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Economic Studies of Indigenous & Traditional Knowledge   

Economic Studies of Indigenous & Traditional Knowledge

Editor: Nirmal Sengupta
Published by Academic Foundation
in association with
Indian Economic Association Trust for Research & Development
Hard Bound Book (5¾” x 8¾”) :   Pages : 322
2007  Edition   :   ISBN -81-7188-586-1
Price : Rs. 595.00 / US$ 65.95;
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Till recently the mention of traditional knowledge would only elicit metaphors like the Vedas and Upanishads, Aryabhatta, Panini and Charaka, or the invention of zero. The perspective is changing. This book deals with the traditional and indigenous knowledge of common men and women of India, that of its tribal and Dalit population, fisher folk, craftsmen, artisans and leather workers, their agriculture, housing and irrigation methods, medicinal knowledge, drinking water collection, arts and culture. Different chapters establish that the economic significance of such knowledge in the modern world is continuing, even increasing, and is being utilised in a wide variety of ways. Globally, there is an increased interest in traditional and indigenous knowledge. It is now recognised as an underutilised resource that can help to reduce poverty, and also as a dormant reserve with considerable commercial potential.


Nirmal Sengupta is a Professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai. Formerly, Director of Madras Institute of Development Studies, he was educated at the Indian Statistical Institute. Other books by him include: Fourth World Dynamics: Jharkhand; Managing Common Property: Irrigation in India and the Philippines; Biodiversity and Quality of Life; and The Economics of Trade Facilitation.


List of Tables, Figures, Boxes and Appendices


Contributors to the Volume



— Nirmal Sengupta


Tribal Man in the Humid Tropics
— P.S. Ramakrishnan



Humid Tropics—A Unique Ecosystem Type

Forest Farming

Animal Husbandry

Distortions in the Relationship between Man and Nature

Man and Nature: Building The Bridge


Marine Fisheries: Knowledge, Production and Distribution
— K.T. Thomson



The Study Area

Location of Fish

Seasonal Distribution of Fish in Colachel

Major Instruments of Production

Cooperation and the Labour Processes

Seasons and the Natural Selection of Labour Processes

Communal Property and the Community

Cooperation, Hierarchy and Economic Organisation of Work in Colachel

Distribution of the Social Product

Other Economic Relations



Housing—Public Policy Priorities
— Aromar Revi



Current Situation

An Action Plan for Rural Housing


Neglected Sources of Irrigation
— Nirmal Sengupta



Extent of User-friendly Irrigation

Data Sources

Current Trends and Decay

Scope of Extension


Arsenic Catastrophe and a Safer Tradition
— Meera M. Hira Smith







Additional Note


The Economy of Homestead Garden
— Mouchumi K. Borgohain




The Findings

The Role of Homestead Garden



Intellectual Property Rights: Options Assessment
— Aparna Bhagirathy


Intellectual Property Protection in Knowledge Goods

Economics of Intellectual Property Rights

Cumulative Innovation Theories

A Cumulative Innovation Model for Traditional Knowledge

The Model



Economics of Bioprospecting
— Pushpam Kumar and Nori Tarui



Value of the Benefits from Bioprospecting: Review of Literature

A Critical Evaluation



Marketing of Ayurvedic Medicine
— Madhulika Banerjee


Dabur: “A 100 Years of Caring”

Product Profiling: From Drug to Concept

Positioning and the Politics of Images

Packaging the Social Character of a Commodity

Conclusion: Power, Culture, Medicine


Pollution Control by Natural Dyes
— G. Badri Narayanan



Literature Review




Possible Extensions


From Carcass Disposal to Social Empowerment
— T. Ramasami


Background of the Project

Carcass Recovery and Utilisation

The Kolhapuri Footwear

Costs and Benefits

Patenting and Commercialisation



Crafts in a Globalising World
— Aparna Bhagirathy and Nirmal Sengupta





Madhulika Banerjee did her graduation in Economics and Ph.D. in Political Science from Delhi University. At present she is a Reader, University of Delhi. She was Visiting Fellow, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford. Actively involved in issues of traditional medical systems in public health she has published several articles particularly in the area of politics of pharmaceuticals industry and state policy.

