Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A silly joke on Delhi’s traffic system

Every commuter who travels in bus would be agreeing with me regarding the title, which has been chosen. Actually, the entire story started in the late 1990s when the Honourable Supreme Court of India ordered the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), which comes under the auspices of the Delhi State Government, to convert its fleet of buses  into compressed natural gas enabled ones. The DTC, which used to lease in buses from the private bus owners, may be, owing to lack of financial resources (despite the existence of land mafia and private infrastructure developers), pressurized them to convert the buses into CNG-enabled ones, without offering any form of incentive/ subsidy or help for transfer of technology. (However, by saying this, one is definitely not supportive of the term 'crony-capitalism'). Due to this misappropriate action, private bus owners stopped leasing out its fleet of buses to DTC, and started employing their buses outside Delhi, thus leading to an ironical and embarrassing situation that can be termed as ‘clean Delhi but pollute the rest’. Some organizations, NGOs and individuals who were concerned about environment during those days argued that converting into CNG-enabled engines is just the beginning and not the end since a lot can be achieved by mending the Master Plan of Delhi-2021.

The shortage of DTC buses led to the entry of blue line buses, which were termed as ‘monsters’ by the media in the recent past because of the number of people ruthlessly being killed by them, leave aside the innocent pedestrians. However, some have claimed that there should be strict laws for the pedestrians too, in case they violate traffic rules. But the story doesn’t end here. The rise of the urban middle-class, due to its access to easy credit, brought about another gory change in the entire Delhi traffic scenario. The vehicle named car, which comes in various sizes under multiple brand names, including the flashy ones, started pouring into the roads of Delhi, resulting in a large number of problems, which could have been avoided. Firstly, cars cause pollution, particularly the ones which are not fuel-efficient and do not follow any Euro norm. One must know that the presence of green house gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere lead to creation of ozone hole and melting of glaciers, which are symptoms of climate change. In countries from Latin America, and in the US, a huge share of cereals and oilseeds are increasingly being diverted to produce bio-fuels (an alternative to petroleum), for reducing their import dependence on petroleum particularly from the Gulf-region, for strategic reasons—both economic and ‘geo-political’. Some earlier thinkers had the idea that biofuel production would be environmentally and economically sustainable, and hence it is justified. But since a huge share of cereals/ foodgrains (like soyabean, corn, wheat) and oilseeds (including sugarcane) go for biofuel production (for energy requirements), without satisfying the existing consumption needs of the human population, so a mismatch is created between demand and supply (--a kind of shortage) that leads to inflation in these commodities. Moreover, biofuel production as a part of large-scale industrial production (which includes mono-cropping) has adversely affected biodiversity, soil health and fertility, and productivity of agriculture. One must also know that petroleum and petro-products are fossil fuels (which are non-renewable sources of energy), and instead of utilizing them intensively, there is need for finding alternative source of energy such as wind energy, tidal energy etc. Secondly, India’s import bills have risen due to the influx of cars on roads because they run on fuels, and India is highly dependent on imports of petroleum and petro-products. It is sad to even watch our sarkari babus and their kiths-and-kins driving cars because they too have fallen into the same ditch like their middle-class brothers and sisters despite knowing the fact that owning disproportionate asset can lead to arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Thirdly, the sheer number of cars in Delhi is responsible for traffic congestions, which leads to wastage of time and what not. Fourthly, the car-owners must know for the sake of their own good that driving car requires training, licenses, kick-backs, road rage, anxiety, accidents and most importantly operation and maintenance (O&M) cost. Fifthly, the public money spent on building flyovers all over Delhi for reducing traffic congestions and enhancing traffic management (despite all of us knowing that Delhi is situated in a seismic zone), could have been utilized for welfare-related programmes. The way subcontracting of infrastructure-related projects take place by the Public Works Department (PWD) to the local contractors and builder mafia in the name of public-private partnership (PPP) is just like adding a new feather to the cap of Delhi's transport system.

The grim reality today is that Delhi needs the completion of the Metro asap. The roads need to be looked after by the engineers may be from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) so that maintenance of roads can take place transparently. In the name of road construction, bribes should not be taken by the authorities. Roads should be prepared by utilizing good quality material and sound technology. The traffic police department should pay more attention to un-working traffic signals, hit-and-run accident cases, and not green papers named ‘cash’. This is high time to call for an efficient and accessible public transport system. There is the utmost need for the Legislature, Judiciary, Executive, the Fourth Estate (the press), and the Fifth Estate (citizens) to recognize the power of some tools and legislations like the Right to Information Act (RTI Act), Public Interest Litigation (PIL), Lokayuktas (ombudsmen), Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC) et al if they want better public service delivery by the various accountable Delhi transport authorities. The article ends here with an example: In one bus, 40 passengers can travel. But if each of these 40 passengers own a private car of his/ her own, then think of the amount of congestion it will create on the roads, think of the amount of air pollution it will produce, and then think of the rising petroleum import bill, and soaring international crude prices (over US $ 100 per barrel). In fact, one must add here that if India's import dependence on petroleum and petro-products declines, then there is no need to worry about trade deficit. Hence, India would not need SEZs, EOUs and EPZs in that case to increase its export.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Minutes of the first day of the workshop named ‘Scaling Up ICT Use for Poverty Alleviation in India’, 26-27 February, 2004

Organised by Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
Sponsored by Nasscom, World Bank and Ministry of IT, GoI

Bakul Dholakia, Director IIM-A
The inaugural session started with an introduction of IIM-A by the current IIM Director Mr. Bakul Dholakia. He informed that IIM-A was established through the joint efforts of Government of India, State Government of Gujarat and Indian industries. IIM-A was the brain child of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. He said that IIM-A was conceived not to be purely a business school, but a school of management. IIM-A has worked in other areas too apart from business, where principles of management are required and can be applied. IIM-A opened the Centre for Management of Agriculture after its inception. The Public Systems Group was started during the 1970s which looked into the areas of population control, transportation, health care etc. Public Systems Group has also imparted training to the IAS officers and public servants. Research carried out by Public Systems Group is widely recognized today.

The post-graduate programme in management and the fellow programmes are well recognized by the industrial community. He informed that IIM-A ranks first among the management schools in entire Asia according to all the 7 surveys (2 international surveys and 5 domestic surveys) carried out in the year 2003. IIM-A is interested in looking at the future from a global perspective.

Mr. Dholakia informed the audience that IIM-A is interested to compete with management schools of North America. According to a survey of top business schools by The Economist, IIM-A ranks 45th.

IIM-A is not only interested in building institutions but also linking institutions. IIM-A is interested in research and development too. IIM-A has been working on ICT for development for the last 2 decades. IIM-A has done a project on ICTs in the tribal area of Dharampur. IIM-A has also done action research in Surendra Nagar in collaboration with CMC during the mid-1980s. It has also done a project related to ICTs and dairy production in Panchmar district.

Finally during the 1990s, the Centre for Computers was opened in IIM.

Kiran Karnaik, President NASSCOM
Kiran Karnaik opened up his speech by bringing to everybody’s knowledge the enormous growth IT sector has seen over the past 1 decade. The rapid growth in IT exports has made one to think whether India is really shining. He said that IT sector has provided employment to urban youths coming from middle-class background. But he was critical about ICT’s role in poverty alleviation. He said that despite the success of some ICT projects, there has been little scaling up. He questioned why the Bhoomi project was not extended to the entire country. He informed about the issues related to scaling up of ICT projects. He said that extension in rural areas is difficult because of the existing social structure. There are groups with vested interests who will oppose the spread of ICTs. Although corporate sector has taken initiatives but more efforts are needed. He informed about the NASSCOM Foundation which was established almost a month back to create fund for the development and diffusion of ICTs in rural and backward areas.

He added that government has to play a big role in the expansion and scaling up of ICT projects. He informed that Department of Electronics (now Dept. of IT) was established way back in 1970s by the Government of India to promote the development of new technology. He said that government can’t be wished away. Central, state and local governments have to be involved for the expansion of ICT in rural areas. He emphasized that corporate sector and NGOs have to work together with the government machinery for getting desired results. He finished by saying that action oriented projects are needed to spread ICT and to get desired results (poverty alleviation and growth).

Subhash Bhatnagar, Co-ordinator of the Workshop Scaling Up ICT Use for Poverty Alleviation in India
Prof. Subhash Bhatnagar said that the new technology has enormous potential. He was hopeful about the scaling up of ICT because of the positive experiences gathered by the pilot projects during the past few years. Although positive results came up from small projects but there is need for scaling up. He emphasized the need for partnership among government, NGOs and the corporate sector. He said that poverty should not be seen in a narrow sense but in a broader sense. He further added that it is in the interest of corporate sector to remove poverty.

He said that government has now realized the advantages of working with NGOs and corporate sector for promoting the expansion of new technology. He later explained about the structure of the present workshop.

Mr. Robert Schware, World Bank
Robert Schware informed about World Bank and NASSCOM which worked together for a strategy to boost IT exports from $60,000 million in 1990 to over a billion $ in the year 2000. However, due to the competitive spirit of the Indian IT industry, the target of billion $ exports could be achieved in the year 1995 itself. He emphasized that the current workshop should search for a mechanism for moving the pilot projects to their second stage.

Post-Tea First Session
‘Where Does India Stand in terms of the Digital Divide and the Way Forward’

The post tea session was chaired by Mr. R Chandrashekhar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Communication and IT, Govt. of India. He said that India is quite often compared with a snake, with its head in the 21st century and tail in the 18th century. But India has done well in the area of ICT development and experimentation. The experimentations carried out have led to huge stock of knowledge. However, India is facing the grim problem of digital divide.

‘Digital Divide: Where Does India Stand? And the Way Forward’--Prof. Subhash Bhatnagar, IIM-A
Prof. Bhatnagar’s paper had two parts: one addressing the relevance of scaling up of a large number of pilot projects and another addressing the impact of ICT on rural areas. He said that ICT can play a vital role regarding: (i) procurement of produce; (ii) spread of knowledge and information useful for economic activities; (iii) imparting training and education for enhancing employment and economic opportunities and; (iv) supply of inputs. He said that ICT can help in successful delivery of health and education services.

He informed the audience about the telecenter projects happening around in India. A chart displaying the different telecenter projects is provided above.

