Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Agriculture–Pathways to Prosperity in Asia and the Pacific

Almost 4 months after the Rural Poverty Report 2011 was released, a newly published report from IFAD concentrates on rural poverty and agriculture in Asia and the Pacific region. The reason behind this increased attention on this part of the world may be that more than 680 million people in the Asia-Pacific region still continues to live on less than $1.25 a day, and 70 per cent of them reside in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. This has been observed by the report titled Agriculture–Pathways to Prosperity in Asia and the Pacific, March 2011. Most of the poor from this region are either landless or own a limited piece of land, possess large families, are less educated and have limited access to credit and technology.

The IFAD report shows that intensity of multidimensional poverty (MPI) is highest in South Asia, which houses 29.5 percent of global population, but has 51 per cent of the world’s multi-dimensionally poor. India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan have high MPIs in South Asia. 51 per cent of the population in Pakistan, 58 per cent in Bangladesh, 55 per cent in India, and 65 per cent of population in Nepal are MPI poor. Living standard has the highest contribution to poverty in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Deprivation rates in health parameters are found high in Pakistan and Nepal. Deprivation in terms of nutrition is high in Nepal and India. China has only 13 per cent of the population that is MPI poor, while Thailand has only 0.8 per cent. India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have close to 50 per cent of rural children who are undernourished.

Smallholders in India who operate/ own less than 2 hectares accounted for about 71 per cent of the rural households in 1993 and about 88 per cent in 2004 indicating increase in land fragmentation. Nearly, 25.3 percent of the rural households in India were chronically poor during the period 1971-1982. The NCAER study shows that 30.0 percent of the rural households in India were chronically poor during the period 1969-71.

Almost 70 percent of poor live in rural areas of Asia and they depend on agriculture for their livelihood. In South Asia, about 80 per cent of the poverty remains a rural problem despite rapid industrialization and economic growth, according to the report titled Agriculture–Pathways to Prosperity in Asia and the Pacific.

The IFAD report mentions some of the shocks that erode poor people's assets and capabilities such as: natural disasters, climate change, pest outbreaks (e.g. avian influenza), vulnerability to food price fluctuations, illness, and death. It explains some of the risk-coping mechanisms households usually undertake in the face of poverty for e.g. selling productive assets, borrowing, depleting savings, migrating, and reducing expenditure on food, healthcare and education (notably affecting women and children).

There exist gender inequalities in education, economic opportunities, wages and nature and extent of work, according to the IFAD report. A study in West Bengal shows that among women who had taken loans for income-generating activities, only 5 per cent reported having total autonomous control over the money; 56 per cent reported that they share control over the loan money with their husbands; and 38 per cent reported that their husbands have sole control over the proceeds of the loan. Women’s share in non-agricultural wage employment remains low, particularly in South Asia. For India, it is estimated that 55 per cent of the wage gap between men and women cannot be explained by productivity and endowments, which suggests the presence of systematic gender-based discrimination in pay.

The decline in the proportion of people living in rural areas between the period 2000-04 and 2005-09 has been more prominent in East Asia and South East Asia as compared to Central Asia and South Asia. The IFAD report suggests that rural population in Asia and the Pacific region is likely to peak in 2014, with the total numbering 2400 million, which would decline thereafter. The contribution of agricultural value added to GDP is low in the entire region, and declined marginally between 2000-04 and 2005-09 for South East Asia and Pacific Island, and, more significantly in East, South and Central Asia. South Asia (31 percent) has seen lowest growth in per capita income between 2000-04 and 2005-09 as compared to East Asia (64 percent) and Central Asia (43 percent).

The effect of rise in food prices on GDP between 2006 and 2007-08 is considerable as a 50 per cent rise in food price decreases the GDP of Asia and the Pacific Region by 1.05 per cent. A combined shock of a 60 per cent rise in food and fuel prices decreases GDP by 1.41 per cent.

