Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bhagat Singh’s Legacy

Balu S

Today is Bhagat Singh’s 86th martyrdom day. On 23 March 1931 he along with Sukhdev and Rajguru, was hanged for the assassination of a British officer P Saunders in Lahore in 1928. Bhagat Singh was a young revolutionary influenced by the 1917 Russian Revolution and the ideas of socialism. However, his legacy has been claimed by different ideological groups including the hardcore rightwing RSS and its student body ABVP. This is a dangerous trend. Bhagat Singh and his friends stood opposed to all forms of divisive and regressive ideologies including Hindutva. RSS and ABVP’s attempt to appropriate their legacy is a desperate move to gain legitimacy for their divisive and regressive politics. Present article is an attempt to reiterate Bhagat Singh’s Marxist legacy (Vikalp’s editorial team).       

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What it takes to Double Farmer’s Incomes in India?

Shantanu De Roy

The Union Budget presented on February 1 by Finance Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley has announced certain measures for agriculture sector in India. The question is, whether these are enough to realise the dream of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to double farmer’s incomes by 2022?  apparently, doubling of farmer’s income which implies making agriculture a profit earning economic activity is always welcome. This is because agriculture is the main source of employment in India and the nation has been experiencing agrarian distress over the last quarter century. Thus, livelihood security of substantial number of people, associated with agriculture, has been jeopardised with prolonged agrarian distress from which no region has been spared. While the nation at large has been experiencing agrarian distress, reflected in a spate of farmer’s suicides, yet Indian agriculture over the last 25 years has not been characterised by undifferentiated misery in which all sections of the agrarian community have been adversely affected. Indeed, a small stratum at the top has been continuing with the process of accumulation from cultivation of agricultural crops; they have been beneficiaries of policy measures announced by the state even when the policy regime, overall, has changed with initiation of reforms since early 1990s. However, the process of accumulation of a minuscule section has been insufficient to take agriculture sector as a whole out from low growth trajectory or to mitigate the sufferings of a substantial number of rural populations. Thus, policies to further increase/doubling incomes of these sections will only make agricultural growth more iniquitous. The question then becomes is whose incomes it is that the national leadership and policy makers are thinking about? is it about those very few who are already making substantial gains from production of agricultural crops or an overwhelming many, who are finding it extremely tough to eke out a living? this is important because the agrarian community that includes peasants/farmers are not homogenous entities and there are wide variations in the degree and nature of participation of different sections of the agrarian population in input and output markets across the nation. Any policy initiative to meet the objective of doubling/increasing farmer’s incomes must take this aspect into consideration. In fact, without it, the objective per se is meaningless. This essay is an attempt to analyse factors that can potentially raise agricultural incomes of poorer sections of the farming community and can lead to broader based agricultural and overall economic growth. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On ‘La La Land’

Rahul Vaidya

The movie ‘La La Land’ (directed by Damien Chazelle) is a Hollywood box-office hit, winner of 7 Golden Globes and has received a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations and premiered to rapturous reviews at film festivals. It’s a 21st century movie which models itself upon the 1950s and 1960s era Hollywood musicals. A romantic starry eyed tribute to the ‘good old days’- starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, leading actors in Hollywood who portray struggling young artists in Los Angeles, their romance, professional dreams, parting and how do they face each other when they succeed. The city of Los Angeles and Jazz music play such an integral part in the movie that they rather are central characters in themselves.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Will Sustainable Development Goals be achieved under Hindutva Milieu?

Manzoor Ali

Governments across the globe are already in the process of designing policy framework and schemes to onset Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the successor of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ended in 2015. SDGs have a timeline of next 15 years to achieve 17 goals supported by 169 targets. However, SDGs are not merely a continuation of MDGs. The realisations about weaknesses in MDGs and changes in the world economy have certainly triggered the shift in approach towards SDGs. The goals under MDGs were too narrow. The concept of MDGs did not take a holistic view on development. And, most importantly, the goals in developing economies were dependent on aid from developed countries. Now, under the SDGs it is expected that each participant country raises its own resources through private sector, increase in tax collection, and crackdown on illicit financial flows and corruption. For the fulfillment of SDGs, India needs $565 billion annually until 2030. At the global level, United Nation Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that the total investment needed is in the order of US$5-7 trillion per annum. Hence, resource mobilization would be an important consideration for the success of SDGs. Would it be possible to achieve the desired goals once we have availability of resources? The paper focuses on India in the specific context of goal number 10 of SDGs which is related to inequality.      

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dull Budget at the Time of Crisis

Surajit Das

The government’s press release (dated 6th January) on advance estimate of national income for the financial year 2016-17 tells us that the expected growth rate of GDP during the current financial year is 7.1% and the estimated inflation rate is 4.8%. The growth estimate of first two quarters of this year (i.e. from April to September, 2016) has been 7.2%. Therefore, the expected growth rate - from last October till March 2017 - must be 7% for achieving 7.1% growth for the entire year. It is good on the part of government to be optimistic, however, it is dangerous if the government underestimates the degree of ongoing depression following demonetisation. In fact, the real growth rate in the second half of the current financial year would be near zero, if not negative. The aggregate level of income and employment in the economy is expected to come down (as compared to 2015-16) in the post-demonetisation phase and has definitely not increased more than the last two quarters of 2015-16. The IMF projections (of 6.5% growth in India etc.) are equally hollow as our government projections. The annual growth rate of 2016-17 over 2015-16 cannot be more than 4% (if the growth rate happens to be near zero in the last two quarters) under any circumstance. In the first two quarters of 2017-18, the growth rate would remain low in absence of a ‘big-push’ because of higher base in the first two quarters of 2016-17. In the last two quarters, it may show some signs of improvement due to lower base. Therefore, 11.75% (nominal) growth assumption (made in the union budget of 2017-18) is clearly impossible to materialise without a really big demand push.