from Asia. Contributions
from scholars from different countries
helped EW achieve international recognition. These writers not only enjoyed
writing for Sachins journal, when they
visited Bombay, they equally enjoyed the
long hours of intimate conversations they
had with him at his Churchill Chambers
flat. Sachin came to be known across the
world for his laughter, which would start
as a gentle cackle and its finale would
be a full-throated roarwhich, rumour
would have, could be heard from the
Gateway of India.
Naipaul at Churchill Chambers
Let me mention an episode from the
late-1950s concerning Vidiadhar Surajprasad (VS) Naipaul that may seem quite
incredible. Naipaul had met Sachin accidently and was captivated by his personality. He insisted on spending a full week
in his flat in Churchill Chambers.
Sachins cook and all-round help, Paresh,
would take care of Naipaul. Those days
Paresh had time to have romantic involvements with the female helpers who
worked in several other apartments in
the same building. Naipaul was fascinated by Pareshs versatility and wrote a
story in which the central figure was none
other than Sachins valet. After Sachin
passed away, Paresh managed through
some stratagem or the other to arrive in
Los Angeles where he set up an Indian

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vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


restaurant, married an American citizen

of Mexican origin and lived happily
ever after.
The EW s financial situation was always
precarious. But so what? It was at the
centre of national and international attention. I remember one occasion when I
had to visit Bombay for an assignment.
As was my standard practice, after I arrived
at the Santa Cruz airport in the morning,
I took a cab to Churchill Chambers. By
the time I reached there, Sachin had
already left for office. After refreshing
myself, I went over to the EW office and
made my entry into Sachins cabin.
Sachin got up immediately and started
searching the pockets of my trousers
and shirt. I was baffled but was soon
speedily enlightened. Sachin had invited
a young researcher, perhaps a student of
Bert Hoseltiz, who had planned to conduct research in an Adivasi village close
to Thane. Sachin had invited her to have
lunch with him. The researcher had already arrived and was talking to one of
the young scholars who was writing an
editorial for the EW. Fernandes had
frightening news for him. There was not
even a five-rupee note in the office cash
box. Sachin appropriated whatever modest sum I had on me and proudly ordered
a cab to take her to lunch at a posh restaurant serving exotic food. Such narratives were typical of the manner in which
the EW survived for nearly 16 years.
I met Sachin for the first time in 1954
when I had joined the Ministry of France
for a brief stint. He had heard of me from
both A K Dasgupta and D P Mukerji, and
his family used to live very close to our
residence in Dacca. He, therefore, knew
all my antecedents. He took an immediate liking to me and I was among the
foremost of the anonymous writers of
editorial pieces for the EW. In fact, the
entire Chaudhuri family was an integral
part of my own household.
An Unusual Character
In several respects, Sachin was a most
out-of-the-ordinary character. He had
foibles and idiosyncrasies which are
now an integral part of my memory
cells. During 1957 and 1958, whenever
he visited Delhi, I would go to receive
him at Palam airport in my little Fiat car.
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

For the next few days, I had to suspend

all my other activities and cart him
around for visiting friends and close acquaintances at their residences or when
he would go around to the different
ministries to meet ministers or senior
civil servants. He would always don a
spotless white khadi dhoti and kurta.
Every time I would accompany him to
the entrance of a ministry, the personnel
at the reception table would assume that
he was a very important politician and
would salute him with great deference.
Sachin would respond with a brief nod
of the head. Those were days when strict
security arrangements were unheard of.
I would perform the same chore
whenever he would visit Calcutta during
196365. My apartment on Hungerford
Street was quite spacious and could easily accommodate him, but given his cardiac condition, he did not want to climb
stairs. A particular routine would, however, be observed. The moment he
would get into my car, he would order
me to go to a particular paan shop which
would sell gundi paan. The rest of the
chores could wait. On the rare occasions
when he stayed with me either in Delhi
or in Calcutta, we used to play a silent
prank on each other. He would quietly
pick up a book that he wanted to read
from my bookshelf without bothering to
let me know. When on the next occasion
I would visit Bombay, I would retrieve
that book from his bookshelf and bring it
back with me. This did not deter him
from repeating the ritual. This game
continued indefinitely.
A New Beginning
Something altogether unexpected happened in late 1965. Hiten was abroad for
some weeks and Fernandes told Sachin
that no funds were available to pay wages
to part-time employees who used to put
together the weekly. Sachin had to personally talk to one of the Sekhsarias and
a person he met made a relatively unkind comment. Sachin was infuriated.
He thought that he had had enough and
decided to stop publishing the EW and
moved to Calcutta where he stayed for a
few months. Meanwhile, Hiten returned
to India. By then the weekly had become
vol lI no 34

But Sachins admirers would not give

up. They persuaded him to return to
Bombay and start a new weekly by assuring him that he would not have to
worry about finances and that they
would arrange the funds necessary for
the proposed new journal. Among the
friends and admirers who raised money
for the now newly-named Economic and
Political Weekly were: N P Potla Sen of
India Tobacco, B N Datar who was labour advisor to the Union Government,
Dharma Kumar and her husband Lovraj
and Sachins great admirer from the world
of commerce, Hasmukhbhai D Parekh,
founder of Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC).
Sachin had made up his mind to have
me as his executive editor and managing
trustee of the Sameeksha Trust, a new
body that would own the EPW. I was told
I would be made a formal offer with a
total monthly salary of `1,500. I was then
working with the Indian Institute of
Management Calcutta (IIMC) but decided
to accept the offer to join Sachin in his
new journal. The problem deterring me
was one of housing in Bombay. I could
move in with Sachin in Churchill Chambers but my wife was reluctant to accompany me. Her concept of privacy was
something Sachin was unable to comprehend but that was that. I applied for
one years leave from the IIMC, which its
governing body immediately agreed to.
I assumed I would soon become the
executive editor of the EPW.
Enter Romesh Thapar at this stage. He
too was very close to Sachin and was his
great admirer. Since the early 1960s,
Sachin would stay with him whenever
he visited New Delhi. Earlier he would
stay with Nandita Kripalani (Tagores

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grand-niece) and her husband Krishna

(who was nominated by Indira Gandhi
as a member of the Rajya Sabha) but
they had moved out of Delhi and gone to
Santiniketan. Romesh, a former communist, had many friends in left circles and
was on most friendly terms with
Indira Gandhi as well. After the death of
Lal Bahadur Shastri in January 1966,
she was elected by the Congress Parliamentarian Party as his successor despite
the stiff opposition from those belonging
to the so-called Syndicate, the partys
conservative wing. The Syndicate comprised K Kamaraj, Morarji Desai (who
later became Prime Minister of India from
1977 to 1979), Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
(who later became the President of India
in 1977) and Atulya Ghosh, the tall
political leader from Bengal. While the
Syndicate had no alternative but to
accept Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister,
it insisted on packing the cabinet of
ministers by its trusted individuals. A
Calcutta barrister who happened to
have a name identical to that of Sachin
Chaudhuri was Atulya Ghoshs choice as
finance minister. He was altogether
innocent of economic issues and the
Ministry of Finance became the handtool of a group of bureaucrats who were
on the closest of terms with the top brass
of the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund in Washington DC.
Indira Gandhi Invites Left
There were major crop failures in 1965
and 1966. Food prices kept rising skyhigh and the general price index moved
up rapidly. Bureaucrats, including one
who was closest to the Prime Minister,
persuaded her to devalue the rupee, as
had been advised by Washington. Once
devaluation occurred, both the Bank
and the Fund would accord generous assistance and liberal imports of foodgrains would straightaway bring down
prices, she was told. Precisely the reverse happened. The devaluation was of
a stiff order and domestic prices rose
even further. There were no supplies of
foodgrains from the US either. Indira
Gandhi was distraught and Romesh
Thapar was at that moment her closest
advisor outside the government and the
Congress party. He suggested that her

only recourse was to invite the left to

come to her support and that he would
do the liaison work to achieve this end.
It happened that C Subramaniam, who
was minister for food and agriculture
between 1964 and 1966 and was somewhat detached from the Syndicate,
came along to help Indira Gandhi.
K T Chandy, founder and director of
IIMC and my boss, had an interesting
past. He had joined IIMC after retiring as
director of Hindustan Lever where he
was the companys legal brain. When he
was a law student in London in the
1930s, he was very active in Krishna
Menons India League. Chandy was also
associated with the young crowd which
got recruited into the Communist Party
of Great Britain, individuals such as
P N Haksar, Snehangshu Acharya, Bhupesh Gupta, Mohan Kumaramangalam
and Jyoti Basu.
On Romeshs advice, Subramaniam
invited Chandy to take over as the chairman of the Food Corporation of India,
which would compulsorily procure
grains from surplus-raising farmers and
distribute what was produced at subsidised rates to the countrys poor. However, it also became necessary to set up
an Agricultural Prices Commission (APC)
to settle the procurement prices of different foodgrains. A Bombay economist
who was a socialist by conviction was
appointed as chairman of the commission
but left within a few months as he could
not adjust to the ways of bureaucracy in
New Delhi. Romesh argued long and
hard with Sachin Chaudhuri to allow me
to join as the chairman of the APC. He
said my services would be required
only for a few months and I could join
the EPW thereafter. At heart, Sachin
was a firm Nehruvian and he agreed to
let me join the APC tentatively for a year
on the understanding that I would try
to make my stay in New Delhi as brief
as possible.
The new weekly made its appearance
on 20 August 1966. Maybe because of
the excitement which accompanied its
publication, Sachin had a serious cardiac
attack which incapacitated him. Krishna
Raj, who had joined the EW in 1960, was
completely devoted to the cause of the
journal and had the highest admiration

for Sachin, took over charge. Silently,

he, along with the assistance of the everloyal Fernandes, continued to keep publishing the issues of the new journal.
After Sachin Chaudhuri
In the third week of December that year,
I had to be in Bombay for an official
meeting for the APC and was supposed
to return to Delhi by an evening flight on
a Sunday. Following his cardiac arrest,
Sachin had moved to the 45 Pali Hill,
Bandra, bungalow owned by Hiten. I
went over to Pali Hill on that Sunday
morning and spent the day with Sachin.
When the taxi arrived in the early evening to take me to Santa Cruz airport,
Sachin slowly walked alongside me and
installed me into the taxi. In his last
words to me, he told me that I must visit
Bombay more frequently as he could not
cope all by himself. Hiten was away at
that time and the only person staying
with Sachin was the daughter of his
youngest sister. Despite the state of his
health, he had invited Surendra Patel
and his wife Krishna Ahuja for dinner
on Monday evening. Sachins niece
greeted the Patel couple when they
arrived; she was arranging dinner when
Sachin suffered another cardiac attack.
By the time he could be taken to hospital, he was already dead. I returned to
Bombay on Tuesday evening. By then
the members of his family, including
Sachins brothers, had arrived. The next
day a small group of us took Sachin to
the crematorium.
As the fleet of cars was ready to leave
for the crematorium, Hennadi, Debu-das
wife, who was a great one observing
grammar, noticed that I was wearing a
pair of trousers. She hurried inside the
house and emerged with a dhoti, which
she asked me to don before joining the
funeral. I meekishly obeyed her. Certain
rituals were gone through at the crematorium. I do not remember the details.
Once the body was gently shoved into
the burner and the shutters came down,
all of a sudden I felt something happening inside me. I rushed to a corner and a
flood of tears came out of my eyes. It was
again Hennadi who watched the scene
from a distance. She slowly approached
the spot where I was standing, drew me

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Economic & Political Weekly


close to her and patted my back. It was

all over.
The brothers, particularly Hiten and
Sankho, the sculptor, were insistent
that since Sachin wanted me to be his
successor, I should immediately inform
C Subramaniam that Sachins death has
transformed the situation and that I
would have to give up my assignment
with the APC in Delhi. Hiten assured me
that he had already solved my residential
problem in Mumbai. His friend Yusuf
Khanbetter known as Dilip Kumar
(who he had introduced to the world of
cinema)and his wife Saira Bano would
occasionally occupy the ground floor at
Hitens house and potter around in the
garden. Hiten had already spoken to Yusuf
who had agreed to discontinue such occasional visits so that my wife and myself
would have the ground floor entirely at
our disposal. Yusuf had readily agreed.
Hiten and Sankho were arranging a
formal meeting of the Sameeksha Trust
whose first chairman was P B Gajendragadkar, the then Chief Justice of the

Bombay High Court and brother-in-law

of B N Datar. The other members of the
trust were my teacher A K Dasgupta,
B N Ganguly of Delhi and my friend the
economist K N Raj. There were only two
decisions that the trustees had to make
the replacement of Sachin as managing trustee by Hiten and my appointment as the editor of the journal. A most
astounding thing happened at the meeting of the Sameeksha Trust. My teacher,
A K Dasgupta, expressed virulent opposition to the proposal to appoint me as
editor of the EPW. Dasgupta, after several
months, expressed deep regrets to me
for what he did. He said he had been
advised by a person extremely close to
him that it would be a grave mistake to
make me the editor, as, at the very last
minute, I would refuse to join and stick
to the allurement of holding an important government position. I was disappointed and, much more than that,
embarrassed that I had to go back and
tell the Food and Agriculture Minister
that something unexpected had happened

and that I would not join the EPW in

The proper course of action would have
been to appoint Krishna Raj since he was
already de facto in that position. But again,
at Dasguptas insistence, he suggested
the name of a person who had apparently
agreed to join EPW at the proffered
salary of `1,500 per month. I know who
Dasguptas advisor was but would never
disclose the persons identity.
What surprised me was that I knew
the person selected as editor of the EPW
was someone Sachin disliked. I remember occasions when Sachin kept him
standing in his cabin while speaking to
him. I asked him why. Sachin cryptically
remarked: The heart has its reasons.
After the editor moved on to a position
of great eminence in officialdom, the Sameeksha Trust installed Krishna Raj as
editor of the EPW.
Here ends my story.
[As told to Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, editor,
EPW. Writing assistance was provided by Varda
Dixit and Bhavya Srivastava.]

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Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34



Interrogating the Academy

Renegotiating the Terms of Discourse
Rudolf C Heredia

The challenge is to become

organic intellectuals. For
middle-class academics and
activists, who are alienated from
the grass-roots people in the field,
this is a difficult and delicate
task. An organic intellectual is
someone who can catalyse and
articulate the experience of the
people, voice their knowledge,
echo their wisdom, and make
them present in places where they
are not heard or acknowledged.

he actionresearch divide affects

research endeavours just as much
as it does activist ventures. There
is a need to bridge this distance in a more
integrated approach. This is an ongoing
project, still evolving new orientations
and perspectives. This article attempts
to bring together action-involvement
and research-scholarship in an integrated
and creative venture.
Theory and Practice
Theoretically, the divide is not unbridgeable but it must be carefully and critically thought through. The danger for
the researcher is ungrounded theory,
the temptation for the activist is ad hoc
empiricism (Heredia 1988: 27). Thus,
the divide can develop into an irresolvable dilemma rather than a constructive
However, the difficulties of this integration are not just theoretical, they are
practical as well. In fact, this is the first
barrier that must be crossed if the next
constructive step is to be taken. Scholars and intellectuals, when they are not
involved in action in the field, generally
feel guilty before those who are at risk
on the front in the line of fire as it were.
Correspondingly, activists and workers
feel browbeaten and cheated when
these others articulate experiences they
have had only vicariously. There is a
real need to find some common ground,
or it will be a case of never the twain
shall meet.

Rudolf C Heredia ( is

with the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi.


The perspective here begins with a

distinction between the professionals
interests and peoples concerns. Here the
reference is not to narrow or chauvinistic
interests, or petty and self-centred concerns. The question is rather how far
professionals are oriented to their peer

groups or to a larger constituency of

people the profession has an impact on,
and whether these people are to have
some active direct or at least an indirect involvement in, or must only be
passive recipients of, professional practice. This amounts to the alienation of
the non-professional by the professional. Ivan Illich once inveighed against
this (Illich et al 1977). If professional
standards must be set and reviewed by
professional peers, from where does
the legitimation for these very standards and criteria come? Are professionals accountable only to their peers or do
the people, on and for whom their profession is practised, have some effective
voice as well?
The same question can be posed to
activists. Are they accountable only to
the governing bodies of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) they work
for? Do people have a voice in the organisation? Where are the fora for the
professional and the activist, for people
to hold them accountable? There must
be a larger, more people-friendly, more
democratic space for this in civil society.
Posing the dichotomy as a stark
binary in this manner, as some do,
polarises a more diffused discourse too
sharply, especially in regard to the
academy and its outreach, and the
activist and the need for contextual
understanding. Here, borders can be
quite porous. However, this is only a
starting point with a view to the conceptual clarity needed for more incisive
understanding. For it is from here that
any relevant interrogation must begin,
though it does not end there.
The supposed polarity between academics and activists leaves out a crucial
third party in this discourse, namely the
people, who too often remain voiceless
until they vote with their feet. The activists claim to speak for their people.
The focus of their concern is the concrete
situation and the interventions it demands. But, to be effective this requires
proper understanding of the conditions
and factors involved. The academics
claim to speak for the people in general;
their primary interest is theory and how

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Economic & Political Weekly


it can be generalised. Action is concrete;

science is about universals. Activists
seek to impact change, but when understanding is inadequate and confused,
interventions will be ineffective and
ambiguous, and the concerns remain
unaddressed or compounded. Academics
deal with data and conceptualise and
theorise it. But this does not always add
up to wisdom.
T S Eliot in an insightful lament in his
Choruses from The Rock writes:
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

There is an obvious hierarchy here.

Information is the data input that must
be sifted, categorised and ordered. Knowledge implies understanding and insight
that is obtained from reflection and
analysis. Wisdom brings realisation and
transformation gained by deeper reflection and assimilation. All this adds up to
the life that is not lost in living!
In the context of social research in the
field, people are readily involved with providing the data. The critical reflection,
which the activists and academics claim
to do, is meant to yield understanding
and insight. But, there is no certainty
this will bring wisdom and with it realisation and transformation.
Now, when professionals get themselves institutionalised into an association, a new dynamics is encountered, one
less to do with knowledge than with
power, less concerned with wisdom than
politics. There are awkward similarities
here with the medieval guild, with its
master craftsmen and journeymen. Here
is a modern version of homologous hierarchy with stars and lesser lights! The
next step to a charmed circle of the
in-group is effected by peer review,
which easily becomes an incestuous
game that the whole family can play to
the advantage of the patriarchs! These
stars move with their entourage of
lesser lights of spouses and students in a
package deal from one appointment to
the next, while lesser mortals wait to
break into the circle of light!
What finally obtains is a classic contradiction between form and substance:
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

what is supposedly premised on expertise,

competence, performance and merit
mostly measured by an in-house metric
becomes an effective way of perpetuating
privilege, based on connections, networking patronage, especially that of the hierarchs! This precipitates a skewed division of labour between active producing
intellectuals and passive consuming ones,
with some at the centre and others at the
periphery; distinctions the distinguished academic Edward Shils once made
(Shils 1961). This is a division that eventually results in a monopoly (Hall et al
1982)! Professional groups can well
claim legitimacy as interest groups, but
when this is supposedly based on the
contribution of their expertise to society,
then surely accountability to their own
peers is self-validation, which can well
be self-serving as well.
What are the alternatives to prevent
the academy from becoming such an
inward-looking, self-serving, self-validating in-group? If peer review lends
itself to protective cartels that can eliminate any uncomfortable competition, can
an academic marketplace play this role?
Producers need to take cognisance of
their consumers, but this by itself is no
guarantee that the passive role these
play will not be manipulated and exploited. A neo-liberal free market has demonstrated this repeatedly and convincingly. Moreover, the creation and the
transmission of knowledge is a fiduciary
trust that must not be commoditised for
a free market.
These inevitable dysfunctions of academic professionalism must all the more
be critiqued and reviewed and held
accountable in more viable ways. This is
best done by the constituencies the professions impact. Even these, of course,
will have their own complications, but it
does seem to be a very necessary and
viable counterbalance to a notoriously
partisan professionalism. Accountability
demands a rigorous and continuing
endeavour to be open, honest, critical
and transparent. Perhaps a tall order,
but a very necessary one.
Methods, Madness, Mores
The academy prides itself on a rigorous methodology, precisely because it
vol lI no 34

distinguishes a scientific discipline from

mere commonsense. There is almost a
perverse dichotomy here that seems to
derive from the alienation of the professionals from ordinary people. Thus, the
talisman for a science is the positivist
stance and the experimental method.
Hard data and quantitative analysis
must yield accurate predictions. With
the softer disciplines, like the social sciences that do not fall strictly within this
approach, the attempt is to approximate
this ideal as far as possible with the comparative method and exhaustive observation, data collection and statistical
analysis. Moreover, disciplines must
have well-defined boundaries and crossing them is not easily condoned and often dismissed as too fuzzy to be accurate, valid and reliable, as ideally an academic discipline ought to be. The endeavour is to be objective and unbiased,
in a word rigorous. But all too often
the madness in the method has developed into a whole domain of mores and
conventions that could well bring rigor
mortis rather than any enlightenment!
Thus, the sacrosanct rules of scientific
objectivity dismiss any involvement,
committed or otherwise, as biased and
therefore subjective. But M N Srinivas,
whom no one will accuse of lacking
methodological rigour, underscores how
it is precisely involvement that can bring
new insight:
Involvement above all may be essential for
going ahead with the research itself. Participation may become sources of data and
insight ... Purists in research methodology
may be outraged at such contaminations of
the field of social action, but the pragmatic
fieldworker cannot shy away from involvement when it can lead to insights. Methodological purism can be sterile. (Srinivas 1979: 9)

In the positivist view, the subjective

is essentially arbitrary and must be eliminated by the rigorous experimental
methodology for a genuine science that
must be predictive. But, there is another
way of understanding the subjective as
relevant, as meaningful, and indeed
with a surplus of meaning at times.
This will require an interpretative discipline, not an experimental science and is
validated by a reflective, experiential
method. It must further be critiqued and
authenticated by an inter-subjective


approach to screen out the arbitrary in

the subjective. It is precisely such a
hermeneutic fusion of horizons that
will bring a new and deeper insight and
From Diltheys understanding of an
interpretative discipline and Webers
Verstehen to more recent hermeneutics, this is a far more open-ended
approach than a closed-in positivist
one. But, an overly rigorous methodology
will be innocent of such hermeneutic
suspicion, or, for that matter, hermeneutic faith!
Partners, Centres and Satsangs
There are researchers who want to stand
outside the academy. But they come
from the academy, for often enough
these are academics who have felt the
need for a more active involvement and
stepped outside their ivory towers. It is
inevitable that there will be a certain
confluence between the academy and
such partners. But the question then is,
in which direction is such a venture
turned? Where is its reference group?
Who legitimates and affirms it? There
are of course many conversations possible, but which is the dominant one that
becomes the axis of integration for all
the others? What is the commitment
that subsumes the others? It is here that
the centre of gravity of such endeavours
will be found.
For, not all academics are intellectuals; many in their ivory towers are just
institutional administrators, or worse,
courtiers to the establishment. The
recent events in our universities show
this so dramatically. Nor are all intellectuals academics; many are in public
spaces outside academia. This is
precisely what a public intellectual is
all about. Noam Chomsky, now, for
instance, and earlier Antonio Gramsci
and B R Ambedkar remain relevant
even today.
There is also a need to critique the
ad hocism of the activist who runs ever
faster to stay in the same place, waiting
for the revolution that never comes. But
more critical is the need to interrogate
the academy and set the terms of the
discourse, and not allow it to be monopolised by a guild.

There are activists, who place themselves inside the academy but they are
not from the academy. Theirs is not the
need academics have felt for an active
involvement, but rather the need activists
have experienced for a deeper reflection. Hence, they are turned towards the
field, to the people and the problems
there. These must be their point of reference and their source of legitimation
and affirmation, through which their
axis of integration must run. Obviously,
there will be ambiguities and anomalies
here, but the orientation and intent must
be clear.
The consonance of action and reflection is a difficult and arduous praxis, but
not an impossible one. An insiders
access to the field is often not available
to an outsider, who might actually at
times bring a more resourceful and
insightful reflection, though the outsider
may well not have the rich experience of
the insider. But, this is not in itself an
unbridgeable divide.
By way of illustration, such praxis can
be collaborative at three levels. First,
with an action agency in the field that
requests the study and must undertake
to act on its findings and implement its
recommendations. This provides an
insiders access to the field with which the
agency is directly involved and eschews
an instrumental use of the data provider. Second, through this agency the NGO
reaches out to the people at the grassroots, who with the agency participate
in the study and in its later implementation. And third, the research agency
reports and publicises its work to other
constituencies, professional and nonprofessional for a wider response and
critique. The first is geared to real needs
in the field, the second to peoples participation in responding to these needs,
and the third to credible accountability.
Obviously, legitimation and affirmation
will be sought at all these three levels,
but insofar that this is an action-focused
involvement and not a theory-centred
reflection, the axis of integration for this
praxis will be the people, though the
professionals will not completely be
What this adds up to is a participatory
praxis, that is, the active participation of

the constituency concerned at three levels: investigation, analysis and action. At

each of these the participatory approach
sets out to overcome the dichotomies
established by the conventional methods.
At the first level, the dichotomy made
between fact and value is transcended by
an explicit commitment to moral imperatives from which the facts are seen to derive their significance. In analysis, the
division between the researcher and the
researched, the active subject and passive
objects of the process, is overcome by a
dialogic, a non-manipulative exchange
in which both parties make their specific
contributions enriching each other and
the analytical process as well. And finally,
given this commitment and dialogue, the
reflectionaction divide is resolved
through a dialectical praxis in which
group reflection articulates and orients
group action, even as this in turn makes
explicit and refines the collective understanding (Heredia 1988: 27).
But, of course, there are dangerous
pitfalls along the way. For all this is
more easily said than done. The commitment of participatory research
(PRIA 1982) can readily become ideologically petrified, forcing the facts to fit
ones dogma and losing ones sensitivity
to more meaningful interpretations. A
mutually balanced dialogue is a delicate
task. Too often it becomes asymmetrically skewed into another dominantdependent relationship. Dialectical praxis
can conven iently mystify and obfuscate
where it should clarify and refine.
But, besides these difficulties intrinsic to the process of participation itself,
there are extrinsic limitations, such as
motivating and organising the involvement of the concerned constituency.
Often enough the direct participation
of all remains the unattainable ideal.
It must be realistically compromised
for a participation mediated through
spokespersons and leaders, at the level
that meets them where they are, and
through a progressive development of
the constituents skills and resources to
broaden and intensify the participatory
base of the process (Heredia 1988: 2728).
Experience in such ventures has
underlined the critical need for a community of support, a satsang, for this

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Economic & Political Weekly


kind of countercultural, intellectual

activist endeavour. Indeed, there will be
dissonance in such a process, but there
we will also find consonance; the first
more likely from the mainstream academy,
the second from the interstices at the
margins. But, paradigm shifts, that
eventually do find acceptance, usually
come not from the centre, but from the
It is easy and tempting to dismiss all
this as banal and presumptuous. Would
not that be the typical professionals
response? Yet, it is precisely the charismatic and prophetic role of someone
who is taking a countercultural stance to
tell people what they always knew but
never realised, to turn their information
into knowledge and their knowledge
into wisdom! Is this not the living that
life is for? This is what Gandhi once did.
Will some of us make it possible again,
or we will continue living in an unreal
Organic Intellectual
All of us have our own autobiographies,
hidden or publicised, in which we make
our Apologia pro Vita Sua, as Newman
famously once did. We need to justify
ourselves, and not just to others. Indeed,
we all need to examine honestly the
many-sided legitimations we seek when
we do this. I am doing this implicitly
here in this presentation, so let me explicate this a little. My endeavour through
the Social Science Centre, at St Xaviers
College, Mumbai, had been to bring
together action and research, that is, the
reflection and analysis of the intellectual,
and the action and involvement of grassroots workers, and also to facilitate the
intellectuals action-involvement in the
field. Such an integration does happen
in some special individuals, though given
todays specialisations it seems more
feasible at the level of a group. The centre
attempted to create the space for such a
So, when we do narrate our autobiography, what is the story we are telling, to
whom and to what purpose? If we want
to engage in the kind of praxis we are
talking about we must address such
questions with intellectual honesty and
firm commitment. Otherwise, we might
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

just end up going with the flow in the

assembly line of the academy, even as
we become more and more productive,
and less and less relevant; or engulfed in
the ad hocism of action in the rush and
tumble in the field, more and more
involved and less and less reflective!
To put this differently, the challenge
is to become organic intellectuals. For
middle-class academics and activists,
who are alienated from the grass-roots
people in the field this is a difficult and
delicate task. But, it is worth trying.
Without going into the elaborations of
the Gramscian discourse on this, we
can sketch some characteristics of this
organic intellectual, as someone who
can catalyse and articulate the experience of the people, voice their knowledge, echo their wisdom, and make
them present in places where they are
not heard or acknowledged. This would
mean for them to sift their over-abundant information for relevant data, to
catalyse this into insightful knowledge,
and finally to bring this to a wise realisation in their lives, and so learn from
their wisdom.
Today, the information overload is but
another way of confusing people and
obfuscating issues. The sound bite and
the captivating image is an oversimplification that subverts any meaningful
understanding. Knowledgeable commentators and analysts are focused on
realising goals of profit and pelf rather
than the authentic aspirations of real
people. The pathological obsession of
some television channels, their anchors
and their owners with television rating
points (TRPs) has morphed once intelligible conversations into shoutingbarking
performances. Surely, we must come
back to peoples knowledge and wisdom,
not to naively romanticise these, but to
understand from within, critique constructively, and then to celebrate as valuable and viable the wisdom of our people
for our world.
For us, this process must begin with
activists and intellectuals finding common ground in their involvements and
then as activistintellectuals, or vice
versa depending on where one starts,
becoming embedded among the people
as organic intellectuals. Or, the process
vol lI no 34

could better begin at the other end,

namely, with people becoming reflective and articulating their experience
and aspirations, their strengths and
weaknesses, their fears and hopes, their
dreams and nightmares, without ever
losing their roots, but rather deepening
them to return to them. In fine, this is
what the authentic organic intellectual
does: not just to interrogate the terms of
the discourse that frame peoples lives,
but renegotiate them to empower the
people as well. These organic intellectuals are also public intellectuals who
impact policy and its implementation.
However, this is not an endeavour that
is completed in one big leap. It necessarily implies many small steps, but the direction must be set at the very beginning of this journey.
Perhaps, we might discover that there
is as much sense and sensibility in them
as there is pride and prejudice in us, and
recover some valuable knowledge from
our information overload, some real
wisdom in our skewed knowledge, and
find a life in our living.
Hall, Budd, et al (eds) (1982): Creating Knowledge: A
Monopoly?, Society for Participatory Research
in India, New Delhi.
Heredia, Rudolf C (1988): Voluntary Action and
Development: Towards a Praxis for Non-Government Agencies, New Delhi: Concept Pub.
Illich, Ivan et al (1977): Disabling Professions,
London: Marion Boyars.
PRIA (1982): An Introduction, Society for Participatory Research, New Delhi.
Shils, Edward (1961): The Intellectual between
Tradition and Modernity: The Indian Situation,
The Hague: Mouton & Company.
Srinivas, M N et al (eds) (1979): The Fieldworker
and the Field: Problems and Challenges in
Sociological Investigation, Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Attention ContributorsI

EPW has been sending reprints of articles

to authors. We are now discontinuing the
practice. We will consider sending a limited
number of reprints to authors located in
India when they make specific requests
to us.
We will, of course, continue to send a copy
of the print edition to all our authors
whose contributions appear in that
particular edition.


