Author Archive: vdc

Why farmer protests may be the new normal

One of the major uncertainties facing the Indian farmer is volatility in prices. This has been particularly sharp in the case of vegetables and pulses over the past few years. Delhi: A few months back, vegetable growers were out on the streets protesting against low prices. Then it was the turn of sugarcane farmers. And now milk producers are dumping milk on the streets to draw attention to the glut that has brought prices down.

India saw an almost eight-fold rise in ‘agrarian riots’ between 2014 and 2016, data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows. These riots include conflict over land and water, resources that have come under stress from weather-related shocks and inadequate policy response.

Ahead of the general elections of 2019, farm protests and strikes have caught the attention of our political class. Politicians cutting across party lines have been vying with each other to offer sops and to make promises about such sops to India’s beleaguered farmers. However, these sops and promises are mere palliatives which fail to address the roots of India’s farm crisis.

There are three major risks that the farmer faces today, which arise from three different sources-prices, trade policies, and resource stress.

Excess production of vegetables and pulses invariably lead to a crash in prices, which often trigger protests.

The government’s procurement policy for cereals ensures that prices of rice and wheat are less volatile than those of other food items. However, not all cereal producers benefit from the procurement policy, which is effective only in a few states.

The political cycle in MSP (minimum support price) hikes-which typically spike ahead of elections-means that returns for cereal farmers are erratic across years. Also, a sharp variation in the officially-determined procurement quantity of crops becomes an added source of uncertainty for the farmer. The procurement of wheat has ranged from as low as 12% of production in 2006-07 to as high as 41% in 2012-13, Food Corporation of India (FCI) data shows.

For producers of crops other than wheat and rice, the uncertainty is even greater as there is very little state-led procurement even though procurement prices are announced for as many as 23 major crops.

The imperative to keep retail food prices in check has led successive governments to impose ad hoc restrictions on farm exports, hurting producers and creating another layer of uncertainty for them.

In response to the growing protests by milk producers, the government has announced export incentives for milk. But it is likely that the government will step in with export restrictions once milk prices cross a threshold that is deemed acceptable to policymakers.

A study of India’s agricultural policies between 2000 and 2016 by OECD and ICRIER published this month found that trade-distorting policies-such as export prohibitions, export quotas, export duties, or minimum export prices-have impeded the export of several key commodities and depressed producer prices. For example, export restrictions or bans were applied to wheat, non-basmati rice, chickpeas, sugar and milk at different times over the course of the period studied.

Despite large subsidies to fertilizers, power and irrigation, which offset somewhat the price-depressing effect of trade interventions, the overall effect of policy interventions have been to reduce gross farm revenues by over 6% per year in the 2014-16 period, the study found. In contrast, in most large economies, the overall impact of policy interventions has boosted farm revenues over the same period, the OECD study shows. The beneficiaries of negative price support to producers are India’s consumers, who have gained from lower food prices.

The third big risk facing Indian farmers arises from resource stress and climate change-induced shocks. The areas facing water stress and deterioration in soil quality have been rising over time. Agrarian states of the north such as Punjab and Haryana have already exploited their groundwater potential to a large extent. Southern states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu which lack perennial irrigation are also increasingly exhausting their groundwater reserves.

With extreme weather events such as high temperatures and erratic rainfall likely to become more frequent because of climate change, the resource stress facing Indian farmers will only increase. Farm revenues could be hit to the extent of 25% over the long-run because of climate change-related disruptions, the latest economic survey of the finance ministry published in January this year said. Rain-fed areas will be the worst hit, the survey said.

The absence of a robust insurance mechanism that protects farmers from these risks means that Indian farmers are being compelled to make unhedged bets when they begin sowing each season. The current government had rightly recognized the need to provide effective instruments of insurance to Indian farmers. However, the limited success of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana seems to have compelled the government to fall back on the old formula of MSP hikes. This formula has been tried in the past without much success. So, brace yourself for more agrarian protests in the months and years to come.

Army personnel kills wife by electrocuting her private parts

In a shocking turn of events, an Army personnel killed his wife by electrocuting her private parts.

