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

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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.

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.

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