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

Articles by Tirthankar RoySubscribe to Tirthankar Roy

Parallels in the Empire

Tirthankar Roy Imperial Affinities: Nineteenth Century Analogies and Exchanges between India and Ireland by S B Cook; Sage Publications, Delhi; pp 162, Rs 195.

Development or Distortion-Powerlooms in India, 1950-1997

'Powerlooms' in India, 1950-1997 Tirthankar Roy If the 19th century saw the rise of a cotton mill industry in India, most of the 20th has seen a dismantling of weaving in the mills, and its shift to small weaving factories, called 'powerlooms'. Textile scholarship in India has seen the powerlooms' growth mainly as a distortion created by government policy. This article disputes this view, and interprets the growth as a pattern of industrialisation founded on (1) unlimited supply of low-quality labour, (2) developing systems of inter-firm co-ordination, (3) agglomeration based on such systems, and (4) continuous accumulation of capital 'from below', in artisanal activities in the past, and in modern small- scale industry and agriculture more recently.

Return of Economic History

Return of Economic History Tirthankar Roy Institutions and Economic Change in South Asia edited by Burton Stein and Sanjay Subrahmanyam; Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1996; pp x + 314,

The Depression and Industrial Strategy

Tirthankar Roy Restrictionism during the Great Depression in Indian Tea, Jute and Sugar Industries by Samar Ranjan Sen; Firma KLM Calcutta, 1997; pp viii + 254. Rs 350.

Textiles and Industrialisation

Textiles and Industrialisation Tirthankar Roy New Silk Roads: East Asia and World Textile Markets edited by Kym Anderson; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; pp xxvi+245.

A Random Selection in Agrarian History

happy to see the category of experience rescued from its precipitate ejection by post- structuralist theory, its effective theorisation requires a more active engagement with the relevant historical context of contemporary India and Tamil Nadu. The notion of 'conjuncturalism' offered in the book as a way of dealing with interactive global cultural processes does not quite address the site of fieId work/home work in India as a sociopolitical location constituted by intellectual and political engagements. There is something abstract about the brief discussion of nationalism, the family and marriage that is offered; moreover, the very plausibility and ordinariness of the problems Visweswaran encountered get crowded out in the process. Thus, for instance, the fact that one of the women she interviewed, Uma, did not reveal to Visweswaran that she had been a child widow (which was betrayed to the author by Uma's friend and co-nationalist Janaki) seems quite understandable, considering the over-determined status of the 'widow' ever since social reform movements produced her as the emblematic figure most in need of redemption. I am therefore unclear what to make of Visweswaran's claim that the family does not change during nationalism (p 57). In different parts of India south and north the family changed intensely, if under complex patriarchal and colonial THIS book contains a selection of essays on agrarian history of colonial India, presented with a well-written introduction on the evolution of the discipline, and with a useful and comprehensive annotated bibliography. The essays themselves are taken from works well known in the field, and arc deservedly reprinted, Beyond a shared concern in 'commercialisation'of agriculture in a loose sense, there is little in common among the essays, as one can guess from the book's generous all-inclusive title. Some, in fact, are more about regions than about agriculture. The detailed themes include: rise of commodity production (B B Chaudhuri on Bengal, A Satyanarayana on coastal Andhra), production and exchange relations (Sugata Bose on Bengal, TC A Raghavan on central India, Shahid Amin on eastern UP sugarcane), migrant labour (Crispin Bates on central India), and explanations of eco-nomic growth or stagnation (Eric Stokes on UP, Vasant conditions that precluded 'autonomous struggle' by women. (For instance, the breakup and transformation of the Namboodiri- Nair alliance in Kerala under the pressures, amongst other things, of the nationalist ideology of conjugality, may not even be the most dramatic historical example one could cite.) Given the crucial importance of regional, as well as caste/class/gender difference (which is another way of saying that the very shape caste, class and gender issues take are fundamentally affected by regional considerations), one must also pause before applying an essay such as Partha Chatterjee's 'Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question' without any mediations: Can an analysis of 19th century Bengal speak directly to 20th century Tamil Nadu? I have raised these doubts in order to point ahead to the fuller exploration of questions of the family, marriage, social reform and agency for women during Tamil nationalism that Visweswaran's present book leads us to expect. Having overturned the orthodox anthropological requirement of writing a monograph before venturing into the essay, there is no telling just what may lie in store, when so much of the western ethnographic structure has broken down. Given Visweswaran's accountability to multiple audiences, and her recognition that such an accountability may require different acccounts, we are not likely to be disappointed.

