Apr 21 2014

Book Review: Remapping India: New States and their Political Origins by Louise Tillin

Leave a comment

This book looks at the most recent episode of state creation in 2000, when the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand came into being in some of the poorest, yet resource-rich, regions of Hindi-speaking north and central India. Their creation represented a new turn in the history of the country’s territorial organisation. In this book, Louis Tillin sets out to explain the politics that lay behind this episode of ‘post-linguistic’ state reorganisation and what it means for the future design of India’s federal system. Reviewed by Oliver Godsmark for LSE Review of Books.

The Government of India has endorsed plans to bifurcate the primarily Telugu-speaking state of Andhra Pradesh, as part of the process whereby India’s twenty-ninth state of Telangana would be created. The recognition accorded to Telangana was particularly significant, as Andhra, when initially created in 1953, had been the first state to be formed in independent India on the basis of linguistic homogeneity. Support for Telangana is thus representative of a broader trend over the last few decades within India, in which the former esteem for the linguistic principle seems to have been gradually marginalised.

tillin

Louise Tillin’s highly readable and well researched book looks to provide an explanation for this shift in emphasis by focusing upon the creation of the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand within the ‘Hindi-speaking’ heartland of north India in 2000. Unlike much of the somewhat limited existing literature on these instances of ‘post-linguistic’ states reorganisation, Remapping India offers an original premise by suggesting that the calls for these states emerged out of “longer term changes in local structures of power and the relations between social groups” (p. 5).

Rather than focusing solely upon sociological or political economy explanations for reorganisation, the author treats internal borders within a federal system as a form of institution, vital “in determining which groups are in competition with each other over the distribution of which resources” (p. 21). Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , , ,

Apr 18 2014

Women’s experiences of local justice: Community mediation in Sri Lanka

Leave a comment

Ramani Jayasundere and Craig Valters analyse discrimination against women in Sri Lanka’s mediation boards and call for reforms to improve gender sensitivity. This post first appeared on the blog of the Justice and Security Research Programme at LSE’s Department of International Development.

‘Informal’ justice is increasingly on the international development agenda (for example, see here and here), based on the recognition that in many parts of the world, ‘formal’ justice systems are far from the first port of call for citizens with a grievance or dispute. It is estimated that as many as 80-90 per cent of disputes in the global South get dealt with by informal providers rather than state-led systems. Yet often assumptions are made about commonalities across any so-called informal system, for example in terms of the kind of justice they provide and the way in which they treat poor or marginalised groups. In reality, of course, ‘informal’ justice (others may say traditional, customary, non-state, hybrid or alternative justice as well) covers a huge range of systems – often it seems implied to mean ‘not the courts’ – each of which may have context-specific differences in how they function.

SL-mediation

In our new study, we aim to give some nuance to these debates by looking in detail at the mediation boards in Sri Lanka and their treatment of women. Mediation boards are a dispute resolution system established by the state and conducted by local citizens. There are currently 324 mediation boards and over 7,000 mediators. This is not a minor system in Sri Lanka’s context, particularly given the relative inaccessibility of Sri Lanka’s court system; court cases in Sri Lanka can take many years and are often very expensive, considerably limiting access to the courts, especially for poor or socially excluded groups. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , ,

Apr 16 2014

Making India’s labour market more flexible

Leave a comment

In a recent policy brief for the Takshashila Institution, Hemal Shah calls for reforms to make India’s labour laws more flexible.

Since the 1991 economic reforms, the growth rate in India has quadrupled but the rate of good quality jobs has remained stagnant. For India to realise its true growth potential and create good quality jobs faster, it has to reform its heavily regulated labour market. Roughly 400 million informal employees make up 93 per cent of the total workforce, and they stand to benefit from incremental changes in labour market regulation. With elections underway in India, most polls predict that BJP’s Narendra Modi will be India’s next prime minister. His commitment to boost state freedom could bode well for decentralising some aspects of existing labour regulations as proposed below to unleash pent up business potential and add more formal jobs to the economy.

labour

Economic growth in India has not necessarily brought about job creation. Indeed, a combination of slow and poor quality job creation has resulted in a bloated informal sector with poor productivity and security. The immediate reasons for a growing informal economy are increased taxes and social security contribution burdens, intensity of regulations, and low quality of public sector services.

This brief offers a starting point to think about labour market reforms as a way to break into six decades of impasse, rather than a “big bang” approach. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , , , ,

Apr 14 2014

New LSE research project: South Asia’s urbanisation-migration nexus

Leave a comment

An innovative DFID-funded research project investigates the economic, political and spatial relationships that result from the urbanisation-migration nexus in five South Asian countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Asia’s urban population is predicted to double between the years 2000 and 2030.  This presents policymakers, international development organisations and civil society with diverse and complex development challenges. Notwithstanding political differences in Asia and country-specific drivers underpinning these challenges, poverty, informal labour markets, housing, basic services and governance are often addressed in similar ways in the region as a whole. Moreover, policies and programmes, by and large, seem to address these challenges in isolation (for example treating urbanisation and migration, housing and livelihoods as distinct and unrelated entities).

migration

The ‘Urbanisation-Migration Nexus Project’, a new research initiative at LSE, seeks to overcome this problem by exploring new economic, political, spatial and social relationships and outcomes generated as a result of the urbanisation-migration nexus in five South Asian countries. The project will also investigate how the working poor are negotiating these relationships in uncertain and potentially adverse urban environments.

