Monday, June 17, 2013
Sunday, June 16, 2013
25-26 July 2013, The Ashok, New Delhi
Organised by FICCI and DST
Accomplished individuals from India and across the globe, comprising, senior R&D experts, policy-makers, business leaders, innovators, investors and entrepreneurs from various sectors and areas of specialization will be brought together to exchange fire wire ideas, experiences and best practices in R&D management and strategy, delivered through a mix of plenary addresses, panel discussions, presentations and workshops.
The event will also aim to create a high level networking ground for people to explore new collaborations, refresh existing ones and showcase projects, programs and demonstrated success stories to connect with players and stakeholders of R&D community.
- India as a preferred destination for global R&D
- Identify strategic and economic rationale for corporate R&D outsourcing
- Stimulate industry-academia-public lab partnerships in national R&D
- Endorse best practices in R&D management and strategy
- Foster R&D leadership for emerging Indian economy
- Analyse national R&D environment and policy
- Create culture of R&D investment and IP creation
- Healthcare & Pharma
- Manufacturing & Production
- ICT & Telecom
- Defence & Security
- Sustainable & Renewable Energy
- Agriculture & Biotech
- Water Purification, Recycle & Reuse
Global R&D Summit 2013 invites researchers from industry, academia, public labs and independent research organisations to submit papers pertaining to above mentioned areas for poster presentation at the event. Papers must be submitted as per following guidelines -
- Papers must be submitted only as an email attachment (MS Word/PDF format) and sent to Mr. Dipanjan Banerjee, Sr. Asst. Director, S&T/Innovation Division, FICCI, at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Papers must include a one-page abstract not exceeding 300 words, without sketches, tables etc.
- Each author is entitled to submit only one paper.
- Selected papers will be allowed only for poster presentation at the event.
- Organisers will provide standard display boards for poster presentation.
- Principal author along with one co-author of each selected paper will be entitled for complimentary passes of the event.
- All participating authors should be able to organise their own travel and stay arrangements.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Monday, June 10, 2013
Invite Suggestions/Views on "The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill 2013 & The Agricultural Biosecurity Bill 2013'"
Parliament of India
Rajya Sabha Secretariat
Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests
Suggestions/Views on "The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Of India Bill, 2013"
1. "The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, 2013" as introduced and pending in Lok Sabha has been referred to the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests, headed by Dr. T. Subbarami Reddy, M.P., Rajya Sabha for examination and report.
2. Modern biotechnology is recognised globally as a rapidly advancing science wherein advanced molecular techniques and processes are employed to develop useful products, processes and services in areas of agriculture, human and animal healthcare, environment management and industry. Biotechnology industry in India has, been growing at an average annual rate of twenty to thirty percent during the last five years and its turnover exceeded Rs. 20,440.00 crores approximately. There are, however, public concerns in respect of organisms and products derived from modern biotechnology on human, animal and environmental safety. Various countries have developed regulatory mechanisms to ensure safe and responsible use of biotechnology organisms and products. But in India, activities and processes involving the genetically engineered organisms and product thereof, are broadly regulated under the 'Rules for Manufacture, Use/Import/Export and Storage of hazardous Micro organisms/Genetically Engineered organisms or cells 1989' notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the guidelines published by the Department of Biotechnology. But despite the aforesaid rules and guidelines, India has experienced a number of challenges. A Task Force on the Application of Agriculture Biotechnology constituted by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2003 recommended establishment of an autonomous, statutory and professionally-led National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority which was supported by the other Task Force on recombinant pharma constituted by Ministry of Environment & Forests in 2004.
3. In pursuance of the recommendations of the above Task Forces, this Bill aims inter-alia at establishing an independent statutory regulator to be known as the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India, to regulate research, transport, import, manufacture and use of organisms and products of modern biotechnology to promote the safe use of modern biotechnology by enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of robust regulatory procedures.
4. The Committee has decided to invite Memoranda containing views/suggestions from individuals/organizations interested in the subject matter of the bill.
5. Those desirous of submitting Memoranda to the Committee may send their written Memoranda either in English or Hindi to Shri Alok Chatterjee, Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 005, Ground Floor, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi-ll0001. [Tel. No. 011-23034597, Fax No. 011-23015585 Email: email@example.com] within thirty days from the date of publication of this advertisement. Those who are willing to appear before the Committee for oral evidence besides submitting the Memoranda may indicate so. However, the Committee's decision in this regard shall be final. The Memoranda submitted to the Committee would form part of the records of the Committee and would be treated as confidential and would enjoy privileges of the Committee. The Committee will have full right on Memoranda received. It mayor may not use those Memoranda while preparing the report.
6. The Bill has been published in the Gazette of India Extraordinary Part II dated the 22nd April, 2013. Copies ofthe Bill can be had on written request to the above mentioned officer or can be downloaded from the official website of the Rajya Sabha (http://rajyasabha.nic.in) under the caption "Bills with the Committees".
Published on 11/06/2013
Parliament of India
Lok Sabha Secretariat
Departmentally Related Standing Committee on Agriculture
Invites Suggestions On 'The Agricultural Biosecurity Bill 2013'.
The Agricultural Biosecurity Bill, 2013' as introduced in Lok Sabha on 11 March, 2013 and pending therein has been referred to the Departmentally Related Standing Committee on Agriculture under the Chairmanship of Shri Basudeb Acharia, MP for examination and Report to the Parliament. The text of the Bill as introduced in Lok Sabha is available on the Website http://www.parliamentofindia.nic.in under the heading 'Legislation'. A copy of the Bill may also be obtained on request from the Committee on Agriculture Branch, Room Nos. 614/616, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi -110001.
The Agricultural Biosecurity Bill, 2013 proposes: -
a) integration of plant and animal quarantine services;
b) establishment of an Authority for prevention, control, eradication and management of pests and diseases of plants and animals and unwanted organisms for ensuring agricultural biosecurity;
c) to meet international obligations of India for facilitating imports and exports of plants, plant products, animals, animal products, aquatic organisms and regulation of agriculturally important micro-organisms;
d) prevention and control of pest infestation or infection, including declaration of an area as "controlled area" for this purpose and measures for control of such infestation or infection;
e) provision for inspection, taking samples, entry and search of premises checking of conveyances to ensure compliance of phytosanitary and sanitary measures and also seizure, treatment and disposal of plants, animals and their products to prevent spread of pests by designated officers;
f) declaration of biosecurity emergency in case of outbreak of orqanisms threatening biosecurity and actions and procedures to deal with it;
g) removal of plant, animals, their products and other objects imported in violation of the provisions of the proposed legislation.
