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WP No. 195  December 2005

Drought, Agriculture, and Rural Livelihood:
A Case Study of Bolangir District, Orissa

Mahendra Nayak


Bolangir is officially declared a drought-prone district. However it is an under-exploited ecological base where average annual rainfall is 1443 mm. Poverty level in this district is the highest in the country (61.01% as per the Union Planning Commission’s estimates, 1999-2000) where one encounters frequent occurrence of starvation deaths, natural disasters like floods and droughts. As a consequence, the district suffers from chronic problems of abject poverty and malnutrition, distress induced migration, food insecurity and even starvation deaths. Majority of households have no satisfactory access to institutional loan and borrowed from a variety of informal sources both from inside and outside the villages. It is precisely in this context, the present paper examines the problems associated with drought somewhat historically and politically. In particular, the paper attempts to answer to some of the important and puzzling questions such as why does the district experience drought despite a good rainfall, which is much higher than the national average? Is the district really facing water scarcity or is it the reflection of the poor water governance in the state? On the contrary, if the present plan of linking the Mahanadi with other rivers in peninsular India, it is bound to increase poverty and unemployment, keeping the state under severe drought conditions. The analysis is based on the secondary data (published by various government agencies) and primary data collected from the village studies conducted in the district during the year 2001-02.


WP No.194  September 2005

Farm Level Land and Water Productivity in Tank Irrigation: 
Some Methodological Issues

K. Sivasubramaniyan, R. Sakthivadivel


Agriculture consumes a lion share of available water which is becoming increasingly scarce day-by-day. For proper management of agricultural water it is essential to understand how much water is currently used for crop production and other uses; how much is needed in the coming decades; and to what extent and in what ways they can be met with. In the process of agricultural water management, efficiency of water use -in terms of the quantum of water released at the source to the fraction of water actually required for crop growth- is considered important to understand the current levels of water use in the surface and groundwater irrigation.  Apart from water use efficiency, the water productivity is also an important parameter to reckon with. Obviously, the volume of water used for irrigation through surface as well as groundwater is the basis to measure water productivity. In order to estimate the efficiency of agricultural water use as well as its productivity a small river basin, namely the Cheyyar sub-basin of the Palar basin, in Tamil Nadu is taken up for investigation under the IWMI-TATA Policy Research Programme. 

The main objective of this research is to compute farm level land and water productivity under tank irrigation. This paper presents the findings of the study based on the fieldwork carried out in seven tanks in Tiruvannamalai district. The findings indicate that the land and water productivity differ considerably with its location from the source of supply and access to well water. Either the tank supply alone or the well water alone does not help the farmer to get more returns. Both these sources should be used conjunctively to get maximum returns in tank irrigation. It is also suggested that “community wells” developed within tank ayacuts will serve the purpose of maintaining equity among farmers especially among the marginal, small and farmers who do not get adequate supply from both the tanks and wells.


WP No.193  June 2005

Water Governance:
A Historical UnderstandingOf Mahanadi River Basin, Orissa

Sushanta Kumar Mahapatra 


Many studies on irrigation in colonial India are on the Gangetic valley, northwestern and western India. A comprehensive analysis of the interface between irrigation and agrarian change in eastern India has not been discussed adequately so far. This is particularly in the case of Orissa state. The present work makes a modest effort to fill up this gap. Several socio-economic, technological and political transformations that took place in Orissa over a period of time have altered her socio, political institution. Against these changes, the present study aims to document the development of various irrigation systems in Orissa in conjunction with other technological development during pre- and post- independence period. The subject of governance is so serious that without addressing it in adequate measure in the State, integrated development and management of the water resources for realising sustainable water will only be a reflective exercise. Though the present work predominantly focuses on Hirakud Command Area under Mahanadi river basin, instances from other districts of Orissa were used as illustrations.


Working Paper No. 192  March 2005

Creative Social Research:
Rethinking Theories and Methods and the Calling of an Ontological Epistemology of Participation

Ananta Kumar Giri


Modern social research, as we know it now, emerged as a part of rise of modern social sciences in the context of transition to modernity. As an enterprise of modernity social research reflected some of the foundational assumptions of modernity such as the primacy of epistemology and an easy equation between society and nation-state.  But all these assumptions have been subjected to fundamental interrogations in the last decades and century in varieties of social movements and new movements of ideas.  In the background of critiques of modernity, social movements and processes of transformations the present essay submits some proposals for a creative and critical social research.  It explores ways of moving beyond mere denunciations and critiques and embodying transformational theories and methods which would facilitate creative and critical research. The essay also calls for a new vocation of social research by pleading for a simultaneous engagement in activism and creative understanding, fieldwork and philosophical reflections, ontological self-cultivation and epistemic labor of learning.  The present essay presents some proposals for rethinking theories and methods. It discusses ways of rethinking society and subjectivity and pleads for a frame of ontological sociality. It submits some proposals for rethinking method, especially overcoming the dualism of qualitative and quantitative, ontology and epistemology.  It pleads for border crossing between philosophy and social sciences, a multi-valued logic of autonomy and interpenetration and an ontological epistemology of participation.


WP No. 191  December 2004

Microfinance – the Silver Bullet for Empowerment: Some Questions

K. Kalpana


The central focus of this paper is a critical reading of literature documenting the experience of microcredit programmes in empowering women and transforming gender relations. Based largely on Bangladesh experience, the paper begins by delineating the global institutional context and the forces underpinning the emergence of women as the major actors in, and targets of, these programmes. The rise of the empowerment paradigm, the ‘empowerment’ impact of processes of loan use and outcomes of loan access for women, the assumed linear relationship between microcredit access and empowerment outcomes – these are some of the issues critically reviewed in the paper. Besides revisiting some of these issues in the light of the Indian self-help group-based microfinance experience, the paper suggests other research questions worthy of examination in the Indian context.



