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Market and Economy


Bharat Ramaswami

INSTITUTIONS & MARKETS IN INDIA'S DEVELOPMENT: ESSAYS FOR K.N. RAJ
Edited by A. Vaidyanathan and K.L. Krishna
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 400, Rs. 595.00

STATE, MARKETS AND INEQUALITIES: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IN RURAL INDIA
Edited by Abusaleh Shariff and Maithreyi Krishnaraj
Orient Longman, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 784, Rs. 975.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 1 January 2008

These are unprecedented times for the Indian economy. Stock markets are booming, foreign funds are pouring dollars, Indian firms are acquiring overseas firms, and outsourcing is, well, identifiably Indian. Whole sections of the economy – financial markets, telecom, aviation, and automobiles – bear no resemblance to what they were barely one and half decades ago. With such rapid change, should one really grudge the epithet of India Shining? If it means that we lose sight of the economic and social deprivation of hundreds of millions of Indians, then the answer is obvious.   It is immediate that the poor have no interest in the latest models of automobiles, the competition among domestic airlines or in the stock market. On the other hand, they might have some use for cheap cell phones and communications. This is, however, a rather slender basis for expecting our express growth to dramatically affect the lives of most Indians. But perhaps there might be some indirect impacts? Greater demand for their services as machine operators, packaging goods, and artisans or more familiarly as couriers, drivers, cooks, security guards and so on? Or could it be that the rising prosperity propels government tax revenues as well that in turn leads to greater spending on infrastructure, health and education? Or maybe there are some other yet to be documented channels?   These are important questions not just for India but also for other countries in the fast lane. Answers that persuade are not available yet. The books under review do not pose these questions either. But they could claim to provide clues.   Of the two books, Shariff and Krishnaraj is more concerned with immediate economic issues. The theme is human development. The papers in the volume are empirical investigations and almost all of them use a common data set that elicits information from households across India about variables concerning education, health, income and wealth. The virtue of this book is therefore that it reports new research. At nearly 800 pages, the book is massive. I doubt that the editors intended the research to be weighty in this sense. Dividing it into two volumes would have been a reader-friendly move but the editors probably do not have much of a say in the matter.   The editors provide a lengthy introduction in which the description of the NCAER-HDI survey that forms the basis for most of the papers is essential reading. The paper by Lanjouw ...


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