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Political economy of development in India

Political economy of development in India

Rally organised by Samajwadi Jan Parishad on issues of tribal rights in Madhya Pradesh
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Research in this area develops out of long-standing interests in the political economy of development processes in the Indian sub-continent. This has especially focused on the social and environmental impacts of economic development processes, and how these have been contested at a variety of scales, from local grassroots mobilisation to national policy dialogues.

Forest village in Harda district, Madhya Pradesh.
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A major research project in this area was undertaken between 1998 and 2002 in collaboration with a team led by Professors Tim Dyson and Robert Cassen at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The project, titled "The Future of India: Population, Environment and Human Development," was funded by the Wellcome Trust, and led to a series of publications on demographic change in India and its likely impacts across a range of sectors, both rural and urban (Vira and Vira, 2004 & 2005, Vira 2004, Vira, Cassen and Iyer, 2004).

Research in this area also includes collaborative work with Al James comparing the call centre industries in India and the United Kingdom. In contrast to previous analyses documenting the technical and social architectures of the call centre labour process internal to the firm, this research adopts a broader social economy approach that situates call centres within a wider framework to examine: (i) the lived experiences of call centre workers across the work-home boundary in different national contexts; (ii) labour mobility patterns of call centre workers during and subsequent to leaving the call centre industry; and (iii) the role of labour market intermediaries in influencing call centre work in different national contexts.

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Grain merchant receiving deliveries in a prosperous agricultural region in India.
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Lift irrigation system in operation in tribal areas in central India.

Research in this field is motivated by a desire to break down the powerful but arguably arbitrary structural divide between economic geography and development studies. Although there are a number of issues that cross this divide, there are few conversations between scholars working in these two sub-fields. To try and encourage academic exchange between these two constituencies, a session has been arranged by Bhaskar Vira, Al James and Mia Gray at the 2006 RGS-IBG International Conference titled "Worker Empowerment and Collective Action in a Global Economy: Bridging the Divide between Economic and Development Geographies", co-sponsored by the Economic Geography and Developing Areas Research Groups.

Publications

  • Vira, B. and Vira, S. (2005) "Governing India's Urban Environment: Problems, Policies and Politics," in E. Hust and M. Mann (eds.) Problems of Urbanization in South Asia: Governance and Public Response, Delhi, Manohar.
  • Vira, B. (2004) "Common Pool Resources: Current Status and Future Prospects," in T. Dyson, R. Cassen and L. Visaria (eds.) Twenty-first Century India: Population, Environment and Human Development, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 328-343.
  • Vira, B., Iyer, R. and Cassen, R. (2004) "Water," in T. Dyson, R. Cassen and L. Visaria (eds.) Twenty-first Century India: Population, Environment and Human Development, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 312-327.
  • Vira, B. and Vira, S. (2004) "India's Urban Environment: Current Knowledge and Future Possibilities", in T. Dyson, R. Cassen and L. Visaria (eds.) Twenty-first Century India: Population, Environment and Human Development, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 292-311.
  • Vira, B. and Vira, S. (2001) "Testing the Limits: An Analysis of Environmental Indicators in Metropolitan India", Technical Report for Wellcome Trust project "The Future of India: Population, Environment and Human Development" (grant no. 053660).