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Trajectory of Land Reforms in J&K and its Outcomes

Tushar Gupta


Land reforms in Jammu & Kashmir did not prove to be effective in addressing poverty mitigation and the removal of inequality emerging from land ownership. The reforms ended up becoming little more than a political gimmick. The analysis in this paper has been divided into three trajectories and development within each has been elaborated. The paper attempts to analyse the geopolitical situation at the national and international level and its relation to land reforms in the state. The impact of the Separatist movement on state economy in light of the land reforms has also been addressed.

A. Background

A1. National Land Reform Debate

The National land reform debate was based on the assumption that if the land is redistributed it will lead to more equity and alleviate poverty which emerged from landlessness (Besley, 2000). The debate followed from the pre-independence debates in All India Congress Committee (AICC).

A2. Land Reform Trajectory in J&K
A2.1. Pre 1947

Land was part of common property resource before the 12th century in J&K. With the end of the 12th century came monarchy in the state, meaning land was thus owned by the successive kings or the state. The state-owned land was termed as “Khalsa”. King was the supreme authority and land was allotted to the peasants on request after a payment of fixed rent. The remaining land was with army chiefs, subedars and taluqdars (Bhat, 2000).

 With the beginning of the 19th century, rulers tried to marginalise the landed autocracy and dealt directly with the cultivator.  This effort was thwarted by the powerful chieftains, leading to the creation of Jagirs, Munafiqs, Mukarraries.

Post 19th century with the British coming into the picture of modern India, Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu signed the “Treaty of Amritsar” with them and paid a sum of Rs 75 lakh (Nanak Shahi) for purchasing the state of J&K.  Now the ownership of the land vested with the Maharaja of Jammu. Residents of the Kashmir valley were called “Assamis” who had to pay besides land revenue, Malikaana in recognition of his being the owner of the land. The state-appointed the exploitative land agents called “kardars” who dealt directly with the peasants.

The exploitative process continued till the entry of Sheikh Abdullah who fought for the rights of Assamis. In 1931 Abdullah started a movement against the Raja for recognition of the land rights with popular support of the masses. Raja was thus forced to set up a Commission under Englishman BJ Glancy to look into the matter.  The main suggestion of the report was to transfer land to the cultivators who were till then tenants at the will of government-owned lands (Galancy, 1933). The success of the movement comes from the point that the then PM of J&K Colonel Colvin asked for the acceptance of the recommendations.

A2.2. Post 1947

1947 called for the need to look into the land reform question again. Though the recommendations of the Glancy commission were accepted, the jaghirdars and chakdars who till then had the status of tenants-at-will acquired vast areas of land by exploiting the poor villagers. They manipulated the poor farmers and accumulated a lot of lands. The condition of farmers in J&K was still of a “serf” in the medieval world. Sheikh Abdullah came in with the demand of reorganisation of agriculture on modern lines to raise the consciousness of these peasants so that the society could shift from medieval to modern.

Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession in 1947 and Sheikh Abdullah became the PM of the state in 1948. He was determined to abolish landed aristocracy along the lines of his “New Kashmir manifesto (1944)” which was a blueprint for a futuristic welfare state. He came up with the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950 to supplement the success achieved in 1931 and to undo the ills of the system. This act provided for the ceiling on property at 22.75 acres (182 kanals), surplus land to be transferred to the tiller without payment, fixation of the ceiling at 160 kanals and land in possession of no one, to be taken by the state (Saxena, 2007).

Enforcement of the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950 led to the dispossession of 4.5 lakh acres of land which was concentrated in only 9000 landowners (Aslam, 1977). To further reinforce the reform process and focus on the tiller, the Government of J&K set up a Land Commission in 1963. The report of the commission formed the basis of the J&K Agrarian Reform Act of 1972. This Act ended the rights in the land of those who personally never cultivated, and also reduced the ceiling limit to 12.5 acres which ended the Tenant-Landlord relationship completely. It was not in consonance with some landlords who depended heavily on income from the land and wanted to cultivate personally but couldn’t. Hence the act was replaced by the Reforms Act 1976 which fixed a ceiling of 12.5 standard acres including orchards with certain conditions. It kept the option for the petty landlord to resume for his personal cultivation on that fraction of his holdings which is equal to the fraction of that produce which he was recovering as rent from the tenant.

Table: Land Transferred to the Tillers in J&K from 1951-52 to 1980-85

Sl. no. Year No of Tillers Land transferred (in Acres) No of beneficiaries
1 1951-52 30,418 92,927 2,98,922
2 1952-53 50,189 66,755 1,70,165
3 1953-54 32,260 36,915 1,15,831
4 1980-85 3,08,000 1,06,000 5,38,000
Total 4,20,867 3,02,301 11,22,918

Source: Rekhi, 1993

A2.3. Post 2000

“The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act” was enacted by the government in 2001. This Act, commonly known as the Roshni Act aimed at generating Rs. 25,000 crore by transferring ownership rights of ‘Nazool land’ or in other words, state land. The idea was to sell the state land at market rates to the people who had illegally encroached upon it. The idea, however, couldn’t be carried forward due to political reasons. Later in 2007, the Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Congress government with an eye on 2008 assembly elections reformed the bill which now provided free ownership of 16.6 lakh kanals, land worth Rs. 20,000 crores targeting 19 lakh cultivators. Land occupying farmers were to pay a nominal fee of Rs 100 per kanal to get the land transferred in their name. The land was given at a rate of 10 percent of the existing market rate. However, the land was also given for residential and commercial use under the act which led to various irregularities. The irregularities and the Roshni Scam have been discussed separately in section-D of the paper.

B. Geopolitics of J&K and its Impact on land Reform

Korbel (1954) brings about the basic reason for exhaustive land reforms in J&K. According to him, these reforms were introduced to counter the demand of plebiscite made by Pakistan. Hence ending the feudal aristocracy and giving land to the landless at that particular point of time would ensure winning the hearts of the people of Kashmir. The question attached is, why, the elite responsible for the implementation of reforms in the state chose India over Pakistan? He answers the question by saying that the elite was sure of the fact that their radical agenda of bringing about reorganisation in the agricultural structure will not be possible in feudal Pakistan.

Ankit (2010) brings about the transition of the Kashmir issue from a regional conflict to a national question to an international concern. The year 1948 was crucial in changing the entire nature of J&K. Indirectly both the superpowers during the cold war era were interested in the Kashmir question. Americans wanted to control the Kashmir area indirectly to tackle the Soviet Union and their control from Turkey to Tibet. The Soviet Union never wanted to let go of the area as it would then act as a standstill to the spread of Communism down towards South East Asia. This argument explains the international importance the area got. The question was thus never of development but of geopolitical influence. Hence the State got entangled between national, regional and international questions and land reforms were never capitalised.

B1. Role of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah [Divergence of J&K’s Land Reform Approach from National Approach]

As brought about by Korbel (1954), the idea of land reform in Kashmir was to deviate from the demand of plebiscite by Pakistan. From his argument, I infer that there was Indian National machinery involved during the process. Motilal Nehru, father of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was himself from Kashmir. Pt. Nehru knew all about the political dynamics in the state. The man of the moment who could implement the cause was Sheikh Abdullah himself. Prasad (2014) talks about the bent of mind people had during that time, ‘people were neither pro-Pakistan nor pro-India they were just pro Shiekh because of his untiring implementation of radical agrarian reforms’. The sole legal reason why land reforms were successful was a special status J&K enjoyed under Article 370.

Nehru-Abdullah Agreement was signed in July 1952 which is also known as the Delhi agreement after his speech in the Lok Sabha on 26 June 1952 which confirmed that “the residuary powers of legislation” (on matters not mentioned in the State List or the Concurrent List), which Article 248 and Entry 97 (Union List) confer on the Union, will not apply to Kashmir. This addresses the question of the role played by Nehru and Sheikh in the implementation of the land reform.

One major point where Sheikh’s role is seen of critical importance is that the protest against the land reform in the state came only from the Dogra ruler and people. Surprisingly Kashmiri pandits who formed just 5 percent of the population of Kashmir but had 30 percent of the land with them never protested.  Pandits were suppressed by giving them 10 percent reservation in the administrative jobs (Rai, 2004).

Addressing the question of how the land reforms in J&K were different from that in the nation was in terms of the question of Article 370. Article 370 gave the state of J&K interim provision of not granting fundamental rights to the citizens in order to bring about the vision of New Kashmir Manifesto. Hence when Benami transfers and locking of property in courtrooms was taking place in the rest of the country, Kashmir land reforms became a success story. “The success of the Act of 1950 can be very well appreciated from the fact that out of 9.5 lakh acres of land distributed throughout the country till 1970, about half (i e, 4.5 lakh acres) was distributed in J&K alone” (Verma, 1994).

B2. Water Treaties

Alleviation of poverty was one of the main aims of land reform at the national level. Land reforms were of drastic success in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. One state which was comparable to that of J&K was Kerala. The human development index figure of 2007-08 Kerala is at 0.790 while J&K lags behind at 0.529. Two main reasons why the first phase of land reforms in the state couldn’t take off are political issues of the occupation of land and restrictions on the use of state water use (Government of Jammu & Kashmir, 2006).