While speaking on the lessons learnt from the pilot projects, he said that barring a few cases, in case of most of the projects, success depend on efforts made by individual and experimentation done by NGOs. There are certain disadvantages associated with these pilot projects. First of all, these projects concentrate on one or two things. Most of the pilot projects have narrow objectives and are not multi-functional. They attract few users as services are not valued. There is a problem of narrow customer base as people are illiterate and seldom understand the value for these services. In certain cases, people may not be wiling to pay for the services if there isn’t true value addition. So in such cases, pilots are unviable to begin with or do not sustain after the initial success. He said that there is lack of initiative or leadership in gearing up for the success of projects. Success of a project does not depend necessary on individual effort but on organizational effort. He added that the people involved in a project have to discover what can create value. He said that some early successes, say gainful employment of rural youths in ICT sector, are essential for the projects to continue. For measuring the success of a project one should not only take into consideration the viewpoint of media and those who implemented it, but also those for whom the pilot project has been implemented. Involving big organisations in these projects is essential not only for getting fund but also for gaining the managerial experiences of such organisations.

He said that successful models for scaling up need involvement of big organisations, economic viability of projects, and inclusion of rural entrepreneurs, intermediary organisations and NGOs. He said that large organisations (such as Hindustan Lever dealing in FMCGs) operating in rural areas derive values from efficient business transactions. If the clients are benefited, then they will get attracted to the services provided by such organisations. In such cases, the project will become economically viable. Citing the example of e-chaupal project which is operating in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Bhatnagar said that similar models can be started for trading in milk, handicraft, leather and handlooms. He said that projects like Bhoomi (operating in Karnataka) and Akshaya (operating in Kerala) are economically viable as they charge fees for valued services and consumers too are ready to pay for that. He informed that Drishtee follow a different business model by partnering with providers of valued services and rural entrepreneurs who create access points. He mentioned that the pilot projects carried out by NGOs and individuals need to be scaled up.

While speaking on the economic viability of projects, he said that it is relatively easy to charge fee when individual derive value. But when the society/ community derive value, fee cannot be charged since it is difficult to monetize such values. He cited the examples of various projects some of which are economically viable and some economically non-viable. But hardly any example was available where projects are run through participation or projects which have objectives of empowerment and advocacy. He emphasized that simple publication and content development does not mean empowerment. What we need are grassroots level organisations that can help in capacity building. Later economic value will drive the movement.

According to Prof. Bhatnagar, four major steps required for bridging the growing digital gap are:
(i) Technology that makes rural access inexpensive and robust.
(ii) Applications that draw a large cliental who are ready for paying, thus ensuring the economic viability of the kiosks.
(iii) Content that empowers rural citizens, thus enabling the formation of communities.
(iv) NGOs and grassroot organisations that catalyze and manage the community building process.

While speaking about the major ingredients of success, he said that the presence of four elements are required: access (presence of access points providing cheap services), content (which is lucid and valuable), intermediaries (like Drishtee) and killer application (which is useful and produces value). He said that building up of partnership among corporate sector, NGOs, civil society and various levels of governments, is one of the major requisites for success. He said that telecom regulatory policies and privatization policies of the power sector are vital ingredients behind the spread of ICT. The onus of creating the right kind of value for a service falls on the implementing organisation. The onus of creating awareness and building capacity falls on the NGOs and other civil society organisations. A strong political will of the government and a positive business attitude by the corporate sector are needed for building up an efficient institution. Involvement of big and major organisations is needed for managerial skills and to channelize funds.

While analyzing the strategies to be followed for bridging digital divide, he provided a four quadrant chart. He said that there are 4 different routes to spreading ICT depending on the size of village and economic potential/ viability of the project. In the case of projects taking place in big villages and which have high economic potential/ viability, private sector should enter first, to be followed by the government. In the case of projects taking place in big villages and which have low economic potential/ viability, government should provide the leadership and the private players can create access points. In the case of projects taking place in small villages but having high economic potential/ viability, private players and NGOs can enter and work hand-in-hand. In the case of projects taking place in small villages but having low economic potential/ viability, individual entrepreneurs should be encouraged and the content can then be provided by few private players.

Since the workshop was meant to raise fund for the NASSCOM Foundation for the spread of ICT in rural areas, a glimpse of the social applications fund was provided in a chart form, as shown above.

Some of the comments which were made after Prof. Bhatnagar finished his presentation are:
(i) Involvement of corporate sector in the projects should be given more priority compared to the involvement of government and the NGOs.
(ii) Use of ICT should target raising the productivity levels.
(iii) Venture capital should be given a chance in the pilot projects.
(iv) There should be movement from public private partnership to multi-sector partnership. More stress should be given on institutional partnership and less on individual relationship.
(v) Mr. Kiran Karnaik while replying to a comment said that NASSCOM is very much a part of the corporate sector and in no way anybody is undermining the role of the corporate sector. He said that working with other agencies is essential.
(vi) Chetan Sharma (CEO of Datamation) said that kiosk owners earn less. He said that issuing of land certificates is a one time revenue earning affair for the kiosk owners. He emphasized the need for developing multilingual and multicultural content for the rural citizens. He asked why the content of Development Gateway (a World Bank driven website) is not in Indian languages. He asked for starting ICT pilot projects for the benefit of urban poor.
(vii) Other questions raised are: Who will pay? Who will provide the services? Who should project what? Who should be the driver of projects? Are the citizens really ready to pay? What percentage of revenue will make the application viable? Are we looking for a programme or a paradigm?

Post-tea Second Session:
‘Challenges in Scaling up ICT Projects for Poverty Reduction and Education: Learning from Experience’

This session was chaired by Rashid Kidwai of Digital Partners, India. He said that initiatives can be taken up by the government, private sector and individuals. He said that projects should identify needs. He asked whether infrastructure developed by somebody can be used by anybody else. He spoke about the Bhoomi project’s sustainability where villagers pay Rs. 25/- for getting a land certificate. Out of this Rs. 25/-, the kiosk owner keeps Rs. 10/- and pays the rest Rs. 15/- to the government.

‘Akshaya Program of Kerala’—Aruna Sundararajan, IT Secretary, Kerala
Ms. Aruna Sundararajan initiated her talk by saying that the objective of the Akshaya project, which started in June 2003, is to provide unlimited opportunities. She said that Akshaya is not a uni-dimensional but a multidimensional project. Its goal is not only to spread digital literacy but also to bridge digital divide. The Information Technology Department, Govt. of Kerala started Akshaya project for ensuring broad-based access to ICT, for providing e-literacy and for making available content relevant to the local population in the local language. As a part of the initiative, at least one person in each of the 65 lakh families in the state will be made IT-literate. However, the Akshaya project is currently operating in Malappuram district (one of the most backward district in Kerala in terms of literacy) only. Eighty percent of the Malappuram’s population is Muslim. Twenty five percent of the families in Malappuram have at least one member who works in Gulf.

The Akshaya centres are run by private entrepreneurs. Akshaya centres are being set up within 2 km of every household. Malappuram has a robust network of 617 e-centres catering to over 6,00,000 households in the district. Each Akshaya centre educates at least 1 person from each of the 1000 families.

Before the Akshaya project was launched, a survey was conducted to find the penetration of computer and Internet. A 19 indices survey was done to find the ideal location of ICT/ Internet kiosks/ centres. Once the locations were found, advertisements were given in local newspapers. IEC campaign also took place to spread awareness about the concept of Akshaya. Ms. Sundararajan informed that by the end of training 1000 members, 40% of the capital invested by the kiosk owner would be recovered. According to Ms. Sundararajan, scaling up is not possible without talking about access points. She complained that the Government of India has not taken into consideration STD/ PCO booth models while doing the pilot projects in India. She said that infrastructure is a bottleneck for the diffusion of ICT. She said that electricity situation in Malappuram is quite poor.

She said that Internet can be used for: (i) communication; (ii) continuing education; (iii) public services provided by government—e-governance; (iv) services provided by the corporate sector such as health etc.

There are two key things related to scaling up which she mentioned in her speech:
(i) The key to scaling up is economic viability of the project. In India, cost of accessibility is too high;
(ii) Existing content may not be useful. Today, 98% of the content available is irrelevant for the rural people.

She also mentioned about the challenges regarding scaling up:
(i) Government has to play a sensitive role. Government should not appropriate private sectors space.
(ii) There is need for convergence of ideas which will be provided by the corporate sector, the NGOs, the civil society and the government.
(iii) Political commitment is required for scaling up ICT projects.
(iv) The partners in a project should not go for a piecemeal type of effort.
(v) There is need for killer applications. Projects should produce some early results.

‘e-Chaupal’—S Sivakumar, CEO, ICT-IBD
Mr. Sivakumar informed about the e-chaupal effort taken up by ITC (Indian Tobacco Company) which places computers with Internet access in rural farming villages. The case study discussed by Mr. Sivakumar focused on only one crop i.e. soybean. At first he talked about the e-chaupal infrastructure. He said that ITC make investments to create and maintain its own IT network in rural India and to identify and train local farmers to manage each e-chaupal. Each ICT kiosk having an access to Internet is run by a sanchalak—a trained farmer. The computer housed in a farmer’s house is linked to the Internet via phone lines or by a VSAT connection and serves an average of 600 farmers in 10 surrounding villages within about a 5 km radius. The sanchalak bears some operating cost but in return gets commissions for the e-transactions done thru his e-choupal. The warehouse hub is managed by the middle men called samyojaks. The samjojak acts as a local commission agent for ITC. His/ her location is within tractorable distance from the farmer’s crop field.

The e-choupal services include relevant and real time information about commodity value and local weather news. The customized knowledge which is available can help in effective farm management and risk management. A supply chain for farm inputs could now be created which can be screened for quality. Prices offered are competitive and thus can help farmers as well ITC. Because of the direct marketing channel, transaction costs have come down and one gets better value due to traceability.

Due to the e-choupal services, farmers have faced a rise in their income levels because of rise in yields, improvement in quality of output and a fall in transaction costs. Even small farmers have gained too. Customised knowledge is offered to the farmers despite heterogeneity. Farmers can get real time information despite their physical distance from the mandis.

The e-choupal model is quite different from the other models. In fact, the farmers do not pay for the information and knowledge they get from e-choupals. Transactions take place at the will of farmers. The e-chaupal model runs without any subsidy. There is no government money involved in this project. The latent value is extracted from unevolved market in emerging economies which means there is elimination of non-value adding activities at the first instance. There is, in fact, creation of new value through traceability.

While discussing about the running of the e-choupals he said that the network orchestration is done through public-private partnership. The objective is to deliver the benefits of a near perfect market to the disadvantaged, in an otherwise incomplete market. The usage of ICT has helped in breaking the vicious circle of low risk taking ability, low income and low investment of the small farmers. Competition is enhanced through partnership.