Working Paper No: 190, August 2004

GATT, WTO AND Rules on Regional Integration

Moana Bhagabati


 Since the decade of the eighties, the global economy has been marked by fundamental changes, the most pervasive of which have been in the realm of trade. Most developing countries have opened up their economies, often dictated by compulsions of the macroeconomic adjustment process they had undertaken. Trade liberalization is being pursued as a primary objective. The policy regime supporting this strategy has been governed first by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and subsequent to the mid-nineties by the World Trade Organization (WTO). While such developments have underlined and strengthened the efficacy of the multilateral trading system, a parallel trend has sought to undermine the pillar of multilateralism. The second rise of regionalism, marked by the proliferation of regional trading arrangements (RTAs) is a clear indication that there is a renewed interest in establishing regional economic groupings by most countries of the world. The prolonged duration of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations was believed to have undermined the efficacy of the multilateral trading system, and led countries to seek regional partners (though not in the geographic sense) for achieving gains from trade. However, the number of such groupings and trade blocs has continued to increase even after the multilateral trade accord was concluded and its implementation placed under the aegis of the WTO.

Though these trends in the global economy are seemingly contradictory, the GATT and subsequently the WTO, has not been antithetical to the establishment of regional trade groupings. The GATT Contracting Parties and the WTO Members are allowed to enter into such arrangements provided they eliminate rather than just lower withinunion trade barriers on ‘substantially all trade’. Such arrangements must also not raise trade barriers on goods produced outside the union, other than those that existed prior to the formation of the arrangement. These exception to the most favoured-nation clause, on which rests the thesis of multilateralism, are contained in Article XXIV of the GATT, which sanctions the establishment of regional trading groups.

As the global trading system seems poised between regionalism and multilateralism, the debate is keenly followed at the WTO. In 1996, the general council established the Committee on Regional Trade Agreement to examine the regional initiatives notified to the WTO, with a fundamental mandate to study how regional agreements might affect the multilateral trading system, and what the relationship between the two kinds of initiatives should ideally be.

This paper traces the origin and evolution of the provisions within the GATT that permit the establishment of RTAs, and primarily concentrates on Article XXIV of the GATT with a view to understanding the legal underpinnings and rationale of the regionalism phenomenon.


Working Paper No: 189, June 2004

The Shifting Trajectories in Microfinance Discourse:
A critical reading of the Anti-Poverty Dimensions of Microfinance programmes

K. Kalpana


 This paper attempts to trace the paradigm shift away from an earlier conviction in the presumed ability of microfinance to function as a silver bullet that lifts poor households above the poverty line through a virtuous cycle of .more income, more credit, more investment., towards a more cautious approach emphasizing the protectional, as opposed to the promotional, dimensions of microfinance. The discussion begins by distinguishing the current generation of microfinance programmes and institutions from an older generation of rural credit programmes for the poor, based on differences at the level of transactional technologies and ideological perspectives in the underlying conceptualization of credit. Much of the literature reviewed in this paper pertains to the experience of Bangladesh, home to some of the earliest and oldest microfinance programmes and institutions. The paper ends by reflecting on some of the issues that the shifting conceptualization of microfinance poses for the practice of Indian self-help group-based microfinance.


Working Paper No: 188, June 2004

Facilitating India’s Trading Environment: An Overview

Nirmal Sengupta and Moana Bhagabati


As tariff levels have declined over the years, growing attention has been directed to transaction costs. In view of this, the Task Force on Indirect Taxes (Kelkar Committee) dealt with trade facilitation (as a measure to cut down transaction costs) alongside tariff reduction. In the WTO agenda, this is one of the newer issues under consideration. A 1998 EXIM Bank study among Indian firms estimated that the perceived avoidable transaction costs accounted for about 10.78% of export revenues. The good news is . a resurvey found that several trade facilitating reforms succeeded in eliminating about 60% of this in just five years. The EXIM Bank study, mostly about dwell time of cargo, is only a partial estimate of potential benefits of trade facilitation. There are numerous other areas like simplification of data and documentation, electronic data interchange, transparency, faster clearance and modern risk management, improvement in financial matters, transit with neighbouring countries, where reforms are needed. Besides, benefits arise both directly and indirectly. For realising benefits, domestic reforms must match with trade facilitation in foreign trade. Otherwise domestic traders will be at a disadvantage while global traders get the privileges. However, in global trade, restrictive Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB.s) like Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) are reducing the benefits of trade facilitation measures undertaken by countries like India.


Working Paper No: 187, May  2004

Interfaces in Local Governance - A Study in Karnataka

Kripa AnanthPur


With the introduction of Panchayati Raj Institutions in India, new spaces and initiatives have been designed to deepen democracy at the local level and make it more inclusive. These strengthened Grama Panchayats often co-exist with a range of intersecting local institutions particularly those that are apparently rooted in traditions and customs - Customary Panchayats. Research in Karnataka indicates that rather than shrinking in face of modernity, these institutions have found ways to interact, often positively, with Grama Panchayats. There is some evidence to suggest that Customary Panchayats themselves both influence and adapt to the existence of Grama Panchayats. A deeperunderstanding of the dynamics of this interaction would enhance the capacity of government agencies and social movements to intervene effectively to help promote the interests of the poor and disadvantaged and strengthen local governance.


Working Paper No. 186 - April 2004

Padmini Swaminathan

The Trauma of ‘Wage Employment’ and the ‘Burden of Work’ for Women in India:
Evidences and Experiences


Approached from any discipline – demography, economics, sociology etc., - women’s participation in paid employment and particularly participation outside the household domain has uniformly been given a positive connotation. In demography, for example, the seemingly high correlation between increase in female WPR and reduction in fertility rate has catapulted this statistical finding into a policy decision, wherein growth in population in populous LDCs is sought to be controlled through, among other things, larger participation of women in paid employment. In economics, where the study of poverty is a major preoccupation, wage employment is central among the prescriptions for poverty reduction. Further, paid employment for women is also generally associated with greater economic independence resulting in better household nutritional status as well as better scope for education of girl children. Sociological studies of women’s participation in wage employment stress the enhanced status and autonomy that such work participation provide for women, which in turn confers on them greater decisionmaking power. The celebration of statistical increases in female work participation rates has, more often than not, hidden the fact that most employed women have no formal ‘worker’ status; this in turn means that recourse to any form of action for redressal of grievances becomes infructuous, since legal recognition as ‘worker’ is a necessary condition for most courses of action.