The Committee invites written memoranda containing suggestions/views comments of Experts/Stakeholders/ individuals/institutions/organizations interested in the subject matter of the Bill.
All those who are interested in submitting written memorandum may sent two copies thereof either in English or in Hindi to The Deputy Secretary (Agr.), Lok Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 616, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi, 110001, Tel No. 23034042, Fax No. 23018865, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org within three weeks from the date of publication of this advertisement. Those who wish to appear before the Committee, besides submitting memorandum, are requested to specifically indicate so. However, the Committee's decision in this regard shall be final.
The memorandum submitted to the Committee would form part of the records of the Committee and would be treated as strictly 'Confidential' and not circulated to anyone, as such an act would constitute a breach of privilege of the Committee.
Published on 07/06/2013
Monday, June 3, 2013
Right to Welfare: Education, Food and Work
August 2nd and 3rd, 2013
Call for Papers
The Law, Governance and Development Initiative is a research initiative at Azim Premji University committed to rethinking the place of law and governance in securing the goals of development. While we skeptical of thin instrumentalist claims about the economic benefits of law and legal system reform we recognize that a well-organized legal system potentially enhances human well being. In 2012 we organized an international conference exploring and analyzing legal system reform in India. The presentations are available on our website (http://www.azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in/lgdi/papers-presented) and the papers presented are currently being compiled and edited to be released as a book later this year.
Our second annual conference will be held on August 2nd and 3rd, 2013, on the theme "The Right to Welfare: Education, Food and Work." This year, we explore the statutory rights based approach to welfare with a specific focus on the statutory entitlements to education, food and work. The relationship between law and development provides the wider theoretical framework for the enquiry into welfare. The panels for this year's conference are:
- Law and Development,
- Statutory Rights-Based Approach to Welfare,
- Statutory Rights and Obligations under the RTE Act, NREG Act and the Food Security Bill,
- Role of Courts: Recognition of Rights,
- Role of Courts: Enforcement of Rights, and
- Implementation of Rights.
We invite academics, scholars, graduate and post-graduate students, and lawyers to submit 200-300 word abstracts. Last date for submission of abstracts is June 25, 2013. The last date to submit the final paper is July 25, 2013. The abstracts / papers may be emailed to email@example.com.
Authors of selected papers and the ten best student papers will be informed by the end of June 2013. These authors will be invited to attend the conference and organizers will cover costs of domestic economy travel and accommodation.
For more details including the concept notes and themes for the seminars visit: http://www.azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in/lgdi/conference-2013/
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Research Assessment: Declaring War on the Impact Factor
by P. Balaram
Editorial, Current Science, 104(10): 1267-1268, 25 May 2013
Nearly forty years ago, when I began my research career in India, science proceeded at a leisurely pace. There was little by way of funding or major facilities even at the best of institutions. Enthusiasm and interest were the key ingredients in maintaining a focus on research. The environment still contained many role models, who had made significant contributions to their chosen fields, under undoubtedly difficult circumstances. The mid-1970s was a time when political and economic uncertainties precluded a great deal of government interest in promoting science. There was relatively little pressure on researchers to publish papers. The age of awards and financial incentives lay in the distant future. In those more sedate times, the results of research were written up when the findings appeared interesting enough to be communicated. The choice of journals was limited and most scientists seemed to be content with submitting manuscripts to journals where their peers might indeed read the papers. Journals were still read in libraries. Note taking was common, photocopies were rare and the 'on-line journal' had not yet been conceived. The academic environment was not overtly competitive. I never heard the word 'scooped' in the context of science, until well into middle age. Eugene Garfield's 'journal impact factor' (JIF) had not penetrated into the discourse of scientists, although the parameters for ranking journals had been introduced into the literature much earlier. The word 'citation' was rarely heard. In the library of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) there was a lone volume of the 1975 Science Citation Index (a hardbound, printed version, extinct today), presumably obtained gratis, which sat forlorn and unused on rarely visited shelves. Only a few hardy and curious readers would even venture near this sample of the Citation Index, which seemed of little use. It required both effort and energy to search the literature in the 1970s. Few could have foreseen a time when administrators of science in distant Delhi would be obsessed with the many metrics of measuring science, of which the JIF was a forerunner. Indeed, the unchecked and virulent growth of the use of scientometric indices in assessing science has at last begun to attract a backlash; an 'insurgency' that has resulted in the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), whose stated intention is to begin 'putting science into the assessment of research'. The declaration is signed by 'an ad -hoc coalition of unlikely insurgents – scientists, journal editors and publishers, scholarly societies, and research funders across many scientific disciplines', who gathered at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (am.ascb.org/dora/May 16, 2013). An editorial by Bruce Alberts in the May 17 issue of Science (2013, 340, 787) notes that 'DORA aims to stop the use of the "journal impact factor" in judging an individual scientist's work in order "to correct distortions in the evaluation of scientific research" '.
The origins of the 'impact factor' may be traced to a largely forgotten paper that appeared in Science in 1927, which described a study carried out at Pomona College in California, that begins on an intriguing note: 'Whether we would have it or not, the purpose of a small college is changing'. The authors describe an attempt to draw up a priority list of chemistry journals to be obtained for the library. Budgetary constraints were undoubtedly a major matter of concern in the late 1920s. I cannot resist reproducing here the authors' stated purpose in carrying out this exercise over eighty five years ago, as their words may strike a chord in readers interested in the problem of uplifting the science departments of colleges in India today: 'What files of scientific periodicals are needed in a college library successfully to prepare the student for advanced work, taking into consideration also those materials necessary for the stimulation and intellectual development of the faculty? This latter need is quite as important as the first because of the increasing demand of the colleges for instructors with the doctorate degree. Such men are reluctant to accept positions in colleges where facilities for continuing the research which they have learned to love are lacking' (Gross, P. L. K. and Gross, E. M., Science, 1927, LXVI, 385). The procedure adopted was simple; draw up a list of journals most frequently cited in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), the flagship publication of the American Chemical Society. Much can be learnt about the history of chemistry (and, indeed, more generally about science) by examining the list of the top six journals (other than JACS) recommended for a college chemistry library in the United States, in 1927: Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, The Journal of the Chemical Society (London), Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie, Annalen der Chemie (Liebig's), The Journal of Physical Chemistry and The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Clearly, in the 1920s the literature of chemistry was overwhelmingly dominated by European journals. For students growing up in the frenetic world of modern science, I might add that Science, Nature and PNAS appear far down the list. A similar exercise carried out today would reveal a dramatically different list of journals; undoubtedly a reflection of the turbulent history of the 20th century.