One of the main factors to supplement the land reforms and to achieve its goal of poverty alleviation is the creation of necessary infrastructure, for example, irrigation which requires water. By signing Indus water treaty in 1960 with Pakistan, India could use only 20 percent water of the Indus basin. Most of this water is used for irrigation in Punjab and its agricultural production is a hit. Here there was a compromise on the Nehruvian and Sheikh vision of land reform in J&K and the international pressure. All the three rivers which drain the state of J&K (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) were handed over in the treaty and the states right as Upper Riparian party were not protected as the treaty places a restriction on both the use of water for irrigation and for harnessing power. According to the treaty, the flow of water cannot be interrupted or reduced by building a reservoir (Navlakha, 2007).

The first phase of the land reform would have had an altogether different impact had the Indus Treaty not been signed and some amount of political willpower been shown.

B3. Role of Separatist Movements

The Separatist movement was a result of chaos and confusion. Poverty and Landlessness which land reforms were to address, when couldn’t be taken care of, manifested itself in the movement. Masses with no education were mobilised by the elite in a different direction altogether and thus the debate shifted from land reforms and development. Post-1987 which was the start of the separatist movement in Kashmir, people on call resorted to the politics of boycotting elections, which was undemocratic as in a democracy elections are regarded as one of the main steps towards social change. The entire idea of land reforms which is to increase self-sufficiency and efficiency somehow got lost. Chapter V (Planning Commission of India, 2014) on state finances tells that the state government for the year 2000-01 had a revenue deficit of Rs. 961 crore which is an increase of 77 percent over previous year. The chapter clearly states that the state has suffered a lot financially during the years of turmoil and revenue collecting authorities were unable to work efficiently. The state has really never recovered from the damage to the infrastructure and lack of investment post movement. The data shows the financial condition of J&K post movement period:

Year Total Income Total Expenditure Revenue Expenditure Revenue Surplus/Deficit Fiscal Surplus/Deficit
1996-97 3226 4180 3129 +94 -954
1997-98 4646 5147 4191 +451 -501
1998-99 4513 5567 4909 -400 -1054
1999-2000 5519 6857 6055 -541 -1338
2000-01 5674 7547 6621 -961 -1873

Source: Comptroller and Auditor General of India, 2001-2002

The movement addressed the cause of secession from the Indian state and never focussed on the development agenda and capitalisation of land reforms. Now people have realised that the democratic process is the only way forward to address social problems. Chowdhary & Rao (2006) bring about the shift from the politics of ‘Boycott of election’ to ‘Bring change with the election’ by supplementing it with the voter turnout. They bank on the people’s urge to go back to the normal situation and their desire to exercise choice.

C. Marginalisation of Social needs and Social Reality

The marginalisation between the needs and reality post-2000 as pre-1947 and post-1947 have been addressed to in different sections of the paper. Roshni bill which formed one of the major land reform policies post-2000 was supposed to streamline the land holdings, empower the farmers and regulate land mafias but the picture looked different when CAG came up with irregularities in the scheme. On 24th January 2015, the State Vigilance Organization (SVO) filed a FIR against several officers of the revenue department for their involvement in the irregularities committed under Roshni scam. According to CAG performance report (Comptroller and Auditor General of India, 2013) after approving the transfer of lands measuring 3,48,160 kanals only Rs.76.24 crore has been realised against a demand of Rs. 317.54 crore. Scam figuring in a land reform scheme being mooted as pro-poor and farmer clearly bring about the paralysis our political machinery is going through. Roshni scam has shown that there is a clear divergence of social reality from social needs in the state of J&K.

D. Conclusion

Land reform did not achieve its goal. It got hijacked by International bindings at the first stage, national politics at the second and state politics at the third stage. Every successive state government found it difficult to match development planning with social reality because of various personal benefits attached. It is up to the people of the state to realise what is happening and elect their representatives sensibly. Good representation in the assembly can only put forth the cause and thus reduce the gap between social needs and social reality.

(Tushar Gupta is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


Ankit, R. (2010). 1948: Crucial Year In The History Of J&K. Economic and Political Weekly, XLV (11), 49-58.

Aslam, M. (1977). Land Reforms in Jammu and Kashmir. Social Scientist, 6 (4), 59-64.

Bhat, M. (2000). “Land Distribution in Rural Jammu and Kashmir: An inter-temporal Analysis. In Pushpendra, & B. Sinha, Land Reforms in India: An Unfinished Agenda (pp. 139-169). New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Besley, Timothy, and Robin Burgess. “Land reform, poverty reduction, and growth: Evidence from India.” Quarterly journal of Economics (2000): 389-430.

Chowdhary, R., & Rao, N. V. (2006). Changed Political Scenario. Economic and Political Weekly, 11963-65.

Comptroller and Auditor General of India. (2001-2002). Audit Report (Civil), Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi: Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Comptroller and Auditor General of India. (2013). Performance Report. New Delhi: CAG of India.

Glancy, B. J. “Report of the Commission appointed under the order of His Highness, the Maharaja Bahadur, dated 12th November 1931 to enquire into Grievances and Complaints, Jammu.” (1933).

The government of Jammu and Kashmir. (2006). Economic Survey. Jammu: Government of Jammu & Kashmir.

Korbel, J. (1954). Danger in Kashmir. New Jersy: Princeton University Press.

Navlakha, G. (2007). State of Jammu and Kashmir Economy. Economic and Political Weekly, 4034-38.

Nehru, J. (2006). Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru. Oxford New Delhi University Press.

Planning Commission of India. (2014). Jammu And Kashmir Development Report. New Delhi: Government of India.

Prasad, A. K. (2014). Sheikh Abdullah and Land Reforms. Economic And Political weekly , 131-137.

Rai, M. (2004). Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights, and the History of Kashmir . Delhi: Permanent Black.

Rekhi, T. S. (1993). Socio-Economic Justice in Jammu and  kashmir: A Critical Study. Delhi: Ideal Publications.

Saxena, A. (2007, September 26). ANOTHER LEAP TOWARDS LAND REFORMS IN J&K. Mainstream Weekly , XLV (40).

Saxena, A. (2007, september 26). ANOTHER LEAP TOWARDS LAND REFORMS IN J&K. Retrieved August 16, 2015, from Mainstream weekly website:

Verma, P. S. (1994). Jammu and Kashmir at the political crossroads. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House.


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The political economy of Nehruvian Science

Sukhbeer Tej Pratap Singh



‘Vanity, ambition and eagerness for certainty are the greatest sources of hazards to scientific knowledge’   -Francis Bacon

The concept of planning in the sphere of scientific research is said to reduce the risk of fragmented efforts, minimising possibilities of duplication & making resources more efficient but the idea of planning science for economic advancement has been considered seriously only since the mid-sixties (Bhaneja, 1976). The political economy of the science & technology policy of India in the Nehruvian era involves a complex interplay between the various elements of the Indian society such as the political executive, the scientific community and educationists. This interplay must be seen in the context of post-independence India’s national & international aspirations. Since pre- independence India’s material base was weak after deindustrialisation under colonial rule, there was a major thrust on increasing the material base of Indian society through the application of technology. The fundamental belief underlying this initiative was the belief in the capacity of scientific innovation to accelerate the process of improving India’s socio-economic status. These aspirations had to be balanced with the resource crunch faced by the Indian state since investment in science & technology is a long term investment.

This paper is an attempt to analyse the modalities of post-independence India’s science & technology policy and trace the reasons for suboptimal performance of India’s pure science research and corrective initiatives in the field.

The Historical Context: Science Policy in the Colonial Period

In the pre-independence period, the desire to promote science was limited to a few scientists at universities and research centres. The British organised Indian universities deliberately to limit scientific research to mere examination oriented bodies. (Desiraju, 2008:38)

The initiatives to promote scientific temper and research, however, picked up the pace in the late 1930’s. Meghnad Saha (1893–1956) inspired by soviet planning proposed a series of hydroelectric dams in his native Bengal through state funds to generate power for industrial development, in the process addressing the problems of poverty & flood control(Anderson, 1975, pp. 24-29). Through his journal Science & Culture he expounded these ideas and they later came to be associated with Nehru (Arnold, 2013, p. 365). In 1938, Saha impressed upon Subhash Chandra Bose, then the president of Indian National Congress, his scheme for the regeneration of India which came to be reflected in Bose’s speeches at the time.  (Vasu, Reddi, & Ayer, 1990, pp. 72-99)  The rudimentary framework of science policy planning that existed in India consisted of Board of Scientific & Industrial Research created in 1938 and replaced by the Council of  Scientific & Industrial Research created out of a military necessity in 1942 (Bhaneja, 1979, pp. 70-97) In 1945, prior to the election of the new national government, the Congress party resolution declared:

Science, in its instrumental field of activity, has played an ever increasing part in influencing and moulding human life and will do so in even greater measure in the future. Industrial, agricultural and cultural advance, as well as national defence, depends upon it. Scientific research is, therefore, a basic and essential activity of the State and should be organised and encouraged on the widest scale.(Congress Party Manifesto,11th December 1945, 1969)

In the colonial period, science establishments were largely state-owned, located in specialist research institutes rather than in public universities (Arnold, 2013, p. 365).This was carried over after independence.  The reasoning put forth was that modern science technology was too fundamental yet also too specialist to be left to poorly funded universities. Also, defence and self-sufficiency needs seemed to favour state control. Another aspect of the reasoning behind pushing for a comprehensive science policy was the foreign policy angle of keeping India out of the cold war countries and the cold war out of India and  to establish India’s primacy in south Asia. (Kapur, 1976, pp. 72-99)

Parliamentary and administrative influence on science policy in the post-independence period

Our primary aims after independence were developing a large industrial base for the economic advancement of the country. This goal necessitated the development of a sound science and technology base. From the very outset, there existed two divergent schools of thoughts in the scientific planning community, with one school advocating the creation of government administered research institutions where substantive research would happen with universities to be focussed solely on the creation of a pool of scientific practitioners. Essentially, government research bodies were to serve as the centres of research.