Digitalisation of TV Distribution
Affordability and Availability
Vibodh Parthasarathi, Arshad Amanullah, Susan Koshy

The second amendment to

the Cable Television Networks
(Regulation) Amendment
Act passed in Parliament in
December 2011 mandated that
the distribution of signals of cable
and satellite television, from the
local cablewala to subscribing
households, be exclusively in the
digital mode. Four years after
the act was passed, and after
completion of three phases of
the digital migration, the aim
is to find out if the emergent
regulatory framework did
anything at all to enhance the
television-viewing experience for
cable and satellite TV subscribers.

n December 2011, television (TV)

signals were distributed through two
technological platforms: the wired,
cable system and the wireless, Direct To
Home (DTH) system. While cable, existing since the early 1990s, had gathered
94 million subscribers by 2011, DTH
managed to garner over 46 million
households since its introduction in
2004.1 From a regulatory and commercial perspective, the significant fact is
that, unlike in DTH, the distribution of
signals on the cable platform functioned
in the analogue mode.
The cable distribution sector in this
mode has been fraught with problems
due to lack of transparency. The monthly
rent paid by the subscriber was unrelated
to the number or popularity of the channels provided, and depended on the cable operators perception of what a subscriber could afford. This has made dual
pricing a key trait of the cable business
since its inception.
Promises of Digitalisation

This article has emerged from the ongoing

project Tracking Access under Digitalization
at the Centre for Culture, Media and
Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia. The authors
are grateful to respondents in Delhi and Patna
for sharing their experiences about cable
television; to Biswajit Das, Pradosh Nath and
Manoj Diwakar for their invaluable insights;
and, to Ford Foundation for constant support.
Vibodh Parthasarathi (,
Arshad Amanullah (
and Susan Koshy ( are with
the Centre for Culture, Media and Governance,
Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

The inability to differentiate the number of channels in the analogue mode

provided by cable operators and subscribed by households created a milieu
of opacity throughout the value chain of
cable and satellite (C&S) TV: between
households and the local cablewala
(now called last-mile operator, or LMO),
between the LMOs and large cable distributors (known as multiple-system
operator [MSO]), and between broadcasters and MSOs. Broadcasters and the
government alike were clueless about
the number of channels being watched
and the actual number of cable TV
households in the country. Such systemic
opacity contributed to the revenues and
taxes from cable services accrued to
broadcasters and the government being
grossly under-realised. These problems
were sought to be resolved with a technological fix: a transition of the cable
vol lI no 34

distribution system from analogue to

digital mode.
Notably, the government justified the
transition as a benefit to the subscriber,
who would pay for the shift, both as a
one-time infrastructural cost and a
recurrent expenditure of monthly subscription rents. During the debate on
the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act in November
2011, the then minister of information
and broadcasting assured Parliament
that the switchover from analogue to
digital distribution would benefit every
stakeholder in the C&S TV sector. The
digitalisation of cable relays would
bring about transparency by allowing
subscribers to select and pay for only
those channels they wish to watch.
Similarly, the distributors would get a
clear picture of the number of channels
to which a cable TV household is subscribing. Both these developments enabled broadcasters to get a far more accurate sense of the number of subscribers, and thereby, the amount of revenue
being generated. On their part, the government would get a clear sense of the
service tax and entertainment tax being
generated from cable TV households.
The minister also promised that the
compulsory switchover would benefit
cable subscribers with an enhanced
viewing experience: namely, far better
picture and sound quality, increased
number of channels on offer, ability to
select and pay only for those channels
required, and value-added services like
movies on demand.
Evaluating Digitalisation
In December 2013, three years after statutory digitalisation and the completion
of its first two phases, a study sought to
evaluate the consequences of one of the
most crucial regulatory interventions in
Indian broadcasting. The study areas
selectedsouth-east Delhi and territory
of Patna Municipal Corporationhad
switched to digital transmission in the
first and second phases, respectively.
Sharply contrasting in their economic
geography, these cities offered a good
understanding of the range of subscriber
behaviour. What made such behaviour
comparable was that both cities were


part of the same Hindi market of C&S TV;

the largest of nine linguistic media markets in India.2 Thus, the choice of Patna
and Delhi provide significant elements
of distinction and similarity in evaluating the responses of cable subscribers to
the emergent digital regime.
In each of the two cities, a quantitative
survey was conducted of over 1,000 C&S
TV households, selected on multistaged
and purposive sampling. Furthermore,
from among these 1,000 households, over
50 households were selected in each city
for in-depth interviews, on the basis of
stratified purposive sampling. In both instances, the aim was to investigate the extent to which the promises of the regulatory
intervention of 2011 have been realised.
The study revealed that the benefits
promised by the minister to the subscribers were incidental to improvement
in technology. Advanced technology obviously improved the quality of picture
and sound. However, the user experiences underscored the lack of any study
of subscriber behaviour or preferences
based on which the transition was designed to benefit the subscriber. The
study revealed that the promise of increased choice or cheaper cable bills are
ridden with contradictions such that the
average subscriber ends up paying much
more for the same content than in the analogue mode.
Furthermore, the regulatory framework
of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2011 did not dwell
much on mechanisms to enhance the
choice of cable service providers to the
subscribers. This created uneven dynamics in the distribution field. While a household could select a DTH service provider of
their choice, cable households post-digitalisation were likely to continue being effectively locked in with the LMO in their
locality. Thus, the benefits were confined
to quantitative increase of the extant offerings, while a switchover based on
subscribers needs would have focused
on various other aspects to improve the
television-viewing experience.
This article further explains aspects
of the promised increase in choice for
the subscriber, specifically in the context of availability and affordability of
digital TV.

Availability and Affordability

Expectedly, the survey revealed that
over 60% of respondents/households, in
both cities, felt their TV-viewing experience considerably improved after the
digital switchover, due to enhanced picture and sound quality. This improvement
in quality was noticed much more in
Patna than in Delhi, reflecting the abysmal quality of cable services in Patna
until the switchover.
However, the promise (policy objective)
of expanding the availability of channels,
and therefore, widening the choice for subscribers, presents a rather specked picture.
In terms of sheer numbers, the switchover
has ensured that more than 500 channels get relayed on cable systems without any technical distortion in both the
cities. This is a significant shift from the
50 or 60 odd channels provided by the
best of analogue cable relays. But, this
sudden multiplicity of channels catalysed
by digitalisation of cable has not translated into an increase in the time spent
watching TV. Nor has the expanded
availability of channels led to more
channels being watched, as households
typically continue to watch between 10
and 19 channels, just as they did during
the analogue years. In fact, viewers continue to be unmindful about not only the
number of channels they subscribe to/
pay for, but also of those that they actually receive. This reflects the lack of demand for more channels by the subscriber, which, time and again was propounded by the government as a benefit
of the switchover to the former.
Much like availability, a host of issues
cropped up on the affordability of channels. Most households became aware of
the mandatory switchover and its financial implications only when asked to
shell out anything between `1,500 and
`3,000 for a set-top box and to start paying previously unheard of amounts as
subscriptions. While this sudden investment and increase in rents did not significantly dent the pockets of subscribers/
households with higher disposable incomes, the increased costs of access to TV
affected lower Socio Economic Class
(SEC) households.3 The importance of
TV, particularly in lower-class households, is highlighted by the lack of any

significant drop in subscribers despite

such a considerable increase in monthly
cable rents. This links to findings from
other studies on lower-class households
that have shown, inter alia, C&S TV being the primary source of entertainment.
In fact, the importance attached to C&S
TV by this social stratum is reflected in a
small, but not an insignificant, percentage of lower SEC households (5% in Patna and 10% in Delhi) subscribing to the
most expensive package, priced above
`300 (Figures 1 and 2, p 25). In fact,
LMOs in Patna revealed that some households with an inelastic budget decided
to reduce their expenditure on other
media, like newspapers, in order to afford the increase in cable rents following the digital switchover. This rise in
rents, in some cases from `50 `100 to
almost `200 `250 meant at least a
100% increase in the monthly spend on
one media.
Additionally, the higher percentage of
lower SEC subscribers of expensive packages in Delhi also indicates the aspirational quality typical of bigger cities.
The difference in the price elasticity of
the subscribers in the two cities is also
reflected in the significance given to
various factors while choosing to migrate
to the digital system. Thus, while 65%
of the respondents in Patna stated the
cost as being an important factor while
choosing a service provider, only 35% of
the respondents in Delhi ascribed to
being cost conscious.
All these suggest the inertness of state
intervention, amidst wider ambitions of
the Digital India Programme, to think
through the financial implications of
transitions in technological regimes.
While the digital switchover aimed, and
has realised to a large extent, transparency and efficiency in the value chain of
C&S TV, greater reflection is required on
who will, and is able to, bear the costs of
such legislated transitions. At the same
time, the challenges to affordability revealed by our study bring out as much the
desires of lower-income households to
avail digital services, as the compelling
coping mechanisms they have developed
to do so. The issue of affordability also
pertains to the bundling of channels into
a predefined bouquet of offerings.

AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly

Figure 1: Delhi: Dispersion of Households Based on Monthly Cable TV Rents

(i n %)


Upper Middle
Lower Middle



Upper Class






Above `300

Figure 2: Patna: Dispersion of Households Based on Monthly Cable TV Rents

(in %)

Upper Middle

Lower Middle

Upper Class






Above `300

Figure 3: Dynamics of Choice of Service Providers in the Study Area

(in %)


decision of households, factoring in the

tastes and needs of every member. The
bundling of channels by MSOs, however,
is usually in such a way that the lowerpriced package does not cater to the
needs of each member of the household.
This is reflected in the figures since the
maximum percentage of subscribers, in
both cities, tends to prefer the package
priced between `210 and `270, because
it usually has the highest number and
range of channels (Figures 1 and 2).4
There are usually one or two channels
that necessitate being additionally subscribed to and/or subscribing to a higherpriced package. For example, the sports
channels that broadcast the highly popular
cricket matches are not a part of the midrange package and have to be additionally subscribed to, thus mounting the
cable bill. Contradictory to what the
minster had promised, the current market
does not allow for subscribers to pay
exclusively for those channels watched;
thus, continuing the very practice that was
to be changed, but at a much higher cost.
The migration to a regime of digital
distribution has successfully standardised the cable rents in cities that have
completed the transition. This is a major
shift from the analogue era, as dual pricing has been a congenital feature of the
cable business. Apart from the minor
distinctions, there is not much difference in the price slabs of the cable service
on offer in south-east Delhi and municipal areas of Patna.


Availability of Service Provider



Availed with the house

Bundled with TV

To safeguard the interests of subscribers

unable to afford the higher-priced packages, the Telecom Regulatory Authority
of India (TRAI) had mandated all MSOs to
provide an entry-level package, the basic
service tier (BST), of 100 free-to-air channels for `100 per month (excluding taxes).
However, the dispersion of households
based on monthly rents shows that
despite the low price of the BST, this is
not popular amongst households. This
trend was equally observed in both cities,
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

Only local option

and within each was relatively pronounced for lower SECs, that is, precisely
among those households in whose interest price regulation of the basic package
was introduced. The conversion of popular channels into pay channels is one of
the primary reasons for this, though it
requires further investigations on both
the demand (subscribing household)
side and supply (cable operator) side.
In both cities, the selection of channels to be subscribed seems a collective
vol lI no 34

The scenario of a de facto monopoly at the

last mile of wired distribution is a phenomenon that the regulatory shift chose to ignore. For a subscriber, the element of
choice in service providers essentially
means, and is limited to, choice between
platforms, such as DTH or digital cable.
This is because all localities continue to be
neatly divided between various LMOs.
The behaviour of subscribers in Patna
and Delhi was significantly different
with respect to the choice of platform
after the shift to digital distribution. A
significant proportion of the analogue
cable subscribers surveyed in Delhi
chose to shift to a DTH connection than
to digital cable. In contrast, almost 90%


of subscribers surveyed in Patna chose

to remain on the cable platform and
migrated to the digital cable service
offered by their incumbent LMOs. This
can be attributed to the income elasticity
of subscribers residing in a Phase I city
as compared to those in a Phase II city.
Figure 3 (p 25) highlights how the locking in with the LMO has been a driving factor for the choice of current service providers for subscribers in Patna. The lack
of choice of service providers for a subscriber in Patna becomes particularly
pronounced since a majority of the subscribers in Patna chose to retain their
cable connections rather than shift to
DTH. On the other hand, subscribers in
Delhi who have exercised the choice between platforms and have chosen to
migrate to DTH are not affected by this
lack of choice at the local level. This has
resulted in a market wherein choice is
limited to the affluent subscribers who


are able to migrate to a more expensive

Apart from the quantitative increase in
the number of channels, little of what
digitalisation promised to the subscriber
has been achieved. In the absence of a
genuine effort to understand the kind of
regulatory interventions required to
enhance the TV-viewing experience for
the subscriber, the benefits of transparency remain limited to the other
stakeholders in the sector. Preliminary
inferences from cities in the first two
phases, based on a sample of households
much larger than those deployed by
ratings agencies, like the Bhabha Atomic
Research Centre and the Television
Audience Measurement Media Research,
reveal the flattening of choice, particularly
in terms of cost for the subscriber. From
a regulatory perspective, our findings

reflect the necessity for statutory protocols that focus on designing the terms of
digital distribution rather than merely
increasing the number of channels.

AUGUST 20, 2016

For the purpose of this survey, media assets

considered were laptop, desktop, tablet/
kindle/e-reader, mobile phone below `5,000
and above `5,000 (separately), radio, TV with
Yagi antenna, cable or DTH (separately), music
system, VCR/ DVD player, video games, Sonus,
Ninetendo, play station P 2/3/4, Xbox 360/720.
Consultation Paper on Issues Related Media
Ownership, Telecom Regulatory Authority of
India, Government of India, New Delhi, pp 54
55; available at
For the purpose of this survey, four SECs were
devised, calculated on the basis of the chief
wage earners education, occupation, monthly
household income, ownership of media assets
and ownership of consumer durables.
This is similar to subscriber experiences in other
countries. A similar study in the United Kingdom
showed that households were compelled to subscribe to a higher-priced package, which also
meant paying for many channels they never

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


Your Title Is Not Ready Yet

Rajasthans Land Titling Legislation
Amlanjyoti Goswami, Deepika Jha

Analysing the Rajasthan Urban

Land (Certification of Titles)
Act, 2016, it is argued that even
as technological intervention in
land record keeping is necessary,
coordination between various
levels of land record databases
needs to be ensured for clarity
between spatial and textual
records. Further, it appears the
new law once again needs courts
to arbitrate land title disputes,
which has been the case so far.

Amlanjyoti Goswami (

and Deepika Jha ( are with
the Indian Institute for Human Settlements,
New Delhi.


he Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Act, 2016 was in

the news for being the first state
titling legislation on urban land records.
In India, where land records are presumptive (that is, correct only until proved
otherwise), deed-based (dependant on
lawyers title searches), and based on forbidding caveat emptor (or let the buyer
beware) principles, this act ostensibly
makes the state guarantee land titles.
It is assumed that such a measure would
reduce litigation, improve ease of doing
business and smoothen the process of land
acquisition in urban areas (Ramanathan
2016; Khanna 2016; PTI 2016). This is
being advocated as a benchmark for other
states to follow, since land records fall
under the state list of the Constitution.
News reports claim that Maharashtra
might follow suit with its own titling law
(Jog 2016). Other states could well look at
these as models or best practices to

emulate. This makes the task of analysing

the Rajasthan act pertinent and necessary.
Rajasthan had earlier attempted a
titling ordinance in 2008, which lapsed
for want of adequate numbers. The
Government of India too tried a Model
Land Titling Bill in 2011, but there was no
traction from the states. It was acknowledged that such a legislative move was
out of touch with ground realities. Where
the quality of land records left much to be
desired, incremental steps under the
National Land Records Modernisation
Programme (NLRMP), now renamed the
Digital India Land Records Modernisation
Programme, were considered more realistic and pragmatic. These ongoing steps
include computerising existing records
and procedures, digitising spatial records,
and integrating textual and spatial
records. The key challenge, after much
effort, remains one of ensuring real-time
accuracy, that is, up-to-date land records,
beyond mere formalities of computerisation and digitisation. This is an uphill task
requiring not just effective programme
design, but also political economy interventions, incentive creation, and capacity
building of government officials.
This article analyses some key provisions of the Rajasthan act, identifies

AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


critical gaps and explores whether the

act would indeed deliver, or perhaps lead
to further litigation on land. This is pertinent since the judiciary continues to be
the key arbiter of disputes that trace
back to faulty or inadequate records.
Estimates of disputes pertaining to land
vary, but reportedly 80% of civil disputes
in Indian courts are related to land (GoI
2012). A recent survey claims two-thirds
of civil cases in district courts are related
to land or property (Daksh 2016). There
are currently around 13 lakh civil and
criminal cases pending in Rajasthan,
with an average of 951 pending cases
per judge (NJDG 2016).
Within this context, what is this new
act all about?
General Framework of the Act
As per its Statement of Objects and
Reasons, the act purports to ensure
maintenance of Record of Rights (RoR)
of urban lands in an authentic manner
by a single agency, and to certify the
said titles as a measure of good governance and to ensure hassle free transaction of urban lands. The act has two
aspects: survey and titling. Surveys are
to be undertaken in urban areas (where
respective urban authorities are made in
charge, with relevant dispute settlement
processes). Critically, a new Urban Land
Title Certification Authority in the hands
of a single Indian Administrative Service
officer, and with delegated officers, is
proposed. Subject to verification and
exceptions (such as disputed property),
a Certificate of Title (provisional or permanent) is to be issued by this authority.
The application for title certificate is voluntary, to be made by the title holder.
Critically, a permanent certificate with
assured government guarantee may be
issued, if the provisional certificate
remains uncontested for two years.
Based on that guarantee, consequential
compensation provisions are also enshrined for transactions occurring on
what may actually be defective titles.
Is it that easy? What are the problems
that could arise?
Textual and spatial aspects: The act
seems to have two distinct partssurvey
and title certificationbut they do not
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

appear a coherent unified whole. It is

unclear how the title certificate links
effectively with the survey. There is no
explicit requirement of the survey extract
being a prerequisite for the title certificate
application or its verification. During the
survey process, adequate provisions for
objection and appeal are absent. While the
survey records are presumed to be correct,
unless the contrary is proved, they shall
not affect the rights, title or interest of any
person or preclude him from enforcing
such right in a court (Section 20).
This means that, on the one hand, the
act provides respective authorities legitimacy to conduct surveys in urban areas,
but, in the same breath, does not sanction
legal validity or finality to these survey
records. It seems that while the act already
anticipates conflicts from the survey
process, it also does not want the titling
process to be affected by these conflicts.
But, this cannot be a long-term solution,
as boundary discrepancies during the
survey are inevitable. What is needed is
incorporation of protocols and guidelines
that anticipate and address such discrepancies, within current legal frameworks,
for courts to take a considered view. Otherwise, more litigation is inevitable.
The integration of textual records
with spatial records is a significant problem in every state. It is unclear whether

best practices from existing land record

modernisation efforts in other states (for
both urban and rural areas) have been
considered. For example, Gujarat drafted a
detailed set of protocols and manuals for
its officers, to address such discrepancies
and various other operational issues
faced during a survey. These were supplemented with regular training, capacity
building, and performance incentives.
The act recommends a system where
different urban bodies would collect and
maintain survey records of properties
under their respective jurisdictions. The
data maintained by different agencies is
often in different formats, has varying
levels of detail, and more often than not,
remains in silos. This requires a significant degree of coordination, across personnel as well as record formats.
Parallel regimes: Rajasthan has a history of computerisation of land records
and associated processes. RoR are computerised; up-to-date copies (incorporating mutations, if any) are available
to citizens via service centres and the
ApnaKhata (RoR) website. A number of
these RoR are also for areas under urban
jurisdiction. Similarly, the registration
process has been computerised via the
software Sarathi, and is reported to be
linked to ApnaKhata.

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vol lI no 34



The title certification procedure is in

addition to these existing processes, but
a more explicit reference linking them is
absent in the act. In their absence, the
problems with updating urban RoR (lack
of awareness regarding mutation, poor
incentives compared to registration,
inadequate spatial records) are likely to
continue for title certificates as well.
There could be situations of variance
among record sets, where the owner
under the registered sale deed may not
have the title certificate, and vice versa.
Ways to use technology for bridging
these inter-institutional data sets are as
(i) Sarathi checks the titling database to
ascertain if the seller is indeed the titleholder, and upon successful registration, to trigger an update in the title certificate. These linkages could prevent
fraud and ensure title updating.
(ii) Creating electronic processes for verification, legitimising electronic records,
creating links to existing electronic databases (Sarathi, ApnaKhata, municipal database, development authority database),
and providing public access online. If verification is done manually through paper
records, the transaction costs might potentially derail effective implementation.
Mandating inter-institutional coordination was an imperative left out by the
act. The title certificate stands on its
own, but without coordinated linkages
with registration and mutation, this
could add yet another layer to the multiplicity of procedures.
Provisional and permanent: While the
state provides indemnity only upon issuance of the permanent certificate, it may
not even be compulsory for the titling
authority to do so, even after a provisional certificate is uncontested for its
two-year validity. The operative word is
may, not shall (Section 25(5)). This is
a crucial distinction, enough to make the
permanent certificates discretionary. This
might restrict the number of permanent
titles issued, and also limit coverage of
the indemnity clause (Section 29). This
could in turn create a situation of a market
in provisional certificates, without indemnity, parallel to the already existing
registration regime.

What is the title about? Title itself is

not defined by the act. It is unclear whether
title includes ownership only of land or
also of built-up properties. For example,
Gujarat seems to have a more pragmatic
view of urban records, where the office of
the Settlement Commissioner and Director
of Land Records proposes that each apartment would have a separate property
card, in addition to a joint card stating
the respective indivisible share in land.
The act also does not make it clear
whether the title being granted would
be conclusive or presumptive in nature,
and whether it can be challenged in a
court of law. In this respect, it is similar
to the Urban Property Ownership Record
(UPOR) in Karnataka, which similarly
promised a clear presumptive title
(GoK 2014). This is not an indemnity.
Since the act neither states that the title
is conclusive, nor bars title suits in civil
courts, courts are likely to end up as the
determining authorities. Verification of
documents undertaken prior to certification might turn out to be critical; this
brings back the salience of the spatial
and textual integration issue, where
attention has been inadequate.
Disputes: Rajasthans aim is to get
undisputed properties sorted for future
land acquisition or land pooling. But, that
is not where the problems lie. Keeping a
record of existing disputes is critical to
the verification and certification process.
As per the act, the provisional certificate
is not to be issued if the title is disputed
(Section 25(2b)), or it can be recalled or
cancelled if a bona fide counterclaim or
objection is filed before the authority, or
a sub judice dispute is brought to notice
(Section 25(3)).
In practice, most court records do not
maintain a searchable database of title
disputes, or related parcel identification
details. The title authority will have to
depend on a third party for litigation information, at least for the existing disputes. This raises questions of fraudulence and verification of such claims as
bona fide. In the absence of this litigation data set, it will be difficult to enforce state guarantees of titles at scale.
The title certificate is not an urban RoR.
It seems that it would reflect information

only of the title (or ownership) of a

land parcel, in seeming contrast to the
provisions of the earlier central model titling bill, UPOR card, or even to the existing RoR format, which is more comprehensive. Other details such as possession, use of land or encumbrances, etc,
would continue to be part of the RoR,
thus potentially leading to parallel record regimes.
Comprehensiveness of Systems
The very approach of titling has been
critiqued as inadequate and costly, compared to broader tenure-based and more
comprehensive recording systems (Mahadevia 2011; Payne et al 2009; UN-Habitat 2008; Zasloff 2011) within urban
land management and administration
(Williamson et al 2010; Patel et al 2009).
Rajasthans law is a return to using
titling and land acquisition as the critical
levers for urban land administration,
instead of sorting its record keeping first.
The titling approach may not capture
urban complexities and could be perceived as exclusionary if it does not adequately incorporate complexities inherent in urban tenure regimes. To be truly
equitable, urban records need to be comprehensive in their coverage of tenure
systems, transaction types, as well as
property rights. In addition to covering
ownership, urban property records could
have details of possession, spatial demarcation, current use of the property, and
associated encumbrances such as liens,
mortgages, and court cases. Plot-level
information on whether it is part of an
urban jurisdiction, relevant development
restrictions, owners development rights,
etc, would help in locating these records
in the larger urban development context. Land acquisition is only one facet of
using land for urban development. Questions of affordable and inclusive housing, infrastructural provision of amenities, mobility, livelihoods, etc, and using
land as a strategy for such ends requires
a larger imagination.
What comes firstlaw or technology
in land record modernisation? Legislation is one method, if it is comprehensive
and systemic with larger development
goals, connected to existing institutional
as well as technological efforts. Without

AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


these, it can become counterproductive;

one more failed law. This is all the more
significant since legislation is difficult to
enact and conveys a degree of legitimacy
higher than other administrative measures,
such as executive orders. Haryana has,
for example, tried executive orders to
provide legal sanctity to technology
efforts. Legislative amendments in Gujarat and Karnataka were almost simultaneous with technological efforts, while
Bihar has new laws for mutation and
surveys that institutionalise the use of
electronic processes and resources. However, there is little in this act that legitimises electronic records and information technology procedures, except a
mention of the proposed Computerised
Land Evaluation and Administration of
Records (CLEAR).
As India moves towards more rapid
urbanisation, it is necessary to ask how
best to improve urban land record systems.
Should the focus be on titling through a
new law? More significantly, is a titling
law the correct first step for intervention, given urban complexities and the
inadequate breadth of such law? The
question, therefore, is not just about implementation, but the very design of the

law, and the very approach and rationale behind the elucidation of such law.
It is necessary to acknowledge the
need to reflect the accurate real-time
spatial situation on the ground, and
work out mechanisms that improve coordination among people, institutions, and
databases. This goes beyond titling. Electronic linking of registration and titling
databases is necessary to avoid duplication. The role of courts remains pertinent. Incremental measures to ensure an
updated, more comprehensive real-time
land record system, are arduous, need
effective coordination, make fewer headlines, but are eventually inevitable.
Daksh (2016): Access to Justice Survey 201516,
Daksh India,
GoI (2012): Success Stories on National Land Records Modernization Programme, Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, New Delhi.
GoK (2014): City Survey, Urban Property Ownership Records, Revenue Department, Government of Karnataka,
GoR (2016): The Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Bill 2016, Bill No 9 of 2016.
Jog, Sanjay (2016): Maharashtra Plans Bill on Land
Titling, Business Standard, 10 April, http://

Khanna, Pretika (2016): Rajasthan First to Pass

Titling Law, Livemint, 15 April, http://www.
Mahadevia, Darshini (2011): Tenure Security and
Urban Social Protection in India, Centre for
Social Protection Research Report 5, Institute
of Development Studies, United Kingdom.
NJDG (2016): Summary Report of India, National
Judicial Data Grid, viewed on 25 April 2016,
Patel, Bimal, S Ballaney, C K Koshy and M Nohn
(2009): Reforming Urban Land Management
in Gujarat, India Infrastructure Report 2009,
Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (ed), New Delhi: Oxford University Press,
pp 17689.
Payne, G, A Durand-Lasserve and C Rakodi (2009):
The Limits of Land Titling and Home Ownership, Environment and Urbanization, Vol 21,
No 2, pp 44362.
PTI (2016): Land Acquisition Process to Ease in Urban Areas of Rajasthan, Business Standard, 20
Ramanathan, Swati (2016): Vasundhara Raje Wins
the Title on Reforms, LiveMint, 8 April,
UN-Habitat (2008): Secure Land Rights for All,
Nairobi: United Nations Human Settlements
Programme (UN-Habitat).
Williamson, I P, S Enemark, J Wallace and A Rajabifard (2010): Land Administration for Sustainable Development, California: ESRI Press
Zasloff, Jonathon (2011): Indias Land Title Crisis:
The Unanswered Questions, Jindal Global Law
Review, Vol 3, pp 11750.

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vol lI no 34



Rejuvenating Tanks
in Telangana
M Dinesh Kumar, Nitin Bassi, K Sivarama Kishan, Shourjomoy Chattopadhyay,
Arijit Ganguly

Mission Kakatiya is an
ambitious project launched by
the Government of Telangana
to rejuvenate 47,000 tanks in
the state by 2020. This article
argues that it would be the
repetition of the old historical
mistake to approach the issue
without taking into consideration
the hydrological and ecological
aspects. Picking up only those
tanks which have water generated
in their catchments would save a
lot of precious money.

griculture is the primary source

of income for 78% of the population of the newly carved state of
Telangana, but currently it produces
only 30% of the total income of the state
(Pingle 2011). Eighty-five percent of the
cultivated area is rain-fed; tank irrigation still remains one of the major support for agriculture (Deccan Chronicle
2015). Marginal- and small-holdings constitute 86% of total agriculture holdings
in the state, making agriculture a subsistence source of livelihood for majority
of the population (Directorate of Economics and Statistics 2015).
Telangana has 47,907 tanks with an
irrigation potential of 2,263,498 acres
spread over 10 districts. Between 1956
and 2001, there has been a reduction in
the tank-irrigated area in the range of
4.5 lakh acres (Nag 2011). Currently, the
state statistics claim that only 37% of the
potential tank-irrigated area is served by
the tanks in the state.
Mission Kakatiya

M Dinesh Kumar ( is

executive director, Nitin Bassi is senior
researcher, and K Sivarama Kishan,
Shourjomoy Chattopadhyay and Arijit Ganguly
are research officers at the Institute for
Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad.


