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Ashok Kotwal
On demonetisation
Posted on: 23 Dec 2016
On the evening of 8 November, the Prime Minister announced on national television that Rs. ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The GDP conundrum
Posted on: 16 Nov 2016
Ever since India’s Central Statistical Organisation came out with the new GDP series with ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The idea of a universal basic income in the Indian context
Posted on: 26 Sep 2016
The idea of an unconditional basic income given to all citizens by the State, has caught o ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: Ideas for reforms in education policy in India
Posted on: 18 Nov 2015
A New Education Policy is being formulated in India based on a time-bound grassroots consu ... read on »

Topic: Agriculture

Hazards of farm loan waivers
Tanika Chakraborty , Aarti Gupta
Posted on: 23/05/2017 09:41:30

In theory, debt waivers are expected to induce the optimal level of effort from the debtor for loan repayment. However, repeated waivers may distort household expectations about credit contract enforcements in the future. This column analyses the effect of Uttar Pradesh’s state-level debt waiver programme – announced right after India’s nationwide Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme – on consumption and investment behaviour of households.
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How agricultural debt waiver impacts beneficiary households
Mrinal Mishra
Posted on: 02/02/2017 03:38:36
Topics:   Finance , Agriculture


How a large-scale and unanticipated debt-relief programme impacts beneficiary households is a question that has not been clearly answered by the existing literature. This column analyses the impact of India’s Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme of 2008. It finds that beneficiary households increase precautionary savings by increasing investment in jewellery as they anticipate higher credit constraints in the post-waiver period. Consumption levels remain unaffected.
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Unified agricultural markets: Where are the reforms lacking?
Nidhi Aggarwal , Sargam Jain , Sudha Narayanan
Posted on: 02/01/2017 09:42:16
Topics:   Agriculture
Tags:   Karnataka , IT


In April 2016, Modi government launched the e-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) platform – a pan-India electronic marketplace for trading of agricultural commodities. However, rather than ushering in a revolution, concerns have been raised regarding lack of traded volumes on the platform. To understand the reluctant progress of e-NAM, this column analyses the experience of the state of Karnataka that embarked on agricultural market reforms in 2007.
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Demonetisation and agricultural markets
Nidhi Aggarwal , Sudha Narayanan
Posted on: 30/11/2016 12:03:41

In this article, Aggarwal and Narayanan contend that demonetisation alone cannot turn agricultural markets cashless. Such a shift would require sustained and focussed effort to expand the reach of formal institutions, especially for credit and storage.
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Demonetisation and rural cooperative banks
Ajay Vir Jakhar
Posted on: 22/11/2016 09:24:45

The RBI has barred rural cooperative banks from exchanging or accepting the denotified Rs. 1,000 and 500 notes. In this article, Ajay Vir Jakhar of Bharat Krishak Samaj - a non-partisan association of farmers - argues that if rural cooperative banks sink, so will farmers.
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Happy Seeder: A solution to agricultural fires in north India
Ridhima Gupta , E. Somanathan
Posted on: 12/11/2016 09:20:56

It is believed that much of the pollution in Delhi in November every year originates in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana where farmers burn their fields to dispose of crop residue. This column discusses a simple, practical and cost-effective solution to deal with the problem.
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Kisan Credit Card programme: Expanded access to credit or expansion of credit?
Somdeep Chatterjee
Posted on: 03/11/2016 09:50:31
Topics:   Finance , Agriculture


Kisan Credit Card programme - a key reform in agricultural lending in India - has been operational for almost 20 years now. However, there is little empirical evidence of its impact on intended beneficiaries. This column finds that the programme has had significant positive impact on agricultural production and technology adoption. It is likely that the channel is enhanced borrowing ability of the already unconstrained, rather than expanded access to credit.
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Are grain procurement shocks inflationary?
Chetan Ghate , Sargam Gupta , Debdulal Mallick
Posted on: 17/10/2016 09:29:05

Central banks in emerging markets grapple with understanding the inflationary impact of grain procurement shocks because the precise link between the agriculture sector and the rest of the economy may not be well understood. This column presents a framework to understand how the government’s grain procurement policy in India can be inflationary, and what the appropriate monetary policy response should be.
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MNREGA and its assets
Sudha Narayanan
Posted on: 15/03/2016 09:34:44

Critics of MNREGA believe that the programme is a dole to dig a hole and hence, a huge waste of resources and that it would be better to simply provide cash. In this article, Sudha Narayanan, Associate Professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, argues that evidence from various states on the quality of MNREGA assets suggests that this ‘dole-hole’ view of is largely unfounded.