 At another level, there is increasing documentation of the ‘Triple Overlap’ of gender stratification, economy and family (Blumberg, 1991). Insights from these studies provide an understanding of how housework is the aspect of family life most resistant to change.  Occupational demands and expectation continue to be based on the assumption that the worker is an individual who is relatively free of domestic and family responsibilities.  Further, an underlying dimension of modernization is the increasing centrality of individual goal attainment (Bernhardt, 1993). This has important, and, more often, negative implications for women. For women to become modern or compete with men on equal terms would imply that they are unburdened by household duties and childcare. Otherwise they must make adjustments at a personal level, for example, by working part time or by limiting the sizes of their families, if they wish to combine the two roles. The division of tasks within the family or its reorganization so that both genders share the responsibilities, is not yet a subject of negotiation for most households, whatever their social and economic level.

An important consequence of combining the tasks of production and reproduction is that it has a serious impact on well-being. For the poor, and poor working women in particular, the wages received are no compensation for the high work intensity and the pervasive practice of sexual harassment that they have to put up with on a day-to-day basis. And yet, the aspects of how intensification of work time as well as the work itself impact on well-being have received scant attention in literature. This paper attempts to address some of these issues.

The paper is organized as follows. In Section I we provide a brief overview of the statistical dimensions of the problem of employment, unemployment, and [officially documented figures of] declines in female work participation rates [WPRs]. This section also discusses the conceptual inadequacy of our national data systems to capture the range of activities that women in particular are engaged in, as well as the inability of these systems, as they are presently organized, to recognize the changes in the organization of these and other activities over time. Section II reviews select literature that attempt to synthesize the themes of women, work and well being, as well as provide a conceptual framework to contextualize the varied nature of women’s work. Section III reproduces highlights from conversations with women workers on the themes of ‘women, work and health’ based on two studies conducted by the present author.

We have preferred to concentrate on the most vulnerable of our laboring population, namely, women workers, since understanding and documenting the context in which they work and live, and the manner in which they cope with and negotiate these varied spaces, bring out quite starkly the dynamics of contemporary capitalism in developing countries.  In most of these countries including India, economic growth has thus far never been able to address issues of unemployment, adequacy of wages, social security; further, investment in basic infrastructure such as fuel, sanitation, drinking water, etc., have always been and continue to remain abysmally low and neglected. In addition, the search for cheap prices has more often than not been translated to mean search for cheap labor with women labor bearing the brunt of the changing nature of capitalist onslaught.


Working Paper No.- 185 February 2004

Delegation to Devolution: West Bengal

Manabi Majumdar  & Indrashis Banerjee


Is the tax revenue-dependent state – national or sub-national – more responsive to the needs and concerns of its tax-paying citizens than the one relying mostly on unearned income? Set within this larger quest for the linkage between fiscal process and political process at the sub-national level, this paper takes a prior look at the political and legislative history of the development of the Panchayat Raj system in the State of West Bengal, how the decentralized ‘local’ state has evolved from a ‘development’ panchayat to a ‘party’ panchayat to its recent incarnation as a ‘planning’ and ‘resource mobilizing’ panchayat. Based upon a thematic analysis of relevant Acts and documents, Legislative assembly debates and proceedings, and interviews with academics, administrators and politicians, we summarize our findings regarding the constellation of forces that has made the decentralization experiment happen in the State, the sweep of legislative measures, the concerns and conflicts of major political parties evinced through Assembly debates, the nature of party-PRI relationship and the relationship between ‘local power’ and State-level politics. This politico-legislative narrative sets the contours of our future research on resource mobilizing and micro-planning potentials and practices of Panchayati Raj Institutions and their redistributive effects.


Working Paper No. 184 - February 2004

Delegation to Devolution: Karnataka

V. K. Natraj & Kripa Ananthpur


Devolution of Authority to local government institutions show considerable variation across states in India. This is in spite of the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India which mandates a more of less uniform structure of Panchayat Raj Institutions throughout the country. The persistence of variation in regard to the performance of PRIs needs to be explained with reference to factors which appear to be specific to the context of a State. A historical narrative tracing the evolution of devolution in a state throws light on that set of factors which has impacted, positively or otherwise, on the growth and performance of local government institutions. The present narrative dealing with the state of Karnataka approaches devolution within this overarching framework.

 It is seen that Karnataka’s impressive performance is attributable to its social and political configurations.


Working Paper No. 183 - January 2004

Efficiency of Water Use in Indian Agriculture

A.Vaidyanathan In collaboration with K.Sivasubramaniyan


Increase in the demand for water in all sectors especially in agriculture, and dwindling nature of the per capita availability of its supply in recent decades induced scientists and researchers to focus their attention more on efficient use of available water. Informed discussion of the problem and its solutions is impeded by the lack of adequate and reliable knowledge of how much water is used, where, for what purpose and how efficiently. This paper is a modest attempt to fill this gap.

This paper presents estimates of the ‘consumptive use’ of water in crop production; the ratio of consumptive use to gross water  tilization; and productivity per unit of consumptive use. This is done separately for different crop groups in irrigated and rain-fed lands, by states and agro-climatic regions and major river basins. The estimates cover major crop groups for different territorial units (agro-climatic regions and river basins) at two points of time namely 1966-68 and 1991-93. It shows that considerable amount of the relevant data are available in the public domain and that, despite their inadequacies and doubtful reliability, can be used to give us a conceptually well-grounded and comparable picture of the characteristics of agricultural water use. The picture, though necessarily approximate and leaves room for refinement, is nevertheless useful and can serve as a basis for a more informed discussion of the problems of this sector.

