Understanding and misunderstanding e-NAM
THE 2019 Lok Sabha election was fought against the backdrop of a sustained period of farmers’ protests across major Indian cities and regions, reflecting the intensification of agrarian distress over the past five years. Some of the key drivers, notably the collapse in agricultural commodity prices and incomes as a result of both an unfavourable global trading environment and misguided government policies, have been analysed in Seminar’s annual symposiums in the two years preceding this one.1 Nonetheless, against all the unrest, the BJP brought in a bumper electoral harvest in May 2019, while continuing to confront an agricultural sector estimated to be growing at just around 2% with farm incomes thought to be growing at the slowest pace recorded over the last fifteen years.2
For a government that has given itself the goal of ‘doubling farmers’ incomes’ by 2022, these are hard figures to digest. In response, there appears to have been a redoubling of faith in the flagship reform for this sector: the creation of an electronic National Agricultural Market or eNAM. Launched by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in April 2016 eNAM, like the GST, expresses the ambition of forging ‘One Nation, One Market.’ However, as with the GST, the devil is always in the detail, and it is in its design and implementation that grand visions meet ground realities. It is here that eNAM needs some serious conceptual and empirical reality testing.