The other school, championed by Meghnad Saha, himself a parliamentarian and physicist, wanted universities to continue as centres of scientific research, and be administered by scientists with minimal role of government officials with a non-science background, even in programmes with major funding from the government. The government chose to go ahead with the former plan.  

As patron and mentor of Indian science in the post-colonial period, Nehru assembled around himself like-minded scientists like S.S. Bhatnagar, P. C. Mahalanobis, and notably Homi K. Bhabha, chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission. The Department of Atomic Energy remained under Nehru’s control. Thus, the funding for a particular branch of scientific research depended upon the proximity of the top scientists of that field to the politico-administrative system. The National Committee on Science & Technology was created under Department of Science & Technology as a body to advise the government on preparation and evaluation of national science plans.

The demand and growth of science and technology lead to the emergence of a new configuration of “institutional and social complex”, which reciprocates the influence of the larger social order. It is this anachronistic connection between the social-institutional complex which was responsible for most of the problems faced by the Indian science policy in the past and needs to be redefined. (Sharma, 1976)

The Indian parliament on 4th march, 1958 passed the Science Policy resolution under the leadership of Jawaharlal Lal Nehru. The successful implementation of the Science Policy resolution mandated the adoption of a new scientific outlook by the entire population.

Under the direction of Nehru, the government of India held the first national conference of scientists, technologists and educationists for getting inputs on the implementation of the science resolution. The second national conference was held in August 1963. The Third conference was held in November 1970. It concluded in the formation of four working groups, viz. (1) Science Policy at the National Level, (2) Management of Scientific and Technological Institutions, (3) Research and Industrial Development, and (4) Higher Education and Manpower.

The conference criticised the process of education for ”diffusing the concepts and methodology of science”. It observed that science had remained confined to the periphery of our society. It also emphasised the (i) lack of inter-disciplinary approach & most importantly (ii) “the absence of a component dealing with the role of a scientist or a technologist as the agent of change in a developing society”. (The Proceedings of the Third National Conference of Scientists, Technologists & Educationists, 1970). The conference also emphasised on the “urgency for close collaboration between universities,  research bodies and other scientific bodies”. The consensus within the scientific community was that the cleavage between the research institutions and universities was producing sub-optimal results. The conference argued that for the development of a cohesive National Science Plan, it was imperative that working scientists be involved in the decision-making in public policy as put forward in the Science Policy resolution of 1958. Despite such recommendations, the third conference noted “though decision-making on important national issues involves political, administrative and technical components, at present, only the politicians and administrators participate in decision-making. This situation prevails even in areas where the policy issues involved have high scientific and technological content.” (Ibid:p.46)

In the proceedings of the 3rd conference it was noted that the feudal mindset was the greatest obstacle to the implementation of the Science Policy Resolution for betterment of the socio-economic system, but in praxis the scientific policy and polity remained disjointed in terms of implementation & organisational dynamics (Sharma, 1976) As Alexander King said, “Science is in disarray because society itself was in disarray”. It was also observed that some top scientists used public relations and management techniques to further their own ambition, – for instance to secure financial funding for research programmes of their choice, the building of institutions and laboratories. This was a drawback of the reduction in the significance of universities as centres of research and increasing centralisation of decision making in scientific planning at the highest level of government. The foundation of India’s atomic energy edifice was laid through Homi Bhabha’s personal relationship with Nehru (Sondhi, 1990, p. 510)(Arnold,2013:p23)

The programming methods and  techniques such as critical path methods, network analysis, programming budgeting systems and  critical path methods, have been considered favourably in the western countries (Bhaneja, 1976, p. 1) although their application to science  has been limited because most of the Research & development in these countries has been in the private sector. In contrast, 90 percent of the research in developing countries takes place in the government scientific institutions. (ibid.) Armed conflicts with China and  Pakistan and  two droughts gradually eroded the enthusiasm of parliamentarians leading them to  questioning the substantial quantitative expenditure on science in India, with Indira Gandhi remarking, “the nation had not secured sufficient returns from the quantitative expansion of scientific research” (Proceedings of the Third National Conference of Scientists, Technologists,p.5)In this context it is important to examine the  Science & Technology plan 1974-79 arrived at by NCST in consultation with 1800 scientists & technologists.

After 1965, different demands began to be made of the scientific research institutions. For the first time in 1971, the national expenditure on research & development in agriculture exceeded that on atomic energy. The declining agricultural productivity created pressure on the government to act in this line. In 1972 and under the fifth plan allocation, the expenditure rose higher than that on defence and atomic energy. However, agriculture was distinct from rural and there was yet to emerge a definitive idea of necessary rural bias in science policy in India.

This makes a case for research in universities in localised environments with greater devolution of funds to universities & decentralisation in decision-making processes in terms of the research focus areas. In every country with a significant scientific research base, fundamental research takes place in universities.  The reason why the SPR 1958 failed to create a cultural revolution in terms of inculcating scientific temper in the population was because of perceived distance from the outcomes of these centralised research institutions. The funding into these elite institutions for industrial and energy science research had little to show in terms of impact on rural socio-economic life except in terms of agriculture. This led to further questions being asked in the polity of the country on the money being funnelled into scientific research. In this sense the Chinese experience must be considered, China has invested in 100 universities with each a budget of Rs.100 crores per annum. This would have a budgetary outlay of 10000 crores which contrasts with DAE annual allowance of Rs. 7000 crores per annum. (Desiraju, 2008) Aspects of rural life such as sanitation, modernisation of rural cottage industries could have been better served by research in localised universities. The National Knowledge commission report, 2006 has criticised this approach of centralised research bodies and argued in favour of making universities the pre-eminent centres of fundamental research. It is argued that government ministries like Department of Biotechnology & Department of Science & Technology should not be running research centres. There is also the need to resuscitate state universities since they can have a broader social outreach than centralised research laboratories and also achieve the goal of interdisciplinarity in scientific research expounded by 3rd Science Conference, 1971.

In this sense the view of the Kothari commission on education that talks about the ill effects of bureaucratisation of higher education are also of relevance. The setting up of research centres outside of universities led to the divorce between teaching & research leading to undergraduate education in the sciences becoming static. Huge investments were made in these institutes was made at the cost of funding and reform in the universities.  (Shah, 2005, p. 2239)

Evolution of Current Policy & Possible solutions:

The latest science policy looks at the convergence between pure science research, technology and innovation. The 2013 policy reiterates the important aim of inter-disciplinarity necessary for the inclusive growth of the country It is through this convergence that we seek to evolve a scientific research base with a pronounced socio-economic orientation. The encouragement given to inter-university centres for research based on their success is recognising the importance of universities as the centres of research. The current policy document fails to analyse the shortcomings of the previous policies and fails to address the fundamental structural shortcomings of the research institutions. The disparity in terms of numbers is that in India 75 percent of the science & technology funds come from the government yet from the 1960s – the 1990s only 10 percent of the Research & Development funds went to universities The cleavage between the research institutions & universities has broken the organic linkage between talent which could be harvested in-house in a university environment

(Sukhbeer Tej Pratap Singh is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


Arnold, D. (2013). Nehruvian Science and Postcolonial India. Isis, Vol. 104, No. 2, 360-370.

Anderson, R. S. (1975). Building scientific institutions in India: Saha and Bhabha (No. 11). Centre for Developing-Area Studies, McGill University.

Bhaneja, B. (1976). India’s Science and Technology Plan, 1974-79. Social Studies of Science, Vol. 6, No. 1, 99-104.

Bhaneja, B. (1979). Parliamentary Influence on Science Policy in India. Minerva, Vol. 17, No. 1, 70-97.

Congress Party Manifesto,11th December 1945. (1969). In Appendix in  P. Sitaramayya, History of the Indian National Congress (Vol. II). Delhi: S. Chand.

Desiraju, G. R. (2008). Science Education and Research in India. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 43, No. 24, 37-43.

Kapur, A. (1976). India’s Nuclear Option. New York: Praeger.

Shah, A. M. (2005). Higher Education and Research: Roots of Mediocrity. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 22/23, 2234-2242.