Our estimates suggest that the total consumptive use of water by crops in the early nineties is around 660 bcm per annum. Irrigated crops comprise about 40 percent of total crop area but - they use much more water per unit area - they account for some 55 percent of total consumptive use. Somewhat, over half of the total consumptive use by irrigated crops is contributed by irrigation and the balance from rainfall. Rice, wheat and annual crops account for nearly 80 percent of total use by irrigated crops compared to less than 20 percent in the case of rain-fed crops. The large inter-regional variations in consumptive use rates reflect the combined effect of climate, extent of irrigation and crop patterns.

Productivity of irrigated crops is everywhere higher than that of un-irrigated crops but again in varying degrees. Surprisingly, however, productivity per mm of consumptive use is not always higher in irrigated compared to rainfed crops. Even where the former is higher the difference appears far less striking than one would expect. The ratio of consumptive use from irrigation to gross utilization of water from surface and ground water (a measure of technical efficiency of irrigation) is around 38 percent for the selected basins taken as a whole. It is relatively less (26-27 percent) in the basins of east flowing peninsular rivers, 40 to 50 percent in Ganges and Indus basins; and 55 percent in basins of west flowing rivers (excluding the west coast rivers). Differences in the extent of groundwater use seem to account for these differences to some extent.

Significant changes in volume and sources of water use as well as technical efficiency of irrigation have taken place between the mid sixties and early nineties. Total consumptive use has increased by about 18 percent; consumptive use by un-irrigated crops has marginally declined and that of irrigated crops increased by some 90 percent overall. Consumptive use of irrigation water has nearly doubled. Rainfed crop patterns seem to have become on the average slightly more water intensive and those of irrigated crops slightly less water intensive over this period. The picture however varies across states. The technical efficiency of irrigation has increased in all - but one basin group - but unevenly.

The current estimates of water use are subject to several qualifications and must be viewed as first approximations. They are being presented in order to elicit comments on the underlying assumptions and estimating procedures. Clearly there is need and scope for more refined and detailed work on both methodology and estimation. Some directions of further research to this end are indicated.


Working Paper No. 182 - December 2003

A Gossipmonger's Revisit to Chettipalayam



Chettipalayam is a little hamlet located on the banks of Amaravathi river. The paper traces its history and describes its characteristics on the eve of independence. Agriculture was the basis of its economic, social and cultural life then. The river was its life stream. It was a wet village with a large amount of dry lands. A local variety of jajmani system prevailed. Attached labourers performed the tasks set by supervisory landlords. The main source of irrigation was Thirumanilayoor channel. Lower ayacutdars extended a watchful eye on the extent of irrigation in the hamlet through the office of Vaikal Maniagar. In 1950 PWD took over the control of the channel, and brought to an end some of the traditional functions of ‘kudimaramath’.

The old Amaravathi basin irrigation system before the construction of a reservoir had twenty five channels branching off the river and irrigated about 32000 acres.

The history of the reservoir is briefly traced. The Karur and Kulithalai taluk farmers (lower riparians) were afraid that they would lose their accustomed riparian rights if a reservoir was constructed at Udumalpet. Their opposition to the construction and consequent actions are sketched. The solemn assurance by the government in 1952 and 1953 that their rights would be protected is highlighted. The fact that a conflict began in the very first year after the construction  of the reservoir is outlined.

The combination of pump set and pipeline broke the barrier imposed by gravity on extension of irrigation to lands located at higher elevations. From the 1960 onwards river water was abstracted for extension of irrigation along the entire length of the river. Upper riparians commanded more political influence. They have extended the area irrigated both in the Amaravathi Main Canal area and along the course of the river. Downstream, irrigation was extended along the banks of the river. Revenue, PWD and Electricity Board authorities were endowed with discretion to regulate the drawing of water from the river. This has led to the proliferation of rent seeking activities.

Five major changes took place in the Chettipalayam region between 1960s and now.

  • There was a change in the cropping pattern and agrarian relations. Sugarcane and HYV crops replaced the traditional Punjai (dry) crops. Cash wages and contract labour became common. Supervisory landlords lost their lands to owner-cultivators.

  • Karur, the neighbouring town, became an exporter of textiles. This urban change had a major impact on the village. Labour migrated to the towns. Agriculture faces scarcity of labour.

  • Sand mining in the river expanded rapidly. The hamlet unsuccessfully attempted to protect its sand cover. Sand cover enabled recharge and regeneration of water in the river. Loss of sand has reduced the water availability for summer irrigation. The ground water table has gone down. But more and more tube wells are coming into existence. The river sand has almost disappeared.

  • The dyeing factories in Karur, which were first started in the 1960s and multiplied later, began to consume large amounts of water and started polluting the channels and also the river adjacent to the villages where they were located. In times of scarcity, they began to purchase water. Farmers have found that it was more profitable to sell water than to use it for irrigation. Water sales have given a fillip to tube well construction. Ground water table is sinking further.

  • The struggle for water for drinking, irrigation and industry has been compounded by the struggle to protect the water sources from pollution from effluents discharged into the channels.

The State has failed to keep up its promise to the lower riparians that their ancient rights would be protected.

The hamlet suffered the most serious drought in the period 2001-03. It successfully traded off its water for protection from pollution in 2002.

Agriculture is still the only major occupation of the hamlet. However, agriculture has ceased to be the basis of its life. The river has become anaemic. The young men and women of the hamlet are on the lookout for escape routes from agriculture. Its future remains uncertain.


Working Paper No. 181 - October 2003

Intellectual Property Rights for Traditional Knowledge –
Economic Analysis of an Incentive System

K. Aparna Bhagirathy


The current interest in Traditional Knowledge in the context of Intellectual Property Rights is largely on account of its importance as a valuable resource base to future innovations and growth in emerging sectors such as biotechnology and genetic engineering. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 1992 mandates that countries develop national systems to regulate access to and ensure sustainable use of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge, particularly in the context of their commercial utilization. In order to implement this, the CBD further provides for the recognition and reward of indigenous and local communities for their role in conservation and use of biological resources through equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the commercial utilization of their knowledge, innovations and practices. Intellectual property rights (IPR) systems are a means to define the rights of the holders of traditional knowledge and to transfer a share in the benefits from commercial innovations developed from their existing knowledge. Over the last decade, the debate on IPR protection for traditional knowledge has been mired in several political, legal and ethical issues, but there has surprisingly been, very little economic research in the area, especially, given that conflicts in intellectual property can be resolved using guidelines from economic theories of incentives for innovation. In this paper, such a framework is drawn up using the theory of cumulative innovation so as to obtain guidelines for designing IPR systems for encouraging innovations based on traditional knowledge and establishing mechanisms for equitable sharing of benefits arising thereon.