Speaking on the issue of scaling up, he said that in the e-chaupal project a flexible business model is followed to suit the varying dynamics of different goods and changing condition of evolving markets. He informed that the four steps which are required for scaling up: (a) elimination of non-value adding act; (b) differentiating product through identity preservation; (c) value added products traceable to farm practices; (d) e-market place and support services to future exchange.

He also explained about the potentials of ICT. He said that ICT can create better supply chain by reducing transactions cost and improving quality. ICT can help to access the underserved small market. ICT has created new IT enabled business services in the area of health, education, entertainment and e-governance. The ICT infrastructure can be used for reliable delivery mechanism for resource development.

He informed that there are 3500 e-chaupals working in 5 states of India of covering about 21,000 villages. Madhya Pradesh has the largest network of e-chaupals. e-chaupals are mostly used for marketing and sourcing a range of agricultural goods. In the year 2003-04, the transactions which took place via e-chaupals amounted to about US $100 million.

ITC expects 20,000 chaupals in 15 states covering 100,000 villages by 2010, servicing 25 million farmers. ITC expects that transactions through e-chaupals may rise to about US $ 2.5 billion.

While speaking on the financial viability of the e-chaupals, Mr. Sivakumar said that the wave 1 has been proven to be successful. Waves 2 and 3 are beyond pilot projects. Wave 4 is ready for pilot. He informed that waves 5 to 7 (rural marketing) tests were successful. The scaling up of the projects and the amount of transactions was in line with the plan. During the project, there has been capacity building of people and processes (to deal with scale) as per the schedule.

While commenting on the key success factors he said that in the past insights were gained about the agricultural value chain in India. The value addition of IT in the distribution business was also looked into. At present, managerial competence of ICT is used to execute the complex model and to manage cost. In the future, emphasis will be given on experimentation and learning culture. The bottom line will be---roll out, fix it, scale it up. The principle of the e-chaupals will be to inform, empower and compete.

The major challenges while scaling up are:
(a) Developing entrepreneurial capacity of sanchalaks and sanvahaks
(b) There is need for a management capacity of ICT frontline by building a new cadre of agricultural graduates.
(c) There is a strong need for infrastructure such as power and broadband
(d) There is the requirement for policy reforms which includes laying out and passing the designs of the Agricultural Marketing Act (to be able to buy directly from the farmers) and to moderate taxes for a level playing field and for revenue build up.

The specific suggestions made by Mr. Sivakumar are:
Type I: Offset the cost of inefficient infrastructure
Type II: Subsidise cost of replication experiments
Type III: Support scale-up of successful models
Type IV: Subsidise services to the poorest.

‘Bhoomi Project’--- Mr. B.P. Kaniram, Deputy Commissioner, Bangalore (Rural) on behalf of Rajiv Chawla (Secretary, e-Governance, Govt. of Karnataka)
Mr. Dhaniram informed that the Bhoomi project is taking place in Karnataka and there are 35 million beneficiaries of which 7 million are farmers. 20 million land records have been gathered through this project. It has been found that 0.6 hectare is the average size of land holding in Karnataka. There are 177 project locations, from where Bhoomi project is carried out. These project locations serve 27,000 villages. There is online maintenance of land titles.

Bhoomi project is about agricultural land record reforms. Moreover, it is a farmer friendly mechanism. The presence of data on land records can help in stopping encroachment of land by powerful landholding people. Bhoomi has become an instrument of social justice in two respects:
(a) Poor records lead to litigation and social unrest. With the beginning of Bhoomi, this has stopped.
(b) Bhoomi can indirectly help in good governance.
(c) Bhoomi can also help in economic growth as now it is difficult to evict somebody from his or her own land.

The earlier manual system had infirmities since it was an opaque type of system where patwaris used to have the monopoly of keeping land records. So there used to be manipulation of records. Farmers used to get discriminatory type of behaviour from the patwaris and the powerful people under the manual system. This has reduced now. Scope of harassment has come down. Manual system was ill suited for the civic needs. Seldom land records were updated. Even getting the desired information was a difficult task earlier.

Mr. Dhaniram informed that under the Bhoomi project, 10,000 plus officials were employed for data entry after they were trained properly. It took 20,000 man-months for accomplishing the data entry.

Under the Bhoomi, transparency has led to ensuring social equity. Gone are days of village accountants. People now the right to information. The Bhoomi project is run by multiple stakeholders i.e. citizens, government, administration and other stakeholders like bank and judiciary.

There are certain problems associated with Bhoomi:
(a) There are only 177 distribution points as against 10,000 delivery points in manual system serving 30,000 villages.
(b) Farmers have to travel an average distance of 25 kilometers.
There is need for private participation since government does not have the capacity to open and operate village kiosks. The Bhoomi project, however, plans to increase the number of kiosks so that kiosks can become the delivery channels.

‘Drishtee- connecting India village by village’---Mr. S. Mishra, CEO Drishtee
Drishtee is working for the development of rural economy and society through the use of ICTs. Drishtee is providing services in the field of computer education, commercial services, BPO and Photo studio and other services like rural employment, e-health etc.

Mr. S Mishra said that Govt. is the enabler in the case of Drishtee project. Most of the earnings is non-network dependent. He informed that kiosks are sustainable. Drishtee is planning to open another 6000 kiosks. He said that entrepreneurship is the key behind success of the Drishtee project. Although the entrepreneurs has to partner with the government, but they have to keep a safe distance. One has to categorize kiosks operators into various segments. He said that Drishtee should focus on service development. He said that true entrepreneurs may not be those who have money or who come forward initially. Then, it becomes important to identify entrepreneurs.

Drishtee has moved from model prescribed by the government to a model which is more participatory by including health dept., education dept. etc. The service development process, according to Mr. S Mishra, looks into the certain broad questions such as: What to sell? Where to sell? How to sell? Whom to sell? The partnering agencies in the Drishtee are: RCSM, ICICI and DRDA? He said that in a typical village consisting of 1000 members, where 25% of families do not have the ability to pay, the target market consists of 750 members. He informed that due to vertical penetration, there has been growth in the number of kiosks under the Drishtee project.

‘n-Logue’---Mr. Gautam Mukherjee, Sr VP
Mr. Gautam Mukherjee of n-Logue said that the N-logue project is using the least cost technology. The aim of the project is to develop all necessary support devices. Efforts have been made to develop robust, profitable and sustainable business models. About 150 towns have been targeted for the growth of kiosks under the N-logue project. About 1024 installations have been made by the end of January 2003. N-logue’s effort has been to prepare a business model which is technology based and cost the least. corDECT technology which is prepared by the TeNet Group of IIT, Chennai is used in the current project. The company goes to the local service provider which in turn goes to the help of village kiosk operator during the n-Logue operation.

The business model of n-Logue emulates the success of the public call operators (PCOs). In every village that n-Logue ventures into, it identifies an entrepreneur and help him/ her set up a kiosk equipped with a PC with multimedia and web camera, a corDECT Wall set and accessories to connect to the Internet, printer, an uninterrupted power supply and a suite of local language applications among others.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A short note on microfinance

If one takes into account the definition, then microfinance means the provision of broad range of financial services such as deposits, loans, payment services, money transfers, and insurance to poor and low-income households, and their micro-enterprises. There are three types of sources:
1. Formal institutions, such as rural banks and cooperatives;
2. Semiformal institutions, such as non-government organizations; and
3. Informal sources such as money lenders and shopkeepers

The target groups for microfinance are generally marginalised sections of the society. They can be: poor women (widows, Scheduled castes/ scheduled tribes), women having low skill, women who want to start up (in group) with their own small scale enterprises such as soap industry, agarbatti etc. Microfinance initiatives can also target men.

The importance of trust (which is an 'institutional' problem) is of paramount importance in initiatives taken for microfinance. Often peer pressure acts as pressurising element to block the members from theft. However, agencies taking inititatives in microfinance can be more successful if they have taken community outreach programmes. Group discussions/ interface with the community becomes vital to 'know' the type/ kind of 'community' , and their needs. Agencies can start with membership with token amount of donation. Work/ occupational pattern and income levels of the members should be known. Strategizing the goals for microfinance initiatives is vital.

Bank (commercial/ cooperatives)---> NGOs---> Target population (or SHGs)
NGOs (with support from donor agencies)---> Target Population (or SHGs)
Banks (commercial/ cooperatives)---> SHGs

For maximum impact, microfinance initiatives by NGOs can generally be taken in backward areas (rural areas with low per capita income, areas with poor infrastructure, areas with high level of malnutrition among women and children, areas from where emigration takes place due to socio-economic distress, areas where people highly depend on primary sector for their livelihoods, urban slums). Such NGOs can work in co-operation with the community based organizations, political organizations, panchayats, govt. officials (such as District Rural Development Agency) etc. However, chances for effective intervention are high for those NGOs who have been attached to the ground/ grassroots since a long duration. This does not mean that new entrants cannot succeed. For effective intervention, knowing the economic demands and occupation of the community members is of high importance. This can be done by going though group discussions, Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs) with the members. Area specific information on human development indicators from census, state Human Development Reports (HDRs), past studies can help in this regard. Instead of facilitating finance linkages only, there is need for building up strategies for social cohesion and empowerment. To prevent defaults, focusing not only on peer pressure but also generating mutual trust and respect is important, in the long run.

Lessons can be learnt from microfinance initiatives taken in other countries like Bangladesh. Monitoring and evaluation of initiatives can be done to check leakages of funds, corruption, and blurring of objectives.

One can go through case studies to know what kind of organization would be effective in microfinance. Some of the indicators can be looked at to cross check the success of microfinance initiative:

1. Reduction in poverty level of the household/ members – movement from a Below Poverty Line (BPL) to Above Poverty Line (APL) household.
2. Rise in real income
3. Gender equality: literacy rate of female members, increase in child sex ratio of the intervened areas.
4. Rise in profits of the enterprises etc.
5. Sustainability of the MFIs in the long run—profits/ capital accumulated; reach of the MFIs etc.

