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

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Debt Bondage and the Tricks of Capital

Migrant labourers, free from rural bondage, are now bonded to other sources of debt, contracted from the agro-industry or construction sectors. The flows of migration in the brick-making and sugar cane sectors in Tamil Nadu, where bondage coexists with many public welfare schemes, illustrate the persistence and renewal of this phenomenon. The welfare schemes play the role of a safety net, but also contribute to low wages, and impunity on the part of employers. Alliances between capital and the state, through the politicisation of employers, are instrumental in the continuation of all forms of labour exploitation. When workers resist, employers tighten working conditions and start recruiting migrants from North India. And even if these forms of labour management obey a capitalist logic, they are inseparable from the caste hierarchy.

Forced Migration of Labourers to Brick Kilns in Uttar Pradesh

Seasonal employment in the rural economy at a wage rate below subsistence level forces underprivileged labourers to migrate for survival. Brick kilns in India are a major destination for migrant labourers, who are tied to them for the production season after accepting advance wages from agents. Based on the livelihood conditions of the migrant labourers and their indebtedness, this paper points out these migrations have to be seen as forced. The labourers remain in inter-kiln circulation, but are prevented from moving on because of their limited skills and social networks. They return home to repay a never-ending debt and again receive advance wages for the next season--renewing a cycle of debt and migration for survival.

Groundwater Irrigation-Electricity-Crop Diversification Nexus in Punjab

The present wheat-rice cropping pattern, groundwater irrigation, procurement policy, and electricity policy have bound farmers in Punjab into a convenient yet vicious relationship that is economically and ecologically unsustainable. The state government provides free electricity for agriculture and a high minimum support price and yet recommends a shift away from rice to curb groundwater depletion. This paper analyses the trends and turning points in irrigation development in the state, its shifts in cropping pattern, and trends in electricity consumption. It further examines the real-world feasibility of the long-pending recommendation to shift the cropping pattern from water-intensive rice and wheat to less water-intensive maize and wheat.

Agricultural Productivity Growth

This study examines the question of convergence in land and labour productivity in Indian agriculture between 1991 and 2011. The tendency of low-productivity states to catch up with high-productivity states is studied through the unconditional β-convergence approach, and the operation of Galton's fallacy through growthterminal productivity-level regressions. The diminution of variance in productivity levels is tested using the σ-convergence approach and the robustness of the results is tested using alternative test statistics. The results reveal that states are converging in terms of land productivity, but not in terms of labour productivity.

Food Subsidy

This paper counters negative advocacy about the food subsidy, the public distribution system, and farm price supports. It argues that the public food supply chain for market intervention has a favourable impact on the cost-benefit ratio, poverty reduction, calorie consumption by the poor and productivity-led agricultural growth. The paper proposes reforms for the six pillars of the public food supply chain. These include: an alternative poverty line concept that is linked to the minimum "norms" for calorie intake enabling a reduction of the exclusion and inclusion errors, procurement just for the PDS and buffer stocks to be purchased at a farm price that is fully cost-based, fair price shops with fixed and adequate time of operations, "indent" of the demand, doorstep delivery, and so on.

Economic Benefits of Futures

This article examines the economic benefits of futures. Theoretically, futures are expected to aid price discovery and risk mitigation. But empirical analysis shows that speculators drive the markets and, by virtue of their domination, abduct the price discovery process in certain commodities. The deceptive price discovery leads to suboptimal forecast of future prices. So futures markets fail to offer an effective hedge against price risk. In addition, the current public-private partnership regulation is a deterrent to the sustainable growth of futures markets.

Projected Effect of Droughts on Supply, Demand, and Prices of Crops in India

This paper assesses the effect of monsoon droughts on the production, demand, and prices of seven major agricultural commodities - rice, sorghum, pearl millet, maize, pigeon pea, groundnut and cotton. A partial generalised equilibrium model is developed to simulate the effects of deficit rainfall on acreage, yield, production, demand, and prices of different agricultural commodities in India. It is used to project the effect of rain deficits on supply, demand, and prices of monsoon session crops.

Growth in Indian Agriculture

Indian agriculture has been doing far better in the years since 2004-05. This note explores available data to understand why this has been so. It is found that after 2004-05, public investment in agriculture increased, the National Horticulture Mission was launched, and more agricultural credit was made available that spurred private investment in agriculture as well. These policy initiatives resulted in increased yields and higher agricultural growth.

Punjab's Small Peasantry

The small peasantry in agriculturally advanced Punjab faces a severe economic crisis. Though the total workforce has increased over time, the proportion engaged in agriculture has been falling and the number of marginal and small holdings has been declining. The farm surpluses of indebted farmers are very low, and 14% of marginal and 9% of small farmers are effectively bankrupt. Low profitability has prompted many small farmers to leave agriculture and 28% of them have entered the labour market. More pressingly, a significant number have preferred to take their own lives.

Generating Agrarian Dynamism

Agrarian stagnation was much the same in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat and the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra until 1990, and for similar reasons. Since then, Saurashtra's agriculture has been growing, especially after 2000, at an accelerated pace, while Vidarbha's farmers have continued to stagnate. This paper interrogates why, and suggests some measures to jump-start agricultural growth in Vidarbha.

Financial Literacy in Rural Banking

Financial literacy in the present Indian policy context is seen as an instrument to raise demand for banking services. The location of the problem as one of deficient demand is untenable. The conception of financial literacy, as reflected in the Reserve Bank of India's Financial Literacy Guide, is packed with stereotypes of the poor as ignorant and in need of moral lessons on savings, consumption and credit. Financial literacy has to be positioned within a broader conceptual view of the financial system, so as to become a tool to raise critical consciousness and equip people to respond to the challenges posed by the financial sector. Further, financial literacy material must evolve from below, such that lives of the common people are organically a part of it. This paper also hints that the campaign mode for financial literacy might allow for greater public engagement and action. The effects of financial literacy, however, will not accrue if it is not accompanied by adequate outreach of banking services through credible public institutions.

Estimating Rural Housing Shortage

The working group on rural housing for the Twelfth Five-Year Plan estimated the rural housing shortage in India to be 43.13 million in 2012. Using the latest data sets - Census 2011 and the National Sample Survey housing condition round for 2008-09 - and the improved methodology used by the technical group on urban housing shortage, this paper re-estimates the rural shortage to be 62.01 million in 2012. Households living in temporary houses and in congested conditions were found to be mainly responsible for the rural housing shortage. The results suggest the need for holistically focusing on eradicating shelter deprivation in rural India and contributing to an enhancement of the quality of life of the people.

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