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Emerging Vulnerabilities in India’s Plantation Economy

  • M. VijayabaskarEmail author
  • P. K. Viswanathan
Chapter

Abstract

Despite sustained demand, the plantation economy, particularly for tea, coffee and rubber, is seen to be in a crisis and hence undermining the livelihoods of workers and small producers involved in the production of these commodities. Based on secondary literature, we elaborate the factors contributing to this ‘crisis’ in the plantation economy and what we see as problematic in the institutional response to this ‘crisis’ and hence in ensuring decent livelihoods for workers. First, we point out that the crisis is an outcome of shifts and slippages in governance regimes and a failure of capital to make sustained investments in the sector. We highlight gaps in governance such as exit of capital without ensuring decent livelihoods or decent living wages for labour in large plantations, casualization of work, reliance on small grower models and concentration of marketing power in tea and coffee value chains that allow little room for value redistribution. Second, we point out that plantation interests cannot be reduced merely to commodity-specific interests. Biodiversity, gender, politics of land grab and sustainability in terms of ecology are emerging as equally important aspects of the plantation question. A value chain approach that emphasizes ‘upgrading’ as a way out to secure better livelihoods ought to therefore also incorporate value creation and destruction of ecologies that currently sustain plantation crops and what this may imply for workers’ and small producers’ livelihoods. The strong productivist logic of some of the interventions in the plantation economy may therefore require a rethink and critical assessment. The chapter therefore develops a critique of the premises underlying some of the policy shifts. Finally, we discuss a few micro-level interventions to suggest possible pathways towards a ‘high road’ to addressing the crisis.

Keywords

Livelihoods Plantation economy Value chains Governance Small growers 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor, Madras Institute of Development StudiesChennaiIndia
  2. 2.Professor, Economics and Sustainability, Department of ManagementAmrita Vishwa VidyapeethamKochiIndia

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