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

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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.

Farmers’ Choice of Milk-marketing Channels in India

Using nationally representative household-level data, the structure of milk markets is examined and the factors that determine the Indian dairy farmers’ choice of milk-marketing outlets are identified. The analysis of participation in various milk-marketing channels indicates that dairy farmers, irrespective of their asset-status, sales volume, and socio-economic status, prefer to sell their output through cooperatives and government agencies, even if these offer lower prices compared to the local traders. Concomitantly, of the various direct-to-consumer outlets, cooperatives are more inclusive and largely transcend the boundaries of caste and land size. Of the various economic factors that influence farmers’ choice, the access to institutional credit is critical in driving sales through the formal milk-marketing channels.

Ensuring MSP to Farmers

In the wake of the central government’s minimum support prices hike for kharif 2018–19, the state government in Madhya Pradesh implemented a variant of the deficiency payments system called the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana for compensating the farmers when market prices fell below MSP. Besides the problems of long delays in payments to farmers, large transaction costs that farmers incurred due to multiple registrations, and the disposal of inferior quality produce by farmers, a major limitation of BBY is that it is a counter-cyclical payment, insulating farmers from the market by ignoring the demand side completely. A differentiated MSP based on quality and dovetailing with electronic National Agriculture Market may help address some of these problems. A carefully designed price deficiency payment system with partial procurement and dovetailing with e-NAM and other ways of ensuring MSP to farmers, such as direct payments and participation of private sector, are also discussed.

Reforming Agricultural Markets in India

The union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare had prescribed a model Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act in 2003. The state-level adoption of the act has been tardy and varied in terms of both the magnitude and content of agricultural market reforms. Yet, the ministry under the current central government has come up with another model act, the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017, supposedly an improvement over the 2003 act. Among other things, the provision that has grabbed much attention is the removal of contract farming from the APMC domain to a separate model act of Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion and Facilitation). Analysing these draft acts, the paper finds that both the model acts suffer from serious conceptual lacunae that have implications for their application and governance, and, consequently, for inclusive and sustainable agricultural development.

Agricultural Transformation in Aspirational Districts of India

NITI Aayog is presently anchoring a programme to help develop 115 “aspirational” districts which can potentially catch up with the best district within the same state and subsequently become one of the best in the country. The composite index for identification of districts is problematic thereby excluding many relatively underdeveloped districts and including several that are more developed than the “aspirational” category in terms of per capita district domestic product or per capita agricultural income or yield of principal crops. However, a comparative analysis of the aspirational, non-aspirational and frontier districts in Bihar reveals that strategies for bridging the inter-district gaps should be sector-, location- and enterprise-specific. While irrigation, education, farm and non-farm diversification hold the key for acceleration of agricultural development in both aspirational and undeveloped districts, urbanisation, energy consumption and development of location-specific infrastructure would be essential for overall economic development.

Agrarian Transformation and New Sociality in Western Uttar Pradesh

Over the last three decades, rural western Uttar Pradesh has undergone rapid change. The ongoing changes in agriculture, the decline of Jat political dominance, and the rise of the marginalised caste–communities have changed socio-economic and political relations, and have produced a new sociality shaped by new technologies and changing land–labour relations. The new sociality, which is a result of altering agrarian landscape, rural–urban dynamics and technologies of communication, mobility, and entertainment has provided fresh grounds for communalisation and communal violence.

Are Gold Loans Glittering for Agriculture?

Credit is essential for small and marginal farmers in India, whose low incomes limit savings, making them more vulnerable to several risks. Priority sector lending norms have channelled more formal credit to this sector. The interest subvention scheme for short-term crop loans makes formal credit more economical for farmers. However, there are issues of accessibility, most notably arising out of difficulties in presenting documentation, giving rise to a prevalence in the use of gold/jewellery as collateral. Loan data from three districts in Karnataka has highlighted some important lessons. The use of gold tends to exclude poorer farmers from availing all the benefits of the scheme, and poses issues of accessibility to formal credit. Digitisation of land records and farmer information, coupled with reduced recognition of gold loans in priority sector lending can be valuable to the Indian agriculture sector.

Widows of Farmer Suicide Victims in Vidarbha

Farmer suicides due to agricultural distress are a tenacious and recurring tragedy that plunge the lives of the unprepared widows into chaos. First, the widows must struggle to survive in the same circumstances that claimed the lives of their husbands, but with much less experience and guidance. Second, the widows must emerge from entrenched invisibility imposed upon them by the state, the community, and even the family. However, the study of five widows of the farmer suicides across a decade in Vidarbha reveals differential dependence and autonomy. The widow-headed households of earlier cases appear to succeed with time as compared to the later cases, and mostly through their own individual agency. The study, originally conducted through the years 2014–17 in 18 villages of six tehsils of two districts of Vidarbha, also points to normalisation of distress of widows that leads to their continuous exclusion from the state understanding of farmer suicides.

Contemporary Farmers’ Protests and the ‘New Rural–Agrarian’ in India

What are the reasons behind farmers’ protests? Using narratives collected from various parts of India, the underlying processes of socio-economic transformations, which have created a dual-identity crisis among farmers, are explained to argue that anxieties have manifested in large-scale protests, producing a new politics around rural–agrarian questions.

Agricultural Revival and Reaping the Youth Dividend

In recent years, “youth” has emerged as a distinct category of population to be governed in India. Policy efforts to realise the “demographic dividend” amidst an agrarian crisis have however not met with success as suggested by reports of jobless growth on the one hand and poor quality of employment generated outside agriculture on the other. What are the prospects of improving youth livelihoods within agriculture? Can the youth revive the prospects of agriculture? Improving incomes within agriculture while also paying sufficient attention to caste and gender relations that shape labour hierarchies, access to land, youth preferences and mobility aspirations is critical to imagining a future that sustains agriculture and youth livelihoods.

Insights on Demonetisation from Rural Tamil Nadu

Drawing on survey data from rural Tamil Nadu, the effects of demonetisation are documented. Serious concerns arise with regard to the achievement of its stated goals. The rural economy was adversely affected in terms of employment, daily financial practices, and social network use for over three months. People came to rely more strongly on their networks to sustain their economic and social activities. Demonetisation has probably further marginalised those without support networks. In a context such as India, where state social protection is weak and governmental schemes are notoriously subject to patronage and clientelistic networks, dense networks of supportive relatives, friends and patrons remain key for safeguarding daily life. With cashless policies gaining currency in various parts of the world, we believe our findings have major implications, seriously questioning their merit, especially among the most marginalised segments of the population.

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