Amul federation could be soured by corruption charges against its oldest cooperative in Gujarat

On March 31, K Rathnam abruptly resigned as managing director of the Kaira Union, the oldest of the 18 cooperatives that market their products under the Amul brand name. The announcement came shortly after some board members of the union, including vice chairman Rajendrasinh Parmar, alleged a Rs 450-crore scam during Rathnam’s three-year stint running […]

The Amul story: How politics is hurting the economics of Gujarat’s milk cooperatives

In the winter of 2013, the inner workings of Amul briefly became public. A boardroom putsch was underway. The directors of no less than 14 of the 17 district milk cooperatives that were then part of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, which owns the Amul brand, had turned against chairman Vipul Chaudhary. A member […]

How palm oil from Malaysia fired the Patel agitation in Gujarat

Dhirubhai is in dire straits. He can no longer recover his investments on the groundnuts he grows on three acres of land along the Junagadh-Verawal road in Gujarat. In a good year, he grows 100 kilos of groundnuts – or peanuts – for every Rs 4,000 he invests. The minimum support price – or the […]

Can the courts save India’s rivers from pollution? Tirupur shows the answer is no

the second — and concluding — part of our trip down the Noyyal (see previous post). A slum sprawled on one side of the river. In the distance, a factory belched smoke in the air. The riverbed was overrun with weeds and crammed with plastic bags that were half buried into the earth. An earthmover […]

How a river in Tamil Nadu turned into a sewage canal

A narrow little rivulet splashes down, bouncing from boulder to boulder as it descends the rockface. It pauses to catch its breath in a tiny pool limned by trees, before rushing downhill again, merging with other streams to form a small river called the Noyyal. For centuries, the river’s 170-km course used to take it […]

A tsunami of debt is building up in Tamil Nadu – and no one knows where it is headed

G Venkatasubramanian trots out some astonishing numbers. Over the last 15 years, he and his fellow researchers at Pondicherry’s French Institute have been studying debt bondage among families in 20 villages in Tamil Nadu. Half of these settlements are in the coastal district of Cuddalore, and the others are in the adjoining district of Villupuram. […]

Why farmers burn their fields in Punjab despite knowing that it worsens the fog over north India

On the evening of 7 November, a deep fog settled along the stretch of 250 kilometres between Sirsa and Gurgaon in Haryana. By ten in the night, it was thick enough to make travel almost impossible. In places, visibility shrank to not more than five metres.State transport buses cut their trips short. Cars, trucks and […]

These workers at Amritsar’s grain market are smiling only for the camera

The anaj mandi at Amritsar will not forget 2015 easily. For the first time, the state’s long-grained basmati rice, famous for its fragrance, is selling cheaper than the humble parimal variety procured by the Indian government for its public distribution programme. Just two years ago, the variety favoured by local farmers, labelled ‘1121’, fetched about […]

Should India import onions?

Once again, India is hyperventilating over onions. In Delhi, say press reports, prices of the bulb have spiked by 25% between July and August. Similar spikes are being reported from elsewhere in the country. In response, blame games are underway. NAFED, a central government agency that procures agricultural produce, has accused the Delhi government of ignoring its missives in April, June […]

How the congress subverted its biggest rural development programme in Mizoram

Until last fortnight, most nights in Mizoram were lit up by the red glow of forest fires. Long thin lines of flame, rising and falling along the contours of the hills, ate their way up through the forest. It was jhum time in the state, when farmers who practice the traditional practice of slash-and-burn cultivation […]

why onion prices will singe you again and again

This January, the competition regulator sent an independent report to the ministry of agriculture on why onion prices spiked abruptly in 2010, a pattern that is playing out again today, with prices ruling at Rs 60-80 a kg for the last two months. This 86-page report, one of the clearest descriptions of how India’s agricultural […]

getting rural india to grow again…

the budget is around the corner. and here is what this opinionated hack thinks the finance minister should focus on in budget 2012-13. story one. on agri. It is no secret that Indian agriculture is in doldrums. Lakhs of farmers have committed suicide. Millions supplant their meagre earnings from farming by working in local factories […]

or why 2012 could be a massively disruptive year for farmers and the fertiliser industry

Vijay Thakur (name changed) is a worried man. This fertiliser wholesaler in Karnal, Haryana, buys subsidised fertiliser from companies and sells it to retailers in this agricultural district about 120 km north of Delhi. It is a steady, if not hugely profitable, business. Thakur fears that might change this year. from the latest instalment on […]

of india, her increasingly fragile agricultural soils and an indifferent fertiliser ministry

in the middle of this year, i wrote about india’s weakening agricultural soils. According to “Degraded and Waste Lands of India” , a report by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the National Academy for Agricultural Sciences, about 141 million hectares of our total geographical area of about 328.2 million hectares is under […]

fixing india’s agri crisis. option one. turn to conservation agriculture.

after the stories on dryland agriculture and the crisis in indian agricultural soils, there is this… It’s incontrovertible that Indian agriculture needs an overhaul. Yields are plateauing. Agricultural soils are weakening. Groundwater levels are collapsing. Farmers are leading lives of increasing desperation. The big question is: how do we fix agriculture? Does the answer lie […]

India’s soil crisis

In his fields, Badhia Naval Singh , a farmer tilling 8 bighas of land in the Bagli tehsil in Madhya Pradesh, has been seeing something strange for a while now. Earlier, if he pulled out a tuft of grass, he would see earthworms . “Ab woh dikhna bandh ho gaye hain (they don’t show up […]

Cash Trance

In his speech this year, the Indian finance minister announced that India would deliver the fertiliser subsidy directly to farmers from next year onwards. Shortly after the budget, the government’s National Informatics Centre insisted that it be allowed to develop the necessary software. A small update from the trenches here. This software, sources in the […]

Apres Le Green Revolution

this is the second of three stories i wrote for et’s 50th anniversary. on what should succeed the green revolution. i cannot find the link on the website. till i find that, here is the text. This happened three years ago. At that time, this reporter was doing rural research in Madhya Pradesh. And he […]

A thought exercise on what near universal food security has meant for Chhattisgarh…

The proposed National Food Security Bill could change rural India even more profoundly than the National Rural Employment Guarentee Act has. The Bill is expected to push India’s grain procurement up from the current 45 million tons to 80 million tons. It will also, depending on the approach the National Advisory Council recommends, provide 35 […]

Fixing India’s Mandis

note: this is the first article i wrote on agriculture. years later, after the village stay at tihi, i read this story again and found it embarrassingly technocratic in its outlook. anyway, do take a look. **** Jawaharlal Nehru had once described agriculture as “India’s greatest living industry”. Yet, 60 years after Independence, the country is […]