V. 31: No. 11-12 Nobember-December 2003 #366-367
Introduction, Praveen Jha, p. 1
"Neo-liberal Reform and Industrial Growth: Towards Revival or Ression?," C P Chandrasekhar, p. 3
"The Unorganised Sector in India: Some Issues Bearing on the Search for Alternatives," Kamal Nayan Kabra, p. 23
"Issues Relating to Emplyment in India in the Era of Globalisation," Praveen Jha, p. 47
"Health in the Age of Globalisation," Amit Sengupta, p. 66
"Technology, Self-reliance and Public Domain Science," Prabir Purkayastha, p. 86
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Introduction by Praveen Jha*
The developments in the Indian economy since the explicit adoption of a neo-liberal agenda in mid - 1991 by the Indian government have been quite alarming on several fronts, as has come to be acknowledged by a substantial segment of the economics profession. While acute distress afflicting substantial sections of the masses in rural India, largely a result of the deflation inherent in the neo-liberal economic policy, is one of the more visible outcomes, a variety of other damaging consequences organically linked to the ascendant policy regime, such as collapse of employment generation, sharpening inequalities of different kinds, increased vulnerability to external shocks, among others, have been all too evident in the recent times.
Not that such disturbing consequences should come as a surprise. Much of the neo-liberal reform was in any case based on specious theoretical and empirical grounds and the writing was there on the wall for those who cared to see. However, for a time the neo-liberal marketist fundamentalists seemed to succeed in persuading many of the legitimacy of their metaphysical claims by resorting to a blinkered discourse, in particular by focusing on some of the failures of the Nehruvian state-led development paradigm. Such a strategy was bound to lose steam on the way. Thus, even in the neo-liberal camp today, the mood is at best more of a guarded optimism as regards a whole range of macro economic indicators, compared to the wild euphoria of the early 1990s.
Of course, it is nobody's case that India's post-independence development strategy did not have serious flaws; on the contrary, the critics on the left were quick to see through the veil of the socialist rhetoric of the 1950s and '60s and highlighted major structural and other limits constraining the development potential of the system. For instance, the failure of the land reforms in most of rural India, the state's inability to discipline the dominant classes which ultimately impinged on its ability to mobilize resources for productive investment, among others, were identified as the important factors behind the nonrealization of many development promises made soon after independence. Thus, in a sense, debates on appropriate economic policies, or alternatives, consistent with the vision of a
humane society, have been a marked feature right since the early days of independence. By any reckoning, such debates have been intellectually most stimulating and wide-ranging; unfortunately, it would appear that the blinkered and distorted discourse of the neo-liberals has tended to debase this rich tradition.
Professor D.R. Gadgil was among the most eminent economists to have
contributed significantly to the debates of the highest quality that
shaped independent India's economic policy almost upto early 1970s.
Social Scientist and the Gadgil Birth Centenary Committee had jointly
organized a seminar on "Alternatives before India in the Context of
Globalization" on 14'", and 151 September 2002 to commemorate the
contributions of this outstanding economist, to reiterate the
progressive vision shared by him, and to explore the contours of such a
vision at the current conjuncture. Close to twenty substantial
presentations were made at this seminar, covering not only different,
aspects of economic policy and a whole range of sectoral issues, but
also thei es relating to media, culture, ideology etc. Of these, twelve
were submitted to Social Scientist as revised papers. A brief
introductory note on D.R. Gadgil and six substantive papers have
appeared in the preceding two issues of Social Scientist and this issue.
In sum, taken together, these papers, spanning over three issues of Social Scientist and covering a wide range of areas, provide a powerful critique of the neo-liberal prescriptions while also engaging with the question of viable alternatives and their underlying roadmaps. What we have are indepth analyses of the relevant issues, backed by a wealth of scholarship, which attempt to grapple with some of the most pressing issues confronting Indian economy and society and this brief note is not the place to summarise the contributions of the individual authors. Instead I would like to conclude by saying, with reference to the subject of viable alternatives, that the central issue is of an activist state that has the courage and commitment to chalk out its national economic policies with the provision of sustainable livelihoods to its population being high on the agenda. Sure enough, the issue is not the lack of viable alternatives; it is more about synergising the dispersed efforts to push the state towards s
Praveen Jha is at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
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