Understanding Farmers’ Rage Jayati Ghosh

The eruption of farmers’ agitations across India is beyond anything that has been seen in India since the late 1980s. At that time, such outrage presaged a change of government, with the rise to power of a coalition of parties with some more identified with farmers’ interests. Then, for around two decades, cultivators somehow lost their voice in national politics, even as neoliberal policy reforms made their situation more vulnerable. The agrarian crisis that festered from the late 1990s and then exploded in the mid 2000s had its origins in the combination of trade liberalisation (which exposed Indian cultivators to…

The Time is ripe for Unity Prabhat Patnaik

On September 5 an event of great significance occurred in the capital: more than 1.5 lakh workers, peasants and agricultural labourers staged a rally on Parliament Street. The capital has certainly seen much bigger rallies in the past, but not in the recent past. In fact, one had almost forgotten the Boat Club rallies of yore, and come to believe that a new era had come when, notwithstanding great hardships, people were reluctant to hold mass demonstrations, at least along class lines. The September 5 rally was significant not just for removing this impression; it brought together for the first…

Crop Insurance: Another dressed up scheme C. P. Chandrasekhar

Among the pro-farmer policies that the NDA government claims to have initiated, one often flagged is the modified crop insurance scheme titled Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). Effective as of kharif season 2016, this scheme is supplemented with the Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS). While in the former crop loss is computed by comparing actual yield in a season based on crop cutting experiments by state government agencies with an indicator of expected or ‘threshold’ yield, in the latter it is computed using leading weather indicators. Together, the schemes promise enhanced and more reliable crop insurance for…

Empty Promises C. P. Chandrasekhar

The timing of the Modi government’s announcement of a hike in the minimum support prices for kharif crops suggests that this may be another of its tall claims not backed by the financial allocations needed to deliver on them. According to a recent Cabinet decision of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, a large proportion of India’s farmers are to be offered the opportunity to sell their crops to the government at a minimum support price (MSP) that covers costs and provides for a margin of 50 per cent, starting with this kharif season. Together with measures like loan write-offs…

Has there been an MSP hike for Kharif Crops? Prabhat Patnaik

Much has been written by now exposing the fraudulence of the government’s claims of a “historic” rise in the Minimum Support Price for kharif crops. It has been pointed out for instance that while the Swaminathan Committee had recommended that the MSP should be fixed at 50 percent above the cost of production C2 which includes rental on own land, a recommendation that the BJP in its 2014 election manifesto had promised to implement, the current MSP still falls way below that level.The claim that the government has fulfilled its campaign promise,made by the BJP and its subservient media, is…

The Invisible Class Prabhat Patnaik

G.K.Chesterton has a well-known detective story involving Father Brown called “The Invisible Man”, where “invisibility” is supposed to characterize the postman: one is so used to seeing the postman come and go that one scarcely ever notices him. “Invisibility” in Chesterton’s sense however can get attached not just to an individual but to a whole class; and in our country, the peasantry undoubtedly is the “invisible class”. The peasantry has been called many things by many people, from “a sack of potatoes” to “an awkward class”. But it is above all an “invisible class” whose presence, and providing of essentials…

The Modi Government’s “Achievement” Prabhat Patnaik

The Modi government is celebrating four years in office with great fanfare. The fact that these four years have unleashed an unparallelled process of social and political retrogression in the country is well-known and need not detain us here. Our purpose here is to examine what these years have meant for the living standards of the bulk of the Indian people. Here however one immediately comes across a hurdle. For a very long time India had one of the finest statistical systems in the world, with a National Sample Survey collecting data from a large sample of households, larger than…

Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Security Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.' For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate economic growth, presuming that a rising tide will lift all boats, no matter how fragile or leaky. Most believe that market liberalization, property rights, and perhaps some minimal government infrastructure provision is all that is needed. The government's role should be restricted to strengthening the…

Agricultural Tenancy in Contemporary India Vaishali Bansal, Yoshifumi Usami and Vikas Rawal

The problem of tenancy -- informal, insecure, exploitative, and often unfree and interlocked contracts for leasing land that have been both growth-retarding and unjust -- has been central to the agrarian question in India. Along with an uneven and distorted penetration of capitalist relations in the Indian countryside, there have been significant changes in the extent of use of tenancy, in the class configuration of tenants and lessors, and in the form of tenancy contracts over the last few decades. With the state unwilling to effectively implement land reforms in most parts of India, tenancy relations have continued to be…

The real confusion over MSP C.P. Chandrasekhar

Speaking at the Krishi Unnati Mela 2018, Prime Minister Modi reportedly complained that confusion is being spread about the announcement on minimum support prices (MSPs) made in the Finance Minister’s 2018 budget speech. The speech had assured farmers that they would in future be able to sell the output of notified crops to the official procurement agencies at prices to be set at a minimum of 1.5 times the cost of production. The confusion being created according to the Prime Minister relates to how costs of production would be calculated. In an attempt to clarify, he stated that beside costs…