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

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Striving for Begumpura: Traversing the Intellectual Activism of Gail Omvedt

​Writer, researcher, life-long fellow traveller of the progressive movements and long-time author with the Economic & Political Weekly, Gail Omvedt passed away on 25 August 2021. In this reading list, we present some of the highlights of her scholarship published in EPW.

Maternity Entitlements

Maternity benefits of at least `6,000 per child are a legal right of all Indian women under the National Food Security Act, 2013. In practice, a large majority are still deprived of maternity benefits. A recent survey, conducted in six states of North India, reveals that pregnant women’s basic needs for nutritious food, proper rest, and healthcare are rarely satisfied. Among the women who had recently delivered a child, about half had eaten less than the usual during pregnancy and nearly 40% complained of a lack of rest at that time. The average weight gain during pregnancy was just 7 kg. There is, thus, an urgent need for better recognition of the special needs of pregnancy, provision of maternity benefits in accordance with the law, and better support for pregnant women, including quality healthcare.

Rural–Urban Linkages in Bihar

The growth of the manufacturing sector is important for employing a growing labour force and much is also dependent on their skill level. Enterprise surveys in six sample towns of Bihar, a state characterised by slow industrialisation and urbanisation, find evidence of fairly strong rural–urban linkages for manufacturing enterprises. Although the linkages indicate that the manufacturing sector has the maximum potential to create employment by absorbing the surplus labour in the rural areas, it was found that this sector has been languishing in the sample towns. The findings also flag the challenges and areas of growth for industries.

Rural–Urban Disparity in the Standard of Living across States of India

The rural–urban disparity in the standard of living in India is estimated on the basis of per capita consumption or use of non-durable goods, durable consumer goods, and house and living facilities enjoyed by the population of the rural and urban sectors in major states of India in 2011–12. This estimate shows that the rural–urban disparity in the standard of living is the highest in Jharkhand and Odisha and the lowest in Punjab and Kerala. The interstate variation in rural–urban disparity is negatively correlated with per capita state domestic product, degree of urbanisation, level of agricultural development, and per capita amount of remittances received by rural households. It is positively correlated with the percentage of state population below the poverty line.

NEP 2020 and the Language-in-Education Policy in India

The National Education Policy of India 2020 is a significant policy document laying the national-level strategy for the new millennium. It is ambitious and claims universal access to quality education as its key aim, keeping with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 of the United Nations Agenda 2030. One of the highlights of the NEP is its emphasis on mother tongue education at the primary levels in both state- and privately owned schools. The present paper critically assesses the NEP 2020, primarily in relation to the language-in-education policy. The paper argues that it presents a “contradiction of intentions,” aspiring towards inclusion of the historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups on the one hand, while practising a policy of aggressive privatisation and disinvestment in public education on the other.

Agrarian Structure of Punjab in the Post-green Revolution Era

While Punjab is endowed with population bonus from a macro perspective, the dividend viewed at a household level has placed Punjab farmers in two major difficulties: the shrinkage of farm size and the underutilisation of the dividend. Due to a dearth of decent non-farm job opportunities, Punjab farmers have struggled to pursue distress-coping strategies. This paper focuses on three primary strategies for survival: land leases, overseas migration, and obtaining informal domestic jobs outside the agricultural sector, based on our unique data of 956 landholders and 254 landless households across Punjab.

Drivers of Foodgrain Productivity in Uttar Pradesh

The present study using district-wise panel data for the period between 2000–01 and 2016–17 assesses trends and acceleration or deceleration of growth in area, production and productivity of foodgrains in Uttar Pradesh. Though agriculture production growth in the state is primarily attributed to...

Government Policies Drive Farmers to Penury

Ironically, agricultural households now earn “more” income from wages than from crop farming.

A Micro-ethnographic Study on Provision and Access of Public Goods in an Indian Village

A micro-ethnographic study is done in a village using participatory research tools in order to highlight the patterns of public goods segregation and access. The factors influencing the social groups in their decision-making at the local level are also highlighted.

Women’s Leadership in COVID-19 Response: Self-help Groups of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission Show the Way

During COVID-19, it was recognised that the far-flung network of National Rural Livelihood Mission’s women’s self-help groups, spanning the length and breadth of the country, could be leveraged to ensure prevention and containment of the virus in rural areas. Women’s SHGs and their federated structures harbour tremendous potential because of the social capital and solidarity networks they possess. This article presents insights from a study and summarises good practices, strategies and innovations that were spearheaded by SHGs amidst the pandemic. Findings from the report provide early lessons from ground-level action taken and recommendations for strengthening women’s leadership to respond to crises.

News Hunters or Ad Gatherers?

Despite their indispensable contributions to print media, the small-town/rural stringers remain as invisible workers and their day-to-day struggles for livelihood go largely unnoticed. This article provides a field-based account on the insecure world of work of stringers, which is characterised by precarious employment with deplorable working conditions. This situation calls for urgent interventions from all stakeholders to promote decent work and fair labour standards for rural stringers.

School Choice in Rural India

Indian parents are faced with more choices of schools, but with less information on schools and schooling. The study across four states in rural India suggests that perceptions of teaching–learning, discipline, and safety of children in schools determine school choice among parents. Expenses are a critical consideration for parents who send children to public schools, while the English medium is important for parents of children going to private schools. However, parental choices of low-fee private schools are often not based on accurate information, and parents emphasise many educationally unimportant but aspirational factors. The marketing efforts of schools and cultural aspirations of parents reinforce each other, allowing for a situation in which actual educational outcomes can be subordinated, or worse, undermined.
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