News Wrap


Over the seven year period of 2004-05 to 2011-12, India’s real agri-GDP per worker engaged in agriculture increased by 51%, compared to stagnant even marginally lower during the preceding five years, i.e., 1999-2000 to 2004-05, and only 21% during 1993-94 to 1999-2000. During 2004-11, the net fixed capital stock per worker increased by 71.5%. With each worker better equipped with capital, growth per worker agri-incomes has accelerated. The rural poverty ratio, estimated by Tendulkar’s poverty line, decreased by 2.3 percentage points per annum, during 2004-05 to 2011-12; compared to 0.7 percentage points per annum during 1993-94 to 2004-05. Capital accumulation in India’s agriculture has propelled per worker agri-GDP (earlier 10 to 12%). There has also been a first time drop in agricultural workforce, by about 31 million, during 2004-05 to 2011-12. The agri-worker is equipped with more capital, and thus raising labour and land productivity. In 2011-12, almost 85% of investments in agriculture came from the private sector. The global food price index with base line 200-02-04 (FAO) was about 210, in 2013. India’s domestic food price index with base line 2004-05, stands at 175. In comparison to global prices, relative prices in India improved in favour of agriculture, leading to higher private investments in agriculture.

Growth and Jobs
India’s rising growth rate has been accompanied by a rise in employment, in the two years upto 2011. The jobs were mainly in agriculture, with some growth in the secondary and tertiary sectors. The GDP has fallen sharply from 2011-12. While there has been expansion of jobs in the manufacturing sector and other non-agricultural sectors, there has also been an increase in the casualization of work. During the period of India’s high growth, factory employment went down, and permanent employment fell, as contract work increased. In 2013, contract work increased by 39% in the formal sector, and not in the informal sector such as construction, or in small town enterprises. Work has become a random option with the rise of permanently temporary workers in the formal sector of automobiles, telecom, retail FMC, IT, BPOs, health care and education. The vast pool of cheap labour in India, including the growing pool of skilled youth in engineering, management and career courses, allows industry to engage contract labour. Firms are paying little by way of social benefits to the permanently temporary work force.

West Bengal’s Rice Output
Crop damage caused by extended rainfall and floods has led to paddy production in West Bengal, falling about 15% in 2013-14. Paddy prices are at a record high in 2014, higher than the Minimum Support Price (MSP). West Bengal produced 15.3 million tons (mt) of rice in 2012-13, an increase of 5.5% over the preceding year 2011-12. However, for 2013-14, over-all paddy production in the state is about 15% lower than last year’s production. In 2013, the rainfall continued till the flowering period, which has dragged down average productivity. This year paddy productivity has been less than 4.6 tons per hectare, against the normal productivity of nearly 5 to 6 tons per hectare. High rice producing districts of Bardhaman, Hooghly, Birbhum and Nadia were affected by floods. Aman or summer crop was damaged by excessive rainfall. But Boro or winter cultivation has been higher because of high ground level water retention and ample supply of water from the Damodar Valley Corporation. Rise in cost of electricity, fertiliser, labour and diesel have induced many small farmers to switch to jute cultivation. Prices of the commonly sold paddy are around Rs 1400 a quintal, against the minimum support price of Rs 1310 a quintal.

Death Toll in Qatar
In an attempt to position itself as the diplomatic and business hub of the Middle East, Qatar is spending huge sums at home and abroad. This also secures its position politically and financially for the years ahead. The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee is responsible for staging the 2022 World Cup Football. It has recently begun work on its first stadium. Qatar has a 2 million strong population of migrant workers, and the Nepalese make up about a sixth. In 2013, about 200 Nepalese men died in construction work for building the infrastructure of the 2022 World Cup. Over the last two years, the total number of verifiable deaths among workers from Nepal is at least 400. Workers have been employed under the ‘Kafala’ sponsorship system. Amongst the Nepalese fatal casualties, more than half of them died of heart attacks, heart failure or work place accidents. During the summer months, temperatures can regularly top 40°C. Other causes of death include traffic accidents, blunt injuries and fractures ascribed to falls and suicides. In Qatar’s 137 billion Pound construction boom, workers endure 12-hour day in sweltering conditions and live in squalid, over crowded accommodation. The Qatari authorities have failed to disclose or explain the deaths of labourers. FIFA has failed to monitor construction companies and their myriad sub-contractors.

Jobless in Europe
Six years earlier, an economic crisis had struck Europe. Youth unemployment is climbing to staggering levels in many countries : for those 24 and younger, 56% in Spain, 57% in Greece, 40% in Italy, 37% in Portugal and 28% in Ireland. The rates are from half to two-thirds as high and rising, for people in the 25 to 30 age bracket. In the arc extending from Greece and Italy, through Spain and Portugal, to Ireland, young people are leaving their homelands in large numbers, in search of opportunity. The native countries are depleted of considerable brain power and ambition. The countries face enormous fiscal problems partly stemming from aging population. Hundreds of thousands from Europe’s crisis hit countries have gone to Germany, Britain and the Nordic states for jobs in engineering, science and medicine. Many others have gone to Australia, Canada and USA.


Vol. 46, No. 39, Apr 6 - 12, 2014