Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan, Vice Chancellor, Krea University, delivers inaugural address and calls for a more enabling role between government and cooperatives
23 AUGUST, 2021: The Centre for Public Policy (CPP), at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB,) inaugurated the XVI International Conference on Public Policy and Management, today, with a special address by Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan, Vice Chancellor, Krea University.
Describing himself as a student of environmental history, Dr Rangarajan talked of the role of public policy in India in the context of extreme events like the pandemic, climate change and ecological shifts.
“India is a democracy where all adults have a right to vote. Ours is a democracy which is still largely rural. These people are consumers as well as producers. Almost 42 per cent of our labour force is significantly engaged in agriculture. There is enough information on land holdings to show that 80 per cent of the holdings are below 1-2 hectares, which means a large number of agriculturists are marginal farmers. When the pandemic broke, some cooperatives in western India stopped taking milk from nomadic herders. Extreme, extreme events like the pandemic expose such producer communities and those who depend on the market for exchange to greater vulnerability. In such a context, one cannot look at public policy in a vacuum,” he explained.
The Amul story
Drawing attention to the Amul story in independent India’s history, Dr Rangarajan said three significant political leaders in Gujarat – Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Morarji Desai and Tribhuvan Das Patel – should also be celebrated along with Dr Kurien. “Manthan – the well-known feature film – talks about the cooperatives and social change and closes with a note on ‘hum apne society banayenge’ (we shall make our own society)”.
Three things, Dr Rangarajan said, worked for the success of Amul – milk would be collected directly from the producer, removing the intermediary; anyone with any number of she-buffaloes could become a member but would have only one vote; and middle-strata peasantry could engage in trade and economic activity.
Attempts to cooperatives in India isn’t limited to the Amul story. Citing the example of the Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mandal and its founder Chandi Prasad Bhatt, and the CHIPKO movement, Dr Rangarajan said the Amul kind of movement did not quite succeed in the creation of forest labour cooperatives. “What was missing was the fact that they did not consider that it may be possible to minimize the impact of market forces by having more cooperatives systems not only of marketing but also of credit.”
Calling for the regeneration of the tendu (tobacco) leaf, along with the support for those who collect them (adivasis) and fishermen who catch in-season fish, he said community rights for these collectors also need to be taken up in a more forceful manner.
“In an India where market integration with the world began much before 1991, producers, collectors and cultivators continue to need better access to markets. In today’s world, one can have a form of capitalism, where one can draw from our knowledge of the markets to prevent downturns like extreme events. I hope our producers (of goods and services) can get access to the internet/ apps, where they can expand their reach to consumers and engage in targeted forms of marketing,” he opined, adding that it is time, to quote, Charles Correa, to “rearrange the furniture” by not just studying the past but preparing for the future with a plan that includes a more enabling relationship between government and cooperatives. “The state should move from a command and control role to an enabling role. The greater level of awareness and literacy, especially among the younger generation, gives me hope that we will change our understanding of responses and integrate knowledge systems.”
IIMB Director’s Remarks
In his opening remarks, earlier in the day, the IIMB Director, Professor Rishikesha T Krishnan, commended the Centre for Public Policy for conducting the conference every year and attracting an excellent set of papers for discussion. “Given the wide range of public policy challenges in India, it is only natural that CPP will continue to address these challenges through conversations. IIMB continues to be committed to contributing to public policy in India. We hope to expand our scope in this area to the MSME sector, manufacturing, and healthcare among others,” he said.
Celebrating Dr V Kurien
In his welcome note, Prof. Arnab Mukherji, from the Centre for Public Policy, set the context for the conference, acknowledging the support of GIC and NABARD in conducting this edition of the conference.
“The highlight of this year’s conference is a special track on Co-operatives and Collectives organized in the memory of Dr. V Kurien, famously known as the ‘Milkman of India’, since this is the centenary year of the birth of Dr. Kurien. The annual conference has received a very good response. A total of 56 papers were presented in two tracks over three days of the conference,” said Prof. Arnab Mukherji.
Due to the current situation brought about by the pandemic, the conference is being held online.
