In Sept 2020, the Government of India hustled three Bills through the Parliament, in what many observers describe as a subversion of basic democratic and parliamentary procedures. These three laws were touted as a paradigm changer for the agriculture sector in the country. On the face of it, the laws appeared to steer the agriculture value chain toward a free market, implicitly acknowledging that the sector is heavily subsidized. opponents argued that the laws weakened the price guarantees that staple food crops enjoyed, removed existing regulations to prevent hoarding and price rigging and pitted powerful corporations against unorganized farmers. A majority of the critics agree that the new laws were designed to fast-track investment from large corporations. What they disagree on is whether the entry of corporations will come at the cost of farmers.
This discussion will look at the controversy from an additional angle — from a viewpoint that policy debates on agriculture and allied sectors in India (and much of the Global South) are about much more than productivity and food security. It is also about poverty reduction goals, equity, property rights and disempowerment. We will discuss how a vast majority of farmers are under-represented in the policy-making process. And how they will remain excluded despite all the hype and attention that the recent agitation garnered.
Shashi Enarth is a development activist from India, struggling to strike a balance between academia and praxis. Starting his career as a community organizer, he has worked with low income segments of the population, particularly with farming communities in India, Nigeria and Tanzania. His area of interest is: building community-based self-governing people’s institutions that can safeguard the interests of its members through sustainable and equitable use of all forms of capital, especially natural and human resources. A good part of his 25 year development career saw him struggle with implementation of development policies that mandated decentralization of fiscal, administrative and political powers against a backdrop of a political economy that is shaped by traditional institutions and forces of centralization. In the process, he got involved in policy research and advocacy initiatives through NGOs in India and as a consultant to The World Bank in Africa. His current research interests, therefore, focusses on understanding barriers to equity and sustainability in the geo-political context of developing economies. Before taking the current sabbatical, he was a senior member of BASIX Social Enterprise Group, an Indian conglomeration of 15 organizations working on a mission to promote large scale sustainable livelihoods.
Shashi is a trained social worker who returned to school to do a PhD that explored the relationship between the processes of decentralization and democratization and its impact on good governance. He is an IRES/UBC Alumni, during the days of RMES!