The report finds that usage of ICTs helped farmers in terms of knowing prices of agricultural commodities or weather conditions for e.g. SEWA (India) performs this service for women and ITC’s e-choupal (India) uses SMS to inform small producers. In India, the number of self-help groups linked to banks has increased from about 500 in the early 1990s to more than 3 million in 2008. The Indian Dairy Cooperatives network comprises 12 million members, including landless labourers and women, and produces 22 per cent of India’s milk supply. In order to increase the welfare of migrants, Rajasthan introduced mobile ration cards for its them, while Orissa and Madhya Pradesh introduced improvements in the safety and efficiency of remittances.

The report finds that diversification of agriculture into livestock and aquaculture has added to increased prosperity and food security in China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Laos and Philippines. It finds that the linkage between agricultural (rural) and industry (mainly around urban centres) remained weak in major South Asian countries except China and Vietnam. In India during the process of economic transition, not enough movement of labour took place from agriculture to industry. On average, rural non-farm income (RNFY) constitutes roughly 50 per cent of rural household income in Asia and the Pacific Region, of which 40 per cent comes from local non-farm business and employment and the remaining from transfers and remittances. Due to paucity of human, financial and physical capital, the poor households often remain confined to the low-productivity non-farm activities, which trap them in poverty. Gender, caste and social status determine one's participation in non-farm jobs. Evidence suggests that each dollar of additional value added in agriculture generates USD 0.6 to USD 0.8 of additional rural nonfarm economy’s income in Asia and the Pacific Region. Based on state level time series data for India covering the period 1971-72 to 1983-84, it has been found that expansion of casual non-farm employment is strongly correlated with growth in agricultural wages.

On the basis of simulations the report finds that the Asia and Pacific region would require a 56 per cent increase in agricultural ODA, a 28 per cent increase in agricultural expenditure, a 23 per cent increase in fertilizer use, or a 24 per cent increase in agricultural investment during 2007-13 in order to achieve the MDG 1 (at US$2 poverty line). It suggests that investment in agriculture is the key to poverty alleviation. For the Asia and the Pacific region, the elasticity of the head-count ratio of poverty with respect to agricultural growth is -1.18 (at $2 a day poverty line) and -2.73 (at $1.25 a day poverty line). Government can play a pivotal role in organizing the smallholders (who face several challenges, such as high transaction costs in accessing inputs, credit and marketing facilities) so that they participate in supply chain/ supermarkets. IFPRI estimates that 87 per cent of the world’s small farms (those less than 2 hectares) are in Asia and the Pacific Region. Secured land rights and women having joint ownership of land can increase productive investment in agriculture.

Key findings of the report:

  • In 2005, the total number of people living in extreme poverty, defined as those living on less than US$1.25/day (2005 PPP) was 1.4 billion in the world. Of these, approximately 1 billion, i.e. about 70 per cent live in rural areas.

  • The number of rural poor has declined rapidly in Asia and the Pacific Region over the past decade (from 1057 million to 687 million).

  • While East Asia had over 500 million rural poor two decades ago, the number today stands at only 117 million.

  • The incidence of rural poverty has declined from 59 per cent to 31 per cent in the last two decades for the Asia and the Pacific region as a whole.

  • While in East Asia, poverty as a share of rural population is close to 15 per cent, in South Asia over 45 per cent of the rural people are poor.

  • In East Asia the rural poverty incidence declined from over 63 per cent to 15 per cent over the past two decades. Similarly, in South East Asia the incidence of rural poverty declined from 52 per cent to about 26 per cent in the last two decades.

  • Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Lao PDR and China have made significant progress in reducing hunger. Slower progress has been made by India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Nepal.

  • 51 per cent of the population in Pakistan, 58 per cent in Bangladesh, 55 per cent in India, and 65 per cent of population in Nepal are MPI poor.

  • There are over one billion youth in the world today. Eighty five per cent of them live in the developing world. Some 61.5 per cent live in Asia and the Pacific.

  • In India, over 300,000 children work in the carpet industry, many of them under conditions that amount to bonded labour.

  • In rural India, about 47 per cent were poor while nearly 75 per cent were vulnerable.