Working Paper No. 180 - August 2003

Does Better Health Influence Economic Performance in India?
An Exploratory Analysis at the District Level

Atheendar S. Venkataramani


The effect of health on both micro and macroeconomic performance is now well established. However, in the few studies carried out at the macro level for India, the link between the two has been shown to be somewhat tenuous. In this short study, we consider the impact of health on economic performance by studying district level data for agricultural productivity. Using two sets of cross-sectional data (from 1980-81 and 1990-91), and after addressing issues of endogeneity, we find that improved health has a positive and significant impact on agricultural productivity. Given its intrinsic and instrumental values, the obvious policy recommendation is for increased investment in health.


Working Paper No. 179 - May 2003

Conditions and Characteristics of Well Irrigation
Under Palar Basin, Tamil Nadu

A.Vaidyanathan, K.Sivasubramaniyan and  S.Mariasusai


This study demonstrates that properly designed sample surveys of wells and well owners provide an independent check on official data on the number of wells, the number in use, energisation and area irrigated. By studying villages in different segments of a basin selected on the basis of a typological classification (reflecting differences in the categories of wells and their density) and a more rigorous sampling within villages, one could get a far more detailed and accurate picture of the characteristics of well irrigation, its current use patterns and variations between different segments, categories of wells and classes of farmers within it. They also help reconstruct the spatial and temporal patterns of evolution in groundwater exploitation and its impact on the water table. That the amount of information, which can be obtained by such a survey, is far more and far richer than anything currently available, should be obvious from the results of our inquiry in the Palar basin. It highlights the rich and complex heterogeneity of conditions and experience even in a small basin. The findings call for the commonly held beliefs about these patterns – eg. The role of location, farm size and water markets – that are called into question. In doing so, they also help redefine the focus and methods of investigating the factors underlying the dynamics of groundwater exploitation, their implications for the future and ways to address the emerging problems. This is not to suggest that the surveys and the information obtained from them are complete or flaw less. The selection of villages based on typologies are inadequate basis for deriving statistically reliable estimates for the basin and its segments. Information provided by respondents, especially regarding the past, are affected by recall lapses and even biases. It does not cover a crucial aspect namely the quantum of water extracted and applied. This information cannot be obtained by interviews but call for systematic measurements which are time consuming and expensive. In order to get a more accurate idea of groundwater dynamics, such surveys and measurements need to be repeated at periodic intervals taking care to ensure comparability of concepts, methods and estimates. Such an approach can work if research institutions can be persuaded to commit themselves to periodic surveys repeated over a reasonably long period and assured of financial support to implement the programme.


Working Paper No. 178 - January 2003

Knowledge and Human Liberation :
Jurgen Habermas, Sri Aurobindo and Beyond

Ananta Kumar Giri


Knowledge and human liberation are epochal challenges now and a key question here is what is the meaning of knowledge and the meaning of human liberation. The paper argues that knowledge means not only knowledge of self, society and Nature as conceived within the predominant dualistic logic of modernity but also knowledge of transcendental self beyond sociological role playing, knowledge of Nature beyond anthropocentric reduction and control, and knowledge of cosmos, god and transcendence in an interconnected spirit of autonomy and interpenetration. Liberation means not only liberation from oppressive structures but also liberation from one’s ego and the will to control and dominate. The paper discusses the transformative link between knowledge and liberation through a critical dialogue with Jurgen Habermas and Sri Aurobindo, focusing mainly on their works, Knowledge and Human Interests and Synthesis of Yoga. The paper does not simply compare and contrast between Habermas and Sri Aurobindo but seeks to create a condition for transformative criticism for both Habermas and Sri Aurobindo. It argues that while Habermas’ rationalistic approach to knowledge and human interest can be deepened by Sri Aurobindo’s yoga of integral knowledge, Sri Aurobindo’s aspiration for creating a spiritual society can be facilitated by formation of appropriate public spheres as in the process both the categories of self and public sphere are fundamentally transformed.


Working Paper No. 177 - December 2002

A School for the Subject :
The Vision and Experiments of Integral Education

Ananta Kumar Giri


Education is key to human development but the question is what is the meaning of education. Since the dawn of humanity, mankind has struggled with different methods of education which would touch both the head and the heart. In the last one hundred and fifty years we have witnessed different educational movements all through out the world for a more humanistic and child-centered education that would treat the child as a subject and as a soul and not only as an object. The present essay is an inquiry into child-centered education and pedagogy. It describes the vision and experiments of integral education, an alternative educational movement inspired by the goals of integral transformation of self and society charted by Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual companion, The Mother. It describes the working of Integral Education Movement in Orissa where now there are nearly 300 schools, born of community efforts in civil society, striving to embody the vision of integral education in the relationship between the teacher and the taught and between the school and the wider community


Working Paper No. 176 - December 2002

Spiritual Cultivation For a Secular Society

Ananta Kumar Giri


The project of building a rationalistic self and secular society was an important part of the project of modernity and this project is now confronted with an epochal crisis. The modernist conception of secular self, society and public sphere is now under siege, locally as well as globally, which in turn calls for a broadened conception of self, civil society and secularism. Taking the debates about the crisis of secularism in contemporary India as its main point of discussion, the present paper is an engagement in a reshaping of secularism as not an apriori denigration of religion but as an ethos of pluralism, non-violence, kenosis and self-emptying which involves a simultaneous critique of religious tradition and secular state. Such a reshaping of secularism, the paper argues, calls for an appropriate spiritual cultivation of self and society.