The project is innovative in relation to two key aspects. First, it conceptualises urbanisation and migration as a fluid dialectic: on the one hand, urban economic growth and consumption fuel a demand for labour and, on the other, declining and precarious rural livelihoods make labour vulnerable to new urban demands. Second, it identifies and researches a number of ‘new’ forces and forms supporting contemporary rural to urban as well as small-town to urban migration. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , , , ,

Apr 11 2014

Does Gujarat outshine other Indian states in terms of economic development?

Leave a comment

In a recent post for Ideas For India, Maitreesh Ghatak and Sanchari Roy analyse the economic performance of 16 major Indian states over the past three decades. In this excerpt, they investigate whether Gujarat outperformed other states in terms of economic development in the 2000s under Narendra Modi’s leadership. Click here for the complete post.  

India’s national elections, it seems, will be fought mainly on issues of governance and economic performance. To the extent there is a focus on the personalities involved, such as Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi or Arvind Kejriwal or potential “Third Front” candidates, such as Nitish Kumar or Mamata Banerjee, most of the discussion is about their economic track record or lack thereof. This is a welcome development. However, in the grand theatre of Indian politics, facts often take a back seat to slogans, and opinions get sharply polarised. For example, we either hear that Gujarat’s economic performance has been nothing short of miraculous due to the magic touch of Modi or that Gujarat’s so-called growth story is all hype and a public relations campaign aimed at covering up a dark underbelly of poverty, inequality, and low levels of human development indicators.

statesHuman Development Index scores of selected states, by decade. Source: Ideas For India

A lot of this debate reflects disagreements about two sets of issues. First, there are many dimensions of economic performance – level of per capita income, growth rate of per capita income, Human Development Index (HDI) that put weight on not only income but also on non-income measures (for example, education and health), level of inequality, percentage of people below the poverty line, and many others. Which index we choose to emphasise reflects either our preferences as to the aspect of economic performance we value the most, or our views as to which dimension has to be improved (say, per capita income) for bettering the dimension we care about (say, poverty alleviation). Second, even if we focus on one particular dimension of economic performance, how do we attribute changes in this dimension to the role of a specific leader? Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Apr 9 2014

What can other democracies learn from India? E-debate with LSE academics

1 Comment

As the world’s largest democracy heads to the polls, LSE academics Mukulika Banerjee and Sumantra Bose debate why Indians vote, how this election will differ from previous ones, and what other democracies can learn from India. Read Part One of this e-debate here.

What issues will inform voters’ choices during this election?

Sumantra Bose: The UPA-II government led by the Congress is seen as a comprehensively failed government across the country. If you ask an average person why they are angry, they’ll point to the economy. The economy has not tanked by post-2008 Euro-Atlantic standards: the annual growth rate is still 4-5 per cent. But growth has halved in the last three years, and there’s widespread disappointment that the “India rising” story has been punctured. Sections that are particularly disaffected – such as younger voters who have higher expectations of their country and their own prospects – cannot tolerate a moribund economy. They believe India could do better. For the middle class, and even more for poor people, a key issue is inflation in food prices. In past elections, food price inflation has had devastating consequences for incumbent governments and failure to check this for the last three years is going to hit Congress very hard.

pollbooth

Mukulika Banerjee: I agree with Sumantra that food price inflation is an issue every aam aadmi is touched by, but I’m not sure that growth rates are a key electoral issue. The question the voters are asking is why is there food inflation? And now they have some answers because of the number of enormous scams that the UPA II government has been involved in. The absolute naked greed of the government has become a major issue. Greed of that kind is unacceptable if not accompanied by some service delivery. The fact that scams have dominated the news about UPA II means that for the first we’re having public discussions about crony capitalism, corruption and the corporate-political nexus. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Apr 7 2014

Spotlight on India’s Lok Sabha elections: Why do Indians vote?

2 Comments

As voting begins in national elections in the world’s largest democracy, LSE academics Mukulika Banerjee and Sumantra Bose debate why Indians vote, how this election will differ from previous ones, and what other democracies can learn from India. Click here for Part Two of this e-debate.   

Why do Indians vote?

Mukulika Banerjee: The voter turnouts during the most recent elections in India at the state level were among the highest ever seen. At the national level too, the trend is that turnout is on the rise. The main reason for this is that people see their role in politics as very significant and it often the poorest who are the most enthusiastic voters. While we think elections are about politicians, political parties, and results, voters attach great meaning to their own role in elections. Indians are very aware that without their showing up at polls on election day, there would be no elections or democracy. There’s a complex understanding among Indians of their right to vote—they see it as their duty and right as citizens.