Sharma, D. (1976). Growth and Failures of India’s Science Policy. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 11, No. 51, 1969-1971.

Sondhi, S. (1990). SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICAL CHANGE. The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 51, No. 4, 507-517.

The Proceedings of the Third National Conference of Scientists, Technologists & Educationists, New Delhi, The Committee on Science & Technology, Government of India,1970)

Vasu, S. C., Reddi, B. G., & Ayer, S. A. (1965). Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose. Publications division ministry of information and broadcasting government of India.

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Policy Brief | Literacy Without Learning

Sakshi Mehra


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Executive Summary

India has made significant progress in boosting school enrolment rates and increasing access to primary education as evident from the fact that enrollments have reached 96 percent since 2009 and 56 percent of new students enrolled between 2007 and 2009 have been girls. However the same has not reflected positively in dropout rates and levels of learning. Nationally 29 percent of children drop out before completing five years of primary school. Increase in school enrolment is not translating into higher learning outcomes and cognitive skills as measured by several studies.  

Reasons to be Worried

  • Annual Survey of Educational Research (ASER 2013) found that only 54 percent of class V children were able to do simple 2 digit subtraction.

  • In 2005, 50 per cent of children in Grade V were unable to read a simple Grade II level text. The number is virtually unchanged 10 years later in 2014.

policybriefloknitiTable 1: Grade 9 completion rates of children by their reading levels at age 8-11
Source: IHDS data for 2004-5 and 2011-12.

Policy Options

India’s education system has many challenges at all levels, but all of them will fail if children don’t emerge from their early years of school reading fluently. The current discourse on education reforms have been discussing the following alternatives

  • There is an active national debate to scrap the No Detention Policy (NDP), a policy that prohibits failing children in classes 1 to 8. It is believed that in the absence of a proper regulatory framework, this has unfortunately led to ‘no learning’ in many cases.
  • Another approach involves a detailed look at the financing structure of school development plans. Currently, all budgetary plans are made using DISE (District Information System for Education) data, which has no component for learning outcomes. A specific amount that can be used as a learning grant should be given to the states, which should be linked to clearly determine learning goals. School committees based on learning outcome plans should take expenditure decisions regarding this grant.
  •  I believe we need to look at investing our time and resources in an approach that is neither too myopic and shortsighted, nor so broad and long-term that the millions already in school remain excluded from its benefits. In this context, we must begin from correcting the deficiencies in the classroom. It has already been established by researchers over the past decade that the teacher is the most influential factor for achieving quality education. Unfortunately, despite Teachers’ salaries accounting for 90 percent of education expenditure, One in four government primary school teachers are absent and only one in two is actually teaching.

Influencing learning outcomes by improving the teacher’s performance may further be adopted in two different ways: –

  1. Financial incentives and sanctions for teacher motivation: It is the intangible factors such as enthusiasm and passion that are likely to account for a majority of the variation in value added by the teacher and students’ learning outcomes. Evaluation of teachers based on their contribution to students’ achievement or their true value addition should be made the basis for financial rewards and promotion decisions. Performance based incentives could prove to be an effective way to keep the teachers motivated and deliver optimally. A UNICEF paper on teacher absenteeism in India also talks about the scope to effectively enforce sanctions on erring teachers. (Saihjee 2011) Guarantee of a salary, accompanied by weak sanctions actually creates an incentive to be absent. Thus, addressing the moral hazard problem will provide a solution to the problem of academic underperformance.
  2.  A Teacher empowerment program: This approach delves into the root causes of underperformance of teachers by addressing the hindrances to perform to potential. Thus, empowering the teacher through institutional changes for a more conducive teaching environment is the key. The program aims to place power in their hands and facilitate its responsible use. Of all these options, I recommend that teacher empowerment be pursued.

Why Teacher Empowerment?

It has already been established by researchers over the past decade that the teacher is the most influential factor for achieving quality education. Addressing teacher motivation through sanctions or financial incentives will not be as effective as desired as proven in several studies.

A study by National Bureau Of Economic Research conducted on New York City Public Schools suggests that there is no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance. (G. Fryer, Jr, 2011) Similar studies conducted in the Indian States reveal the same trend. If anything, this may adversely affect learning levels by increasing stress levels on teachers and students, encourage a narrowed curriculum of teaching to the test and propel student exclusion. Despite the opportunity and incentive to be absent, the fact that 3 out of every 4 teachers opts to be present indicates that there is clearly more to the issue than merely a “free-rider” problem. Thus, the root problem does not stem from the teacher’s motivation level, but from the lack of institutional support that is necessary for the teacher to perform to his or her potential and these are what need to be fixed so as to empower the teacher to deliver better in the classroom.

Scrapping the no detention policy is likely to be counter-productive by increasing the chances of early dropouts.  Moreover, the decline in learning levels is erroneously being attributed to this policy, whereas data from 2005 to 2010 (before implementation of RTE that introduced NDP) shows the same poor results.

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What Needs to be done?

An insight into the following challenges substantiates the need for institutional changes for a more conducive learning environment that enhances teacher performance and thus reiterates the need for a teacher empowerment program.

  • A study by Sipahimalani-Rao highlights unauthorised leave in Government schools is actually a mere 3-4 percent of total teacher absenteeism as against an inflated projected figure of 24-25 per cent (Priyam 2015). The latter per cent is because teachers are sent on formal chores outside the school during working hours. These non-teaching tasks include management of mid-day meals, organising construction work in the school, maintaining data and so on. During elections, government schoolteachers are posted as booth-level officers on voting days, and they have to prepare, check and maintain electoral rolls prior to voting. Distraction from core responsibilities of teaching could not be more obvious.

Action item: Raising the amount of time teachers spend on the core job needs serious attention and a minimum benchmark for the same must be clearly demarcated.

  • To exacerbate the problem, there are huge teacher shortages (Rajasthan has close to 20percent single-teacher schools) and this further overburdens the teachers.

Action item: Filling the staffing gaps should be made a priority.

  • Despite 16,000 teacher training institutes, the passing rates of the 2015 Teacher eligibility Test (TET) was a mere 17 percent, which is an alarming indication of the underperformance of the teacher education system. The 2012 Justice Verma Commission has made remarks including lack of training in training institutes and exam results being manipulated (MHRD 2011) Low-cost private schools barely spend anything on teacher training.

Action items:

Making teacher training institutes more accountable

Teacher unions need to act as institutions of value to produce well-informed teachers with an enhanced capacity for consensual action for the common good.

Teachers also must be given special training to deal with the diversity amongst students, especially students from underprivileged backgrounds as social class also impacts learning abilities. 21 per cent of children from economically stronger backgrounds who could not read or recognise letters in the age group of 8-11 managed to complete Grade 9 as against 7 per cent of their counterparts belonging to economically weaker and poorer sections

  • A significant number of Indian teachers, especially government teachers are expected to miraculously teach in multi-grade classrooms in remote locations with few amenities. This is a clear Violation of the 1986 Policy Operation Blackboard norms, which mandates at least one teacher for each class/section and at least one room for each class.

Action item: Strict adherence to Operation Blackboard norms, of at least one teacher for each class/section and at least one room for each class. Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) of 40:1 and 35:1 at primary and upper primary level respectively, as prescribed in the RTE, should be enforced.

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(Sakshi Mehra is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at


Paper by Aarti Saihjee, Education Specialist, New York UNICEF-Penn Learning Programme on Social Norms July 2011

Teacher Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from New York City Public Schools Roland G. Fryer, Jr. Harvard University and NBER, November 2011

Manisha Priyam 2015 Contested Politics of Educational Reform in India: Aligning Opportunities with Interests: Oxford University Press

Justice Verma Commission on Teacher Education, Volume 3, 2012


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Climate Change in India: Challenges and Solutions

Sai Charan Bandaru

To begin with, India is the fourth largest emitter of Green House Gases (GHG) and has the obligation to take a proactive stance since it is going to be one of the worst victims of climate change as mentioned in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (AR5). The estimated countrywide agricultural loss in 2030 will be over $7 billion. It could severely affect the livelihoods of at least 10 percent of the population. Wheat yields in the Gangetic plains are expected to experience a 51 percent reduction in the most high-yielding areas due to heat stress. This region currently produces 14 to 15 percent of the world’s wheat and feeds around 200 million people of the region. Extreme temperatures are expected to increase by 1-4°C, with a maximum increase in coastal regions.

If the impact of climate change is felt at local levels then adaptation measures should also focus on the same instead of imposing it from the top. The need of the hour is not to wait for global aid or wait for the negotiations to be successful, but to act intelligently at the local levels since small, consistent efforts bring about lasting change. The AR5 suggests that about 80 percent of the agricultural losses could be reduced if climate resilient and cost effective agricultural practices are followed. For example, simple measures like rainwater harvesting can prevent intensive groundwater usage and the need for constructing large dams which will eventually harm the ecology. However, the real challenge lies in implementing the same across India. Constitutional challenges like division of powers between the Centre and the States – agriculture belonging to the state list, lack of political incentives for the policy makers to take far-reaching steps, non-homogeneity of geographical features etc (e.g. rain water harvesting measures for the plains of Uttar Pradesh and the dry land regions like Vidarbha in Maharashtra are entirely different) are major hurdles. Most importantly, we should take into account people’s reaction to any changes in their agricultural practices. Particularly in India, where more than 80 percent are small and marginal farmers, their willingness to adopt a new practice is fraught with difficulties and it compounds when it is taken for the entire country. Under such circumstances, the optimal policy level solution is to tweak the existing programs instead of framing a new program altogether.

