Sunday, February 12, 2012

Discussing development and culture

Target 3 Billion by APJ Abdul Kalam & Srijan Pal Singh
Penguin. Pages: xix+298. Price: Rs. 299/-

Our planet’s population has exceeded the seven billion mark. Out of these more than three billion people live “in a condition of underutilization of talent and resources, and deprivation”; in other words, on the margins. This book, while providing global context to Indian conditions, takes a comprehensive look at the socio-economic challenges that face us and possible solutions thereto. Not an easy task, if you consider the fact that in India alone there is a mind-boggling diversity in terms of ethnicity, languages, educational standards, economic and cultural stratifications etc. Yet, Kalam and Singh have come up with a workable PURA model that provides innovative solutions towards sustainable development. The model focuses on providing urban amenities in rural areas. For this purpose the authors suggest various steps towards empowering the deprived. For example, while advocating Second Green Revolution the authors want the focus to be on the “five acre farmers” rather than the 500 acre farmers. Again, they would like infrastructure development in rural areas to be based on the principle of benefiting the poor. This makes sense. For, if the living standards of the most deprived are improved the overall global/national prosperity would become that much more evenhanded and enduring.

While reworking the Gandhian concept of ideal, self-sustaining villages the authors see them “as action areas of social transformation.” They also advocate transformation in societal, especially governmental, attitudes: Postings in rural areas should not be considered as “reprimands.” Indeed, the PURA model advocates eco-friendly development wherein technology becomes a tool for more equitable distribution of wealth, opportunities and resources; as the authors aver, “The concept of PURA is fully achieved only when there is a dynamic linkage between economic development and social and cultural transformation in real time and in a seamless manner.” An extremely well thought out and implementable model. This book is invaluable for social scientists, policy makers and serious students of developmental economics.

Recent Development Debates edited by Balwinder Singh Tiwana & V. Upadhyay
Punjabi University. Pages: xi+378. Price: Rs. 400/-

This is a collection of papers on various aspects of the Indian economy’s development including identity politics and the impact of global economic crisis. In fact, the ongoing global crisis has its roots in the first Oil Shock of the 1990s. It took a heavy toll of the ‘Asian Tiger’ economies even as it had adversely impacted upon the Western and Japanese economies. This led to the transformation of dominant development theories – giving birth to two broad streams, viz., the one-recipe-fits-all approach of the Washington Consensus and the other looking at alternate methods seeking to modify the entire development discourse. This volume also takes a look at how, and why, the mismatch between policy formulations and peoples’ aspirations should be avoided. However, it would have been interesting if the Chinese economy’s impressive performance was examined against the backdrop of the global slowdown. However, this volume is a valuable addition to the national discourse on developmental economics.

The Hidden Glory of India by Steven J. Rosen
Jaico. Pages: 191. Price: Rs. 395/-

India never stops surprising Indophiles. Its mindboggling ethnic, linguistic, sub-cultural and regional variety has proved to be both challenging and inspiring to various historians and social scientists. Often, while talking of pluralism, we tend to divide the society into broad swathes of religious spectra, while forgetting that each religion is further subdivided into various sects and denominations. Hinduism is a prime example, while discussing which we lose sight of the fact that Vaishnavism forms its single largest denomination. This calendar art style beautifully illustrated book takes a brief look at the Vaishnava literature, precepts and practices, including its dominant Gods – Vishnu, Krishna and Rama. An informative volume.

Published in The Tribune dated February 12, 2012

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