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The political economy of TN
The editors have brought together 13 papers on all the sectors of the Tamil Nadu economy written by scholars. However, many papers are based on data that are a decade and more old.

Only the paper on the Information Technology industry by Meenakshi Raju has fairly contemporaneous data.

The paper on fertility decline deals with the socio economic factors that were responsible for the decline in birth rates between the year 1971 and 2002. The author has analysed the data of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-2) pertaining to the year 1998-1999. He seems to have attributed the stagnant rates of infant mortality in Andhra and Tamil Nadu to low intervals between child births and early marriages as compared to Kerala where the infant mortality is very low. A lot of changes have taken place since then such as the launch of the National Rural Health Mission, the encouragement given for child births in hospitals or assisted by trained midwives. The author could have updated the data from the 2011 census to make it more valuable.

 

Changes since 2002 not factored...

The paper by A Vaidyanathan is interesting but out of date as in the last 13 years there has been rapid urbanisation in Tamil Nadu. Further, the rise in value of land has motivated the urban rich to buy land as investment. Neelakantan’s two papers are more interesting and present the changes that have taken place in the pattern of socio economic activities in the villages. These three papers would have been enriching had they taken into account the impact of Prime Minister’s village road development programme, cell phones, proliferating number of mobikes and the thrust given to education and agricultural productivity increases. The papers on industry have more contemporaneous data and provide a broad picture of the way the IT industry has grown in the state. If the data was updated, the picture may have been different as the IT corridor along the OMR and Siruseri IT complex have grown multifold in recent times.

A glaring omission in these papers is a critical analysis of the state government procedures in regard to provision of facilities for attracting investment.

An analysis of the procedural difficulties in starting an industry in TN as compared to, say Singapore, would have been extremely useful.

 

Decline in average size of units...

A revealing fact is the decline in the average size of the units in terms of workers per unit in the business establishments in TN. The paper has not even suggested any reason for such a decline but has recommended ‘closer study.’ The paper does not come out with any policy prescriptions to make the business enterprise sector vibrant. The problem with all the papers in this otherwise useful compilation is that they do not analyse the issues dealt with in a very scholarly manner from a contemporary point of view.

The paper on inequities in health in Tamil Nadu has an astonishing quote from Vaguet, A: ‘the  ex –untouchable castes never visited the physician or public hospital.’ It is an incredible observation as it is far from observed facts unless the author saw it in any one place, which has not been mentioned in the paper.  This paper quotes even observations made in 1984 on education and approach to physicians. In this background the author has presented the results of her survey in Dharmapuri district. Even this study is out of date having been undertaken in 2004. Nevertheless it is a major attempt in understanding the approach of rural folk towards their own sickness.

The analysis of globalisation and the social sector, to say the least, is disjointed and does not convey anything to an informed reader. It would have been well worth it had there been a clear study of the progress Tamil Nadu has made in universalisation of education and the impact of the huge number of engineering institutions that are dominant in the state. The contribution of Tamil Nadu to the IT sector has been significant in terms of the number of people working in the country and outside. There should have been an attempt to see how the hitherto deprived classes have also been enabled to make use of this opportunity. The analysis is perfunctory.

Altogether this compilation is a useful addition to the existing volume of literature on development but is unlikely to attract attention from persons in administration as it uses outdated information.

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