The journal impact factor emerged in the 1970s as a tool to rank journals. In the early years, it was largely a metric that was of limited interest. The revolution in the biomedical sciences resulted in an explosive growth of journals in the last two decades of the 20th century; a period that coincided with the dramatic rise of information technology and the emergence of the internet. The acquisition of the Institute for Scientific Information by Thomson Reuters lent a hard commercial edge to the marketing of the tools and databases of scientometrics; the Web of Science began to enmesh the world of science. Journal impact factors appear unfailingly, every year, making the business of publishing science journals an extremely competitive exercise. Journal editors scramble to devise schemes for enhancing impact factors and scientists are drawn to submit articles to journals that appear high on the ranking lists. If JIFs were used only to compare journals there may have been little to grumble about. Unfortunately, individuals soon began to be judged by the impact factors of the journals in which they had published. Some years ago the use of an 'average impact factor' was actively promoted in India, to judge both individuals and institutions. The introduction of the 'h-index', a citation based parameter that appeared in the literature a few years ago, as a means of ranking individual performance, may have drawn away a few adherents of the average impact factor. Very few proponents of the JIF as an assessment tool in India appear conscious of obvious limitations. Most impact factors are driven up by a few highly cited papers, while others bask in reflected glory. The field specific nature of the JIF can lead to extremely misleading conclusions, when comparing individuals and institutions using this imperfect metric. Despite these drawbacks, the use of JIF as a tool of research assessment has reached epidemic proportions worldwide, with countries like India, China and the countries of southern Europe being among the hardest hit. Students in India, particularly those working in the biological sciences and chemistry in many of our best institutions, are especially self conscious; constantly worrying about the JIF when they submit papers.
The Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is a call to take up arms against the insidious JIF. Its general recommendation is a call for a boycott: 'Do not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist's contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.' Scholarship and achievement can be judged without using a metric that was never designed for the purpose. The Declaration also has a message that may well be worth heeding by researchers in India: 'Challenge research assessment practices that rely inappropriately on Journal Impact Factors and promote and teach best practice that focuses on the value and influence of specific research outputs.' In his Science editorial, Alberts is trenchant: 'The misuse of the journal impact factor is highly destructive, inviting a gaming of the metric that can bias journals against publishing papers in fields (such as social sciences or ecology) that are much less cited than others (such as biomedicine).'
Research assessments have also become commonplace in ranking institutions. The metrics used rely substantially on publication numbers and citations, invariably based on the Web of Science, although additional parameters contribute in differing ranking schemes. In recent times, both the Prime Minister and the President have publicly lamented that no Indian university or institution appeared in the 'top 200' in the world (The Hindu, 5 February 2013 and 16 April 2013). While there may be much to lament about in Indian higher education, are the rankings really an issue that needs immediate attention? In an Op-Ed piece in The Hindu (9 March 2013), Philip Altbach is categorical: 'For India, or other developing countries to obsess about rankings is a mistake. There may be lessons, but not rules.... The global rankings measure just one kind of academic excellence, and even here the tools of measurement are far from perfect.' Altbach notes, and many analysts would undoubtedly agree, that two systems, 'the Academic Ranking of World Universities, popularly known as the "Shanghai rankings", and the World University Rankings of Times Higher Education (THE) are methodologically respectable and can be taken seriously'. While the former measures only research impact, with several parameters weighted towards the highest level of achievement (number of Nobel prize recipients in an institution), the latter 'measures a wider array of variables'. Altbach adds: 'Research and its impact is at the top of the list, but reputation is also included as are several other variables such as teaching quality and internationalization. But since there is no real way to measure teaching or internationalization weak proxies are used. Reputation is perhaps the most controversial element in most of the national and global rankings.' Altbach's critique, of an apparent obsession with university rankings in India, was quickly countered by Phil Baty, the editor of THE rankings who warns: '...it would be a far greater mistake for Indian institutions and policy makers to under-use the global rankings than to overuse them' (The Hindu, 11 April 2013). It may indeed be important for institutions to appreciate the rules of the game if they are to achieve a competitive score. Policy makers would also benefit if they set out to understand the tools of research assessment before they begin to use them.Source: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/104/10/1267.pdf
Himal SouthAsian, 08 April 2013
Girja Kumar's book on the Indus and the cultures tied to it obscures a tremendous wealth of interconnected histories and beliefs.
The Indus People: Saraiki Saga and Sufi-Sant Renaissance; By Girja Kumar; Vitasta, 2013.
It has been found that most ancient communities shared deep-seated, multifarious and intricate links with rivers. Rivers have been the life-blood of civilisations, spawning them for time immemorial. Every riverbank endures the footprints of myriad different lives. Rivers have been of utmost importance to everyday human life due to the simple fact that they are sources of water, locomotion, trade and livelihoods. The multitude of ways in which humans interact with rivers makes them much more than just waterways. It is this realisation that induces immense respect for rivers in several societies.
Going beyond sustenance, rivers have also been sources of inspiration for creativity, symbols of enlightenment, sites for cultural activities and spiritual discourses. Intrinsic components in all rites of passage from birth to death, rivers seem to invoke both celebration and sorrow. So much a part of both the mundane and the sublime, they are simultaneously taken for granted, and deeply revered. This is especially the case in the Subcontinent, where rivers are elevated to the status of goddesses.
We find in cities today a trend of looking at the past to find one's roots in order to combat the alienation and rootlessness that urban and cosmopolitan sensibilities sometimes foster. Several books have been written in this vein: Empires of the Indus, The Lost River, and my own, In Search of Yamuna. The Indus People by Girja Kumar also responds to this mood of journeying into the Subcontinent's history to uncover the shared roots of India and Pakistan, which have more in common than either nation-state might want to believe. It is a cultural history of the north-western part of the Subcontinent, without viewing India and Pakistan as two separate countries but as a region watered by the Indus, and a civilisation cradled by the culture cultivated along and around this river. The main aspects of culture that this book touches upon are the Saraiki language accredited to the Indus basin, the Sufi-Bhakti cult, the legend of the Mahabharata, the Vedic and Sikh religions, and the various Punjabi communities and castes.
Attempting to trace this shared culture of language, literature, philosophical and spiritual discourse back to the Indus River, the book falls short of drawing substantive links between these different aspects and the river. While discussing the Indus, the book does not address how people of this region derive their identity from it, nor how the philosophical traditions and languages mentioned in the book are linked with the river. While discussing the Sufi-Bhakti cult, Kumar ignores the river's significance, as he does while discussing Saraiki identity. Failing to link concepts of language, culture, religion and region with each other and with the river, the book leaves the reader with several characters but no story of how they meet.