  • In India, a study by Gaiha and Imai (2007) based on the analysis of the 61st NSS Round (2004-05) shows both higher incidence and intensity of poverty among the marginalised groups including Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. While the overall incidence of poverty in rural India was about 25 per cent, among the STs and SCs, about 44 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively, of the households were poor. The incidence of poverty among others was 19 percent. The causes behind this phenomenon are: poor quality of education, remote locations, limited access to markets and lack of decent physical and social infrastructure.

  • More than half the deaths caused by natural disasters in 1985-94 were concentrated in South Asia. From 1995-2004, the share of East Asia and the Pacific in the total number of deaths rose to 59 per cent while the share of South Asia dropped to about 20 per cent.

  • The average holding size is 0.5 hectare for Bangladesh, 0.8 hectare for Nepal and Sri Lanka, 1.4 hectares for India and 3 hectares for Pakistan.

  • There has been a fall or slowing down of growth in monthly wage rates in most countries of Asia and the Pacific region including India during 2006-2009.

  • Sectoral composition of rural non farm economy indicates that rural non-farm employment is almost equally distributed between manufacturing (27 per cent), trade and transport (29 per cent) and financial and personal services (31 per cent) in Asia and the Pacific Region.

  • In India, for instance, while the ratio of non-farm to agricultural income is 4.5 to 1 for the average household, for the poor it is only 0.75 to 1.

  • A 1 per cent growth in agricultural value added per capita results in a GDP (per capita) growth rate of 2.13 per cent.

  • South Asia (or South East Asia) would need only a 5 per cent (or 8 per cent) increase in annual growth rate of agricultural ODA, 2 per cent (or 4 per cent) increase in annual growth rate of agricultural expenditure, 3 per cent (or 4 per cent) increase in annual growth rate of fertilizer, or 2 per cent (or 3 per cent) increase in annual agricultural investment in 2007-13 over and above the baseline scenario to achieve MDG 1, at US$2 a day, by 2015.

  • The world population is expected to be about 9.1 billion in 2050. With increasing urbanization and high income levels, food production must increase by 70 per cent to meet the food demand in 2050. Since the scope for net increase in arable land is highly limited (especially in Asia and the Pacific Region), 90 per cent of this additional food requirement has to be met through increases in yields in areas with intensive agriculture.


Agriculture–Pathways to Prosperity in Asia and the Pacific by the IFAD, March 2011,

Investing in agriculture key to ending extreme rural poverty in South Asia – UN, The United Nations, 19 April, 2011,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Government versus Citizen’s Lokpal Bill*

  • Instead of the Group of Ministers (GoM) in the Joint Committee deciding exclusively on the draft Lokpal Bill, participation of civil society organizations has been demanded. There has been a call by Anna Hazare for setting up of a joint committee with 50 per cent representation for citizens and 50 per cent for the government for formulation of a strong Lokpal Bill. However, a ministerial Sub-Committee of the Group of Ministers on Corruption denied of any precedent for a joint committee. The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) differed with Anna Hazare and it said that its focus is not on ensuring that there is 50% representation for civil society in the drafting committee but "to demand that the government immediately announce its intention to pass a strong lokpal legislation based on wide public consultations".

  • Unlike the government's Lokpal Bill, Lokpal has been given police powers under Jan Lokpal Bill. Therefore, Lokpal can register an FIR and also prosecute.

  • The Jan Lokpal Bill proposes that the office of the PM should be under the scanner of the Lokpal. However, the Government's Lokpal Bill version does not include charges of corruption against the Prime Minister in matters of “national security, maintenance of public order, national defence and foreign relations” (Section 10).

  • The Jan Lokpal Bill has the provision that investigation in any case will have to be completed in one year, and punishment would be a jail term of minimum 5 years and maximum of life imprisonment. The government's version recommends a prison term of minimum 6 months and maximum 7 years as punishment for corruption. There is no time limit on the period for investigation in case of the Government’s Lokpal Bill.