Aparna Bhagirathy is M.A. (Economics), Madras University; MPIA (Masters in Pacific International Affairs), University of California, San Diego. At present she is a Research Associate at the Centre for Micro-Finance Research, Chennai. She has published a couple of articles in newsletters, magazines on Intellectual Property Rights and Traditional Knowledge. She was also the co-organiser of a series of workshops on traditional knowledge and is principal investigator on a project on traditional knowledge and IPR

Mouchumi Konwer Borgohain is M.A. (Economics) from Gauhati University with specialisation in econometrics and mathematical economics. She has 25 years teaching experience in colleges. At present she is Head, Department of Economics, D.C.B. Girls’ College, Dibrugarh University, Assam. Her other areas of research and interest are women’s studies, ecological economics and environmental economics. She has written several articles on Assam and has worked as resource person for training programmes on gender sensitisation.

Pushpam Kumar Ph.D. in Environmental Economics from the University of Delhi. Currently Reader in Environmental Economics, Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), Delhi. Earlier, he was Lecturer in Economics in the Department of Business Economics in the University of Delhi. Some of his recent publications are a book: Economics of Soil Erosion: Issues and Imperatives from India (2003) and articles “Does Environmental Kuznets Curve Exist for Changing Land Use: Empirical Evidence from Major States of India”, (in International Journal of Sustainable Development, 2003) and “Corporate Social Responsibility: Some Issues” (in Global Business Opportunity). His book (co-author) Economics of Ecosystem Services of Wetlands is in press.

G. Badri Narayanan, B.Tech(Textile Technology), Ph.D. at Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai. At present he is a Fellow, Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations (ICRIER). His broad area of research is Economics and Management of Textile Industry. His article: “Garment Exports–A Mission with Vision” was published in the Journal of Textile Association.

P.S. Ramakrishnan, M.Sc. (Botany); Ph.D., Banaras Hindu University, is an internationally renowned Ecologist, is currently associated with the School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, as a U.G.C. Emeritus Professor. He was Professor of Ecology at Jawaharlal Nehru University; Founder Director, G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development; and Professor of Botany/Eco-development, North Eastern Hill University. For his work in the area of population ecology, Professor Ramakrishnan was elected to the Fellowship of National Academy of Sciences (1972), Indian Academy of Sciences (1975) and Indian National Science Academy (1980). For his researches in the area of sustainable management of biodiversity and natural resources, with concerns for sustainable livelihood/development of traditional societies, comprising of about 400 research publications and 17 research volumes, he has received many national and international recognitions including fellowships of the Third World Academy of Sciences, and the Honorary Fellowship of the International Association of Tropical Biology (ATB). Development projects in Nagaland to conserve biodiversity in shifting agriculture affected areas, through an incremental build-up of the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), were based on over 20 years of research effort of Professor Ramakrishnan, scientifically validating his theory.

T. Ramasami, after obtaining his Bachelor and Masters degrees in Leather Technology from the University of Madras carried out his doctoral research at the University of Leeds, UK. He worked for six years in the United States at the Ames Energy research laboratory, Iowa, and at Wayne State University, Detroit; he was Visiting Fellow at the University of New Castle upon Tyne, joined the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) in 1984 as a senior scientist, and was appointed later as Director of CLRI. At present he is the Secretary, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India. He is co-author of over 100 publications in refereed journals and more than 50 technical reports. Dr. Ramasami has a broad range of scientific interests and represents a combination of strengths in chemistry, with the capability to develop technologies from first principles. He is a member of several professional scientific and academic bodies in India and abroad, and is a recipient of several awards, including the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Chemical Sciences, special award of honour from the Indian Leather Technologists Association and Coleman Research Prize. In 2001, National Civilian Honour Padma Shri was conferred on him by the Government of India. He is an elected fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences and Indian Leather Technologists Association.