Working Paper No 175

Soiled Agriculture and Spoiled Environment:
Socio-Economic Impact of Groundwater Pollution in Tamilnadu

S. Janakarajan


The problem of water pollution poses a great threat to basic human living. The ramification of pollution is indeed more severe in the less developed countries that are afflicted with chronic problems of political instability, lack of political will, high level of illiteracy, unceasing poverty, increasing degree of urbanization, lack of basic needs and basic infrastructure and women subordination. The subject matter of groundwater and surface water pollution gains further significance due to economic liberalization policy, to which most underdeveloped countries have been subjected. In other words, the phrase, "sustainable development" emphasized in many international fora, has seemingly no meaning in many underdeveloped countries. Most river basins, in particular India, are heavily polluted. In addition, the river basins are stressed due to competing demand for water across different uses and users; there is an intense competition in tapping the good quality water among the sectors such as agriculture, industry and domestic. In the process, millions of gallons of good quality water is transported from rural to urban areas everyday; the net result is the flourishing water trade and the depletion of groundwater potential. It causes more anxiety not only because a huge quantity of water is transported from rural to urban areas, but also because of the release of comparable quantity of water as effluent. This contributes significantly to water pollution and ecological degradation. In addition, it poses a great threat to future generations. The present paper discusses the problem groundwater pollution in the particular context of the Palar river basin in Tamilnadu, where the tanneries have contributed to the environmental degradation in a large measure. The paper also discusses how the dependence upon the official agencies has in no way helped the society. Even when judiciary intervenes actively, things do not change radically because of the feckless and corrupt governance and the complete lack of monitoring mechanism. When everything fails, social dialogue process seems to be the key for problems associated with water management and environment. This is the key message of this paper.


Working Paper No. 174

Are Wells a Potential Threat to Farmers' Wellbeing? 
The Case of Deteriorating Groundwater Irrigation in Tamilnadu

S. Janakarajan & Marcus Moench


With the burgeoning population and fast industrial expansion, demand for water also goes up substantially. In order to meet the food grain requirements of the population there is an acute need for expanding the area under the irrigated agriculture. Since in many States, surface water sources have been utilized fully, there has been a massive expansion of the groundwater irrigation. With the progressive decline in the water table farmers have resorted to the competitive deepening of the wells. This has resulted in the increased costs of well irrigation and further has resulted in a new inequity among the well owners and between well-owning and non-well-owning farmers. Similarly, the urban water demands have increased tremendously for domestic and for industrial purposes. While there has been an ever-raising demand for water, hardly has there been any effort to develop the infrastructure to treat the used water. This is dangerous and contributes to the pollution of the existing water stock. Therefore, water resources are under severe threat not only because of the ever-increasing demand and competing demand (by various sectors) but also because of the diminishing quality caused due to the discharge of untreated domestic sewage and industrial effluent. In the coastal regions the problem gets compounded due to seawaters intrusion. The main objective of this paper is to show how the degradation of the groundwater resource base through over-extraction and pollution contribute to inequity, conflicts, competition and above all to indebtedness and poverty.


Working Paper No. 171

State Perplexity:
The Politics of Water Rights and System Turnover in Tamil Nadu

A.Rajagopal, S.Janakarajan


The motivation for this paper is to trace historically the evolution of water rights and water laws in Tamil Nadu and their relevance for water resource management in the State. The paper discusses the traditional/customary water rights enjoyed by user communities for many centuries, the strengths weaknesses of these customary rights, methods by which the State appropriated these rights, the problems associated with management of water by the State, recent attempts and to transfer water rights to user communities as a part of a "System Turnover Programme" by the World Bank  and its policy implications. The paper, in particular, makes a critical analysis of the Tamil Nadu Farmers' Management of Irrigation Systems Act, 2000 in the context of turning over of rights to user communities under the above programme. The paper also presents two case studies with a view to discussing the appropriation of water rights by the State and the process of bureaucratization of water management. The case studies presented are Palar Anicut System (an age old irrigation system in the erstwhile North Arcot district) and Parambikulam Aliyar Project (a new irrigation project in Coimbatore district).


Working Paper No. 170

Decentralisation reforms and public schools:
A human development perspective

Manabi Majumdar


The paper offers an overview of some of the current debates on decentralisation and what issues endure. Departing somewhat from the standard approaches to decentralisation and adopting an explicitly human development perspective, the paper tries to make and defend four basic claims.

First, decentralisation initiatives are to be seen as a programme within a multi-layered political system which functions at local, provincial and national levels, and not as a closed narrowly parochial stand-alone governance regime, as some advocates of decentralisation seem to claim. Second, the participation of the historically subordinate social classes/castes in the newly reformed structure of governance is a key parameter, over and above the legal reforms. That is to say, the broad social and political process, taking place outside of the constitutional framework, is quite central to the question of improvement of local democracy. Third, the purpose of democratic decentralisation is to improve the complementarity between the state and society and not to advocate a zero-sum opposition between the two. Finally, in the specific sector of education, decentralisation reforms are aimed not to remove public institutions from involvement in educational matters but to improve public performance. The 'vision' that currently enervates our school system is that 'education is not for their (read subaltern) children'.  This narrow conception of schooling needs to be re-defined. It is here that the contemporary effort to foster participatory democracy presents before us some genuine possibilities for school transformation, by galvanising a larger process of social and political transformation. The local democratic institutions and the participatory spaces they open up will likely impose on the policy agenda a generous conception of public schooling that makes a democratic claim of basic education being the right of every child.


Working Paper No.  169

Some Observations on Food Security, Sufficiency and Safety

V. Chandrasekara Naidu


After 35 years of experience with green revolution technologies in agriculture both educated and common men have realised the risks of consuming the foods produced based  on the excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Hence the agricultural scientists began advocating the use of bio-technologies in agriculture. Now, greater emphasis has been  placed on the promotion of organic farming based on farm yard and green manures and herbicides, etc. Hence, people in general have realised the health hazards of consuming the  foods produced based on the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The green revolution technologies have also contributed to the environmental and ecological degradation in the countryside. Hence the country has passed a stage from merely increasing the quantity of  food production in order to meet the consumption requirements of growing population to one of assuring the masses of better health and environment which would enable them to lead a  productive life in the society. Hence the emphasis has been shifted from one of quantity of  food to the quality of food produced and consumed by masses. The damage done to the health status of the people by the green revolution technologies in agriculture can be better gauged by the World Health Organisation's (WHO) finding that the Asian mothers' milk has  the highest proportion of pesticide residues in it in comparison to the other continents mothers' milk.

