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

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The article “Factors Contributing to Income Inequalities among Agricultural Households in India” by Seema Bathla and Anjani Kumar (EPW, 25 May 2019) aims to estimate income inequality in agricultural households at a subnational level that “can help to evaluate how public policies may lessen income gaps within each state” (p 57). The authors have made the use of the Gini index and regression-based inequality decomposition method within the neoclassical framework along with the Cobb–Douglas production function. The main finding is that “each state shows a high Gini ratio (more than 0.50) irrespective of farm size, indicating the persistence of large income inequalities in India” (p 60). The authors deserve appreciation for their policy influential study in particular to income inequalities in agriculture.

The authors have succeeded in identifying the differing patterns of income inequality among the agricultural households across different geographical regions. Here, an attempt is made to explore some missing links which are important in arriving at the appropriate policy measures. In explaining the income inequality trends and its dynamics in different states there are certain inconsistencies that have arisen; to illustrate, in Chhattisgarh the per capita income of agricultural households has grown, yet land is a source of inequality. Similarly, the explanations for the widened income inequality among the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, and West Bengal remain insufficient, although it was found that “land is a constraining factor” (p 59) in some of these states.

The proposed steps to mitigate the income gaps seem to appear far from the socio-economic and political reality of the agrarian economy of the country. “Equal access to land can enhance households’ capital base, which can have significant effects on productivity and growth and reduce income gaps among households” (p 60). This negates the fact of unequal access to land as a critical factor for income inequalities. The authors would have taken into consideration the extent of land reforms in the selected states to strengthen the analytical rigour of their findings.

The conclusions drawn are general in nature and do not emanate from the preceding analysis. For example, “state governments should initiate measures to provide marginal and small farmers with increased access to land” (p 60). The neoliberal state in India is the biggest appropriator of land in order to pursue development. The contradiction between state-led development and people’s development aspirations is at the heart of land conflicts in the country. Income inequality in agriculture is an outcome of the centralised development model in violation of Article 39(b) of the Constitution.

Nayakara Veeresha

Bengaluru

Updated On : 7th Jun, 2019

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