Aromar Revi, formally trained as a technologist and civil engineer, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), is a consultant, researcher and practitioner in development, public policy, technology and sustainability. He is a founding Director of TARU, a leading South Asian research consulting firm and has lectured and taught widely in India and the West. He is also internationally recognised in the areas of systems and cybernetics. He has made a significant contribution to human settlements development in India, for which he was awarded the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990. This includes a key role in the design of India’s national public housing programme, serving on high-level committees of the Government of India and developing housing and urban development sectoral plans for half of India’s states in the early 1990s. This provided him through extensive fieldwork and travel, a unique insight into the immense complexity and diversity of the country. He is one of South Asia’s leading disaster mitigation and management experts and has led emergency teams to assess, plan and execute recovery and rehabilitation programmes for 10 major earthquake, cyclone, surge and flood events affecting over 5 million people.

Nirmal Sengupta Master of Statistics (M. Stat.), Diploma in Econometrics and Planning, Ph.D. (Indian Statistical Institute), is Professor, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai. Before joining IGIDR he was Malcolm Adiseshiah Professor for Policy Studies (former Director) at Madras Institute of Development Studies. He has also worked at the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta; A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna, as Deputy Director of State Planning Board Bihar; Expert and Consultant to UNDP, FAO, Netherlands Ministery for Development Cooperation, World Commission on Dams and Visiting Scholar at National Institute of Rural Development (Hyderabad), Institute of Philippine Culture (Manila), and Indiana University (Indiana). Sengupta’s varied interests cut across disciplinary boundaries. His writings like “Irrigation: Traditional versus Modern” (1985) and “Traditional Water Management Systems: Primitive or Precious?”, Keynote Address, First Congress on Traditional Science and Technologies of India, initiated research works in indigenous irrigation. His recent books include The Economics of Trade Facilitation (Oxford, 2007), Biodiversity and Quality of Life (ed. Macmillan, 2005), A New Institutional Theory Of Production–An Application (Sage, 2001).

Meera M. Hira Smith is M.Sc., Ph.D. (Sc.) in Geography, Calcutta University. Presently she is Director of Project Well, California, USA and researcher at the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. Her thesis was on Impact of Air, Water and Sound Pollution on the People of Calcutta: A Geographical Analysis. Her articles have been published in Geographical Review of India, Environmental Health Perspectives and Epidemiology. Engaged in health research since 1993, her involvement in the field of Arsenic Crisis relief began in 1996. She is the international coordinator and founder of Project Well and maintains a website on this. Besides, she has co-authored a book Easy Way to Learn Bengali consisting of 100 chapters and accompanied by four compact disks (

Nori Tarui, M.A. (Economics) at Keio University, Tokyo; Ph.D., Department of Applied Economics, and a Scholar at the MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program on Global Change, Sustainability and Justice at the University of Minnesota. Till recently a Fellow at the Earth Institute, Columbia University he is now an Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Hawaii-Manoa. Research areas include common-property resource use, non-market institutions in rural villages and environmental regulation.

K.T. Thomson, graduated with a first class in Mathematics, later did his M.A. (Economics) from Dr. John Mathai Centre, University of Calicut and Ph.D. (Economics) from Madras University. He is a Resource Economist in the School of Industrial Fisheries of Cochin, University of Science and Technology. He is also associated with the Centre for Integrated Coastal Zone Management of the School of Marine Sciences and the Centre for Rural Development and Appropriate Technology (RUDAT) of the Cochin University. He has been associated with Food and Agricultural Organization, Asian Development Bank and the World Bank as consultant fisheries socioeconomist and has done field works in Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia in a variety of issues related to small scale fisheries management. He has finished several projects on coastal biodiversity management and sustainable development. At present he is the co-investigator of two international projects on fisheries, one on co-management in South Asian fisheries and another on estuarine management.

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