Simply bad scholarship
This dearth of connecting lines runs throughout the book. Kumar repeatedly refers to geographical regions, rivers and unheard of places, but the absence of maps is conspicuous. The lack of these and other key details in the text leaves readers with no way of contextualising the information that is provided. In a few instances, these details are mentioned in passing at a much later stage and in an arbitrary fashion. There is a constant need to locate these spaces, people and languages in current geo-political spaces, with current names of those locations and languages.
Not only is there a lack of connections and contextualisation, but the information that is provided about the river, languages, saints and religions is very sketchy, arranged out of chronological order, repetitive and often irrelevant. The descriptions are customarily non-academic and superficial. This makes the entire narrative rather incoherent and fragmented, as the author skips from discussing the Mahabharata to the Baloch tribes, and then suddenly to Saraiki and back to the Indus. This jumping between the river, language, people and religion is a mark of this book as it happens in nearly every chapter, with less than a page devoted to each. In this constant back and forth between a set of four or five concepts and several time zones, the reader is left with pieces of unrelated information, scattered facts and disjointed ideas, which one doesn't know how to piece together. Several subjects appear out of nowhere, as with the Mahabharata, as no attempts have been made to draw an association between it and the language and culture discussed in the book. One wonders why so many chapters have been devoted to the Mahabharata even though it has not been woven into the general theme of the book.
The section on the castes and communities of the Punjab is surprisingly comprehensive, at least for the lay reader. An ethnologist would, however, be in a better position to comment on the data and the inferences drawn. The sections on Sufi and Bhakti cults, although extensive, are approached in a way that, instead of giving one holistic picture of the philosophies and ideas of the cults, deals with each saint separately and offers almost the same account about each one. The reader would perhaps prefer to learn more about the ontology of these cults than the characteristics and personalities of each saint. Here, Kumar also seems to have no qualms about presenting his personal opinions as facts, assuming history to be neutral. This leads him to make sweeping statements on several occasions.
He also appears oddly preoccupied with trying to categorise the saints as Hindu or Muslim, which defeats the very purpose of any discussion on Sufi-Bhakti cults, which consciously chose to transcend religious boundaries. Moreover, the author's own bias towards Vedantic thought is revealed many times in recurrent statements about Vedantic influence on Indian Sufism – perhaps as a deliberate attempt to attract Hindu audiences. Such a notion discounts the theory that ideas present in Vedantic philosophy pervaded Islamic thought from before its entry into India, and that these are what the Sufis drew from. The discussion on Bhakti cults in other parts of the country seems somehow misplaced, especially considering that the author could more appropriately have juxtaposed them with the developments in Saraiki literature and Sufi cults in the Punjab. Since the book is defined by rivers, it would be interesting to see how Bhakti traditions comprehend the Yamuna (in Krishna-related poetry) and Sufi traditions relate to the Indus (which is worshipped by Hindus and Muslims alike as the Zinda Pir, or the 'Living Saint'). This too, however, has been strangely omitted.
Often, names of people and places are mentioned without any explanation, description or history, as if the reader is expected to be familiar with them already. It also leads to a casual writing style, where vernacular words are neither italicised nor translated, jargon is not defined and explained, and context is overlooked, rendering the book more an anthology of Kumar's opinions, strung together without foundation. He presents the Mahabharata as history, without clearly stating at the outset that this is his belief. There are almost no citations, which is bizarre for a book on history and geography, and the author presents numerous pieces of data as if they were products of his own research.
It is impossible to miss the frequent spelling, punctuation and spacing errors, betraying the text's lack of editing and proofreading. It pans out as less of an academic engagement with the subjects at hand and more of a drawing-room discussion, with the purpose of reminiscing about the Punjab that was, and writing an ode to it. It also leaves one speculating on what the book is really about – what is the author trying to tell us about the Indus basin? Amid scattered bits of information, the purpose of the book is lost and the title seems misleading – the Indus rarely serves as a common denominator. After reading the entire book, one may still be unsure of exactly what the difference between Saraiki and Punjabi is, whether Saraiki is still spoken in its original form, why there has been a recent upsurge in Saraiki identity, how is the language linked with the Indus, and what the river's place is in Saraiki culture.
For a book to be a biography of the Indus and its people, certain elements are vital – the river's geographical and ecological details, its history, the myriad cultural perceptions held about it, the cultures and religions of the people it sustains and its role in their lives. The historical journey should take the reader on an odyssey that cruises chronologically through the Indus Valley civilisation, Vedic civilisation, the drying up of the Sarasvati and its impact on Indus cultures, the post-Vedic shift towards the Ganga basin, new languages and religions arriving after foreign invasions, finally leading to the Sufi-Bhakti cults and their linkages with Saraiki. This could end with a discussion of the recent upsurge in Saraiki identity, and the place of the river in Saraiki and Sufi culture today.
This book's subject matter is of great significance at a time when several works on the region's rivers are emerging. Kumar's treatment unfortunately lacks finesse. This book could have been a great work: unravelling the common Punjabi heritage of India and Pakistan, dating back to pre-Vedic times and all the way up to Sufism and Sikhism, connecting these with the Indus, thereby establishing the nuanced relationships between civilisations and rivers, going beyond political frontiers. Although this book attempts to do so, it doesn't deliver, and so the fluvial histories of Saraiki and Sufism are yet to be unveiled.
~ Sarandha is the author of In Search of Yamuna: Reflections on a River Lost (Vitasta, 2011). After working with the Centre for Science and Environment, she is currently a research scholar at the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Monday, May 27, 2013
by Prabir G. Dastidar, Ajoy Mallik and Nripendranath Mandal
Scientometrics (2013), doi: 0.1007/s11192-013-0977-9 . First published online: 27 February 2013
Shrimp aquaculture constitutes a major economic activity of some middle- and low-level economies in the world. Though it is practiced by around 70 countries, it is primarily dominated by China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ecuador and India. These six countries account for 80 % of the global shrimp production. The study has highlighted the role of research in the development of the industry by taking the examples of Penaeus vannamei and P. monodon. In case of the former, a seven time rise in quantum of research (studied by the number of publications as a proxy) could induce five time increase in production, whereas, in the latter case similar pattern was not noticed. The study has observed that based on shrimp production and research contribution; the major 30 countries associated with shrimp aquaculture could be categorized as: (i) high production, high-research contribution, (ii) low production, high-research contribution and (iii) high production, low-research contribution. The countries under the third category are at great risk and may suffer huge economic losses in the event of outbreak of any disease. By generating network map of research linkage across different countries the study has highlighted the potential countries for strengthening the existing linkage and fostering new linkage for knowledge consolidation. The study has given some suggestion for policy formulation for achieving a rapid growth of shrimp aquaculture in the world.