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MNREGA’s impact on rural labour markets
Laura Zimmermann
Posted on: 14/03/2016 09:55:38
Tags:   MNREGA , wages


In this article, Laura Zimmermann, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Georgia, provides an overview of the research on the impact of the initial phase of MNREGA on rural labour markets in India. The evidence suggests that the programme has served as an important short- and long-term safety net, and has had some employment generation effects during the agricultural off-season. However, the effect on rural casual wages is less clear.

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Moving past the mandis: A revolution waiting to happen
Dilip Mookherjee
Posted on: 20/01/2016 09:34:00
Topics:   Agriculture
Tags:   rural India


A revolution in agricultural marketing organisation in Gansu province in China led to a 50% increase in potato yields within the past 15 years. In this article, Dilip Mookherjee, Professor of Economics at Boston University, contends that the time is opportune for a similar transformation in agricultural marketing in India in order to increase outputs and farmers’ incomes.
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Transforming Indian agriculture: The role of credit policy
Amartya Lahiri , Dilip Mookherjee
Posted on: 14/12/2015 09:27:21
Topics:   Finance , Agriculture


Despite various policy attempts at priority sector lending to poor farmers, very little progress has been made on the ground, suggesting problems in the design and implementation of these policies. In this article, Amartya Lahiri and Dilip Mookherjee and explore where the problem really lies and what can be done to address the issues.
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Using science to improve Indian agriculture
Robert S. Zeigler
Posted on: 26/06/2015 00:00:00

Five years ago, the Indian government imposed a ‘temporary’ moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal – a genetically modified crop - even after it had passed through the due regulatory processes. In this article, Robert S Zeigler, a plant pathology expert, outlines the benefits of transgenic crops and emphasises the need to expedite their adoption in India.
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The crisis of farmer suicides
Maitreesh Ghatak
Posted on: 04/05/2015 00:00:00

More than 15,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide per year, on average, in the last two decades – a suicide rate that appears to be higher than that of the general population. In this article, Maitreesh Ghatak emphasises the need to think of farmer suicides as a policy problem, rather than tragedy, and to deliberate on the causes and remedies.
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Promoting the use of a novel water-saving agricultural technology among Indian farmers
Anil Bhargava , Kajal Gulati , Travis J. Lybbert , Nicholas Magnan , David J. Spielman
Posted on: 28/04/2015 00:00:00

The Met Department has forecasted a below-normal monsoon in India this year. This column analyses the demand for a water-saving agricultural technology — laser land levelling — among farmers in Uttar Pradesh. It also discusses how such information can feed into the design of a novel approach to combining public subsidies with private service provision to encourage the technology’s uptake among small-scale, resource-poor farmers.
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Bovine economics
Shanta Gokhale
Posted on: 08/04/2015 00:00:00
Topics:   Agriculture
Tags:   Maharashtra


About a month ago, the state government of Maharashtra instituted a ban on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks, in addition to the existing ban on the slaughter of cows. In this article, Shanta Gokhale discusses the economic consequences of the move on farmers.
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Boosting Indo-Pak agricultural trade
Ramesh Chand , Raka Saxena
Posted on: 02/04/2015 00:00:00
Topics:   Trade , Agriculture
Tags:   Pakistan


Despite close geographical proximity of India and Pakistan and implementation of SAFTA almost a decade ago, trade potential between the two countries remains largely unexploited. This column analyses trends in Indo-Pak trade in agriculture, which constitutes 43.6% of total Indo-Pak trade, and highlights opportunities for expanding trade in this sector.
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‘Cry, the Beloved Country’: Mending Punjab’s economy
Nirvikar Singh
Posted on: 11/02/2015 00:00:00

The growth rate of Punjab, which once ranked among India’s most affluent states, is slowing. In this article, Nirvikar Singh, who holds the Sarbjit Singh Aurora Chair of Sikh and Punjabi Studies at University of California Santa Cruz, diagnoses key issues with the Punjab economy and provides his perspective on what it would take to mend it.
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Transforming landholding agricultural workers into farmers
Ravi Kumar
Posted on: 07/01/2015 00:00:00

Some believe that MNREGA has negatively impacted agriculture by reducing the supply of labour available for farm work. This column refutes this view and argues that MNREGA has enabled agricultural workers with small and marginal landholdings to move up the social and occupational ladder – from wage workers to farmers - by complementing their farm income and providing for start-up investments in agriculture.
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Saving people’s livelihoods
Sudha Narayanan
Posted on: 28/10/2014 00:00:00
Topics:   Jobs , Agriculture


