In This Issue
About Us
About Pattrika
This biannual newsletter is conceived to give a glimpse of the many and varied projects conducted by the French research centres in India.This third issue in the new online format covers the first half of 2018. Click here for previous issues
Contact Us
IFP: ifpinfo{at}ifpindia{dot}org

EFEO: administration{at}efeo-pondicherry{dot}org

CSH: communication{at}csh-delhi{dot}com
Kalivelli wetland: looking for environmental stewardship? (IFP)

Natural and human-made wetlands surrounding Pondicherry are recognized as important areas for many species of fauna and flora. Kalivelli wetland is a brackish shallow lake located on the Coromandal Coast in Villupuram and Cheyyur districts, North of Pondicherry. Although Kalivelli is a vital wetland for both breeding and wintering waterbirds, and local human communities that exploit the natural resources of the marsh, it also seems to be a degraded one.

The lake is subject to pollution, water depletion, invasion by alien species, and landscape and land-use change driven by development of hard infrastructures such as roads, dwellers, ditches, dykes or ponds for shrimp farming. In this context, the main goal of this study is to assess the present status of the Kalivelli wetland and the changes it has undergone over the past decades by gathering multisource data at different spatial scales. The objectives are: (i) to map the land cover of the Kalivelli wetland from satellite images; (ii) to give a better understanding of the ongoing socio-ecological trajectory of the wetland by using a participatory land-use mapping approach; (iii) to discuss changes with local stakeholders and make management recommendations to the authority in charge of the establishment of a new Bird Sanctuary there.

In the context of climate change, global environmental degradation and ecological transition, it is more important than ever to study and protect Indian coastal wetlands. This study should provide a first state of reference on the Kalivelli wetland's land cover and land use. A management of the Bird Sanctuary based on an environmental stewardship approach rather than a top-down approach might be a way to make conservation really efficient without inducing social injustice and environmental inequalities.

Contact: Raphaël Mathevet: raphael{dot}mathevet{at}ifpindia{do}org

Sanskrit and Malayalam Manuscripts from the Thrissur Monastic Complex (EFEO)

Teaching of the Ṛgveda in one of the Thrissur monasteries

The project "Sanskrit and Malayalam Manuscripts from the Thrissur Monastic Complex", directed by Hugo David in collaboration with SAS Sarma (EFEO, Pondicherry), CM Neelakandhan (retired from Sankaracharya University of Kalady) and the British Library and funded by Arcadia (Endangered Archives Program - Pilot Project No. 1039), was launched on 1st October 2018 and will run for a period of ten months. Its purpose is to establish a first inventory of manuscripts preserved in the main monastic complex of the city of Thrissur (Central Kerala) and to achieve a partial digitization of them, as well as to improve as much as possible the conditions of conservation of the documents. The collection consists of about 800 palm-leaf manuscripts from the collections of the four Śaṅkara-affiliated monasteries of Thrissur. It is currently in the library of Vadakke Madham Brahmaswam, a renowned Vedic institution, and has never been catalogued. It contains many works that are rare or otherwise unknown, especially in the fields of non-dual philosophy (Advaita Vedānta), Kerala history and hagiography.

Contact: Hugo David: hugo{dot}david{at}efeo{dot}net

Intermediary Actors of Indian Politics (CSH)

This project examines the pivotal role of political mediators in the conduct of Indian democracy. The enthusiasm surrounding the practice of Indian democracy is a defining feature of its polity, and India's exceptionally vibrant attitude to elections has been researched extensively. Scholars scrutinise its carnivalesque fervor with minutiae and experts produce, following every general election, rather teleological discourses, concentrating on both electoral successes and political cataclysms. In this context, the 2019 parliamentary polls are the next cyclical opportunity for political pundits to diagnose the country's life forces according to a pre-defined set of dichotomies: the informal and the formal worker, the rural and the urban dweller, the poor and the rich household, the dominant caste and the disenfranchised community, men and women, Hindus and Muslims, North and South, etc. While such polarized contentions help understand Indian society to a certain extent, this perspective nonetheless tends to cleave the democratic process into two antithetic groups of actors: the voter and the elected representative. As a result, political intermediaries, who play important and variegated roles, disappear from the picture.

By examining the connectedness between elite and subaltern politics, the project will unearth the centrality of the myriad of non-elected political agents who constantly reinvent contemporary Indian democracy. Two objectives are in particular pursued. First, the project will account for the emergence of a new range of political entrepreneurs involved in India's democratic "vernacularisation". These figures include the naya neta -- the non-elite youth that has progressively become the main channel between common citizens and the Indian state. The objective here is to assess and explain the emergence of "interstitial" actors in India's civil society: digital gods and social media trendsetters, leaders of caste associations, student activists, local groups involved in the practical organization of elections, and all the other small hands playing a part in the networks that structure the broader political field.

The second objective of the project is to make sense of the array of representative claims emerging from the public participation of political intermediaries. Particular attention will be given to the way social profiles of intermediaries inform their political actions, in particular for those emerging from Dalit, Muslim and other deprived backgrounds.