According to researchers, there exists lack of stable medium and long-term credit resources, which inhibit enterprises from investing in the productive and technological conversions for making them competitive. Microfinance can play a crucial role here. In many of the countries from South Asia formal financial system is plagued by inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and market failures. But there also co-exists the problem of moral hazards, which are mostly faced by the banks while lending. It is considered that microfinance institutions should target the poor since they have little or no access to credit and savings. However, the critiques say that microfinance does not have the ability to reach ‘the poorest of the poor’. There exists lack of consensus as to whether reaching the poorest should be ultimate goal of microfinance institutions since reaching out to the poor is a costly affair. The poorest of the poor need small individual loans with flexible repayment schedules, services, which are considered costly by the microfinance institutions. Instead of microfinance, there is need for delivery of basic social services such as food, shelter, and sanitation to the poor, according to the critiques. Microfinance institutions can serve the poor in a better way only when their basic needs are taken care of by either a government service, or international relief and development organizations. Microfinance can serve the women who lack access to credit, skill and information to start up their own businesses. Capacity-building of women is needed before they are provided credit so that they become empowered and fight back gender injustice. According to feminists, the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) initiated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for rescuing the heavily indebted countries have adversely affected the lives of women from the third world. SAPs consist of a set of policies and programs that include:

• Severe cuts in government spending to balance federal budgets and reduce debt (both internal and external);
• Restrictive monetary policies created to control inflation (currency devaluations etc.)
• Privatization (de-industrialization) of government enterprises to increase the productivity and efficiency of private sector businesses
• A heavy emphasis on the export sector (agriculture and manufacturing) to foster international balances and increase foreign exchange reserves.

It has been argued by the feminists that poverty alleviation models have overemphasized the importance of private funding and support. A shift has taken place from development as the responsibility of nation-states to development as the responsibility of the global community, including international markets, financial institutions, and private corporations and organizations. Microfinance industry is nowadays governed by the corporate barons and not by the government that relies upon the model of decentralization, self-employment, and individual entrepreneurship. Such a model relies on the strengths of individual women to help themselves, rather than focusing on structural changes in the economy.

I would like to point out some of the problems related to the HIV/ AIDS, as per the literature goes. They are:

(i) Accessiblity (due to lack of income/ reach or distance) and availability (not all hospitals/ dispensaries have) of Anti Retroviral Drugs.
(ii) Trauma faced by the PLHIV (involvement of psychologists becomes important)
(iii) Discrimination and lack of care (including tidiness) shown by the PLHIV 's family members, and the rest of the society. They are often socially ostracised. ('Social capital' is often nil for PLHIV, if one uses Putnam's definition).
(iv) The blame often falls on the PLHIV rather than on the educational system (or the 'value system') of the society.
(v) Often the PLHIV are neglected as they are thought to have a specific cultural background (poor, illiterate, floating population). This tendency is even seen among researchers. Well, that can be good for targeting (for treatment and research), but on the other hand can lead to biasness (as if they are ones who are at the margin, in each and every context). Being 'sensitive' is the challenge. Emphasis on knowledge about precautions can be given more attention.
(vi) Pricing of the Anti-Retroviral Drugs is not discussed in the context of policy making. Involvement of the scientific community, along with the drug manufacturers, govt. and non-govt. agencies is vital.
(vii) Testing for HIV/ AIDS cannot be done in each and every hospital/ dispensary.
(viii) Capacity building in the form of peer to peer (without a third party mediation) discussion in a 'normal' ambience is not given much attention, by the NGOs/ other agencies.
(ix) Introducing sex education in the school syllabi is sometimes taken in a negative mood.
(x) HIV/ AIDS is often seen as a problem of the Western civilisation (this is one of the views that come out in earlier Indian literature on HIV/ AIDS).

Mapping for targeting the PLHIV should be done on the basis of:

(i) Regions (states, rural/urban/suburban/cities). Incidence of HIV/AIDS is quite high in the North Eastern states, Maharastra etc.
(ii) Sex (male/ female). Females are more vulnerable as they have lesser control on their bodies, sexuality ( exception: men having sex with men without condoms) and reproductive choices (in the context of Indian society)
(iii) Social groups (are nomads, truck drivers more vulnerable in the Indian context?)
(iv) Occupation/ profession (those involved in flesh trade, floating population such as truck drivers are prone to more risk)
(v) Income groups (resource mapping--income/ non income)
(vi) Age groups
(vii) Educational status

Livelihood options for PLHIV:

(i) VOs/ NGOs who take care of such patients can provide them with skill, and can also take care of them.
(ii) Role of the family becomes crucial in allowing the PLHIV for career options
(iii) Capacity building of the recruiters of PLHIV is vital
(iv) What kind of skill generation should be encouraged? Can ICTs be of help?
(v) Whether there should be skill generation of the PLHIV or their closer ones so as to enhance their livelihood options and income generation?

Some pertinent questions:

(i) Is HIV/ AIDS given more prominence over other diseases like malaria, typhoid, TB, cancer, hepatitis? Why?
(ii) How far government and non-govt. programmes and organisations have helped in curbing the spread of HIV/ AIDS? Has there been enough evaluation and monitoring of the programmes done in this area to check the effectiveness and reach?
(iii) Should family planning techniques like the use of condoms be delinked with the awareness generation campaign that using condoms reduces the risk of HIV/ AIDS, in order to provide a more rational model of capacity building? If there is such a link between the above, why is it so? Does this mean killing two birds with one bullet?
(iv) Should there be more focus on capacity building or pricing of ARV drugs?

There are three specific paradigms that link microfinance to women’s empowerment:

I. Financial Self-Sustainability Paradigm: This paradigm is backed by international donor agencies such as USAID and CGAP. Its focus is to encourage and support financially self-sufficient microfinance programs with the goal of reaching the greatest number of end borrowers. This paradigm targets women since it assumes that women tend to have the highest repayment rates. It focuses on economic empowerment, the encouragement of self-employment and self-reliability, and individual initiative.

II. Poverty Alleviation Paradigm: This paradigm is inspired by interdisciplinary community development programs that are targeted at reducing poverty. The major policy focus is to use microfinance as one part of an integrated approach to alleviate poverty and improve the livelihoods of the poorest households. This paradigm targets women based on the belief that there are higher levels of poverty within the female population and women take part in unpaid domestic activities. This paradigm focuses on empowerment in terms of increased well-being, self-sufficiency, and community development.

III. Feminist Empowerment Paradigm: This paradigm is rooted in the international women’s movement and is commonly found underlying the policies of many gender-oriented NGOs, which are run by feminists from elite backgrounds. It is the foundation for some of the earliest microfinance programs such as SEWA and WWF in India. This paradigm focuses on microfinance as a stepping stone for women to enter into social, economic, and political empowerment. Such NGOs target women in the name of gender equality and human rights. This paradigm focuses on empowerment in terms of a transformation of relationships of power throughout a society.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Addressing the Digital Divide

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD)Understanding the Digital Divide (2001) describes that 'digital divide' refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities. The 'digital divide' thus reflects various differences among and within countries. The 'digital divide' among households appears to depend primarily on two variables, income and education. Other variables, such as household size and type, age, gender, racial and linguistic backgrounds and location also plays crucial role in determining the size and character of 'digital divide'. According to Mehra et al (2007), 'digital divide' encompasses both physical access to technology, hardware and more broadly, the resources and skills needed to effectively participate as digital citizen.

Problem of leapfrogging

It is argued that the debate over future 'digital divide' would be moving away from inequality in basic 'quantity' and 'access' to ICTs to differences in the 'quality' of the user experience and 'capacity'. However, there is also the need to observe and contemplate whether the present global knowledge economy allows countries from lower and middle-income groups to leapfrog in terms of growth and development simply on the basis of technological advancements. Such a technocentric approach to development have always welcomed criticisms from social scientists and academicians since diffusion of technology in a non-discriminatory and participatory manner depends on varieties of factors including institutions and regulations. The existing 'global order', the 'nature' of the things, and the institutions do not appear conducive enough for technology to serve the needs of the very poor, the destitute or the most vulnerable. Some have even contested that the present nature of 'digital divide' appear similar to what was seen during the days of industrial revolution in the West. Although the industrial revolution started in the West but it was dependent on colonial relations and exploitation. If 'dependency theory' is logical enough to be believed, then one can argue that the countries from lower and middle-income groups may face problems and obstacles in leapfrogging.

Current state of affairs

The earliest International Telecommunication Union (ITU) statistics on telecommunications (published in 1871, recording data on telegraph operations since 1849) show the divide between the Member States of the Union, mainly within Western Europe at that time. The International Telecommunication Union's World Information Society Report 2007 provide some idea about digital divide in various kinds of economies i.e. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development plus (OECD+), least developed countries (LDCs ) and developing (and also World Bank categories of high, upper-middle, lower-middle and low-income states), and trends over the decade from 1995-2000 (2000-2005 for broadband). The gap in fixed lines between OECD+ and developing economies (measured by the ratio between average penetration rates) has reduced from 9.8 in 1995 to 3.3 in 2005. The absolute difference has also reduced (in terms of total percentage points between the averages), falling from 40.4 percent in 1995 to 33.5 in 2005. The gap between developing and least developed countries (LDCs) has actually widened for fixed lines, from 13.8 to 20.2. In mobile telecommunications, the ratio between OECD+ and developing economies has been practically eradicated, falling from 33.1 to 3.1. Least developed countries (LDCs) have done well in mobile, growing their subscriber base by a phenomenal 93 percent per year over 1995-2005. Mobile phones are the most evenly distributed and fixed broadband connections the least. Two economies—India and Vietnam accounted for 94.0 percent of all in low income countries, while China accounted for 87 percent of broadband subscribers in the lower middle income group. In 1997, the lower 80 percent of the world's population situated mainly in developing countries accounted for only around 5 percent of Internet users. Mobiles are the most equally distributed ICT, with a Gini coefficient (a measure to capture inequality) of 0.27 at the end of 2005. Although the ratio of broadband subscribers in OECD+ economies to developing economies has collapsed from 434 to 11.5, the absolute gap measured in percentage points has grown almost tenfold between 2000 and 2005. By the end of 2008, more than half the world's population is expected to have access to a mobile phone.

The International Telecommunication Union's World Information Society Report (2007) says that the impact of mobile phones in reducing the 'digital divide' is more remarkable in Africa, where their number has grown from just 15 million in 2000 to over 160 million by the end of the 2006. In terms of broadband subscribers, high-income economies account for nearly three-quarters of total broadband subscribers worldwide. Lower-middle income economies accounted for 20 percent (with China alone accounting for 87 percent of these or some 15 percent of the global total). Low income countries accounted for less than one percent of total global broadband subscribers, with India and Vietnam accounting for all of these.

