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A field of disagreement
The Gujarat model continues to generate more heat than light.
This is in response to Professor Yoginder K. Alagh’s article, ‘Posture-nomics’ (IE, May 7), wherein he says, “Getting back to agriculture, the 10 per cent growth rate figure was the result of a paid-for study commissioned by the government of Gujarat and conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, to which [Ashok] Gulati was affiliated. The finding was widely advertised as the result of research by an ‘American institute’.”
I wish Professor Alagh had remained professional and discussed whether Gujarat’s agriculture had done better during the decade of the 2000s (2001-02 to 2011-12) than the 1990s (1991-92 to 2000-01), the period I have referred to recently. And if there is any improvement, what has driven it? Instead, he chose to throw mud by saying it was “a paid-for study” by the Gujarat government. It pains me to say that Professor Alagh, whom I have respected as a senior professional, is speaking a blatant, shameful lie. I am proud to have been associated with IFPRI for more than 10 years. Let me put on record that IFPRI never received a penny from the Gujarat government for this study and the study was not commissioned by it. Further, IFPRI is a solid research organisation under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research system (not American) and works on food and agriculture policy issues. Its policy suggestions are always evidence-based. But IFPRI never claims to be the last word in research. Research is a continuous process, and research findings of a study can always be improvised and challenged, which we often did within IFPRI itself, but minimum courtesy demands it is done in a professional manner.
Professor Alagh also talks about his days at the Planning Commission and says, “in the days when planning still mattered”. May I ask what the rate of growth of the Indian economy was when he was planning for the country vis-a-vis, say, the last 10 years, when Montek Singh Ahluwalia has been at the helm? Whether planning still matters or not, I leave it to Professor Alagh and Ahluwalia to decide, but I want to return to Gujarat’s agriculture.
Our study on Gujarat (‘Secret of Gujarat’s Agrarian Miracle after 2000’, with Tushaar Shah, Hemant, Ganga Shreedhar and R.C. Jain, published in the Economic and Political Weekly, December 26, 2009) was an offshoot of the work we were doing at IFPRI on all major states with respect to their overall growth, agri-growth, poverty, etc since the 1991 reforms. All the data on these state-level parameters are from the Central Statistical Office. On agri-growth for the two decades mentioned, the results are shown in the graph above: Gujarat, which was not known for any major agri-GDP growth during the 1990s, is suddenly at the top during the 2000s, with agri-GDP growth of 9.8 per cent per annum, up from 2 per cent during the 1990s. Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, all registered around 7 per cent or more growth in agri-GDP per annum during the 2000s. My only submission in the article was that we need to explore what has driven these growth rates, as agriculture is the true indicator of inclusiveness (not caste, class, community or a particular tribe) as it engages the largest percentage of the workforce in the country (54 per cent in the 2011 Census).
The results of our study showed that Bt cotton led the charge in Gujarat’s agrarian miracle, supported by investments in check dams and other irrigation schemes. More than 50 per cent of Gujarat’s cotton is irrigated while in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, it is only 5 per cent. That explains why cotton is a success in Gujarat and not in Maharashtra. Our analysis also showed that big change is coming from the Saurashtra region, which had not reaped the full benefit of the Narmada waters. The roles of Jyotigram Yojana or Krishi Mahotsav are a matter of detail and I am happy to engage Professor Alagh on what the real sources of growth in Gujarat’s agriculture were. I am also willing to sit down with him and look at the same data from various angles, say a three-year moving average, and perhaps employ his modelling skills. But let us do it in a professional manner. There may be some lessons from Gujarat’s agriculture. If not, so be it. My only objective is to get 5 per cent growth in Indian agriculture, which I feel India can achieve if we take bold policy decisions. I am ready to stand and salute the farmers, scientists and policymakers in any state where agriculture grows at more than 5 per cent for a decade.
The writer is chair professor for agriculture at ICRIER.
Views are personal