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Citation analysis to reconstruct the dynamics of Antarctic ozone hole research and formulation of the Montreal Protocol
Olle Persson and Prabir G. Dastidar
Current Science, 10 April 2013, 104(07): 835-840.
The ozone layer acts like a shield in safeguarding the Earth by preventing the harmful ultraviolet radiations from entering into the atmosphere. Reported damage to the ozone layer in 1985 was a significant milestone in Antarctic science research. The research work played a significant role in generating international socio-political debate on this great environmental crisis. This article aims to reconstruct the intellectual developments in the field and identify important scientific events which contributed to the formulation of the world's most successful multilateral treaty, the Montreal Protocol. The dynamics of the research field was mapped using a newly developed indicator–weighted direct citations (WDC). The WDC value indicates intellectual closeness between two citations in terms of co-citations and shared references. Direct citations were weighted with shared references and co-citations to derive WDC values. An attempt was made to decompose the citation network of articles to identify significant activity layers. The work of J.C. Farman et al. (1985) and S. Solomon (1986), which are the top two most cited significant papers in the subject accounts for top WDC values jointly.
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SPP Article "Emerging technologies in India: Developments, debates and silences about nanotechnology" by Koen Beumer and Sujit Bhattacharya
by Koen Beumer and Sujit Bhattacharya
Science and Public Policy, 2013, doi: 10.1093/scipol/sct016 . First published online: May 22, 2013
In the last decade nanotechnology entered the policy arena as a technology that is simultaneously promising and threatening, and with a similar Janus-like face, nanotechnology entered the development agenda. How does a developing country like India deal with nanotechnology? Combining a quantitative and qualitative approach, this paper outlines the developments, discussions, and silences concerning nanotechnology in India. The nanotechnology landscape in India is dominated by government initiatives. Government investments led to a steady rise in global publication rankings, scientific collaborations and the number of institutions involved. This growth is mainly rooted in fundamental research and public research institutes. Industry involvement and patenting activity are at a nascent stage and developing slowly. Issues that were raised in the Indian context relate to funding, capacity, commercialization, regulation of risks, and the distribution of benefits. Nanotechnology is positively viewed across the board, with notable silences on ethical issues and the relation to the public.
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Thursday, May 23, 2013
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods for Research in Social Sciences; July 15-28; at CMDR, Dharwad, Karnataka
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods for Research in Social Sciences
A Capacity Building Programme for Faculty in Social Sciences
July 15-28, 2013
at Centre for Multi-disciplinary Development Research (CMDR), Dharwad, Karnataka
Centre for Multi-disciplinary Development Research (CMDR), a national level institute for multi-disciplinary research and training in social sciences recognised by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), is organising a 'Capacity Building Programme for Faculty in Social Sciences' from 15th July 2013 to 28th July 2013.
This programme is sponsored by Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi. The programme will be open to all faculty members of social science disciplines in research institutions, colleges and university UG/PG departments.
Preference will be given to SC and women candidates. Those who are interested in attending the course must submit their application in the prescribed format to the Co-ordinator, Capacity Building Programme-2013, Centre for Multi-disciplinary Development Research (CMDR), Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Nagar, Near Yellaki Shettar Colony, Dharwad-580004, Karnataka or at the following e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) by May 30th 2013.
The organisers will pay 3-tier AC fare and will take care of local hospitality for out-station participants.
Decisions on selection will be communicated by June 15th 2013.
Dr. Jai Prabhakar S C (Course Director)
Dr. Rajesh Raj S N (Course Co-Director)
Prof. Pushpa Trivedi (Director, CMDR & Patron of the Course)
Application and details of the programme can be downloaded HERE.
XVI International Conference on “Translation, Comparatism and the Global South”; Mysore; 15-18 December 2013
XVI International Conference on "Translation, Comparatism and the Global South"
In collaboration with Department of Studies in English, University of Mysore
Date: 15-18 December 2013
Venue: Hotel Regaalis, Mysore, India
Keynote Speakers:(a) Simon Gikandi is Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University.
(b) Arjun Appadurai is the Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.
Abstract Submission and Registration: 500-word abstract or proposal is due by August 30, 2013 as an email attachment to S. Shankar, the Convener of the Conference (email@example.com). The completed paper should reach the Convener of the Forum on Contemporary Theory (firstname.lastname@example.org) by November 15, 2013.
The last date for receiving the registration fee is September 20, 2013.
For a detailed concept note or information on registration, please visit: www.fctworld.org or email email@example.com
For further information any of the following may be contacted:
Prafulla C. Kar (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org), S. Shankar (Email: email@example.com), Mahadeva (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
CfPs: National Conference on Science in Society and Development: Nehru and Beyond; 23-24 October 2013; JMI, Delhi
National Conference on Science in Society and Development: Nehru and Beyond
Venue: Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
23-24 October 2013
Organized by Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia
& Vigyan Prasar, Department of Science & Technology (DST)
Call for Papers
The broad themes of the Conference are:
- Science-Society Relationship in Modern Development
- Social Reform and Science Communication
- Science Education as a Medium of Dissemination and Communication
- Technology, Livelihoods and Communication
- Gender and Social Equity in Production and Dissemination of Science &
- Science in the Public Domain
Academics and policymakers are invited to deliberate at the conference. Participants should submit original papers that will refereed by a panel of well recognized experts. These papers are expected to be published as a volume on the proceedings.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Theme: Education, Diversity and Democracy
Venue: ISI, Kolkata Campus
December 28-30, 2013
Comparative Education Society of India (CESI) (An Affiliate of the World Congress of Comparative Education Societies)
Organised by Department of Economics, University of Calcutta in association with Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata; Institute for Development Studies, Kolkata; Pratichi Institute, Kolkata
For any nation, progress in educational front – school education, higher education and technical education – is a prerequisite for development. It takes into account all three dimensions together: economic, social and cultural development. Also, educational progress has more than one positive externality across generations. Education is thus, in true sense, a representative example of multi-disciplinary research. Another feature, simultaneously true, is that it is a combination of academic research and field based action oriented research.
An international conference on education is a right platform for the purpose of dissemination and exchange of research results involving all these areas and related fields. The Department of Economics, University of Calcutta, as a part of its centenary celebration, is hosting this international conference under the aegis of the Comparative Education Society of India (CESI). Three premiere research institutes of Kolkata – the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), The Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata (IDSK), and the Pratichi Institute – are co-operating in such an effort of the University.
The CESI Annual Conference 2013 seeks to bring together a variety of theoretical and empirical perspectives to arrive at a better understanding of the issues involved. Through a reflexive inter-action, scholars and researchers in the field of education would deliberate on the challenges facing our country and the world.
