Social Scientist. v 12, no. 139 (Dec 1984) p. 32.


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32 SOCIAL SCIENTIST

What are McAlpin's conclusions in regard to price movements and economic fluctuations ? As may be expected, she finds considerable year to year fluctuations, and some longer term trends in prices. The sharp fluctuations in agricultural prices, she says, are a function of supplies to the market. The latter she equates to yield rates, prices being regressed on yield rates with a lag, yield rates in fiscal year 00-01 being assumed to determine prices in calendar year 01. Understandably, she obtains a high (and a statistically significant) correlation between yield rates and prices of foodgrains (rice and jowar in particular) though not for cotton and jute (and also not for wheat). The long term trends reflect the opening up of markets as a result of the opening up of the Suez Canal and the advent of the Railways. She speaks of a "documented convergence of prices" over time, as markets opened up. The rising trend of prices is linked to foreign trade (as a result of the opening up of the hinterland), and the link between silver and the rupee together with the steady decline in silver prices (in the 19th century) vis-a-vis gold. For non-agricultural prices, she does not find any "totally satisfactory answer".

So far so good. But thereafter, McAlpin betrays her lack of understanding of the social forces and the changes that were occurring in the Indian economy, and the real impact of the observed price changes on income and economic activity. To her, in simple words, the "over-all effect of such rising demand on the agricultural sector was to provide new and improved markets for the sale of produce, probably to raise real incomes, and to stimulate cultivation". In fact, she reveals her naivete when she says, "one surrogate for agricultural income is the index of prices of agricultural commodities'9. It is difficult to imagine that such a statement could be made by a serious student of the Indian economy, or for that matter, any economy. The only plausible explanation is that McAlpin is so overwhelmed by the writings of Professors Alan Heston and Morris D Morris—regarding Indians growth and prosperity during the British Raj—that she has no time even to examine the considerable literature that exists on the subject (as her very short bibliography would seem to indicate). Of the diverse causal factors that could (or did) influence Indian agricultural price behaviour during the 19th century, there is no discussion; there is no evidence even of an awareness of Atkinson's painstaking studies on the subject. The income effects of the secular as well as the cyclical price changes do not appear to concern McAlpin. Nor does she show any awareness of the share of the cultivator in the recorded price of agricultural produce. McAlpin does not pause to wonder at the recurrence of famines, at the increase in rural debt, at the increased alienation of land holdings—evidence which does not fit in with the theory of steady growth of rural incomes.

On a somewhat minor point of interpretation, it is worth noting that McAlpin talks of the "documented convergence of prices9' as between different regions when her own Table 11.1 shows a steady



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