The Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, assisted by the ICSSR, helps evolve policies related to economic growth and poverty alleviation.

During recent weeks, we had, in this column, highlighted some of the significant aspects of research in sociology and the pivotal role played by the apex body, the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi. The functions of its regional centres were also mentioned.

The council assists 27 research institutes in the realm of social sciences. Let us now look at the opportunities for research provided by these institutes.

An important institution in this group is the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Nagarbhavi, Bangalore – 560 072, Web: www.isec.ac.in.

This national-level institute for interdisciplinary research and training in social sciences is a society registered under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act. It creates a blend of field-oriented empirical research and advances in social science theories leading to better public policy formulation.

The institute is guided by eminent academics and social scientists elected from its life members, ICSSR experts, and government representatives. It conducts interdisciplinary research in analytical and applied areas of social sciences, covering diverse aspects of development. There are collaborative research programmes with similar institutions. The findings of the studies conducted by the institute are often used by the Union and the State governments for evolving policies pertaining to economic growth and poverty alleviation.

ISEC receives financial support from the Union Ministries for Human Resource, Agriculture, and Health and Family Welfare and from the Karnataka government.

Thrust areas

The thrust areas of research change from time to time, depending on the needs. However, some of the research themes may be mandatory in tune with the guidelines of the funding agencies. Some of the areas of current research are the following.

Agricultural economy in the context of WTO and globalisation.

Growth process at the State level.

Impact of investment in industry.

Biodiversity — livestock, bio-fuels and environment, alternatives for rural water supply.

Universalisation of primary education.

Fiscal and sociological dimensions of decentralisation.

Challenges and potentials to collective action and life in a globalising city.

Governance (including democracy, decentralisation and ethics) and development.

Reproductive child health.

Socio-economic status of widows.

Academic centres

Agricultural Development and Rural Transformation Centre:

This centre provides continuous policy feedback to the Union Ministry of Agriculture. Its focus includes:

Impact of WTO on agriculture.

Agricultural policy — prices, marketing, and programmes.

Issues in irrigation.

Agricultural credit, micro-credit, non-governmental organisations.

Watershed development.

Dry land agriculture.

Horticultural development, floriculture, and sericulture.

Role of Panchayat Raj Institutions in rural development.

Environmental issues in the agricultural sector.

Centre for Decentralisation and Development:

This was set up in 2002 with assistance from the Ford Foundation. It undertakes multidisciplinary research in decentralisation and development, covering fiscal, political, and administrative aspects of decentralisation. It provides research inputs to the government and the non-governmental organisations for policy formulation and implementation. The centre aims at growing as a centre of excellence in the field.

Centre for Ecological Economics and Natural Resources:

The centre analyses the interface between economics and ecology. An appropriate strategy has to be evolved for striking a balance between growth and ecology. The management of our natural resources has to be optimised. The centre has emerged as an important focal point for analysing and identifying various policy alternatives relating to sustainable development. CEENR has conducted detailed studies on urban development, economic instruments for pollution abatement, and management of natural resources such as land, forest, and water.

Centre for Economic Studies and Policy:

The focus of research is on macroeconomic issues of the Indian economy with special emphasis on areas relating to public finance, industrial and labour issues, planning and development, poverty and public policy, and urban infrastructure.

The research on industrial economics stresses the empirical estimation of the impact of WTO agreements and policy incentives on industrial development in general and on small-scale industries in particular. Research on economic infrastructure focusses on higher education, health, telecom services, subsidies, and consumer demand.

Fiscal federalism and decentralisation, tax reforms with special reference to sales tax and value-added taxes, socio-economic analysis of labour markets, determination of minimum wages, valuation of life and injury risks, impact of trade unions on the compensation of job risks, and social security for unorganised labour are some of the other domains of research studies.

Centre for Human Resource Development:

The institute has taken human resources development as a priority area for research. Health and education, the two significant components of the field, play a vital role in economic growth, social development and global competitiveness. Some of the other areas covered are skill formation, quality of workforce, gender concerns and nutritional status, early childhood care and education, alternative paradigms in planning and management of education and healthcare delivery services, lifelong learning with particular focus on the marginalised and youth population, education and its impact on migration in promoting income mobility and quality of life, and child rights.

Centre for Political Institutions, Governance, and Development:

Research at this centre focusses on issues concerning the study of social and economic change from the political and governance perspective. There has been a change in approach consequent on changes such as globalisation, democratic decentralisation, and technological revolution including information and communication technology.

The thrust areas for research include:

Perspectives, theories, philosophies, and paradigms related to politics, governance, and development.

Development politics. Role of state, market, and civil society on governance and development.

Political and administrative institutions: Democracy, political parties, pressure groups, executive, legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy, and institutions of rural and urban governance.

Implications of globalisation on polity, governance and labour.

Issues pertaining to conflicts, communalism, corruption, terrorism, fundamentalism, sub-nationalism, regionalism, inter-State disputes, gender, ethics, poverty, and environmental governance.

Centre for Study of Social Change and Development:

The centre has done a number of analytical and insightful sociological studies on wide-ranging issues. Areas of research include rural livelihood systems and sustainable natural resources management, rural poverty, caste in contemporary society, untouchability and social development of backward classes, privatisation of common property resources, entrepreneurship and social mobility, survival strategies in drought-prone areas, and democratic decentralisation and participation of women.

Population Research Centre:

This is an interdisciplinary community of scholars engaged in population research and training. It assists the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with policy input and feedback on population and health issues. It is engaged in research relating to contemporary issues of demography and health in our country. The Ph.D. programme at the centre emphasises research using demographic tools and techniques grounded in population theories.