29 Jan 2021: 50th Foundation Year Lecture by Prof. Rajeswari S. Raina
50th Foundation year lecture series- Webinar on “Institutions and the Evolution of Indian Agriculture” by Professor Rajeswari S Raina, Department of International Relations and Governance Studies School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SoHSS), Shiv Nadar University (29th January 2021)
Abstract: This lecture traces the evolution of Indian agriculture through the institutions that govern the sector. The norms for Minimum Support Price (MSP) and those for investments in and subsidies for chemicals, fuel, and food, are key institutions that govern agriculture. We explore how these institutions that govern the agricultural economy include and account for land, water and biodiversity. Three phases of institutional change are evident in India; (i) agriculture as the basis of all development in the immediate post-independence period, (ii) modernization of agriculture for development that marked the green revolution, and (iii) contending alternatives in agriculture and in development around the turn of the century. Two sets of institutions emerge, that govern (i) the material and energy inputs into agriculture and (ii) the production and marketing services including agricultural research and extension, credit, subsidies, and pricing mechanisms. Evidence of the changing material reality in agriculture thus governed, increasingly by centralized and consolidated organizations, include environmental degradation, farm distress, and worsening nutritional outcomes. Presenting empirical evidence on the unsustainable and iniquitous nature of agriculture as governed by these institutions, especially since the late 1980s (after the end of the first phase of the green revolution), we explore why certain institutions or norms persist. Whether they govern productivity (narrowly defined as yield per hectare) or the public subsidization of private capital formation for agriculture, these institutions have a tenacity beyond their instrumental value to the sector. The paper brings to us, frameworks from the 1970s, William Kapp’s conceptualization of circular cumulative causation and a possible Kaleckian intermediate regime (that Prof. K. N. Raj discussed)which seems to have a stranglehold on India’s agricultural economy, and controls the norm making, revoking and amending processes.