India’s Maoist rebellion, concentrated in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh, has been linked to 7,865 deaths from 2000 to 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the Maoist conflict the single biggest internal security challenge his country has ever faced. He has also identified development as the “master remedy” to bring a sustainable end to the conflict.
Several scholars have shown that the conflict is linked to natural-resource shocks, but showing a causal relationship has been difficult because of limitations in data and analytical methods. In this paper, Devesh Kapur and co-authors use a novel data set of killings (sourced from local-language news outlets in addition to English-language ones) to conduct a rigorous econometric analysis of the conflict. They find a robust, significant association between dry spells and intensity of conflict, suggesting that the hardship brought lack of rain lowers the relative costs and risks of taking up arms.
The authors discuss several policy options that could help blunt the effects of drought and other natural-resource shocks, including providing government-sponsored insurance schemes and—their preferred option—allowing people in affected areas greater access to the forests and related resources that can be a lifeline in times of distress and act as a critical self-insurance mechanism.