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

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Revamping Agricultural Strategy

To say that something is amiss in the country’s agricultural sector would be to understate the obvious. The paradox of starvation deaths in different parts of the country even as government granaries overflow with over 60 million tonnes of grain, India exporting wheat to animal feed makers abroad at a price below that at which the poor in the country are sold grain from the public distribution system, widespread fears over the impact of trade liberalisation, especially given the sustained fall in the prices of commodities such as rubber and coconut in the face of imports from east Asia – all these testify to a gathering crisis. The situation calls for a paradigm shift in agricultural strategy.

Food and Power in Bihar and Jharkhand

Public distribution of foodgrains in India is a national policy, which exists in all states. In some states, however, the public distribution system (PDS) works much better than in other states. The undivided state of Bihar (now the new Bihar and Jharkhand) is one of the states in which the policy works poorly. It is important to understand why this is the case. Generally, policy changes and recommendations do not take the specificities of particular states into account. Yet, for the PDS performance to improve in Bihar and Jharkhand, it is absolutely necessary to understand why it works as it does, what the main bottlenecks are and where there are possibilities for improvement, if any. This paper makes such an attempt: it describes the PDS in Bihar and Jharkhand, not only in terms of how it fails and what it does not accomplish, but also in terms of what it is and what it does. It is shown that while many people do benefit from the present set-up, there are also people within almost all categories of stakeholders who are dissatisfied with the large-scale misappropriation of foodgrains. It is argued that there is scope for change, but change requires strategic political manoeuvring and initially a low-key approach in order not to awaken and antagonise strong vested interests.


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