ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Review of Rural AffairsSubscribe to Review of Rural Affairs


Insights on Demonetisation from Rural Tamil Nadu

Drawing on survey data from rural Tamil Nadu, the effects of demonetisation are documented. Serious concerns arise with regard to the achievement of its stated goals. The rural economy was adversely affected in terms of employment, daily financial practices, and social network use for over three months. People came to rely more strongly on their networks to sustain their economic and social activities. Demonetisation has probably further marginalised those without support networks. In a context such as India, where state social protection is weak and governmental schemes are notoriously subject to patronage and clientelistic networks, dense networks of supportive relatives, friends and patrons remain key for safeguarding daily life. With cashless policies gaining currency in various parts of the world, we believe our findings have major implications, seriously questioning their merit, especially among the most marginalised segments of the population.

Rural Construction Employment Boom during 2000–12

Amid (near) jobless economic growth during 2000–12, construction employment boomed at over 9% annually. It was part of a 10 percentage point rise in fixed capital formation rate in 13 years, to 35% of gross domestic product. The boom was rural, growing 2.5 times (at over 12%) as fast as in urban areas (at a mere 5%). National Sample Survey Office primary data reveals that a rise in rural private residential construction is the principal factor explaining the boom. This suggests improvements in rural housing status: conversion of kutcha houses into pucca houses. Decline in price-to-income ratio—of cement to rural wages—expanded rural construction demand. The popular perception (or explanation) for the rural construction employment boom in terms of rural–urban migration—of short-term, circular or seasonal—does not hold water.

Changes in Rural Economy of India, 1971 to 2012

The transition in the rural economy in the last four decades is examined based on the analysis of growth and composition of output and employment. A reduction in the share of agriculture, and a dominance of non-farm activities in the rural economy is noted from 2004–05 onwards. However, agriculture continues to be the predominant source of employment. Employment in the construction sector increased substantially, but was not large enough to absorb workers leaving agriculture, resulting in a decline in rural employment after 2004–05. A serious imbalance has emerged in output and employment in different sectors in rural areas requiring urgent attention to create jobs in manufacturing, services, and construction. Creation of jobs in rural areas requires a complete rethink of rural industrialisation.

Comparing Public and Private Agricultural Extension Services

Using primary data from the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam, a comparative analysis of the impacts of public and private agricultural extension services on acreage share of horticultural crops in total cropped area, and on farm business income generation is presented. It is revealed that farmers accessing either public or private extension services devote larger proportion of cropped area to cultivation of horticultural crops relative to farmers who do not access any type of extension services. Public extension service has been found to be marginally more effective than private extension service in this regard. Further, only public extension service is found to have a significant impact on income generation. It is suggested that outreach of the public extension services should be improved.

How Does Government Microfinance Impact the Rural Poor?

While microfinance companies have been studied and there is a growing consensus that they exclude the poorest, the impact of government microfinance programmes is relatively less understood. The National Rural Livelihoods Mission, which aims to reduce rural poverty by organising women into self-help groups, building capacity and providing access to microcredit is evaluated through a survey of 2,615 households in five districts of Madhya Pradesh. The focus is on four key questions. Who benefits and who gets left out? What is the pattern of household investment priorities? Is sustainable asset accumulation happening? What should be the exit strategy? It is found that the NRLM benefited the poor, while the very poor are struggling to repay the loans and getting left behind in poverty.

Agriculture Insurance in India

The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (during kharif 2016) and Weather-based Crop Insurance Scheme (kharif 2007–kharif 2014) are assessed by considering a set of performance indicators, namely average sum insured per insured cropped area, percentage of loanee and non-loanee farmers covered, average area insured per farmer, total claim ratio, farmer claim ratio, premium as percentage of sum insured, gross profit to insurance agencies. The study finds that claim payout can increase farmers’ coverage under PMFBY while subsidy and actuarial premium rate significantly impact farmers’ coverage for WBCIS. However, as recourse to complement the performance of two schemes, we propose a total insurance package like seed insurance through replanting guarantee programme, crop cycle insurance, prepaid insurance card, to name a few.

It Is Not Just about Fences

Discussions on human–wildlife conflict in India typically take place within a narrow frame, viewing the problem as a result of human “encroachment” into wildlife territories, and hence, one that primarily needs to be addressed by “compensating,” relocating or “protecting” local communities. Most research focuses on protected areas and severely underestimates the scale of the problem. This study, based on field surveys in Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, throws up a different picture, where conflict is a major problem, but one to which structures and practices of forest management in the country are a central contributor. It also points to how more democratic and rights-respecting approaches to forest management must be an essential part of any solution.

India and Africa in the Global Agricultural System (1961–2050)

The asynchronous but somewhat similar agricultural trajectories of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, especially India, are analysed over nearly a century (1961–2050). Millions of pieces of data available on the past (1961–2007) and on a plausible future (2006–50 projections by the Food and Agriculture Organization) are organised in a simple world food model where production, trade and consumption are aggregated and balanced in calories. Given the current and/or future land–labour relationships that characterise India and Africa, can these regions experience the same structural transformation that the developed countries went through, or work together towards a new sociotechnical regime by developing their own regionally differentiated labour-intensive production investments and technological capacities for economic, social, and ecological sustainability?

Non-farm Economy in Madhubani, Bihar

Based on a field study of two large settlements, the social dynamics of “rural” non-farm economy in the Madhubani district of Bihar are explored. Both these settlements—a census town and a gram panchayat— have a sizeable working population employed in a variety of non-farm occupations. The different types of non-farm activities in these locations are catalogued while examining the dynamics of caste, community and gender within the social organisation of the non-farm economy. The persistence of social hierarchies, differential incomes and discriminatory practices within the emergent non-farm economy are highlighted, even as the “traditional” jajmani-type social structure has nearly completely disintegrated.

Declassification of Census Towns in West Bengal

Eighty-one new census towns in West Bengal are on the verge of declassification in the 2021 Census. This must not be understood to mean that non-farm workers are moving into farm activities. Rather, evidences suggest that growth of farm employment has simply outpaced that of non-farm employment in these new census towns and is possibly the reason behind their imminent declassification. The case of Patuli, which is only considered as an example, shows that non-farm activities, especially trading, are witnessing a fall-off phase and that it failed to expand owing to the loss of its market town/rural service centre character over time, goaded by some local factors. This has led to the subsequent inability to generate sufficient full-time jobs at Patuli. More studies are required to build a comprehensive outlook on the policy measures required to preserve the role of these new census towns as market towns and/or rural service centres in the future.

Caste Discrimination and Agricultural Performance in India

Using data from the Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households, this paper attempts to understand caste-based discrimination and differences in the performance of Indian agriculture by analysing caste-wise differences in various factors of input and output. The results show that disadvantages originating in caste-based discrimination make socially marginalised groups in agriculture end up with low access to resources, low levels of productivity, and low realisation of returns.

Farm Power Policies and Groundwater Markets

With India emerging as the world’s largest groundwater irrigator, marginal farmers and tenants in many parts have come to depend on informal water markets for irrigation. Power subsidies have grown these markets and made them pro-poor, but are also responsible for groundwater depletion, and for financial troubles of electricity distribution companies of India or DISCOMs. Gujarat has successfully reduced subsidies by rationing farm power supply, and West Bengal has done so by charging farmers commercial power tariff on metered consumption. Subsidy reforms have hit poor farmers and tenants hard in both the states. Gujarat has tried to support the poor, with some success, by prioritising them in allocating new tube well connections. We argue that West Bengal too can support its poor by tweaking its farm power pricing formula to turn a sellers’ water market into a buyers’ one.


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