The new government is seeking to alter the essence of MNREGA based on the premise that it is not useful in its current form. In this article, Sudha Narayanan criticises the move and argues that despite its shortcomings, MNREGA is the best available institutional mechanism to preserve the resource base for food production and build resilience of Indian agriculture.
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Protectionism under the guise of food security
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 10/08/2014 00:00:00
Topics:   Trade , Agriculture


India has backed out of the commitment it made at the WTO negotiations in Bali in November 2013. The implicit explanation is that the government needs to accumulate food grain stocks to provide subsidised grain to the poor and ensure food security. In this article, Kotwal, Murugkar and Ramaswami critique this reasoning and India’s position on the issue.
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India’s WTO problem: A proposal
Arvind Subramanian
Posted on: 31/07/2014 11:45:26
Topics:   Trade , Agriculture


India is threatening to block the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement unless its agricultural policies are exempted from multilateral scrutiny. This article contends that while India’s objectives on agriculture are valid, its tactics in withholding support for TFA are perhaps less so. India should withdraw its opposition, reformulate its position on agriculture to persuade others of its merits, and revisit the WTO issue in the near future.
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The Jaitley Budget: Planning for crisis
Arvind Subramanian
Posted on: 23/06/2014 00:00:00

El Nino can potentially derail the best-laid plans of the new government in India. The article contends that the finance minister would do well to plan his first Budget by attaching a reasonable probability to a food crisis this year. The Budget will need to be as much about creating a basis for successful crisis action later in the year as about launching epochal reforms now.
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Reconstructing facts in Bt cotton: Why scepticism fails
Ronald Herring
Posted on: 02/06/2014 00:00:00

In disputes around Bt cotton, a “triumph narrative” is alleged to have emerged from researchers - mainly economists - catering to vested interests of the biotech industry, its funding and allied journals promoting biotechnology. This column explains why the ‘conspiracy theory’ fails, and then illustrates why the main claims of the peer-reviewed literature demonstrating agro-economic success of Bt cotton are consistent with the near universal adoption of the technology by farmers in India.
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The nutrition puzzles: Need for more holistic solutions
Uma Lele
Posted on: 28/04/2014 00:00:00
Topics:   Health , Agriculture


In this column, the author critiques the approach of only focusing on nutrition and health sector-related solutions for achieving food security. She calls for more holistic approaches that take into account the various contextual factors that influence food and nutrition outcomes for the majority of the undernourished, such as food production and systems, agricultural policies, food and beverage industry, sanitation, and the extent of social inclusion in government programmes and in the society at large.
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Bali conundrum: WTO and Indian agriculture
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 15/01/2014 00:00:00

The outcome of the recent WTO meetings at Bali is a stopgap arrangement, which implies that the Indian government does not have to make any changes in the implementation of the new Food Security Act in the near future. In this article, the authors suggest disentangling consumer support and producer support via cash transfers so that India can build a safety net for its poor without violating WTO agreements.
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Running out of water, walking away from farming
Ram Fishman
Posted on: 18/12/2013 00:00:00

Groundwater tables are falling in India. What will happen when water actually runs out? This column analyses the impact of water scarcity on farmers in Gujarat. It finds that farmers are failing to or choosing not to adapt to the availability of less water. They are forced to shrink cultivation, leave farming or migrate to cities - thereby, reducing food production.
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Some reflections on the National Food Security Act
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 10/12/2013 00:00:00

The Food Security Bill became an Act with little parliamentary opposition. Yet the public debate has lingered. Would subsidised food grains reduce malnutrition? Won’t it be better to invest in health and education instead? Can we afford the cost of subsidising food for such a large chunk of the population? Should we continue to waste money on the flawed PDS system? How will the grain markets be affected? This column offers a perspective on these important questions.
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A suggestion for WTO negotiations
Ashok Kotwal , Milind Murugkar , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 02/12/2013 00:00:00

India’s new food security law is likely to breach WTO’s limit on farmer support. India is keen to ask for a temporary exemption from the rule so that the law can be implemented unhindered. But, in return, it may have to agree on trade facilitation. This article argues that while our food procurement policies do need reform, there is no link between the food security law and free trade.
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Do the poor need genetically modified crops?
Milind Murugkar
Posted on: 22/11/2013 00:00:00

Field trials of a few genetically modified crops were recently put on hold by the Environment Ministry. This article asserts that the decision reflects an ideological resistance to and suspicion about the technology, which is at odds with the government’s stated policy of using GM crops for the benefit of rural poor. It argues that GM crops can go a long way in helping farmers by improving crop yields.
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´Muktidhara´: A sustainable livelihood project in West Bengal
Sourabh Bhattacharjee , Animesh Ghosh
Posted on: 14/10/2013 00:00:00