The suggested sub-themes of the conference are as follows:
- Challenges of multicultural education
- Education and its relationship with democracy
- Inequalities in education
- Empirical and theoretical perspectives on diversity in education
- Affirmative action policies and its effects
- Methods of assessment, evaluation and social ranking
- Teacher education
- Educational policies and practices
- Management of diversity in schools/educational governance
- Work, occupations and educational transformations
- Community participation and civil society organizations in education
- Education of marginal groups
- Private sector in education
- Education and gender
- Curriculum and pedagogy
- Social movements and politics of change in education
- Migration and education/Education of migrant groups
- Technology and changing classroom practices
- The history of educational systems
- Experiencing pluralism in schools/colleges
- Poverty and Education
- Inclusion of weaker sections including the differently abled
- Concepts, theories and methods in educational studies
- Education and development
- Education, pluralism and conflict
- Analyzing textbooks with reference to equality, diversity and inclusion
- The state of education in West Bengal
Call for Papers
Papers are invited on any of the themes mentioned under concept note. The list of sub-themes is only suggestive. The abstracts must give a sense of the uniqueness of the topic and the theoretical or empirical or analytical research grounding of the themes chosen for presentation. The abstracts must state the research questions/problems succinctly. Abstracts are also expected to include literature survey and research methodology. Participants are requested to contribute original and well researched papers for the conference.Peer review process will be followed in accepting papers for presentation. Proposals for panel discussion are also invited.
Abstracts should ideally be within 500 words, typed in Times New Roman font of size 12 point with 1.5 line spacing. The margins of the page should be set to 1 inch (2.54 cm) on the four sides of a A4 size paper. 3 key words must be mentioned at the bottom of the abstract. The abstracts should be submitted in doc (or docx) and preferably also in pdf file formats.
Along with abstracts a one page top sheet containing following information should also be submitted: (i) Author's name(s); (ii) Title of the paper; (iii) Institutional affiliation and designation; (iv) Mobile no. and (v) E-mail id. This doc file should be saved in the name of the author (first author in case of joint authors). These information are required to give you updates relating to conference.
The abstracts and panel proposals may be sent to the Conference Organizing Secretary, Dr. Rabindranath Mukhopadhyay at : email@example.com. The last date of submission of abstracts is 30 June, 2013.
Last date for submission of Abstracts: 30th June, 2013
Confirmation of acceptance of the abstracts/ panels: 16th August, 2013
Last date for sending full papers: 27th October, 2013
Further details: www.cesikolkata2013.in
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Call for Abstracts
Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference
March 4–7, 2014
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC USA
The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will host the Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference on March 3-7, 2014.
The Conference will bring together researchers and practitioners working in government, civil society and business, focusing on the nexus approach. Building on the Water, Food and Energy Nexus Conference held in Bonn, Germany in 2011, this Conference aims to address the connected, but distinct, relationships between water, food, climate, energy, security, sustainability and development.
We are now accepting abstracts for poster and verbal presentations via the Conference website. The submission deadline is September 27, 2013.
During the next 17 years until 2030, we already know we will face:
- Population growth: Expected to reach 8 billion by 2024 and 9 billion by 2050;
- Economic prosperity: There will be a rising economic prosperity in some of the emerging economies particularly in India and China;
- Increasing urban world: by 2030 over 60% of people will live in urban areas, which will increase to 70% by 2050.
These global impacts combined with climate change will mean:
- Increased energy demand: global demand for energy by 30-40% by 2030;
- Increased demand for food: agriculture production to increase by 30-50% by 2030 to meet the global demand for food;
- Increased need for water: Demand for water will exceed global availability by 40% in 2030.
The themes for the 2014 Conference will be:
- Economics and Finance of the Nexus
- Politics, Policy and Regulation
- Ecosystem Approaches and Resilience
- Resource Scarcity and Security
- Remote Sensing and GIS Approaches
Through the Conference, participants will be able to examine cutting-edge research, debate emerging solutions, and explore the link between science and policy. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to build new, or strengthen existing, networks as well as join the Nexus Academic-Practitioner Network.
The conference participants will aim to:
- Learn from relevant case studies & examine cutting-edge research
- Identify future research areas
- Debate emerging solutions
- Identify how science can inform policy processes
- Build new, or strengthen, existing networks
- Launch the Nexus Academic-Practitioner Network
- Input to the UN Sustainable Development Goals process
The co-Directors of the Conference are Felix Dodds, fellow at the Global Research Institute at UNC and associate fellow at the Tellus Institute, and Jamie Bartram, director of The Water Institute at UNC, supported by an International Advisory Committee.
More information about the Conference may be found at: http://nexusconference.web.unc.edu .
Felix Dodds latest book is Now Out: ONLY ONE EARTH by Felix Dodds, Michael Strauss with Maurice Strong --- available now on Kindle or Nook
Also available : Biodiversity and Ecosytem Insecurity - A Planet in Peril edited by Ahmed Djoghlaf and Felix Dodds published by Earthscan
US address: 1538 Haywards Heath Lane, Apex, NC 27502
Co-director of Nexus 2014 Conference
Monday, April 29, 2013
India: Science and Technologyby CSIR NISTADS
Rs.3500 | $140 | PB | 600 Pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press India
Download the Leaflet
In the modern globalized world, the economic development of a country is premised on its ability to develop, adapt and harness its potential to innovate. Most of the governments in developing and emerging economies, including India, are proactive in initiating policies that would promote a culture of innovation. India: Science & Technology, Volume 2 intends to identify the nature and extent of innovative activities in the country and the lacunae in the innovation support mechanism. It also suggests suitable S&T interventions in the policy matrix in order that India could come to the forefront in innovation activities. The book discusses following themes: • S&T and Human Resources • Innovation Support System • S&T and Industry • S&T Outputs and Patents • Rural Development and S&T Strategies While the content and approach of these themes differs, innovation occupies the centre stage in each of these themes. Salient features • Analysis of scenario of S&T education in India • Analysis of organizational arrangement for promotion of technological innovation • Facets of innovation activities in the realm of manufacturing and service sector • Nature of innovation activities in MSME sector • Intensity of knowledge creation and utilization • S&T strategy for poverty alleviation • S&T strategies for agri/farm-based livelihoods • S&T strategies for non-farm/rural industrial development
Unit 1: Science & Technology: Human Resource
Unit 2: Science & Technology and Innovation Support System
Unit 3: Science & Technology and Industry
Unit 4: Science & Technology: Output and Patents
Unit 5: S&T and Rural Development: Strategies and Capacities
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla-171005
Advertisement No. 6/2013
Award of Fellowships
The IIAS invites applications for the award of Fellowships for advanced research in the following areas:
(a) Social, Political and Economic Philosophy;
(b) Comparative Indian Literature (including Ancient, Medieval, Modern Folk and Tribal);
(c) Comparative Studies in Philosophy and Religion;
(d) Comparative Studies in History (including Historiography and Philosophy of History);
(e) Education, Culture, Arts including performing Arts and Crafts;
(f) Fundamental Concepts and Problems of Logic and Mathematics;
(g) Fundamental Concepts and Problems of Natural and Life Sciences;
(h) Studies in Environment;
(i) Indian Civilization in the context of Asian Neighbours; and
(j) Problems of Contemporary India in the context of National Integration and Nation-building.