The International Telecommunication Union's World Information Society Report 2007 says that low-income countries are less likely to have infrastructure-based competition in their broadband markets, where as many high-income countries enjoy competitive markets with alternative products in cable modems and DSL. In the wholesome market, low-income countries suffer from lack of supply, mainly due to barriers in cost. Due to the small size of the Internet market in developing countries, negotiation cannot take place on economies of scale in bulk purchases of international bandwidth. Table 1 shows that the United States (83.1 million) has the highest number of Internet subscribers in 2005, to be followed by China (73.1 million) and Japan (30.1 million). However, in India, the total number of Internet subscribers in 2005 was 6.1 million, which is far below that of the US and China.


Activists who want to bridge the 'digital divide' think that moving towards open content, free software and open access would close the gap between the 'information haves' and the 'information have nots'. There are projects like One Laptop per Child and 50X15 offer in order to close the digital divide. The other participants who are concerned about 'digital divide' are the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development ( and the Digital Alliance Foundation. Indices like Digital Opportunity Index (DOI), e-Readiness Index (ERI) etc. have been prepared so as to capture the extent of 'digital divide'. For some like Athanasios I Bozinis (2007), 'digital divide' resulted in the creation of a technological ruling class and the division of the countries' citizens into two basic categories: the 'electronic aristocracy' that is able to access the services of the electronic democracy (including electronic governance) and the electronic 'have not's'. It is very difficult at this current juncture to guess how the 'digital divide' can be closed, what would be the shape and size of the future 'information society', given the growing complexities in the 'networked' world, and how ICTs can help in poverty reduction and reducing inequality. But, with the advent of the Web 2.0 and Open movement, there is some hope of useful decentralised interventions for bridging the 'digital divide'. The National Alliance for Mission 2007 is another effort to bridge the 'digital divide' and improve e-Governance in rural India. Nowadays, public-private partnerships (PPP) too are seen as a tool for technology transfer from developed to developing and underdeveloped regions.

Mehra, Bharat, Merkel, Cecelia and Bishop, Ann P (2004): 'The Internet for Empowerment of Minority and Marginalized Users', New Media and Society 6: 781-802.
The Emerging Digital Economy II, US Department of Commerce, June 1999, accessed from
International Telecommunication Union's World Information Society Report 2007

Bozinis, Athanasios I (2007): 'Internet Politics and Digital Divide Issues: The Rising of a New Electronic Aritocrats and Electronic Meticians', Journal of Social Sciences 3 (1): 24-26, 2006, ISSN 1549-3652, Science Publications.

Gender Facts in Malappuram, Kerala: Evaluating the Akshaya programme

In order to bridge the digital divide Kerala (a state situated at the southern part of India) started with the ‘Akshaya Project’ on November 18, 2002. It was expected that Akshaya will be a watershed in effacing the divide between ‘information haves’ and ‘information have-nots’. According to The Tribune, Chamravattom village in Kerala’s Muslim-dominated Malappuram district became the first village in India to be 100 per cent computer-literate. Before going to the evaluation part directly, the author has tried to provide Kerala’s socio-economic profile, along with that of Malappuram district in the introduction part. Although Kerala performed quite well in terms of human development, it could not promote economic growth in the past to provide employment. In fact, better performance in human development indicators have not translated into economic growth and employment generation. Moreover, the patriarchal nature of the Kerala society did not allow even educated women (from engineering and technical backgrounds) to get jobs. In the next section, information related to the Akshaya programme was provided, including the objectives and strategies adopted for implementation. In the third section and fourth sections, loopholes and positive features related to the Akshaya project respectively have been provided.

Most of the entrepreneurs interviewed were middle-aged (between 28 years and 40 years). The survey conducted was qualitative in nature and was based on the first person interviews. Apart from interviewing the entrepreneurs, the study relies on interviews conducted with the district level officials (4 in number) and panchayat level officials (5 in number), local people and also on secondary data and reports. This particular study has cross checked (through the survey conducted) whether the Akshaya programme, which Ms. Aruna Sundararajan spoke about in the Workshop titled ‘Scaling Up ICT Use for Poverty Alleviation in India’, held on 26-27 February, 2004, is working in a positive direction. The results and conclusions thus drawn from this particular study thus can not be generalized but important lessons can be learnt about how culture, state of the economy and mindset of officials can affect the success of such ICT-related programmes. The interviewees were selected in such a way so that they come from various parts of Malappuram: the main town, the coastal areas and the hilly terrain. In that way the sample selected is a purposive one. Although the presence of district and panchayat officials was necessary so that the entrepreneurs do away with the fear of meeting strangers, from Delhi, but the officials were asked not to intervene (before meeting the entrepreneurs) during the course of interview. The interviews were conducted in friendly manner. The translator (who translated from English to Malayalam, and vice versa, when the interviews were conducted in Malayalam) who was a local person (a graduate and a small time businessman) was also instructed to provide proper translation, keeping in mind the cultural aspect related to language translation. The author communicated with the translator and the officials in English. Before the Akshaya project was launched, a survey was conducted to find the penetration of computer and Internet. A 19 indices survey was done to find the ideal location of ICT/ Internet kiosks/ centres. Once the locations were found, advertisements were given in local newspapers. IEC campaign also took place to spread awareness about the concept of Akshaya. Malappuram district became the site of Akshaya Project because it had high mobile phone penetration amidst the population, and people had purchasing power in their hands (owing to the inflow of remittances from the Gulf). Malappuram is usually seen as an educationally backward district compared to rest of the districts of Kerala. In order to disseminate information to the people about the Akshaya programme, government sponsored advertisements were put in some of the local newspapers, and registration of applicants was made in the districts panchayats. Information was also disseminated in informal ways (for e.g. people got the information from their friends and colleagues who worked at the zilla panchayat office/ panchayats). As per the 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, the PRIs (the Panchayati Raj Institutions/ local bodies) are the local level institutions comprising of elected representatives entrusted with the responsibility of identifying, formulating, implementing and monitoring the local-level developmental and welfare programmes. Article 40 of the Constitution requires that "the State shall take steps to organise village panchayats and endow them with such power and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government". Around 2000 applications were filed by the potential Akshaya entrepreneurs for the opening of the Akshaya centres, initially, as per the interview conducted. Loans were arranged for the potential entrepreneurs from the local banks (such as Western Union Money Transfer Bank), without the need for collateral, at a minimal rate
of interest spanning between 12-13 percent. It was mandatory for the entrepreneurs to keep at least three trainers and five computers in these Akshaya Centres. Arrangements were made so that the Akshaya entrepreneurs could be trained, and work in collaboration with the local panchayats.

Kerala model of development

Kerala has performed well in the past in terms of literacy and social protection to the unorganised sector owing to the trade union movement, presence of churches (with a large social base and catering in the field of education) and presence of Left Front in power. Kerala’s development achievement is often been held as a model for its equity and is cited as an example of what mass mobilisation and public action can achieve by interfacing with responsive democratic governments. The state has achieved good success in coverage of basic minimum services. Its universal public distribution system provides reasonable food security despite being a food deficit state.

Akshaya site

Malappuram district became the site of Akshaya project because it had high mobile phone penetration amidst the population, and people had purchasing power in their hands (owing to the inflow of remittances from the Gulf). Malappuram is usually seen as an educationally backward district compared to rest of the districts of Kerala. In order to disseminate information to the people, government sponsored advertisements were put in some of the local newspapers, and registration of applicants was made in the districts panchayats.

Information was also disseminated in informal ways. Around 2000 applications were filed by the potential Akshaya entrepreneurs for the opening of the Akshaya centres. Loans were arranged for the potential entrepreneurs from the local banks (such as Western Union Money Transfer Bank), without the need for collateral, at a minimal rate of interest spanning between 12-13 percent. It was mandatory for the entrepreneurs to keep at least three trainers and five computers in these Akshaya Centres. Arrangements were made so that the Akshaya entrepreneurs could be trained, and work in collaboration with the local panchayats (village level administrative unit). The district of Malappuram, at present comprises 6 talukas and 14 development bslocks. It has 5 towns and 135 inhabited villages.

The objective behind the Akshaya project is to develop over 10,000 numbers of networked multi-purpose community information kiosks (can be called Akshaya centres) to provide ICT access to the entire population of the state, starting from the district of Mallapuram. At least one person in each of the 65 lakh families in the state will be made IT-literate. Enhancing the quality of available IT infrastructure in the state is another objective, including the state of electricity. To bridge the rural-urban divide, IT infrastructure will be expanded to the rural parts. Through achieving the above-mentioned objectives, the state of Kerala is expected to achieve the following:
• Create and expand economic opportunities in the knowledge economy.

• Empower individuals and communities through enhanced access to information.

• Modernise and upgrade skill sets.• Integrate communities through creation of e-Networks.

• Create awareness of ICT tools & usage.• Generate locally relevant content.

• Generate over 50,000 direct employment opportunities in 3 years.• Generate direct investment of over Rs. 500 crores in 3 years.

The CTCs or the computer training centres/kiosks will function mainly with the following services:
• Continued e-Learning programme

• Internet Kiosk

• Data entry under e-Governance programme

• DTP and Job work,• Other computer training for public

• Design of invitation cards, visiting cards, banners, posters, paper bags etc and screen printing

• Data bank services

• Telemedicine applications.

It is obvious that generating gender equity was not part of the objectives and also the strategies behind the Akshaya programme.

Loopholes in the programme

(i) Gender Equality: It is obvious that generating gender equity was not part of the objectives and also the strategies behind the Akshaya programme. Developing entrepreneurial skill such as the Entrepre-neurship Development Programme (EDP) of the UNDP among women, was never part of the agenda, unlike the other programme i.e. ‘Kudumbashree’. As per the interview conducted with the women entrepreneurs, some of the problems they faced came to the forefront. They are: (a) mobility of women is suspected, even for weekly or monthly meetings held with the Akshaya officials as a part of mitigating problems/ arrival of new packages (part of training); (b) difficulty in managing both the kiosks and the household chores; (c) some women face problem from the men community regarding setting up of kiosks; (d) initial hindrance (in terms of permission granted by the family members); (e) Most of the women had to close down their kiosks as they could not run their businesses due to non-profitability by the end of the third phase of Akshaya programme (the number of women entrepreneurs came down from over 85 to around 25); (f) Lack of mentors in the family for encouraging them to take such activities (number of applications put forward by the women was low); (g) The Akshaya/government officials seemed to be not have been gender sensitised, while training the entrepreneurs so that they can help them with the new technology (neither all of them were aware of the type of problems female entrepreneurs face); (h) Women entrepreneurs seldom run their kiosks during night hours, affecting the profitability since this is the time during which chances of doing business is high; in the day time people hardly come to the kiosks (they are highly dependent on male colleagues who are paid to work during night shifts; (i) Some women interviewed were very casual in their approach and were dependent on their husbands for running the kiosks; (j) Some women faced the problem of arranging credit from banks for opening up their kiosks.

