ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Sudha NarayananSubscribe to Sudha Narayanan

Agricultural Revival and Reaping the Youth Dividend

In recent years, “youth” has emerged as a distinct category of population to be governed in India. Policy efforts to realise the “demographic dividend” amidst an agrarian crisis have however not met with success as suggested by reports of jobless growth on the one hand and poor quality of employment generated outside agriculture on the other. What are the prospects of improving youth livelihoods within agriculture? Can the youth revive the prospects of agriculture? Improving incomes within agriculture while also paying sufficient attention to caste and gender relations that shape labour hierarchies, access to land, youth preferences and mobility aspirations is critical to imagining a future that sustains agriculture and youth livelihoods.

The Long Road to Transformation of Agricultural Markets in India

This paper examines Karnataka’s pioneering agricultural output marketing reforms with the twin goals of assessing the state and challenges of implementation and to glean lessons from Karnataka’s experience for India’s e-National Agriculture Market. Through a field study of 10 mandis across the state, we find that while Karnataka has been consistently pushing through with reforms, in the context of deeply entrenched relationships between farmers, traders and commission agents, there remain significant challenges. We argue, based on Karnataka’s experience, that agricultural market reform in India rests on three pillars— institutions that establish the rules of the game, incentives for agents to participate actively in the market, and infrastructure to support the modernised trading platform. Unless reforms address all these three issues simultaneously, they are unlikely to succeed.

MGNREGA Works and Their Impacts

This study reports on a survey of 4,881 users of more than 4,100 works created under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Maharashtra. It provides evidence that MGNREGA works support agriculture, and benefit a large number of small and marginal farmers. An overwhelming 90% of the respondents considered the works very useful or somewhat useful, while only 8% felt they were useless. Further, most works continue to be maintained and are in a good condition. Overall, this study suggests that the widespread perception that the MGNREGA does not create anything productive appears to be misplaced, although there is scope for improving the choice of works, their design, and their execution.

Women Participation and Rationing in the Employment Guarantee Scheme

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act that guarantees employment of every rural household for 100 days has different progressive provisions to incentivise participation of women in the programme. Official data suggest that 47% of all MGNREGA workers are women. The extent to which the programme is inclusive of women, with a particular focus on sub-populations of women such as widows and mothers of young children who typically face serious constraints in the context of labour market participation, is examined in this study using data from the National Sample Survey. The study finds that while the MGNREGA has indeed been inclusive of women, the substantial variations both across states and the exclusion of vulnerable groups of women demand attention.

The National Food Security Act vis-à-vis the WTO Agreement on Agriculture

This article analyses the implications of the National Food Security Act for India's commitments under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture in the context of widespread concern that they might be mutually incompatible. An analysis of support to rice and wheat for the period 1995-2012 suggests that it is possible to leverage existing provisions in the Agreement to accommodate the current levels of operation. While India should negotiate to retain the flexibility afforded in the Agreement and argue on specific provisions, it might not be necessary to seek special protection to enable the Act.

Inflections in Agricultural Evolution

This paper examines the emergence of specific commodity complexes and transactional forms in eight interior districts in Tamil Nadu focusing on gherkins, marigold, broiler, cotton and papaya. Their growing importance is a response to the structural changes in the larger economy and the contextual constraints on agriculture in the region. It posits that this phenomenon represents an inflection in the trajectory of agricultural growth in the region because of three distinct features. First, the new commodity complexes have strong links to agribusinesses and global markets. Second, downstream players exert an unprecedented influence and control over production practices. Third, the need for control over quality demands particular transactional forms such as contract farming. The paper argues that despite some economic gain, challenges of a different kind emerge and the normative implications of these changes are as yet unclear.

A Case for Reframing the Cash Transfer Debate in India

Cash transfers are now suggested by many as a silver bullet for addressing the problems that plague India's anti-poverty programmes. This article argues instead for evidence-based policy and informed public debate to clarify the place, prospects and problems of cash transfers in India. By drawing on key empirical findings from academic and grey literature across the world an attempt is made to draw attention to three aspects of cash transfers - design, implementation and impact. The article examines which instruments function the best and for what goals, what the broader context is in which these interventions are embedded, and what the difficulties associated with their implementation are.

Employment Guarantee, Women's Work and Childcare

A social audit in Tamil Nadu finds that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has brought about major changes in the lives of women. However, the act overlooks the fact that childcare is a problem for many of the working women, especially for young mothers.

Rice Trade Liberalisation and Poverty

This paper explores the important link between rice trade liberalisation and poverty, seeking specifically to respond to two questions: What would be the effect of freer trade in rice on trade flow patterns? How will rice trade liberalisation and consequent rice price equalisation across countries influence the prevalence of poverty in the poorer economies? In doing so, the paper focuses primarily on Asia.

Demystifying Fertiliser and Power Subsidies in India

Broadly half of the huge supposedly agricultural subsidy on fertilisers and power, amounting to more than Rs 31,000 crore and comprising 2 per cent of GDP, is either going to industry in the case of fertilisers or is simply being stolen by non-agricultural consumers in the case of power. This paper estimates plant-specific domestic resource cost of all urea plants in the country, and aggregate measure of support for selected commodities through power subsidies. It also gives some policy options both for the centre to tackle fertiliser subsidy and to the states to minimise power subsidy

From Marrakesh to Seattle

The Agreement on Agriculture (AOA), one of the major agreements signed in Marrakesh under the Uruguay Round in April 1994, has three basic clauses; market access (tariffication), domestic support and export competition. The authors review India's status with regard to each one of these and also try to compare it with what is happening in the rest of the world, especially how the developed countries are adjusting their agricultural policies to make them compatible with the provisions of the AOA. In the light of this analysis, they delineate the broad contours of an agenda for Indian negotiators in the Seattle round with respect to these three clauses, keeping India's interests in mind. Section II of the paper concentrates on the issue of market access, Section III on domestic support and Section IV on export competition. Section V presents some concluding remarks and also refers to some other important issues that too need to be taken care of in the Seattle round.
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