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Policy Watch No.12

COVID-19: Crisis-hit Rural India Needs Effective Farm Policy Implementation

India’s farm sector, which is still the country’s largest employment provider, suffered heavy losses in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sector, which is socio-economically both diverse and complex, has always faced institutional constraints ranging from debt-dependency to exploitative marketing intermediaries and left the Indian farmer vulnerable to both monsoon and markets. When COVID-19 struck, the Government of India was quick to exempt agriculture from the restrictive lockdown. It also announced sector-specific relief packages and promulgated three ordinances to reform the agricultural sector.

In this Policy Watch, Sangeeta Shroff, Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune , writes on the impact of COVID-19 on the farm sector, specifically horticulture and floriculture, which were directly affected as the lockdown coincided with their harvest season. Issues that have long-afflicted the Indian agricultural sector—transport bottlenecks, inadequate storage and cold chain facilities, poor marketing networks, economies of scale, and the absence of efficient linkage mechanisms, to name a few—aggravated the adverse fallout of the lockdown. She concludes with a discussion of government policies, relief packages for farmers during COVID-19 and the possible trajectory of these reforms.

Shroff advocates the use of technology as a game changer for Indian agriculture. She concludes on a note that the real answer, however, lies in strengthening rural infrastructure in the form of roads, electricity, schools, sanitation, healthcare, and telecommunications to generate employment, prevent distress migration and ensure that the benefits of growth are not concentrated only in urban centres but are also reaped by rural India.

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Related ResourceCOVID-19: Press Releases and Updates by the Government of India and WHO [HTML and PDF]. Source: Press Information Bureau, Government of India.

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Chaturvedi, S. 2020. Pandemic Exposes Weaknesses in India’s Disaster Management Responses, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, September 3.

Mudliar, P. 2020. A Reality Check on India’s Search for Digital Utopia, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, August 28.

Ebenezer, R. 2020. Ensuring Zero Tolerance for all Forms of Forced Labour, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, July 14.

Ngullie, O. G. and Ansari, A. A. 2020 . India’s Public Distribution System and the Pandemic – Revisiting Delhi’s Beneficiaries, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, June 26.

Vijay, G. and Gudavarthy, A. 2020. A Pandemic as a Political Reality Check , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, April 15.

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