The Week That Was:

From: Vartaa Editorial Team on Mar 27, 2016

Upcoming Assembly Elections

There was plenty of political action across multiple Indian states this past week. In J&K, after months of negotiations, the BJP-PDP finally decided to resume their coalition with PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti all set to be the new CM. The Congress continued to battle rebel MLAs in Uttrakhand who are threatening to topple the government in the state. In poll bound Assam, PM Modi addressed multiple rallies trying to pitch a development oriented message. Down south in Kerela, which also goes to the polls, the BJP roped in ex-India cricketer and match fixing accused S.Sreesanth as its candidate from the state's capital.

Road Rage in the Capital

The national capital of Delhi witnessed an ugly road rage incident this past week when a 40 year old dentist Dr. Pankaj Narang was beaten to death by a group of assailants who had got into a scuffle with him. The police have made arrests in the case while Dr.Narang's family met Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and requested additional security in their area. The incident played up on social media and the identity of some attackers almost led to the assault acquiring a communal hue before more sense prevailed.

T20 Fortunes

India and Bangladesh produced a thrilling contest in the ongoing World T20 tournament with the host nation managing to hold its nerve and secure a vital nerve wrecking 1 run win. West Indies and New Zealand have already made their way into the semi-finals and Australia defeated Pakistan to knock them out of the tournament as well. The India-Australia match on Sunday is now knock out affair with the winner taking a spot in the smi-finals.

Opinions you must read:

  • Has the BJP finally learnt to silence provocative noises and avoid nasty battles with the opposition to keep the governance going? Sujit Bhalla weighs in.
  • The Hindu looks at the unique political and security challenges that make Belgium a prime target for terror attacks like those that occurred this past week.
  • With rumours floating around again of Amazon potentially buying Flipkart, Mint examines the potential consequences of such a move

Chart of the Week

Recently, the Indian Government and Monsanto has had a falling out of sorts. The Indian government would like to impose caps on royalties for genetically modified (GM) seeds to lower their prices for farmers while Monsanto believes this shows blatant disregard towards its Intellectual Property. Monsanto has threatened to exit the Indian market and the government has responded with a 'Be our guest, we will make our own GM seeds' Regardless of the outcome of the feud, if India is to successfully feed its growing population and bring prosperity to those dependent on agriculture (almost 50% of the population), High-Yield Seeds have to be part of the plan. The other 2 critical components are Irrigation and Mechanization.

So who do you think are the better performing states when it comes to agricultural productivity? And who do you think are the laggards? UP? Bihar? We decided to use foodgrains or cereals as the proxy which are by far the largest type of crops cultivated across India and were somewhat surprised by the results. On top are predictably, Punjab and Haryana with yields of 4,400 and 3,850 kg/hectare respectively. The perception of Punjab as top food grain producer in the country has been reinforced by images of the Punjabi farm worker riding his tractor through a lush wheat field in the media frequently (remember the diversity promoting song 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' on the National channel Doordarshan?).

What is surprising is that UP and Bihar have a respectable yield of almost 2,500 and 2,000 kg/ hectare. Maharashtra is a shocker at a mere 1,200 kg/ hectare. However, it has the lowest percentage of area that is irrigated at 19%. Which means poor rainfall severely affects farm yields. No surprise then that the state has been reeling from farmer suicides in recent years when the rainfall has been less than satisfactory. The manufacturing and IT sectors get a lot of attention in the media and incentives from the state and central government. However, the dire need for irrigation infrastructure in the state is seldom a topic of discussion when the news of poor rainfall and farmer suicides come to the fore.

All credit to Punjab and Haryana (and the central government to some extent) for leading the way with high crop yields thanks to modern irrigation infrastructure, mechanization, and training. However, at 3,850 kg/hectare, Haryana's yield is still half that of the United States (7,340 kg/hectare) or two-thirds that of China (5,890 kg/hectare) according to the World Bank. Clearly there is a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully the government will do less posturing against Monsanto and more development of high-yield seeds, irrigation facilities, and train farmers. A tall order but certainly not insurmountable. The country is on the right track. According to World Bank data, India's cereal yield per hectare grew almost 24% from 2400 kg to 2960 kg in the decade from 2003-2013.

*Chart renders best on Desktop. We publish a modified version for phone.