The suspicions regarding the food security of our masses being affected by our entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are found to be misplaced and unwarranted. This  is because most of the problems relating to food security in the country are our own making. It is the total mismanagement of our domestic economy, especially the agricultural and rural  sector that mainly explains why we are facing a curious situation of mounting food grain  stocks and hungry millions. By any yardstick, today we found at least one-fourth of our population suffering from chronic malnutrition and hunger. While the rural poor are threatened by food insecurity because of their weakening land base; the urban poor are facing food insecurity because of growing unemployment and deteriorating environment. In this context, it is a pity to note that the government has yet to come out with a National Food Policy which would go a long way in benefiting the poor. Even after 15 years of debate, the government could not finalise the food policy for approval by the parliament. Meanwhile, the country's food production, especially its rate of growth has been found to be slackening in per capita terms, during the decade of 1990s. And the people of this country have realised that they no longer can bother about the quantity of food produced without ensuring its quality. In this connection, it is worth pointing out that while developed countries bother about the quality; the developing countries bother about quantity. So, the time has come for the countries like India to bother more about the quality of what it produces rather than how much it is producing. In the changed context of our entry into WTO regime, it becomes all the more important to enhance the quality of our products so that we can benefit more form globalisation of our economy. Of course, first, we should try to produce qualitative foods for our masses by masses by using bio-technologies in the place of green revolution technologies in the countryside. The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) which was finalised in 1994 has nothing to do with the food insecurity of our people. Instead, the agreements contain provisions for the food security and safety of poor masses in the developing countries. Any country can ban imports of unhealthy foods into them by resorting to the application of pytosanitary measures. And all exports of food items should confirm to the CODEX standards agreed by all countries while entering into the WTO Within the countries, any financial allocations made for the alleviation of poverty and food security are exempt from the calculations of Aggregate Measure of Support (AMS). Hence the increased food insecurity of our poor masses can be attributed to the declining purchasing power in their hands. This has subsequently resulted in demand constraints for the food produced in the country. The same demand constraints also explain the glut in the market for food grains in the country. Even the distribution of food grains through PDS at low prices could not increase the off take. Studies have already pointed many loopholes and inadequacies in the functioning of fair price shops run by PDS. Yet, they continue to be unresolved with negative consequences for the poor.


Working paper No. 168

Labour-Intensive Industries But Units Without 'Workers':
Where Will ILO's Social Dialogue Begin?

Padmini Swaminathan


As part of its exercise to opertaionalize its core conventions the ILO has initiated what it calls a process of "promoting social dialogue". Social dialogue plays a pivotal role in identifying the important labour and social issues of the ILO's constituents. Most importantly, the ILO's fundamental principles and rights at work, and particularly the right to associate and to bargain collectively, are the preconditions for social dialogue.

This paper attempts at a critique of the ILO's social dialogue position and argues that the preconditions to even begin such a process lies in pressurizing governments and employers to change their methodology and terms of project appraisal to include minimum norms of employment and environment when setting up units of production, whether in free trade zones or outside. The attempt to increase labour's capacity to associate and bargain collectively is futile in a context where large numbers of workers do not have even the minimum recognition as a 'worker'. Based on a set of field-based studies conducted in the last five years in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and based on our specific exploration into the terms and conditions of employment of (women) garment workers in the Madras Export Processing Zone, this paper aims at an interrogation of what passes for industrial development. employment generation and gender justice in the country.


Working Paper No. 167  December 2001

Print Culture amongst Tamils and Tamil Muslims in Southeast Asia,

SMA K Fakhri


This paper is about the significance of print in the history of Tamil migration to Southeast Asia. During the age of Empire people migrated from India to colonial Malaya resulting in the creation of newer cultural and social groups in their destination (s). What this meant in a post-colonial context is that while they are citizens of a country they share languages of culture, religion and politics with 'ethnic kin' in other countries Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims from India were one such highly mobile group They could truly be called 'Bay of Bengal transnational communities' dispersed in Myanmar, Malaysia. Singapore and Vietnam. The construction of post-colonial national boundaries constricted but did not affect the transnationalism of Tamils across  geographies and nation-states. A thriving and successful print culture is a pointer to the manner in which Tamils and Tamil Muslim expressed their transnational (Tamil) identities. Such a print culture this paper suggests is a rich and valuable source of social history.


Working Paper No.166

A Study of Enathimelpakkam Village at the Millennium Threshold

V. Chandrasekara Naidu


This study aims to capture some of the crucial changes brought about in the village economy and society which have produced differential impacts on the economic conditions of weaker sections. The village is demographically dominated  by Scheduled Caste population for over a period of two to three decades. It continued to be mainly an agricultural village with a monocropped cultivation of HYV paddy. Its land ownership and economy was dominated by a few upper caste Mudaliar households. The increased mechanisation of agriculture resulted in the fast depletion of livestock resources, especially previously owned by low caste. landless, agricultural labourers. This group along with marginal fanners and tenants had not only lost their livestock but also their meagre land resources in the village. Hence landlessness has increased considerably over the years. Between our survey years of 1993-94 and 2000-01, we also found the tenancy declining both in terms of the number of tenants leasing-in land and the total extent of land leased-in by them. The reverse tenancy which we observed earlier had also gone by the year 2000. However, in both the survey years we found the inverse relationship prevailing between farm size and productivity. This is because the ownership of agriculturally related assets such as pumpsets, tractors and capital by large; land owners helped the~ to achieve higher per acre yield rates of paddy. This goes against the usual argument that small farms are efficient and productive compared to big farms, The non-possession of these agriculturally related assets also crippled the small land owning farmers to carry on cultivation as a profitable proposition. Moreover, the modernisation of agriculture for over two decades had not pushed up the per acre yield rates of paddy. The average efficiency levels of cultivation also remained the same for over two decades. The modernisation of agriculture, however, attracted the influx of in-migrant agricultural labourers and reduced the average number of  days of employment secured by resident male or female casual agricultural labourers. But the same factor had not deterred wage improvements for agricultural labourers. Between our survey years, while the money wage rates had more than doubled; the real wage rates went up by more than one-third. By 2000-01, there had been a complete monetisation of wage payments in agriculture. The previous decade had also witnessed the complete attenuation of jajmani relationships. However, the socio-economic power structure and its concentration as well as power relations remained unaltered over the years.

