Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Human Rights and Development for India's Rural Remnant : A Capabilities-Based Assessment"

That's the title of my latest law review article, which will be published by the UC Davis Law Review in the next few weeks. The piece was written for a symposium on "The Asian Century?", and in it I use the capabilities framework developed by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen to assess India's rural development efforts. The data I marshal for my analysis illustrate the dramatic inequality gap across the rural-urban axis, with special attention to water and sanitation infrastructure, health, and education. I also consider the efforts of the Government of India (along with the many states in its federal system) to foster economic development, including a look at its agriculture policies.

That brings me to this article in today's New York Times "Galloping Growth, and Hunger" by Vikas Bajaj. In it, as in many other recent NYT stories with datelines from rural India, Bajaj focuses on the rural sector--while contrasting it with the nation's enormous urban growth. This metrocentric growth is reflected in a national growth rate of nearly 9 percent annually, even as those in rural areas struggle not only with poverty--but with hunger. Here's an excerpt:

Agriculture employs more than half the population, but it accounts for only 15 percent of the economy — and it has grown an average of only about 3 percent in recent years.

Critics say Indian policy makers have failed to follow up on the country’s investments in agricultural technology of the 1960s and ’70s, as they focused on more glamorous, urban industries like information technology, financial services and construction.

* * *

Yet even as India’s farming still depends on manual labor and the age-old vicissitudes of nature, demand for food has continued to rise — because of a growing population and rising incomes, especially in the middle and upper classes.

Bajaj notes that food prices in India are rising more quickly than in any other major economy, which has left the nation importing greater supplies of staples such as beans, lentils and cooking oil. This sad fact supports the argument I advance in my article--that India's government must attend to the current state of grossly uneven development, and it must do so in a way that considers the sustainability of rural development efforts in both the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.

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