  • Government's Lokpal will not have any power to either initiate action suo motu in any case or even receive complaints of corruption from public. The general public will make complaints to the speaker of Lok Sabha or chairperson of Rajya Sabha. Only those complaints forwarded by Speaker of Lok Sabha/Chairperson of Rajya Sabha to Lokpal would be investigated by Lokpal. This not only severely restricts the functioning of Lokpal, it also provides a tool in the hands of the ruling party to have only those cases referred to Lokpal which pertain to political opponents (since speaker is always from the ruling party). The Jan Lokpal proposes full powers to initiate investigations suo motu in any case and also to directly entertain complaints from the public.

  • Both financial and operational autonomy should be given to Lokpal and Lokayukta and the process of selection of both the bodies must be transparent and participatory without any intervention by political establishment. The selection committee under Jan Lokpal Bill consists of members from judicial background, Chief Election Commissioner, Comptroller and Auditor General of India and international awardees (like Nobel prize winners and Magsaysay awardees of Indian origin). However, selection committee under Government's Lokpal Bill consists of Vice President, PM, Leaders of both houses, Leaders of opposition in both the houses, Law Minister and Home minister. Barring Vice President, all of them are politicians whose corruption Lokpal is supposed to investigate. So there is a direct conflict of interest. Also selection committee is heavily loaded in favor of the ruling party. Effectively ruling party will make the final selections.

  • The government wants Lokpal to be an advisory body, which will only forward its enquiry report to the competent authority for action. The Jan Lokpal Bill, on the contrary, proposes powers to initiate prosecution after completion of investigations.

  • Loss caused to the government owing to corruption will be recovered from all the accused under the Jan Lokpal Bill. There shall be a separate fund by the name of “Lokpal fund” in which penalties/fines imposed by the Lokpal shall be deposited and in which 10% of the loss of Public Money recovered under section 19 of this Jan Lokpal Act shall also be deposited by the Government. However, there is no such provision under the Government's Lokpal Bill.

  • Government's version of the Lokpal Bill does not talk of investigation of complaints against judges unlike the Jan Lokpal Bill. However, critics are arguing against an all powerful Lokpal.

  • The Jan Lokpal Bill says that Lokpal will have power to direct disciplinary action, including dismissal of a corrupt officer from job, which the Government's Lokpal Bill misses out.

  • There will not be a public grievance redressal system under the Government's Lokpal Bill. Lokpal will have the powers to order redressal in a time bound manner under the Jan Lokpal Bill. However, the NAC and MKSS are of the view that the Lokpal cannot adequately meet the requirements of a grievance redressal system.

  • There are provisions to protect the whistleblowers under the Jan Lokpal Bill, which is completely absent in the Government's Lokpal Bill.

  • Lokpal will consist of three members, all of them being retired judges under the Government's Lokpal Bill. By creating so many post retirement posts for judges, the government will make the retiring judges vulnerable to government influences just before retirement as is already happening in the case of retiring bureaucrats. According to the Jan Lokpal Bill, Lokpal would have ten members and one Chairperson. Out of them four need to have legal background (they need not be judges). Others could be from any background.

  • There is no mention of the CBI's role after the Bill is enacted in the Government's Lokpal Bill. The Jan Lokpal Bill proposes that the anti-corruption wing of the CBI shall be merged with Lokpal.

* Compiled from various sources

Further readings:

Why is RTI back in news?,

Anna Hazare will go on an indefinite fast from 5th April 2011 to bring anti-corruption law on the lines of “Jan Lokpal Bill”,

Draft anti-corruption Bill,

Draft Lokayukta Bill,

Govt.'s Lokpal Bill,

Critique of Govt.'s Lokpal Bill,

No nepotism in Lokpal Bill panel: Hazare, IANS, 10 April, 2011,

Politicians close ranks by JP Yadav, The Telegraph, 10 April, 2011,

Nepotism cry in Anna camp, The Telegraph, 10 April, 2011,

Ramdev hijacks graft stage for politics, The Times of India, 9 April, 2011,

Jan Lokpal will be a ‘super' government, feels Congress by Aarti Dhar, The Hindu, 9 April, 2011,