This research project is managed by CSH but involves other leading academic institutions in India, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Participating institutions are the M.S. Merian R. Tagore International Centre of Advanced Studies (ICAS), the Trivedi Centre for Political Data (TCPD) at Ashoka University, the Centre for the Study of Social Systems (CSSS) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the Germano-French research project CLAIMS and the Department of History at King's College London. The project has received partial funding by the Funds of Alembert from the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Contact: Jean-Thomas Martelli: jtm{dot}martelli{at}mail{dot}com

Mapping issues, actors and tools for women's promotion in Assam (IFP)

In October 2018, the Social Sciences department of the IFP (Sarah Benabou, Hélène Guétat-Bernard - supervision, Frédéric Landy, Venkatasubramanian G.) responded to the request of the French Agency for Development AFD for expertise on "Mapping issues, actors and tools for women's promotion in Assam" in the context of their project on the Forest and Biodiversity of Assam. This collaboration continues the expertise that the IFP's Ecology Department provided to the Assam Biodiversity Portal.

The work consisted of a literature review on gender and biodiversity and agrobiodiversity, land uses, political ecology, gender consequences of public policy relating to large planning such as dams but also public policy of territorial development and agricultural objectives. All these aspects have links with the IFP's programs in other parts of India, such as the study of agroecology in Tamilnadu and Karnataka (Hélène Guétat-Bernard, Frédéric Landy, Venkatsubramanian) or the project on political ecology in the Himalayan states (Sarah Benabou).

A mapping of actors has also been done in order to better identify actions on gender policy that are underway in the state. This identification of the main actors has facilitated the establishment of links with the regional network North East Network NEN (member of the National Millet Network) and the national network MAKAAM working on the rights of women farmers. Scientific links have been established with these two important networks that will facilitate partnerships in future, specifically on gender and agroecology. MAKAAM was invited to participate in the 3-day workshop on Local Food System that was held at the IFP in early January 2019.

Contact: Hélène Guétat-Bernard: helene{dot}guetat{at}ifpindia{dot}org

Grammatical traditions in multilingual South India (EFEO)

As part of the NETamil project based in Hamburg and Pondicherry, Victor B. D'Avella (post-doc at Hamburg University) is carrying out research on the linguistic traditions of south India at the EFEO, Pondicherry, where the unique confluence of scholars and resources in Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu reflect the multilingual milieu in which the texts at the centre of his studies were composed. The oldest among these traditions are the Sanskrit schools of grammar that inspired numerous works in Tamil and Telugu and, as such, form the core of his academic investigations. To deepen his knowledge of this vast field, D'Avella is reading some of the more challenging works of vyākaraṇa with Pdt. S.L.P. Anjaneya Sharma such as the Paribhāṣenduśekhara of Nāgeśa Bhaṭṭa and Patañjali's Mahābhāṣya. Along side these, forays are also being made into Telugu grammars, in particular the Āndhraśabdacintāmaṇi and the Bālavyākaraṇamu. On the Tamil side, a partial translation of commentaries on the Tolkāppiyam (the Iḷampūraṇam and the Teyvaccilaiyam) are being brought to completion, and a study of the Taṇṭiyalaṅkāram, a Tamil adaptation of Daṇḍin's Kāvyādarśa, is underway.

Contact: Victor B. D'Avella: vbd203{at}googlemail{dot}com

Evaluating Education Systems (CSH)

Ranking of distributions of educational outcomes and family backgrounds in various countries

This research project, conducted by Nicolas Gravel, Edward Levavasseur and Patrick Moyes, develops and implements two dominance criteria for evaluating education systems, based on the joint distributions of the pupils' cognitive skill achievements and family backgrounds. The first criterion is shown to be the smallest transitive ranking of education systems compatible with three elementary principles. The first principle considers that any improvement in the cognitive skill of a child with a given family background is good. The second principle requires any child's cognitive skill to be all the more favorably appraised as the child is coming from an unfavorable background. The third principle asserts that, for any two levels of skill and background, it is preferable that the high skill be given to the child with the low background than the other way around. The criterion considers that system A is better than system B if, for any pair of reference background and skill, the fraction of children with both a lower background and a better skill than the reference is larger in A than in B. The second criterion completes the first one by adding to these three principles the elitist requirement that a mean preserving spread in the skills of two children with the same background be recorded favorably. The two criteria are then used to compare the education systems of 43 countries, taking the PISA score in mathematics as the measure of cognitive skills and the largest of the two parents International Socio-Economic Index as the indicator of background. The results obtained are that show that, albeit incomplete, the criteria enables the comparisons of quite a few education systems. Education systems of fast growing Asian economies - and in particular Vietnam - appear at the top of our rankings while those of wealthy Arab countries such as Arab Emirates are at the bottom. The fraction of the countries that can be ranked successfully increases substantially as a result of adding elitism to the three other principles.

Contact: Nicolas Gravel: nicolas{dot}gravel{at}csh-delhi{dot}com

Development of Śaivasiddhanta in 16th century Tamilnadu (IFP)

Chidambaram and in the area on the bank of the Kaveri river. Many independent texts elucidating the Śaivasiddhanta doctrines, both in Sanskrit and Tamil, were composed; voluminous Śaiva textual compilations were made and quite a few Tamil adaptations from Sanskrit to Tamil were undertaken. More commentaries to the Śivajñānabodham, the shortest philosophical text containing 12 metrical passages in Sanskrit as well as in Tamil were composed by a few leading Śaiva teachers such as Nigamajñānadesika, Śivagrayogi and others. The contributions of Śivagrayogi like those of his contemporaries Nigamajñāna I and Nigamajñāna II, are very vast and noteworthy for their philosophical positions and grandeur. A detailed monograph analysing in detail and assessing the important contributions of Śivagrayogi to Śaivasiddhanta is undertaken by T. Ganesan which is scheduled to be published in 2019.

Contact: T. Ganesan: ganesan{at}ifpindial{dot}org