India Elections

Sumantra Bose: The national turnout in the last Lok Sabha election in 2009 was just under 60 per cent, with wide variation across the states of the Indian Union. So it’s worth explaining incentives to vote at the state level in different parts of the country.

In my home state, West Bengal in eastern India, which is the country’s fourth most populous state, there has been 85-90 per cent voter turnout in state and national elections for over two decades now. This is because West Bengal is one of the most politicised states of India. Most voters there are loyal to one of the two parties that dominate the state’s politics, the Trinamool (‘Grassroots’) Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist. People often have staunch partisan affiliations, with families associated with parties for decades. Hence the high turnouts.

Uttar Pradesh in north India, the country’s most populous state, is also a highly politicised state, but in a different pattern. Party politics operates above all on the basis of mobilised caste blocks: the upper castes (Brahmins, Rajputs, Kayasths), various intermediate caste communities such as Yadavs, Jats and Kurmis, Dalits (the lowest castes), etc.  All of these groups have interests at stake, and if any fail to vote in sizable numbers it amounts to giving competing groups a walkover. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Apr 4 2014

Gujarat’s troubling environmental record

Leave a comment

Gautam Appa examines Gujarat’s environmental record and finds little interest at the state government level in implementing protection measures both before and during Narendra Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister.

“Gujarat has given priority to protect the environment along with development in industrial sector and has done well to protect the environment,” claimed  BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi while addressing a gathering in August 2013. This was an amazing claim because:

  • The Central Pollution Control Board of India declared Gujarat to be the most polluted state in 2010
  • Due to critical levels of pollution, the central government’s Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2010 banned all new projects and expansion of existing ones in the industrial cluster of Vapi in Southern Gujarat
  • The Central Pollution Control Board in 2012 declared three Gujarat rivers to be the most polluted in India

An Indian rag picker searches for reusab

The story of environmental degradation in Gujarat going side by side with its industrial growth pre-dates Modi’s running of the state. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Apr 2 2014

The economics of India’s elections

2 Comments

Deepanshu Mohan examines how the upcoming elections are impacting India’s economy. 

Elections determine who is in power, but they do not determine how power is used. It is therefore worth examining the economics of elections as huge amounts of money are pumped into the Indian economy during this volatile pre-election market phase. The Indian markets have recently seen some glorious contrasts: despite only one initial public offering (IPO) in this financial year 2013-14, the Sensex has hit an all-time high and foreign inflows in the form of Foreign Institutional Investments (FIIs) are flooding India in comparison with other emerging markets. A net investment of US$558.16 million through FIIs was recorded on 28 March, itself indicating the drastic scaling of the Sensex to 22k.

rupee

The bullish stock market rally has primarily been supported by foreign investors in the form of FIIs (see more here on the difference between FII and FDI). The rupee also rose to a near three-month high against the dollar last week. It is rather unusual for the Indian market to jump in the run-up to elections, especially since the era of coalition governments kicked off in 1996. In most election years, the market fell just before national elections—in 2004, by more than 10 per cent (read this article for more details on the pre-election stock market rally).

The current markets point to a strong assumption among foreign investors that Narendra Modi of the BJP will form the government at the centre in the months ahead, a prospect that seems to be instilling confidence in the Indian markets. Surveys and opinion polls also suggest that the BJP is in a strong position to form the next government. But it is less clear how the markets will respond to such a political change going forward. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , , , ,

Mar 31 2014

Can workfare programmes moderate violence? Evidence from India

Leave a comment

Thiemo Fetzer explores whether rural employment schemes under MGNREGA can have a moderating impact on insurgency violence.

India has faced many internal security challenges since its independence. In recent years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described Naxalism as the greatest threat to internal security. But this is not the only conflict that perturbs India’s development. Regular spurts of violence occur in the northeast, south and central India, where various movements strive for more political representation, independence or equality. This pattern does not seem to have changed much in recent years—if anything, there appears to have been an intensification in violence (see Figures 1 and 2). While the individual motives may vary, it is well established in the scholarly literature that income shocks may trigger spurts of violence as it is easier for violent movements to gain support in an environment of need and hardship.

 Figure1Figure 1. Spatial dimension of terrorist attacks before 2006 (left) and after 2006 (right)

So how can the Indian state address this vicious cycle? Clearly, the important overarching goal is to make India’s economy more resilient against shocks. This has been a long standing goal of Indian development policy, fostering the construction of dams, irrigation canals and more robust crop varieties. But despite these efforts, India’s economy is still heavily dependent on whether a monsoon proves to be a good or bad one. But there are some shocks that cannot be dealt with through the construction of physical infrastructure or the adoption of new technologies.  Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Editor Tagged with: , , , , ,