One alternative is to create a separate component in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) that includes climate change adaptation measures like rainwater harvesting and climate-resilient agricultural practices in the dry land. NREGS is well penetrated in all the states where dry land agriculture is practised, namely Maharashtra, Telangana, Rajasthan, parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand (constitutes nearly 60 percent of the net area under cultivation). The awareness regarding the harmful effects of climate change and adaptation measures must be penetrated to the local levels and demand for sustainable agriculture must come from the people. Once the demand is created it will be easier for the climate resilient crop varieties to enter the market. Moreover, the process involves participation which is a necessary prerequisite to enhance the people’s capacity to handle climate change.

In the energy sector, the obvious solutions are to increase the energy efficiency of coal plants and to promote the renewable sector. In the former, India is investing in supercritical and ultra-supercritical technologies to improve the efficiency of power generation in coal plants and phase out the older generation power plants. Such measures are necessary but not sufficient in cutting the GHG emissions. Moreover, coal continues to have a major share in power generation since we still have 30 crore people who do not have access to electricity and coal is still the cheapest option. The real challenge lies in the augmentation of solar energy since compared to biomass, wind, and other renewable sources India has a geographical advantage of receiving 4-7 kWh of solar radiation per on an average. Presently, India is running the largest renewable energy capacity addition program in the world with the target of 1,75,000 MW of renewable energy by 2022 of which solar itself constitutes about 1,00,000 MW. In the year 2014-15, it witnessed 42 percent increase in the solar capacity. Funding mechanisms like diverting additional revenues from coal cess increase ($6/ton, which is the highest clean energy cess among developing countries) to fund renewable energy projects have been initiated. But such momentum can only be sustained if it is backed by indigenous R&D, innovation, and manufacturing capability. Solar systems are dependent on local conditions and need to be optimised for specific applications and geographical factors. Therefore, a flourishing R&D base in the country is critical if India wants to convert this solar energy vision into a reality. Such an innovation ecosystem requires close collaboration between the research community and the industry. India can be a laboratory for the global R&D institutions and industry to collaborate with their Indian counterparts to come up with innovative solutions. The innovations should also focus on utilising solar power to low-cost home appliances especially in rural areas where more than 60 percent of the energy needs are met through traditional biomass-based fuels. These innovations in solar energy also need a consistent demand to make them viable in the long run. Online platforms like e-commerce sites can be incentivized by the government to market them with competitive pricing. By virtue of its geographical advantage, it can actually be a focus point for research in solar energy provided right incentives are given from the policy side.

Another area where creative solutions are required is the creation of carbon sinks. They are necessary to trap the emissions in the atmosphere and bring them back to the carbon cycle. India is following the afforestation program to increase its carbon intake capacity. For the past 27 years, India has been trying to increase its forest cover from the present 23 percent to 33 percent, which still remains a pipe dream due to increasing pressures to achieve rapid industrial development. The problem lies in the poor implementation of the afforestation program. Afforestation is often seen in India as a compensatory mechanism for the forests destroyed and not as a source of revenue generation for the timber products and other forest produce, particularly for the local communities. Sufficient studies in this area are required to market afforestation as an innovative tool for climate change adaptation. Nearly 40 percent of the forest cover in the country is degraded and the trick lies in increasing the productivity of this land instead of searching for new barren lands through mapping using satellite data already available for these lands. The administration becomes easier if the local communities were made a part of this process. If they are allowed to sell the forest produce it becomes an incentive to protect them. Also, agroforestry can be coupled with it to augment their revenues. Research focus should be on promotion of those species of plants that have high carbon sequestration potential.

Innovations are also required for a sustainable habitat through energy efficiency and smart urban management. More than 30 percent of the emissions are from the urban areas. The National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (one of the eight missions under NAPCC) talks about improvements in waste management, recycling of waste water, sewage utilisation, sludge management and extensive increase in public transport like Rapid Bus Transit, Metro Rail improving the energy efficiency of buildings etc. in urban areas. Each of these problems requires separate attention and they are much bigger issues even if we do not consider the climate change aspect. For example, urban waste management is a vexing issue with problems ranging from bureaucratic apathy to lack of appropriate technologies suited for local needs. Even more is the increasing vehicular pollution. Before we see the complete effects of climate change, India needs to address its homegrown pollution which has more immediate and direct impact on its people. For example, the Uttarakhand floods in 2012 were caused by poor urban management meddling with the sensitive Himalayan ecology.

To achieve that target of limiting the temperature rise to below 2ᴼC by 2100, the world can emit only 2900 Giga ton (Gt) of Carbon dioxide. Till 2011 the world has emitted 1900 Gt, meaning the carbon budget is highly constrained and the remaining 1000 Gt has to be used judiciously for the next 80 years through the means of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. Although it requires collective action, India cannot wait for anyone. The focus of the mitigation and adaptation measures in India should be to find innovative indigenous solutions which will complement foreign-funded programs like Clean Development Mechanism. After all, we are living in a time borrowed from our future generations and it is never too late to act.



This essay was submitted for the European Union-The Hindu Centre Essay Competition

(Sai Charan Bandaru is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


Chikkatur, A. (2008). A Resource and Technology Assessment of Coal Utilization in India. Coal Initiative reports. Pew Centre on Global Climate Change. Available at

IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA

Jaiswal, A, India’s Climate Change Challenge,2013 (Interview). Available at

Ministry of Finance, GoI, (2015). Climate Change and Sustainable development. India Economic Survey 2014-15. Available at

Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, (2008). National Action Plan on Climate Change. GoI.. Available at

Ujjwal Bharat (2015), Ministry of Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy, GoI. Available at 



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From Haymarket Square to Hosur Road: State of workers in India in 3 charts

Sachin Tiwari

The revolution never came. Battles of workers’ rights were won but the war often lost across the world. This is what unites the Haymarket Affair of 1886 with the garment workers’ protest on Hosur Road in Bengaluru a fortnight back. From 1886 to 2016, the world has tried every conceivable arrangement of the economic system, yet workers have never seemed to have found a way out of the daily insecurities of their wages and livelihoods.

Today, as countries across the world celebrate International Labour Day, it presents an occasion to look back at labour welfare over the century. The paradox is that the concerns of the workers don’t appear to have changed from the Haymarket incident to India’s Hosur Road protests in Bengaluru. Some may be quick to point out that Haymarket was about an 8 hour work day and Bengaluru protest was workers protesting against an arbitrary and sudden change in Employees’ Provident Fund rules pertaining to withdrawal of funds by the workers.  However, at a broader level, the nature arguably remains the same – the arbitrariness exercised by employers in dealing with workers, work conditions, wages and matters which are related to their livelihood. The sense of insecurity among the workers remains high, as seen in the extremely short time that it took from the notification of changed rules to the demonstration that happened across the garment industries clusters in Bengaluru.

Lenin’s sense of confidence in his 1919 May Day speech and the international optimism with the formation of International Labour Organization (ILO) in the same year was remarkable.  The Russian daily Izvestia reported a part of Lenin’s speech two days later:

Pointing to the children, Lenin said that they, who were taking part in the celebration of the festival of the emancipation of labour, would fully enjoy the fruits of the labours and sacrifices of the revolutionaries.

Our grandchildren will examine the documents and other relics of the epoch of the capitalist system with amazement. It will be difficult for them to picture to themselves how the trade in articles of primary necessity could remain in private hands, how factories could belong to individuals, how some men could exploit others, how it was possible for those who did not work to exist. Up to now the story of what our children would see in the future has sounded like a fairy-tale; but today, comrades, you clearly see that the edifice of socialist society, of which we have laid the foundations, is not a utopia. Our children will build this edifice with oven greater zeal.” (Stormy applause)

The world moved on quickly from that moment in history. The capitalist system contrary to Lenin’s dream is not a relic but the order of the day. Factories have increasingly gone on to belong to individuals. Free market economics soon took over pounding the socialist dream to fine dust.

Back home, India of 2016 too has ventured far away from the socialist dream of some of its leaders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi prefers to mark this day in 140 characters on twitter with this message –

“On Labour Day we salute the hard work, determination & dedication of millions of Shramiks who have an invaluable role in the making of India” (sic)

The point of this post is to illustrate that the developments related to workers’ rights and welfare should be a cause of concern to policy makers. The workers continue to contribute to the making of India but they certainly need more attention and care than what can be expressed in 140 characters.

