ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Making Pulses Affordable Again

While outlining strategies to increase availability of pulses at affordable prices, it is argued that increasing domestic production of pulses is the only option. Access to one or two protective irrigation sources during the growing season can lead to sizeable increases in pulse production. The har khet ko paani initiative should give priority to pulse-producing areas. The minimum support price, without procurement, helps traders more than farmers because it acts as a focal point for tacit collusion among traders. Including subsidised pulses in the public distribution system has only a small effect on consumption of pulses. We suggest investing in research and extension, aggregating into farmer producer organisations, and paying growers or growing areas for the ecosystem services offered by pulses.

Solar Irrigation Pumps

Price of solar panels has declined rapidly. Encouraged by increasing affordability of the technology and its promise to curb the demand for subsidised electricity, state governments in India are aggressively promoting solar irrigation pumps. Rajasthan became the pioneer by announcing a scheme in 2011 with 86% subsidy to horticulture farmers who used drip irrigation and farm ponds. Based on extensive fieldwork and survey in three districts of Rajasthan, this paper looks at the farmers' experiences, the design and implementation of the policy, and makes recommendations for a faster and more equitable diffusion of the technology, which could attack India's invidious nexus between energy and groundwater irrigation, and change it for the better.

Direct Cash Transfer System for Fertilisers

The challenges in implementing a direct cash transfer system for fertilisers are daunting. This paper points out that they range from the very large number of beneficiaries to volatile fertiliser prices, necessitating market price indexation of cash transfers and controlling the market power of dealers, especially in remote areas. The imbalance in the use of different fertilisers is also a growing problem. If designed properly, a DCT should be accompanied by significant investment in soil testing and the payment should be tied to balanced use of fertilisers, including micronutrients.

Will the Impact of the 2009 Drought Be Different from 2002?

Groundwater, which has emerged as India's prime adaptive mechanism in times of drought, will play a crucial role this year since the aquifers were recharged in 2006-08. The impact of the drought of 2009 will therefore be less severe than the drought of 2002. Beyond the immediate response, we need to think long term. Instead of pumping money into dams and canals, Indian agriculture will be better off investing in "groundwater banking". This involves storing surplus flood waters in aquifers which can be drawn upon in times of need.

Understanding Agrarian Impasse in Bihar

The key hypothesis of policy-makers during the 1980s was that raising tubewell density would trigger agrarian upsurge in Bihar as it did in Punjab, Haryana and western UP. The state did record high growth rates of cereal yields during the 1980s, higher than the national figures. However, this promising development could not be sustained in the 1990s, and cereal yields have stagnated since then. Based on fieldwork in eight villages of Bihar, the paper argues that, more than agrarian structure, the lack of adequate infrastructure and economic incentives has contributed to the agrarian stagnation in Bihar. The growth potential unleashed by the expansion of shallow tubewell irrigation has been constrained by (a) complete neglect of public sector investments in physical and institutional infrastructure and (b) unfavourable output to factor price ratios.

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