The organizing committee of the conference comprises Prof. M S Sriram, Chairperson and faculty, Centre for Public Policy; Prof. Rajalaxmi Kamath and Prof. Arnab Mukherji from the Public Policy area, and Prof. Tirthatanmoy Das, faculty in the Economics & Social Sciences area of IIMB.
NABARD’s support to FPOs
At a special session on Monday (Aug 23) afternoon, NABARD executives R Anand (GM), Chandan Chatterjee (DGM) and MRN Murthy (DGM) listed and described the bank’s initiatives for cooperatives and farmer producer organisations (FPOs).
Remarking that cooperatives are unbreakable, R Anand drew attention to the fact that NABARD has handheld cooperatives, under its rural financial inclusion initiative, since its inception in 1982. “We have given grant assistance to farmer groups and we have also sent them to KVKs, agriculture universities and places where they can learn new technologies,” he said. “Farmers purchase all inputs in a retail format but sell their produce in an auction – this paradox must be addressed. Therefore, platforms that give collective strength to farmers must be encouraged,” he added.
In his presentation, MRN Murthy focused on NABARD’s role in building cooperatives be they consumer, farmer producer, housing, credit or marketing cooperative societies. Explaining the features of integrated rural credit, he also described NABARD’s network to provide finance and build cooperative credit structure.
Chandan Chatterjee offered an overview of NABARD’s role in strengthening and promoting FPOs. “Since 2014, FPOs have gained momentum. A fund was created in 2015 for promotion of FPOs. NABARD Karnataka has supported 500+ FPOs by providing marketing and value addition. A Unified Marketing Platform has created a transparent mechanism for e-trading and better price discovery.”
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About the speakers:
Dr. Rangarajan has an MA and a D Phil, both from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His wide experience in academia includes faculty positions as Professor of Modern Indian History at the University of Delhi and Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, where he previously served as the Dean of Academic Affairs. He has also taught at Cornell University, Indian Institute of Science and National Centre for Biological Sciences. His first book ‘Fencing the Forest’ was published in 1996 and the most recent ‘Nature and Nation’, in 2018. His co-edited works include ‘India’s Environmental History’, and ‘At Nature’s Edge’. Having started his career as a journalist, he has also served in roles outside academia, including as the Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.
Dr. Palanivel Thiagarajan is the MLA for Madurai Central Constituency in the 15th & 16th Legislative Assemblies of Tamil Nadu. He currently serves as the Minister for Finance & Human Resources Management in the Tamil Nadu Government. In June 2017, he was appointed as the (founding) Secretary of the newly formed IT wing of the DMK. In that capacity, he has undertaken the build-out of the party’s technology platforms and a cadre of over 1,50,000 office bearers across the state. He is also a designated spokesperson for the party, generally focusing on economic, budget and State/Central finances, and policy matters. Dr. Thiagarajan previously worked as an international investment banker for many years, in several trading, market sales, and management roles at Lehman Brothers (largely in New York), and Standard Chartered Bank (mostly based in Singapore) – where he last served as Senior Managing Director, Financial Markets, overseeing the sales of several fixed-income products globally. Prior to banking, his career spanned academia, agriculture, consulting, manufacturing, and research. Dr. Rajan earned a B Tech (Hons.) in Chemical Engineering from NIT, Trichy, MS (Operations Research) and PhD (Human Factors Engineering/Engineering Psychology) from the State University of New York, and an MBA (Finance) from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Prof. Jean Drèze studied Mathematical Economics at the University of Essex and did his PhD at the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi. He has taught at the London School of Economics and the Delhi School of Economics, and is currently Visiting Professor at Ranchi University as well as Honorary Professor at the Delhi School of Economics. He has made wide-ranging contributions to Development Economics and Public Policy, with special reference to India. His research interests include rural development, social inequality, elementary education, child nutrition, healthcare and food security. Jean Drèze is co-author (with Amartya Sen) of ‘Hunger and Public Action’ (Oxford University Press, 1989) and ‘An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions’ (Penguin, 2013), and is also one of the co-authors of the ‘Public Report on Basic Education in India’, also known as ‘PROBE Report’. His latest book is ‘Sense and Solidarity: Jholawala Economics for Everyone’.