For details & further updates please visit our website: www.iias.org.
The prescribed application form can be downloaded from this website of the Institute. The applications on the prescribed form may be sent to the
Secretary, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla – 171005 by 25th May, 2013.
Applications can also be made online. Only applications in the prescribed application form would be considered by the Institute.
Source: Economic & Political Weekly, April 27, 2013, 48(17).
by Amitabh Kundu
Economic & Political Weekly, 48(17), pp. 15-18, April 27, 2013
Abstract: The plan of making urban India slum-free faced serious difficulties in the Eleventh Plan period and it looks like these will persist in the Twelfth Plan period as well. This article points out that the schemes in operation lack a reliable framework for identifying non-tenable slums and legitimate slum households that are entitled to get dwelling units. Further, the design of the Rajiv Awas Yojana betrays a big-city bias to attract global capital, and there is no clear road map for its time-bound implementation.
The Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) is a major flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, designed to build on the groundwork carried out during the Eleventh Plan period and launched on a national scale during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2012-17). It projects the vision of a slum-free India, its primary objective being enabling poor urban families to realise their dream of owning a house that has a proper land title and access to basic amenities. The initial years of its operation have, however, created diverse expectations in different quarters. The real estate and builder's lobby, which apprehends that the housing bubble is about to burst, wants it to give a boost to construction activity. The banking-cum-financing sector, uncertain of the demand for housing loans and their recovery, believes there will be a substantial increase in interest subsidies and a streamlining of the mortgage market. The upper and middle classes hope that their cities will be "sanitised" when the programme is implemented, with slums disappearing either through upgradation or eviction.
The Large City Bias
Small and medium towns have been excluded from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), launched during the Tenth Five-Year Plan for improving urban infrastructure, and now from the RAY, despite there being clear evidence of a high incidence of poverty and slum-like conditions, alongside serious service deficiencies in them. The focus is on large cities because the political economy of the country necessitates improving their environmental conditions to make them attractive to global business. This bias is also implicit in the development of a database, with the Census of India collecting information on slums only from the larger cities until 2001. In addition, reliable data on slums from the National Sample Survey are available only for cities with a population exceeding a million.
Problems in Defining Tenability
Granting full property rights to slum-dwellers and enacting state legislation for this are mandatory requirements under the RAY, except in regions with community control and ownership of land. The mission is based on the principle of inclusion, implying no eviction and in-situ development unless a site is identified, after following the due process, as "untenable". If a site is found to be untenable, an alternative site must be found in consultation with the urban communities concerned and, as far as possible, it should be within the same ward or zone to minimise adverse effects on livelihoods, community assets, and access to health and education facilities. Vacant residential land in the same or adjacent areas must be identified and used for accommodating the people in untenable slums. All this to be operationalised through a slum-free city plan of action (SFCPOA), which is to be prepared by the urban local body or any other competent authority, in consultation with personnel in the state government departments concerned, technical experts, and the resident community.
Slums located on environmentally hazardous sites such as the banks of rivers and ponds, and hilly and marshy terrain would be untenable as they pose a threat to human life and public health. Taking everything into consideration, only a part of the slum may be declared hazardous. Besides, ecologically-sensitive sites such as mangroves, and national parks and sanctuaries are to be considered untenable as habitation there will have serious negative implications for society at large. However, slums located on land reserved for non-residential
use such as industries, and more importantly, for major "infrastructure projects for public purpose" such as roads, railways and other facilities in a city master plan must be considered semi-tenable. Such land often remains undeveloped for years and a review of their use is needed while preparing the SFCPOA. This can strengthen the process for deciding (a) changes in present use to residential use (passed by a standing committee of the urban local body), and (b) swapping uses for sites within the same zone of the city to make adequate land available for in-situ slum upgradation. Such decisions must be based on planning norms, taking both risk and public interest into account. Unfortunately, the process has not begun within a well-defined framework. The ambiguity in defining tenability, the absence of procedures to determine hazardous and ecologically sensitive locations, and different interpretations of what is "infrastructure for public purpose" have resulted in decisions being taken on a case-by-case basis while preparing SFCPOAs.
The process can be operationalised only if there are clear policy directives defining the ground rules at the national and state levels. Standard criteria need to be proposed at the higher levels without any ambiguity and then applied in the field by taking the local context into account. Attempts to do that at local levels, as the experience of preparing city development plans under the mission reveals, have faced enormous problems and conflicts of interest, often leading to a legal impasse. The categories of hazardous or ecologically sensitive locations and public purpose are used to arbitrarily evict slums. Several state and local governments have virtually declared all slums on government land to be hazardous and untenable. Such decisions need to be taken in a uniform manner across cities and states, following a procedure that is transparent, participatory, and fair.
Cities must be encouraged to review their present system and make it comparable within and across states. Many of the slums on non-hazardous lands that have been declared objectionable could be developed in situ by changing the present land use. Also, a few of the sites considered hazardous can be restructured and redeveloped to resolve current problems. However, if relocation is absolutely necessary, this would have to be done by following a clearly articulated process. The SFCPOA should make a provision to provide all non-tenable slums and homeless persons with alternative sites close to their present location. The policy on slums located on and in proximity to water bodies, railway tracks, industrial and commercial land, and so on must also be laid down with clarity and transparency, and made mandatory for all the agencies concerned.
Identification of Beneficiaries and Affordable Carpet Area
Identifying and targeting beneficiaries is most critical to preventing subsidy leakages. The guidelines for implementing the RAY have to be specific in terms of slum mapping and giving land titles to households so that states and cities do not interpret them differently. City commissioners now find it difficult to undertake this by managing local-level conflicts, especially in the absence of unambiguous criteria. The National Advisory Council (NAC) has recommended that the process of mapping settlements, and surveying and listing eligible households should be undertaken by district collectors, through committees comprising officials of the local and state governments, members of local slums and homeless settlements, youth groups, social work institutions, and so on. Settlements and households that feel they have been left out should be free to appeal.
