Monday, July 11, 2016

National Seminar on Revitalising the Rural: Rethinking Rural and Agricultural Policies

National Seminar on Revitalising the Rural: Rethinking Rural and Agricultural Policies
at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla; and Network for Rural and Agrarian Studies
27-29 September, 2016

Concept Note
At a time of intense and expedited globalisation of India's economy and the on-going multiple forms of distress in rural India, there is an urgent need to engage with these conditions and formulate new policies. While some attention has been paid to the on-going rural distress, manifested primarily in suicides by agriculturists, rural India is also experiencing a series of contradictions. These include the growth of small pockets of commercially successful agricultural belts as against vast impoverished regions.  The Green Revolution has increased productivity of cereals but it has taken its toll in terms of loss of agricultural bio-diversity, erosion of natural resources especially the soil, and chemicalisation of food which has only further endangered the food security of the people.  As capital and market have expanded to mark the rural economy, there is the spread of 'welfare governmentality' in the form of the rural employment guarantee programme and the rights to food and basic education. The expanding real estate industry and extractive industries, while creating a few crorepatis, are altering the rural landscape and pushing vast numbers of the population into conditions of destitution. Several issues such as that of land access, use, rights (especially among Dalits, Adivasis and women) and the spread of destructive and unsustainable forms of land use need attention. Global warming and climate change are impacting agricultural productivity and practices and the search for resilient and sustainable forms of natural resource management and agricultural models must be expedited.
Since existing policies and non-policy programmes seem to benefit large and capital-based agriculture, policies that focus on, and cater to, the needs of the majority, the small and marginal agriculturists must be considered seriously. Policy decisions must be made democratic and transparent without vested commercial/financial interests holding sway. There is an urgent need to promote new production, marketing, distributing, and administrative structures that can enable cultivators and rural set-ups to be economically viable.
Attendant with the retrogression of agriculture have been a range of policies and programmes that have increasingly privatised public institutions such education and health. Expenditures on these alone account for growing indebtedness and for people to fall into poverty.  Reclaiming these institutions as effective, functioning and public institutions will address a range of problems and enhance the individual and household/family capabilities of a large proportion of rural people.
In seeking to integrate the rural and agricultural, the approach is to address not only economic but also social and institutional issues that impact everyday life in rural India. Issues such as food security, seed sovereignty, income generation, and ecological sustainability require attention. A range of new technologies and bio-technologies (such as GM seeds) are poised to be deployed by corporate sectors and yet their dangers for the bio-diversity of the continent and the social and economic implications of such commercialised inputs are not adequately debated and reviewed.  The rise of a new rural service economy indicates that there are ways in which new agro-based industries can be promoted to make the rural a site of sustainable production and residence. New and alternative agricultural policies are required to stem the tide of out-migration, the abandonment of land, and the overall de-agrarianisation that has set-in in the nation.
Several small and viable models of alternative agricultural and rural livelihood and governance are currently functioning in various parts of India. The cases of community-supported non-pesticide agriculture in Andhra Pradesh , organic agriculture in Sikkim, zero-budget agriculture in various parts of South India, farmers/producers marketing organisations, integrated agriculture in parts of Gujarat are some cases.  There are also a large number of farmer-led innovations in sustainable agriculture that demonstrate the potential of these alternatives on the ground. Learning from some of these and the possibility of integrating ideas from these cases for scaling up can be considered.
Given the above issues and challenges, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, is organising a two and half days seminar during 27-29 September 2016 to discuss the following broad thematic issues and concerns:
    What is required to scaffold the marginalised majority of agriculturists (small cultivators and landless workers) so that their livelihoods can be assured and which do not render them into states of destitution?
    What are the alternative agricultural production systems that can ensure productivity, ecological sustainability and economic viability? How can ecologically specific and sustainable agricultural practices be encouraged?
    What new land relations, production, marketing, and redistribution structures and mechanisms are required to address the current problems of big capital hegemony and domination? What regulations are required to address the problems of usury, high interest rates and unfair reclamation practices?
     How can rural economies ( agri-based and non-agricultural production systems) be developed and sustained?
    How can the changing land use dynamics and emergence of "rurban" phenomenon and rise of urban village and their long term social implications be understood and factored in the new policies?
    Given the old land relations and the new emerging patterns (reverse tenancy, leasing etc) what new forms of land reforms can be envisaged?
    What are the challenges in addressing climate change that pertain to agriculture and rural well-being?
    How can rural public institutions (education, health) be activated so as to cater to the needs of the people and to overcome the privatisation and further differenciation of these institutions?
    What are the legal and supportive regimes required to ensure that seed sovereignty rests with the people? What are the policies for ensuring bio-diversity conservation and collective intellectual property rights?
    What governance structures can be introduced into the Panchayat Raj system so that agriculture and livelihood issues can be addressed through decentralised mechanisms?
    What are the measures and policies for disaster management in rural areas? What are the specific measures required to address pressing issues such as soil degradation and water depletion?
    What policies can be formulated especially for tribal/Adivasi majority areas? How can forest-agricultural systems be sustained to make them ecologically and economically viable?
    How can the conditions of fishing communities, plantation workers, and migrant workers be improved?
    What are the new and appropriate technologies that can be promoted for agricultural and rural industries?

Call for Papers
A limited number of participants will be invited for the Seminar. Those interested in participating should send (preferably by email) an abstract (500-700 words) of the proposed paper along with their C.V. to:
Professor A.R. Vasavi, Apt. G-327, Brigade Courtyard, HMT Township, Bangalore – 560 013, Mobile No.: 09448360215, E-mail:
Dr. Pradeep Kumar Nayak, Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla- 171005, Mobile: 09438504319, E-mail:
Dr. Devender Sharma, Academic Resource Officer, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla- 171005. Tel: 0177-2831385; +91-8988376808 (Mobile) Email :
The last date for submission of abstract (500-700 words) is 20 June, 2016.  The Institute intends to send Invitation letters to selected participants by 30 June, 2016. It is the policy of the Institute to publish the paper not proceedings of the seminars it organizes. Hence, all invited participants will be expected to submit complete papers (English or Hindi), hitherto unpublished and original, with citations in place, along with a reference section, to the Academic Resource Officer, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla – 171005 by 20 August, 2016. Style sheet for the submission of papers may be downloaded from the IIAS website
IIAS, Shimla, will be glad to extend its hospitality during the seminar period and is willing to reimburse, if required, rail or air travel expenses from the place of current residence in India, or the port of arrival in India, and back.

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