At the end of 2014, the Government of

Telangana launched an ambitious project, titled Mission Kakatiya that aims at
rejuvenating the 47,000 tanks and lakes
spread over nine districts of the state
by 2020; to bring them back to the past
glory, the glory they had enjoyed during
the rule of the Kakatiya dynasty. A
notable achievement during this dynastic
period was the construction of reservoirs
for irrigation (now known as tanks) in
the uplands, and around 5,000 of them
were built by warrior families subordinate to the Kakatiya rulers. This dramatically altered the possibilities of
development in the sparsely populated
dry areas.
The mission envisaged enhancing the
agriculture-based income for small and
marginal farmers by accelerating the development of minor irrigation infrastructure,

strengthening community-based irrigation management, and adopting a comprehensive programme for restoration of
tanks (GoT 2015). The government has
prioritised the restoration of minor irrigation tanks (Table 1) to restore and enhance their effective storage capacity to
255 TMC (7,225 MCM), so as to fully utilise Telanganas allocation of 255 TMC of
water from the Godavari and Krishna
rivers. The restoration works sanctioned
involve de-silting of tank beds, repair of
sluices, feeder channels, etc, and are to
be completed in five years.
Table 1: Distribution of Tanks in Telangana
Districts and No of Tanks Considered for Phase I
of Mission Kakatiya
S No District

Total Tanks




Tanks in Phase I


Source: Government of Telangana.

The initiatives to rejuvenate the tanks

in the region are not new. There were
many attempts in the past to rejuvenate
the tanks in the erstwhile undivided
Andhra Pradesh (AP). However, this is
the first attempt by any state government to rejuvenate such a large number
of waterbodies in one go, using funds
from its own budget. Many earlier attempts at rejuvenation were all done
with the support of funding from the
World Bank, the ADB or the European
Union. These largely involved civil
works such as strengthening the embankments, construction/repair of waste
weir/sluice, lining of canals, cleaning
supply channels and clearing jungle.
Then, this was garnished with new
water users associations (WUA)! The underlying assumption was that the tanks
were degraded because the tank management institutions that existed in the
past collapsed (with the demolition of
the zamindari system and introduction
of the ryotwari system, and due to a few
other factors), and that once WUA s
(of ayacut farmers) are created things
would fall in place. It was also assumed

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AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34

make after huge public expenditure. Already, there are reports on large-scale
corruption involving contractors and
some officials from the irrigation department, and poor implementation of the
scheme. In some cases, contractors are
charged with not having adequate resources to undertake de-silting, and, in
many other cases, deepening works.
Earlier research by Institute for Resource
Analysis and Policy (IRAP) in undivided AP,
with detailed field surveys in Kurnool,
Nizamabad and Vizianagaram, had shown
that there has been an excessively high
degree of degradation of tanks in the
past four decades or so. Further, two important processes are altering the hydrology of these tanks. First is intensive
use of groundwater in the catchment
(through bore wells), which reduces the
base flows (or groundwater outflow into
the streams) that contribute to the tank
inflows. Second, the increased cultivation facilitated by access to wells for irrigation in the catchment, led to run-off
from the catchment getting captured by
the farm bunds and used in situ. In many
areas, like in northern Karnataka, there
is a lot of plantation of water guzzling
Figure 1: Gross Irrigated Area by Sources
(201213), Telangana
% Gross irrigated area

Karnataka and AP (Batchelor et al 2002).

Their study showed how intensive watershed work and increased groundwater draught in the catchments reduced
the tank inflows. Ignoring all these factors, the blame eventually went to the
lackadaisical attitude of the agency towards building WUA s (though there is no
denial of the fact that this was also done
Coming back to Mission Kakatiya, a
budget allocation of `2,016 crore and
`2,083 crore was made for 201415 and
201516, respectively. It appears, even after
several years of experience with tank
rehabilitation, we seem to be repeating
those historical mistakes of following a
pure civil engineering approach with no
attention being paid to hydrology and
ecology. The focus is on earthwork,
waste weir construction, canal lining,
etc, and more of these structural interventions essentially mean more funds
for such projects. Though it is a noble
idea to make water available to distressed populations in the state, who
had invested in unsuccessful bore wells
in this hard rock region, the approach
seems to miss out on the fact that mere
de-silting or deepening of tanks may not
lead to overall increase in water availability. As a matter of fact, none of these
interventions can alter the hydrology of
the tank catchments. Unfortunately, such
projects pass through the scrutiny of
economists and planners, with myriads
of exaggerated benefits such as direct
irrigation, groundwater recharge, nutrient rich silt as fertilisers, fish production,
etc. One only wonders how the estimates
of irrigation potential are arrived at
when one does not really know how
much inflows these tanks would receive.
In reality, almost 85% of Telangana is
irrigated from wells and only about 7%
from tanks (Figure 1). Further, 90% of the
tanks in Telangana are small tanks with
a command area of less than 100 acres and
together they make only one-third of the
total tank-irrigated area. A total of 3,864
large tanks account for 67% of the tankirrigated area (Figure 2). If it is so, one needs
to understand the economic rationale
behind picking up all the tanks for rehabilitation. Thus, it needs to be seen what
difference these renovated tanks can







Lift irrigation Canals

and other
Source: Authors own analysis using Season and Crop
Report, Andhra Pradesh 201213.

Figure 2: Number of Tanks and Irrigated Area by

Tanks in Telangana (201213)
No of tanks/irrigated
area (ha)

that the WUAs would de-silt the tanks

periodically (to restore their capacity),
clear the supply channels and maintain
the water distribution channels, and equitably distribute the water, and that the
performance of the tanks would henceforth be better, with larger inflows from
catchments and larger impoundment of
water. This almost became an axiom in
the development and policy circles.
It is intriguing that no scholar really
bothered to find out why in the past no
village community came forward to persuade the government to rehabilitate a
system which, it was claimed, was offering such great benefits to the poor, but
was brought to disuse by external factors, through some of the civil works
mentioned above. The real issue is that
the tanks and tank management institutions of South India were so glorified
that few questioned the validity of two
underlying theories in tank management programmes: first, what civil works
can do to alter the tank hydrology, and
second, what the impact of institutions
on tank hydrology and their physical
performance is, in the current scheme of
things. All these approaches inherently
consider village communities as hapless
spectators to the assault on their tanks
by external agents, who encroach tank
supply channels, tank beds and catchments, and not as party to this.
But, this is far from the reality. As noted by Esha Shah (2008), the tanks in
South India stood testimony to the increasingly extractive statecraft involving coerced labour, highly oppressive caste
systems, the expropriation of surplus by
elites, and were symbols of enormous
money and muscle power enjoyed by
feudal landlords and warlords.
Nevertheless, the outcome of these interventions was that these tanks hardly
performed any better than they did in
the past few decades. The major problem was the inadequate inflow from
their catchments. But, there was hardly
any systematic and scholarly attempt to
understand where the water was disappearing or in other words, what was
causing reduction in inflows into the tanks
from their catchments, with the exception of the one sponsored by the Department for International Development in


area (ha)




Large Tanks
Small Tanks
Source: Authors own analysis using Season and Crop
Report, Andhra Pradesh 201213.

trees, such as Eucalyptus, in the catchment, which leave no water downstream

(these trees act like pumps, suck the water
from the deep strata and grow very fast).
This is indicated by the negative correlation between: (i) density of wells in the
catchment and rate of reduction in tank
performance, and (ii) cropping intensity


and rate of reduction in tank performance. The tanks whose catchments did
not experience cropping intensification
and increase in irrigation wells over time
continue to perform well (Kumar and
Vedantam 2016).
Impacts of Tank Restoration
The Government of Telangana ideates
the following gains due to the expansion
of irrigated area to cover the gap ayacut:
(i) impact of technology through adoption of resource conservation-cum-production technologies when the project is
fully implemented; (ii) diversification to
cover irrigated area under high-value
and low water-intensive crops such as
chillies, maize and vegetables; (iii) development of fisheries; (iv) improvement of
livestock; (v) reduction in waterlogged
area; (vi) increase in groundwater levels
and water quality, thereby getting lands
beyond the command area under bore
well irrigation; and (vii) power-savings
due to the reduced need for well irrigation that is currently used to supplement
the insufficient tank water. Some of

these projections of future benefits are

based on unrealistic assumptions. For
instance, how does one expect waterlogging in a region where groundwater
resources are mined? How does one expect that farmers would grow high value
crops, with improved water availability,
when it is clearly shown that paddy is
the most preferred crop in the gravity
irrigation systems in Telangana? With
dewatered aquifers, it is quite likely that
as a result of de-silting of tank beds, the
percolation of water would increase. But,
this would be at the expense of direct
irrigation from tanks. One can obviously
see some gaps in the way the project is
With just 15 months into the programme, it is too early to measure the
impacts. Nevertheless, a few academic
studies are available which show the impacts of this much publicised scheme on
certain aspects. A study by the University of Michigan on the impacts of Mission
Kakatiya in two villages of Adilabad and
Karimnagar districts found that the use
of silt removed from the tank bed in the

agricultural fields led to a dramatic increase in crop production of up to 500%.

The study also noted a high variation in
production of cotton from two quintals
for fields where silt was not applied to
15 quintals for the ones where it was
applied (Hindu 2016a). A study by ICRISAT
concluded that the silt recovered from
the tanks helped in improving the
moisture-retention capacity of farms.
Due to an increase in yield of 1,000 kg per
hectare for cotton, savings on fertilisers
and pesticides in the range of `2,500
to `3,750 per hectare were observed1
(Hindu 2016b).
As one can clearly see, these are surely not the major intended impacts of the
project, and there are no studies so far
looking at the hydrological impacts, especially on groundwater regime, and
impacts on irrigated area, etc.
Tank Rehabilitation
The findings of the IRAP study on the impact of intensive groundwater use on tank
hydrology have serious implications for
the way tank rehabilitation programmes


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vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


should be conceptualised. Given the fact

that only about 5% of the tanks are rehabilitated so far, what is needed at present is a systematic assessment of the
catchment hydrology of remaining cascades, rather than doing rehabilitation
lock, stock and barrel, in an effort to
make it a mass movement. There is a
need to pick up only those tanks which
have enough water generated in their
catchments. Unfortunately, there are no
quick ways to assess the run-off generation potential of these tank catchments.
The streams draining into these tanks
are not gauged. But, going by the previous discussion, it is quite obvious that
tanks which are characterised by intensive cultivation in their catchment with
a high density of irrigation wells (both
in the catchment and command), should
be entirely excluded.
For the rest, run-off has to be estimated using some standard methodologies
for each tank cascade system. The runoff coefficient would depend on the
catchment land cover, the soil conditions and the antecedent soil moisture.
The usual practice in the minor irrigation departments is to use the rational
formula, which uses the catchment area,
a run-off coefficient and the average
rainfall of the catchment, or the strange
formula, which assumes a run-off coefficient based on whether a catchment is
good or degraded. Such methods produce highly erroneous results. Therefore, internationally accepted scientific
methods need to be used to estimate
catchment run-off, which take into account the three factors mentioned above.
Again, given the high year-to-year variation in the rainfall in these regions, we
need to estimate the run-off for typical
rainfall years (very wet year, normal
year, and a very dry year), during which
the pattern as well as the magnitude of
rainfall changes significantly. Once the
assessment is done, tank capacity enhancement should not be undertaken to
capture the run-off that occurs in a very
wet year, as is usually done. This is because in such a scenario, there would be
no outflows from the tank even in the
wettest year. The project planners need
to recognise the fact that the outflows
from these tanks ultimately end up in a
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

river, which either drains into a tributary of Krishna or Godavari, depending

on which basins they are located.
The question then comes as to what to
do with the tanks which are heavily degraded. De-silting would help, as it
would produce good nutrient-rich soils
for farmers. But, this is just a one-time
activity, and it takes many years for
good quality silt to get deposited in the
tank bed. The initial enthusiasm of the
farmers (who take their tractors to collect the silt from the tank bed) would
fade very quickly after the first monsoon
when they do not see much water in
their tanks. For such tanks, there is no
point in doing heavy earthwork for capacity enhancement, bund stabilisation,
waste weir construction, etc, all of which
involve huge capital investments.
Contrary to this grave reality, the false
argument, which is being paraded by
some vested interests, is that the monsoon
water just runs off un-captured and that
we need to store it in the tanks, and for
that their capacity needs to be enhanced.
Yes, in some years water flows down. But,
we need to recognise the fact that it is not
going directly into the ocean. It enters the
rivers downstream, and there are many
large reservoirs built in Telangana and AP
to capture the water in those rivers.
Unless, the de-silted tanks in the region
get water from exogenous sources, there
is no way the region as a whole will witness increase in the tank-irrigated area.
The simple reason is that the total water
withdrawal in the region today exceeds
the renewable water generated within
the region, except for the water in the
Godavari basin. The groundwater depletion and rampant well failures in many
parts of Telangana is a manifestation of
the precarious water balance of the region.
By performing de-silting and deepening
in some cases, the government may end
up redistributing the water in the basins
of the state with a resultant adverse impact in the downstream areas. Hence,
instead of taking a popular approach,
effort should be towards improving the
overall water balance of the region.
Further, this should be complemented
with increasing the area under microirrigation systems, to manage irrigation
water demand. But, the potential for
vol lI no 34

adopting micro-irrigation systems, especially drips, would depend a lot on the

cropping system in the command area.
The Way Forward
It is reported that the total budget for
Mission Kakatiya is around `12,500
crore for five years. There is no doubt
that even if 0.5% of this money is spent
on doing a scientific assessment of the
hydrology of the catchments, a lot of the
precious money can be saved. By doing
this, it would be possible to know which
local catchments have surplus water
(and with what probability) that can be
stored by increasing the capacity of the
cascade tanks, and which of the tanks
would require imported water. But, conducting good hydrological assessments
for good planning would take time. Internationally accepted scientific methods and tools should be used for proper
hydrological assessments to quantify the
amount of water available from the
catchments, before embarking on such
ambitious projects. Benefits would be
accrued from well-conceived and wellimplemented projects. When the local
people find real benefits from such projectsbetter irrigation, fish production,
water for livestockthey will participate. But, before taking up various interventions for tank restoration, there
should be proper conceptualisation to
have greater clarity on what benefits are
to be derived from them and how.

The study of tanks where works were completed showed that the addition of tank silt by 50 to
375 tractor loads per hectare improved available water content by 0.002 to 0.032 g in the soil.
An increase in clay from 20% to 40% was noticed in the root zone. A decrease in coarse and
fine sand was also noticed, while there was no
change in pH, EC and organic carbon.

Batchelor, Charles, Ashok Singh, M S Rama Mohan
Rao and Johan Butterworth (2002): Mitigating the Potential Unintended Impacts of Water
Harvesting, paper presented at the IWRA
International Regional Symposium Water for
Human Survival, Hotel Taj Palace, New Delhi,
2629 November.
Deccan Chronicle (2015): Telangana State to Restore
46,000 Water Tanks, 22 January,
Directorate of Economics and Statistics (2015):
Statistical Yearbook 2015, Government of
Telangana, Hyderabad.
EDU (2016): IIT Hyderabad, BITS Pilani and


NABARD Sign Agreement with Telangana Irrigation Dept, EDU, 5 February.
Government of Telangana (2015): Mission Kakatiya,
viewed on 3 Jun 2016, https://missionkakatiya.
Hindu (2016a): Mission Kakatiya Already Showing Positive Results, 5 January, http://www.


(2016b): Mission Kakatiya Starting to Bear

Fruit, 18 April,
Kumar, M Dinesh and N Vedantam (2016):
Groundwater Use in Decline in Tank Irrigation? Analysis from Erstwhile Andhra
Pradesh, Rural Water Systems for Multiple Uses
and Livelihood Security, M D Kumar, A J James
and Y Kabir (eds), Singapore: Elsevier.

Nag, K (2011): Battleground Telangana: Chronicle of

an Agitation, New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers India.
Pingle, G (2011): Irrigation in Telangana: The Rise
and Fall of Tanks, Economic & Political Weekly,
Vol 4, Nos 2627, pp 12330.
Shah, Esha (2008): Telling Otherwise: A Historical Anthropology of Tank Irrigation Technology in South India, Technology and Culture,
Vol 49, No 3, pp 65274.

AUGUST 20, 2016

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Economic & Political Weekly


No Social Change sans Dialogue

Case of Shani Shingnapur
Dipti Kulkarni

The lack of dialogue between

temple trustees, villagers,
activists and other stakeholders
over protests around the entry of
women into the inner sanctum of
the Shani temple in Shingnapur,
Maharashtra has prevented any
meaningful engagement with
the myths, beliefs, and notions
of purity. For progressive social
change, dialogue, which was
missing in this case, is the only
way forward.

hani Shingnapur, a small village

in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, was the epicentre of a
heated protest that lasted for five months
from December 2015 to April 2016.
Womens organisations headquartered
in Pune demanded entry into the inner
sanctum of the Shani shrine, while local
villagers strongly opposed this demand.
Based on my fieldwork and interviews
with various stakeholders, including
the trustees of the temple, villagers,
protesting activists, local politicians,
advocates and writers, I realised the
gaping lack of dialogue between them.
Opinions on the matter seem to be formed
largely by interests other than those
being stated.
Politics of Worship

Dipti Kulkarni ( is with

the Mudra Institute of Communications,


Anthropological literature on the notions

of purity and pollution around the rituals
of worship rarely deal with the petty
politics surrounding such practices. The
literature on communication for social
change (talking extensively about participatory approaches to change) does not
seriously engage with questions of nonparticipatory, anti-dialogic (in the Freirean
sense) change-makers and their selfinterests. In this brief article, I write
about what I heard and observed behind
the scenes. More than anything else, it is
these stances that played a crucial role
in determining the way things unfolded
for this village.
This shrine has no temple. The Shani
idol, five and a half feet tall, pitch black
stone, is mounted under open skies on

a platform. What was once a humble

affair, however, has grown manifold
both in terms of its expanse and popularity. The concerted efforts of the trustees and the branding of this devasthan
(place of worship) as the most authentic
and powerful of Shani temples, has
yielded fruit. Shani Shingnapur now
occupies a prominent place in the
religious-tourism circuit.
To cater to this huge inflow of devoteetourists, the trust is continuously developing amenities and infrastructure around
the area. Locals reminisce about times
when the village had no tall construction and the morning and evening aarti
(prayer) could be heard from afar. However, no one complains about these
changes for obvious reasons. The annual
turnover of the temple now runs into
several crores, and the local economy
around it has thrived.
Shrine of Controversy
The shrine became a site of controversy
when in November 2015 a woman
climbed the platform and prayed in the
inner sanctum. Following this, local
villagers and politicians performed rituals
to purify the god that was defiled. Infuriated by this, womens organisations
demanded the right to worship in the
inner sanctum.
While rules regarding access have
undergone changes, largely it is only the
male priests who are allowed inside the
sanctum. On certain occasions like the
Hindu new year, Shani Jayanti, etc, men
are permitted inside for jalabhishek
(water-offering ritual). Also, male devotees wanting to perform aarti can do so
by paying `21,000 on Saturdays and
`11,000 on other days. Women until
recently were prohibited from entering
the sanctum.
The protesters agitation was based on
a single point: end gender discrimination;

AUGUST 20, 2016

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Economic & Political Weekly


and their singular means of agitation

was force. Between December 2015 and
April 2016, the protesters made multiple
attempts to storm into the shrine. On
some occasions, their buses were stopped outside village limits, and on others,
when they did reach the shrine, the local
women formed a human chain to prevent
their entry.
Entry in Principle
Today, in principle, women can worship
from inside the sanctum. What made
this possible? Aggressive agitation led
by Trupti Desai received two major external boosts that allowed women devotees to force their way into the shrine on
8 April, the Kerala new year day. First, a
public interest litigation (PIL) was filed
by advocate Nilima Vartak and writer
activist Vidya Bal. The PIL brought the
1956 temple entry act to the high courts
attention, and was heard favourably.
The court ordered the enforcement of
anti-discrimination principles laid down
in the act. To ensure that no such directive in the interim affected the practices
of the shrine, the management made
new rules that debarred even men from
entering the inner sanctum. However,
with the new year just around the corner, the male residents of the village
refused to comply and climbed into the
inner sanctum to offer jalabhishek.
Trupti Desai and her team demanded
entry into the inner sanctum, and
achieved the entry through sheer force.
The activists and their leaders made absolutely no attempt to explain their
point of view, let alone pursue a dialogue with the villagers.
The villagers on their part did not perceive the restriction on women entering
the inner sanctum as an issue of gender
discrimination. For them, many myths
explain why women should not worship
Shani from a close distance. These include: Shani, the god, being a brahmachari (bachelor), does not like women worshiping him from close quarters.
The energy emanating from the idol is
detrimental to the womans womb, that
the deity does not like the shadow of
women, which is why it is beneficial for
women to worship this angry god from a
distance. These myths are true and real
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

for the villagers and govern their beliefs

and actions.
The activists, with an avowedly rational and liberal mindset, did not attempt any meaningful exchange with
these stakeholders. With their use of the
media to focus attention on the issue,
one wonders whether their nature of
protest aims to address social change or
if such overzealous activism becomes an
end in itself.
No Change in Mindset
Nonetheless, entry into the shrine was
immediately hailed by many as a
momentous victory for womankind. The
important question is: where do things
really stand today? Has the mindset
changed? Unfortunately not. If we closely observe the provisions made for the
devotees approaching the shrine, for
instance, one sees nothing more than a
half-hearted implementation of the high
courts order.
There is a queue to climb onto the
platform. Once on top, there is a guard
blocking the idol and continuously
instructing devotees to keep moving
with his words aage chalo, aage chalo
[move forward]. I had noted these
words on my first visit to the temple but
it is only much later that I realised that
these instructions by the guard are far
from being innocuous exhortations made
for logistic purposes. Rather they contain
within them the whole truth about the
episode and the taste it has left behind.
These guards have been deputed
there to stand for hours on the burning
hot floor, in the scorching heat, to
protect the idol from being touched by
the devotees. This signals that no beliefs
have changed. Humans are still considered impure because of their bodily processes. Women more than men, because
of the myths mentioned above and other
myths, including menstruation. As beliefs have remained unchanged, people
will keep finding ways and means to circumvent the high court order. None of
the stakeholders have moved an inch towards mutual understanding. How
many temples will activists oversee, and
for how long? If only the activists held
dialogues with the real stakeholders
rather than giving bytes to the media,
vol lI no 34

the situation could have been different

The temple management and the
village folk are not completely without
blame either. If they want to suggest that
there is no gender discrimination at this
place of worship, why do they allow men,
with the ability to donate money, inside
the sanctum? There was no opposition
to this practice simply because it brought
money. The villagers never opposed
the massive construction happening all
around for the same reason.
That the villagers conveniently choose
to remain silent when it suits them can
be seen from another instance. One of
the unique selling propositions of this
place is that the Shani deity here is so
powerful that no one needs to have
doors and locks for their offices and
homes. Villagers who wish to protect
their houses with doors and locks are
pressured into compliance. The narrative of the strong, caretaker god rests on
maximum compliance and this in turn
brings more worshippers. Quite ironically, the office of the trustees that manages crores of rupees earned every year,
is located right under the nose of this
caretaker god. Are the villagers so naive
as to not see this theft? They will complain about money laundering in hushed
voices in the backyards of their homes,
but will rarely do so publicly. They are
aware that the myth of the caretaker
god is important for everyones survival.
Need for Dialogue
Shani Shingnapur is just one of the cases
under the spotlight now; the Sabarimala
temple in Kerala, the Haji Ali Dargah in
Mumbai, Ambabais temple in Kolhapur
are amongst many places of faith facing
the heat. Organisations and activists
working towards change need to recognise that beliefs are deeply entrenched,
and force or aggressive activism is the
last thing that will work in such circumstances. On the contrary, it is bound to
create deeper rifts and misunderstanding
amongst people. I have seen first-hand
the hatred people in Shani Shingnapur
feel towards the feminist, rational, constitutional discourse that was imposed
upon them. Dialogue seems to be the
only way forward.

Geography of Capitalism

labour and also, linking the empirical

findings of these four case studies with
the geography of capitalism analyticallythe main theoretical underpinnings being drawn from Herod (1997).

Byasdeb Dasgupta

lobalization Lived Locally provides

a labour geography perspective
of different forms of labour in
Kerala and their active participation in
the production processes and in the
creation of social relations of productions to draw the geography of capitalism. The entire study by Neethi P is
inspired by the pioneering work of
Herod (1997). It is a genuine attempt to
understand the process of globalisation
in local spaces through the lens of
labour. That the space of labour is not
homogeneous as it is generally shown in
both neoclassical mainstream economic
theory and also in the orthodox Marxist
discourse, is quite obvious in Neethis
Labour as an Active Agent
Labour is the risk-bearing factor as an
active agent and not a passive one in
the present frame of globalisation and
global capitalism (Sen and Dasgupta
2009). It is not just another factor of production. Rather labour has different spatial fixes as the different geography of
capitalism indicates. Labourboth surplus value producing direct producers in
Marxian terms and no surplus producing indirect labouris heterogeneous in
geographical space; they have different
social contexts pertaining to their spatial fix. This is true for their agencies
(including trade unions) as well as
their resistance to capital. They are not
mere passive agents in their spatial fix.
Rather they are active agents in drawing
the cartography of capitalism which is
ever changing.
Four case studies presented in this
book are testimonies to this fact. The
geography of capitalism is not produced
only by capital or the capital accumulation process along with the necessary
circulation of capital locally as well as
globally; it is also produced by surplus
value performing labourers as well as by

book reviewS
Globalization Lived Locally: A Labour
Geography Perspective by Neethi P, New Delhi:
Oxford University Press, 2016; pp xvii+231, `795.

those labourers linked with the process

who are not performing surplus value.
The essential fact is that both capital
and labour overdetermine the geography of capitalism. Moreover, as the
spaces of labour are heterogeneous, so
are labour control and conflict under
The metanarratives of globalisation
presuppose unfettered mobility of capital in the mainstream literature and
depict a capital-centric view of globalisation and geography of capitalism.
Neethis work in this context is an
extremely significant attempt to contest
this capital-centric view of globalisation
and how globalisation is resisted locally
by labourespecially by surplus value
performing labour.
The author has claimed in the beginning of her work that her present
research has been inspired by a critical
reading of the above-mentioned metanarratives of globalisation which led her
to another stream of studies on the
struggles of ordinary people under capitalist development in making the places
and spatial relations of life and work.
The threefold aims of the research are
(i) the need to identify the myriad
forms of globalization, as against casting in a single mould; (ii) the necessity
to address workers as active social
agents rather than as passive subjects in
the face of supposedly hyper-mobile capital; and (iii) to also reflect on local
discourses of globalization and related
issues, what is termed as globalization
lived locally.
The author has succeeded in achieving the aims of her study providing varying pictures of global capital and local

Study Set in Kerala

The study is set in the context of Kerala.
Compared to the industrially developed
states of Maharashtra and Gujarat,
Kerala is not a story of high levels of
industrial growth in independent India.
More than industrial development, Kerala has a history of its own labour
struggles accompanied by their successes and failuresthe representative
voice of labour is higher relative to the
all-India standard.
This has mostly to do with the left
legacy in the state. But during the Congress regime as well, the state initiated
some social security measures. However, with the coming of the neo-liberal
regime in India since 1991, Kerala like
the other Indian states faced steep competition to attract global capital in the
state. Different (foreign) investment
policies including tax holidays were
offered to invite global as well as domestic investment in the state by the
foreign and domestic multinational
The present study has been carried
out in the late 2000s. It focuses on four
different production activities in the
state in the post-liberalisation period
and corroborates four different pictures
of globalisation lived locally by the
surplus value performing direct producers
in these production processes. As far as
informal space of labour in India and
accompanying labour controls are concerned, Kerala is not different from other
Indian states where labour as active
agents produce heterogeneous geography of capitalism. That capitalism at the
micro level has different faces is obvious
from these case studies set in the context
of post-liberal and globalised economy
of Kerala.
Kerala has a long history of agencies
of labour, trade unions and labour movements in modern times starting from the
colonial period which the author has

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vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


described in Chapter 2 of the book. At

the end of the last century, Kerala
turned out to be an investment-friendly
state from a labour-friendly one. But the
case studies denote the active participation of various surplus value performing
direct producers in procreating the
geography of capitalism in Kerala in
neo-liberal times which, as far as my
own knowledge goes, is unique in the
Indian context.
Given the history of organised bargaining strength of labour, it is expected
that the same applies to all sorts of
labour in Kerala in the post-liberalisation phase. But this is not the case. Kerala is no exception in witnessing the
dwindling bargaining and voice representation strength of organised and unorganised labour as is the case elsewhere in India. Yet, Keralas case, even
in the present time, is unique as different types of labour strived for bargaining with (global) capital which is not the
case in general in other parts of India
except the Maruti workers and Hero
Honda workers case in Haryana of late.

