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

Articles by M A OommenSubscribe to M A Oommen

India’s Human Development Index

The human development index initiated by the United Nations Development Programme has gained universal acceptance as a measure of human progress. This study constructs a comparable time series of HDI for 15 major states of India for the period 1991–2018. We find both β- and σ- convergence for all the states, with the non-income indices playing a major role in convergence, and a slowdown in the speed of convergence during the post-fiscal reform regime since 2005. Although the trajectories of HDI of different states tend to converge over time, the gap between the levels of HDI of low- and high-performing states has not been reduced significantly.

The Mission Antyodaya Project

This article outlines the significance of the decentralisation reforms, which turned the dual federation of India into a multi-tier system, mandating systemic outcomes in democracy, accountability, local economic development, and social justice. It also examines how the grand design to strengthen the process of horizontal equity at the local level failed and probes into the potential of the Mission Antyodaya project to give an improved lease of life to the reforms and rural development.

COVID-19 in the Indian Context and the Quest for Alternative Paradigms

The COVID-19 pandemic has provocatively challenged the extant paradigm of development whose theoretical underpinning is derived from the neoclassical ideology of market-mediated growth. The Indian context of the pandemic is examined, and a reimagining of the development path for a more rational and egalitarian democracy is argued for. Some of the postulates of Thomas Piketty outlined in his Capital and Ideology are brought home as a pointer to stimulate thinking by all, especially the social scientists.

The Epistemology of the Discipline of Economics

The ontological vocation of any social science is to interpret and transform the world we live in, creating a better society. The discipline of economics is no exception. It is argued that mainstream economics reduces social life into exchange value calculus and mathematical formalism, and fails to confront vital issues like widening inequality and poverty. The recent challenges thrown up by Thomas Piketty may help the discipline to re-examine its epistemological foundations to facilitate relevant teaching and research as well as policy choices.

Towards Streamlining Panchayat Finance in India

Local governments have become the third tier of governance in Indian federal polity. For decentralisation to be successful, fiscal systems that make governments accountable to their citizens are needed. The absence of consistent data and reporting has made evaluating decentralisation difficult. In this paper, we utilise data from a well-designed sample of gram panchayats in Kerala to document fiscal management systems, extent of decentralisation of revenues, and local governments’ response to raising revenues using local capacity. Our findings suggest that the pressure to spend on welfare and development activities has outstripped development of revenue. However, there is some evidence that local governments have untapped revenue potential in their property tax. Importantly, we also find that state and federal government support vis-à-vis intergovernmental grants is not crowding out revenue mobilisation.

Bank and Poverty Reduction

A close reading of the World Bank's World Development Report 2015 shows that it works on the assumption that human beings generally think automatically, socially, and with mental models, and that future development policy, poverty alleviation, and even policy design need to be modified taking this into account. Poverty is a "cognitive tax" suffered because people are incapable of taking advantage of the opportunities that are open to them. The assumption that development experts improving the behaviour of the poor will reduce poverty, however, fails to confront the growing problem of unsustainable inequalities.

Implications for Local Governments

The subject of local governments has not been comprehensively treated by the Fourteenth Finance Commission. The implications of the new inter se distribution formula of the commission's award for local governments have not been thought through and important conditionalities have been changed or watered down.

Deepening Democracy and Local Governance

Kerala's decentralised experience has demonstrated that democracy is more than just balloting. But deepening democracy is a continuous quest for justice and freedom. While participatory democracy has powerful theoretical arguments, its empirical basis continues to be weak. This article explores how far local governance in Kerala has deepened democratic practice and argues that the local governance system in the state needs to be reformed and redefined.

The Third Tier and the Fourteenth Finance Commission

As a multilayered federal system, India needs a comprehensive and coordinated intergovernmental transfer system that includes the third tier as a dynamic component. This is particularly important because of the multiplicity of channels and the bewildering typology of transfer arrangements that exist today. This article points out that the Fourteenth Finance Commission's real challenge is to persuade state governments to carry on with the task of democratic decentralisation, while spelling out some issues it may consider to improve public fi nance and local democracy.

Free the Church

The editorial “Need for an Ecclesiastical Insurrection” (EPW, 6 April 2013) is contextual and timely.

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