8 October 2020 | By: Writing Buddha

A Wall Street View of Rural India by Sujit Sahgal (Book Review: 4*/5) !!!

 1874th BLOG POST

33rd Book of 2020


Every time, we talk about developing India, we end up discussing about the life of farmers and the state of agriculture in India. All of us are aware that for a population of 140 crores to be able to have food on their plate, agriculture remains to be the backbone of the nation. Knowing all of these, how many of us are aware about how farmers are struggling with their lifestyles and what process are followed by them to make the crops and produce reach us, the common people? We know nothing and hence when I got to know about this book titled “A Wall Street View of Rural India” written by Sujit Sahgal, I picked it up as the tagline on the cover page “A Banker’s Diary of a Decade of Road Trips” and the artwork attracted me. The synopsis gave more insights about these 180-pages book which is published by Olympia Publication.


Sujit Sahgal’s book is divided into 5 different sections where author talks about several aspects of a farmer’s life in the rural economy: 1. Earning & Spending Power, 2. Borrowing & Leverage, 3. Infrastructure, Market Structure and Supply chain, 4. Social aspect and Women empowerment and 5. Demographic of agriculture in future.


The author has personally travelled around many villages in India with some key experts and has ended up taking 300-400 interviews and everything that has been mentioned is not from the data collected from different sources but what has been observed personally. Author gives us a disclaimer that what the farmers and the people belonging to the ecosystem has said in the interviews might not be true as they must have hidden something or said something in extreme out of fear or hope. But still, after going through all the challenges of the farmers in the book, I feel that most of it seems to be the ground-level concerns for now.


As we know, when we talk about economy, there are many jargons which doesn’t let us get much into the topic and therefore, it becomes very crucial for the authors to ensure that either it is explained well or not used in the book. Here, Sahgal has not used much of the terms and wherever he did, he gave explanation for the same which made reading the book enjoyable and easy. Author starts the book with how MSP is set-up and how much a farmer earns and what is his spending power. From here, we get to know how earning a decent amount of money is still a challenge even after several reforms and how savings are still not part of a farmer’s lifestyle as all that comes get spent in food and basics.


Further, author talks about the culture of Borrowing among the farmer community which is so prominent that many farmers rely upon the same. The chapters also throw light upon the debt under which farmers go either by will or by the schemes where even the down-payment for purchasing tractor can be paid on instalments. Author discusses the features of KCC – its pros and cons and how farmers misuse it knowing that their debt and loan shall be repaid by political parties during election times. The aspect of Jan-Dhan yojna is also discussed widely.


Author also discusses about the APMC model which was brought into place in 1970s and how it is effective as well as the drawbacks and challenges of it. Later, author focuses on how E-nam system is better than APMC considering the payment is immediate and things are more transparent here. I personally liked reading the 4th section which discusses about how children of farmers are actually focusing on studying and getting a white-collared job rather than getting into the same domain as they are well aware about the financial crunches their upper generations have seen. How Beti Padhao movement has ended up having more girls in school than boys is a positive news. Even the wives of farmers are working as heads now – even though with little guidance from their husband but are keen to be on the position.


In the last section, author discusses about what would be the demographics in agriculture and farming industry in the future as all the children of farmers are now educating themselves for getting to city for a white-collared job – but it’s good to read that there are many who have felt so much stressed out in the urban lifestyle that they are getting back to agriculture. Also, how the agriculture would change with the advent of Internet and technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Robots etc. is nice to learn.


Overall, reading this book is like knowing an overview of how farming happens in India and the process of how it reaches finally to the end consumers. The book is written in simple language which makes it easy to understand. I am glad author haven’t gone much into depth otherwise it must have become difficult to go through the whole book.


Now, talking about the drawbacks- Firstly, there are many instances where a paragraph has ended after two pages which really makes it difficult to read. Author should have used more bullets and pointers rather than writing his findings in form of paragraphs only. Also, diagrammatical representations would have made many data findings easier to understand. I was expecting insights on farmer suicides etc. but that part is completely ignored in this book. As this book is based on author’s personal experiences of traveling across villages, the pictures of those would have also added charm to this insightful and informative book. Though, in the last chapter of “Conclusion”, author has given some 3-4 pointers as to what improvements is needed – I was expecting many solutions across chapters from authors for the challenges discussed.


I would give this book 4 stars out of 5 for its genuine efforts and the kind of insights it provides to us as we get to know what our farmers are going through.






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