The first chart (Chart 1) indicates a quiet and unseen quelling of workers’ right to collective action. In a nine-year period from 2000 to 2009 the number of registered trade unions has halved. Labour movements thrive on collective action. It is not a hard guess to figure the bargaining power that the workers might be left with in the wake of a declining number of registered unions across the country.

sachin - chart1

Chart 1: Chart was developed from MOSPI data available on


The next major trend was affirmed formally by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector under Arjun Sengupta’s lead (the Commission’s report was long withheld by GoI for reasons best known to the corridors of Vyapar Bhavan). The report as indicated –

 “…is focused on the informal or the unorganised economy which accounts for an overwhelming proportion of the poor and vulnerable population in an otherwise shining India. It concentrates on a detailed analysis of the conditions of work and lives of the unorganised workers consisting of about 92 percent of the total workforce of about 457 million (as of 2004-05). For most of them, conditions of work are utterly deplorable and livelihood options extremely few. Such a sordid picture coexists uneasily with a shining India that has successfully confronted the challenge of globalisation powered by increasing economic competition both within the country and across the world…

Further, it found that –

At the end of 2004-05, about 836 million or 77 percent of the population were living below Rs. 20 a day and constituted most of India’s informal economy.

Understandably, this was a damning report to come out in 2007 and most certainly was kept away from public attention. Chart 2 compares the formal and informal sector employment in organised and unorganised sectors.


sachin - chart2
Chart 2: The chart was developed from datasets available on 


Finally, let us examine the central spending on social security across various categories of expenditure of GoI. This is to illustrate the state of neglect and dereliction of the state from its professed commitment to workers’ welfare.

sachin - chart3

Chart 3: This data was first presented by Ravi Duggal at Medico Friends Circle meeting in Hyderabad, 2013. The figures are extracted from Ministry of Finance's annual publication Indian Public Finance Statistics - 2012-2013


Labour welfare as observed from the chart, forms least of the priority compared to pension and retirement benefits for civil servants. The priorities of GoI, if not stated, can sure be observed from these patterns of spending. In the Indian government’s imagination it isn’t the workers but civil servants who have an invaluable role in the making of India. Perhaps!


For all the optimistic, enthusiasm laden lectures that labour rights lawyers and professors make in the country’s many universities, the real picture isn’t a happy one. Neither is it a narrative of winning the rights cause. If any, it is a losing battle and thinkers, professors and lawyers must necessarily move beyond the glory song of rights won. The direction to move in is to think of how must the workers be armed (not in the weapons sense) to take on this shove from the current economic system which appears to be shortchanging them left, right and center.


(Sachin Tiwari is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (, 2002

Narendra Modi Twitter post (

Report of the Committee on Unorganised Sector Statistics (




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The Obituary of the Development Era

Abinaswar Das




The Development Dictionary is a book that arouses the reader’s interest at every juncture because of its blunt statements backed by the immense knowledge and varied ethnic, socio-political and cultural origins and experiences of its seventeen contributing authors. This group claims to have observed and studied the development discourse and through their studies have arrived at the controversial conclusion that the end of development, as we know it has arrived. In a bold yet nonchalant manner, Wolfgang Sachs, the editor of the book and contributor of two chapters, concludes his introduction to the book, declaring that it is in fact time to write the obituary of the development process. The introduction of the book begins with the following sentences: “The last forty years can be called the age of development. This epoch is coming to an end. The time is ripe to write its obituary.”

Each of the chapters comprises an essay by the concerned contributor about a concept attached to the development discourse and/or process. The Chapters are alphabetically arranged; therefore justifying the name of the book as a dictionary. The first Chapter is on the idea of development, where Esteva talks about how although development was earlier discussed in intellectual circles for a long time, it only became part of mainstream ideology when it was sold to the world through Truman’s speech in 1949, which suddenly created two worlds from one. This speech was so powerful that it divided the world into the developed and the underdeveloped world. The contributors to The Development Dictionary trace the beginning of the “Age of Development” to this speech of Truman’s. Development theorists believed their prescription would lift the world’s population out of perceived poverty and misery by turning peasants and subsistence farmers into wage-earners and consumers. Development was marketed as the ideal to achieve through any means necessary.

In the second Chapter, Sachs addresses the issues related to the environment, which he argues have taken a back seat in the development process. He says that environmental concerns were not part of the initial idea or plan of development. The environment began to matter only when a significant increase in pollution and environmental degradation caused by excessive harnessing and exploitation of resources came to the forefront in both developed as well as developing countries. The damage done to the environment through depletion of nonrenewable resources led to the era of sustainable development, which he also critiques. The idea of equality is explored in the subsequent chapter by Lummis, wherein he begins by making clear distinctions between the idea of equality, equity and equitability. He argues that the proponents of the development process have successfully managed to make people believe that development creates more opportunities and therefore mitigates the problem of socio-economic inequalities. Lummis, however, backs with research, data that developing countries have instead much larger income and spending inequalities than they had before they joined the bandwagon with their development programmes. He, therefore, finds a great paradox in what development claims to have achieved and what the ground realities have been.

In “Helping”, Gronemeyer attempts to expose the patriarchal dominance of developed countries over developing nations through financial aid. She explains how developed countries enter the economy and even influence governments as a result of aid provided to developing countries and attempt to induce socio-political and cultural changes in that country. She argues that this is not only an extremely unethical way to economically invade a nation, but also violates the principle of sovereignty of an independent nation. Berthoud explains and explores the role of the market in the development process, which he admits is the most significant aspect of the development discourse. His essay is about the establishment of economies through the setting up of markets and the resultant discriminatory practices by international financial organisations and trade regulatory bodies that allow for a nascent economy to be exploited rendering it helpless and entirely dependent on the biggest players in the market, who are often powerful enough to overthrow governments.

Subsequent chapters by Illich, Sachs, Rahnema and Escobar focus on the creation of the idea of ‘Needs’ by the development discourse, as well as the One World theory, participation in the development process as well as planning as an integral part of any country’s development. All of these notions call for policies that are a result of existing models of the West. They assert that it is time for a new era of development where every nation is given the space and opportunity to keep its national interests before interests of the market and the Western economic powers.

Current use of “development” simplifies the term to the point where the end purpose of the process becomes nothing more than the achievement of the U.S. model of an industrial money economy. The traditional meaning of the word, evolved from biology and philosophy, from Darwin, Hegel and Marx, was all but wiped out when the term was co-opted by Truman.

Gustavo Esteva writes, “Two hundred years of social construction of the historical-political meaning of the term, development, were successfully usurped and transmogrified. A political and philosophical proposition of Marx, packaged American style as a struggle against communism and at the service of the hegemonic design of the United States, succeeded in permeating both the popular and intellectual mind for the rest of the century.”

Contributors blast the idea that the U.S. (and European) model represents the ideal goal of the historical process. Wolfgang Sachs writes, “If all countries successfully followed the industrial example, five or six planets would be needed to serve as mines and waste dumps. It is thus obvious that the advanced societies are no model; rather they are most likely to be seen in the end as an aberration in the course of history.”

The contributors argue that there is an inherent bias against cultural diversity in the development project; if there is only one mode of ideal existence (the U.S.-European industrial model) then other cultures are somehow backwards or behind or “underdeveloped.” As Sachs writes, “In this view, Tuaregs, Zapotecos or Rajasthanis are not seen as living diverse and non-comparable ways of human existence, but as somehow lacking in terms of what has been achieved by the advanced countries. Consequently, catching up was declared to be their historical task. From the start, development’s hidden agenda was nothing else than the Westernization of the world.”

Development has failed on less theoretical and more concrete grounds as well: in 1960, Northern countries were 20 times richer than Southern countries; they are now 46 times richer. More devastating perhaps is the destruction of traditional ways of life and the simultaneous failure to provide a viable alternative to historic lifestyles. Sachs writes, “People are caught in the deadlock of development: the peasant who is dependent on buying seeds, yet finds no cash to do so; the mother who benefits neither from the care of her fellow women in the community nor from the assistance of a hospital. … Shunned by the advanced sector and cut off from the old ways … they are forced to get by in the no-man’s-land between tradition and modernity.”

In ‘Poverty’, ‘Production’, ‘Progress’, ‘Resources’ and ‘Science’ written by Rahnema, Robert, Sbert, Shiva and Alvares respectively, the authors argue that although scientific knowledge sharing and education has been a positive outcome of the development process,   they have also resulted in severe exploitation of resources both human and natural non-renewable in nature. The lack of respect for resources by economically developed countries has led to a complete depletion in their countries which triggers them to exploit the riches of developing countries, who in the process of growth and development more than willingly let their resources sell for cheap prices in exchange for greater revenue and better GDP figures every year in their race with other developing nations to become fully developed. This exploitation has, as can be logically deduced, led to greater economic and social inequalities, reducing the absolute numbers of poverty and increasing poverty in the relative sense. Latouche elaborates upon these inequalities in his Chapter on the standards of living of people in developing countries in comparison to an average person’s standard of living in a developed country. Technology is also an area of interest to the development process and is adequately explored by Ullrich in the final chapter of the book.’

The academic style of the book may frustrate some readers who question the importance of tracing the history of certain words and concepts. As Sachs writes in his introduction, “Our essays on the central concepts in the development discourse intend to expose some of the unconscious structures that set boundaries on the thinking of our epoch. We believe that any imaginative effort to conceive a post-development era will have to overcome these constraints.”