Spatial Role of Labour

The author applies the labour geography
method in the case studies to decipher
the spatial role of labour in Keralas
globalised economy. The study is unique
not only in the context of Kerala but also
in the context of global capitalism as is
experienced in India recently. The main
body of the present research consists of
four case studies addressing broad
aspects of labour control, conflict, and
response in instances within four major
sectors of Keralas economytextiles,
electronics, food processing, and the
port sector.
The first three case studies involve the
women workers, while the last case
study involves male spaces of labour and
deals with the issue of privatisation of
the port as is the general trend in India
since 1991 as part of the liberalisation,
privatisation and globalisation regime.
In the first three case studies concerning
the women workers in textile, electronics and food processing, the author uses
extensive research methodology to
understand the labour process not only

in terms of the work spaces but also in

terms of the living spaces of labour,
which perhaps would not have been
possible through the structured questionnaire based interview method.
Chapter 3 of the book is all about the
working lives of women workers and the
management in the apparel sector in
two firms in an export promotion industrial park in southern Kerala. The case
study probes, following a labour geography perspective, how these workers
organized around a local set of concerns
and formed their own association. This
association is not a typical trade union
affiliated to some political party as is
generally the case in India.
Both the firms characterise local
capital and production to export the
manufactured items abroad. The majority of the workers have been recruited
from proximate semi-urban and rural
areas. The families of these women
workers are mainly engaged in fishing
and coir-yarn making. The firms under
study target a specific type of workers
who are young, less educated, less

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AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34



mobile and who at the same time, want

to reduce the financial dependence on
their families.
Following the general flexible labour
market rules these workers work almost
seven days a week, from morning to the
dusk. To facilitate unabated production,
there is minimum break time; a delay of
five minutes results in 15-minute wage
reduction. Although the production is
piecework, wages are not. Wages do not
depend on workers efficiency or skill.
Wages are fixed at the entry point
quite arbitrarily as the firms know there
is a huge pool of unemployed reserve
workers in the vicinity. This refutes
the theory of efficiency wage as propounded by the mainstream neoclassical economics.
The most interesting part of this case
study is the section of labour response or
resistance which has its foundations in
long-standing grievances among the
working staff regarding the issue of
salary hike. The events ultimately culminated into a strike which was supported by the workers in other firms in the
same area. What is noticeable is the
spontaneity of the strike. The workers
resistance got strengthened day-by-day
despite harsh threats from the firms.
The strike was supported by various
political and non-political organisations,
local leaders of various political parties
and gram panchayat members including
As the author has aptly opined, the
form of workers organisation barely
resembles the mainstream and commonly understood trade unionism based
on class struggle and having the capitalist system as its target. In fact the
author demonstrates the basic tenet of
labour geographylabour (especially
the surplus value performing direct producers in Marxian sense) are active
agentswho along with capital, shape
the geography of capitalism.
There is a certain spatial fix which is
characterised by the different workers in
different places and often, the scale of
functioning matters in such spatial fix.
This is just one side of the story. The other
side of the story corroborates to the new
face of labour control measures. There
is interesting transformations in the

labour control strategies by the firm,

from recruitment of the labour to even
the threat of terminating services.
Social Relations of Production
Apart from these two sides there is
another dimension of social relation of
production pertaining to the recruitment
of these women workers of young age.
These young women are joining the firms
outside their families or households for
the first time. But this is not their sole decision. The decision has been taken by
the communitythe fact which became
imminent while the author interviewed
the workers and their family members
in their family environment.
The uniqueness of this particular
study in the Indian context lies in the
fact that it negates the general hypothesis that in this age of globalisation the
mobility of capital has been freed from
the constraints of locations and localities. Rather it contends that the expansion of capital through space remains in
a tension-ridden and in an unstable relationship with locality or place.
Chapter 4 of the book deals with a
case of an electronics firm and the involvement of the church. The appro
ach highlights labour control, which
involves the interrelated processes of
securing an appropriate labour supply,
maintaining control within the labour
process, and effectively reproducing this
set of social relations.
The case study deals with an electronics
firm and its connected manufacturing
units located in interior villages in central
Kerala. The labour process in the connected manufacturing units is unique in the
sense that it involves a quality control personnel (QCP) at each unit sent by the parent firm and also the local church.
There is a long history of the Catholic
church as an alternative source of
welfare and social governance in the
Kerala society apart from the state. In
this case, the church garnered the flexibility in the labour force by means of
targeting and recruiting female workforce. The women workers here belong
to lower income earning Christian families. It is to be noted that the proximity
to home as well as the overarching
presence of the church as recruiter and

manager acts as the chief consolation to

the families of the girls to send them to
work in the first place.
The four tier structure of production
in these local manufacturing units as
designed by the parent firm, a listed
company now, involves the church. The
parent firm does not directly respond to
any grievance of the workers. This is
generally met by the local church. The
church here, as the active agent for
labour control, is both the recruiter and
controller. The QCP is the link between
the parent firm and the workers in the
local units. This particular production
system is possible as a spatial fix, given
the long history of Kerala with the local
church remaining an alternative source
of welfare and social governance. The
QCP is a woman too; the environment of
the production space is a school with the
QCP acting like a teacher.
Sometimes the QCP is removed on the
demand of the workers but this is recommended by the church to the parent firm.
This helps maintain stability in the production process through the two-way involvement of the local church. The wages paid
are piece-rate wages which indicate high
degree of exploitation as per Marx. Only
women workers are recruited in these local units to avoid the risk of unionisation.
The involvement of church helps in labour
control as the church is in direct touch
with the women workers families when
any worker does anything wrong!
Once again the entire story thus
presented in this chapter refutes the
general hypothesised world of labour by
the mainstream neoclassical economics
in terms of its efficiency wage model.
The church plays the most vital role of
managing the (women) workers and
also, sustaining/reproducing the social
relations of production locally where the
workers actively deal with the church
and not with the parent firm and there is
certain limit beyond which the QCP cannot pressurise the workers. This is obviously a different geography of capitalism
which is overdetermined by the parent
firm, local church and the women workers recruited by the church in the local
manufacturing units.
Here too, the workers are not passive
agents as is generally held by mainstream

AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


neoclassical and orthodox Marxist literature. One significant point to note, which
is cultural in nature, is that the working
in these local manufacturing units renders some help to the girls for their marriage which is a social institution.
Home-based Production
Chapter 5 of the book dwells on the case
of a food-processing firm in Kerala
where home-based women workers are
engaged in the production vis--vis
labour process. These home-based workers work for a prominent food-processing
firm which serves both the domestic and
foreign markets. Women workers hail
from families that are mostly engaged in
agriculture and animal husbandry (economic) activities.
Here Kudumbashree plays an important role in labour management for the
firm. In fact, the firm decided to keep
Kudumbashree membership as a necessary criterion to be part of the home-based
production. This production policy is
adopted by the firms not just to employ
cheap labour but also to control labour
effectively without much transaction
cost. Furthermore, since most of these
women workers cannot go out of their
households for work due to social
restriction the firm found it profitable to
engage them inside their homes through
Kudumbashree, with the condition that
each female-head of a unit must be a
member of Kudumbashree.
The labour response in this production process is quite different from the
earlier two case studies. Here, the
Kudumbashree membership criterion
seems to be the best way to make full
use of the social capital that emerged as
a by-product of this womens group.
The home space here like elsewhere is
constrained with gendered identities
and set the stage for subtle responses
towards capital.
General Purpose Mazdoors
Chapter 6 of the book is about a case
study of Cochin Port in the context of
recent attempts at privatisation and
pertains to the workers spatial fix in this
regard. The case study is mainly concerned with the actions and reactions of
a section of workers affiliated to private
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

labour pools and engaged in lashing and

unlashing work (known as General
Purpose Mazdoors or GPMs).
This section of workers were systematically laid off following the beginning
of operations at a new, privately operated terminal run by Dubai Ports World
(DPW). The author has analysed the various ways in which GPMs were affected
adversely together with their response
strategies. The latter involved the political party affiliated major trade unions,
and at some point of time during the agitation, a broader solidarity with global
labour agency was formed.
This case study is different from the
previous case studies as it involved the
male workers, the formal trade unions
as the prominent labour agency and the
tension-ridden spatial fix of capital. This
is another instance of geography of capitalism which is actively formed by the
workers and another case of over-determination of space by capital and labour
together in their dynamism of conflicts
and contradictions.
As the author has opined Cochin Port,
being a recent addition into the list of privatized ports in India, has contributed a
prominent episode into the continuing
rendezvous of Keralas labour with globalization. The labours resistance led
to the major institutional changes in the
ports administration. The author has
aptly demonstrated that the workers
actions should be viewed beyond the successfailure binaries of capitallabour

struggle. This case study has brought to

the fore the ability of workers to develop actions at multiple scales and to build
connections across these scales, thus
bringing out the territorial scope of power relations.
Summing up, the book under review
with its four rich case studies is a major
contribution to the empirical literature
on labour geography where the workers
performing surplus value and socially
reproducing their existence vis--vis
capital along with the latter through heterogeneous spatial fixes chart different
geographies of capitalism. That globalisation implies unfettered and tensionless mobility of capital is challenged in
Neethis book. As Castree (2007) has
claimed, labour geography is all about
the making of economic geography of
capitalism through the eyes of labour.
Neethis work goes a long way to signify
this in the context of post-liberalised
and globalised economy of Kerala.
Byasdeb Dasgupta ( is
with the Department of Economics, University
of Kalyani, West Bengal.

Castree, Noel (2007): Labour Geography: A Work
in Progress, International Journal of Urban
and Regional Research, Vol 31, No 4.
Herod, A (1997): From a Geography of Labour to
Labour Geography: Laborers Spatial Fix and
the Geography of Capitalism, Antipode, Vol 29,
No 1, pp 131.
Sen, Sunanda and Byasdeb Dasgupta (2009):
Unfreedom and Waged WorkLabour in Indias
Manufacturing Industry, New Delhi: Sage.

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vol lI no 34



Bangla Rape Victims of 1971


ayanika Mookherjees The Spectral Wound is a very sustained

and multidimensional study of
how Bangladeshi society has remembered
and dealt with the extensive incidents of
rape that took place during the 1971 War
of Liberation. There is a specific tone to
this remembrance because there is a
quality of feminised victimhood in the
Bangladeshi national consciousness, not
totally different to that of France after
World War II, although this has been
supplemented by a strong desire for justice, especially on the part of intellectuals, activists and feminists, which are
part of what Mookherjee characterises
as a leftliberal urban lite. Much of her
book involves a very subtle critique of
how this lite represents and conceptualises the rape victims or the birangonasa name that has been given to
them in Bangladeshin particular, the
poorer ones. This critique never questions their sincerity or the value of their
work, but it does see a real gap between
how the birangona is perceived by them
and the presence of the experience of
rape as it is folded into the ongoing lives
of the victims themselves. There are a
number of reasons for this gap.
Poor village peasants may not express
trauma or the intense emotions connected
with it in the way that urban middleclass people do, which means the latter
may not be able to read the former or
may indeed dismiss them as inauthentic.
They may conceive of the authentic
birangona as expressing herself in the
way that they do or that this authentic
expression has been silenced by a repressive society. The leftliberal lite is also
deeply involved in post-independence
Bangladeshi politics, where power has
swung between the secularising, Bengali Awami Leaguethis is the side
they are onand the more Islamic Bangladesh Nationalist Party, often associated
with military rule and allied with the
more extreme, downright Islamicist

The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public

Memories, and the Bangladesh War of 1971 by
Nayanika Mookherjee, Durham/London: Duke University
Press, 2015; pp xxiv + 325, $26.95.

What is at stake is who inherits from

the War of Liberation and what kind of
country Bangladesh is to be. A major point
of contestation are the men who collaborated during the war, known as razakars, rehabilitated under the rule of the
more Islamic groups, but whose trial and
condemnation eventually took place under the Awami League. It was very much
the leftliberal lite who led the movement that resulted in the trials, and evidence from oral histories of the war
rapes and the exhibiting of the birangonas
themselves at national events and rallies
were key to that movement. The lite
or at least an earlier generation of
themsuffered greatly in the 1971 war,
so to a real extent the rape victims were
being co-opted by them as part of their
campaign for redress. To say that the birangonas were simply being exploited
would be totally unfair, but there was
more than a touch of adjusting their experiences to the lites sensibilities or beliefs, for example, the assumption that
backward rural village societies would
always unequivocally ostracise the raped
women. This modelling is enhanced by
the presentation of the birangonas as
evidence, either in the context of national
politics or at an international level after
the United Nations had declared war rape
to be a war crime in 1995. When individual cases become part of the evidence
for a larger legal action, they tend to
become standardised, one among many
repeated instances of the same type of
occurrence that supports the overall legal
action. The nuance, subtle differences
and uncategorisability of the singular
are lost.
Mookherjees discussion of the gap in
the relationship between the leftliberal
lite and the birangonas is sufficiently
complex that it has resonances well

outside Bangladesh. Progressive intellectuals and the masses have often been
awkward bedfellows in the left-wing
revolutions and political movements of
the modern era, both in the West and
elsewhere. Arguably, this is particularly
true in many places in the world at the
moment. The gap described in The Spectral Wound by no means invalidates leftwing politics, but it must be addressed if
they are to be renewed.
Gifted Ethnographic Description
At the core of Mookherjees book is gifted ethnographic description, worthy of
a great 19th century novelist such as
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Balzac
or George Eliot. Her awareness of body
language, gesture and sudden emotional
moments is at times astonishing. She is
able to see the humiliation in the poses
of the birangonas in the photographs of
the public events where they were displayed, and she can also allow herself to
be surprised by an official helping her in
her work on the rehabilitation centres
turning out to be a product of them or a
prostitute having a daughter as welleducated as she is.
Traditional British ethnography, which
was of course a key influence on early
Indian ethnographers, emerged under
the Empire and tended at best to be conditioned by assumptions of the superiority of Western Enlightenment values, or
at worst a desire to understand and control the natives. The latter is particularly true in India after the Revolt of
1857. This does not mean there could not
be excellent work, but there was usually
a kind of glass window between the
researcher and her subjects. There is
plenty of theory which has dealt with
this, but it is rare to find the kind of
exceptionally sensitive interaction without loss of objectivity that one finds in
Mookherjee, who has consciously used
the insideroutsider quality of being an
Indian, middle class, Hindu Bengali very
well. This incidentally makes her very
aware of the ethnic narrative of the
1971 waran opposition between a macho, truly Islamic West Pakistani soldier
and effeminate, Hinduised East Pakistani Bengali men or women that has its
roots in earlier history.

AUGUST 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


The bulk of Mookherjees pure

ethnographic fieldwork took place in
Enayetpur, and the material from this
makes up four out of the five chapters in
the first part of The Spectral Wound, but
there are two later chapters which deal
with related themes, one on the postwar rehabilitation centres, the other
containing interviews with four atypical rape victims, as much about their
experience since the war as what happened during it. These two chapters
epitomise the difference between the
homogenising leftliberal treatment of
the birangona and the ambiguous complexity of the actual birangona. Both
the paternalistic desire of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to reintegrate the damaged mothers, sisters and daughters of
the nations men and a feminist project
to train women for jobs, albeit ones suitable to their class background, were reflected in the activity of the rehabilitation centres, but the processing of the
women was highly impersonal.
The life journeys of the four interviewees are by contrast very individual,
even trangressive: one woman eventually finds it easier to make a living as a
prostitute, while another is perceived as
having been a collaborator when she
feels she was protecting her family.
Elsewhere, Mookherjee discusses how
photographic and filmic images of the
birangona can simplify their ambiguous
subjectivitypassive rape victim or war
heroine, but also possibly prostitute or
collaboratoror have an ambivalent attitude to it. These women have real
agency as they cross the boundary between these possibilities. They remind
one of the powerful ending of Amrita
Pritams Pinjar when Puro decides not
to return to India, but stays with her
Muslim husband, the man who abducted her, and their son. It is worth noting
that this ending was very controversial
at the time: it transgresses category in
an almost muscular way that goes beyond the sentimental.
The focus in Enayetpur is on three
birangonas with a national profile, with
a few references to a fourth less wellknown one that Mookherjee came
across during her fieldwork. There are
broadly two lines of investigation here:
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

an exploration of how khota or scorn

and ijjot or honour function within
village society and how the rape victims
process trauma in fragments which are
recalled over time within the context of
everyday life. The latter reflects a new
phase within anthropological thinking,
in particular that of Veena Das, which
has reacted against the oral history
approach to trauma: that social and personal catharsis can be achieved by a single, complete, linear retelling of a previously repressed traumatic event.
Affinity with Deleuzes Philosophy
Mookherjees birangonas remember
in relation to minor everyday triggers
or ongoing physical problems such as
recurrent menstrual cramps. Bits of
memory are continuously provoked by
and folded back into the progressive
continuation of life. What is interesting
is the close affinity with the philosophy
of Deleuze: in his Logic of Sense, Jo
Bousquet is a significant figure. The
latter was an avant-garde writer who
was seriously wounded in World War I
and remained a paraplegic for the rest
of his life. His very poetic novel Le Meneur de lune employs the same ongoing
reassemblage of temporally disjointed
fragments that result in the variegated
texture of a sombre continuance rather
than a one-stop moment of catharsis.
It is worth adding that this kind of processing of fragments within everyday
life was very much something the
reviewer noticed over the year and
a half she tutored the son of a family
that had experienced the genocide in
What is important about this kind of
anthropological research is that it shows
that a Deleuzian process is a broader
human one, not just something for avantgarde writers such as Bousquet or Pritam.
Near the end of her book, Mookherjee
cites a description of an intensely emotional performance by a birangona of a
bhatiyali (a type of traditional Bengali
boat song) at a rehabilitation centre.
Metaphors involving boats are very common in the spiritual discourse of the
subcontinent. There are, for example,
the constant references in the Guru
Granth Sahib to the satguru who guides
vol lI no 34

one in a boat across the ocean of the

world. What is worth noting in these
metaphors is the nature of the self. A
boat is fragile and open to wind and currents around it, but capable of agency. It
has a connectivity with the flux of the
cosmos which endures and can absorb
suffering into it as it carries on. This deindividualises the suffering and tends to
diffuse or sublimate it within a plane of
immanence. The late medieval religious
movements of India, both Sant and Sufi,
could be seen as part of an Indian Renaissance or Enlightenment, but without the Cartesian self of the Western
ones. They were also egalitarian, not escapist and could be subtly political.
Deleuze was part of a philosophic tradition that opposed the Cartesian self, so it
is not surprising that there are resonances between his ideas and this particular
strand of Indian spirituality.
The work on how khota and ijjot operate in the village is based on acute
observation and is very nuanced. The
birangonas are not rejected by their husbands or ostracised, but scorn can be
deployed against them in more oblique
ways as part of various types of competition: within the village, between wives,
with in-laws and so forth. Mookherjee
actually gives a very interesting account
of how stigma or prejudice works in any
society. The discussion of honour is informed by Marilyn Stratherns remark
that idealised masculinity is not just
about men or sex. The complexity of the
relationships between the birangonas
and their husbands is brought out, and
the insights into how de-masculinised
men can still assert a sort of masculinity
are perceptive.
In general, The Spectral Wound is very
fair in its treatment of both men and
women. This is reflected in the two chapters in the book that deal with mainly
photographic and filmic images. One of
these chapters discusses the problem of
male rape in the war, which is usually ignored, and explores a famous image by
Kishor Parekh, which was used in various ways, one of which was to depict a
West Pakistani soldier checking if an
East Pakistani man has a foreskin. The
other chapter also looks at a famous image, the hair photograph by Naibuddin


Ahmed as a part of an extremely thorough exploration of representations of

the birangona across many different media, carefully linked to successive historical moments since the war. As the material is mostly produced by the leftliberal
lite, much the same points are made
about it as are made about the leftliberal lite elsewhere in the book. That said,
Mookherjee is very good on how a conceptual n
otion of the birangona can
emerge from a circulation of representations that interact with each other. She
does cover an enormous amount of material and is often perceptive in her treatment of individual representations, but
one can criticise her use of Deleuze and
Engagement with Derrida
She does have a real grasp of Deleuze,
but she only uses him as a theorist of
cinema when his cinema books are really philosophic works, and the relevance of his ideas to other parts of her
work have already been shown. Her references to Derrida, which are scattered

throughout her book, are somewhat

limited and clumsy. She mixes together
absence, presence and trace in the sign
in early Derrida and the hauntology or
specterology of his later work. She tends
not to have a feel for the problems behind the terms in Derrida. Deconstruction of a given representation is based
on the fact that the thing out there
does not have an essence which can be
fully seized by any sign, and that signs
are not in themselves pure because
they bear traces of the signs that are not
within them. Opposition to a metaphysics based on presenceor more precisely the present timeis closely related to
this. Derridas original hantologie is a
pun on ontologie, and there is a fascinating and very fruitful relationship between the two. A deeper engagement
with both early and later Derrida could
have greatly enriched the broader discussion in The Spectral Wound of the
leftliberal lites simplifying or ambivalent notions of the birangona and the
ambiguous, even transgressive, nature
of the actual birangona.

One should not end on this critical

note. The Spectral Wound is an exceptional
book. It has thoroughly explored its subject from every conceivable angle in
such a way as to give it a real intellectual
richness. Mookherjee gives a complex
portrait of Bangladesh over roughly 40
years since its independence, but she always makes one think of the problems in
a more abstract way or in another context. She is remarkably non-partisan,
which is partly why her book is such a
multidimensional study. Her powers of
observation are excellent, and her sensitivity to the birangonas is obvious. What
is perhaps most significant about her
work is the affinity between the processing by the rape victims and modern alternative philosophy. It might open the way
for a much more subtle, understanding
and effective relationship between leftwing intellectuals and activists and les
damns de la terre.
Nardina Kaur (madeleinenardina@hotmail. is a London-based scholar who works on
modern French philosophy and Sikh thought.

Water: Growing Understanding, Emerging Perspectives

Edited by

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AUGUST 20, 2016 vol lI no 34 EPW Economic & Political Weekly


Revisiting Indias Growth

and Development
Pulin B NayaK

I G Patels lifelong concern was

to think about framing and
implementing policies to lift India
from the morass of low per capita
income and low levels of social
indicators to that of a country
which was economically strong
and one which would be able
to hold its own in the comity of
nations. This called for growth
at a rapid pace, but, as he always
emphasised, in a manner which
would necessarily pay adequate
attention to the welfare of the
poorest sections. It was this which
was his abiding concern.

This is a somewhat abridged version of the

5th Dr I G Patel Memorial Lecture that was
delivered at Anand, Gujarat on 18 March 2016.
For agreeing to read through the text I am
deeply grateful to Heman Agrawal, Meghnad
Desai, Raghav Gaiha, Raghbendra Jha,
K L Krishna, J Krishnamurty, Mark Lindley,
Binod Nayak, Nalini Nayak, Niranjan Pandya,
Alaknanda Patel, Mohan Patel, M Govinda
Rao, K Sundaram and Charan Wadhva. I
received many valuable suggestions which I
have tried to incorporate. All errors are mine.
Pulin B Nayak ( is
with the Centre for Development Economics,
Delhi School of Economics.
Economic & Political Weekly


august 20, 2016

1 Introduction
ndraprasad Gordhanbhai Patel (1924
2005) was one of the foremost economists of post-independent India. He
had a brilliant academic career, topping
in his Bachelors examination in the
University of Bombay, before going on to
Kings College, Cambridge, in 1944,
where he remained till 1949 to earn his
doctorate, barring a year, 194748,
which he spent at Harvard. IG, as he
was known, began his illustrious career
as an academic in Baroda College,
Bombay University (194950). He then
went on to work in the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) (195054) and
then much later for the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) (1972
77), and held some of the highest positions of economic decision-making in
the Indian government. He was the chief
economic adviser (196167), secretary,
economic affairs in the Ministry of
Finance (196772), and governor of the
Reserve Bank of India (197782). Subsequently, he served briefly as the director
of the Indian Institute of Management
Ahmedabad (IIM-A) during 198284 after
which he held the high profile position of
director of the London School of Economics (LSE) during 198490.
IG was known for his formidable intellectual powers, sharp wit and quick
repartee, and in his long career had mingled with some of the finest economic
minds across the world. Austin Robinson
of Cambridge thought of IG as his best
tutee over his (Robinsons) entire tenure
as fellow of Kings. IG put down some of
his experiences in his Glimpses of Indian
Economic Policy: An Insiders View published in 2002, in the twilight years of
his life. The book was written entirely
from memory, without any access to official documents. It provides interesting
and some fascinating vignettes of several

vol lI no 34

key events of his life in the highest echelons of the Indian bureaucracy. IG had
worked quite closely with finance ministers C D Deshmukh, T T Krishnamachari
and Morarji Desai, and also with Sachin
Chaudhuri, Y B Chavan, H M Patel,
Charan Singh, H N Bahuguna, R Venkataraman and Pranab Mukherjee, all of
whom, he gratefully acknowledges, gave
him his due and a great deal of affection
over the years. IG also had personal acquaintance with Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal
Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi.
That IG was a consummate civil servant
and policymaker was well recognised by
all. But where was he in terms of his ideology? He describes how he was pressed
by a journalist to answer this when he
was at the LSE. He puts it thus:
I said that if I had to describe myself, I would
call myself an old-fashioned socialist. I could
as well have said that I was an old fashioned
liberal. What I meant was that I was not a
Marxist socialist opposed to markets and
private property. But I was not a card-carrying capitalist either, and was supportive of
certain values like compassion and justice in
all social and economic arrangements. (Patel 2002: 19394)

There is an interesting episode described in Patel (2002: 101) where we see

an aspect of IGs perspective on ethical
issues. The event occurred in 1965,
when Indias economic standing was
possibly at its lowest ebb, against the
backdrop of the disastrous 1962 war
with China and a continuing conflict with
Pakistan which led to a war in 1965.
Indias food and foreign exchange levels
were particularly vulnerable. IG was at a
conference in Washington DC and a Russian delegate asked him why he thought
that a country like the Soviet Union had
an obligation to assist India. IGs response was as follows:
I was at a loss what to say and replied tongue
in cheek that I was the only Hindu in the
room and believed in life after death. Since
this can neither be proved nor disproved, the
probability of life after death can be taken
as one in two. Since two-thirds of the world
was poor, there was one in three chances
that my Russian friend might be born in
his next life in Zambia or India. Does it not
make sense for him to ensure his future by
doing something in this life which might
make Zambia or India better places to live in


after, say, thirty or forty years? Everyone
laughed. But I was told many years later that
I had in fact anticipated John Rawlss argument for altruism. (Patel 2002)

IGs lifelong concern was to think

about framing and implementing policies
to lift India from the morass of low per
capita income and low levels of social
indicators to that of a country which was
economically strong and one which would
be able to hold its own in the comity of
nations. This called for growth at a rapid
pace, but, as IG always emphasised, in a
manner which would necessarily pay
adequate attention to the welfare of the
poorest sections. It was this which was
his abiding concern.
2 Indias Growth Experience
India is today one of the fastest growing
major economies of the world. Indias
gross domestic product (GDP) grew at
7.5% during 201516. This tipped the
growth rate of China which was 7.1%.
Brazil and Russia, two of the BRICS (Brazil,
Russia, India, China and South Africa)
countries, actually experienced a negative growth of GDP during the past year.
In terms of the global outlook, real GDP
in the world at large grew at 2.8% during the past year. The rich countries of
the world grew at a rate of about 2%,
while the developing countries as a
whole grew at a rate of about 4.4%.
Thus, Indias growth rate in the past
year, in comparison to the other major
countries of the world, has been particularly gratifying. This is more so in comparison to Chinas performance, which has
dominated the growth scene for a period
of more than three decades from 1980
onwards, and where, lately, the growth
rate seems to have tapered down to a
rate below that of Indias.
It may not be out of place to briefly
recapitulate Indias growth experience
over a somewhat longer period to put
the matter in perspective. During the half
century prior to independence, the growth
rate of Indias GDP was under 1%. After
independence, and the onset of Nehruvian socialism, India grew at an average
rate of around 3.5% to 4%. The late Raj
Krishna (1980), famous for his witticisms
just as IG was, christened it the Hindu
rate of growth in a widely quoted article

he wrote for the Scientific American in

1980. The idea presumably was that
despite the vicissitudes of the countrys
fortunes during the three decades after
independence, there was a certain constancy and imperturbability about Indias
growth rate. It could be interpreted as a
stable, but slow, rate of growth consistent with the Hindu notion of fatalism
and contentedness, that was also characteristic of the so-called chalta hai attitude in most of our collective pursuits.
In the late 1970s, a decade and a half
after Nehrus demise, the licence permit
raj that had been spawned was already
under serious questioning by Indias
intelligentsia, now impatient with the
tepid pace of development. There was
some sort of a consensus by the beginning
of the 1980s that the economy needed to
be opened up and the shackles on private
enterprise had to be loosened. Rent seekingread corruption and bribeshad
been widespread, leading to inefficiencies and a constrained atmosphere, not
conducive to realising the best potential of
the system. The new opening up of the
economy pushed up the aggregate growth
rate to the range of about 5% to 5.5%.
The 1980s also marked the beginning
of competitive regional populism. The
early post-independent years of the
monolithic Congress party were long
over, and regional concerns as well as
leaders came up in significant numbers
throughout the length and breadth of the
country. Political populism became the
order of the day, and there was much fiscal profligacy both at the centre as well
as in the states. The country was up
against possibly its severest fiscal crisis
by the beginning of the 1990s. The combined fiscal deficit of the centre and the
states was in the range of almost 10% of
GDP, way too high by the usual norms of
fiscal rectitude, and the level of foreign
exchange was precariously low, just
enough to finance barely two weeks
worth of imports. It is in this setting that
P V Narasimha Rao assumed charge as
Prime Minister in June 1991. Quite clearly,
the topmost imperative for Narasimha Rao
was to prevent the economy from falling
precipitously into utter ruination. His
first task was to identify an able finance
minister. As is well known, in Raos mind,

the two top names that were in contention were those of IG and Manmohan
Singh, in that order. IG had settled down
in Vadodara to a retired life after his sixyear stint as director of LSE, and Manmohan Singh had taken up the position
of chairman of the University Grants
Commission (UGC). IG declined the offer,
and the job went to Manmohan Singh.
The post-Rajiv Gandhi phase of the
Indian government under V P Singh and
Chandra Shekhar was marked by unprecedented political turmoil owing to the
twin issues surrounding Mandal and
Mandir. V P Singh had not been able to
complete a full year in office, and Chandra
Shekhars government too had barely
lasted seven months. It is conceivable
that after such a long and illustrious
career in the highest realms of public
policy and academia, IG, at 65, was in no
mood to be tempted by Lutyens Delhi.
He well understood how fickle political
power could be. Narasimha Rao had taken
charge of an economy that could not possibly be in a worse shape. It is fair to say
that Narasimha Rao has not received the
credit that is his due for ushering in the
economic reforms that were introduced
in 1991. Rao most likely surmised that if
after more than four decades of economic
planning things had come to such a sorry
state, then perhaps the time had come to
check out a completely new track altogether, that is, to depart from the discredited licence permit raj and allow a
much greater play of market forces.
There do come moments in the lives of
individuals or institutions when one feels
that the time for drastic change has arrived.
This was such a moment. Narasimha Rao
was lucky to have the acquiescence of
Manmohan Singh to join as the finance
minister to carry out the reform agenda. Without any political base of his
own, Singh, in turn, was lucky to have
the full and unqualified political support
of the Prime Minister. One of the first
tasks that he addressed was to set up a
Tax Reforms Committee under the
chairmanship of Raja J Chelliah and another on Banking Sector Reforms under
M Narasimham. Both produced influential and useful set of recommendations.
There were other wide-ranging reforms
in the spheres of industry, agriculture