There had been a gradual but slow diversification of occupational structure and employment among the adult male workers of the village. While there developed no worthwhile non-agricultural occupations within the village; the adult male workers of the village took advantage of the urban and industrial growth centers which came up in their neighborhoods. But the major beneficiaries of such non-agricultural occupations available outside the village came to be the land owning, upper caste, educated workers rather than the low caste, land less, uneducated workers. Between 1993·94 and 2000-01 I, there were no governmental programmes implemented for the benefit of poor in the village. But. in the same period, the access of poor to common property resources available in the village had gone up, specially for housing requirements and fuel needs. However, the revival of village panchayat in 1996 and conduct of elections to it had only introduced acrimony and non- cooperation between different sections of village community. And, this had halted many developmental programmes of the village in the later half of J 9905. Since the state government had not devolved enough funds and powers to village panchayat it could not do much even to improve physical infrastructure in the village. 1Devillage panchayat could not exercise any control over the common property resources in the village and failed to mobilise any resources on its own. Instead, the big and rich farmers of the village had vested control over common property resources in the village. As far as providing primary education to children is concerned, we observed a new phenomenon of a large number of children going to convent schools in the neighboring town rather than to the village school which imparts education in Tamil. This happened despite the free education and nutrious noon-meal scheme provided to school children by the state government of Tamil Nadu. Hence the village school had become a poor man's school and every economically affordable villager realised the importance of providing convent education to his or her children.

Finally, the calculations of absolute poverty revealed that poverty was concentrated only among the categories of marginal farmers, tenants, agricultural labourers and non-agricultural casual workers. And, there was no absolute poverty revailing among the other categories of households. However, there had been a marginal decline observed in the level of absolute poverty between our survey years. The poverty level obtained in the year 2000·01 was closer to the state level poverty Anyhow, it is important to note that the declining ownerships of land and livestock resources by the households belonging to the weaker sections can become a potential threat to village economy, society and polity in the years to come. It is also important to note from the study that the declining land and livestock resources among the poor and their restricted access to common property resources have all threatened their food security in the village. And the food insecurity of poor households is infact increasing over the years:


Working Paper No.165

Rule of Law and Indian Society:
Colonial Encounters,
Post-Colonial Experiments and Beyond

Ananta Kumar Giri


Establishing rule of law has been an Important goal of social development and social evolution in modernity. Rule of law Is also an integral part of democratic experimentations historically as well as contemporaneously. But what is the meaning  of rule, law and rule of law? Do these mean the same thing in different cultures and histories? Is it possible to learn some new insights and modes of engagement vis-a-vis law and society from a cross-cultural meditation on rule. of law. The paper undertakes such an exploration. It covers a long historical terrain of more than five thousand years touching briefly the way Indian society has related to rule of law at various moments of her journey and describing the vision of law in classical India as a life of Dharma, righteous conduct. It also discusses the Colonial construction of rule of law in India and different post-colonial experiments too. It particularly discusses the role of Constitution of India in creating a more equal and just rule of law between individuals and groups than what existed under traditional authorities such as Manusmriti. Constitution strives to eliminate the humiliation that people suffered under the traditional social system of caste and patriarchy, thus creating new ground for realization of human dignity. The realization of both formal and substantive equality that is happening under the rule of law in contemporary Indian society can facilitate a more creative flourishing of a life of dharma or righteous conduct in self and society. But for this, the paper argues, rule of law must be transformation ally supplemented by the Ideal and practice of self-rule. While self-rule is facilitated by existence of a just social, Institutional and legal order which grants legal equality to individuals Irrespective class, caste, religion and gender, mere existence of legal procedures in society is not enough for this.


Working Paper No.163

Trends in the Costs or Irrigation Across Different States in India:
The Case of Major and Medium Projects

A Rajagopal  and A Vaidyanathan


This paper is an attempt to estimate trends in the real costs of major and medium irrigation projects in different states in India. It is based on all India Cost of Construction Index of Central Water Commission (CWc) adjusted for variations in labour cost in different states. The trends are estimated based on both plan data on irrigation and land use statistics by  Directorate of Economics and Statistics from different states. It also attempts to study the lag effect between investment and area irrigated. In addition, the cost estimates are related to productivity of irrigation in different states to get an idea about the economic viability of irrigation projects.


Working Paper No.161

Gandhi, Tagore and a New Ethics of Argumentation

Ananta Kumar Giri


[Discourse, dialogue and deliberation are important frames for thinking about and creating an ideal intersubjective condition and dignified society at present. Democracy is now being redefined as deliberative democracy and in this agenda of democratic reconstruction, arguing with participants in dialogue both at the intersubjective level and at a wider societa1level is a valued activity. But what is the ethics of this process of argumentation? The present article argues that for the sucess of argumentation, mere argumentation is not enough; it must be accompanied by a relationship of love and care. The article presents the contours of such a new ethics of argumentation by carrying out a detailed discussion of the relationship between Gandhi and Tagore and the way they argued with each other. Their argument and counter-argument was not for the sake of winning any egotistic victory but for exploring truth. They argued with each other with love and care and their argumentation wnentation combined "cognition, empathy and agape," thus laying the seeds of a new ethics of argumentation. The article also brings this new ethics of argumentation in dialogue with the agenda of moral  argumentation offered by Jurgen Habemas, the heart-touching social theorist of our times]