(ii) Selection of entrepreneurs: Although in the course of interview, the researcher found that most of the entrepreneurs had basic degrees in software and/hardware (and even electronic engineering) applications, but very few were formally trained as entrepreneurs. The total number of kiosks came down from around 625 (when Akshaya started) to below 600 (during the time of field visit). Lack of training (for updating the knowledge base) as had been planned, could be another factor for closures of the kiosks besides some entrepreneurs leaving for Gulf.

(iii) State of infrastructure: In some parts of the Malappuram town, there is high prevalence of power cuts. The state of electricity (power) in the state of Kerala has suffered, as was reported by some of the interviewees. The Akshaya entrepreneurs suffered due to VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd.) moving out till Tulip (a Delhi based company) made its entry as the Internet provider.

(iv) Lack of knowledge: In one of the interviews conducted with a district level government official, it came to the knowledge of the researcher that he lacked the information that State Government’s IT policy can be influential in promotion of IT. Instead he recommended for the influence of State Government’s IT policy for BPO industry (to make the BPO industry more gender sensitive in terms of better work environment; social security, etc.)

(v) Prioritisation of programmes: During the interview, it came to the knowledge that in the II Phase of the Akshaya, problems were encountered by the Akshaya officials in generating awareness about the uses of IT amidst village/district level workers. Some of the workers of local administrative level demanded for giving priority to basic amenities instead of IT.

(vi) Capacity building: It was expected that e-Literacy drive will lead to better demand for IT services by the community. However, in some of the areas (Nilambur, a tribal hilly belt, where rubber plantation and other such plantations take place), it was found that the kiosks could not target the population since they were illiterate and poor, and lacked basic facilities. Distance to the nearest hospital was more than 20 kilometres.

(vii) Preference for private institutes: In some cases it was found, the kiosks are not running well, since people prefer private institutes over Akshaya centres because of the quality of training imparted. Moreover, some of the private centres guaranty employment after the training is over. Although some male entrepreneurs remarked that Akshaya provides a cheap and better quality education.

Evaluating the Akshaya programme

Despite its negligence to women the programme has succeded in achieving following factors:
Generating employment: The Akshaya programme has generated employment for the youths, particularly women for work like DTP, typing etc. Trainees particularly women can search for better employment opportunities at the end of their course.

• IT literacy: Akshaya programme provides cheaper e-Literacy courses to the people. The courses offered ranges from easier ones (like MS Office, DTP) to harder ones (like Diploma courses).

• Enhancing communication/s: Internet enabled kiosks are used by people to contact their relatives/ friends who are staying abroad (such as Gulf) or other states. Communication is also done for marketing of products.

• Providing e-Services: Akshaya kiosks are providing a range of services like registration of births and deaths; collection and feeding of health related data (in a way acting as databanks) of the local population (by tying up with local panchayats/PRIs).

There are always some plus and minus points which emerges out of the evaluation that helps in learning, and remodelling the framework for scaling up of such ICT programme. Sustainability of the programme is the most difficult part in the long run, which requires long term vision.

(The views expressed are personal, and are not meant to hurt anybody).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Performance of India's External Sector during 2007-08

The external sector of the Indian economy has progressed well during 2007-08 on the whole. As per the information from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), exports reached US $ 159 billion during 2007-08 from US $ 128 billion during the same period in 2006-07 recording an impressive growth of 23.7%. However, imports too have increased to US $ 249 billion in 2007-08 from US $ 191 billion in 2006-07, thus leading to a trade deficit amounting to US $ 90 billion during 2007-08. This was compensated by large inflows of receipts from services exports and private transfers that led to a relatively comfortable current account deficit of 1.49% of gross domestic product (GDP) during the year.

The major items that India exported during the year 2007-08 are agriculture and allied products, ores and minerals, manufactured goods and petroleum, crude and products, and their share in the total exports are 11.36%, 5.66%, 63.58% 9.39% and 15.64%, respectively. On detailed examination it is seen that growth in exports has largely been in primary products like sugar (95%), rice (87%), oil meal (62.4 %), spices (49%) and iron ore (47 %). In fact, the share of agriculture and allied activities in total exports has seen a marginal rise from 10.04 % in 2006-07 to 11.36 % in 2007-08. Engineering exports, which account for 35% of manufactured exports of India, actually saw a dip in growth rate from 36% in FY 2007 to 24% in FY2008, which is a matter of concern since this can be occurring as a result of falling demand in the backdrop of global slowdown and economic recession in the US. Among the total exports, Agriculture & Allied products export increased by 42.46%, Petroleum Crude and Petro-products by 33.3%, Ores & Minerals by 28.75%, and Manufacturing Goods by 19.19%, over the previous year. Destination-wise, although the US remained the principal export market, its share declined to 13.0 per cent during 2007-08 from 14.9 per cent in the previous year. The other major destinations were the UAE (9.7 per cent), China (6.8 per cent), Singapore (4.3 per cent), and the UK (4.1 per cent). During 2007-08, India’s exports to the EU, North America, Eastern Europe and Asian developing countries showed an accelerated growth, while that to OPEC, African developing countries and Latin American developing countries showed deceleration.

According to the World Economic Outlook released in July 2008, the growing use of export restrictions by food exporting countries (which includes India too) to raise domestic food supplies and lower domestic prices for ensuring food security has put pressure on world prices. Export restrictions by some major rice exporting countries have contributed substantially to the run-up in rice prices in 2008.

The trend in growth in invisible receipts continued with 26.2 per cent during 2007-08, which was broadly comparable with that of 28.3 per cent in 2006-07, mainly due to the momentum maintained in the growth of software services exports, travel, transportation, along with the steady inflow of remittances from overseas Indians. However, appreciation of the value of Indian rupee vis-à-vis US dollar from Rs. 45.22 in 2006-07 to Rs. 40.18 in 2007-08 raised apprehensions that it might adversely affect India’s software and the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

The major items, which India imported during the year 2007-08 are petroleum and petro products, bulk consumption goods, capital goods, textiles, chemicals & related products and gold and silver, and their share in the total imports are 33.38%, 2.22%, 15.63%, 1.03%, 7.81% and 7.47%, respectively. India saw the import bill for petroleum and petro-products rising to US $ 79.6 billion in 2007-08 from US $ 57.1 billion in 2006-07 owing to rising international crude prices.

The value of total trade in goods and services as percentage of GDP at market price declined to 45.8% in 2007-08 from 47.2% in 2006-07. The value of merchandise trade deficit during 2006-07 was US $ 64.9 billion, which rose to a level of US $ 90.1 billion in 2007-08. The trade deficit on non-oil account during 2007-08 amounted to US $ 25.9 billion against US $ 20.9 billion in the previous year.

As per the World Economic Outlook released in September 2007, world trade volume had been projected to increase by 7.4% in 2008. Although the latest estimates released in July 2008 show that global real GDP growth on a purchasing power parity basis is expected to decelerate from 5.0 percent in 2007 to 4.1 percent in 2008 and further to 3.9 percent in 2009, which can adversely affect India’s trade performance in 2008-09. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in India has increased from US $ 22.1 billion in 2006-07 to US $ 32.4 billion in 2007-08. Portfolio investment has increased from US $ 7003 in 2006-07 to US $ 29385 in 2007-08. The net capital inflows rose substantially to US $ 25.4 billion in Q4 of 2007-08 from US $ 15.6 billion in Q4 of 2006-07. The major sources of capital inflows were external commercial borrowings (ECBs), foreign direct investment (FDI), short-term trade credit and overseas borrowings by the banks. The share of ECBs in the total external debt increased from 4.54% in 2007 to 5.29% in 2008. Total external debt as percentage to gross domestic product (GDP) increased from 18.50% in March 2007 to 18.86% in March 2008. Short-term external debt as percentage to GDP increased from 2.88% in March 2007 to 3.78% in March 2008. Long-term external debt as percentage to GDP reduced from 15.63% in March 2007 to 15.08% in March 2008. Capital account balance as a percentage of GDP increased from 4.99 % in March 2006-07 to 9.21% in March 2007-08. The foreign exchange reserves of India increased to US $ 309 billion in 2007-08 from US $ 199 billion in 2006-07.
Note: This note has been prepared jointly by Shambhu Ghatak and Dr. Archana S Mathur

Monday, September 1, 2008

Abstracts of Papers submitted for a Sociological Conference held in Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

Alexander, Catherine
Goldsmiths College, University of London, U.K.
Urban governance and bureaucratic representations of the city in Almaty, Kazakhstan

This paper explores abrupt changes in representations (and their uses) of the city and urban governance. Since secession from the Soviet Union in 1991, the constitutional and lived transformations in Kazakhstan's former capital have been dramatic. For example, state subsidies to industry and collective farms were cut in the early 1990s resulting in sudden mass unemployment and, often, migration to Almaty. .Many of these migrants have untied themselves from the web of documentation that formerly bound them to work and physical location - and also made them visible to officialdom. As a result there are increasing numbers of citizens who are bureaucratically invisible and without a voice.

Official ways of seeing of the city through maps and statistics have changed little since Soviet times, even though these representations produce results increasingly at odds with the empirical reality experienced by bureaucrats in their everyday lives beyond the bureau. However, the purpose towards which such representations are mobilised has subtly altered. City plans once foreshadowed the ideal to which socialism was marching, providing cities to think with. Now the overarching General Plans are seen merely as reflecting the swift colonisation of the once spacious public city by developers hungry for prime land. If bureaucrats cannot 'see' unofficial migrants, so too do many citizens complain of the lack of transparency in administrative dealings as more and more of the city is privatised.

One key question that city officials are trying to come to terms with is the nature of their role in the brave new world of market values: what exactly are their obligations to citizens and how do they negotiate the troubling new boundary between private and public. Conflicting images of the city's direction held by officials and citizens, and common themes of obscurity suggest a profound ambivalence about urban citizenship, governance and democracy in post-soviet Almaty.
RC 03 : Economy, Polity and

Anand, Anvita and Rajendra Ravi TRIPP, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
Work and Social Identity: C Rickshaw pullers in Delhi - the state service providers in the urban environment

Meeting the burgeoning urbanization presents unique challenges to due to the heterogeneity of urban the spatial dispersion of social and activities. The cycle rickshaw is a vehicle, does not consume fuel and to-door service. It is, also, a major source for the poor in the cities. It is often the livelihood for the migrants coming search for work, as it requires little skill rickshaw is available on hire for use. This availability becomes especially significant since [ migrants are not of social security in the formal employment in the city. The current banning the rickshaws on the city affecting the livelihood and hence standard of] of the urban poor.

