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198 CHAPTER 13


may also help to reduce opposition to reform. Efforts to build awareness could aim at bringing smallholder farmers into a proreform coalition. However, the challenge is to establish credibility across discourse coalitions for information about the costs and benefits of reforms. Moreover, to attract smallholder farmers to a proreform coalition, it would be necessary to create trust among them that smallholder-friendly reforms, such as targeting and packaging, would in fact be implemented.


Shifting the Political Discourse: Reframing the Debate Some policy options, especially moves toward targeted subsidies, could be promoted more easily if a shift in the policy discourse were achieved. At present, the dominant policy discourse of agrarian distress focuses on the intersectoral income disparity between the agricultural and the nonagricul- tural sectors, promoted by the difference in growth rates between sectors and the issue of farmers’ suicides. But because the agrarian-distress discourse does not differentiate between groups in the agricultural sector, it provides a strong justification for general intersectoral income redistribution rather than targeted income transfers. Targeted subsidies would be easier to implement if the public discourse focused explicitly on the problems of small and marginal farmers, on farmers without access to irrigation and modern technologies, and on agricultural laborers, rather than on the agricultural sector in general. A similar challenge can be seen in the debate on food security. Whereas proponents of market-oriented reforms argue that preserving India’s food secu- rity does not require self-sufficiency in urea production, the mainstream dis- course links the two issues in such a way that the latter is seen as a necessary condition for the former. The challenge is, of course, to identify strategies by which the public discourse can be changed. Proponents of electricity and fer- tilizer reforms have always highlighted the distributional issue, and they have often argued for a rationalization rather than a complete abolition of subsidies. Yet they have failed to persuade their opponents in the public debate that their reform proposals stem from a genuine concern for the poorer sections of the agricultural sector. Reframing the market-oriented debate on rationalizing subsidies by placing more emphasis on poverty reduction and equity, in addi- tion to macroeconomic and fiscal goals, may help to overcome political resis- tance. The government has recently tried to reframe the debate on fertilizer reform as one that addresses soil health, balanced fertilization, and increases in foodgrain production rather than fiscal and distributional issues.


Strategic Bargaining


Strategic bargaining is typical of negotiations between labor unions and employers. A good example of this approach is the tripartite agreement in Andhra Pradesh between the labor unions representing the electricity-sector


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