Two chapters of particular interest are those on Socialism and the State, written by Harry Cleaver and Ashis Nandy respectively. Cleaver analyses the role of socialism in the development process. He specifically focuses on states which had previously taken up the Left ideology and had consolidated resources for themselves and had resisted the vices of the market, despite participating in it. Here he also looks at Latin American countries which are still socialist, unlike European socialism which has already disintegrated. Nandy, on the other hand, analyses the role that the State has played across all political ideologies in implementing developmental plans around the world. He critiques the oppressive nature of developed economies and urges both them and developing countries to take up a more rational approach in promoting the idea that they believe is already lost anyway.

The essays set out to challenge not only policymakers but activists of both the North and South who have fallen into using this type of language – Multinational Monitor, for example, which often refers to “developing countries.” The Development Dictionary demands that activists question their own biases and ways in which their analysis may be tainted or limited. It paves the way for a discussion in which non-Western ways of life are not seen as aberrations, but as viable alternatives.

(Abinaswar Das is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at

Book Review | The Mystery of Capital

Samarth Bharadwaj



To uncover and understand the Mystery of Capital, Hernando De Soto through his books tries to explain to his readers why Capitalism has not been triumphant in the developing and post-communist countries and how the West has successfully generated capital in its territories. The book makes a persuasive read because of the simplicity of the revolutionary idea that it proposes which, according to the author, if sincerely applied, can lead to the creation of capital in the developing and post-communist countries. The writing style of the book is lucid and is deeply engaging for a reader interested in understanding the development paradigm of the third world and the post-communist countries. It first delves deep into the understanding of the term ‘Capital’ and then identifies the reasons for the success of capital in the west.

The book has a clear thesis which can be held onto by the reader throughout the book. The central idea of the book is a powerful one, a first of its kind: what creates capital in the West? The answer is formal property. It is the formal property systems which begin to process the assets into capital i.e. the formal property is the place where capital is born. The author himself is aware of the challenges this idea would face and wants the readers to comprehend this as an idea that is neither too complex nor too simple.

Capital, therefore, is born by representing in writing, in a title, a security, a contract, and in other such records. Hence, the ownership of the assets gets a formal registration and becomes a part of the formal legal property system. These ‘property representations enable the people to think about the assets not only through a physical acquaintance but also through the description of their latent economic and social qualities’ (p. 50). This process has made it easy for the people in the West to identify the different assets with great convenience as they do not have to physically visit a property to estimate its economic and social value. All the information related to the assets is available under one unified property system, enhancing the production of capital. But how could the simple formal recognition of property be the solution for the development of Third World and former communist nations? Continuing along the same line, De Soto argues that easy and universal access to the formal property would allow people to generate productive capital.

According to him, the West is able to successfully generate capital because the formal property structures are in place in these countries, whereas their absence in the developing and post-communist regions is the reason why capital is not being generated in these countries. He blames this on the extra-legal sectors which act as an obstacle to the creation of capital.

The solution envisioned by the book is to formalise the extra-legal sectors in the countryside and have a legal property system that incorporates the property claims of those in the extra-legal sector, giving the unrecognised assets a formal title or representation which would make them fungible and fit for capital production. This idea presented in the book is crisp and is full of promise if implemented with an ardent political will, making the idea both innovative and unique.

The author has backed his study with data collected during fieldwork in the developing and post-communist countries. The data is reliable and a rigorous methodology has been applied to collect the data as is evident from the following instance. To understand the life of a migrant in developing countries facing bureaucratic hurdles, the author set up a small and legal garment shop on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. It was found that to start a small business, it took six hours daily to get the registration processed, and finally after 289 days, the registration gets approved.

To engage the reader with perplexing concepts like Capitalism, formal property structures, the creation of capital and other technical concepts, the author relies on the usage of analogies, supplementing the simplicity of the idea being propounded. For instance using the energy analogy, De Soto takes the example of a lake on a mountain top, which has the potential energy to generate electricity only if somehow the water from the lake can be flown downwards by the engineer and converted into kinetic energy. The hydroelectric plant below the lake is where the conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy takes place, producing electricity. The assets owned by the people harbour the potential to create capital via additional production but to harness this potential energy a process is needed. To convert the asset into capital, formal property system acts as the hydroelectric plant which can transform the assets into capital. The assets reach the formal property system via a simplified legal system which ropes in all the sections of a society and the property they own.

According to the author at present, there are only twenty nations therein which capital is generated and the one thing they all have in common with each other is a formal property system where capital creation takes place. But these systems did not exist from time immemorial ranking instead they are a recent development in the Western and other developed nations. To understand this better De Soto traces the history of the United States back to the American Revolution when the thirteen colonies were under British rule.

The challenging American experience of the colonial and post-colonial authorities with the squatter settlements is exactly what the developing and post-communist countries have undergone till date. These legal authorities are engaged in a constant tussle with the extra-legal settlements, as they are seen as a hindrance to the economic progress of a nation. This notion of the legal tussle holds significance even fifteen years after it was propounded. This proves that even the mightiest producer of capital had to go through what currently the developing and former communist countries are going through.

This historical reference of the author to the social contracts in American history gives the readers a necessary break from the property and capitalist jargons. While exploring the historical aspects of the formal property system in America, the author has also mentioned the violent transformation which the United States had to pass through before it finally structured a formal property system for its citizens, inclusive of the earlier extra-legal properties. While unfolding this idea, De Soto talks about how to recognise the extra-legal sector in the first place, as the assets they own are mere physical representations and are not representative of their legal characteristics.

Though the book has managed to give an innovative idea to the solution of the mystery of capital, the author has not stopped at merely discussing the solution but has also given an elaborate list of steps, which if followed can remedy the problem of absence of a formal property structure and  capital creation in a society (p. 168-169).

While trying to understand the role of property in capital creation, the author prescribes that if capital has to be created, it can only be done if there is a formal property structure in place. This over-simplification of the process of capital creation can hit the reader and cultivate a sense of suspicion in their mind whilst they try to grasp this notion throughout the book.

The ideas presented in the book make the readers examine capitalism from a new lens, where the author is not merely talking about the positive or negative aspects of capitalism or criticising the communist regime. The author believes capitalism is in crisis outside the Western world, not because international globalisation is failing, but because the developing and post-communist countries have not been able to globalise the capital within their own territories. While the majority of the population outside the bell jar view capitalism as a private club discriminating against them in every way possible, the author believes the system of capitalism is in itself not flawed, only its promoters are arrogant and drunk on their victory over communism, and they are yet to understand that their macroeconomics reforms are not enough.

The book can be suggested for both the Capitalists and the Marxists. The author himself claims that he is not a die-hard capitalist and does not view capitalism as a credo. Yet while promoting the idea of reviving the capitalist systems in the developing nations because ‘capitalism is the only game in town’, he talks about the ghost of Marx which haunts us in this era, where proletariat uprising can happen any moment if the bell jar is not lifted and masses are not given access to the legal property systems. This ideological balance of the author is clear and stable throughout the book.

 Finally, the innovative and revolutionary ideas propounded by Hernando De Soto, are eye catching and one can stumble upon their simplicity whilst understanding the role of property systems in the development process in developing and post-communist countries. Yet the sole reliance of the author on just one aspect of capital creation gives a narrow appeal to the narrative of capitalism. It can be qualified as an essential condition for the development process but it cannot be placed as a pre-condition to the development paradigm.

(Samarth Bharadwaj is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at

Unlimited Growth on a Finite Planet

Vivek Raj Anand



Aurelio Peccei, an Italian scholar and industrialist, looked at the contemporary national crisis of the 20th century as symptoms of a larger insidious global crisis. He founded the Club of Rome, a virtual think tank —consisting of scientists, educators, humanists, and businessmen who were concerned with global issues— in 1968. Peccei believed that the new problems faced by humanity could not be categorised solely as economic, ecological, social or security problems. Rather, each problem is multi-faceted, where all the aspects are interconnected and interacting amongst themselves. It is the design of these interconnections and patterns of interactions that determine the nature of such dynamic global problems. Furthermore, cause-effect relationships inherent in such problems are counter-intuitive in nature, as the human mind has not gathered requisite intuition for understanding complex systems. Human intuition is trained to work in the context of simple systems; however, complex systems like Earth do not behave in the same way. Dynamic correlations between various subsystems determine the behaviour of complex systems.

System Dynamics is the science that studies interconnections between complex systems and Peccei wanted a system dynamics based scientific simulation model to forecast the future of humanity and planet earth. Dennis Meadows, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, took up the project of constructing a simulation model, with funds coming from Volkswagen Foundation.

The team worked on the hypothesis that unlimited growth —propelled by population, industrialisation, pollution, food production and non-renewable resource utilization— is not sustainable because of the limited physical endowment of planet earth. The outcome of this project has been described in this book “Limits to Growth”.

