Years of disappointment have conditioned Indians to be sceptical when politicians talk of reforming agriculture. This is one part of the economy where the criss-crossing of political and business interests has taught us not to expect too much.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggested opening up retail trade to competition. Some part of the current saga of food inflation is because there are big differences between wholesale and retail prices: A disorganized retail environment has translated into inefficiencies, which have translated into higher costs.
But does this mean Singh’s words will actually translate into action? In June, a parliamentary committee insisted on banning foreign retailers and restricting domestic corporate ones, so as to “protect” local retailers.
Politicians perennially stymie reform on agriculture by invoking the “common man”. Year by year, instead of going down, fertilizer subsidies and minimum support prices keep going up. And, of course, we learn to not hold our breath awaiting reform.