Rajasthan: The Quest for Sustainable Development.
Editors: Vijay S. Vyas, Sarthi Acharya, Surjit Singh and Vidya Sagar, 2007 Academic Foundation, New Delhi, Page 380, Rupees 995, ISPN-13:9788171886210 HB
Rajasthan: The Quest for Sustainable Development is a comprehensive collection of papers on Rajasthan's social, economic, political and natural profile. It starts exploring the strengths that the state possesses and ends up identifying and debating constraints that are chocking socio-economic transformation of Rajasthan. Like other economies of India, Rajasthan also started her development process with several problems like draught, uncertain rainfall in major parts, large arid area, over population, low infrastructure development, remote geography, low literacy rate, poor industrial base, hierarchical outlook, and sharp social discrimination et cetera. Apart from these drawbacks, the state also posseses a hardworking peasantry, rich livestock, rich deposits of minerals, a very rich culture that attracts foreigners from various countries of the world, and industrious and entrepreneurial spirit that gives Rajasthan a favourable base for transformation. Rajasthan was regarded as one of the BIMARU (chronically sick) states of India along with Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. Its sickness was reflected in almost all dimensions of development, ranging from economic and social development to human development as well as in the quality of life of her people. What is even more intriguing is the fact that there had been little improvement in the relative position of the state vis-a-vis other states in most of the dimensions of development for over 53 years after Independence. This is so when Rajasthan had probably the best potential to get rid of its chronic sickness. It is argued that the main cause of the then persisting underdevelopment in Rajasthan lies in human failure rather than natural causes. Poor human activity, fundamentally, is a reflection of poor human development. It had a number of manifestations for social and economic transformation and quality of life. Poor human activity had resulted in poor political commitment to issues related to development and welfare, resulting in lop-sided improvements in the quality of life, bad governance, corruption and coercion in public systems, poor maintenance and upkeep of development infrastructure, poor participation of the people in the development processes et cetera. In turn, poor human development had important negative implications for economic growth and development, the most important of which were inefficiency of the production process, poor performance of the production system and a very high degree of distribution inequality. The best part of the book is the narrations as to how Rajasthan is able to get rid of, unlike other BIMARU states, her BIMARU status; well, the state almost got rid of such limitations. On the silver jubilee celebrations of the Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur, the faculty of IDS wrote papers on the themes they were working. The collection of twelve essays and an apt introduction by Professor V.S. Vyas narrates the process of this turn around in Rajasthan economy, society and polity. Like Matrix, this narration is also a hyperreality of what Rajasthan is after 60 years of planned development.
The first two chapters of the volume explored in detail the land use pattern in Rajasthan with its dynamics including water resource. Many parts of the state suffer from lack of safe drinking water. Along with this, impurity of water, absence of perennial rivers and lack of proper land and water use policy has made the state underdeveloped. The chapter has identified a huge gap between demand for and supply of water resources. The third chapter explains 'Demographic Transition' in Rajasthan. Rajasthan is now in the middle stage where death rate has fallen down. This type of demographic transition has given rise to socio-economic problems in Rajasthan. The state occupies 10 per cent of total area of the country, constituting of 6 per cent to the population of the country but is having only 1 per cent of total surface water of the country. The next chapter discusses labour relations and poverty in Rajasthan. Female workers in primary sector are increasing in rural areas as compared to urban sector in Rajasthan. Owing to paucity of land, alternative employment opportunities have developed in Rajasthan, especially seasonal migration and development of its service sector. This phenomenon has made the growth of service sector relatively faster than primary sector. Rajasthan is the third successful state in the country in reducing poverty after Kerala and Tamil Nadu, though the poverty among the agricultural labours is still higher among all occupational groups.
The fifth chapter has focused on the development of industries in Rajasthan. In developing economics, industrialisation plays an important role. In case of Rajasthan, development of industries has given utmost priority since second five year plan. But the industrial development in Rajasthan has acquired a fluctuating trend. The role of service sector has increased after late 1990s. Looking closely at the textile sector, which is an unorganised sector and fourth largest producer of spun yarn in India, the chapter concludes that there is very slow development of industries due to lack of private investment in the state. The next chapter focuses on the issues of agriculture sector in Rajasthan. Analysing the growth in agriculture sector in eighties and nineties, it is concluded that agriculture sector did not perform because of lack of soil fertility and environmental constraints. On the other hand, service sector has contributed significantly to state income. And that, liberalisation policy in agriculture sector have negative implications especially to oilseeds and pulses, which are major crops in Rajasthan. Seventh chapter argues that livestock is a major source of income to rural people alone with crop production. But during the current regime, the livestock sector has performed indifferently because of weakening in natural resource base. The pasture land is deteriorating, which has made life very difficult for the people here. The chapter concludes that Rajasthan can progress rapidly only if livestock is properly managed and developed.
The later half of the volume raises some political and democratic issues in Rajasthan. In the study on civil society in Rajasthan, eighth chapter states that there is lack of social movements among women and the Dalits. An attempt is also made to provide a holistic picture of narrow perspectives of civil society organisations in its functioning. The civil society had proved to be a successful organisation in a democratic setup for advocating right to information, employment guarantee, food security, fair wages et cetera. The ninth chapter is on local Governance through Panchayati Raj. The chapter maps the evolution of PRIs in Rajasthan and critically analyses the provisions of various notifications, orders and circulars. The strengths of the state, argues the chapter, lies in the vary fact that Rajasthan was the first state in India, which laid down the foundation of PRIs. The chapter also discusses the powers of and functions of different agencies of PRIs. The next two chapters of the book deal with the role of Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur in women studies and the support it has provided to civil society. The chapters argue that the state is underdeveloped because of low status of women in society. The IDS is engaged in social research and women studies since past two decades. One may or may not entirely agree with the views expressed by IDS but one cannot ignore the analytical insights provided by IDS on women condition in Rajasthan. The eleventh chapter highlights the role civil society has played in the process of development. Institute of Development Studies is actively involved in facilitating civil society for development process. The NGO centre is lending support for documentation, monitoring and providing research and technical support and ensuring effective networking and training of civil society organisations, not only to provide a platform to initiate discussions but also to resolve problems faced by civil society at conceptual and operational level. The concluding chapter looks into the cultural facets of the state. Rajasthan is known world wide for its rich culture. To refresh the memory of readers the chapter traces Rajput history, the known warrior class of India. The objective of this analysis is to bring the composite culture of Rajasthan in light. The chapter aims at providing insight into the art, architecture, dance, literature, costumes, ornaments, food habits of Rajasthan in particular. The chapter concludes that modernisation has become an obstacle to preserve its cultural heritage and suggests that state should give a serious consideration in having a cultural policy in place of simply commercialising it for tourism.
Unlike other lagging states, Rajasthan has successfully strived to achieve rapid development. We know transforming a feudal state to a modern, egalitarian and democratic state and to place it on a path of sustainable development is not easy. Essays in this volume address this task in its complexities. The emerging massage from the volume indicates towards the need of multi-faced development; that managing Rajasthan's natural resources need to be more efficient than what it is today; that a sustainable growth is possible only and only if it is inclusive; and that even in this era of liberalisation and openness state cannot shed its responsibilities.
When researchers like Sarthi Acharya, Anita, Pradeep Bhargav, KN Joshi, Devendra Kothari, Kanchan Mathur, Shobhita Rajgopal, Jyotsana Rajvanshi, MS Rathod, Sunil Ray, Vidya Sagar, PR Sharma, Surjit Singh and VS Vyas come together, the venture cannot be but outstanding. The volume provides an excellent and valuable source material for students working on different issues of development, or lack of it.