Brainstorm Think

The Problem is not the Problem

After seven decades of analysis, we know what ails Indian agriculture. That does not mean anything will change.

This is the closing post in our Brainstorm discussion on ‘The Crisis in Indian Agriculture’. Earlier posts: Intro123456,7, 8.

Our discussion on Indian agriculture identified many of the problems in Indian agriculture, and came up with solutions. There are structural problems with Indian agriculture: no markets in any part of it, and therefore no market signals; a lack of jobs in the economy, and therefore no escape route for farmers; a paternalistic mindset that doesn’t look at empowering farmers but traps them in a cycle of dependency. A number of policy suggestions have been made — and these solutions have been known for decades. The problem is, who will implement them?

The imperatives of our political economy mean that little reform will happen. Farmers are voters. They want paternalism in the short term. There are too many vested interests and too much inertia in the system for change to be likely — unless there is a crisis, which is likely to be a jobs crisis. So yes, things look grim, but as this discussion made clear, it isn’t because of lack of knowledge. We know what the problem is. How do we get there from here?

In case you missed any of the discussion, here are all the posts:

The Crisis in Indian Agriculture — Amit Varma

To Solve the Problem, First Define it — Nitin Pai

Empower Women Farmers — Mrinal Pande

Where are the Markets? — Kumar Anand

The Vicious Cycle of Ignorance and Poverty — Manoj Harit

The Lord of the Farms — Amit Varma

The Agricultural Crisis is a Jobs Crisis — Nitin Pai

Ditch the Paternalism — Kumar Anand

The Way out of the Crisis — Manoj Harit

I thank the participants for taking the time out to write these essays. Our next Brainstorm, on data Protection and Privacy, begins soon. Watch this space!


Also check out the following episodes of The Seen and the Unseen that dealt with different aspects of Indian agriculture:

Episode 1: Entry and Exit in Agriculture

Episode 12: Futures Markets in Agriculture

Episode 20: The Coming Jobs Crisis

Episode 25: Farm-Loan Waivers

Episode 26: The Right to Property

About the author

Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. A journalist for a decade-and-a-half, he won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007 and 2015. He writes the blog India Uncut, and hosts the podcast, The Seen and the Unseen. He is the editor of Pragati.