An Economist Who Helps Women Help Themselves
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
The Life of Science – Cells, electrons or chemical bonds are not on her mind. Hemlata Manglani is a different kind of scientist – she observes the deposits in bank accounts of women in India.
Her research question is simple. Despite many government schemes, why is the socio-economic condition of some communities not improving? To answer this, she needs no microscope or particle accelerator, just a well-crafted questionnaire that can reach as many people as possible.
For her recently awarded Ph.D. thesis, Hema interviewed thousands of artisans working in three hundred printing enterprises across the Sanganer and Bagru regions of Rajasthan. “My work was focussed on the economy of Rajasthan, which is entirely based on exports. Artisans making blocks and printed fabric in these areas are an important part of this export-based economy. I wanted to explore the socio-economic conditions of these people who heavily contribute to this economy,” she tells me at her office at Central University of Rajasthan, next to the national highway connecting between Jaipur and Ajmer.
Among her findings, what stood out was the artisans’ low wages and poor socio-economic standards. In Bagru, where vegetable dyes are used for a completely eco-friendly production, their numbers are dipping dangerously low. “Artisans are disappearing from Bagru art because of the lack of a working policy. It is a completely unorganised sector,” she said.