In this ‘Note from the Field’, two Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows describe a government funded project in the state of West Bengal that seeks to generate self-employment opportunities and sustainable livelihood options for rural people via self-help groups. They discuss the successes of the project and the lessons that can be learnt for the design and implementation of other such initiatives.
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The unintended child health consequences of the Green Revolution in India
Nidhiya Menon
Posted on: 09/09/2013 00:00:00
Topics:   Health , Agriculture


While the Green Revolution in India greatly enhanced agricultural production, the enhanced use of fertilisers led to the contamination of surface and ground water. This column analyses the impact of fertiliser agrichemicals in water on infant and child health. It is found that exposure of mothers to these contaminants in the month after conception increases the chances of infant death within a month of birth, and also has long-lasting negative effects on child health.
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The role of Bt cotton in improving food security
Shahzad Kouser , Matin Qaim
Posted on: 24/06/2013 00:00:00
Topics:   Agriculture


The role of genetically modified crops in the fight against hunger remains disputed. The debate primarily focuses on whether or not these crops can contribute to sustainable increases in food production. However, food security is not only a question of production, but also of economic and social access to food. This column summarises research showing that the adoption of genetically modified cotton has improved food security among Indian smallholder farmers.
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Does caste influence access to agricultural loans in rural India?
Sunil Mitra Kumar
Posted on: 03/06/2013 00:00:00
Tags:   credit


Increasing access to agricultural credit in rural India is a major policy priority. This column examines whether farmers’ access to formal agricultural loans depends on their caste. It is found that while commercial banks do not discriminate against lower caste farmers in lending, cooperative banks do as they are prone to interest-group capture at the local level.
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Willingness to pay for index-based crop microinsurance in India
Janani Ramasubramanian
Posted on: 22/04/2013 00:00:00
Topics:   Finance , Agriculture


Given the significance of the agricultural sector in India and its vulnerability, an adequate and sustainable risk management system is critical. However, uptake of microinsurance is quite low. This column presents research that shows that while there is awareness regarding market-based formal insurance schemes, people continue to be more comfortable relying on own savings or informal borrowing, which can only help manage small shocks or losses.
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Low-carbon development in Indian agriculture: A missed opportunity?
Olivier Charnoz , Ashwini Kumar Swain
Posted on: 12/04/2013 00:00:00

The agricultural sector is the largest contributor of Greenhouse Gases in India. Yet, it has not received due importance in India’s climate change mitigation strategy. This column says that India must prioritise the agriculture sector for domestic climate change mitigation if it is serious about its voluntary commitment to reduce the carbon intensity of its GDP by 20-25% of the 2005 level by 2020.
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Grain stocks: Is it a problem of storage capacity?
Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 01/04/2013 00:00:00
Topics:   Agriculture


Foodgrains rot due to insufficient storage capacity, even as millions go to bed hungry. This column argues that increasing capacity is only a partial resolution. The crisis has happened before and will happen again unless different ways are found to support farmers and consumers.
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The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: is it working?
Participants: Jean Drèze , Ashwini Kulkarni , Neelakshi Mann , Varad Pande , Martin Ravallion
Posted on: 29/11/2012 10:42:21

MNREGA is one of the government´s largest flagship schemes, and is the largest job creation programme of its kind in the world. Supporters believe that it is necessary to help rural workers smooth income in times of distress and increase labour market access for marginalised groups, whereas critics argue that it is taking labour from the troubled agricultural sector and doing more harm than good. What does the evidence really tell us - is MNREGA working or would resources be better spent elsewhere?
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Formally insuring the informally insured
Mushfiq Mobarak
Posted on: 16/11/2012 00:00:00
Topics:   Finance , Agriculture


Rainfall is critical for the livelihoods of millions of Indians – yet many have no formal insurance if the rains fail. This column looks at what happens when a new formal insurance policy based on the weather is offered at random to farmers and farm workers across several states in India.
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Agricultural wages and MNREGA: Exploring the myth
Kanika Mahajan
Posted on: 05/11/2012 00:00:00
Topics:   Jobs , Agriculture
Tags:   MNREGA


The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, India’s flagship programme that guarantees 100 days of minimum wage employment to rural households, has come under attack for pushing up the wages demanded by hired hands in agriculture. This column argues that most of these attacks fail to account for changing productivity in agriculture and the consequences of this for agricultural wages.
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