Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Between statistics and reality

Being context specific, the word livelihoods evokes diverse responses under varied conditions. For a politician, it offers a clever assurance of electoral gains; for a planner, it is a challenge to ensure growth inclusive; for a practitioner, it measures effectiveness of development programs and for the poor, it is a mirage to be relentlessly pursued. In a globalised world where gainful vocations are fast shrinking, livelihoods has attained the status of a buzzword.

Published annually since 2008, the latest edition of the State of India’s Livelihoods attempts to monitor livelihoods trends in a sector that has witnessed a quarter of a million farmer suicides during the past decade. The consequent disappearance of farm hands, growing demand-supply gap and spiralling food prices reflect only the tip of the iceberg. Paradoxically, farmers are dying on account of low prices whereas the consumers are complaining of exorbitant rates.

Over 80 per cent of land holdings in the country are so small that it cannot produce enough to sustain a family of five. Since fragmentation of landholdings is a continuous process, many more join in the search of livelihoods each year. And those who are forced to migrate to the cities confront a situation where industrial growth does not encourage the use of labour. It is a vicious circle wherein the poor get trapped involuntarily.

While unfolding the livelihoods crises in agriculture, the report examines a predictable cause-effect framework. Far from projecting futuristic scenarios, the contributors to the volume prefer to stay in the comfort zone of critically reviewing available statistics. The report misses out on the growth-driven policy push that is in favour of a demographic transition wherein only 20 per cent of the population shall remain at the farm.

Given its restricted focus, the State of India’s Livelihoods report should be of limited use to researchers and practitioners.....Link

State of India’s Livelihoods Report 2010
by Shankar Datta and Vipin Sharma (Eds) 
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 127 pages, Rs 795

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