Research Issues and Methods in India’s Plantation Sector (Central University, Kerala)

Central University of Kerala | January 27th- 28th, 2014.

A two- day training programme on ‘Research issues and methods in India’s Plantation sector’ was organized under the joint initiative of CDS and Department of Economics in Central University of Kerala from January 27th- 28th, 2014. CDS has a practice of joining with other institutions of excellence since learning is a socially embedded process. Resource persons from renowned institutes in various parts of India delivered lectures on range of research aspects and data base of India’s plantation sector.
Pro. K.J Joseph, Associate Professor of CDS, Trivandrum spoke on ‘Plantations in the landscape of India’s inclusive development agenda’. He emphasized that the development needs to have innovation which is inclusive and at present India and other countries of the world are searching for a quick buck and recipe for high growth rate. He also visualized plantation sector to be the key sector for balanced regional development, a sector of exclusion which has an inclusive relevance and which can contribute towards a sustainable environmental protection. He gave an outline about analytical and conceptual base of exclus. He defined the concepts of active exclusion, passive exclusion, unfavorable inclusion, illusive inclusion, transient and sustained exclusion, subordinate inclusion, and marketing exclusion and cited examples for it. Recent experience shows that small land holders are more productive than large producers which is clear from the fact that with90 percentage of area they have 93 percentage productivity.
Pro. K. Raviraman, Director of Institute of Applied Manpower Research delivered his lecture on ‘Plantations and Development: A historical perspective’. He viewed plantation as the product of colonialism and referred plantation to be a backward capitalism.  The local specifities could be analysed from the periphery and hence school of Subaltern studies and categories in the world system have due relevance. A critique of subaltern perspective holds that that we cannot go for methodological intervention but to renovate the existing strategies under theoretical support. He described the ultimate impact of great depression was displacement of labor by intensification of existing laborers which led to the rise in output- labor ratio.  He introduced a method to estimate the total value by taking into account the different nodes of a production chain and found that hardly 7 percentage of the total value went to the worker which was a case of pure exploitation of the worker. The theoretical support from Lewis model highlighted the fact that the terms of trade were moving unfavorable to plantation economies. So the plantation has some sort of underdevelopment.
Dr. C Veeramani, Associate Professor, IGIDR, Mumbai delivered his talk on ‘Issues in trade and international competitiveness’. He raised the issue of exports biased towards primary goods. The specialization in primary goods was undesirable due to the price instability and inelastic price elasticity of demand for primary goods. He supported his argument with theoretical evidence from Prebisch Singer Thesis that the terms of trade between agriculture goods and industrial goods is deficit and import substitution had to be followed in order to promote domestic industries. The index of revealed Comparative advantage was defined to be the ratio of share in India’s exports to share in the world export. He also highlighted that the major tea markets of the world are in U.S.A, U.K, France, Germany and Srilanka. The advantage of Srilanka over India was that it exports orthodox tea which carries a premium and it has much more link to the Multinational Companies, so it has control over international decision making and is much more open and integrated and does advertising and marketing techniques.
Dr. Rinju Rasaily, Associate Professor, National Labor Institute, New Delhi talked on the ‘Issues in plantation labor’ and shared the problems faced by plantation workers in Darjeeling, West Bengal and Assam from her primary data collection. She analysed that within plantation system there is an integration of both economic and social system and plantation societies were rigidly stratified by race, caste, color directly correlated by occupational status without any form of mobility. Historically there was a system of social exclusion which was embedded in plantation sector with regard to social composition backdrop where disadvantaged groups of Adivasis largely from the erstwhile Chotanagpur plateau produced tea which were costly in the international market. The gender component was also a crucial factor under the plantation sector. The outline changes pointed out by her in the plantation sector includes production charges, underemployment, absence of occupational mobility, migration in its varied forms, women’s employment, regional development related to land and entitlement in which she highlighted and acknowledged  Kerala’s policy of ‘Zero landless by 2015’. She finally stressed the fact that more than the implementation of a number of legislations it is important to oversee its enforcement.
In the special lecture delivered by Shri Toms Joseph, Chairman of Rubber Board he spoke about the past experience, performance and challenges of the Natural Rubber sector in India. He said that India is the fourth largest producer of Natural Rubber after Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia and it is the second largest consumer of natural rubber. The consumption of rubber has a positive correlation with GDP growth rate in India because 70 percentage of the rubber is used in automobile sector which is closely linked to the world economic development. He highlighted the fact that India has a potential to enhance rubber consumption though at present the per capita consumption is only 1 kg in India compared to China which has a per capita consumption of 5.6 kg. The major challenges faced by India in the context of changing productivity and rubber market includes the demand factor as the natural rubber is an industrial raw material it should be sold, competition from its close substitute synthetic rubber, competition from emerging low cost producers, changing climatic conditions, rising significance of non- trading region, quality of natural rubber, falling number of rubber goods manufacturing units, increasing dominance of auto- tyre  sector in the consumption of  natural rubber, increasing import dependence and volatility in prices. He concluded by emphasizing the role of institutional support necessary for rationalizing establishment expenses, increasing attraction of development scheme and to redefine the extension of promotional strategies.
The lecture for the first session on 28th January 2014 was delivered by Pro.D Narayana, Consultant, Kerala State Planning Board, Trivandrum on ‘Data base and methods in research on plantation sector’ in which he focused on the crop specificity which refers to the age composition and life of rubber plantation and cropping intensity which is the gross crop area divided by net sown area which were analysed by assessing the regular replanting and trajectory of output and yield,  and by observing the output and yield trajectory with changing plant material. He discussed the important database of the plantation sector including Indian Rubber statistics which provides data on area, new planted and replanted rubber and U.S census of agriculture which is the most reliable database for agricultural sector. Several gaps in the data were also pointed out by him which includes the absence of cultivar data, age wise composition of tapped and cultivator details. The data also does not permit for an analysis of age at replanting and replant subsidy scheme.
Dr. US Mishra, Associate Professor, CDS, and Trivandrum elaborated on ‘Exploring select research issues with primary data’. He evoked about the necessity to make optimum use of the available data since limited information can make one think. He discussed the common myths and errors likely to occur during the research and stressed on practical, understandable, qualitative, and meaningfully interpreted analysis which should acknowledge its own weaknesses. The four major stages through which a data analysis progress are; organizing the data, doing calculations, Interpreting  the information and discussing the limitations. The three kinds of preliminary analysis cited by him were characteristics analysis, impact analysis and case control or Randomized Control Technique (RCT). He also discussed about the nominal, ordinal and cardinal variables and the relevance of marginal, joint, and conditional distribution.
Shri J. Muraleedharan Nair, System Manager, CDS, Trivandrum provided reliable information on making effective use of internet by familiarizing the Google skills, Google operators and search basics including phrase research, factual research and data research.
Dr. N. Vijaya Mohan Pillai, Associate Professor, CDS, Trivandrum gave a brief lecture on Econometric applications by providing the basic theoretical aspects of econometrics by emphasizing the methods to estimate parameters which include OLS method, Maximum Likelihood Method and Method of moments. He gave an idea on the terms of spherical disturbance and white noise assumption in time series and cited an example of interpreting demand function estimated.
Shri T A Varghese, Research Director, Christ University spoke on participatory methods by highlighting six types of participatory methods and by introducing important participatory tools which broadly includes discussion /interview tools, mapping tools and diagramming tools.
The training programme offered new a vision to explore methods, scope and challenges of research in plantation sector with reliable data base.

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