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

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Anglo-Indian Identity through the Culinary Lens

Food writing can function as an alternative mode in historiography, making visible the history of the Anglo-Indian community.

Agro-food Systems and Public Policy for Food and Agricultural Markets

This transcription of a presentation, commentary and a discussion at IIM Banglore in 2020 has three parts. In Part 1, contested definitions of food, urgent food questions and concepts of food systems are clarified before considering the ways agricultural markets are integrated in food systems, the contradictory principles at work in policies for their regulation, and the ways such policy practices are imagined. Sixteen multidisciplinary depictions of global food systems, agricultural markets and food policies are analysed, concluding that their conceptual fracturing results from a disregard of theory. New models of the Indian food system will need to give rigorous attention to institutions for policy. Part 2 problematises the empirical granularity needed to understand market behaviour that policymakers ignore as they shift agriculture from being the driver of industrialisation to being a residualised welfare sector. By continuing to ignore and misunderstand existing physical markets, regulatory reforms like the new central laws assume that the deregulation would somehow automatically bypass the vast number of private intermediaries necessary for distribution whose relatively easy-to-enter, small-scale activity undercuts the transaction costs of corporate agribusiness. In doing so, they lose sight of the original purpose and need for public regulation in primary agricultural markets in the first place. Part 3 discusses the need for consultative policy processes for policy and the implications for small scales and informality in agriculture and its markets of the close integration of self-employment in the rural non-farm economy.

The Hunger Conundrum

India has to accelerate efforts to improve the nutrition levels of the population.

Impact of MGNREGA on Consumption Expenditure of Households

This study attempts to quantify the impact of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act programme on the level and pattern of consumption expenditure of rural households at the national level using a difference-in-differences method. The findings indicate an increase in the monthly per capita consumption expenditure of participant households and a change in their consumption patterns with the share of high-value and nutrient-rich food in their consumption basket going up. Further the participant households have also smoothened their consumption by investing in assets such as durable goods.

Lending a Voice to Baahubali

The film Chopsticks initiates a conversation on where our food comes from, drawing attention to the commercial breeding and commodification of animals for human consumption.

India's 'Poverty of Numbers'

The number of "poor" derived by applying price adjustment to an old consumption basket, which is largely what official poverty measures have done, are very different from estimates based on actual consumption baskets that have changed over time. For instance, the share of cereals in household expenditure halved between 1993-94 and 2011-12 in rural areas. In the light of this, we ask if all expenditure would be on food, what percentage of the population would be unable to meet the prescribed calorie requirement? Adding a "minimum" level of expenditure on clothing-bedding-footwear, fuel and light, and conveyance to the "derived" sum of food expenditure provides a second counterfactual. Similarly, the cumulative addition of expenditure on other consumer goods and services provides further counterfactual scenarios.

Child Malnutrition in Rajasthan

Remote parts of southern Rajasthan such as Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banswara and Rajsamand are characterised by a predominance of tribal groups and a high prevalence of unskilled, male, seasonal outmigration. A study conducted in these parts in 2014 shows high levels of malnutrition among children in this region. It also discusses how socio-economic characteristics translate into severe resource limitations at the household level, primarily in the availability of nutritious food. Mothers are faced by time and energy constraints in providing adequate care to young ones, especially in migrant households. Normalisation of malnutrition in community perception, rooted in the structural deprivations experienced by these communities, further entrenches the problem. The study argues that implementing local solutions and adopting strategic policy reforms can offset these constraints to child nutrition in such tribal areas.

Science and the Scientist in a Changing Climate

Is sustainability an idea, a science, a philosophy or a way of life? The premise of this article is that sustainability is all of these and more. Furthermore, science and technology of both today and the future must be re-visioned to understand and enable sustainability.

Inflation with Disinflation?

Price inflation in India as measured by the Wholesale Price Index and the Consumer Price Index has shown diverging trends. While WPI indicates a disinfl ationary situation for 16 months, CPI indicates inflation. Explaining the construction of the two indices, the trends of subgroups of both indices are presented. It is found that the different sample sizes and weightages of commodity groups of both indices and price interventions in the market explains, at least in part, this odd situation of infl ation along with disinfl ation.

Formula Does Matter

Amid the chaos around the new gross domestic product figures put out by the Central Statistics Office, profound improvements made in another prominent statistical marker--the Consumer Price Index--also compiled by the CSO, went unnoticed. The CPI series was revised to a more recent base year, 2012. This alone probably deserves commendation as base years of other national price indices have grown significantly remote. It is indeed a tectonic shift in estimation procedure and conforms to international best practice concerning CPI. Here we discuss the decision of CSO to replace the arithmetic mean with the geometric mean in the updated CPI indices by going through each of the established approaches to index number theory used to identify the appropriate formulation to calculate basic indices.

Adivasis of South Orissa

The recent starvation deaths may have focused the limelight once more on Orissa's adivasis and triggered off a spate of developmental schemes. But for the adivasis, deprivation and poverty have been their lot for decades, bereft as they are of even basic necessities like food, minimal education and electricity.

Taking the PDS to the Poor: Directions for Further Reform

This paper examines the costs and benefits associated with the operation of the Public Distribution System (PDS) for foodgrains in India. It illustrates through counterfactual simulations how the benefit-cost ratio for the PDS increases when subsidies are targeted at the poor and indirect benefits are accounted for, even in a scenario where PDS grain is procured at market prices. However, administration of directly targeted PDS is difficult and can lead to the error of excluding the poor. The paper therefore examines the inefficiencies in the system, comparing costs of public storage and distribution operations with those of private agents and discusses how the rising government costs can be curtailed by making administration more efficient and relying on market forces for spatial distribution of grain. Finally, it discusses the issues involved in the targeting of PDS to the poor and examines the potential for geographic targeting.

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