Market Resurgence, Deregulation, and Industrial Response-Indian Cotton Textiles in 1990s

The cotton mill industry in India suffered sustained low profitability from the 1970s until recently, usually attributed to stagnation in home demand for cotton cloth, labour market segmentation and unfriendly policies. Since about 1987, deregulation and liberalisation eased some of these problems, with the result that average profits and investment rates have improved, though the extent and nature of the revival continue to be influenced by structural constraints such as labour-market segmentation and shortage of resources.

Politics of the Depression

Politics of the Depression Tirthankar Roy India in the Great Depression 1929-1939 by Dietmar Rothermund; Manohar, FEW episodes in the 20th century have had an enduring significance, in the practice of economic theory and history, comparable with that of the Great Depression of the 1930s. In theory, the depression showed recessions to be systemic failures, instructed on what governments ought not to do in recessions, and illustrated a variety of risk- sensitive behaviour still not completely understood and explored. In history, the depression represents the divide between different regimes of international trade and payments, and between different philosophies of regulation of national economies. Briefly, the activist state in macroeconomic management is a result of the depression. Research on this episode, however, has been overwhelmingly about the experience of the industrialised countries, and has relatively neglected that of the developing world. It is clear from basic statistics on balance of payments and levels of activity that the depression had strong impact on the developing and colonised world. But the transmission process and, less certainly, the nature of the impact, varied according to the structure of the economics. In primary goods exporters such as parts of Latin America, the channel was trade, and the adjustment to an exogenous decline in aggregate demand fell on absolute prices, and some relative prices as well (terms of trade, real wages, etc). In India, trade undoubtedly was a channel, and prices did fall. But this was not the only, nor seemingly the most important way the depression transmitted itself. Trade, after all, and primary goods within it, did not constitute critical sectors of the economy. It can be argued that the reason why a trade- slump turned into a deep and stressful deflation in the 1930s was India's political status. India being Britain's most important colony, politically and in terms of economic transactions, Indian fiscal and monetary policy was subject to a deep-rooted rigidity. Depression-adjustment demanded flexibility and autonomy, a need clear to many contemporary observers, underscored by global trends, but denied by Britain to India.

Peasantry and Debt

Peasantry and Debt Tirthankar Roy Credit, Markets, and the Agrarian Economy of Colonial India edited by Sugata Bose; Oxford University Press, Delhi; 1994; pp 333, Rs 290.

Textiles A Study in Intervention

Textiles: A Study in Intervention Tirthankar Roy India's Textile Sector; A Policy Analysis by Sanjiv Misra; Sage Publications, New ROUGHLY between 1956 and 1985, the textile industry in India was governed by a closely regulatory regime. The state intervened on mainly two fronts: competition among mills, powerlooms and handlooms; and consumer preference between cotton and non-cotton fibres. Competition was regulated by restriction on the mills and excise duties. Fibre-choice was directed by tariffs and taxes on non-cotton. This framework began to be dismantled from 1985 on realisation that interventions had been partly frustrated and partly damaging. Restriction on the mills was meant to protect handloom weavers, and thus several million jobs, but it resulted in a clandestine expansion of small-scale powerlooms. The demand for non-cotton grew despite high taxes. And in the course of the three decades. India, the premier textile manufacturer in the developing world in 1940, accumulated sickness in the cotton mills, and steadily retreated in the world market.

British Rule and the Indian Village

British Rule and the Indian Village Tirthankar Roy Rural India; Land, Power and Society under British Rule edited by Peter Robb; Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1992; viii + 313, Rs 150.

Employment Asian Experience

Tirthankar Roy Employment Challenges for the 90s by ILO-ARTEP, New Delhi; pp 147. CREATION of employment has been a major goal of economic policy in the countries of Asia, one of the world's most populated regions. But like economic growth, experience with job-creation has been uneven, and so has been the composition and quality of the labour force. The volume under review contains four essays describing and explaining these differences, identifying new areas of concern, and suggesting agenda for policy. The papers, written by members of the ARTEP (Asian Regional Team for Employment Promotion), were first presented at a seminar in Delhi. The four papers address, in that order, how the speed and quality of economic growth matter in job- creation, why women's participation in the workforce changes, what are the potentials and nature of jobs in the urban informal sector; and how urban planning matters in employment growth. By and large, the papers do not present original research, but summarise existing research. But they are easily readable, contain essential comparative statistics without being overburdened with data, and can be a useful introductory text for anyone interested in employment and labour market issues in Asia.


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