Environment, Human Development and Public Policy in Contemporary India

Convenor: Professor Matthew McCartney

This course explores some of the major environmental, human development and public policy issues facing India today. India’s environment is rapidly changing in the context of ever increasing urbanisation, industrialisation, agricultural development and a vast and growing population. India has been characterised recently by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen as a country that has experienced rapid economic growth without (human) development.

Water supply, sewage and waste present major challenges to local governments in urban areas, whilst modern agricultural technologies and the politics of land and water are serious issues in the countryside. Forests, mineral-rich earth, rivers and seas have become sites of conflict between government, local residents, multinational corporations and banks. India’s policies on climate change, industry and energy are now of global geopolitical and social consequence. Addressing the above environmental concerns, this module will explore several interlinked themes including energy and climate change in the context of economic growth in India; India's role in international climate change negotiations; environmental movements against dams, deforestation and displacement; sustainable agricultural development; politics of conservation; and environment in the context of urban development. 

This course will also give students an understanding of the evolution of human development in contemporary India; develop their knowledge and capacity to engage with debates surrounding measurement, policy issues, the interaction between economic and human measures of development, and different paradigms of thought. The course will discuss questions such as what is development and how is it measured, the paradox of a competitive democracy with a large turnout among the poor co-existing with poor service provision in areas like health and education, the evolution of poverty and inequality, the nutrition crisis in contemporary India and associated policy interventions such as the Public Distribution System (PDS) and Mid-day Meals Programme, demography including the phenomenon of missing women, the phenomenon of jobless growth and related policy interventions such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

The course does not just present problems and advocate solutions but is rooted within a framework of public policy. What constraints does the global context place on policy making, with regard to for example subsidising domestic production of solar technology? What constraints do the powerful teaching unions in India place on efforts to make teachers more accountable to parents? Do inequalities at local level prevent the proper targeting of anti-poverty programmes and lead to them being captured by more privileged groups? Does the local sate in India have the expertise and capacity to implement complex policy interventions such as conditional cash transfers or to promote the use of energy saving technology?

This course comprises eight two hour lectures and will be suitable for students with any undergraduate background.

 

Take a look at...

J. Dreze and A. Sen. 2013.  An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions.  London, Allen Lane.

T. Dyson et al. 2005. Twenty-First Century India: Population, Economy, Human Development and the Environment. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

 

The image above asks whether girls' education in the 21st Century is a transformation or a tragedy.