Food insecurity acts

The Shanta Kumar Committee’s recommendations to unbundle the Food Corporation of India are in tune with U.S.-led demands raised in the World Trade Organization



For example, the report asserts that only six per cent of all farmers have benefited from Minimum Support Price (MSP) through sale of food grains to an official procurement agency, according to data of the National Sample Survey Organisation’s 70th round. But analysts have found discrepancies between the survey’s estimates of the food grains sold to official procurement agencies and the actual amount of grains procured by official agencies for that year.

For kharif, the NSSO survey estimates that 13 million tonnes were sold to a procurement agency while the actual procurement that year by government agencies was 34 million tonnes. For rabi, the gap is even larger: 10 million tonnes estimated in the survey while the actual amount procured by an official agency was 38 million tonnes.

Selling at distress prices

Why did the Shanta Kumar Committee overlook these…continue reading


People’s Involvement in governance

Change through the ballot is a very sedentary, laid back approach to change. While it gives the people a chance to remove a government that is non performing, there are micro issues that do not get addressed. There is between the people and government a yawing gap. While there are NGOs that view the community from the micro perspective, there is no agency that actually furthers their agenda to a higher theater.

Between the state and the people a congenial asset that addresses local issues using its clout with the authorities at sub-state and state level would enhance the newly constituted NITI Ayog. The trans formative context that the new organisation is seeking to put forth, would be enhanced by grassroots perspectives from these micro agencies.

This is nothing new. There has been a clamor for creation of these linkages that go to bridge the gap and put forward a realistic agenda. Policy making that just looks at the issues from the top hasn’t been able to address poverty. In fact the causes of poverty have grown manifold. Development and growth seem to benefit an already enriched economic minority. Fast tracking of environmental clearances is a pointer to this perspective. While savvy economists work on economic models, their designs are almost always alien to our landscape.

GDP perspective of growth suggests that an increase in GDP would take care of poverty. This model of growth hasn’t benefited a large section of our people and has exacerbated the almost irreversible internal displacement. As farmlands and micro businesses are uprooted for industrial expansion, when forest lands are plundered, eco-systems disturbed, then I think the shifting paradigms at the top would produce only miscarriages.

While investment is fast tracked (red carpet and not red tape), there are other things that need to be urgently addressed. First who would take care of the lakhs of people who, one fine day find that their farmland, cattle and micro-businesses are crushed under the juggernaut of crass industrialization. When forests are plundered, the indigenous people who depend upon the forest find themselves at the death’s door. The familiar landscape becomes alien. They do not in any way benefit from the industrial units that replace the farms and forests, neither economically or socially. Proud forest communities become second class citizens, whose lives become dependent on state mechanisms, they are sought to be taken care of through affirmative action or through local charities.

It is not enough to bring change at the top, micro issues, when aggregated would go a long way in providing a better perspective that would not just enhance policy making but would go a long way in addressing the root causes of poverty. The new institution should look beyond economic models and make policies keeping in view the realities of the Indian landscape.

Cash transfers, the lazy short cut

BASE CAMP: “The poor need to be organised for greater accountability of systems of governance.” Picture shows people at a public hearing on PDS and cash transfers in New Delhi. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma
BASE CAMP: “The poor need to be organised for greater accountability of systems of governance.” Picture shows people at a public hearing on PDS and cash transfers in New Delhi. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma / Picture from The Hindu


Can cash work for the unorganised poor when faced with exploitative markets? As any student of the poor in India knows, when individual small and marginal farmers enter any market, they face extremely onerous conditions. The nexus of interlocked markets presents grievously unfair terms for them and most of the time they end up making distress sales, getting even deeper into debt. It is for this reason that recent work on farmers’ poverty has focussed so much on building powerful economic institutions of the poor such as Self-Help Group Federations or Farmer Producer Organisations, so that they can compete on better terms in the market. A mere transfer of cash without this major innovation will do the poor little good.

Can cash work for the unorganised poor when faced with unresponsive governments? Another reason why the poor need to be organised is to generate greater accountability of systems of governance that are the weakest in our most deprived regions. When the poor get organised, especially when led by women, we get much higher quality of mid-day meals and primary health centres. Removing poverty…continue reading

New Green Revolution programme has not benefited Jharkhand farmers, says report


Farmers in Jharkhand have not derived significant benefits from the new Green Revolution programme initiated by the Centre in 2010-11, according to a report by non-profits working with the farmers in the state. The report claims that the government tried to implement the 1960s model of Green Revolution that increased agricultural production in Punjab and Haryana, without taking into account local conditions in eastern states.

Union Ministry of Agriculture’s Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI) programme was launched in Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Purvanchal (eastern Uttar Pradesh), Jharkhand and West Bengal. With this initiative, the government hoped to improve production of crops, especially rice, and water resource management in the region. But despite budget…continue reading

Undermining Adivasi Interests


The haste with which a public hearing was pushed through for Sesa Sterlite’s expansion of its Lanjigarh facility in Kalahandi, Odisha leads to the assumption that perhaps the acche din promised by the new government are actually for the corporate sector. There seems to be an overt and covert effort to ensure that big corporate houses take over the development projects at the cost of local communities and natural resources. The Dongria Kondhs who have been opposing the expansion have been paying the price in terms of daily repression and arbitrary arrests.

Amiya Kumar Das ( is faculty at the Tezpur University, Assam; Nigam ( is a freelance writer and translator based in Bhubaneswar; and Ranjana Padhi ( is an activist and writer based in Delhi.

The promise of acche din indeed seems to be coming true for corporate houses, never mind about the others. In less than two months of the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government coming to power, the alacrity with which a – Read more


Birth of a new institution


In line with the Government of India’s approach of less government and a move away from centralised planning, the NITI Aayog with a new structure and focus on policy will replace the 64-year old Planning Commission that was seen as a vestige of the socialist era. The new body, conceived more in the nature of a think-tank that will provide strategic and technical advice, will be helmed by the Prime Minister with a Governing Council of Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors, similar to the National Development Council that set the objectives for the Planning Commission. The NITI Aayog seeks substitute centralised planning with a ‘bottom-up’ approach where the body will support formulation of plans at the village level and aggregate them at higher levels of government. In short, the new body is envisaged to follow the norm of cooperative federalism, giving room to States to tailor schemes to suit their unique needs rather than be dictated to by the Centre. This is meant to be a recognition of the country’s diversity. The needs of a State such as Kerala with its highly developed  – Read more

Hasty changes in land law


When a law is enacted after considerable debate and consultation, it will be wise to study the experience of its implementation for some time before it is amended, in order to address perceived difficulties. Any such amendment within the first year of its entry into force, especially one pushed through as an ordinance, will be inevitably perceived as hasty, even if on the positive side it is meant to eliminate delays in land acquisition. In this backdrop, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014, is bound to face criticism that the changes constitute a significant dilution of a progressive law. The Congress and the Left parties are likely to oppose the changes when the law comes to Parliament in the form of a bill to replace the ordinance. In substance, the ordinance makes a significant change by – Read more