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

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Civil Society and Indian Democracy

Spaces available for democratic expression need to be utilised with renewed creativity by those fighting for a more equal, less exploitative social order. There is a need to guard against both the despair of rejecting all civil society efforts as sham as well as of taking this democracy for granted. Can civil society organisations work for social transformation without veering towards these two extremes?

Punjab Water Syndrome

The current groundwater crisis in Punjab is a combination of paradoxical consequences - extreme depletion in some areas and water logging in others. This paper provides a brief description of the contours of the crisis and pinpoints possible reasons for its emergence in failures of policy as well as implementation. It also proposes a package of approaches as part of a paradigm shift for Punjab that can simultaneously tackle the twin challenges of water logging and a decline in groundwater levels and quality.

A Response

It is a pleasure to respond to the comments of a serious scholar like Perry, also because it provides an opportunity to clear possible misreadings of my paper and the proposals in the Twelfth Plan.

Water:Towards a Paradigm Shift in the Twelfth Plan

The Twelfth Plan proposes a fundamental change in the principles, approach and strategies of water management in India. This paradigm shift was the outcome of a new and inclusive process of plan formulation, which saw the coming together of practitioners and professionals from government, academia, industry and civil society to draft the Plan.

The Power of Uncertainty: Reflections on the Nature of Transformational Initiatives

If uncertainty is at the heart of the knowledge of the world that is possible for us, what implications does this have for transformational initiatives? Does it lead to confusion, enfeeblement, non-action? Does it paralyse us? Or does it define a particular course of action, with certain defining characteristics that derive from our recognition of the ineluctable presence of uncertainty? These are large philosophical, existential questions which can yet be answered.

Manual Labour and Growth

In their response to my critique of their article on Direct Cash Transfers, Kapur, Mukhopadhyay and Subramanian (EPW, 22 November 2008; henceforth KMS), state “The thought that durable infrastructure can be built largely by manual labour would be amusing, if it were not irresponsible” (p 87).

Structures of Power in Indian Society: A Response

Class cannot be the exclusive axis in understanding power in Indian society. A caste-ridden rural society with an adivasi fringe needs better characterisation than that offered by Partha Chatterjee in "Democracy and Economic Transformation in India" (19 April 2008). The 1990s certainly mark a break in Indian economic history but perhaps in a direction opposite to the one Chatterjee suggests. Over-deterministic attribution of hegemonic powers to corporate capital takes away from the centrality of struggle and the contingent unpredictability of historical processes. We need to practise the "subversive" history advocated by D D Kosambi, which refuses to fit snugly into prefabricated schema of the kind imposed by Chatterjee. (Three comments on the essay are followed by a response from Partha Chatterjee.)

Direct Cash Transfers: No Magic Bullet

The reduction of poverty in India requires much more than solutions such as direct cash transfers.

Radicalism of NREGA

The brutal murder of young Jharkhand activist Lalit Mehta exposes the violent opposition of vested interests deeply threatened by the radical provisions of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

Rainfed Authority and Watershed Reforms

With the long awaited approval of the post-Parthasarathy Committee common guidelines for watershed development finally being given in February 2008, it is time now to push hard for actualising the suggested radical reforms at the cutting-edge level of implementation.

Two Years of NREGA: The Road Ahead

It is not possible to realise the massive potential of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act if we deploy the same ossified structure of implementation that has deeply institutionalised corruption, inefficiency and non-accountability into the very fabric of Indian democracy. On the other hand, if the reforms suggested in this paper are put into place, NREGA holds out the prospect of transforming the livelihoods of the poorest and heralding a revolution in rural governance in India.

Employment Guarantee, Civil Society and Indian Democracy

Even as we celebrate 60 years of Indian democracy, with millions of our people hungry, cynical and insecure, and living under the barrel of the gun (of the state or the extremists), we need to worry about the reach and quality of our political process. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has the potential to provide a "big push" in India's regions of distress. For NREGA to be able to realise its potential, the role of civil society organisations is critical. But this calls for a new self-critical politics of fortitude, balance and restraint.


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