ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by Utsa PatnaikSubscribe to Utsa Patnaik

Profit Inflation, Keynes and the Holocaust in Bengal, 1943–44

The year 2018 marks the 75th anniversary of the Bengal famine, 1943–44. This paper argues that the famine arose from an engineered “profit inflation,” described by John Maynard Keynes in general terms as a necessary measure for “forced transferences of purchasing power” from the mass of working people, entailing reduction of their consumption in order to finance abnormal wartime expenditure. Keynes had a long connection with Indian financial affairs and, in 1940, became an advisor with special authority on Indian financial and monetary policy to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister. Facing trade union opposition in Britain to the highly regressive policy of profit inflation, he gave it up in favour of taxation. But, in India, extreme and deliberate profit inflation was implemented to finance war spending by the Allied forces, leading to the death by starvation of three million persons in Bengal.

Silencing a Critical Voice

The murder of M M Kalburgi in Dharwad in Karnataka is a part of an intensifying war against critical thinking by social forces that use obscurantist belief in the quest for political hegemony.

Wendy Doniger's Book

The surrender of a major publishing firm (Penguin India) over Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History, in a recent out-of-court settlement that involves the withdrawal of the book and the pulping of its copies, has rightly aroused much disquiet among all circles committed t

Aspects of India's Colonial Economic History

Colonialism and the Indian Economy by Amiya Kumar Bagchi (Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2010; pp 303, Rs 865 (HB).

Poverty Trends in India 2004-05 to 2009-10

The web version of this article corrects a few errors that appeared in the print edition.

A comparison of the consumption expenditure and associated nutritional intake data for 2009-10 with that of 2004-05 shows worsening poverty in terms of the percentage of people unable to reach the minimum required calories energy intake through their monthly spending on all goods and services. This result must be seen in the context of neo-liberal policy, the financial crisis and consequent global recession affecting export production, the rapid rise in food prices, declining employment growth, the drought of 2009-10, and in spite of a positive development like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. It is argued that the decline claimed in the official poverty ratios is spurious.

Cash Transfers and UID

We support cash transfers such as old-age pensions, widow pensions, maternity entitlements and scholarships. However, we oppose the government’s plan for accelerated mass conversion of welfare schemes to Unique Identification Authority (UID)-driven cash transfers.

On Some Fatal Fallacies

Continuing the debate on the Deaton and Dreze analysis of food and nutrition in India, it is argued that the latter's analysis is defective because (i) it does not look at direct and indirect cereal consumption when examining the relationship between cereal intake and income, and (ii) it is fallacious to reason that the declining cereal consumption reflects a diversification of diets. It is also pointed out that the Deaton-Dreze critical response to the use of "direct poverty lines" is misplaced.

A Critical Look at Some Propositions on Consumption and Poverty

A comment to the analysis and discussion in Angus Deaton and Jean Dreze, "Food and Nutrition in India: Facts and Interpretations" (EPW, 14 February 2009).

Trends in Urban Poverty under Economic Reforms: 1993-94 to 2004-05

Urban poverty, when directly measured by counting the persons unable to access the official nutrition norm of 2,100 calories through their total monthly spending on all goods and services, declined between 1983 and 1993-94, but rose substantially between 1993-94 and 2004-05 while poverty depth has increased. This is particularly evident in the states with the conurbations of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, while states with smaller urban centres have fared better. This paper presents the estimates for urban areas at the all-India level and the individual states. The official method has been underestimating actually existing urban poverty in the same manner that rural poverty has been underestimated. The energy intake accessible at the all-India official urban poverty line has fallen to 1,795, but in many states it is below 1,450 calories at the state-specific official poverty lines. The data also record a small decline in average protein intake and a small rise in fat intake per capita over the same period.

Neoliberalism and Rural Poverty in India

Many economic and social indicators suggest that not only is the level of absolute poverty in India high, there has also been an adverse impact of neoliberal policies on poverty. And yet, the poverty estimates by the Planning Commission and many individual academics, both using a method that renders irrelevant the question of a nutrition norm, show low levels as well as decline in poverty over the 1990s and beyond. This article proves that both comparisons over time of the all-India and state-level estimates of poverty as well as any comparison at a point in time of poverty levels across states, obtained by this method, are invalid. Using a direct poverty estimation route of inspecting and calculating from current National Sample Survey data the percentage of persons not able to satisfy the nutrition norm in calories, the author finds that in 1999-2000 nearly half of the rural population who are actually poor have been excluded from the set of the officially poor. For 2004-05, while the official estimate of rural poverty is 28.3 per cent, the author's direct estimate of persons below the poverty line is 87 per cent. There is clear evidence of a large and growing divergence over time between the author's direct estimates of poverty and the official indirect estimates.

Output and Employment in Rural China

China's experience seems to show that high growth rates under strategies of privatisation in a hitherto socialist economy are compatible with and indeed logically entail the re-emergence of two major problems already plaguing large developing economies like India: food security for the poor and unemployment.


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