august 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


and trade policy as well, with the general focus of allowing greater play of market forces. The overall growth rate of the
economy moved up to about 6% in the
decade of the 1990s.
It was in the first decade of the new
millennium that the growth rate of the
Indian economy moved up to an altogether new zone. Manmohan Singh was
now himself at the helm as the Prime
Minister. For three years, during 200508,
the growth rate of GDP tipped the 9%
mark. The only other major country
which had sustained a growth rate of
this magnitude and over a much longer
period was China. India and China both
had roughly the same level of per capita
income in terms of dollars around the
late 1970s. Mao, the great helmsman,
had passed away in 1976 and the new
dispensation, under the pragmatic Deng
Xiaoping, believed in the dictum that it
does not matter whether a cat is white or
black, as long as it catches mice. From the
early 1980s, for more than three decades, China maintained an uninterrupted
growth rate of around 9% to 10% per annum. The Chinese growth momentum
has admittedly weakened in the past
year or two, but one result of the sustained rapid growth rate over a period of
three and a half decades was that by
2015 the per capita income of China, in
nominal dollars, was nearly four times
that of Indias. This was a simple instance
of what John Maynard Keynes had referred
to as the power of compound interest.
A key reason for the high growth rate
was the high rate of savings and gross
fixed capital formation that India had
begun to record by the late 1990s. Around
200607 the savings rate was around
36% and the gross fixed capital formation was around 37%. With a capital output ratio of around 4, the crude HarrodDomar formulation would suggest that
an overall growth rate of around 9%
was perfectly feasible. Behind this high
growth rate was the rapid growth of the
service sector, driven by a boom in information technology. The share of agriculture in GDP continued to decline, and
from a figure of around 55% in 1950 it
had declined to around 13.7% by 2013.
This was matched by a steady rise in the
share of income originating in services.
Economic & Political Weekly


august 20, 2016

A key feature in all this has been that the

share of manufacturing in GDP has remained constant at around 15% to 16%
over a long span. It should be noted that
manufacturing is recognised to be the
most dynamic of all sectors, and one
that has the highest potential of generating jobs and therefore absorbing labour.
The share of income originating in manufacturing as a fraction of GDP in China
is double, at around 32%. The relative
constancy in the income originating in
manufacturing in India has meant that
employment has remained stagnant, and
possibly declined, in the organised sector,
giving rise to the phenomenon of jobless growth.
3 Received Doctrine
There is a huge body of development
theory that emerged in the aftermath of
World War II. Some of the major formulations were by Joan Robinson, Ragnar
Nurkse, William Arthur Lewis, Paul
Rosenstein-Rodan, and Albert Hirschman, among many others. There were
some major contributions too from some
established and some newly emerging
Indian economists in the 1950s. In the
first group were names like V K R V Rao
and A K Dasgupta. Among the younger
group were the exceptionally gifted
Amartya Sen, Sukhamoy Chakravarty,
Jagdish Bhagwati and a host of talented
new names.
One needs to underline here that the
issue of growth and development was
also the fundamental concern of the
classical masters such as Adam Smith,
David Ricardo and Robert Malthus. When
Joseph Schumpeter wrote his Theory of
Development in 1911, he was concerned
with the development process in the
advanced capitalist countries such as
England, Germany and the US. However,
the post-war development theorists were
concerned with the development possibilities of countries with low levels of per
capita income. Most of these countries
were in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Many of them had had long spells of colonial rule. With low incomes, the savings rates were low, which meant that
the investment rates were low, and
therefore, the growth rate of the economy
was also very low. These countries were
vol lI no 34

therefore caught in a vicious cycle of

poverty. Some drastic structural changes
were needed to take these economies
onto a path of self-sustaining growth.
The key requirement was the need for
capital formation in the important
formulation of Ragnar Nurkse (1953).
The important contribution of William
Arthur Lewis (1954) used a classical
mode of analysis to suggest that in such
labour surplus economies, rural labour
from the agriculture could be extracted
from the farm sector at a subsistence
wage to work in industry and to contribute
to physical capital formation and infrastructure.
The process of development was one
where labour in agriculture was to, in
due course, first shift to industry. The
share of industry in GDP would slowly
increase, pari passu with a decline in the
share of income originating in agriculture,
and finally there would be a greater generation of income from the services
sector. The Indian experience has been
different, in that we seem to have moved
straight from agriculture to services, without adequate development of industry,
and in particular, the manufacturing sector within industry, which, as we have
noted above, is the most dynamic part of
the industrial sector. The greatest possibility of employment generation is via a
healthy and robust growth of industry,
and in particular manufacturing, and
we thus seem to have missed out on this
crucial stage in our development path.
The consequences of this kind of
growth path in the Indian context have
not been salutary. Lack of robust growth
of the manufacturing activities, especially in the organised sector, has meant
that employment generation has been
weak. The growth of income generation
in the services sector, particularly in the
information technology (IT) sector has
necessarily been confined to a narrow
upper end professional segment of the
population. This has also meant that the
distribution of income has grown greatly
skewed over the past quarter century,
coinciding with the introduction of the
reform process in 1991. The reliance on
market forces has also meant that a
higher growth rate has been achieved,
but that it has also inevitably been


accompanied by a higher degree of

inequality of income.
This has also been the experience
internationally. A substantial body of
seminal work by Piketty (2015), Atkinson (2015) and Stiglitz (2012) has examined with great scholarly acumen and
skill the generalised tendency of accentuation of inequalities in income, and
more tellingly, of wealth, in the entire
swathe of Western Europe, North America
and Japan over the past half century.
Piketty and Atkinson, in particular, have
marshalled and analysed a voluminous
amount of data over a very long span
and arrived at this important conclusion.
Around the early 1950s the share of
agriculture in GDP was about 52% in
India. Nearly 65% of the population was
engaged in agriculture. Presently the
share of agriculture in the labour force
has declined to around 55%, but the
share of agriculture in GDP has steeply
gone down to around 13.7%. This is at
the heart of the problem of accentuation
of inequality in the Indian economy.
There are of course additional systemic
reasons behind the sharpening inequities. They have to do with the highly
unequal and stratified social structure
organised with the traditional dictates
of the caste system which afflicts not
only the majority Hindu community, but
its tentacles spread inexorably to other
religious minorities as well. It is almost
as if we in India cannot think of our
identities without our caste labels. The
founding fathers of the Constitution
were optimistic in their belief, drawn
from a priori common sense that with
increase in living standards and spread
of education and awareness, the role of
caste would slowly wither away. Some of
the particularly nave among them were
wont to believe that reservations for the
Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled
Tribes (STs) would be needed for a
period of 15 years after which they could
be dispensed with. The reality has been
decidedly otherwise. As we approach
the 70th year mark of our independence,
let alone withdrawal of reservations for
SCs and STs, there are significant groups
of Jats, Patels and Kappus in different
parts of the country who seem to have
intensified their demands for reservation,

and few political parties dare to take a

contrary position on these aggressive
demands for fear of their own survival.
It goes without saying that caste arithmetic possibly counts for more, rather
than less, in todays electoral games, and
all political parties, despite their ideological orientation have no choice but to
play along.
4 The Task at Hand
The remedy for the accentuation of
inequalities has to be planned at several
levels. The foremost imperative is that
agricultural incomes have to be substantially increased. This can only come
about via a process of massive channelisation of investmentby way of irrigation
and soil conservation, among others
into the agriculture sector. Simultaneously there has to be a process of
increasing avenues of non-farm employment in the rural sector. Among other
urgently required strategies has to be a
massive programme of skill formation
and upgradation in the rural areas and
small townships.
For the growth process to be sustainable in the long run there has to be a systemic and determined approach to
sharply curb the pace of environmental
degradation. This issue had not earned
the degree of importance it deserved at
the beginning of the early formulations
of post-war development thinking. Clearly
the first two classical economists who
perfectly understood the notion of scarcity were none other than Ricardo and
Malthus. Ricardo knew that as the output of foodgrains are to be increased one
will need to bring in successively less
fertile pieces of land, with the most fertile earning economic rent. Mans
ingenuity and successive rounds of technological breakthroughs have kept the
Malthusian spectre at bay, but we cannot
be sure of postponing apocalypse forever
if the raw profit motive persists in
destroying land, water and air the way it
has done for nearly three centuries after
the onset of the industrial revolution.
Pigou was the first major figure of the
20th century who foresaw the possible
divergence of private and social cost in
the 1920s, nearly two and a half centuries
after Adam Smiths Wealth of Nations.

Despite Pigous prophetic concerns,

modern mainstream economics allowed
another half a century to pass before one
was alerted to the possibilities of environmental degradation only around the
1970s. Garrett Hardins Tragedy of the
Commons had of course already been in
the public domain after 1968, but as is
often the case it caught the attention of
the community of economists only a
decade or two later. There is a fundamental problem of intergenerational
equity contained here. Rapid exploitation
of resources in the present period will
clearly impoverish the future generations. The issue is one of optimally and
correctly calibrating the degree of using
present resources to provide adequately
for the present generations, particularly
the bottom rungs of it, and simultaneously leaving enough to maintain a
sustained rise in living standards and
available choices for future generations.
The status of India in terms of its air
and water quality, and preservation of
its forest resources is particularly alarming. Virtually all waterbodies are severely
polluted. About 61.3% of rural India defecates out in the open. With about twothirds of our per capita income, the figure
for Bangladesh is barely 1.8%. In Sri Lanka open defecation is virtually absent
now. It is not as if we cannot achieve this
goal in India. But a much higher level of
social and cultural awareness and conditioning is required. Unfortunately,
poor sanitation has serious consequences for our health, and our general sense
of well-being. Open defecation is directly correlated to stunting in children, as
has been brought out in a number of important studies (see, for example, Spears
2012). It bears emphasis that barely onethird of the Indian population has access
to improved sanitation. The figure for
China is 64%. The general level of
hygiene is extremely poor, possibly
among the worst in the world today.
Moving on, and coming now to the
crux of the matter, India has a huge
deficit in its achievements in the social
sector. In a listing of 188 countries complied by the UNDP, India occupies the
position of 130. About 48% of children in
the age group 05 are undernourished.
We have some of the worst statistics in

august 20, 2016

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Economic & Political Weekly


the world in terms of maternal health.

Despite substantial gains in literacy, the
quality of education in the state-run
schools is very poor. Public expenditure
on health is a meagre 1.3% of GDP. It
needs hardly belabouring that free
availability of public health facilities for
the bottom rungs of the population is a
prerequisite for any modern state committed to genuine welfare of its citizenry.
The average figure for the major European countries is about 8% of GDP, and
the figure for China, at 2.9%, is more
than double that of India.
It also needs to be stressed that economic forces are not the only determinants of the development process. Development is necessarily a holistic phenomenon. The historical, social, cultural
and political factors are often at least as
important and relevant. Among others,
the great Austrian economist Joseph
Schumpeter had emphasised the importance of sociological factors in economic
development. Of the bottom 30% of the
population that is severely poor, a disproportionately high fraction belongs to
the SCs, STs, Dalits in general and some
minority communities. Due to poverty
the young in these communities are
poorly educated. This puts them at a
disadvantage in the job market. Good
quality healthcare is beyond their means
and poor health status adversely affects
their earning potential.
Despite the fairly appreciable growth
rates we seem to have achieved in
recent years, the bane of our development
path has been the neglect of public
provisioning of health and education, as
has been repeatedly emphasised by
Amartya Sen (Dreze and Sen 2013). There
are plenty of new initiatives coming
from the market-driven private sector,
but regrettably, the quality is extremely
poor and indeed highly questionable.
An extremely strong regulatory body is
needed to monitor the quality of service
delivery in both these goods which are
in the nature of being merit goods.
There are good theoretical reasons for a
strong involvement of the state in the
provisioning of these goods.
As mentioned before, a number of
non-economic factors are crucial for the
sustainability of the growth process. A
Economic & Political Weekly


august 20, 2016

particularly important one is the nature

of the political system. A democratic
system is the one that would give the
best results in the long run. Another
major ingredient is a free press. India is
fortunate to have both these features in
ample measure.
There is every reason to hope that
India would be able to post reasonably
impressive growth rates in the medium
to long term. But this can well come
about in a way where the growth does
not trickle down and get dispersed,
especially to the bottom half of the
population, as has been the case with
our growth experience in the last quarter century of neo-liberal growth. There
are two important implications of this.
First, the persistence of such a developmental path ultimately becomes socially
and politically unacceptable. While this
might not give rise to a violent revolution in the Marxian mould, it certainly
gives rise to widespread social unrest, as
has been seen in our polity in the past
two decades, and more. Second, a skewed
distribution of income would lead to a
suppressed aggregate demand, and the
growth momentum will ultimately peter
out. For growth to be sustainable, the
gains have to be dispersed to the bottom
rungs of the population as well. This has
regrettably not happened in the past
quarter century. Thus the key factor for
sustainable growth is that it ought to
be equitable.
5 Enthusiastic Scepticism
In his contribution to the I G Patel
festschrift edited by S Guhan and Manu
Shroff, Amartya Sen observes:
When I first met I G Patel nearly 28 years
ago, I remember being deeply struck by the
enthusiastic scepticism with which he approached economics. In the 28 years since
then, I have not noticed any weakening of
either the skepticism or the enthusiasm. I
am, on my part, more persuaded now, than
I was then, that enthusiastic scepticism is
indeed the right approach to economics.
(Sen 1986: 175)

IG had set his heart to engaging with

the economic fortunes of his country by
contributing his own bit to this grand
pursuit. What is the best quality that one
should expect of a highly educated and
vol lI no 34

proficient civil servant who might be

genuinely keen to do the greatest good
to the country and its people, without
hurting any section of the population?
Incidentally, in a political democracy,
such a civil servant should also have his
ear to the ground to be sensitive to the
political winds that might be blowing.
This is a tall order, and different people
may think of the required quality differently, but Sens observation of the need
for a certain enthusiastic scepticism
would seem to be rather compelling.
From everything one has read about IGs
life and career he certainly seems to
have had an ample measure of it.
But there are some other considerations too. These cannot be put in a simple pithy word or a couple of words, and
would require some elaboration. In his
famous obituary of his tutor and patron
Alfred Marshall, John Maynard Keynes
(1924) asks the question as to what the
ideal type of an economist should be,
and proceeds to answer the question
The study of economics does not seem to require any specialized gifts of an unusually
high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the
higher branches of philosophy or pure science? An easy subject at which few excel!
The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps,
in that the mastereconomist must possess
a rare combination of gifts. He must be
mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopherin some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must
contemplate the particular in terms of the
general and touch abstract and concrete in
the same flight of thought. He must study the
present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of mans nature
or his institutions must lie entirely outside his
regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and
incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as
near to earth as a politician. (Keynes 1924:

From the roll call of economists of this

country that this author knows of, this
exceptionally exacting set of requirements is met, in my view, regrettably, by
not too large a group. My claim to this
statement is simply on the basis of my
stepping into the field of economics as a
student of BA (Honours) in Economics in
Delhi University exactly a half century
back, in 1966. I had the great and good


fortune of having some of the most

exceptional and dedicated group of
scholars as my undergraduate teachers,
which included Arun Bose. When I went
on to do my Masters at the Delhi School
of Economics (DSE) in 1969, the place
was brimming with dazzling minds and
some extraordinary individuals who
went on to lead the fortunes of our great
nation. There was not only Amartya Sen
who taught the optional paper Advanced
Economic Theory, along with Mrinal
Datta Chaudhuri and Partha Dasgupta in
my final year of 197071, and Manmohan
Singh who taught the optional paper
International Trade along with Arjun
Sengupta in the same year. There were
several other luminaries: K N Raj,
Sukhamoy Chakravarty, Khaliq Naqvi,
Tapan Raychaudhuri, A M Khusro,
A L Nagar, K L Krishna, Meghnad Desai,
Dharma Kumar, Suraj Bhan Gupta, Ajit
Biswas and many others. After finishing
my Masters in 1971, I went away to do
my PhD and briefly worked elsewhere
before I was lucky enough to land myself
a job as a faculty member in my beloved
DSE in 1978 where I remained, barring a
few sojourns here and there, till my
retirement in 2015.
The list of regular faculty members of
DSE and those who passed through its
portals must read like a whos who of
Indian economists in the second half of
the 20th century. I cannot say I knew
them all, but I can claim to have had the
good fortune of simply watching quite a
few of them in their various roles as
teachers, researchers, movers of ideas,
friends, colleagues, and, to move to a
different plane, sometimes in their best
light and sometimes in their worst. IG did
have a brief stint as a faculty member at
the DSE before I joined as a student. He
came as a visiting professor in 196364
when K N Raj was away. I have heard
glowing accounts of his tutorials from
someone who was in his group and who
later was my tutor and then my colleague at the DSE.
Returning to the formulation of Keynes
about economists I would say that IG fits
the description to a surprisingly close
degree, in my estimation. There are
different ways in which one may engage
with the subject of economics; as a thinker

who pushes the frontiers of understanding of economic phenomena, as a civil

servant or bureaucrat who formulates
economic policies and implements them,
and as one who is associated with the
enterprise of propagating and disseminating the received doctrines to students
and the civil society at large. In my view
there need be no presumption that any
one of these activities is necessarily of
greater value than any other. Each one
of these has its own significance. It
would seem to me that after his years at
Cambridge and Harvard IG saw himself
as a civil servant and policymaker both
in his own country as well as internationally, and played this role to perfection. Other than his very early stint in
Baroda College and then briefly at the
DSE in the early 1960s, IG was always
fully immersed in his role of being a civil
servant and policy planner.
As was mentioned at the beginning, IG
published his Glimpses of Indian Economic Policy: An Insiders View in 2002, when
he was 78 years of age. It is of course an
invaluable document for anyone interested in the saga of economic policymaking
at the highest levels in the heady days of
a newly independent country, seen from
the eyes of an insider. It is a racy read. I
will close by quoting IGs perceptive understanding of Indian economic policy.
The story of Indian economic policy from Independence to the present day is one of evolution and continuitynot of revolutionary
or sharp turns in direction. It reflects Indian
realities. Its size, diversity and democratic
aspirations and indeed compulsions, all make
for compromise, eclecticism and even incompatible cohabitation. (Patel 2002: 193)

Atkinson, Anthony B (2015): Inequality: What Can
Be Done?, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Dreze, Jean and Amartya Sen (2013): An Uncertain
Glory: India and Its Contradictions, New Delhi:
Allen Lane.
Hardin, Garrett (1968): The Tragedy of the Commons, Science, 162, 124348.
Keynes, John Maynard (1924): Alfred Marshall
18421924, The Economic Journal 34 (135),
pp 31172.
Krishna, Raj (1980): The Economic Development
of India, Scientific American, 1 September.
Lewis, William Arthur (1954): Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour,
Manchester School of Economic and Social
Studies, 22, pp 13991.
Nurkse, Ragnar (1953): Problems of Capital Formation in Underdeveloped Countries, Oxford: Basil
Patel, Alaknanda (ed) (2009): The Collected Works
of A K Dasgupta, Vols IIII, New Delhi: Oxford
University Press.
Patel, I G (1986): Essays in Economic Policy and Economic Growth, London: Macmillan.
(2002): Glimpses of Indian Economic Policy: An
Insiders View, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Pigou, A C (1920): The Economics of Welfare, London:
Piketty, Thomas (2015): The Economics of Inequality,
Cambridge, Mass: Bellknap Press.
Rawls, John (1951): Outline of a Decision Procedure for Ethics, Philosophical Review, 60.
(1958): Justice as Fairness, Philosophical
Review, 67.
(1971): A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
Schumpeter, Joseph (1911): The Theory of Economic
Development, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sen, Amartya (1986): The Concept of Well Being,
Essays on Economic Progress and Welfare: In
Honour of I G Patel, Guhan and Shroff (eds)
(1986), New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Spears, Dean (2012): Policy Lessons from the
Implementation of Indias Total Sanitation
Campaign, India Policy Forum.
Stiglitz, Joseph (2012): The Price of Inequality: How
Todays Divided Society Endangers Our Future,
New York: W W Norton & Company.

Oral History Archives

On behalf of EPW, the Centre for Public History, Srishti School of Design, Bengaluru,
has put together extended interviews of 30 individuals associated with Economic
Weekly and EPW.
These are interviews with present and former staff, readers, writers and trustees, all
closely associated with the journal.
The interviews cover both the EW and EPW years, some are of the 1950s, others the
1960s and some even later. Each interview lasts for at least an hour and a few are
multi-session interviews.
The interviews maintained in audio files (with transcripts) are available at the EPW
offices in Mumbai for consultation by researchers.
Individuals interested in researching those times and the history of EW/EPW may write
to to explore how the files may be heard and used.
august 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


Realising Universal Maternity Entitlements

Lessons from Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana
Dipa Sinha, Shikha Nehra, Sonal Matharu, Jasmeet Khanuja, Vanita Leah Falcao

In India, most of the work women do is invisible and

unrecognised because it is done outside the boundaries
of the formal economy. As a result, the laws pertaining
to maternity entitlements reach a very limited number
of women. The National Food Security Act, 2013 was the
first national-level legislation to recognise the right of all
women to maternity entitlements and wage
compensation. Since the passage of the act, India has
been using an existing conditional cash transfer scheme,
the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, to implement
this entitlement. An examination of the implementation
of defined maternity entitlements under the act via a
conditional cash transfer, highlights the failure of such a
programme to uphold the spirit of the act. Amendments
to the act are necessary to ensure that the most
vulnerable women are able to realise their right to
maternity entitlements, wage compensation, health
and nutrition.

This article is based on a study conducted by the Centre for Equity

Studies. Supported by Oxfam India, CES is involved in monitoring the
implementation of the NFSA across the country. All the authors were
part of this study team. We thank Harsh Mander, Biraj Patnaik and Sejal
Dand for their guidance and helpful comments.
Dipa Sinha (, Shikha Nehra (shikhanehra92@, Sonal Matharu (, Jasmeet
Khanuja (, and Vanita Leah Falcao
( were researchers with the Centre for Equity
Studies during this study.
Economic & Political Weekly


august 20, 2016

vol lI no 34

niversal maternity entitlements are a means of providing

special protection to women during the vulnerable
period of pregnancy and maternity. Such entitlements
have a positive impact on maternal and child health outcomes
such as maternal mortality and infant mortality rates (Baker
and Milligan 2008; Lancet 2013).
Maternity entitlements aim to protect women against
income loss and job discrimination, while ensuring that they
have adequate time to give birth, to recover and to nurse their
children (ILO nd). The Constitution takes cognisance of this
in the Directive Principles of State Policy wherein it calls upon
the state to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42). Unfortunately, in practice very little has been done to provide adequate
maternity relief to all women.
Maternity entitlements1 in India till recently were governed
mainly by the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 (MBA) and a few
other sectoral/labour laws.2 These legislations are inadequate
because they fail to provide sufficient leave, nursing breaks
during work hours, protection against discrimination and
grievance redressal mechanisms. Furthermore, assessments of
the MBA and the other labour laws find that these legislations
rarely reach women working outside of government or public
sector establishments (Abraham et al 2014; Lingam and Kanchi
2013). Despite the fact that more than 95% of the total female
workforce is employed in the unorganised sector (NCEUS 2007:
240), the only law that recognises the right to social security of
female workers in the unorganised sector is the Unorganised
Workers Social Security Act, 2008. However, women have not
yet benefited from this act because the government has failed
to formulate the schemes to implement its provisions.
The above-mentioned laws also fail to provide for women
who perform unpaid work for the household and the market,3
but are outside the workforce. The cash for maternity protection available to unrecognised women workers through
programmes such as the Janani Suraksha Yojana, National
Maternity Benefit Scheme and others, have limited coverage
because they target women on the basis of income status, age
and number of children. Further, these schemes are linked to
conditions such as institutional delivery and provide meagre
amounts as benefit.
In this context, the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA)
is a landmark legislation because it recognises that all women
work and deserve to be supported during pregnancy and child
birth.4 The NFSA provides a universal maternity cash entitlement


of `6,000 to all pregnant women.5 This cash entitlement is

intended to enable women to fulfil the WHO (World Health
Organization) recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for
six months. Along with this cash provision, the NFSA also mandates breastfeeding counselling.
Weight gain during pregnancy affects the birth weight of
the child significantly. Low birth weight has lifelong effects on
the health status of the child (Coffey and Hathi 2015). To account for this, the NFSA entitles all pregnant and lactating
women to a free meal through the anganwadis.6 These meals
must have a nutritive value of 600 calories and contain 1820
grams of protein. Though supplementary nutrition is an
important entitlement of the NFSA, this paper focuses on the
maternity cash entitlement under the NFSA.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD)
has proposed implementing the NFSA defined maternal cash
entitlement provision through the Indira Gandhi Matritva
Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY). The IGMSY is a conditional maternity
benefit scheme that was implemented in 2010 on a pilot basis
in 53 districts across the country. According to MoWCD administrative data for 201415, the IGMSY reached only 22.9% of its
target coverage (GoI 2015).
Studies in the past have critiqued the IGMSY for its high rate
of exclusion due to its eligibility conditions related to age of
the mother and number of children (Lingam and Yelamanchili 2011). Sahyog (2012) highlights its poor implementation
that exacerbates womens vulnerabilities during pregnancy.
The effects of the IGMSY on maternal health and labour
outcomes in Jharkhand are explored in P Kumar et al (2015).
In addition, a MoWCD commissioned evaluation of the IGMSY
assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the programme in
the context of its impact on health and nutrition of women
and children (ASCI 2013).
In this paper, we assess the IGMSYs potential to realise the
NFSAs universal maternity entitlement for all women. The
IGMSY is a conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme. The authors
argue that the conditionality of the scheme is the primary
reason for its failure. As a CCT scheme, it contradicts the right
to wage compensation, and shifts attention away from womens rest and well-being during pregnancy and childbirth, to
meeting of conditions. The authors also examine issues related
to fund flow processes.
Our analysis is primarily based on a study7 of the IGMSY
conducted by the authors in 16 villages in eight districts in
Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh (MP).
Selection of the sample was based on remoteness and presence
of marginalised communities (that is, Scheduled Castes [SCs],
Scheduled Tribes [STs] and Particularly Vulnerable Tribal
Groups [PVTGs]). Within villages, women from difficult-to-reach
parts and marginalised communities were given preference. A
total of 127 in-depth interviews were conducted with women
(both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries), front-line workers
(anganwadi workers [AWWs], accredited social health activists
[ASHAs] and auxiliary nurse midwives [ANMs], and government officials. In addition, this study uses national-level data
such as MoWCD administrative data, Census 2011 and the

Rapid Survey on Children 201314 (RSOC; MOWCD 2015) to

analyse target achievement, fund utilisation and exclusion
from the scheme.
Womens Work Burdens
Din bhar kaam karengi, sham ko bachcha bana lengi. (They work
throughout the day, in the evening they deliver a baby.)
AWW, Kaream Raated village, Madhya Pradesh

Most of the women interviewed in this study are involved in

multiple forms of work. In Kaream Raated village, Chhindwara
district, a womens day begins with a two to three kilometre
walk to a stream to fetch water as there is no handpump in the
village. Besides daily tasks such as fetching water, collecting
firewood, making dung cakes, cooking, cleaning, washing,
and taking care of the children and the elderly, women are
also involved in agricultural work. In addition, some women
also earn a livelihood by performing daily wage labour under
the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee
Act (MGNREGA). Home-based livelihood activities are also
done, such as beedi rolling in Sagar, minor forest produce
(MFP) collection in Bastar, Dhamtari, Chhindwara, East Singhbhum, Simdega and parts of Sagar, and basket making in
Simdega and Sagar.
Unchanging work burden: In the four states visited, it was
found that the onset of pregnancy signals little change in the
kind of work women do. In most cases women reported working till the day of delivery and often resuming work within a
week post-delivery. Sahyog (2012) and L Lingam and A Kanchi
(2013) have also documented this. The drudgery of womens
work is neither specific to one location nor one form of work.
Various micro- and macro-level studies in the past have also
highlighted the multiple work burdens that women face
(Chowdhry 1993; Hirway 2002; Sharma 1989).
Women reported various reasons for working during
pregnancy and after delivery. In some cases women were
being forced to work by their husband and family. Bhago, a 27year-old beneficiary from Dhamtari district in Chhattisgarh,
resentfully said that her mother-in-law did not let her rest. Ek
bhi din aaram nahi karne diya (I was not allowed to rest for a
single day), she said.
In most cases, however, women did not rest enough because
there was nobody to share the work burden, be it within the
household or outside. Women, including pregnant women,
continue to perform strenuous work both in the fields and at
the home, which adversely affects the health of the mother
and child. They remain invisible and unprotected by the
labour laws.
Unequal work burden: Women also face an unequal burden
of unpaid work. According to NCEUS (2009), the proportion of
unpaid family workers is the highest among rural female
workers. The category of female unpaid family workers in
rural areas saw an increase of 10 percentage points, from 38%
in 1983 to 48% in 200405 (NCEUS 2009). Further, J Ghosh
(2014) found that if women involved in domestic duties8 are
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Economic & Political Weekly


also accounted for, then in 201112 the total female work participation rate was as high as 86.2%, compared with 79.8%
for men.
Feminist economists in India and elsewhere have repeatedly
highlighted the need to account for womens invisible, unrecognised and unpaid work, but the accounting systems continue to elude the range of womens work (Elson 2002; Ghosh
2014; Hirway 2002). The failure to recognise the coexistence
of womens paid and unpaid work, and placing a higher value
on economic or productive work results in womens domestic and care work being marginalised and unrecognised. This
further constrains womens access to the paid work economy
(Lingam and Yelamanchili 2011).
IGMSY: Design-related Issues

Inadequate wage compensation: The IGMSY is the first

central government scheme9 providing maternity benefits as
wage compensation. It aims to provide partial compensation
for the wage loss so that the woman is not under compulsion
to work till the last stage of pregnancy and can take adequate
rest before and after delivery (GoI 2011: 5). The amount of
`4,000 was a part wage loss compensation of approximately
40 days `100 per day, given as maternity benefit, for ensuring
mother takes the much required rest before delivery and soon
after delivery for taking better care of herself and her young
infant (GoI 2011: 7). In addition, as a CCT scheme it aimed to
promote appropriate practices of care and service utilisation
during pregnancy, safe delivery and exclusive breastfeeding
for six months after childbirth. However, the design and
provisions of the IGMSY are insufficient to achieve many of its
Arbitrary duration: The decision to provide wage compensation for 5.7 weeks/40 days under the IGMSY is arbitrary in
the light of the paid maternity leave norm of 14 weeks/98
days set by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and
the MBA-defined statutory maternity leave period of 12 weeks
or 84 days.
The IGMSY cash benefit of `4,000 (revised to `6,000 in 2013)
falls far short of the `8,400 that should have been provided for
12 weeks at the rate of `100 per day (by standards set by the
MBA). This shortfall is even greater if the minimum wages for
unskilled agricultural workers,10 that is, `204 per day, is used.
Using this rate, `6,000 is wage compensation for only 29 days.
In fact, wage compensation for 40 days amounts to `8,160 and
`19,992 for the ILO minimum of 14 weeks (84 days) (Table 1).
Civil society groups in India, such as the Right to Food Campaign, National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human
Rights (NAMHHR) and Alliance for the Right to Early Childhood
Table 1: Comparison of Estimated Wage Compensation under Different
IGMSY Rate (@ `100/day)

