We hosted an Artha Global Conversation with M.R. Sharan, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, on his latest book, ‘Last Among Equals: Power, Caste and Politics in Bihar’s Villages’. The event was co-hosted with Westland Books on January 20, 2022, from 6:00PM to 7:30PM.
Sharan’s book brings together two interweaving strands — the citizens who seek their right to MGNREGA and the complex local-state unit of the village: the mukhiyas and the ward members — to tell a story of hope: that those on the margins can challenge entrenched hierarchies. Through government action—reservation, decentralisation, transparency measures—and through citizenly engagement, social movements and elections, change is possible, if not necessarily easy.The discussion focused on the broad themes of the book, followed by a Q&A with the author. It was moderated by Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, CEO, Artha India.
M.R. Sharan is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, studying questions centred on development economics and political economy. He obtained his PhD from Harvard University in 2020 and was previously at the Delhi School of Economics and Hansraj College. He has spent over a decade studying the panchayati raj structures of Bihar’s villages. He comes away with a deep insight into how class, caste and gender operate in these structures, and also on how people on the margins stand up to and work around the state.
Niranjan Rajadhyaksha is CEO and Senior Fellow, Artha India. Previously, he was Research Director and Senior Fellow at IDFC Institute. He has also been Executive Editor of Mint, a financial daily, where he managed the opinion section, wrote the daily editorials and the award-winning Café Economics column. He also helped launch the data journalism initiative at the newspaper. Before joining Mint, he was Deputy Editor of Business World, a financial magazine.