Chennai, June 17, 2019: A book titled ‘Whither Rural India? Political Economy of Agrarian Transformation in Contemporary India’ was released at MSSRF today. The book is a festschrift for Prof Venkatesh B Athreya, a renowned economist in India. The PhD Scholars of Venkatesh Athreya had organised a seminar on ‘Agriculture and Rural India after Economic Reforms’ in 2016 and this book is a compilation of all the research papers that were presented during the seminar, edited by Dr A Narayanamoorthy, Dr RV Bhavani, and Dr R Sujatha. Whither Rural India? is a book which gives us insight into the functioning of India’s Political Economy and how it affects the country’s agrarian sector. The book also felicitates the knowledge and teachings of Prof. Venkatesh Athreya.
Prof A Narayanamoorthy, Member of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Govt. of India, delivered the welcome address at the event. He was Prof Athreya’s first PhD scholar. Prof Narayanamoorthy gave a brief account from where the idea to make this compilation originated and also painted an informal yet personal picture of how Prof Athreya is both as a person as well as a teacher and guide.
Following this, Dr RV Bhavani, Director of Agriculture Nutrition and Health programme at MSSRF who is also a student of Prof Athreya gave a brief outline of what we can expect from this book. She highlighted that the book covers both microeconomic and socio issues as well as macroeconomic and structural issues. She also quoted the last few lines of the foreword written by Prof CT Kurien, on how the book opens up opportunities to debate and discuss the present and the future of Indian agriculture.
Ms Sheela Rani Chunkath, Retd. IAS turned the spotlight towards Prof. Athreya. She described him as a person who has transcended into all social structures present today, be it caste, class or gender. She more specifically described how neutral Prof Athreya is when it comes to gender that he practices it in a very casual way and how a down-to-earth person he is and being simple and humble in his approach to things.
Prof MS Swaminathan highlighted how there are so many important themes covered in the book with no repetition of the ideas that would help the poor, landless and agriculture. He said he also hopes that out of the ideas from this book new set of programmes are developed aiming at improving sustainability in agriculture.
Mr N Ram, the Chairperson of Kasturi and Sons celebrated Prof Athreya for his intellectuality and contributions towards the society as an agriculture economist, political economist and social activist. He appreciated him for his policy oriented action, academic research and papers, for being committed in keeping up the deadlines and said that his contribution towards public education and teaching the organised working people is immeasurable and valuable.
Mr Vijoo Krishnan, the Joint Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha spoke about the issue’s that farmers face today and how important is for scholars to address these issues. He highlighted the recent incidents of farmer suicides in the country, the gradual inflation in the prices of goods and decreased incomes for farmers. He said that within the past 5 years 800 farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra, he narrated how stacks of garlic were stored in a village because of the decrease in the price when we consumers always pay highly for buying garlic and he also spoke about the death of 5000 children below 5 years in Maharashtra in a span of 5 months due to malnutrition.
Finally, Prof Athreya expressed his appreciation for all the people who’ve contributed towards the book, including his family. He also expressed his view on the reservation system in India and how it provides social justice to all classes and gives equal opportunities. He said “the underprivileged should at least be given half the chance to develop themselves and that’s what the reservation does.”
The vote of thanks was delivered by Dr R Sujatha, another student of Prof Athreya and one of the editors of the book released.