Scheme/Policy Norm

Minimum Wage (@ `204/day)

IGMSY (5.7 weeks/40 days)



MBA (12 weeks/84 days)



ILO (14 weeks/98 days)



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vol lI no 34

Development, have been arguing for maternity cash benefits

equivalent to wage compensation for 63 weeks/nine months.
This amount would enable three months of rest during the
third trimester (when it is crucial to avoid heavy work), as well
as six months rest post-delivery to enable exclusive breastfeeding as recommended by the WHO (ARECD 2014; Dand and
Agrawal 2014).
Implementation Issues

Despite being limited to only 53 districts, a range of issues

plague the effective implementation of the IGMSY. At the time
of this study, the revised amount (GoI 2013) of `6,000 was not
being received anywhere. There were long delays in payment,
zero-balance accounts were rare, and supply-side gaps in
health and nutrition services made it impossible to meet the
conditions attached to the scheme.
Underachieved targets and unspent budget allocation: Earlier
studies of the IGMSY have pointed out the slow take-off of the
scheme, with some states not even operationalising the
scheme in its first year, 201112 (Sahyog 2012). The large-scale
evaluation of the IGMSY conducted in 12 states by the
Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI 2013) reiterated
this based on data up to 201213, but pointed out gradual
improvement and interstate variations in coverage.
The latest available data from the MoWCD on coverage and
budget utilisation, that is, till February 201314, shows that
only 28% of the targeted women have been covered from 2010
till the first quarter of 201314. The coverage for the first quarter of 201314 showed improvement, but remained limited to
51%. The reasons for this low coverage and in-turn underutilisation of funds at the national level are consequences of various implementation issues. Our study findings highlight these
issues and are discussed below.
Conditions and supply-side issues: After the NFSA was
passed in 2013, the conditions under the IGMSY were revised,
and the condition related to weighing and growth monitoring
was dropped. The present conditions include registration of
pregnancy, receiving antenatal check-ups (ANCs), consumption of iron-folic acid (IFA) tablets, immunisation of mother
and child, attending infant and young child feeding (IYCF)
counselling sessions, exclusive breastfeeding for six months and
initiating complementary food after six months.
The purpose of the conditionalities in the IGMSY is to
increase uptake of basic health services and bring about
behaviour change among beneficiaries. However, the
availability of these health services at the village level is
inadequate. The recent findings of the RSOC on the availability of these services reflect worrying shortages in supply
of services.
The RSOC data shows that only 19.7% women receive a
full ANC (3+ ANCs, 100 IFA tablets consumption and at least
one dose of tetanus toxoid (TT). In other words, many women
will not qualify to receive the first instalment under the


The data also shows that in the areas that have anganwadi
centres (AWCs), approximately 35% do not provide nutrition
and health education (NHE) (MoWCD 2015). Similarly, 39% of
the AWCs do not provide ANCs. Furthermore, only 17% of pregnant women are aware of such NHE being conducted at the
AWC and less than 33% knew that ANCs are supposed to be provided at the AWCs (MoWCD 2015).
Table 2 shows the extent of inadequate service provisioning.
These shortages in supply of immunisation, counselling and
antenatal care services, are beyond the control of women.
However, they still prevent women from fulfilling the IGMSY
conditions and receiving the cash entitlement.
There are also shortages in infrastructure and staffing. Only
61.8% of AWCs are run from own or rented buildings; the rest are
run in schools, the AWWs homes or the panchayat building. Data
published by the MoWCD shows that as of March 2014, there was a
shortage of nearly one-third of block-level staff, such as supervisors (30%) and child development project officers (31%). Such a
shortage is likely to result in existing staff being overworked,
and poor implementation and monitoring of the programme.
Findings from our study show that immunisation of the
mother and child, a condition to receive IGMSY benefits, often
does not get fulfilled due to limited access to AWCs and health
centres. In Bastanar block, Bastar district in Chhattisgarh,
women travelled up to 25 km, while crossing hills and thick
forest to reach the nearest government sub-centre. In MPs
Sagar district, the health sub-centres were 9 km away, but
crossing the forest and personal safety was a big concern for
women. Simultaneously, the cost of travelling to health centres
also deterred women from accessing the services.
Table 2: Status of Supply of Nutrition and Health Services
IGMSY Conditionalties

RSOC Indicator*

Registration of pregnancy
at AWC/health centre
within four months
Two ANCs

Women who
Received three or
more ANC
100 or more
IFA tablets/syrup
during pregnancy
Received two
or more TT
Children aged below
five years whose birth
is registered
Received full

Received 100 IFA tablets

Receive 2 Tetanus
Toxoid (TT) injections
Registration of childbirth

Immunisation of child
Attend 3 IYCF counselling
sessions within three months
of birth
Exclusive breastfeeding
for six months

Introduction of
complementary food
after six months

AWCs providing
nutrition and
health services
Children aged
05 months who
were exclusively
Children introduced
feeding between
6 and 8 months

* Source: Rapid Survey of Children (MoWCD 2015).



Bihar Chhattisgarh




























Given the existing status of health and nutrition services,

the conditionalities under IGMSY further constrain access to
maternity entitlements for women. Further, due to the emphasis
on conditionalities related to the scheme, the IGMSY is only
seen as a support to access health and nutrition services. None
of the women interviewed knew that this money was supposed
to enable them to rest and take off from work, or that it was
wage compensation.
Even women who were IGMSY beneficiaries did agricultural
work until the time of delivery. After delivery many women
beneficiaries returned to agricultural work within a month.
Some stayed home but began doing household work, including strenuous work such as fetching water and firewood,
within 730 days. The conditionalties contradict the right of
all women to maternity relief, as envisaged in the Constitution and the NFSA.
Delayed cash transfer and fund flow: Delay in fund transfer
and inaccessible banks also impeded receipt of IGMSY benefits.
To receive IGMSY cash, women need to have a bank or postal
account. However, the rural banking system in India is still
largely inaccessible to the poor.
Sangeeta from Bastar district had to climb a hill and walk
for about 25 km in the third trimester of her pregnancy, to
open her account at the post office in Bastanar. She required
the help of her villages AWW since she is illiterate, does not
know her age, and speaks only Gondi and Halbi.
Similar stories were heard in all four states. The overall
range of the banks distance from the villages visited for the
study was approximately 2530 km in MP, Chhattisgarh and
Jharkhand. In Bihar the distance ranged
between 4 and 10 km, but poor roads and lack of
Jharkhand MP
transport made the journey difficult for women
during pregnancy. The post offices were relative73.0 90.2 ly closer in some places, but in other areas they
were as far as the banks. In MP the distance of
47.3 41.7 post offices from the villages visited ranged from
3 to 17 km, 8 to 30 km in Chhattisgarh, 4 to 25 km
in Jharkhand, and at least 3 km in Bihar.
15.2 30.3
A Adhikari and K Bhatia (2010) explore access
to banking services of MGNREGA workers. They
90.6 88.9
found that 41% travelled over 5 km from their
place of residence to visit the bank. In such a sce34.9 84.9 nario, often workers must forgo their days wages
to visit the bank. Therefore, accessing banks in
rural areas involves high opportunity costs for
64.9 53.5
women (and family members who accompany
them), in terms of both money and time. Such
68.3 56.2 forgone costs can act as a disincentive for the
recipient and are not factored into the design of
the IGMSY.
The issue was not limited to merely accessing
64.3 74.8
the bank. The IGMSY guidelines mandate opening
of zero-balance accounts, however, in most places
53.7 46.3 this was not taking place. In MPs Kaream Raated
village, the post office did not open Aarti Bhartis
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account because she refused to pay a deposit. Aarti was eligible for the IGMSY cash benefit, but did not receive it as a result
of not having an account.
Except for a few women, all beneficiaries interviewed had to
pay a minimum deposit to open their account. In a number of
cases women reported that their account was not opened until
they paid a deposit. The front-line workers, block and district
officials also acknowledged that banks were not opening zerobalance accounts. The deposit demanded ranged from `50 to
`200 in post offices and `500 to `1,000 in banks.
Once an account is opened, there is no guarantee that
women will receive their entitlements on time. The IGMSY
guidelines require that the first instalment be paid in the third
trimester. In the four states, no woman received her first IGMSY
instalment before delivery. Women in the sample reported a
delay of five months to three years in receiving the IGMSY cash.
Such delays have existed since the scheme was launched.
The evaluation of the IGMSY conducted by the ASCI in 2012
found a delay of up to one to two years in receipt of IGMSY
cash by beneficiaries (ASCI 2013). Kumar et al (2015) found
that a majority of women do paid work till the last stages of
their pregnancy and return to work as early as possible due to
the increased expenditure, as a result of the newborn, combined with the low and delayed IGMSY cash benefit. An issue
of concern, which links to the poor monitoring of the IGMSY,
is that the data provided to the authors by the concerned
government departments of the four states did not reflect
these delays.
Issues with transfer of funds are not limited to only payment
of beneficiaries. Fund flow from the state to subsequent
administrative levels is also a lengthy and bureaucratic
process. The process begins with women registering at the
AWC. The AWW then compiles the data for the entire month
and gives it to the supervisor. The supervisor in turn collates
the data of her sector and submits it at the block office, where
it is entered into a computerised database. The block-level data
is then sent to the district level where yet again the data is
compiled and sent to the state level. Funds are released only
after state approval is obtained. This process takes approximately 45 days. The state releases funds to the districts or
blocks on a quarterly or half-yearly basis.
State officials reported that fund release from the central
government to the states is often delayed. Since the IGMSY is
entirely centrally sponsored, such a delay causes a complete
breakdown of the fund flow cycle and leads to extended delays
in fund allotment to districts and thereon.
In Bihar, we were informed that the first instalment of the
annual IGMSY budget is released by the Government of India
(GoI) only in September, that is, the middle of the second
quarter of the financial year. In Jharkhand, funds for 201415
had not been received till September 2014. An AWW informed
us that for this reason she had stopped enrolling women for
the IGMSY. Similar delays were found in Chhattisgarh and MP.
The most significant cost of such delays are borne by the
women and children, when their entitlements are delayed or
denied to them.
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High out-of-pocket expenditure: While the current IGMSY

amount falls short of reasonable norms for wage compensation,
women also spend huge amounts on out-of-pocket expenditure
in relation to childbirth.
Shyamwati from Dhabara village in MP, for instance, had to
spend `3,000 to hire a jeep for travelling to Sagar district hospital for her delivery. In addition, she had to spend about
`1,500 on medicines and pay a bribe of `300 to the nurse. She
could not recall exactly how much she spent for returning
home or any other healthcare expenditure made pre- and postdelivery which were additional costs.
A study of Tamil Nadus maternity entitlement scheme also
found that women spend nearly 39% of the amount received
on medical expenses (Public Health Resource Network 2010).
The recent NSSo (2015) report on health expenditure also
found that on average the out-of-pocket expenditure when
availing public health services for childbirth is approximately `1,587 in rural and `2,117 in urban areas. The average
expenditure on private health services for the same is `14,778
and `20,328 in rural and urban areas, respectively. Given
such high medical expenditure, even if the IGMSY is received in
a timely manner, it will have limited impact on nutrition
and rest.
It was found that although the bank accounts are in the
name of the women, they did not have complete control over
how the amount gets spent. Sometimes they decided to spend
the money with their husbands or keep it for themselves,
however, some women gave it or were forced to give it to their
husband or family.
The money was mostly spent on essentials such as food and
health services. Some beneficiaries reported using it to meet
additional expenditures related to rituals celebrating childbirth
(IIPS 2016a, 2016b).
Exclusions due to eligibility criteria: A woman is entitled to
the IGMSY cash benefit only for the first two live births and if
she is above 19 years of age. Several issues exist regarding
these eligibility criteria. In the sites we visited, widespread inconsistency existed regarding who qualifies for the IGMSY.
Several front-line workers stated that along with the abovementioned criteria, a woman is entitled to the IGMSY cash if
she maintained a three-year gap between children and if she is
from a below poverty line (BPL) household. Some front-line
workers also stated that the JSY requirement of institutional
delivery is mandatory for receiving the final IGMSY instalment.
Furthermore, women in some villages were informed by the
front-line workers that sterilisation after two children was also
a prerequisite for receiving IGMSY benefits. In Chhindwara,
MP, women were informed that those who give birth to a boy
are eligible for IGMSY and those who give birth to a girl are eligible for the Ladli Laxmi Yojana. Besides the additional eligibility criteria as a result of misinformation, the official eligibility criteria themselves result in some of the most vulnerable
women being excluded.
In all four states visited, the fertility rate is higher than the
national average of 2.3. As a result, in these states more women


are excluded as compared with other states. L Lingam and

V Yelamanchilis (2011) analysis of exclusion as a result of the
IGMSY eligibility criteria and conditions indicates that the
socio-economically vulnerable are the most excluded. An
analysis of Census 2011 data indicates that 37% women are excluded due to these eligibility criteria. Furthermore, the estimated exclusion is higher amongst STs and SCs. Exclusion is
approximately 47% amongst STs and 41% amongst SCs.
The authors also observed this trend of exclusion of the most
vulnerable during the field study. For instance, in the villages
visited in Jharkhand, no woman from the Sabar (PVTG) and Ho
(ST) tribes had received IGMSY benefits. The Sabar and Ho are
some of the most deprived tribes in the region. The authors
were informed by AWWs that child marriage is widely practised
amongst these communities. As a result, women often bear
children before the age of 19 and for this reason are ineligible
for IGMSY benefits. In addition, an AWW in Jharkhand said, It is
not uncommon for women in this village to have more than two
children ... because of the two child norm, many women get left
out. Since 2010, about 25 to 30 women were left out.
As discussed, the IGMSY eligibility conditions increase the
vulnerability of women who already lack access to proper
healthcare, and are socially and economically marginalised.
Disincentivising having more than two children is often provided as the justification for the eligibility criteria. Besides the
fact that discriminating against children who are born of a higher
birth order or to young mothers is indefensible, there are a number of reasons why such eligibility criteria are not desirable.
For example, it is children of higher birth order or born to
low-age mothers who are at greater risk of mortality, morbidity and malnutrition (Raj et al 2010). Similarly there is a high
unmet need for contraception, and such systems of incentives
and disincentives are not the appropriate way of achieving
population stabilisation (Sama 2009). Moreover, there has
been a secular decline in fertility rates in all states in India and
it is estimated that all states will soon reach replacement-level
fertility rates (Rukmini 2014).
In spite of this, interviews with state officials showed that
they were not aware of the unfair exclusions as a result of
these criteria and in fact believed that such criteria were
justified. For example an official of the Integrated Child
Development Services (ICDS) department in Bihar said, Eligibility criteria do not lead to exclusion. We have not received
this issue in any meeting or report. No group or community
has reported issue of exclusion. The same official stated that
the age criterion should remain because if we allow women
below the age of 19 to be included then we will be contradicting other government policies (on population). We would be
promoting early marriage also. As with the case of IGMSY
conditionality, retaining the IGMSY eligibility criteria while
implementing the NFSA will undermine the maternity entitlement it defines for all women.

Despite the limited framework of the IGMSY, the scheme has

design and implementation limitations. As demonstrated

through the field study and national-level data, the eligibility

criteria such as limiting benefits to women above 19 years of
age or only up to two live births result in the exclusion of the
most marginalised. Conditionalities related to utilising health
and nutrition services are also meaningless in the absence of
service guarantee and the absence of effective counselling on
exclusive breastfeeding.
In fact, such conditions act as a disservice to women by disqualifying them from the IGMSY. Administrative rigidities such
as insisting on registration at the AWCS (even if the woman was
registered with the health department) and not including
women residing at their natal homes add to the barriers in
access to the scheme. Finally, the hurdles faced by women in
opening zero-balance bank accounts and accessing banks in
general further serve to defeat the objectives of the IGMSY.
In most cases, the money was spent on health, food or other
household expenses, because the payment was often so delayed
that it was not available to women when they most needed nutrition and rest. Secondly, the amount is too little to have any
impact on womens decisions to engage (or not) in paid work.
Moreover, norms related to gender division of labour are so
entrenched that the burden of work on women remains almost
the same even during late pregnancy or very soon after delivery.
In the absence of any public debate on division of labour or support structures to reduce womens work either from within the
household or the state, the IGMSY entitlement has failed to
make any dent on time spent by women on other work.
In this context, it is important to pose the question: does the
IGMSY, in its current form, address the rights of all women as
workers? Given the absence of a link to minimum wages,
MBA-defined statutory maternity leave and the vision of the
IGMSY as a cct scheme aimed at changing unhealthy behaviour, it appears the rights of women as workers are not on
its agenda.
If the true spirit of the NFSA is to guarantee maternal and
child nutrition and health, ignoring the needs and rights of
women entirely defeats its purpose. To ensure that the spirit of
the NFSA is upheld, a complete overhaul of the IGMSYs design
is necessary. This would include making the scheme universal
and unconditional; linking the benefit to prevailing minimum
wages and ensuring that bottlenecks related to fund transfer,
access to banking services, delays in payment and staff shortages are taken care of.11
Universal maternity entitlements have the potential to
meet multiple objectives, including recognising womens
rights as workers, providing social security for all women
during maternity, and promoting exclusive breastfeeding
which is best practice for the child. The Government of India
must urgently implement the NFSA maternity entitlement
through a universal scheme, given that it has been over two
years since its passage. This study highlights the necessary
changes in the design and implementation of the IGMSY, if
the government intends to utilise it to implement the said
maternal entitlement.
There are a number of other issues related to ensuring
universal maternity entitlements in India that go beyond the
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Economic & Political Weekly


scope of this paper. In the current context where the government has announced the amendment of the MBA, these issues
are significant. In particular, it is crucial to define coverage
while accounting for the continuum of womens paid and unpaid work; link the wage compensation to minimum wages;
define wage protection as a principle for those in paid employment; and account for the formal sector and the different

In the existing literature the terms maternity

entitlements, maternity benefits and maternity
protections are often used interchangeably to
refer to the range of supportive measures for
women during pregnancy, childbirth and
childcare. This includes access to healthcare,
nutrition, childcare services, breastfeeding
support and wage compensation/paid leave. In
this paper, we mainly discuss the wage compensation component delivered in the form of
cash transfers.
2 Examples of such laws are the Plantations Act,
1949; the Mines Act, 1951; Beedi and Cigar
Workers Act, 1966; Building and Construction
Workers Act, 1966; Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 and Inter-state
Migrant Workers Act, 1970.
3 See for example Chandrasekhar and Ghosh
(2014), NCEUS (2009).
4 Maternal entitlements were included in the
NFSA because framers of the act adopted a lifecycle approach to food security, which meant
accounting for the health and nutrition needs
of mothers and children. These needs are crucial for intrauterine growth, mortality rates of
mothers and children, and future physical and
cognitive development.
5 The act recognises that all pregnant and
lactating women are entitled to maternity
benefits of `6,000 and one free meal a day, excluding central and state government
employees and women receiving such benefits
under other laws.
6 Although this entitlement currently exists
through the Integrated Child Development
Services (ICDS) and Supreme Court orders in
PUCL v Union of India and Others Writ Petition
(civil) 196 of 2001, there are a number of problems in its implementation. In the present article, however, we focus on the cash maternity
benefit while acknowledging that supplementary nutrition is an important component of maternity entitlements to enable adequate nutrition and proper weight gain during pregnancy.
7 For the study report see Falcao et al (2015).
8 As defined by National Sample Surveys Office
code 92 and 93.
9 States such as Tamil Nadu and Odisha provide
maternity benefits to women subject to eligibility based on age and number of children.
10 For minimum wage for unskilled agricultural
workers in C category areas (where wages are
the lowest) see Order from the Office of Chief
Labour Commissioner, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, No 1/3 (1)/2015-LS-II dated 30 March 2015.
11 For detailed recommendations of this study on
the IGMSY scheme see Falcao et al (2015).
12 Many more issues are also raised in the context
of the amendment of the MBA, such as rights of
adoptive parents, moving to a focus on parental
leave from maternal leave, etc.

Abraham, A, D Singh and P Pal (2014): Critical
Assessment of Labour Laws, Policies and Practices
through a Gender Lens, Dissussion Paper for
Economic & Political Weekly


august 20, 2016

sectors within the vast unorganised sector while planning the

delivery mechanism.12
This paper, while focusing on the NFSA maternity cash entitlement, has raised critical issues that need to be taken into account
both for the proposed amendment of the MBA, as well as while
drafting future (conditional and unconditional) cash transfer
policies aimed at reaching the poorest and the most vulnerable.

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Sahyog (2012): Monitoring the IGMSY from Equity
and Accountability Perspective: A Block-level
Study in West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and
Uttar Pradesh, The Crisis of Maternity: Healthcare and Maternity Protection for Women Wage
Workers in the Informal Sector in India, A Compilation of Two National Studies.
Sama (2009): Beyond Numbers: Implications of the
Two-child Norm, SamaResearch Group for
Women and Health, New Delhi.
Sharma, M (1989): Womens Work Is Never Done,
Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 24, No 17,
pp WS38WS44.



Swadhin/Paradhin (Freedom/Unfreedom)
A Working Class Analysis of the Indian Domestic Work Industry
Udbhav Agarwal

A staple of household life in India, domestic workers

form the ever-increasing class of people struggling for
an official labour identity, and consequent labour
standards considered commonplace and irreplaceable
elsewhere. Three interrelated aspects of the industry
the identity of the Indian domestic worker, power idioms
of worker oppression, and legal, even ideological,
structuresneed to be looked at in order to alleviate
their oppression.

Udbhav Agarwal ( is with Vassar College,

Poughkeepsie, New York.


Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes
when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but
very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world
sleeps, India will awake to light and freedom [] when the soul of a
nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
Jawaharlal Nehru, on 14 August 1947, approaching the first dawn of
an independent India. (Collins and Lapierre 1975)

iberalised for private investment in 1991, the modernday Indian economy functions on a strict adherence to
neo-liberal idealsa melting pot for private accumulation and class inequalities (Roy 2014: 747). Agriculture in
India, an industry that once made up the majority of Indias
workforce now contributes 13.7% to Indias gross domestic
product (GDP) (Economic Times 2013), while farmers continue
to commit suicide at an all-time high rate of 11.2% (National
Crime Records Bureau 2012: 182). The memories of small
towns that once decorated their body and borders have become reduced to mere vestiges, as rural populations make way
for industry and big cities; and the big cities become idiosyncratic of each other. Indeed, India today is more developed
than it has ever been, if development was measured by concrete and hegemony. Perhaps, at the stroke of the midnight
hour, only a few souls of this nation, long suppressed, have
found utterance.
Class inequalities come face-to-face in almost every juncture of ordinary life in India. As chartered planes touch down
on the granite runways of Chhatrapati Shivaji airport at Indias
financial capital, Mumbai, passengers overlook the cluttered
nooks of Dharavi, the worlds biggest slum. Not far off, surmounted like a mammoth effigy of a feudal lord, stands Antilla
the 27-storey skyscraper residence of Mukesh Ambani and his
family of four costing nearly $2 billion (Woolsey 2008). In a
nation of 1.25 billion, the richest 100 own assets worth onefourth of its GDP (Roy 2014: 7). The middle and upper classes,
making up only 23.3% of Indias population, take over the top
15% of the income bracket, while the working and poor classes
make up the rest of it: 76.7% (National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized SectorNCEUS 2007: 6). Tantamount to that figure, around 75% of Indians in the unorganised sector make less than `20 a day (NCEUS 2007: 1), while the
National Minimum Wage (NMW) is set at `66 per day depending on occupation and residence (NCEUS 2007: 46). Additional
data shows that regulations for a government-mandated work
week (not more than 9 hours a day with 48 hours a week) are
rarely followed. Thus, the average week becomes 10 hours a
day and 60 hours a week (maybe even more, depending on
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which industry you find yourself in) (NCEUS 2007: 3538). Essentially, in the worlds biggest democracy, the majority of citizens belong to the working class, earn an average income that
is 50% below the mandated minimum wage and work 20%
more hours than permitted by the government.
Within this context, thrives the Indian domestic work industryan institution entrenched in politics of class, caste and
gender. Around 2.7%1 of working Indians (Economist 2012), including the 600 naukars and naukranis2 that work at Ambanis
Antilla (Woolsey 2008) and 57% migrants that move from
small towns to the big cities looking for employment (NCEUS
2007: 95), find themselves as a part of this undocumented,
unregulated and often, intrusive work culture (HondagneuSotelo 2007; Ray and Qayum 2009; Dickey 2000). By focusing
on the predicaments and tribulations of the domestic worker
in specific, this research paper will attempt to create a generic analysis of the working class in India. Given both the multiple intersectional oppressions that govern the domestic
worker and the immense number of employers that are implicitly involved in their oppression, the analysis becomes an
exemplar case study of what it means to be Indian and working class, in a nation that woke up to light and freedom
70 years ago.
This article would consider three interrelated aspects of the
domestic work industry. Section 1 would focus on the identity
of the Indian naukar. By focusing on daily narratives of domestic workers, the section would observe how domestic work
encroaches upon the identity of the naukar, burdening them
under a constant state of oppression and creating a structure
of feeling (Williams 1973: 1-16) that dictates their class position. Section 2 would begin to unearth the unnerving ways
in which seemingly ordinary people become bystanders
(Cohen 2000: 143) if not perpetrators of this oppression. By
focusing on the paradoxical defence mechanisms utilised by
employers to maintain their power, the section would reveal
the structural impediments that stagnate the naukar in his
class position, forming a larger critique of neo-liberal (Harvey
2007), socio-economic policies of an economically liberal
India. Section 3 and the conclusion briefly addresses the question of what considerations may guide an attempt to restructure the Indian domestic work industry, highlighting crucial
changes needed in both government mandates and employer
employee relationships.3
1 The Identity of the Naukar
They think of us as slaves. Just as slaves.
Mutthammal, a domestic worker in Madurai. (Dickey 2000: 40)
A servant is not really a human; a servant is a servant.
Mila, an employer in Kolkata. (Ray and Qayum 2009: 136)

A structure of feeling, as Marxist sociologist Raymond

Williams puts it, attempts to describe the meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt [] a distinction from
more formal concepts of word-view or ideology (Williams
1973: 116). The Indian domestic work industry has become the
bedrock of middle and upper class existence in modern-day
India. Almost every middle and upper class household depends
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on domestic workers to do all kinds of household chores,

whether it be cooking, cleaning toilets or taking care of their
children. However, within this everyday medley of orders and
tasks are behaviours that give birth to a structure of feeling
that represses the identity of the naukar, resuscitating his
working-class inferiority and articulating the hegemony of the
ruling class. These behaviours do not end with their physical
dealings, but generate an experience that is actively lived and
felt, characterised by its sustained and constant implications
on the domestic help.
Consider the narrative of Ram Lakhan, a 76-year-old cook
who has been working at my house for the past 35 years. Ram
Lakhan is older than my grandfather, yet he has never been
treated with the same respect. Every now and then, one can
find my grandmother derailing him for mistakes that only domestic workers can be derailed for: putting too much salt in
the food or the tea not being hot enough. During meals, as
everyone sits and eats, Ram Lakhan is supposed to walk to and
fro from the kitchen to the dining room, cooking and simultaneously delivering rotisan evidently tremendous task given
his age. Yet, there are times when he is severely reprimanded
for being too slow. On other days, when Ram Lakhan is not
there, and my mother cooks the food, an excess of salt is addressed in a single amusing comment at the dining table, and
rotis are patiently waited for. Ram Lakhans old age, decades
of work experience, and delicate health would command great
respect and gratitude in other professions; but his identity as a
naukar makes those traits irrelevant. Ram Lakhans narrative
summarises a recurring theme in domestic worker narratives
from across India where an individuals social position as a
domestic worker organises contradictions with other salient
aspects of his identity. Domestic workers are considered outside the realm of social norms, where the masterslave relationship subsumes any and all social definitions that may
make them humanallowing the employers to create a distinction between themselves and the ones serving them. As
Mila puts it: a ser vant is not really a human; a servant is
a servant. 4
The exclusion of domestic workers is further complicated by
the psychological and emotional demands of domestic work.
The relationship that grows between the domestic worker and
their employer is governed by partisan authority and subservience, even though the work demanded of them requires acute
emotional vulnerability: a labour of love5 (Sotelo 2007: 68).
Consider the narrative of Sadna, an old Bengali woman with
three children, who has been working at our house for the past
16 years. She began her work back in 1999, when my youngest
cousin was born, her main task being taking care of her. Each
year, for the last 16 years, Sadna spends eight months at my
hometown in Allahabad, away from her own childrentrying
to earn a livelihood. The work has required her to transform
her own meanings of motherhood to accommodate the temporal and spatial separations (Sotelo and Ernestine 1997:
548) employment has created between herself and her family.6
Even though Sadnas work in the household requires complete
emotional involvement, constantly being reminded that she


works not for the money, she is not given the same respect or
privilege that such a role would otherwise command. Sadna
has to struggle with the dichotomy that no matter how invested she becomes in her relationship with my cousin, her motherhood is the other end of a business transaction (Sotelo 2007:
172) and she shall never get the same respect or privilege that
such a role deserves. Again, as was seen in the case of Ram
Lakhan, Sadnas employment abuses her emotional vulnerability, organising contradictions with other salient aspects of
her identity.
In many ways, these organised contradictions are exactly
what keep the domestic work industry afloat. If Sadna or Ram
Lakhan were defined using the same social labels as their employers, the hypocrisy of the system would be constantly
revealed. Acts such as asking a 70-year-old man to run and
deliver food or exploiting a parents vulnerability to take care
of ones own child would seem instantly unconscionable. To
ensure subservience, workers need to be constantly reminded
that they are unequal, that it is okay to treat them with disrespect. The hegemony of the ruling class needs to be maintained by forcefully and collectively asserting their superiority
over groups to be exploited. As Bhagat Singh, an upper-middle
class employer casually remarks, if the servants coalesce into
a real class, it is a real threat [] there is definitely a feeling in
employers of us against them (emphasis added) (Ray and
Qayum 2009: 147); he reveals the implicit oftentimes accidental agenda that is fulfilled by politics by exclusion.
The behaviours that demarcate this exclusion encroach
upon ordinary experiences of domestic workers, where simple
everyday actions resuscitate working-class inferiority. Consider, for example, the politics of sitting (Ray and Qayum 2009:
14852). In each household, workers are not allowed to sit on
furniture used by the employers. If an employer talks to them,
they are supposed to stand straight and listen, no matter how
the employer is positioned, reclining on a bed or sitting comfortably on a couch. In 16 years of work, Sadna, for instance,
has never been allowed to sit on any of the house chairs. In
winters, when the marble floors become too cold, she carries
around a mattress and sits on that, even when chairs around
the house remain unused. The politics extends to sanitary arrangements, stairwells and elevators, and use of appliances
(Ray and Qayum 2009: 14648), where different, more basic
arrangements are provided for the workers than their employers. By excluding the worker from provisions of personal comfort, employers establish that the workers are unfit to enjoy the
same lifestyle as themselvesthat they are ontologically inferior,7 so much so that anything that comes in physical contact
with them gets tainted.8
Consider, also, the act of cooking and consumption of food.
Domestic workers are prohibited from eating food at the same
time, or at the same place as their employees. They have different plates and spoons (Prem, our house-sweeper, has used a
metal can of frozen beans as a substitute for a glass for the past
14 years), ones which they are not allowed to wash with the
dishware used by their employers. They even have different
rations, like an inferior quality of rice or lentils which are

bought specifically for them and cooked in different pots and

pans (Dickey 2000: 41). The cumulative effect of all of these
subtleties, reduces the act of consumption of food to a basic act of
survivalwhere workers attempts to use cultural and personal
definitions get undermined because of their worker status.
At the heart of the issue of distancing and exclusion9 is the
notion of public and private space. For the workers, who spend
most of their days in the houses of their employers, their access
to a space that they could call their own is specifically limited.
At the home of the employer they are considered to be within
someone elses boundaries, hence the employer assumes every
right to create rules and regulations that limit the workers
movement. Workers may do one thing, but not another; they
may cook food for themselves but not use expensive vegetables, they may watch television but not increase the volume,
they may take a break but not for too longdepending on the
subjectivity of the employer. In essence, social identities
deflate in the case of domestic help only to be replaced by a
complex awareness of limitations, depending on the whims
and behaviours of their employers. It is this complex awareness of limitations, where every action and movement is open
to scrutiny albeit the quality or quantity of work performed,
that leads to a state of absolute powerlessness and persistent
oppressioncreating a structure of feeling that represses
the identity of the naukar. As Kamal, a domestic worker for a
nuclear family in Kolkata, simplistically states negotiation is
not a choice (Ray and Qayum 2009: 87), he encapsulates the
unfairness of the domestic work industry.
2 Defence Mechanisms and Power Idioms
Once you reach the upper class, you do have a position in society, you
wont stoop down.
Usha, a middle class employer of domestic work. (Dickey 2000: 40)
They think we are vulgar. Those people, because they give us wages,
they think we are disgusting.
Rupa, a domestic worker and friend of fellow
domestic worker Mutthammal. (qtd in Dickey 2000: 41)