Jan Lokpal Bill undermines democracy: experts by Marya Shakil, IBN, 8 April, 2011,

Smell of a revolution as crowds gather to back Hazare by Neha Tara Mehta, India Today, 7 April, 2011,

Lokpal Bill: United in opposition, civil society a divided lot by Manoj Mitta, The Times of India, 7 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare rejects govt offer of informal panel to rewrite Bill, The Indian Express, 7 April, 2011,

Govt, Hazare supporters agree to talk again, IBN, 7 April, 2011,

Hazare insists on joint panel to draft Lokpal Bill, Live Mint, 7 April, 2011,

BJP & CPM on activist side by JP Yadav, The Telegraph, 7 April, 2011,

Focus on Jan Lokpal Bill, The Hindu, 7 April, 2011,

Centre says it's ready for talks with Anna Hazare by Sandeep Joshi, The Hindu, 7 April, 2011,

Of the few, by the few by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Indian Express, 7 April, 2011,

Cracks appear in Anna’s team, Govt plans to reach out by Seema Chishti and Maneesh Chhibber, Express India, 7 April, 2011,

Lokpal Bill: Government vs Anna Hazare, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

Hazare fast: people heckle, chase out politicos, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

Sharad Pawar quits GoM on Lokpal bill, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

Don't insult this movement, Hazare tells Manmohan, The Times of India, 6 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare's anti-graft campaign gathers steam, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

On day Anna Hazare begins fast, NAC too calls for lokpal debate, The Times of India, 6 April, 2011,

Lokpal Bill: Anna Hazare continues fast, slams Congress for misleading people, The Times of India, 6 April, 2011,

Hazare rejects Pawar's offer to quit from Lokpal Bill GoM, ANI, 6 April, 2011,

A soldier rises against the government by G Vishnu, Tehelka, 6 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare's fast against corruption strikes huge chord, NDTV, 6 April, 2011,

War against corruption: Anna fasts for graft law by Rupashree Nanda, IBN, 6 April, 2011,

Hazare's action premature: Congress by Smita Gupta, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

BJP seeks all-party meeting on Lokpal Bill, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

Mumbai rallies behind Hazare in anti-corruption drive by Vinaya Deshpande, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

He should have waited, says Santosh Hegde by Sudipto Mondal, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

'It's Sharad Pawar's old habit to indulge in corruption',, 6 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare begins fast-unto-death by Jiby Kattakayam, The Hindu, 6 April, 2011,

Why Hazare, others oppose govt's Lokpal Bill 2010, NDTV, 5 April, 2011,

What is the Jan Lokpal Bill, why it's important?, NDTV, 5 April, 2011,

The fatal flaws in the government's Lokpal Bill by Iftikhar Gilani, Tehelka, 5 April, 2011,

Lokpal vs Jan Lokpal: A study in contrast, India Today, 5 April, 2011,

Indian activist Anna Hazare begins anti-graft fast, BBC, 5 April, 2011,

Former soldier Anna Hazare now fights for Lokpal Bill by Makarand Gadgil, Live Mint, 5 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare's fast unto death for Jan Lokpal Bill begins today, NDTV, 5 April, 2011,

PMO appeals to Hazare to give up fast plan by Smita Gupta, The Hindu, 5 April, 2011,

FAQ: What is Lok Pal Bill? Why the ruckus over it? by Kaushiki Sanyal,,, 5 April, 2011,

Anna Hazare plans fast unto death for strong Lokpal bill, IANS, 4 April, 2011,

Consultation shows consensus on Lokpal Bill may not be easy by Smita Gupta, The Hindu, 4 April, 2011,

Lokpal Bill: ‘no precedent for a joint committee' by Smita Gupta, The Hindu, 30 March, 2011,

Aruna Roy, Magsaysay award winner and former bureaucrat interviewed by Danish Raza, Governance Now, 21 March, 2011,