Exponential Growth

Modern economics presume that despite the peaks and troughs of business cycles, economies would always continue to grow in the long term. This book rebuts the aforesaid presumption of perpetual growth and ascribes the reason to the finiteness of Earth’s physical resources, which would eventually exhaust due to exponential growth in material demand. While authors acknowledge the diminishing marginal utility of material consumption —only after having met the threshold limit necessary for ensuring the basic well-being, the argument presented by the unrestrained growth is not on ethical or ideological grounds.  

The book explains the concept of exponential function in a rather lucid and non-mathematical manner, and provides an intuitive understanding of reasons behind the exponential growth in population and industrial output through the use of “feedback loops”. The study group observed the dominance of positive feedback loops in all the studied variables – population, industrial output, pollution, food production and non-renewable resource utilisation.

Further, the book juxtaposes exponential growth in aforesaid variables with a decline of finite physical resources of the planet, so as to ascertain the overshoot[1] and cross point. Those physical resources determine the carrying capacity of the planet, and are hence the ‘Limits to growth’.


The mandate of the research was not to make a doomsday prediction. Rather, it was a mathematical modelling exercise whereby endogenous variables like population growth, industrial output, pollution, food production and non-renewable resources were iterated so as to project different future scenarios of the world. The iterations of these variables represent different growth trajectories adopted by world economies, and hence it was left to mankind to choose a particular trajectory. The team developed twelve such scenarios, which included the collapse scenarios and the equilibrium ones.

The book concluded that human ecological footprint, if unchecked, would grow beyond the carrying capacity of globe i.e. what planet can provide on a sustainable basis. In the long run, it is impossible that humanity can use more physical resources and generate more emissions every year than what nature is capable of supplying and absorbing in a sustainable manner. As demand can never overshoot supply, the human ecological footprint will eventually decline either through “managed decline” or through “collapse” to sustainable levels. An example of managed decline would be limiting the annual catch of fish to a sustainable limit through legislation. An example of the latter would be the elimination of fishing communities because there are no more fish left in water bodies. The authors also argued that while market, technology and government are capable of making positive interventions, such interventions would only defer the crisis and not solve the problem, as long as there is no check on exponential growth. Hence, the cross and overshoot will still happen, but only at a later date.

Standard run. The model was tested under various assumptions, beginning with the “standard run”. Standard run assumes business as usual conditions as it existed in 1972, i.e. in the next one hundred years, there will be no significant changes in the nature of growth in the five variables. Not too surprisingly, the model projected disaster long before the end of the twenty-first century because of complete exhaustion of resources (Refer Figure 1).


Figure 1 Standard Run – Business as usual – Resource exhaustion

Succeeding runs These were made with more favourable assumptions, but all indicated collapse within a hundred years.

Stable model or Equilibrium. The study group wanted their proposed model to be self-sustaining —sustainable without sudden and uncontrollable collapse— and at the same time capable of satisfying the basic material requirements of the world. Authors called such a state as ‘Equilibrium’, a state where population and capital are stable,  and the forces tending to increase or decrease them are in a carefully controlled balance. This is possible when birth rate equals the death rate and capital investment rate equals the depreciation rate. Now, this equilibrium —i.e stable population and capital— can be at high or low levels of population and capital. Authors say that the level of capital and population, and the ratio of the two, should be set in accordance with the values of society. They may be deliberately revised and slowly adjusted as the advance of technology creates new options. (Refer Figure 2).


Figure 2 Sustainable development or Equilibrium Scenarios

Authors claim that this equilibrium does not refer to the stagnation of an economy; rather, it is dynamic in nature. Within stable population and capital, corporations could expand or fail, local population could increase or decrease. Services provided by a constant stock of capital would continue to increase due to technological advances. Besides that, human activities that do not require a large flow of irreplaceable resources or cause severe environmental degradation might continue to grow indefinitely. In fact those pursuits which are most desirable and satisfying like education, art, music, religion, basic scientific research, athletics and social interaction could flourish. This could be made possible through an increase in leisure. Such increase in leisure can be made possible only through improvement in production methods using technology. This increased leisure time could be devoted to any activity that is relatively non-consuming and non-polluting.

Readability and Limitations

The book has been suitably written so that general public can understand a rather complex subject matter of system dynamics based simulation model. Mathematical concepts like exponential growth, compounding effect, etc. have been explained in an intuitive manner. However, readers who do not have exposure to mathematical modelling will face difficulty in understanding the scenarios developed by the team.

The book can be critiqued on multiple accounts, more specifically on its assumptions and simplifications made in the model.  Authors themselves acknowledge that there are many imperfections in the model, and the same can always be improved upon. However, all those critical comments belong to a single genre, which is the limitation of any modelling exercise conducted in social sciences. No model can truly predict the future that is related to human actions or inactions. Furthermore, history has always advanced through lurching discontinuities, most of them were utterly unpredictable and hence they are not programmable.


The book has significant policy implications, especially for problems that are global in nature. It also exhibits the power of data analytics and computer simulation in making objective future projections. No model can fully represent the complexity of a society that consists of human beings who are invariably guided by bounded rationality and whose response is extremely dynamic. Moreover, no mathematical model can factor in all the tangible and intangible variables that determine human actions or inactions. However, the world model developed by Dennis Meadows’ team was successful in providing a heads-up to an ensuing crisis if business as usual continues. Such a heads up is all the more important for phenomenon related to complex systems with high time-constants as it warrants forthwith action. The book projects a crisis that is a necessary —but certainly not sufficient— condition for inspiring policy actions.

[1] Overshoot refers to going too far i.e. going beyond the limits. For instance, if too many trees are cut every year, the forests will ultimately vanish despite natural regrowth phenomenon.


(Vivek Raj Anand is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at

NJAC: A Necessary Evil?

Siddharth Sekhar Barpanda

There is little doubt that Indian citizens from all walks of life are tired of the slow process of reforms customary in the nation. There is also a valid reason to blame the Government (of the day) for the sorry state of affairs. Democracy is work-in-progress and it takes time to build institutions capable of meeting the demands of an aspirational society. But, is it only the Executive and the Legislative pillars of democracy, which to a large extent overlaps in the Indian context, are to be held responsible for bad governance? Isn’t the Judiciary, if not wholly, but nevertheless partially liable?

Pendency (of Cases) & Vacancy (of Judges) Galore!

Let’s first look at some current issues distinctive and ubiquitous to Indian judiciary. The access to speedy justice is still a dream for the majority of the citizens. The courts in India are famous for their long & arduous process of delivering justice. No wonder, the pendency of cases in courts are rising day by day. In the Supreme Court of India alone, the pendency of cases stands at 61300 (as on 1st March 2015). Similarly, across the nation’s 24 High Courts, cumulatively more than 4 lakh cases are pending. These astronomical figures in itself stand as an alibi to the poor functioning of Indian judiciary.

Of course, for a country of 1.27 billion people, this may seem defensible. Yet, the higher judiciary cannot hide behind the veil of a large population. Even so, the pendency of cases is related to the quantity & quality of Judges. The Law Ministry has itself in its annual report claimed that Shortage of judges in courts is one of the main causes for backlog and pendency of cases in courts.As on 1st August 2015, there are 3 vacancies in Supreme Court of India against the approved strength of 31 (including Chief Justice of India). Moreover, there are 384 vacancies in all 24 High Courts against a total approved strength of 1017.

The Need for NJAC

So basically, the vacancies only in Supreme Court and 24 High Courts amounts to 36.9% of the total sanctioned strength. Note that, this doesn’t include the District & Subordinate Courts. Also, it’s true that many appointed judges lack competency and credibility. Justice Rama Pal, a former judge of the Supreme Court described the process by which a judge is appointed to the High Court or the Supreme Court as, “one of the best-kept secrets in this country”!

It is in this context, the need to have a comprehensive, transparent and a robust mechanism to select judges of the SC and HCs was initiated. Subsequently, the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014 and the corresponding Constitutional Amendment Act came into force on 13th April 2015, after the Parliament passed it by a special majority followed by ratification of the new legislation by 16 State legislatures, and subsequently assented by the President of India.

The Impact on Governance

However, some Public Interest Litigations (PIL) challenged the constitutionality of the NJAC on the ground that it affects the independence of the judiciary that forms part of the basic structure of the Constitution, which is inviolable. A 5-member bench, set up by the Chief Justice of India, is now hearing the validity of the legislature’s decision to do away with the two-decade-old collegium system of judicial appointments.

Without going into the larger philosophical debate of whether the Government or the Supreme Court has the right to invoke the basic principles of Constitution, it’s important to address the inconvenience caused to the citizens due to this ideological tussle between the Government and the Supreme Court. On April 27, 2015, the Chief Justice of India informed the Prime Minister that he would not join the NJAC panel until the SC decides on the validity of the new system.

As eminent and distinguished lawyers argue the controversial case in the SC, the vacancies in the higher judiciary are increasing every passing month.

Judges Vacancies in HCs

1st May 2015

1st June 2015

1st July 2015

1st Aug 2015

The need of the hour is that the democracy should function for the larger public good as opposed to the ongoing supremacy struggle between the different pillars of the state.

(Siddharth Sekhar Barpanda is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at


Department of Justice, Government of India

Department of Justice, Government of India (


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