Stanley Cohen, in his book States of Denial, uses the term

internal bystanders to describe the position of knowing
about atrocities and suffering within your own society (2000:
140). The Indian domestic work industry finds itself in a similar predicament. With 2.7% of Indias working population employed in the profession, the number of employers complicit in
exploiting domestic workers is tremendous, as if the totality of
middle and upper classes have successfully sustained the impression that their mistreatment of domestic workers is acceptable. But how can such an impression be sustained? How can
23.3% of Indias total population become incapable of conceiving the obvious cruelties that they inflict on the domestic worker?
Many employers of domestic work in India feel that domestic workers exploit them; that their kindness [as employers] is
taken as weakness or worse (Dickey 2000: 4752). In their
eyes, they feel obligated to employ the domestic worker who
has no other place to go, and the act of granting employment
makes them kind. The simple fact that they dispense wages,
an action that is generic to any and all professions, is used to
construct the subservience of the domestic worker (Dickey
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2000: 42). Workers are considered material-minded (Padma, qtd in Dickey 2000: 47) or vulgar (Mutthammal, qtd in
Dickey 2000: 41) when they ask for food to take back home, or
a little extra money on the side. Raman, an upper-middle class
employer, highlights this vulgarity as an ordinary case of class
difference: upper-class people are supposed to be soft, tolerant, intelligent in approaching problems [] they [people belonging to lower classes] are rough, they are more impulsive,
they dont reason out things [] they cannot suddenly change
overnight (qtd in Dickey 2000: 36). His statement summarises the general sentiment of employers towards the biographies
of the workers. According to them, workers are performing domestic work because they belong to a class not evolved
enough to do anything else. Raman, like many other employers, assumes that behavioural differences among classes are
economically based and within that assumption makes a narrative where he is able to blame workers for their working class
position. What he misses is the other cyclical end of the
statement: workers perform domestic work because they belong to a class not evolved enough to do anything else, and
because they perform domestic work they will never be able to
belong to a class where they could do anything else. In
other words, the employers use the same structural impediments that hinder domestic workers from rising up to put
them down.

`1,221 for school fees at the local government schools (NCEUS

2007: 86). The NMW for domestic workers, set at `53 per day
(or `1,600 per month), fails to account for the former, let alone
the latter. To make things worse, around 84% of workers employed in urban areas report that they get wages below the
minimum wage; while the ratio only increases for rural areas
92%10 (NCEUS 2007: 85). A surface analysis of these statistics
shows that the chances for domestic workers to successfully
influence their socio-economic positions are non-existent.
Consider, then, the implications of blaming a worker for their
impoverished faiths; the frustration and exhaustion of being
oppressed and overworked every day only to realise that the
sweat and toil is up to no foreseeable end. Guru, a domestic
worker at a residential building since 1978, conveys this lack of
opportunity in exact terms: I would certainly do something
else if I could get it. But I never did get any other kind of work
[repeated]. Now where will I get other work? ... Im older; my
family has increased. If I dont work, I cant feed them (Ray
and Qayum 2009). Guru has devoted his life to domestic work,
yet every other day is a struggle to put food on the table. Thirtyseven years of work has let him nowhere. Vasanthi takes this
analysis even further, when she marks the grave inequalities
produced by unequal starting points between a typical worker
and an employer that haunt domestic workers for rest of their

You dont know, and you dont know what you dont know [] one
must never look precisely because to see was [is] to raise unwanted
questions of choice and action. Cohen (2000: 145)

Theyd [employers] have gotten their children educated. Theyd have

gotten their children to be lawyers or doctors. Theyd have poured
money. Theyd have a lot of property. Their parents would have a lot
of property. They could advance using those properties. They will be
like, Our family has this much property. Our parents give so much to
us. They educated us to this degree. So, we should get into this job.
But for poor people like us, we could not pay money for schools like
city schools [private schools] and get our children educated there.
We will search for government schools and we will get our children
educated there [] In the future, the lives of our children would be
only like ours. (qtd in Dickey 2000: 45)

Implicit within the defence mechanisms used by the employers to justify their position is a purposeful obliviousness
towards workers biographies. For them, a workers demands
for more wages or better working hours suggest lumpiness or
lethargy; that the workers are trying to substitute hard work
with an easy way out. Consider the narrative of Vasanthi, a
Tamil domestic worker:
Look at me. I have nothing at all. But they are loaded. If I go to them
and say, Please give me ten rupees. Ill give it back to you in the evening, they will say, Would you give me a rupee as interest? If I say give
me ten rupees, Ill return it in the evening, they will say [] Why do
you pawn? Why do you borrow money? How can I do otherwise! []
The employer is [] blind: she does not understand the circumstances
of the poor, so she criticises; she does not see need, so she does not
give. (qtd in Dickey 2000: 43)

Vasanthis conversations with her domestic worker suggest

an underlying distrust between the employer and the worker.
Her requests for more money are seen as encroachments on
the work that the employers perform, how could they give up
their hard-earned money for free? Their inability to conceive
the structural impediments that stagnate workers in their socio-economic position translates into a distasteful perception
of workers. In reality, however, the domestic workers demands for more money or more food echo a larger critique of
their class immobility.
The NCEUss report titled On Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganized Sector recognises
the average per month expenditure of the family of a domestic
worker at `5,189; of which `1,959 is allocated to food and
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Vasanthis comment illustrates the vicious cycle that domestic workers find themselves in. For all Vasanthis and Gurus out
there, the current state of the domestic work industry leaves
their chances of advancement bleaka fate which only compounds from one generation to the other. As employers choose
to stay uninformed, they only perpetuate the systemic
inequalities that work against the domestic workers.
In many ways, the employers decision to stay uninformed
can be understood as a consequence of living in a society led
by neo-liberal ideals of privatised citizenship11 (Shapiro
2005: 13) and free enterprise (Harvey 2007: 37). As government policy in India aims to deregulate its control over the
industry, it gives unprecedented agency to capitalists and individuals. The employers apathy towards the domestic worker
precipitates from a growing awareness of this brutal individualism, where each person assumes responsibility for his or
her own success. As the employer becomes responsible for his
or her own doing, so must be the workera logic that directly
undermines the importance of the ovarian roulette game12
(Collins et al 2014) in dictating success and failure of the
average Indian.


3 Reworking the System: Subtleties and Solutions

And we do not yet know whether cultural life can survive the disappearance of domestic workers.
Alain Besancon. (qtd in Ray and Qayum 2009: 145)
The more you have, the more you can have.
Arundhati Roy (9).

One thing is certain: the profits of collectively oppressing a

group of people into performing menial yet necessary jobs at
low wages and uneven work schedules are immense. For one,
the work needs to be done13 and the middle and upper classes
will not be the ones to do it. Further, to acclimatise the middle and
upper classes to a neo-liberal work ethic of nine-to-five jobs the
system needs to ensure that they feel their homes are taken care
of, in the cheapest way possible. As Besancon points out, it is tough
to imagine the neo-liberal work order survive without oppressing the domestic workers, and the working class in general.
Central to reworking the system of domination that governs
the life of the domestic worker is the notion of acknowledging
domestic work as an organised form of labour. As of 2016, domestic workers are not recognised as workers by the Indian
Government (WIEGO 2015). As a consequence, they do not gain
the benefits of the most fundamental of bills, such as the Child
Labour Law (1986), Maternity Benefits Act (1961) and Weekly
Holidays Act (1942) (NCEUS 2008: 162). The bills that do apply
to them: such as the Minimum Wages Act or Shops and Establishments Act are either too unfair or are never successfully
implemented (NCEUS 2008: 8588). Granting domestic workers an official worker status would bring them one step closer
to being considered within the framework of social norms; a
necessary triumph given the various methods by which workers are distanced from the lifestyle of their employers.
A crucial step in the fight for the rights of the domestic worker is the understanding that the system at present is inherently
unfair. Many employers, even after recognising the cruelties of
domestic work, shy away from serious reforms when they realise its adverse effects on their socio-economic position. The
implication that domestic workers and their employers can be
considered equals, individuals merely working in different
lines of work, not only presents an increased economic cost to
the employers but also blurs their ability to feel superior by
positioning themselves over an inferior class of people.
Indeed, the employers must realise that the benefits they derive from the present system come at the cost of other lives;
that they are advantaged because of someone elses disadvantage. In order to correct the system, they would need to give up
those benefits, and be ready to face the costs of the same.
However, distributing money or occasional monetary perks
is not a feasible solution to the problems of the domestic work
industry. The fact that domestic workers are not paid enough
is not the central issue, and judging it as so would be grossly
missing the point. Domestic work as a profession has seen decades of intersectional oppressions. The system, as being so,
needs to be reworked in order to accommodate and dismember those intersectional oppressions; and an intermittent provision of luxury would not do so. On the other hand, it would
be a failed attempt at solving a social issue through personal

retribution, which may only result in temporary ease but no

long-term gain.

The ways in which the Indian upper and middle classes choose
to treat domestic workers speaks volumes about the society we
are all part of. As domestic workers are subjected to increasing
oppression, they are forced to lose their sense of agency and
purpose. Each and every time, when an employer questions a
workers integrity, they ignore the various structural impediments that feed her (the workers) perseverance and ambition.
The social forces that stagnate the domestic worker in her
socio-economic position are the same as those that adversely
affect the Indian working class in general. Working-class people go to unkempt government schools and do low-paying unskilled jobs because they belong to the working class; and because they go to unkempt government schools and do low-paying unskilled jobs they will remain working class. Granted, not
every employer and domestic worker is the same; and narratives of unsuspecting employer generosity and exploitative domestic worker accounts do exist (Ray and Qayum 2009: 113
16). However, given the decades of suppression and social
backlog that burden the domestic worker, these narratives can
be seen as mere rarities. The draft legislation that ultimately
hopes to restitute agency to the domestic worker, has been
stalled three times in the Parliament in the past 25 years14
(NCEUS 2007: 86). There is something ironically uncanny
about the fact that the very people who use and abuse domestic workers will fill the final ballot on how these workers
should lead their lives. It is crucial to observe that the rights of
the domestic worker are rights that affect each and every
one of us. If a society could collectively take themselves in
(Cohen 2000: 141) into systematically abusing its most vulnerable group of people, it is only a matter of time before the most
vulnerable group includes oneself. In many ways, the domestic
workeremployer relationship provides a disturbing parallel
to the zamindartenant relationship or even the masterslave
relationship observed under the British Raj: social orders that
have taken centuries to revolt against. In conclusion, the words
of Anna Julia Cooper provide a much needed sense of humanity: lessening the interest in ones self [] being polite []
induces one to take an interest in others (1892).
Domestic helpers in India are not identified as individuals. It
is a disconcerting realisation, that in the country which gained
freedom 70 years ago, the increasing distance from that very
freedom has become the domestic workers tryst with destiny.
1 The accuracy of the figure mentioned is questioned in the source article.
The authors believe that the percentage can be severely undercounted
given that employers and workers both may withhold information from
official census officers.
2 North Indian dialectic for manservant and maidservant. The word naukar
is often used a pejorative to describe people whose livelihoods are dependent on their masters. The word, as mentioned above, has come into common use to refer to the domestic help.
3 A note on research: given the proximate nature of the subject (and the lack
of research available on it) a major component of the essay would focus on
my practical sociology, my experiences and conversations with domestic
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help throughout my life. Additional ascending

resources would include Raka Ray and Seemin
Qayums study Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity and Class in India, which presents an exacting dissection of servant culture
in the metropolitan city of Kolkata; and Sara
Dickeys paper Mutual Exclusions: Domestic
Workers and Employers on Labour, Class and
Character in South India; a short yet essential
collection of workeremployer narratives in
the Southern city of Madurai. Most of the statistics used in the paper are taken from variations of the Indian Census of 2011 and a 370page report issued by NCEUS titled Report on
Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector in 2007. The
report, almost a decade-old next year, is the
last authoritative government document issued by the commission on the unorganised
sector, with pages specifically dedicated to the
Indian domestic work industry. Other facts
such as average national wage estimates or employment rates are taken from around that
time, to maintain temporal consistency in analysis. Finally, transnational connections would
be drawn with the maid industry in Los Angeles
using Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelos ascending
book Domestica and Mary Romeros collection of
Los Angeles maid testimonials Maid in the USA.
Mary Romero talks about a similar phenomenon in her piece Maid in the USA, while referring to the experiences of her friends maid
Juanita. Though Juanita is of the same age as
her colleagues oldest daughter and just a few
years older than his two sons, she was [is]
treated differently from the other teenagers in
the house. She is assumed to have different
wants and needs. Juanitas status as a domestic
worker has changed the way her employers
perceive her daily needs (Romero 1992: 2).
Hondagneau-Sotelo uses the term labor of
love to define the emotional vulnerability that
employers expect from nannies and maids who
are hired to take care of their children. Sotelos
analysis of this phenomenon observed in maid
culture in LA is specially fitting to our analysis
of Indian domestic workers.
Hondagneu-Sotelo and Ernestine use the notion of transnational motherhood to describe
the ways in which Latina immigrant domestic
workers are transforming their own meanings
of motherhood to accommodate the spatial and
temporal separations their employment creates between themselves and their families.
Again, Sotelo and Ernestines analysis is especially fitting to our analysis of immigrant
female domestic workers who are hired as
nannies in India.
The question of workers being ontologically inferior, provide uncanny parallels with early
uses of social Darwinism and scientific racism
to find physical traits of criminality in individuals from different race and class identities
(Gould 1981).
Malas story. Consider for instance, the story of
Malaa domestic worker who was fired from
our house a few years ago for continuously using one of the restrooms in the house. Mala defended herself by saying that the Indian-style
restrooms provided for the domestic work triggered pain in her knees. Mala was fired from
the house, and the restroom was thoroughly
Hondagneu-Sotelo (171209) provides a biting
analysis of similar issues in her chapter Go
Awaybut Stay Close Enough.
The statistics on wage theft apply specifically
to women domestic workers (see Bobo 2011 for
parallels with wage theft in America).
Thomas M Shapiro in his book The Hidden
Cost of Being African American, defines the
phenomenon of privatized citizenship as one

Economic & Political Weekly


august 20, 2016

in which communities, families, and individuals try to capture or purchase resources and
services for their own benefit rather than in investments that would help everyone. The
mindset resonates deeply with that of the employer of the domestic worker, where he prefers to accumulate wealth rather than use it to
solve social problems that may or may not relate to him (Shapiro 2005: 13).
12 Sociologist Chuck Collins uses the term ovarian roulette game to describe the omnipotent
role that ones birth (in a rich or a poor family,
in a racially superior or a racially inferior family,
etc) plays in deciding ones biography. The
term gains special significance when it comes
to the domestic work industry, given that the
only difference between the employers and the
workers are the places of their births and everything that comes thereafter.
13 Herbert J Gans, in his paper The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All lists 13 uses that the
poor serve in society, including provision of
low-wage labour that is willing- or rather, unable to be unwilling to perform dirty work,
their use as a reliable and relatively permanent measuring rod for status comparison:
both of which apply widely to the Indian domestic work industry (Gans 1971).
14 The bill was unsuccessfully tabled in the Lok
Sabha in 1990, 1996 and 2011 (NCEUS 86).

Abrams, M, Kathleen and Sara Dickey (eds) (2000):
Home and Hegemony: Domestic Service and
Identity Politics in South and Southeast Asia.
Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
Bobo, Kim (2011): Wage Theft in America, New
York: The New Press.
Cohen, Stanley (2000): States of Denial: Knowing
About Atrocities and Suffering, Great Britain: Polity.
Collins, Chuck, Jennifer Ladd, Maynard Seider and
Felice Yesekel (eds) (2014): Class Lives: Stories
from Across our Economic Divide, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Dickey, Sara (2000): Mutual Exclusions: Domestic
Workers and Employers on Labor, Class and
Character in South India, Home and Hegemony:
Domestic Service and Identity Politics in South
and Souteast Asia, M Abrams and Dickey (eds),
pp 3162.
Economic Times (2013): Agricultures Share in GDP
Declines to 13.7% in 201213, accessed on 28
Nov 2015,

Economist (2012): Cant Get the Help, accessed on

25 May 2016,
Gans, Herbert J (1971): The Use of Poverty: The
Poor Pay All, Social Policy, July/August,
pp 2024.
Gould, Jay, Stephen (1981): The Mismeasure of Man,
Boston: W W Norton & Company.
Harvey, David (2007): A Brief History of Neoliberalism, New York City: Oxford University Press.
Lapierre, Dominique and Larry Collins (1975):
Freedom at Midnight, New York: Simon and
National Crime Records Bureau (2012): Accidental
Deaths and Suicides in India 2012, New Delhi:
Government Press.
NCEUS (2008): Report on Conditions of Work and
Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganized
Sector, National Commission for Enterprises
in the Unorganized Sector, New Delhi: Government Press.
Ray, Raka and Seemin Qayum (2009): Cultures
of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity and
Class in India, Stanford: Stanford University
Romero, Mary (1992): Maid in the USA, New York:
Roy, Arundhati (2014): Capitalism: A Ghost Story,
Chicago: Haymarket Books.
Shapiro, M, Thomas (2005): The Hidden Cost of Being African American, New York: Oxford University Press.
Sotelo-Hondagneu, Pierrette (2007): Domestica:
Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the
Shadows of Influence, Berkeley: University of
California Press.
Sotelo-Hondagneu, Pierrette and Ernestine Avila
(1997): Im, Here, but Im There: Meanings of
the Latina Transnational Motherhood, Gender
and Society 11, No 5, pp 54871.
Williams, Raymond (1973): Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory, New Left Review 82, pp 316.
WIEGO (2015): Domestic Workers in India, 28
November, Woman in Informal Employment:
Globalizing and Organizing,
Woolsey, Matt (2008): Inside the Worlds First
Billion-Dollar Home, Forbes, 4 April, http:// estate.html.

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vol lI no 34



Chant of the Masked People

Nirmalangshu Mukherji

A close and analytical look at

the events of 9 February 2016 at
the Jawaharlal Nehru University
campus, and the next day at the
Press Club of India, alongside the
motivations of those in power,
throws light on machinations to
manage the news and emotional
reactions to it.

ome significant events took place

at the Jawaharlal Nehru University
(JNU) in New Delhi at the beginning
of this year. As the dust settles, reflective
evaluations have begun appearing. According to historian Janaki Nair (2016),
these were tumultuous events that
have convulsed the subcontinent. According to another historian, Ananya
Vajpeyi (2016), they signalled a coming
LeftAmbedkarite revolution as soaring chants rang out on the streets.
From a less charitable perspective, we
will see that there indeed were chants by
both masked and unmasked protestors;
as the official unmasked chants soared,
they drowned the masked ones, as if by
design. In the process, the ruling regime
got what it wanted.
The Arrests

Nirmalangshu Mukherji (

is former Professor of Philosophy, Delhi
University, and National Visiting Professor,
Indian Council of Philosophical Research.


So what happened? According to reports,

on 9 February 2016, a small demonstration took place in the JNU campus to
commemorate the third death anniversary of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim,
who was hanged and buried in Tihar Jail,
New Delhi for his alleged involvement in
a terrorist attack on Indias Parliament
on 13 December 2001. As the evening
shadows lengthened, some young people
reportedly spoke and shouted slogans
against Afzals hanging and demanding
Kashmirs freedom.
It was alleged that some young persons
wore cloth masks on their faces. It was
also alleged that some people shouted
slogans that wished the dismemberment
and also pledged the continuation of the
struggle for freedom until the destruction of India. It is important to note here,
that is all that had happened. No arms
were displayed and no plans for turning
these slogans into action were mooted.
Apparently, a rival student group protested about what it perceived to be
anti-national slogans and speeches. As
a clash seemed imminent, the Delhi

police was informed. After a preliminary investigation, three JNU students

Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and
Anirban Bhattacharyawere arrested
by the police. The JNU authorities also
initiated disciplinary action against 21
students, including the ones named.
Since the matter is being examined
by the courts, I am not concerned with
the veracity of the reported facts in what
follows. I will also not comment on the
disciplinary measures enforced by the
JNU authorities as this is a matter internal to the universitys administration. I
am concerned with the larger political
significance of 9 February 2016.
Note that the police action was located
in a politico historical context that had
nothing to do with the JNU per se, or the
community of students as a whole, the
university system, the caste system,
the tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula in
Hyderabad, the teachings of Babasaheb
Ambedkar, etc.
The police action was specifically
directed at the public display of support
for Kashmir and Afzal. The site of JNU
was merely incidental. For example, on
the same day, a small demonstration to
protest Afzals hanging was organised in
Jadavpur University in Kolkata. The
police wanted to take action, but the
vice chancellor of the university did not
allow it to enter the campus and a crisis
was averted. As protests against Afzals
hanging continued, it is conceivable that
many such meetings took place across
the country, especially in Kashmir, often
in small public forums outside the
university system.
More significantly, a similar event
took place in Delhi on the next day, 10
February 2016, at the Press Club of India.
Here, there were songs, recitations,
speeches, and much chanting and sloganeering for nearly three hours. The
speakers on the dais were associated
with Delhi University.
This meeting was formally reported
to the Delhi police. The speakers were
interrogated at length for days, and
S A R Geelani, a teacher in Delhi University,
was arrested for conducting the meeting.
The entire focus of the interrogations

august 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


was to find out about the connections of

people in Delhi, such as Geelani, with
the resistance in Kashmir. Since I happened to be one of the speakers, the police
showed some initial interest in my work
on both the Parliament attack case and the
Maoists in our country. Here was a juicy
prospect of unearthing a shadowy mass
front, of a terror network linking Maoists
and militants in Kashmir, with intellectual
coordination from the universities in
Delhi, which were under the very nose
of the union home ministry. Fortunately,
the fervent prayers of the police went
Unlike the JNU arrests, Geelanis arrest was not interpreted as an attack on
what the University of Delhi stood for
and the kind of teachers it nurtured. As
we will see, the arrest of a university
teacher on sedition chargesfor organising an open public meeting in a prominent place with due permissionbarely
found mention anywhere in the months
that followed.
Public Protest
The sketched perspective on the arrests
of the JNU studentswith Kashmir at
the centrewas largely missing from
the public protests that followed. Consider, for example, an otherwise fluent
and representative article by Vajpeyi
(2016) on the apparent rise of Ambedkarite politics in some campuses. Vajpeyi
(2016) who appears to be a witness to
the protests, describes the student
movement in this one rousing sentence.
Anyone who participated in the multiple
marches, teach-ins and demonstrations that
took place in Hyderabad, Delhi, Calcutta,
Bombay and elsewhere throughout January,
February and March, following Rohith Vemulas suicide and the arrest and subsequent
release of JNU students Kanhaiya Kumar,
Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, will
recall immediately the visually arresting
sight of red and blue flags raised, waved and
carried by thousands of citizens, and the
soaring chants of a coming LeftAmbedkarite
revolution that rang out on the streets, in the
squares and on university campuses for the
first three months of 2016.

Note that Vajpeyi mentions the arrest

and release of the three JNU students in the
context of a coming LeftAmbedkarite
revolution, which apparently began
with Dalit student Vemulas suicide in
Hyderabad in January. This remark gives
Economic & Political Weekly


august 20, 2016

a distinct impression that the JNU students were arrested for their involvement
in the widespread protests surrounding
Vemulas suicide.
Many writers and speakers have so
depicted these events. For example,
Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the
JNU Students Union (JNUSU), repeatedly
asserted after his release that JNU students were targeted by the government for protesting against Vemulas suicide and for their sustained agitationthe
Occupy UGC movementagainst the
withdrawal of non-NET (National Eligibility Test) fellowships by the University
Grants Commission (UGC). In his fiery
speeches in Parliament, Sitaram Yechury,
on more than one occasion, directly
linked the students arrest with Vemulas
suicide to illustrate how repressive the
governments policies were towards the
student community.
Neither the Hindu piece under discussion (Vajpeyi 2016), nor Kanhaiya Kumar,
nor Sitaram Yechury in Parliament ever
mentioned Geelanis name while commenting on the arrest of JNU students. It
was interesting to observe the leader of a
Communist Party, wedded to the ideas of
justice and equality, maintaining a deafening silence on the arrest of a university
teacher while loudly protesting the arrest of
JNU students for exactly the same crime.
Geelanis case was also systematically
ignored in the dozens of teach-in lectures on the JNU campus that continued
for many weeks, apparently as a form of
protest against the arrests of students.
These were organised in the evenings in
the open area in front of the administration block. The area was temporarily
designated as freedom square. The
topics discussed included concepts of
nationalism, theory of Aryan invasion,
M K Gandhi on Swaraj, Rabindranath
Tagore on humanism, B R Ambedkars
vision of an inclusive India, lessons from
Jawaharlal Nehrus Discovery of India,
the contribution of Bhagat Singh and
others to the Indian freedom movement,
the history of fascism in Europe, the
linguistic diversity of India, the history
of the Hindu right, the neo-liberal world
order, the political economy of communalism, feminism and the caste system,
and much more. There was much fanfare,
vol lI no 34

with radical chanting and clarion calls

from freedom square to change the
world. But, the dark Kashmir issue was
mentioned only once, and the spirited
speaker was hounded for her aberration for weeks. Afzals case was not
mentioned at all to my knowledge.
It is pertinent to note that the Delhi
University Teachers Association (DUTA),
which is currently dominated by Congress
left forces, issued a strong letter of protest
after Kanhaiya Kumars arrest. Geelani,
a DUTA member, was arrested four days
later. The DUTA maintained a studied silence on the arrest of its own member
for nearly a month before it issued a note
of protest after persistent petitions from
groups of the universitys teachers. Significantly, the JNU Teachers Association
(JNUTA), and the JNUSU issued statement after statement on the arrest of the
JNU students, but they never mentioned
Geelanis arrest.
Barring a small group of students in JNU,
a handful of democratic rights activists,
and some teachers of Delhi University,
Geelanis arrest was essentially ignored. It
is difficult to miss the elaborate planning that went into carefully managing
the protests to keep Geelanis arrest separate from those of the JNU students. One
report suggested that despite demands
from a small group of students, the JNUSUs
executive body deliberately decided not
to shout slogans for Geelani. A handful
of students went on to carry a few posters and shout occasional slogans for
Geelani, especially during the third rally.
The soaring chants, however, were
silent on Kashmir, Afzal, and Geelani.
Interestingly, much of the mainstream
media also obeyed the restrictions.
Why did the otherwise strongly motivated leftliberal sections of the intelligentsia in Delhi prefer silence on Kashmir,
Afzal, and Geelani? We earlier asked
why the regime cracked down on events
commemorating Afzal. We will see that
the answer, in effect, is virtually the same.
Since the present government assumed power nearly two years ago, it
has been clear that, armed with a formal
majority in Parliament, its aim is an authoritarian government embedded in a
strong state. This is not the time to elaborate on this complex, evolving topic.


The basic reason for this is that it has

been catapulted to power to serve an
inherently unpopular economic agenda
to serve the interests of domestic big
business, rich Indians abroad, and imperialist powers, which will further escalate
the existing obscene concentration of
wealth and inequality. In a democratic
order, this can only be done by dividing
and effectively disenfranchising vast
sections of people to prevent a popular
revolt. The need for a strong state under
the supreme command of a chosen individual then becomes apparent.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh
and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President
Amit Shah gave rather definitive indications of the intentions of the regime in
public remarks on 9 February 2016. In
a public address, Rajnath Singh said,
Anti-national activities and forces wont
be tolerated. Anyone raising anti-India
slogan or questioning Indias integrity
wont be spared. Government will take
tough measures (Ghose 2016). It is well
known that in a democracy, those with
authoritarian intentions initially introduce their project with wide public


approval. But, as this government has

already seen, overtly divisive communal
and fundamentalist actions can backfire.
Kashmir and Afzal Guru
The deeply problematic Kashmir issue,
especially when raised in connection
with terrorism, offers a unique opportunity for the authoritarian project. The
opportunity is utilised to the maximum
when the situation in terrorist-infested
Kashmir can be projected as an attack
on the sovereignty and the constitu
tional framework of India. The attack on
Parliament and Afzals conviction accomplished the task for all the rightwing sections of the population, especially the Sangh Parivar. Unsurprisingly,
on 15 December (the day Parliament
was attacked) every year, the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP
raised the pitch of the demand that
Afzal be executed. Ironically, it was the
second United Progressive Alliance
(UPA) government that hanged Afzal,
months before the 2014 general election.
Such was the importance of Afzal to
Indian electoral democracy.

