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

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Development Challenges for Agriculture in Maharashtra

Maharashtra is heralded as one of the economically advanced states, but this illusion crashed under the attack of Covid-19 virus and economic deterioration is expected to follow. It is argued here that the state policy dished out a raw deal to the agricultural sector and set the sector under severe stress. The path of this retrogression, reasons behind the trends and the possible policy platform for the last six decades are traced. Stagnation has gripped the agricultural sector, and it is losing cultivable land to other uses. This is accompanied by a sharp increase in small and marginal holdings. Surprisingly, the state has no agricultural policy document in place and the sector largely depends on only sporadic firefighting approaches with a policy paralysis.

Employment of Women in Rural Punjab

High economic growth has failed to improve the status or the participation of women in the labour market in developing countries. Taking into account the case of low labour force participation among women in rural Punjab, an analysis of existing policy prescriptions—of improving agricultural growth and crop diversification as a panacea to the problem—is revealed to be insufficient in improving the female labour force participation rate. In order for policy to successfully address these issues, it must consider the constraints imposed by gender norms.

Punjab’s Agricultural Labourers in Transition

Agricultural labourers are undergoing a socio-economic transition due to the intensified capitalisation of agriculture. The change in structure of rural employment in Punjab, over a period, has two prominent facets: shift of agricultural labour to non-farm sector, and conversion of permanent/attached labour in agriculture to casual labour. This longitudinal study, in 1987–88 and 2018–19, presents the transition in agricultural labour households in the state. While the agricultural labour households, solely depending on meagre income from the agricultural sector are struggling, the ones shifting to the non-farm sector are switching over to menial jobs. Rural agro-industrialisation for overall improvement in the employment situation along with enhanced wages, liberal institutional credit and debt waiver specific to workers are vital aspects that need attention.

Small Farmers and Organised Retail Chains in India

This study compares farmers selling vegetables to Mother Dairy, an organised retail chain, with those selling to the local mandi in Haryana to find out the drivers and constraints determining their participation in these two types of marketing chains, particularly for the small farmers. The findings suggest the significance of farm size in determining farmers’ participation in organised retail chains. Using Heckman selection–correction model, the study found that though the income of participating farmers increases, the increase depends on farm size, while the Ginni coefficient shows that the inequality in income distribution is more among the participants than the non-participating farmers.

Droughts, Heatwaves and Agricultural Adaptation

Extreme events as floods, droughts and heat waves ensue from climate change. There has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of such events in the past two decades. Some of the recent events have caused substantial damage to agricultural crops and loss to human lives. The recurrence of such events is a threat to social welfare, economy and humanity as a whole. Adaptation to climate change is the key and the way forward. It is observed that agriculture has historically adapted to shocks and extreme events. Agricultural adaptation and resiliency to extreme events over the last three and a half decades is gauged using secondary data.

Capitalist Development and Rural Livelihoods

Indian agriculture has been facing intrusion of large capital into its domain in various forms, such as contract farming, industrialised agriculture, forcible acquisition of agricultural land for industrial plants. The impacts of such capitalist development on rural livelihoods are explored. It is argued that reform in agriculture—through setting up of special agricultural zones and other similar means—needs to be undertaken for further rural economic development, in general, and for protection of agriculture-related livelihoods, in particular. The prospects of the rural industrial sector are also examined and, in this context, it is argued that the clustering of rural non-farm enterprises can pave the way for an alternative development paradigm.

Crop Insurance in India

Crop insurance is a vital component of agriculture, especially in a country such as India, where the majority of farmers are small and marginal with low savings that reduces their ability to weather agricultural risks and fluctuations. Programmes extending insurance cover for crops in India have long been in operation, but have not been able to include the majority of the agricultural sector within their ambit. Analysing the 70th Round Situation Assessment Survey data, collected by the National Sample Survey Office, the performance of crop insurance at the household level is examined and factors that determine its adoption are identified using an econometric analysis. The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is then analysed by looking more closely at the structure of the scheme.

Statewise Report Cards on Ecological Sustainability of Agriculture in India

The dependence of agriculture on natural resources requires sustainable management of these resources for risk mitigation and management, particularly in the context of increasing farmer distress and vulnerability to risks associated with climate change. Using a framework of indicators in the domains of pest management, fertiliser use, soil health, water conservation, biodiversity, and efficient use of inputs, statewise report cards on ecological sustainability of agriculture are provided. There is much variation in the sustainability of production practices across the country, with some states characterised by high use of pesticides, low soil organic content, depletion of groundwater levels, low crop diversity, high energy use, and widespread nitrate contamination of groundwater.

Uncertain Climate, Vulnerable Livelihoods

With limited water resource endowments and a predominantly agrarian base, livelihoods in the semi-arid tropics are particularly vulnerable to climatic uncertainties and frequent droughts. The low levels of development of diversified livelihood options in the non-farm sector and a lack of skill base compel households to seek multiple low-income livelihoods to sustain the household in lean resource years. Among these, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has provided the most significant coping mechanism for most households, particularly the poorest and most backward sections. The scheme may thus be seen as a prominent drought risk reduction policy. However, challenges of implementation arise when the policy manifests on field realities which tend to reduce the effectiveness and weaken its impact.

Rural Economy, State and Public Policy

The contemporary situation of Punjab’s rural economy has been a subject of serious concern. One of the important reasons for the disappointing outcomes in the state is the proliferation of the expenditure heads of public outlays by successive governments at different levels. Further, the rural sector has consistently lost its importance in the state’s public outlays, with a progressive diversion of public spending on the rural sector towards local-level administration, bypassing key sectors of rural development such as human resources development. This aspect has been a major driver of the unending rural crisis in the state. The evolving levels and patterns of the public expenditure on the rural sector over time are examined.

Can Contract Farming Double Farmers’ Income?

Following its mandate to double farmers’ income by 2022, the central government has enacted a separate model contract farming act in 2018 based on the perception that contract farming is one of the several pathways for doubling farm income. However, findings from primary surveys in Moga, Tarn Taran and Amritsar districts in Punjab, reveal that despite bringing in new crops, technologies and markets for farmers, contract farming excludes the smallholder farmers. Unless such arrangements can protect the interests of the smallholders who constitute almost four-fifth of India’s farming population, doubling farm income will remain elusive.

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