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The political economy of agricultural policy reform in India: Fertilizers and electricity for irrigation


  • Birner, Regina
  • Gupta, Surupa
  • Sharma, Neeru


Agricultural policy reform is one of the major challenges facing India today. Such reform is required in order to reduce poverty through faster agricultural growth and to promote more sustainable use of natural resources while ensuring food security. Subsidy policies that promote the use of fertilizer and of electricity for groundwater irrigation are in particular need of reform. While subsidies for these two inputs played a crucial role in achieving India's Green Revolution, they have been criticized during the past decade for benefiting large-scale farmers more than smallholders, placing a fiscal burden on the state, and having negative environmental effects. By analyzing the evolution of these input subsidy policies and examining the political processes involved in efforts to reform them, this study throws new light on the factors that have so far prevented a move toward more pro-poor and environmentally sustainable agricultural input policies in India. The authors show that electoral politics, institutional factors, and policy paradigms or belief systems all play an important role in blocking reform. They identify several policy reform options, as well as political strategies that can overcome past obstacles to reform. Community-based policy solutions, new coalitions for policy reform, fresh approaches to the policy debate, innovative and consensus-oriented forms of deliberation, and effective use of research-based knowledge can all make positive contributions to Indian policy reform. The analyses and proposals presented in this study will be a valuable resource for policymakers and stakeholders concerned with the politics of agricultural development.

Suggested Citation

  • Birner, Regina & Gupta, Surupa & Sharma, Neeru, 2011. "The political economy of agricultural policy reform in India: Fertilizers and electricity for irrigation," Research reports reginabirner, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:resrep:reginabirner

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    1. Stefan Dercon & Daniel O. Gilligan & John Hoddinott & Tassew Woldehanna, 2009. "The Impact of Agricultural Extension and Roads on Poverty and Consumption Growth in Fifteen Ethiopian Villages," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1007-1021.
    2. Tewodaj Mogues, 2011. "The Bang for the Birr: Public Expenditures and Rural Welfare in Ethiopia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(5), pages 735-752.
    3. Fan, Shenggen & Zhang, Linxiu & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2002. "Growth, inequality, and poverty in rural China: the role of public investments," Research reports 125, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Quy-Toan Do & Lakshmi Iyer, 2010. "Geography, poverty and conflict in Nepal," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 47(6), pages 735-748, November.
    5. Jacoby, Hanan C, 2000. "Access to Markets and the Benefits of Rural Roads," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(465), pages 713-737, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Babu, Suresh Chandra, 2013. "Policy Process and Food Price Crisis: a Framework for Analysis and Lessons from Country Studies," WIDER Working Paper Series 070, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Mockshell, Jonathan & Birner, Regina, 2015. "Donors and domestic policy makers: Two worlds in agricultural policy-making?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 1-14.
    3. Crean, Jason & Milham, Nick & Singh, Rajinder, 2013. "Economic assessment of technologies aimed at reducing air pollution in rice-wheat farming system in north-west India," 2013 Conference (57th), February 5-8, 2013, Sydney, Australia 152178, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    4. Chhokar, Jagdeep S. & Babu, Suresh Chandra & Kolavalli, Shashidhara, 2014. "Improving the food policy process: Lessons from capacity strengthening of parliamentarians in Ghana:," IFPRI discussion papers 1401, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Strand, Jon, 2010. "The full economic cost of groundwater extraction," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5494, The World Bank.
    6. Rashid, Shahidur & Gulati, Ashok & Cummings, Ralph Jr. (ed.), 2008. "From parastatals to private trade: Lessons from Asian agriculture," IFPRI books, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), number 978-0-8018-8815-1, Winter.
    7. repec:spr:ieaple:v:17:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10784-017-9358-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Siwa Msangi & Sarah Ann Cline, 2016. "Improving Groundwater Management for Indian Agriculture: Assessing Tradeoffs Across Policy Instruments," Water Economics and Policy (WEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 2(03), pages 1-33, September.
    9. Strand, Jon, 2012. "Allocative inefficiencies resulting from subsidies to agricultural electricity use : an illustrative model," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5955, The World Bank.
    10. Birner, Regina & Anderson, Jock R., 2015. "Strengthening Agricultural Governance in an Interconnected World," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211345, International Association of Agricultural Economists.

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