In the in-situ upgradation and resettlement programme in Mumbai, the agencies of the state and local governments have worked with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres using multiple parameters to determine each household's eligibility for subsidised housing. Information on land and land-related schemes are managed by agencies at the district level and the land vests with the state revenue department. Consequently, the involvement of the district authority and the state government departments concerned is important to finalising and providing a stamp of approval for the plan of action. Unfortunately, due to the absence of systematic land records, non-transparent deals, and ownership conflicts between different landowning departments, it is difficult at present to answer questions of ownership of slum land in several places. Immediate steps must be taken to prepare an inventory of land and to organise land records.
A related issue is defining the minimum acceptable dwelling unit for slum-dwellers that is affordable, given their low capacity to repay and the limited resources available under the mission. The report of the high-level task force on a2ffordable housing for all (2008) skirted the issue and criticised the idea of one size fitting all. While it talked of a carpet area of 300 to 600 square feet for economically weaker sections (EWS) and low income groups (LIG), the figure was 1,200 square feet for middle income households. Further, it thought that the cost must not exceed four times the annual gross income, or that the equated monthly instalment (EMI) must not exceed 30% of a household's monthly income. Taking an average urban household of five members, the total monthly expenditure for households at the poverty line of the Tendulkar Committee (2009) would be Rs 4,500. As per the task force, the cost of the unit must not exceed Rs 2,16,000 and the EMI should be only Rs 1,350.
The real challenge would be keeping the cost of a flat with 300 square feet to Rs 2,20,000 in large cities. This would necessitate making land available free of charge and heavy subsidies for material cost and interest payment. Unfortunately, the state has failed to make institutional arrangements for providing the required land and capital. Banks and micro-finance institutions are reluctant to lend to the poor under state guarantee programmes as they are apprehensive of politicians sanctioning amnesty schemes. Also, guidelines have not been drafted for them to ensure that slum-dwellers can access credit with an interest subsidy in situations where a clear land title cannot be given before the construction of the house is completed. Institutional finance is not seen as the best option by the poor who continue to borrow from neighbours, relatives, and friends. While there is no clear command to the banking sector, and cheaper technologies of construction are not being worked out, the state is unwilling to lower the carpet area to a realistic level. No major policy is contemplated to give incentives to big as well as small builders to create housing stock on a massive scale at an affordable cost. This suggests the absence of any definitive thinking on the part of state agencies, if not a serious deficit in their commitment.
It is true that employment generation for the targeted households through the RAY would enhance their paying capacity. Yet, Rs 1,350 (the task force has suggested Rs 1,500-1,800 per month), or 30% of a poor household's income, going as an instalment to repay a housing loan will not be affordable to the poor. The NAC has rightly suggested that the amount needs to be worked out on the basis of studies on the average income or consumption expenditure of slum residents and the erratic or irregular nature of their earnings. It argued that it should not exceed 25% of the average income and there must be a special subsidy for single women, and the aged, disabled and homeless.
Cities are required to contribute their share of resources for obtaining central funds under the RAY. As a consequence, they incline towards the public-private partnership (PPP) model, especially when it comes to premium land at central locations. The temptation is to shift slums from these lands as they are a major source of revenue. Under both the JNNURM and the RAY, slum-dwellers are being shifted to peripheries where land is cheaper, while the land in the central city is used for high-rise apartments for the upper and middle classes and commercial developments. Densification of premium-value inner city land has an impact on the area's carrying capacity, transport, environment, and infrastructure that are generally not incorporated into the planning framework.
A country growing at above 8% per annum for many years has the financial capability to provide minimum acceptable shelter to its slum population, many of them engaged in activities linked to the global market. The per capita allocation of funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is the same as that under the JNNURM, but the latter covers a much smaller population and seven times more resources are available per household. The question is whether it is possible to work out a system of cost sharing between the central, state, and local governments and with private agencies, including households, in a manner that the project can be implemented with efficiency and a sense of urgency. The answer is emphatically yes. A scheme must therefore be worked out among the agencies concerned for sharing the cost of providing land and construction so that dwelling units are built as per the minimum requirements and are affordable to slum-dwellers and the houseless population.
Two Objectives of RAY
The RAY has two main objectives – (a) improving the conditions in existing slums, and (b) preventing the growth of future slums. As for the first objective, the RAY guidelines place a welcome emphasis on in-situ development rather than relocation of slums, and recognise the importance of security of tenure in preparing SFCPOAs at the state and city levels. Since the availability of land is critical for housing the poor, the central funds are made available only to states and cities that can provide land with property rights. This was generally considered necessary even under Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) and the Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP), the components of the JNNURM for large and small cites respectively. Importantly, the RAY has a limit of 10% on slum households that can be relocated in sharp contrast to BSUP where nearly 40% of households were relocated. This limit needs to be worked out on the basis of a realistic assessment of ground conditions on the tenability of slums and then be implemented firmly without many exemptions. For this, all the state and local agencies that own slum land must be brought within the policy framework of the RAY.
The second objective of the RAY would require a strategy that prevents the formation of slums in urban areas through redressing failures in the formal land market. One must realise that it is possible to achieve this goal without much difficulty by strengthening the legal, administrative, and land surveillance systems and allowing the market to function strictly on the basis of paying capacity. The guidelines, however, make it obligatory to reserve 25% to 40% of land in city development plans for new social housing stock to accommodate the future inflow of poor migrants. Not many state and local governments are willing or able to comply with this and it means that more than 50% of the mission funds remain unutilised. An official drive will be needed in all cities and towns to identify government land that has been encroached on by mafias, and land that lies unutilised with public agencies or is under unwarranted litigation to obtain the required extent from within the system. Speedy implementation of the programme on a national scale is needed to cover the total slum population in a time-bound manner, without which the mission would be an empty dream.
The RAY is a well-intentioned programme but unlike the MGNREGS it has no formal constitutional guarantee. It may be unreasonable to expect a country that has not yet been able to constitutionally mandate freedom from hunger to all its citizens to provide a right to housing. What, however, is a matter of serious concern is that in contrast to the MGNREGS, the operational details of implementing the RAY at the state and city levels have not been worked out. The scope and coverage of the mission remains ambiguous so much so that in a few states only officially "notified" slums or people arriving in the city before a certain cut-off date are considered eligible under the RAY. The surveys conducted in the first three years of its existence by the ministry concerned lack a macro perspective and have not been able to resolve local-level issues to do with implementation. The absence of a road map for implementing the mission in a time-bound manner in the whole country or even in a selected set of cities has resulted in a lot of uncertainty.
Amitabh Kundu (firstname.lastname@example.org) teaches at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.