March 2019 marked the 46th anniversary of the beginning of the Chipko Andolan, which is often credited as India’s first environmental justice movement. However, the history of India’s environmental justice movements can be traced much further back. Early grassroots resistances to British rule, such as the Bengal peasant revolt of 1859-63 against indigo plantations, carried ecological undertones.
More than five decades after India launched the Green Revolution, its war on hunger is far from won.
India is, today, a country of about 1.35 billion people. United Nations’ population projections of 2017 say that India is likely to surpass China’s population by 2024 and reach 1.5 billion by 2030, making it the most populous nation on the planet. About two-thirds of Indians are below 35 years age. India’s GDP has been growing at around 7 percent annually for the last two decades, and likely to continue at this pace for at least another decade.
In the last five years, there has been a slow but growing international consensus around the withdrawal of financial capital from the coal industry. Large sovereign wealth funds and pension funds, as well as multi-national aid agencies like the World Bank have undertaken this virtue signalling exercise by announcing their exit from coal financing. While coal-based generators in the West were already on the back foot because of rising regulatory costs, most of the coal expansion in the 2010s has come from Asia, particularly India and China.
In March 2016, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced a historic shift in India’s agricultural policy: doubling farmer incomes by 2022 would replace increasing food production as the main focus of India’s policies—a goal many experts criticized as unachievable even as they lauded the shift in priorities. What lay behind Modi’s departure from decades of policy attention and where does the initiative stand today?
Nearly fifteen years ago, the former head of India’s Central Water Commission warned that “hydro-politics is threatening the very fabric of federalism” in the world’s second most populous country. Virtually all the subcontinent’s major rivers, including the Indus, the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra, are the subject of some level of contention. But while these international transboundary waterways receive most of the attention, it is India’s internal water wars that may well be most significant for its future.
Indian farmers realize extremely low revenues. Revenues can be low either because farmers are unproductive and/or because they receive low prices for their output. While productivity relates mostly with technical aspects of farming, price realization depends on the state of the agricultural economy and can potentially be addressed by economic policy. In this article, I will discuss two dimensions of prices—wedges and dispersion—and shed light on some common misconceptions.
Are Intermediaries Bad?
The Ganges, or Ganga, is India’s holiest river, worshipped as a goddess by more than a billion people. It accounts for 47 percent of India’s irrigated land and feeds 500 million citizens. Despite its importance, it is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Rapid population growth, urbanization, and industrial development have raised the levels of domestic as well as industrial pollutants in its waters.
Cooperative federalism is a governance mantra in India these days. Between GST, Aadhar, demonetization, Swacch Bharat and more, the assertiveness of the Central government in prescribing wide-ranging technocratic policy solutions is at an all-time high. And for good reason—some of these interventions may have long-term benefits, even if they are painful in the short-term. But these benefits are rarely uniform across regions, and the long-term distributional and spatial consequences of these policies are often not well understood.
Inclusive Growth—also called “pro-poor” growth—has become an important idea in the development discourse in India. It has widespread support because it combines the two most important ideas in development: income growth along with a progressive (or more egalitarian) distribution. The term was first embraced in the early 2000s by the UPA-1 government under PM Manmohan Singh. It has since been taken up by the NDA government under PM Narendra Modi. But is “inclusive growth” anything more than a slogan like “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas?”