Most service providers. rickshaw drivers in our cities are not accorded of work. Cycle-rickshaws have a ne image and are considered "low-market", and inefficient modes. They and uncounted in official statistics. policies framed on those statistics, ignore presence and needs completely. The urban do not accord them equal right of using road by ensuring that the roads are onb needs of motorized vehicles. However. and uncounted people have made a "place" themselves in the urban service industry "space" in the city, both for shelter and livelihood

This paper is based on the project Research Program on Rickshaw and Pullers (2000-2002)", carried out by the Parivahan Panchayat of Lokayan, a NGO, working at the grass-root level for vulnerable population and survey result (covering approximateb rickshaw pullers in Delhi) comprehensively builds their socio-economic profile and presents the problems they face operating in the city. The paper also places this discussion in a larger context by presenting the stand of the policy-makers and the authorities towards the cycle-rickshaw pullers in

Ghatak, Shambhu
Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST), JNU,
Gender Gap in Agricultural Wages and Human Development

This study has been made to understand the extent of gender disparity in agricultural wages across 14 different states of India, namely-- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. An attempt has been made to relate the syndrome of wage disparity to the process of capitalist development in Indian agriculture.Capitalist development, as measured by the level of agricultural output and production relations, may lead to a fall in poverty ratio (which is an alternative indicator of poverty), but do not necessarily e.nsure closing down of agricultural wage disparity due to gender discrimination. However, closing down of wage gap does not always mean a more gender equal society. This is so due to the indicator, which is used for measuring gender gap in wages, may be applicable in one context and not the other.

In order to analyse the extent of gender disparity in average daily earnings of the agricultural labourers, secondary data" has been collected from the Rural Labour Enquiry Report on Wages and Earnings for the years 1983, 1987-88 and 1993-94. Consumer -Price Index for Agricultural Labour has been taken from various issues of Reserve Bank of India Bulletin, and analysed statistically, by using regression and correlation exercises. The study tries to take valuable inputs from the past studies.

The study found out that capitalist development may lead to a fall in the poverty ratio but not necessarily lead to gender equality. In the present study, it has been found that gender disparity in wages exists but there is no clear-cut trend. However, it could be seen that in the states of Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Maharastra, wage discrimination is prevalent to a great extent. Gender inequality in wages seems to be lesser in the states of West Bengal, Guj arat, MP and Bihar. However, it should be mentioned that Punjab has improved its ranking in terms of gender equality of agricultural wages at the expense of state like Kerala. The study concludes by saying that capturing gender discrimination in a society necessitates the search for a better indicator. An indicator may sometimes show a sign of improvement in a particular context but in reality it is unable to capture the newer forms of gender discrimination arising in the society.

Omkumar Krishnan
Department of Human Social Science, I.I.T Bombay
Missing the Consumers: Plotting the Tangent of Markets in Contemporary India

The economic reforms initiated in the last decade of 20th century have undoubtedly brought significant changes in social and economic life in India. The sociological understanding has been treating the outcomes of liberalization coupled with globalization as an invasion of market economy which will increase the gaps between haves and have-nots in Indian society. It is to be understood that the difference between a backward Bharat and modem India is not only in geography but also witnessed in time period also. However companies concede the differences and using quantitative and qualitative research methods attempt to extract the rationality behind consumption behaviour patterns.

Company strategies are twofold namely, creation of markets and competing for market share. Apart from demographic and psychographic, a comprehensive classification based on education and occupation of head of households is used in segmenting the society. Markets thrive on incessant consumption which forces companies to preserve present consumers and also to hunt for new consumers. The projected targets have been the middle classes which is unfortunately missing both sociologically and physically for marketers. As part of mistaken modernity, it has been stated that consuming is not same as consumerism. Transnational companies mainly try to follow a Mcdonalisation process which was highly successful in general for western countries and in particular to American markets. In the Indian context one of the confusions often made is addressing multinationals and American companies synonymously, which is necessarily a partial truth.

The regulation of the market cannot be solely assigned to government economic policies and programmes but also on control over media and practices of the various players in the market. The question to be asked is whether the government is capable to control or government can solely handle the responsibility. Parallel to this is versions of social responsibility expected from profit making organizations. Does democracy increase or decrease the freedom exercised by the consumers? The missing links between core aspects of culture and media when explored will yield to an extend answers to the success and failures of sustainable markets in Indian society.

Sociologists had predicted the influence of Globalization and linked it to all possible aspects of society in India. The sociological horoscope did acknowledge the short-term benefits but had cautioned about the broader destruction by projecting latent functions of the markets. Through this paper an attempt is made to explore the sociological dimensions and implications of modem markets in the emerging consumer society in India.

Kumar, Suresh
Dept. of Sociology, Osmania University, Hyderabad- 7, Andhra Pradesh
Making Sense of Democracy: Reconnecting Citizenship to Recognition, Representation and Redistribution

The State and society in India have not been able to resolve the contradiction between political democracy and social democracy even after over five decades of democratic experiment in India. The oft quoted observation of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the concluding address of the Constituent Assembly in 1949, in which he pointed out the inherent contradictions between political democracy and social democracy is still a testimony of the deficiency of democracy from above. Even today, there is a persisting hiatus between political democracy and social democracy. The incongruity between formal democracy and substantive democracy has led to tmrest and tension in society in general. The "million mutinies" are evidence of the compounding of the contradiction. But contrary to this, of procedural democracy and celebrated. There are, of course celebrating the remarkable success of democracy, which the state in Indi to provide despite its colonial legacies. The periodic elections regimes - barring a short intervening enlarging circle of political elites and growing consciousness among the people are some achievements of democratic is still a long way to go towards translating the of social-economic democracy into a livin However, the initiation of democrac' has acted as catalyst in enforcing democracyl below. As a consequence, there is growing,, of deepening democracy in India.

The spread and deepening not uniform for all the groups Whereas the electoral politics and the. action of the state policy have inculcated confidence among the "lower castes" ofthl society over the years, there is growing alienation among the large section There is "erosion of faith" in the institutions The instances of communal violence and reli intolerance have compounded the problems. consequence there is widening gap between and 'they'. Minorities have experienced a shrinking of social and political space. many ideals and promises of the experiment stand contested by the

The withdrawal syndrome from the active participation appears as a si deficient democracy from above. It is note that the "deepening of deml "democratic upsurge", "democracy the catchwords of current political discourse' have largely focused on the growing power "lower caste" in Indian of number and the logic of electoral little attention has been paid to the growing political alienation among Democratic exclusion, apprehension been acting negatively towards the of minorities and full realization of, at diffusion of the ideals of political citizenship rights of equal participation democratic process.

Majumder, Shantanu
University of Dhaka. Bangladesh.
De-secularization of the State and the Growth of Religious Fundamentalism in Bangladesh.

In analyzing the failure of the secular politics and the growth of religious fundamentalism in a non-western state, Bangladesh can be treated as an important case study. Though Bangladesh obtained its independence in 1971 on the basis of the idea of secularism and with a refusal to religious nationalism, nowadays, religious fundamentalism with a complete rejection to secularism has become able to stand as a potential threat to the state structure and at the same time their success in gaining support from the mass is increasing day by day. The existing reality of Bangladesh indicates that initiation of the project of secular ideology in a mechanical way without creating hegemony among the mass is bound to fail as there is no guarantee of secularization on the level of individual consciousness or on the societal level through the process of secularization on the state level.

In this essay an attempt has been made to identify some of the reasons behind the failure of the secular force and the triumph of the anti-secular anti-modernist religious fundamentalism in Bangladesh, which may be helpful in the realization that without considering the historical trajectory of the non-Western areas initiation of the project of modernity could contribute in the growth of counter- secularization and the explosion of religious fervor. In this connection, this article tries to analyze how the modem-secular educated intelligentsia in the pre-independence era (post-independent era as well), biased by the idea of objectification and bureaucratic rationality, views the state craft in fully secular and scientific terms and in this way, give over emphasis on the acceptanceof western secularism as equal to the acceptance of the ideology of progress and modernity that help the anti-secular force in the long run. Moreover, attention has been given to realize the negative impact of treating religious people as backward, superstitious, or reactionary in general, by the modern-secular elite (both nationalist and Leftist) in the Bengali society. Again, this article holds the view that generalization of the term fundamentalism by the mainstream Western media and politics has contributed to the spread of religious fanaticism in Bangladesh, like some other Muslim states. Beside these, this paper aimed to investigate a relationship between the aid from some of the Islamic countries and the success of the religious fundamentalism in Bangladesh in capturing the space of the civil society. Finally, this article put emphasis on the argument that though once the secularist elite in Bangladesh had great success in infiltrating the idea of secularism among the urban middle class, due to the problem in understanding the differences between the idea of religion-as-faith and religion- as-ideology, severely failed in the cultural transformation of the mass of the society.

Motwani, Ameeta
Department of Human Social Science, I.I.T
SHGs and Empowerment of Rural Women in Haryana

Provision of micro-credit through Self Help Groups has emerged as the latest fashion in the practice of poverty alleviation in the Third World countries today. The success of the Grameen Bank experiment in Bangladesh spurred interest in this model resulting in both the NGOs as well as the government sector adopting it with support from the international donor agencies who are advocating it as the best way of fighting rural poverty.

This paper describes how the concept of serf help group is adopted by a programme that aims to empower the rural women in India. The programme is jointly funded by the Government of India, the World Bank and IFAD. The paper is based on fieldwork conducted by me for my doctoral thesis in Sonepat district of Haryana. Women in this state experience some of the worst forms of gender discrimination in modem India.

The paper shows that the officials in charge of implementing the programme at various levels i.e. center, state and district have different perceptions about what the main objectives of the programme are. It also highlights the importance of the role played by the village level workers in the success or otherwise of the programme. The paper describes the problems faced by this programme during its initial phase and points to some of the weaknesses inherent in the programme design. The paper attempts a critique of the use of SHG model for poverty alleviation.

Parthasarathy, D.
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
Economic Liberalization and Justice: A Critique of the Emerging Judicial Discourse

Taking as its starting point, the recent Supreme Court ruling stating that government employees have "no fundamental, legal, moral or equitable right to go on strike", this paper critically reviews several recent judgements by different courts in India dealing directly and indirectly with issues arising out of economic liberalization. Using John Rawls "justice as fairness" approach and his "principles of justice" which enable one to generate individual judgements on public issues, the paper reviews a few of the actual and proposed changes in industrial relations and the legal framework, before and after economic liberalization in India.