The other, dissident side of the story is

that from the beginning of the trial, democratic opposition to the legal process kept
growing. By the time Afzal was hanged
and buried, a considerable dissident literature was widely available. In a review of
this literature, along with his own careful
reading of the case, historian and legal
expert A G Noorani (2013) wrote:
The execution was perpetrated for blatantly
electoral ends. But the ferocity of the reaction
in Kashmir shocked its perpetrators in the
government and others in New Delhi who had
egged it on, within and outside the Congress.
It revealed the complete disconnect between
the people of Kashmir and their rulers in New
Delhi as well as the chasm between the brave
human rights activists who pleaded for Afzal
Gurus release and the smug ignorant ones
who justified the execution, ironically in the
name of the rule of law ...
The entire case must be read in this context
and in the historical context of great miscarriages of justice
This explains why Afzal Gurus death aroused
the wrath it did. Unlike Maqbool Butt, he was
not a symbol. He personified the lot of his people. They suffer at the hands of the very forces
and the agencies as he did; until he was put to
death. If acquitted, he would have spoken
freely. He knew too much. The man had to be

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august 20, 2016 vol lI no 34 EPW Economic & Political Weekly

killed. It was a frame-up like the famous Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. Only
this time, there was no judicial redress.

Afzals hanging signalled a disturbing

divide in the visible, articulate, non-subaltern public domain. On the one hand,
there is the vast nationalist crowd for
whom Afzal was an enemy of the state,
and his execution was a patriotic act. On
the other, there is a very small group of
human rights activists and the miserable
millions in the Kashmir Valley for whom
Afzals hanging personified the lot of
his people and signalled the collapse of
real democratic order. The small but determined meetings of remembrance that
have been taking place every year since
9 February 2013mostly in Kashmir but
elsewhere as wellsymbolise this divide.
It is reasonable to assume that the rightwing party now in power is very aware of
this divide. It knows that commemorating
Afzals hanging is very unpopular with
many sections who constitute the audience of the mainstream media. By taking
tough measures on these ceremonies, the
ruling party can safely enforce its authority
with popular approval, while breaking the
back of the dissident movement around
the Kashmir issue. This project is central
to the communal agenda of the Sangh
Parivar, since an attack on the independent identity of Kashmir is, by that very
fact, an attack on Islam in the jaundiced
eyes of the Parivar. The great opportunity is that this communal task can be pursued with popular patriotic approval.
There was a precedent to this plan last
year, again in the JNU. Apparently, a
small group of students invited Geelani
to address a commemorative meeting on
Afzal on 9 February 2015. Recall that
Geelani and two others were charged with
participation in the attack on Parliament
along with Afzal. The notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) court sentenced Geelani, Afzal, and one more to
death. After a year on death row, Geelani
was released after the Delhi High Court
acquitted him of all charges. Needless to
say, he was brutally tortured during the
Thus, after Afzals death, Geelani has
emerged as the emissary of a dark
legacy comprising Kashmir, azaadi, Islam,
terrorism, and the attack on Parliament.
Economic & Political Weekly


august 20, 2016

The 2015 meeting was attacked by a rival student group in the JNU. We may
presume that instructions were conveyed in advance in 2016 to make sure
the parties concerned took appropriate
action. The threat of tough measures
from the highest authorities signalled
the determination of the regime to make
full use of the opportunity.
If the commemoration of the death of
a terrorist convict is an opportunity
for the right-wing regime, it is a difficult
problem for the mainstream leftliberal
opposition. The mainstream left did not
cover itself with glory during the entire
political process leading to conviction
and execution of Afzal and the subsequent ferocity of the reaction in
Kashmir. To my knowledge, with notable
individual exceptions, the mainstream
left as a whole never gave any definite
support either to the Kashmiri freedom
struggle or the protest on the great miscarriage of justice regarding Afzal. This
is because, within a statist framework,
each of these causes tests the idea of
democratic dissent at the extremities of
the framework. These causes challenge
the otherwise progressive left to face
two sharp issues:
(i) Do the people of Kashmir have a right
to self-determination even after Indias
Parliament unanimously resolved to include Kashmir in the union of India?
(ii) Is it legitimate to protest against the judgment of the Supreme Court after all legal
avenues have been duly exhausted and
the President has given his seal of approval?
The dilemma is difficult. While affirmative answers to these questions appear
to challenge the supremacy of Parliament
and the apex court, negative answers
appear to curtail the fundamental right
of democratic dissent. Dilemmas often
induce silence. The strategic statist silence
worked well as long as Kashmir remained
a distant problem in the Himalayas.
Masked Outsiders
The silence was seriously breached with
the arrest of the JNU students, especially
the student union president, who also was
affiliated with the mainstream left. The
leftist teachers of JNU were faced with
the difficult task of adhering to the party
line on Kashmir while finding convincing
vol lI no 34

arguments to defend their students in the

public domain. Since the students were
charged with anti-national activities
involving Kashmir, it was difficult to
continue to maintain a silence on Kashmir.
Geelanis arrest on the same charges
escalated the problem for the mainstream
left. Geelani could not be defended without sharing his cause. If Geelanis case
was placed in the same political package
as the students, the Kashmir issue would
have infected the task of defending the
students as well. As a well-known teacher
activist in Delhi told me, If we now get
involved with Geelanis struggles, we will
lose all our other battles.
The solution to this was, first, delinking
Geelani from the students by sidelining
his case from an otherwise charged public
discourse. Second, launching a campaign,
not to highlight injustice in Kashmir and
the peoples democratic right to protest,
but to convert what were incidental factorsstudents and university education
as the central issues. The simmering protests over Vemulas suicide at the University of Hyderabad were linked with the
arrest of the JNU students to give the issue
a wider perspective. Third, once the left
Ambedkarite package was formulated as
the real issue behind the arrest of the
students, the party line was restored by
separating the JNU students from direct
anti-national engagement with Kashmir.
Opinion about the anti-national character of the events of 9 February varied.
For hardliners, the very meeting to commemorate Afzal was anti-national and
deserving of judicial punishment. Others,
mostly from the mainstream leftliberal
camp, agreed that the meeting was wrong
and distasteful, but it did not violate any
law of the land. However, everybody without exception agreed that the two specific
slogans about dismemberment and
destruction of India were definitely antinational and some form of punishment
was in order. With this universal agreement
on the nationalist limits of dissent, the
core authoritarian project of the regime
found full endorsement. In effect, the regime made sure that, outside the Kashmir
Valley, people would find it difficult to hold
meetings to remember Afzal in public.
Even the leaders of the otherwise vigorous
student movement agreed with the basic


diktat of the regime. Kanhaiya Kumar

We are appalled at the way the entire incident
is being used to malign JNU students. At the
outset, we want to condemn the undemocratic slogans that were raised by some people on
that day. It is important to note that the slogans were not raised by members of Left organisations or JNU students. (Kausar 2016)

Elsewhere, he stated that what happened on 9 February was most objectionable, warranting judicial action.
JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid said:
We condemn the undemocratic slogans that
were raised by some people on that day. In
fact, when the sloganeering had been taking
place, it was the Left-progressive organisations and students, including JNUSU officebearers, who asked the organisers to stop the
slogans, which were regressive. (Ghose 2016)

The JNU community thus cannot be

held responsible for the undemocratic
slogans heard on that day.
Thus the leftprogressive organisations found their fall guy. The condemnable slogans were not raised by anyone
from JNU, but by outsiders. With timely
help from the media, some videos of 9
February surfaced, showing several people with their faces covered while shouting
slogans. The insinuation is difficult to
missthese were the outsiders shouting
those condemnable undemocratic slogans.
As noted, the matter is under judicial
review. Without judging its veracity, I
will proceed with the political argument.
Suppose, as darkly suggested in a number of reports, that these outsiders were
students from Kashmir affiliated to various institutions in Delhi. By designating

them as outsiders, the JNU community

extricated itself from the problem of
identifying with their cause. In effect, the
community turned its back on their judicial destiny. All the weight of an increasingly authoritarian regime is to be borne
by a dozen or so young Kashmiris wearing masks and chanting furious slogans,
hoping someone will listen. Do we know
who they are? Why do they need to put on
masks in free, democratic India? What
compels them to shout disturbing slogans, risking their lives in the process?
It is reasonable to assume that they
belong to the current generation of
Kashmiris who have spent all their lives
in the midst of violence, in which the civilian death toll is nearing 95,000 in
three decades of conflict. They have heard
about, if not actually witnessed, the rape
and murder of friends and relatives on a
regular basis. A constant in their lives has
been the more than half a million Indian
soldiers armed with the Armed Forces
(Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). They have
seen unmarked mass graves where
missing persons have found their place.
They have seen the more fragile people
give up psychologically. They have taken part, since childhood, in endless protests, strikes, shutdowns, and processions
against one atrocity or the other.
On 9 February 2016, they assembled
again to commemorate the memory of a
fellow Kashmiri who personified the lot of
his people. They congregated because
they suffer at the hands of the very forces
and agencies at which he did. With the

instinctive alertness of a prey, they put on

masks as they always do in Kashmir, before
they scream again, cursing the state that
has ruined their land. On this occasion,
though, they had friends from this side of
the Himalayas, a tiny group of students
who rallied in solidarity. Hand in hand,
they chanted a song of hope and freedom.
The hope was short-lived as the predatory state struck. After the confusion partially cleared, the Kashmiris suddenly
realised that no one from democratic India
was holding their hands anymore. As if
that was not enough, they have now been
marked, isolated, and abandoned to the
wolves so that the preparations for a
leftAmbedkarite revolution can proceed
unhindered in multiple colours.
It is another matter that the vicissitudes
of electoral politics in Kashmir have their
own compulsions that might have saved
these masked people shouting undemocratic slogans from further harm for now,
notwithstanding the patriotic demand
for punishment by democratic India.
Nair, Janaki (2016): From Institution to Mechanism, Hindu, 8 April.
Vajpeyi, Ananya (2016): Appropriating Ambedkar,
Hindu, 21 April.
Ghose, Debobrat (2016): Pro-Afzal Guru Sloganeering: JNUSU Fight Gets Intense, AISA Denies Making Anti-national Slogans, FirstPost,
12 February.
Noorani, A G (2013): Why Afzal Guru Matters,
Frontline, 17 May.
Kausar, Meena (2016): JNU Student Union Criticises Anti-India Slogans, Attacks ABVP, Hindustan Times, 12 February.

Review of Urban Affairs

April 23, 2016
Greenfield Development as Tabula Rasa:
Rescaling, Speculation and Governance on Indias Urban Frontier
Scaling Up, Scaling Down: State Rescaling along the DelhiMumbai Industrial Corridor
Dholera: The Emperors New City
Making of Amaravati: A Landscape of Speculation and Intimidation
Reading into the Politics of Land: Real Estate Markets in the South-west Peri-urban Area of Chennai
The Politics of Urban Mega-projects in India: Income Employment Linkages in Chennais IT Corridor
Making Sense of Place in Rajarhat New Town: The Village in the Urban and the Urban in the Village
New Regimes of Private Governance: The Case of Electronics City in Peri-urban Bengaluru

Loraine Kennedy, Ashima Sood

Shriya Anand, Neha Sami
Preeti Sampat
C Ramachandraiah
Bhuvaneswari Raman
M Vijayabaskar, M Suresh Babu
Ratoola Kundu
Mathew Idiculla

For copies write to: Circulation Manager,

Economic and Political Weekly,
320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013.



august 20, 2016

vol lI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


Maoist Movement
ClassCulture Entanglement and Beyond
Babika Khawas

This is a rejoinder to Class

Struggle, the Maoists and the
Indigenous Question in Nepal and
India by Alpa Shah and Feyzi
Ismail (EPW, 29 August 2015).

Babika Khawas (

is a PhD student at the University of North
Bengal, Darjeeling, West Bengal.
Economic & Political Weekly


August 20, 2016

n Class Struggle, the Maoists and

the Indigenous Question in Nepal
and India (EPW, 29 August 2015),
Alpa Shah and Feyzi Ismail make a serious
theoretical intervention in understanding
the much-discussed problem of the Maoist movement. They raise five points of
tension or, let us say, analytical grey areas
in the progression of the Maoist movement
towards a different politics of communism, both in India and Nepal, and its
(un)avoidable entanglements with the
politics of indigeneity, identity and culture. In their attempt to critically estimate the indigenous question, they show
how Janajati aspirations fall prey to the
cultural politics of protecting the rights
pampered and propagated by the state
in the guise of inclusive politics. All
these undoubtedly contribute to sidelining the class question, which they
locate in the experience of the Maoist
movement in both India and Nepal.
Undoubtedly, there is much strength
empirical and analyticalin the way
Ismail and Shah problematise the Maoist
movement, pitting it against questions of
class struggle in relation to the politics
of indigeneity.
They make a significant point by
showing how the Janajati movement,
despite having an older legacy, was
appropriated by the Maoists, principally
through invoking a reformulated Leninist version of the right to self-determination. They argue at length on the
conflation of the class and cultural questions seen in the Maoist movement.
They seem to be aware of the problems
of considering isolated tribes, or even
Janajatis as the natural vessels of
revolution because it is populism (read,
interferences of capital) and not the
passion of ideology that in most cases
brings youth to the struggle. Shah and
Pettigrew (2012) earlier pointed to how
vol lI no 34

Maoist enthusiasm in Nepal has fused

the aspirations of the youth with
modernity, gender roles, and caste
The authors are aware that the class
question is inseparable from the cultural
issues that occur in mundane life. The
crucial question of how class and cultural
issues overlapped, and how this paved
the way for the growth of the Maoist
movement (as a higher-order, cultural
material integration) among culturally
and linguistically divergent communities, of whom some actually were beneficiaries of capital, seems to be missing in
their interpretation. This is a serious issue that merits analysis, both from the
empirical and epistemological points of
view. We get to know much from their
analysis on how culture or the politics of
identity or indigeneity ultimately dilutes
the class question and retards the path
of the class struggle. It makes one question what makes researchers maintain
that the sanctity of class analysis has to
be respected even if it means discounting social reality.
Shah and Ismails argument seems to
be empirically grounded when they say
that ethnicity can create and reinforce
socio-economic differences, and increase
the hiatus between the rich and poor,
and between the empowered and the
marginalised. They emphasise how this
happened in Nepal and India, in areas
where cultural concerns and indigenous
question seem to have affected the Maoist movement. Yet, they confidently
claim, unity in a broader class struggle
has the potential to address both political demands related to the recognition
of identity/indigeneity and economic
demands related to access to resources
and rights to redistribution, including
ultimately, control over production
(Shah and Ismail 2015: 120). They seem
to have a preference for a class struggle
over cultural/ethnic causes, though
they do not rule out the significance of
the latter.
It is one thing to claim that mobilisations based on indigeneity, which
depends on the cultural overtones of a
rights-based politics, run the risk of


becoming a partner to the inclusive

politics and governance dictated by the
neo-liberal state. It is altogether a different
proposition to maintain that cultural
rights-based movements without a leaning towards class struggle may not lead
to equality or the politics of emancipation. It is not clear how class struggle
will automatically recognise cultural
identity/indigeneity, which is to be followed by economic equality and the
masses finally securing control over the
means of production. So far, as the
Maoist movements in Nepal and India
show, empirically validating the claim
that class struggle has the potential
to address both the political demands
of cultural recognition and economic
demands of access to resources and
redistribution appears to be far away.
How is one to read this proposition given
the situation in contemporary Nepal and
India where the Maoist movement banks
on the fusion of both cultural and class
issues? How does one superimpose the
latter over the former, and, most importantly, why should one do so? They
place inadequate emphasis on this.
From theoretically establishing how the
class question of the Maoist movement
may get derailed by its cultural dispensation, their otherwise excellent effort moves to an advocacy for class
struggle, which they lament, is not taken
up seriously by the Maoists in Nepal
and India.
Studies have shown that the Maoist
leadership, particularly in Nepal, was
well aware about the collapse of Soviet
Marxism and Chinese collectivism even
without Western persuasion. This is
related to the intellectual climate in
Nepal, maybe in India as well, and the
orientation of educated opinion, even in
the central committees of Maoist organisations. They are quite aware of the
political debacles at the levels of both
ideology and practice (Adhikari 2014). It
is worth noting that the change in the
stand of the Nepal Maoistsfrom a
bloodthirsty revolution to being a member of a multiparty democracyis a result of these empirical eventualities based
on the experiences of the post-Soviet
and post-Chinese tragedies on the political project of class struggle. Given this
Economic & Political Weekly


August 20, 2016

reality, how is one to be sure of Shah

and Ismails conviction, which projects
the politics of culture/identity/indigeneity as a theft, as if reminding the
reader of the socialist contention that
property is theft. The point is that
the Adivasi awakening or Janajati consciousness have autonomous roots in
India and in Nepal. They share a far
wider and deeper history of their own
than the Maoist movement. Therefore,
to consider the Maoist appropriation
of the Adivasi cause in India and Janajati aspiration in Nepal and see it as
the unique direction of the class
struggle is both analytically and empirically nave.
The authors could have contributed
to filling the analytical void if they
showed the Maoist movement to be a site
where an engagement takes placebetween respect for the autonomy of the
Adivasi awakening and Janajati consciousness and the enchantments of the
ideological position of a class struggle.
They instead offer us ways to look forward to and expect that the class struggle will encourage moulding peoples
subjective conception of class relations
on the one hand and a growing disenchantment with the cause of Adivasi/
Janajati awakening on the other. Does
this not ascribe too much agency to the
Adivasis/Janajatis and depreciate their
autonomous awakening?
The argument relates to whether
social oppressions of various kinds such
as ethnicity, caste, or gender are as
important as class exploitation in understanding the Adivasi/Janajati worldview and the ways in which it might and
should be transformed. To build up
an alternative theoretical plane in this
direction, they offer us five propositions. Taken together, they mark a
significant reworking of the problems of
Maoism in India and Nepal and an analysis of that struggle, contextualising it
within a wider analysis of class relations.
The overall value of these propositions
as a stimulus to research and as a corrective to pre-existing approaches can
hardly be disputed. Yet the propositions
provide a less systematic alternative
theory to approach Maoist movements
through the entanglements of class and
vol lI no 34

culture/identity/indigeneity than a set

of admonitions whose value is largely
determined by their place in a specific
Shah and Ismail admonish us to be
aware of the danger of a Maoism (in
Nepal) that has identity as its sole focus,
which undermines the more radical
demand of restructuring the state. But
they tell us very little about how we
might theoretically structure an account
of Maoist movements in the light of the
lived experiences of the Adivasis and
the Janajatis, where oppression based
on ethnicity, caste, and gender cuts
across class divisions. Cultural oppression does not simply affect those from a
particular class, or from a particular
racial/ethnic group, but affects a whole
group of Adivasis and/or Janajatis.
Again, even if one does not accept that
culture or ethnicity is more important
than class in defining the present-day
Adivasi/Janajati world view and in determining their interests, the argument
would be that it stands alongside class
in these areas.
The argument that present-day society
is cross-cut by a number of social divisions has largely been appreciated. In
this situation, it is not very clear
how class retains the central importance that is accorded by the authors.
They implicitly assume the essential
correctness of the theory of class struggle, the same theory they seem to be
critiquing. Their explicit theoretical
reflections rest on their polemical opponent and they fail to articulate their
own transcendence of classical Marxism. One should not transgress reality
where both material and cultural
concerns are accorded meaning in dayto-day lifefor the sake of theory

Adhikari, Aditya (2014): The Bullet and the Ballot
Box: The Story of Nepals Maoist Revolution,
New Delhi: Aleph Book Company.
Alpa, Shah and Feyzi Ismail (2015): Class Struggle,
the Maoists and the Indigenous Question in
Nepal and India, Economic & Political Weekly,
50 (35): 11223.
Shah, Alpa and Judith Pettigrew (eds) (2012):
Windows into a Revolution: Ethnographies of
Maoism in India and Nepal, New Delhi: Social
Science Press/Orient Blackswan.



EPW Research Foundation

Wholesale Price Index

Foreign TradeMerchandise

The year-on-year (y-o-y) inflation rate based on WPI rose to a 23-month high of
3.6% in July 2016 from (-)4.0%, a year ago. The index for primary articles grew
substantially by 9.4% in July 2016 against (-)4.0% in July 2015, as the index for
food articles increased sharply by 11.8% against (-)1.2% in the corresponding
period last year. The index for fuel and power continued to decline for 21st
month in a row, but, at a decelerated rate of (-)1.0% in July 2016 from (-)11.6%, a
year ago. The index for manufactured products rose by 1.8% in July 2016 against
(-)1.5% in July 2015.

The merchandise trade deficit narrowed to $7.8 billion (bn) in July 2016
compared to $13.1 bn, a year ago. Exports fell by (-)6.8% to $21.7 bn in July 2016,
compared to $23.3 bn in July 2015, and imports declined by (-)19.0% to $29.5 bn
from $36.4 bn in the respective month last year. During AprilJuly 201617, the
trade deficit narrowed to $27 bn compared to $46 bn, in the corresponding period
last year. Cumulative exports shrunk by (-)3.6% to $87.0 bn and imports by
(-) 16.3% to $114 bn, during AprilJuly 201617 from $90.3 bn and $136.3 bn,
respectively, in the same period last year.

Consumer Price Index

Index of Industrial Production

The CPI inflation rate rose to a 23-month high of 6.1% in July 2016 from 3.7%, a
year ago, as the consumer food price index increased sharply by 8.4% compared
to 2.2% in the corresponding period last year. The CPI-rural and urban inflation
rate grew substantially by 6.7% and 5.4%, respectively, in July 2016 compared to
4.4% and 2.8%, respectively, in the same period last year. As per the Labour
Bureau data, the CPI inflation rate for agricultural labourers increased to 6.0% in
June 2016 from 4.5% in June 2015, and that for industrial workers remained same
at 6.1% in June 2016.

The IIP grew by 2.1% in July 2016, compared to 4.2% in July 2015. The index of eight
core industries rose by 5.2% in June 2016 compared to 3.1% in June 2015, with
growth in electricity generation, coal, fertilisers and cement production increasing
sharply to 8.1%, 12.0%, 9.8% and 10.3%, respectively, in June 2016 from 1.2%, 5.4%,
5.8%, and 2.9%, respectively, in June 2015. However, crude oil and natural gas
production continued to decline by (-)4.3% and (-)4.5% in June 2016 compared to
-0.7% and -6.0% June last year. Growth in refinery products and steel production
slowed to 3.5% and 2.4%, respectively, in June 2016 from 7.5% and 4.2%, a year ago.

Movement of WPI Sub-indices JanuaryJuly 2016

Merchandise Trade July 2016

Year-on-Year in %


Primary Articles


Manufactured Products

Trade deficit

July 2016
($ bn)

Over Month



Over Year

(201617 over 201516) (%)



Data is provisional. Source: Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Trade Deficits April 2015July 2016


$ billion

Fuel and Power


-$3.4 bn

Non-oil Trade Deficit








-$4.3 bn


* Data is provisional.

Oil Trade Deficit

-$7.8 bn


Trends in WPI and Its Components July 2016* (%)


Over Month

Over Year




All commodities
Primary articles
Food articles
Fuel and power
Manufactured products

Total Trade Deficit

Financial Year (Averages)

201314 201415 201516




* Data is provisional; Base: 200405=100. Source: Ministry of Commerce and Industry.




Oil refers to crude petroleum and petroleum products, while non-oil refers to all other commodities.

Movement of Components of IIP Growth April 2015June 2016

Year-on-Year in %

Movement of CPI Inflation April 2015July 2016



Year-on-Year in %







CPI (Combined)





* June 2016 are quick estimates; Base: 200405=100.


Growth in Eight Core Industries June 2016* (%)




* July 2016 is provisional. Source: Central Statistics Office (CSO); Base: 2012=100.

Inflation in CPI and Its Components July 2016* (%)


CPI combined
Consumer food

Latest Month Over Over

Index Month Year

Financial Year (Avgs)

201415 201516

100 131.1
39.1 138.8
28.3 121.9










CPI: Occupation-wise #
Industrial workers (2001=100)
Agricultural labourers (198687=100)

* Provisional; # June 2016 Source: CSO (rural and urban); Labour Bureau (IW and AL).


General index
Infrastructure industries
Crude oil
Natural gas
Petroleum refinery products


Over Month


Over Year


Financial Year (Avgs)




* Data is provisional; Base: 200405=100. Source: CSO and Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Comprehensive current economic statistics with regular weekly updates are available at:

Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

vol LI no 34



EPW Research Foundation

Indias Quarterly Estimates of Final Expenditures on GDP

` crore | at 201112 Prices

Private final cconsumption expenditure

Government final consumption expenditure
Gross fixed capital formation
Change in stocks
Net trade (Exportimport)
Less imports
Gross domestic product (GDP)






























Indias Overall Balance of Payments (Net): Quarterly


Current account
of which: Software services
of which: Private
Capital account
of which: Foreign investment
Overall balance

201415 ($ mn)





201516 ($ mn)




201415 (` bn)



-478 [-1.5]
1416 [4.5]
816 [2.6]


-44 [-0.1]
1872 [5.6]
1876 [5.6]

201516 (` bn)


-389 [-1.2]
1183 [3.7]
725 [2.3]

-556 [-1.7]
528 [1.6]
-56 [-0.2]


-469 [-1.4]
720 [2.1]
267 [0.8]

-23 [-0.1]
233 [0.6]
221 [0.6]

Figures in square brackets are percentage to GDP.

Foreign Exchange Reserves

Excluding gold but including revaluation effects

` crore
$ mn

5 Aug

7 Aug

31 Mar





Financial Year So Far






Monetary Aggregates
` crore

Money supply (M3) as on 22 July

Currency with public
Demand deposits
Time deposits
Other deposits with RBI
Net bank credit to government
Bank credit to commercial sector
Net foreign exchange assets
Banking sectors net non-monetary liabilities
Reserve money as on 5 August 2016
Currency in circulation
Bankers deposits with RBI
Other deposits with RBI
Net RBI credit to Government
of which: Centre
RBI credit to banks & commercial sector
Net foreign exchange assets of RBI
Govts currency liabilities to the public
Net non-monetary liabilities of RBI

Over Year

Aggregate deposits
Cash in hand
Balance with RBI
of which: Government securities
Bank credit
of which: Non-food credit

Capital Markets
S&P BSE SENSEX (Base: 197879=100)
S&P BSE-100 (Base: 198384=100)
S&P BSE-200 (198990=100)
CNX Nifty (Base: 3 Nov 1995=1000)
Net FII Investment in equities ($ Million)*




Financial Year So Far

Financial Year






Financial Year


Over Month


106890 (0.9)

1136130 (10.4)

357200 (3.4)

425880 (3.7)
































-20310 (-1.2)
12570 (3.0)
490 (3.6)

244810 (16.4)
35200 (9.0)
-1240 (-8.2)







40120 (2.8)
-73440 (-15.8)
600 (4.1)


Over Month



12 August


Over Year













1127560 (13.4)

69770 (4.2)
-74510 (-14.8)
-1500 (-9.7)


Scheduled Commercial Banks Indicators ( ` crore)

(As on 22 July 2016)





Financial Year So Far







147230 (11.3)
35860 (8.3)
12630 (644.4)

215160 (14.9)
36270 (7.8)
860 (5.9)








Financial Year




End of Financial Year





1067450 (10.1)

110090 (9.2)
109020 (34.0)
-1280 (-39.5)


Financial Year So Far



1032780 (10.9)











* = Cumulative total since November 1992 until period end | Figures in brackets are percentage variations over the specified or over the comparable period of the previous year | (-) = not relevant | - = not available | NS = new series | PE = provisional estimates
Comprehensive current economic statistics with regular weekly updates are available at:


AUGUST 20, 2016

vol LI no 34


Economic & Political Weekly


EPW Research Foundation

Secondary Market Transactions in Government Securities and the Forex MarketWeeks Ending 5 and 12 August 2016
1 Settlement Volume of Government Securities (G-Sec) Transactions (Face Value in ` crore)
Week Ended

12 August 2016
of Trades

Daily Avg Outright
Daily Avg Repo
Daily Avg CBLO



5 August 2016
of Trades


of Trades


14 August 2015



2 Type-wise Settlement Volume of Government Securities Transactions (Face Value in ` crore)

Central Government
State Government
Treasury Bills



of Trades




of Trades




3 Top 5 Traded Central Govt Dated Securities (12 Aug 2016)













CBLO Lending
Buy Side

CBLO Borrowing
Sell Side

Security Description


Value (` Cr)

% Value to Total

7.59% GS 2026
7.59% GS 2029
7.88% GS 2030
7.61% GS 2030
7.68% GS 2023




4 Category-wise Buying/Selling Activity (Market Share %) (12 August 2016)


Cooperative Banks
Financial Institutions
Foreign Banks
Insurance Companies
Mutual Funds
Primary Dealers
Private Sector Banks
Public Sector Banks

Buy Side

Sell Side



Reverse Repo
Buy Side

Sell Side




NDS Call



Buy Side

Sell Side

Buy Side

Sell Side





5 Trading Platform AnalysisTrading Value (Face Value in ` Crore), (12 August 2016)
Week Ended


of Trades

Central Government
State Government
Treasury Bills


Share (%)

of Trades






Share (%)

of Trades



Brokered Deals

Share (%)



6 Settlement Volume of Forex Segment



12 August 2016

5 August 2016

14 August 2015


of Deals

($ mn)

of Deals

($ mn)

of Deals

($ mn)







of Deals


($ mn)

of Deals

($ mn)




% to Total

of Deals

14 August 2015
($ mn)

% to Total





7 Tenor-wise Forward Trades


< 30 days
> 30 days & < = 90 days
> 90 days & < = 180 days
> 180 days & < =365 days
> 1 year

of Deals

12 August 2016
($ mn)

% to Total

of Deals





5 August 2016
($ mn)


* Data pertain to 1 April 201612 August 2016. ** Data pertain to 1 April 201514 August 2015.
(i) Tables 1 to 5 relate to Securities Segment, and (ii) Tables 6 and 7 relate to Forex Segment.
Source: Clearing Corporation of India Limited (CCIL).
Economic & Political Weekly


AUGUST 20, 2016

vol li no 34




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