A Chhattisgarh Armed Force (CAF) jawan allegedly killed his wife by electrocuting her private parts after he suspected her of infidelity in Chhattisgarh’s Balodabazar-Bhatapara district, the police told on Wednesday.

“When Laxmi was washing clothes in the bathroom, Suresh Miri went inside and started beating her. When she fell unconscious, Miri passed electric current to her private parts with the help of a live wire leading to her death on the spot,” Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI), Sargaon police outpost, Paras Ram Jagat told the media.

During interrogation, the accused, identified as Suresh Miri, a cook with the 6th battalion of the CAF in Dantewada district, confessed to killing his wife, Laxmi, as he suspected her of having an extra-marital affair, Jagat added.

The couple, who lived in a housing board colony along with their two children in Bhatapara, located around 80 kilometers away from the state capital Raipur, had a heated argument on Wednesday afternoon, the ASI said.

“The accused, Suresh Miri, 33, was taken into custody yesterday by Sargaon police in Mungeli district, where he had brought the body of his wife Laxmi, 27, after allegedly killing her,” he said.

Miri afterward called his in-laws and said that Laxmi had taken ill, Jagat said, adding that the accused then hired a van and took the body to his native village Khajri in the neighboring Mungeli district.

Later, Miri told his in-laws that Laxmi had died due to the illness. His in-laws confronted him when they saw Laxmi’s body and informed the police.

A police team reached the village and took Miri into custody, Jagat said.

Bhatapara police have been informed about his custody and they will reach Sargaon to arrest him on Friday, he said.

When contacted, Bahatapara police officials said the house of the accused, where the alleged crime took place, had been sealed.

Cash for job scam: BJP MP’s daughter, 18 others arrested in Assam

DISPUR: In a sensational development, Assam police on Wednesday daughter of BJP MP and 18 other government officers for their alleged involvement in the multi-crore cash-for-jobs scam of Assam Public Service Commission (APSC taking the number of total arrests in the case to 55.)

APS officer Pallabi Sharma, the daughter of Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Lok Sabha MP from Tezpur constituency, R.P. Sharma, among those arrested as their handwriting did not match with their answer sheets in the APSC examination held in 2016, according to police.

All the 19 officers entered the Special Branch headquarters around 10 a.m where they were arrested later.

‘We have already collected their handwriting from their offices concerned. We have also carried out forensic tests on their handwriting and matched with those recovered from the fake answer sheets recovered from the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC),’ said Dibrugarh Superintendent of Police Goutam Bora.

Earlier, police had filed charge sheet against former Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) chairman Rakesh Kumar Paul and few other members in connection with the case.

Additional Superintendent of Police of Dibrugarh Police, Surajeet Singh Panesar told ANI, ‘So far 63 officers have been arrested in the case. Today, we have arrested 19 officers, out of which eight are women.’

Police had earlier identified 25 officers of the 2015 batch who had bribed APSC officials to get jobs through doctored answer scripts.

Out of those 25 officials, 13 were in Assam Civil Services, seven in Assam Police Services and the rest are in allied civil services.

On November 8, police arrested 16 civil services officials in this regard.

Uttarakhand: 10 people died, 9 injured when the Uttarakhand Transport Corporation bus they were in, skidded off Rishikesh Gangotri Highway into a 250 metre deep gorge near Suryadhar.

Uttarakhand: 10 people died, 9 injured when the Uttarakhand Transport Corporation bus they were in, skidded off Rishikesh Gangotri Highway into a 250 metre deep gorge near Suryadhar. Local admn & police have reached the spot. There were 25 people in the bus. More details awaited.

UP CM Yogi Adityanath has ordered compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of those dead and Rs 50,000 each to those injured in building collapse in #GreaterNoida’s Shah Beri village

UP CM Yogi Adityanath has ordered compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of those dead and Rs 50,000 each to those injured in building collapse in ‘s Shah Beri village

From the site of building collapse in #GreaterNoida’s Shah Beri village. Death toll in the incident rises to 7; Search and rescue operation is still underway.

from the site of building collapse in ‘s Shah Beri village. Death toll in the incident rises to 7; Search and rescue operation is still underway.