The judgements analyzed include those on economic and policy reforms, and worker's rights. An analysis of the emerging judicial discourse reveals an uncritical acceptance of the neo-liberal and neo-classical economic framework, and a lack of awareness of the conditions under which certain policies and rights were established and institutionatised in India in the post-independence period. These judgements explicitly and implicitly contradict existing laws and constitutional provisions, as well as established principles of equity and justice. The paper seeks to bring out the larger social implications of legal changes and judicial discourses especially in terms of the partial demise and metamorphosis of democratic.

Ray, Ashok Kumar
ISS- LM No: 1047
Revisiting Tribal Self-Rule

In this paper an overview of the tribal self- rule has been done in sequentially arranged parts. The first part gives a colonial and immediate-post- colonial background thoughts on the subject. The second part is a decadal road-map of institutional reforms starting from the 73rd Amendment Act to the PESA Act. The third part is a brief introspection into the ethno-political process behind the formation of ADC and a critical overview of the Bhuria Committee Recommendations on tribal serf-rule. The fourth part is a critique of ADC as an in tribal self-rule based on the experience introspection.

Roy, Anupama
Department of Political Science,
'Governing Citizenship'

The notion of citizenship is constituent of democratic thought. strands of democratic thought - liberalism - have shaped the idea contesting ways. This contest is made today in the different and mutually exclus in which citizenship is understood as denolit formal status attributing rights, an idea, activity, an obligation/responsibilit when discharged entitled one to certain r even as a cultural herita analytical category, to gauge the manner in which participation is understood and and the various socio-political which determine the form, substance and, such participation.

The nineteen preoccupation with the pedagogy matter of governance. In the to raise some critical issues in the citizenship in contemporary India (a) by within a comparative perspective citizenship education in countries historically followed different practices will be explored (b) by a exploration of the pedagog3 and (c) by its specificities, as well as issues it traverses common grounds with the trajectories elsewhere. The questions I hope to address through such a study pertain to (i) the relationship between the changing definitions of citizenship and conceptualizations of political community, and the methods of preparation for the same (ii) the contexts within which concerns about preparing for citizenship and the substance of citizenship become subjects of animated public debate and policy making (iii) the issues which such debates throw up viz., questions of identity and democracy; plurality, diversity and multiculturalism; civic education and associational life; difference, equality and participation. The identification and exploration of these issues in debates and policy making in a historical and comparative perspective would enable one to address broader questions pertaining to state and civil society, and philosophical issues concerning the nature and substance of citizenship.

Satyanarayana, G
Professor of Sociology, Osmania University, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Janma Bhoomi Programme: A process of Political Mobilization and Democratic Development - A Study of Government Programme in Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh has been in the limelight of India since more than two decades. It is due to the popular and dynamic leadership of the state such as late Sri.N.T.R. and his successor son-in-law and present chief minister Sri.N.Chandrababu Naidu who have been ruling the state since 1983 except a brief period i.e. 1989-1994.

These two leaders as heads of T.D.P regional party and as heads of the Government have been initiating number of innovative policies and programmes for the benefit of various sections of the society specially the rural poor. The nature of the programmes is not only to initiate all round development of the people but also to involve them in the socio-economic and political process, which is the real spirit of democratic governance. One such programme of development is "Janma Bhoomi" which has become very popular not only in the state but also in the country. The main aim of this programme is to develop the villages and towns by the involvement of masses not only participation but also by contribution to the motherland i.e. land of one's births (Janma Bhoomi). It means conceptually people belongs to their birth place i.e. villages/towns involve in the process of development by contribution of 30% of cost or labour. This programme has been initiated six years ago periodically 10 days for every four months and of late it is reduced to once in for every six months focusing on one issue concerned to all people or specific section of the society such as women, weaker sections and youth etc. Thus, the programme has gained tremendous response from the people and emerged like a "Movement of Development" by the active participation and initiation of the people in the process of development at grass-root level. Government of A.P. has earmarked some funds in the budget for the Janma Bhoomi programmes.

With the above conceptual and theoretical understanding, this study mainly aims at to understand the prospects and the retrospect of the Janma Bhoomi programmes in terms of its socioeconomic, political and bureaucratic mobilization in the process of democratic development.

Sharma, R.N.
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Capitalist-Mafia and its Well-paid Servants: The 21st Century City under Seige

Some 15 years back, the underworld mafia (turned builders) encroached delicate backwater lands in lush-green Vasai-Virar coastal area of Mumbai region and constructed thousands of houses in the 'green' (no development) zone by violating all planning norms. The then ruling political party moved into the matter and instead of taking action against rampant illegal activity, converted more than 7500 ha green lands into 'urbanisable land' and thus extended sanctity to the creation of wealth (mostly the black money) by the builder-mafia. In another instance, some five years back, Abdul Telgi printed fake revenue stamps worth Rs.2000 crs and kept on selling them in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kamataka and Gujarat. It is alleged by a key leader of the political party in opposition in Maharashtra State that one of the key leaders of the Democratic Front (presently ruling the State) got Rs.20 cr bribe from the kingpin in order to suppress the case. Since the scam by Abdul Telgi was too severe to suppress, he is now in jail-custody but with a VIP treatment. The closed textile mills since over a decade now in the city involve the release of some 2.8 million sq.mts. of prime lands in the city. The builder-mafia, mill owners, political leaders and bureaucrats are busy in finding ways of churning huge wealth by selling /he lands for commercial/housing purposes. In such a situation, even the poor slum resident is not spared and in the name of providing 'free' houses to the slum dwellers, scam after scam is being created by the builder-mafia in connivance with greedy politicians. In central parts of Mumbai city multi- storeyed buildings are coming up under the 'tranfer of development rights' where the slum lands are being converted into posh residential/commercial structures and affected slum dwellers are given (mostly on paper) newly constructed houses towards north of the city region. The forces of development are so strong that even NGOs with high profile activism for the slum housing are being coopted in creation of wealth by the builder-mafia.

The above few instances are a tip of the iceberg - the wonderland of neo-rich -' the capitalist mafia, who are determined to seize growth oriented cities like Mumbai, for multiplying their fortunes. The intriguing part is that in their state of affairs, politicians and bureaucrats are turning into 'faithful' servants and are paid well for their 'cooperation'. The shape of things to come in the city of 'gold and silver' is too disturbing to the common cause of average citizen. The generated wealth by capitalist mafia has taken shape of a parallel (black money) economy which negates even classic notion of capitalism, as stated by Lenin, which should involve appropriation of surplus and reinvesting capital into productive assets. In the present context, the generated wealth defies such a logic of capitalism.

The present paper highlights the emergence of capitalist-mafia in City of Mumbai which is not only against the interest of people but also has severally eroded political and administrative institutions.

Taylor, Steve and Singh, Manjit
School of Social Sciences and Teesside, UK
Dept. of Sociology, Punjab University,
Punjabi Communities in the UK

Punjabi is currently the commonly spoken language in Britain Punj for their economic success and for educational attainment, perhaps there has been no systematic investigation of these communities This paper reports upon the preliminary such a study. Based upon original conducted within Punjabi Britain, it will be argued that a rationality, that is kinship and rather than individualised, is the central, Punjabi communities in specific economic rationality has stron communities within India/Pakistan, trace their original roots, than it does structure and culture of British society. will also be suggested that this often idealised ima which is 'frozen in time' and does match contemporary reality. The implications, argument, particularly for the younger third generation) members of Punj, in Britain, and the conflict and turmoil result, will also be discussed.

The paper will necessarily engage wider sociological debates, including: impact of globalisation; the combination of 'economic' and 'cultural' gendered power relations and the sexual difference; 'racial' and ethnic relations.

Yerma, H.S.
Centre for Social Action,5/505,Vikas Nagar, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
The OBC Identity and Treatment of the OBCs by the Mainstream Ruling Parties in India

This paper lists the specific tricks played by the ruling classes and parties in handling formation, consolidation and assertion of the OBC identity. First, whereas the provisions for compensatory benefits for the SCs, and STs were kept mandatory, those for the OBCs were left to the discretion--and, of course, the convenience of the governments, Central and state. Second, identification and scheduling of the OBCs was left undefined in the Constitution and has proved to be cancerous. Third, the states that had a long tradition of affirmative action for the OBCs came out with very large lists of the OBCs and brought almost three fourths of their population under this category. This ensured that major part of the reservation-- and other benefits dispensed by the government-- flowed to the dominant communities whereas other communities in the OBC lists secured lesser or only nominal benefits. This also diluted the horizontal unity of the OBCs since resentment against unfair treatment breeded hostility among and between them. Fourth, the OBC lists also contain SCs, STs and nomadic and semi-nomadic communities including the Vmukta Jatis in some of the states. Fifth, while very high percentage of reservations have been allowed to the OBCs in some of the states, the measure is limited to 50 in most others. Sixth, measures other than reservation for the emancipation and empowerment of the OBCs have not been taken up in the right earnest. Seventh, the sub-division of the OBCs has become a 'divide and rule' stick for the ruling elites. Eightth, a move is now underway to grant reservations to the "poor" of the upper castes putting aside the twin criteria of historical discrimination and social educational backwardness for granting reservations.

The second part of the piece analyses the treatment meted out to the OBCs by the mainline political parties, in particular the Congress and the BJP and two OBC dominated parties.It is indicated that between 1947and 1967,with minor exceptions, the Congress under Nehru had worked out a voting bloc combination of upper castes/classes, the Muslims and the SCs, and STs to capture and remain the OBCs. They had been given no space in this schema. Absence of an all India identity, timidity in their behaviour, lack of English education and external orientation, closed mindsets and, finally, absence of entrepreneurship were the main causes of this neglect of the OBCs.

In the third part, the paper first presents the common tactics used by the upper castes to systematically ruin the numerically most preponderant sub-category of the OBCs, i.e. the peasantry while the knowledge -based segment of the Indian economy has been supported and enabled to do exceedingly well in a globalised economy: it then lists the specific tactics used in handling the totality of the OBCs as a social category. It is concluded that power for the OBC men has not been the same thing as it has been for their upper caste colleagues. Whereas major part of the blame can be placed at the doors of the ruling elites, the fact still remains that persistence of the culture of backwardness among the OBCs has also not allowed them a level playing field in the Indian society, economy and polity.