Insure farmers to ensure future




I saw this situation first-hand in the Mewat district of Haryana, where farmers told me they had been suffering for the past three cropping seasons. They were broke as each time they planted crops there was some unseasonal devastation that took a crippling toll. In the summer of 2015, for instance, they had planted rice and first rains were delayed. They begged and borrowed to run expensive diesel-fuelled tube wells (electricity for agriculture is supposedly assured but it goes off when farmers need it most). Finally, paddy was ready. But then came a night of apocalyptic rain—it rained over 250 mm in five hours. This, in a district where average annual rainfall is 500-600 mm. When I visited the village, not even two hours’ drive from Delhi, fields were flooded, crops destroyed. There was deep despair in the eyes of every farmer I met.

Let’s leave for the moment the questions—very real and urgent—why these extreme weather events are happening in our world with greater frequency and intensity. Let’s discuss instead what we need to do.

First, we need to know that these events are breaking our world. Today, we read more about Snowzilla—the massive snowstorm that has hit the eastern coast of the US—than the hailstorms and freak rain events that are livelihood spoilers in our country. These events have to make news, even if…CONTINUE READING


The invisible drought



Back in the late-1980s, many states across India were reeling under back-to-back droughts for three consecutive years, not much different from the circumstances of India in 2015-16. I was district collector in districts of MP and Chhattisgarh during those years. At that time, for Central and state governments, as for the media and public opinion, there was little that was weightier than responding, or being seen to…continue reading

Going against the grain

For rural India to be vibrant, the way forward is to address the twin challenges of reviving the dynamism of the farm sector by building its climate resilience and creation of quality employment in non-farm segments.



The World Bank’s World Development Report 2008 shows that agricultural growth is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty compared to growth originating in non-agricultural sectors. In India, too, 80 per cent of the people officially counted as poor lived in rural India in 2011-12. This means that for making a significant dent in poverty, rural incomes have to grow at a faster rate. The gap between urban and rural consumption levels has increased over the years. Recent studies have shown that despite the spurt in rural incomes between 2005 and 2012 caused by a rise in commodity prices and favourable terms of trade for agriculture, the level of non-farm incomes is at least three times that of farm incomes even today.

The rural economy in its current juncture is a lot less “agricultural” than it used to be earlier. With the fall in the average size of landholding, over 90 per cent of farmers are now in the small and marginal category and they cultivate over 50 per cent of the cropped area. Smallholder farmers are increasingly forced to combine non-farm work with work on their own land. Data from the 68th round of the National Sample Survey (2011-12) show that about 36 million workers have shifted from agriculture to non-agricultural sectors between 2004-05 and 2011-12, meaning that a major part of their income comes from work outside agriculture. On account of this inter-sectoral movement, the share of agriculture in the total workforce has fallen below the 50 per cent mark for the first time after Independence. While this number has been contested, the fact remains that sectors like rural construction are now the sites employing substantial numbers of workers. Given the poor working conditions in these sectors and the overall decline in quality of employment…continue reading

MGNREGS: ‘Monument of failure’ or ‘saviour’?

Consecutive crop failures due to droughts and unseasonal rains have led to a rise in demand for jobs under MGNREGS (Photo: Jitendra)

Consecutive crop failures due to droughts and unseasonal rains have led to a rise in demand for jobs under MGNREGS (Photo: Jitendra) / Picture from DOWN TO EARTH


In 2008-09, the scheme enabled the government to provide 48 person days of employment per rural household. In 2009-10, this number increased to 54 person days, especially when the country was reeling from the worst drought of the century. MGNREGS was widely credited with helping the UPA win a second term in office in the 2009 general elections.

The total expenditure incurred on the programme since it started in 2006 is Rs 3,13,844.55 crore. Of this, 71 per cent has been spent on wages for workers. Twenty-three per cent of those employed belonged to Scheduled Castes while around 17 per cent…continue reading

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Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters / Picture from DOWN TO EARTH

Scheme against jobs

Officials say the changes go against the spirit of the programme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which was designed for giving jobs to unskilled workers. Going by the changes suggested and pursued by Gadkari, the programme would look like one of those earlier public wage programmes, such as the Employment Assurance Scheme, that did not have the element of entitlement to job. It seems the programme is now opened for the backdoor entry of contractors. In another blow to it instead of village panchayats…continue reading

Digging holes, filling them up

INDIAN EXPRESS | Reetika Khera | FEBRUARY 3 2016

As it completes 10 years, there is enough evidence to show that India needs the MGNREGA

Nearly a year ago, the prime minister made a statement in Parliament about the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). He said: “My political understanding tells me, don’t ever stop MNREGA… because MNREGA is a living monument to your [the Congress’s] failures. After 60 years of independence, you had to send people to dig holes.” This widely criticised speech…continue reading

SC raps govt for not implementing food security law: Is Gujarat not a part of India?

GST, land bill, Delhi Supreme court, SC judge, political parties and ego, FICCI, FDI


“What is Parliament doing? Is Gujarat not a part of India? The Act says it extends to whole of India and Gujarat is not implementing it. You want to break away from India. This law was passed by Parliament but the states are not implementing the central law. How can a state say that it won’t implement the law? Tomorrow other state would say that it won’t follow IPC, CrPC,” observed a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur. Nine states and two Union territories have so far not implemented this social…continue reading