About three years ago, Jaideep first told me about Ramrao. The book is finally out. And it was a real pleasure to write this review.
out today, the second — and concluding — part of our report on how Kaira Union, the Amul Dairy set up by Verghese Kurien and Tirbhuvandas Patel is doing.
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 […]
Out today, the second — and concluding — part of our report on why Amul, India’s much-loved dairy federation, is in trouble.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
my first article on punjab is out. it looks at the recent whitefly attack on the state’s cotton crop and traces it back to worrying behaviour by the mid latitude westerlies and the collapse of extension work in the state.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
None of the standard explanations quite explain the rise in food prices India has seen: pronounced since 2006 and alarming after 2010. Drought and poor rains? The country has seen good aggregate rainfall in most of those years. Spike in global prices? Those were high in 2007-08, not now. Fragmented value chains that allow middlemen […]
on the day the sharad pawar story appeared, we put this email interview with him online as well. take a look. The press recently reported that you wanted a high subsidy (Rs.3,500/ton) for sugar exports. If Indian sugar is not globally competitive, why do we want to export it? If there is no domestic shortage […]
a long time back, when i was at businessworld, i had written my first story on agriculture. that was on fixing the mandis. i had met sharad pawar for that story. it was 2004. he was new to the agriculture ministry. i was young and impressionistic. the story that emerged was technocratic and naive. almost […]
Last week’s missive from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, to states ruled by his party, allowing farmers to sell their produce of fruits and vegetables to anyone they want —and not necessarily route it through mandis— will not be transformative for Indian farmers on its own. For that to happen, the governments need to back this […]
For the longest time, the price of farmland in Vadicherla stayed below Rs 20,000 an acre.Ten years ago, that began to change. “In 2003, an acre cost Rs 25,000. By 2006-07, it had climbed to Rs 2 lakhs,” says Byru Veeraiah, sarpanch of this village in Andhra Pradesh’s Mehbubnagar district, “By 2010, an acre cost […]
due to the great rural land grab, how much land is leaving agriculture? that is hard to say. the government says there is hardly any change — but that is unlikely. some say enough newer lands are being brought under farming to make up for the loss of farmland. but there is little mathematical work […]
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 […]
so i filed this routine copy on what the economic survey says about human development et al.
Take Chotia, a captive block in Hasdeo Arand with about 35 MT of reserves, allotted to Prakash Industries. Chouhan says 1,500 hectares of forest land is being lost to produce about 1 MT of coal a year. Wouldn’t it have been better to give Prakash a coal linkage? Or take Mahan, the block that will […]
Some days ago, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar took most people by surprise when he said the UPA government was planning to redirect India’s fertiliser subsidy towards organic and balanced fertilisers. Time will tell if he was serious. In the meantime, here is a small story I wrote for ET’s website on why this announcement was […]
and now for a question that is puzzling policymakers. over the last 10 years, rbi numbers estimate agri credit has gone up 755%. go with the budget numbers and agri credit has spiked from rs 51,000-odd crore to rs 575,000 crore now. and yet, look at changes in agricultural output, production, expenditure on agri inputs, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
The green revolution came in the sixties. Tasked with ensuring food security, it pushed high-yielding varieties (HYVs) of wheat and rice over jowar, bajra et al. It began in the floodplains of the north. Where, as canals came up, farmers, realising rainfall risk was a thing of the past, switched to HYVs. In the drylands, […]
the third of three stories for et 50. It will probably take a big, fat book to describe the myriad impacts the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA ) has had on India. At one level, it has created a safety net for rural folks during summer months when employment is scarce. It has improved […]
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 […]
Despite the doubling of agricultural credit in recent years and several efforts from the government towards financial inclusion, the number of farmers borrowing from moneylenders has risen to levels not seen since independence, says a task force headed by Nabard chairman U C Sarangi.
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 […]
(am writing this post in 2014 but retrospectively dating it back to dec 28, 2009. this, as things stand, is the very first set of stories i wrote for the economic times — they appeared three days before i joined the paper. the paper was bringing out an year end issue, and i wrote about […]
a small update from me. when the previous post was written, i was in the middle of the itc project — living in two villages, studying the impact this agribusiness was having on village india. that project is over now. i am back in starvation gully looking for a job. needless to say, the village […]
since the 12th of january, i have been living in tihi, a village of 300-odd households in the central indian state of madhya pradesh (more specifically, in malwa). six years ago, itc-ibd, an indian agribusiness, set up an ict kiosk in the house of one of the larger farmers in this village, began using that […]
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 […]