Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



G. Etienne. Food and Poverty: India’s Halfwon Battle. New Delhi: Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd., 1988. 272 pp.Rupees (Wdian) 175.00 (Hardbound Edition).

A very large segment of the population in India has not been affected by the process of post-independence economic development. According to one estimate, in 1983, around 300 million people, or 40 percent of the total population, were living below the poverty line, while more than 100 million people were living in severe destitute conditions. Infant mortality, which is an important indicator of undernourishment, is more than three times the rate in Sri Lanka and China. This is not a satisfactory state of affairs but it represents a significant improvement over time. While population has increased from 355 million in 1949-50 to 775 million in 1985-86, foodgrain output has almost tripled to 151 million tonnes during the same period. Most of the other agricultural crops have followed a similar pattern of growth, implying an increase in the per capita availability of domestically-produced agricultural products over time. The main source of agricultural growth since the Sixties has been the increasing use of modern inputs, which have contributed to higher yields and to multi-cropping patterns. However, while the green revolution diminished poverty, it adversely affected the distribution of land, leading to the concentration of resources in fertile areas and benefiting more the richer farmers. Furthermore, the growth of population combined with slow urbanization has increased the population pressure on land. The land-man ratio has been declining over time and the increase in employment opportunities outside agriculture, both in urban and rural areas, which is vital for reducing poverty, has not been significant enough to alter the employment pattern. This suggests that it would be impossible to wipe out poverty in the foreseeable future by altering prices or raising production alone, despite evidence that the price index and the production of agricultural products have a direct influence on poverty.

Khwaja Sarmad

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