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   State of India's Livelihoods Report 2010
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
31 Jan 2011

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Between statistics and reality

Being context specific, the word livelihoods evokes diverse responses under varied conditions. For a politician, it offers a clever assurance of electoral gains; for a planner, it is a challenge to ensure growth inclusive; for a practitioner, it measures effectiveness of development programs and for the poor, it is a mirage to be relentlessly pursued. In a globalised world where gainful vocations are fast shrinking, livelihoods has attained the status of a buzzword.

Published annually since 2008, the latest edition of the State of India’s Livelihoods attempts to monitor livelihoods trends in a sector that has witnessed a quarter of a million farmer suicides during the past decade. The consequent disappearance of farm hands, growing demand-supply gap and spiralling food prices reflect only the tip of the iceberg. Paradoxically, farmers are dying on account of low prices whereas the consumers are complaining of exorbitant rates.

Over 80 per cent of land holdings in the country are so small that it cannot produce enough to sustain a family of five. Since fragmentation of landholdings is a continuous process, many more join in the search of livelihoods each year. And those who are forced to migrate to the cities confront a situation where industrial growth does not encourage the use of labour. It is a vicious circle wherein the poor get trapped involuntarily.

While unfolding the livelihoods crises in agriculture, the report examines a predictable cause-effect framework. Far from projecting futuristic scenarios, the contributors to the volume prefer to stay in the comfort zone of critically reviewing available statistics. The report misses out on the growth-driven policy push that is in favour of a demographic transition wherein only 20 per cent of the population shall remain at the farm.

Given its restricted focus, the State of India’s Livelihoods report should be of limited use to researchers and practitioners.

State of India’s Livelihoods Report 2010
by Shankar Datta and Vipin Sharma (Eds)
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 127 pages, Rs 795


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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Book Shelf

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