ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Agro-food Systems and Public Policy for Food and Agricultural Markets

This transcription of a presentation, commentary and a discussion at IIM Banglore in 2020 has three parts. In Part 1, contested definitions of food, urgent food questions and concepts of food systems are clarified before considering the ways agricultural markets are integrated in food systems, the contradictory principles at work in policies for their regulation, and the ways such policy practices are imagined. Sixteen multidisciplinary depictions of global food systems, agricultural markets and food policies are analysed, concluding that their conceptual fracturing results from a disregard of theory. New models of the Indian food system will need to give rigorous attention to institutions for policy. Part 2 problematises the empirical granularity needed to understand market behaviour that policymakers ignore as they shift agriculture from being the driver of industrialisation to being a residualised welfare sector. By continuing to ignore and misunderstand existing physical markets, regulatory reforms like the new central laws assume that the deregulation would somehow automatically bypass the vast number of private intermediaries necessary for distribution whose relatively easy-to-enter, small-scale activity undercuts the transaction costs of corporate agribusiness. In doing so, they lose sight of the original purpose and need for public regulation in primary agricultural markets in the first place. Part 3 discusses the need for consultative policy processes for policy and the implications for small scales and informality in agriculture and its markets of the close integration of self-employment in the rural non-farm economy.

Urban Waste and the Human–Animal Interface in Delhi

It is well-documented that urban waste contributes to the economy by creating livelihoods. Less is known, however, about the role of urban waste in producing human–animal ecologies involving livestock and wild birds. Here, four aspects of human–animal relationships in two urban subsystems involving waste as raw material for both stall-fed livestock (focusing on cows) and foragers (focusing on kites) are discussed. These are the roles of waste as feed; complex spatial relationships between animals, humans and their wastes; high densities of animals and humans leading to conflict over waste; and emerging threats of diseases spilling across social and physical barriers between animals and humans mediated by waste, with implications for the health of urbanised living beings.

On the Global Economic and Political Order and Its Insecurities

Samir Amin was an activist–scholar whose work stands the test of time. Hopefully, Amin lives on in the activist scholarship, and the internationalism and local commitment of new generations.

Realistic Alternative Technologies and Climate Change

Dawn of the Solar Age : An End to Global Warming and to Fear by Prem Shankar Jha, Sage India, Delhi, 2018; pp 308, ₹495.

Constructing Regions Inside the Nation

When the nation or the “centre” and their relations with constituent states are challenged by forces that are neither disciplined nor stabilised inside national territories, then economic regions expand and challenge the capacities of states to regulate them. This paper presents insights gained from new maps of India’s material and cultural regions, manifestations of the spatial patterns of Indian capitalism. Specifically, the focus is on regions of agrarian structure (rent, petty production, and capitalist production and exchange relations) and regions of social identity (caste, ethnicity, and gender).

The Micro Political Economy of Gains by Unorganised Workers in India

This review of literature looks at the micro-political mechanisms through which unorganised labour makes gains in wages and conditions of work, in a context of real wage rises since about 2005 and the ubiquity of informal labour contracts. It examines the micro level impact of demand and supply factors, the pressures on employers to concede to demands and the various methods used by labour to push its positions.

The Three Roles of Agricultural Markets

This paper is a review of the literature on agricultural commodity markets in India, in relation to the three vital roles these markets are thought to play. It outlines the strengths and limitations of each approach and shows how they contribute to our understanding of the workings of real markets. The paper also suggests a holistic view of markets, built on the basis of the insights of existing literature to enrich our knowledge of the complexity and diversity of real markets and assist realistic policymaking.

The Ghost in the Machine: Deconstructing Forest Policy Discourse in Bangladesh

By examining Bangladesh's principal forest policy documents from a discourse perspective, this study argues that the State's policy response to the "problems" and "development of the forestry sector" has been rhetorically loaded but politically cautious, covert and calculated. Under the conditions of governmentality, the policy prescriptions are presented as technical instruments for promoting efficiency in the forestry sector. The power and politics inherent in this exercise are constantly cloaked; yet these are pervasive, and find expression in their ability to serve certain practical purposes.

Resurrecting Scholarship Resurrecting Scholarship

What we are seeing in India is not the classic agrarian transition. Poor Indians with homes in rural areas are no longer simple peasants or rural wage labourers. They are also dependent on migrant wage labour, on working in the rural non-farm economy and on petty commodity production and trade in the capitalist economy. This calls for revisiting the relevance of categories such as "poor peasant", "middle peasant", "rich peasant" by exploring the significance of the links that almost every single rural household seems to have (for its reproduction) with the wider economy beyond the village confines.

Political Architecture of India's Technology System for Solar Energy

This essay makes a case for embedding the analysis of institutions for technological change in an understanding of the politics of markets. In turn, this needs knowledge of institutions and of their relations. The first stage that is needed to explain the retarded development of apparently appropriate solar energy technology in India is developed; and the implications for technology theory, analysis and policy are outlined. India's technology system was created precociously early to facilitate research and development. Technology is available. It is not obstructed by intellectual property rights so much as by the structure of domestic energy subsidies and support measures, the risk aversion of banks and the coordination failures of the system of market- and state-institutions for renewable energy technology. As a result, the state is seriously hampered from acting in the long-term public interest. In general, policy reform may require institutional destruction as well as creation, adaptation and persistence.

Social Structure, Tax Culture and the State

Tax collection is an important function of the state and is a prime source of revenue for any government. Quite often, the tax culture and social structures are such that they seem to encourage tax evasion. This paper examines commercial taxes and the role of the tax culture of social structures in Tamil Nadu and finds that while the state aims at ensuring tax compliance, it has unwittingly promoted a social structure that is "anti-tax" in nature. This has serious consequences for the distributional effects of taxation as well as for the accountability of the state to its people.

Poverty and Capitalism

While it may be possible to mitigate poverty through social transfers, it is not possible to eradicate the processes that create poverty under capitalism. Eight such processes are discussed: the creation of the preconditions; petty commodity production and trade; technological change and unemployment; (petty) commodification; harmful commodities and waste; pauperising crises; climate-change-related pauperisation; and the unrequired, incapacitated and/or dependent human body under capitalism. Ways to regulate these processes and to protect against their impact are discussed.

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