Sunny Leone on her biopic: Every tear you see me shed in ‘Karenjit Kaur’ is real

In an exclusive interview, Sunny Leone revealed some intimate details about her life and also narrated how shooting for her biopic Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone was emotionally challenging. Sunny Leone has been in the news for recently her newly released biopic titled Karenjit Kaur:

Why politicians fail to focus on long-term policies

My first big learning on how humans think of their future happened a few years ago while studying the lives of truck drivers. As part of developing a communication strategy for a company launching fuel stations across the country, I got one of my team members to spend a few days riding along with truck drivers across the country. While my colleague observed several facets of a truck driver’s life, he also observed the truck drivers’ interactions with commercial sex workers.

My colleague observed that although free condoms were available, many truck drivers did not use them. On further enquiry, he found that the truck drivers were aware of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and that condoms could help prevent one from getting infected-or from transmitting the disease. But despite this awareness, many truckers didn’t use condoms. Why was this?

On deeper questioning, one of the truck drivers told my colleague, “Yes, I know condoms can prevent diseases like AIDS, a disease that can kill me few years down the line. But my life can end today with an accident at the next traffic junction. I have got too many problems to solve for today. In the midst of all this, I don’t have time to think of what will happen a few years down the line.” That is when I realized that there are many people around us who don’t think beyond a few days into the future.

For millions of years in our evolutionary history, humans lived for the day. Our forefathers ate what they had in front of them and slept in the safest place they could find that day. So, for millions of years, the human brain had got used to thinking only about today. The advent of agriculture brought in a fundamental change in human thinking. Humans started to think of tomorrow, the future. They started to believe that the seeds they planted that day would bear fruits in the future. For the first time in evolutionary history, our temporal orientation expanded beyond a single day into the future.

But the introduction of agriculture is a recent event in the evolutionary history of humans. Around 10,000 years of agriculture and its focus on the future is too small a period to make a significant impact in the wiring of the human brain which is millions of years old. The fundamental nature of the human brain is to think short term.

All of us have a temporal orientation that governs our lives. This time frame determines how far ahead in the future we can think while carrying outday-to-day activities. One’s temporal orientation, induced by evolutionary forces and external influences, impacts one’s daily behaviour at a non-conscious level. Because it is a non-conscious factor, the role of temporal orientation in human behaviour has rarely been taken seriously by policymakers and decision experts while formulating policy decisions.

The very existence of a politician is dependent on winning the next election. An election that happens every five years or earlier is a life and death situation for him. Losing an election could mean the death of his political life. So all his actions and thoughts are governed by winning the next election. Given this, it is very difficult for a politician to have a temporal orientation beyond five years.

Today, in the days of shareholder activism, corporate leaders too are subject to short-term temporal orientation. A few quarters of underperformance will surely make the position of any chief executive officer (CEO) very shaky. So the temporal orientation of most companies does not extend beyond the next few quarters. Thus, when there is a choice between an investment that will have a substantial future pay-off and a small immediate one, and an investment that will have a smaller pay-off, but an immediate one, one should not blame the CEO for playing a short-term game.

Of course, political leaders and corporate leaders will say that they are committed to the future and long-term goals. But their actions will nevertheless be governed by what their brains expect to happen in the immediate present, much like our forefathers in the savannas-a clear say versus do gap created due to their temporal orientation.

Several problems that a large country like India faces need long-term vision and decades of focused effort. The temporal orientation of the political leadership does not facilitate strategy formulation beyond five years. So how do we develop alternative strategies that work around the short-term temporal orientation problem?

It would be too optimistic to expect a politician to start thinking of a future beyond his next election, when his very survival depends on it. It might be more practical to accept this reality and work around this problem. Who could then take care of the long-term future of a country?

Some of the brightest talents in our country join the administrative services. They are part of the government machinery for a lifetime. So, unlike the politician who only has a short-term view of policy decisions, bureaucrats can have a much more long-term vision. Can we tap into the ability of our bureaucrats to think long-term?

Survival instincts create several mental models in the human brain. Short-term temporal orientation is one among them. No doubt this inherent nature of the brain can blinker leaders when it comes to the growth potential of countries and corporations. The future will belong to those countries and corporates that can develop alternative structures that facilitate long-term temporal orientation.