In March 2016, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced a historic shift in India’s agricultural policy: doubling farmer incomes by 2022 would replace increasing food production as the main focus of India’s policies—a goal many experts criticized as unachievable even as they lauded the shift in priorities. What lay behind Modi’s departure from decades of policy attention and where does the initiative stand today?
Nearly fifteen years ago, the former head of India’s Central Water Commission warned that “hydro-politics is threatening the very fabric of federalism” in the world’s second most populous country. Virtually all the subcontinent’s major rivers, including the Indus, the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra, are the subject of some level of contention. But while these international transboundary waterways receive most of the attention, it is India’s internal water wars that may well be most significant for its future.
Indian farmers realize extremely low revenues. Revenues can be low either because farmers are unproductive and/or because they receive low prices for their output. While productivity relates mostly with technical aspects of farming, price realization depends on the state of the agricultural economy and can potentially be addressed by economic policy. In this article, I will discuss two dimensions of prices—wedges and dispersion—and shed light on some common misconceptions.
Are Intermediaries Bad?
The Ganges, or Ganga, is India’s holiest river, worshipped as a goddess by more than a billion people. It accounts for 47 percent of India’s irrigated land and feeds 500 million citizens. Despite its importance, it is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Rapid population growth, urbanization, and industrial development have raised the levels of domestic as well as industrial pollutants in its waters.
Cooperative federalism is a governance mantra in India these days. Between GST, Aadhar, demonetization, Swacch Bharat and more, the assertiveness of the Central government in prescribing wide-ranging technocratic policy solutions is at an all-time high. And for good reason—some of these interventions may have long-term benefits, even if they are painful in the short-term. But these benefits are rarely uniform across regions, and the long-term distributional and spatial consequences of these policies are often not well understood.
Inclusive Growth—also called “pro-poor” growth—has become an important idea in the development discourse in India. It has widespread support because it combines the two most important ideas in development: income growth along with a progressive (or more egalitarian) distribution. The term was first embraced in the early 2000s by the UPA-1 government under PM Manmohan Singh. It has since been taken up by the NDA government under PM Narendra Modi. But is “inclusive growth” anything more than a slogan like “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas?”
Women have made significant contributions to agriculture in India. The current situation of rural transformation has brought to light women’s roles in agriculture. Typically, any discussion on this topic tends to focus on the most obvious trends; the proportion of women working in the agricultural sector as self-employed, unpaid help or wage labor. What is ignored is an important and interesting shift in women’s roles: women are increasingly participating in farms as managers and decision-makers.
The “habitat” of the Western Ghats is constructed of particular landforms—ridge and valley, peak and plateau, escarpment, and plains. Today, these features are at the heart of the development-environment conflict that has escalated since the 2012 UNESCO designation of the Ghats as a World Heritage Site. The use of this language of landforms can be traced back to colonial texts; but the roots of the image behind it are more difficult to unravel, being embedded in visual articulations of geographic maps and object drawings.
Every year, from June through the end of September, the summer monsoon rains sweep up from India’s southern coasts and gradually spread to the north, supplying 80 percent of India’s annual rainfall. Rivers flow, fields are sown, and aquifers and reservoirs get replenished, setting in motion a burst of agricultural activity after the scorching summer heat. Underlying this euphoria, however, lies a deeply stressed agricultural system.
Cities are increasingly seen as sites of strategic action on clean energy and climate change. The United Nation’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals includes an explicit urban goal for the first time, and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement enables new spaces to promote climate outcomes in national development contexts. The attention on cities in the energy-climate nexus is particularly timely for India, which is projected to account for a quarter of the rise in global energy use by 2040. This growth is driven in large part by the country’s ongoing economic and social transitions.