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Distress in the Fields

Indian Agriculture after Economic Liberalization

Edited by R. Ramakumar

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Distress in the Fields

In 2021, India completed three decades of implementation of economic liberalization policies. This volume is a composite and critical account of Indian agriculture during liberalization. Agriculture was one of the most contentious arenas of policymaking in this period, marked by occasional spurts of growth coexisting with acute agrarian distress. From the standpoint of political economy, this volume discusses and analyses a range of themes in Indian agriculture including land ownership, tenancy, public investment and expenditure, prices, international trade, crop incomes and profitability, input subsidies, credit, insurance, marketing and food distribution. A key feature of the volume is its simultaneous focus on both a broader macroeconomic outlook and extensive evidence collected through intensive village surveys. The contributions to the volume demonstrate that the impact of policies of liberalization on agriculture was uneven and adverse. Even as the growth of large-scale agrarian capital from below was stymied by policy, agrarian transformation continued to be characterized by inequality and differentiation. The book will serve as essential teaching material and a valuable reference text for students and researchers of Indian agriculture

... a comprehensive and critical consideration of the determinants of long-term agricultural growth and agrarian inequalities, a rich yet distilled view of performance and policy errors of omission and commission, against which the present state and prospects of the sector are fruitfully assessed.                   – J. Mohan Rao (Emeritus Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst)

... [The] analysis of liberalization and the commodification of policy as well as that of all stages of agriculture ... is grounded in history, developed through major policy debates, clearly explained with a treasure chest of evidence and data. – Barbara Harriss-White (Professor Emeritus of Development Studies, University of Oxford)

... Magisterial in its analysis of the longue durée, it provides unique evidence and food for thought on issues ranging from the land question and the worsening inequalities in the countryside, to neo-liberal policy changes on agricultural credit and marketing. – Jens Lerche (Reader, SOAS University of London)

... [T]he book gives you a long view of the mess we are in. A view that shows our present farm crisis not as an event, but as an outcome of the policies that came with our embrace of the market and liberalization ... – P. Sainath (Journalist and Founder Editor, People’s Archive of Rural India)

R. Ramakumar

Ramakumar is a development economist and professor at the School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He has extensive research experience in agrarian studies, agricultural economics and rural banking. He is the author of Note-Bandi: Demonetisation and India’s Elusive Chase for Black Money (2018).