The row over Bt Brinjal, a genetically modified version of the plant, provoked the government into imposing a moratorium on the commercial cultivation of the plant in India.  The debate has revolved around issues of economic efficacy, human health, consumer choice and farmers’ rights. Jairam Ramesh, the Minister of State for Environment and Forests, made public his views on the subject, a gist of which is given below:

  • The Genetic Engineering Approvals Committee (GEAC) report recommended commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal but qualified it by stating that since the issue has important policy implications at the national level, the government should take a final view on the matter.
  • Most of the state governments have expressed concern and have sought to ban the use of Bt Brinjal, or all GM crops.
  • Pesticides have harmful effect on human health and Bt technology is one way of reducing pesticide use.  However, other routes such as non-pesticide pest management can be explored.  For example, about 6 lakh farmers in Andhra Pradesh practice non-pesticide pest management over an area of about 20 lakh acres.
  • Safety is a concern since the kind of tests that have been done is not specific or stringent enough to detect toxins.  Also, tests have only been carried out by the developers of the product, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd. (Mahyco).  (The results of the biosafety tests are available on the GEAC website).
  • There is no large-scale public funded biotechnology effort toward agriculture, which could compete with Mahyco.  Monsanto is the main producer of Bt Brinjal, and Mahyco is owned to the extent of 26% by Monsanto.
  • While two government owned agricultural universities -- University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore – have produced Bt Brinjal along with Mahyco, doubts have been raised about how Bt related research in these universities have been funded.
  • There are apprehensions that there will be diversity loss in the variety of Brinjal if Bt Brinjal is introduced, and this fear cannot be glossed over.
  • While Bt Cotton and Bt Brinjal are not comparable, the introduction of Bt Cotton in India has made India the second largest grower of cotton in the world.  Over 90% of cotton farmers in India cultivate Bt Cotton.  Many farmers support Bt Cotton on economic grounds but some did express doubts.
  • The Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur has developed a Bt cotton variety (Bikaneri Nerma) whose seeds can be kept by farmers for planting during the next season.  The Director of the Institute while expressing support for Bt Brinjal has mentioned that resistance development is a serious issue.  Therefore, more tests that are well-designed, widely-accepted and independently conducted are necessary.
  • The GEAC process has been questioned by  Dr P.M. Bhargava, the Supreme Court nominee on GEAC.  He opposed the recommendation on the ground that all necessary tests had not been carried out before coming to a decision.  The 2006 committee of the GEAC had asked for several tests to be conducted which were not taken into account by the second expert committee.  All GEAC reports (including additional tests) of tests conducted with regard to Bt Brinjal are in the public domain.
  • There is some evidence that the GEAC not followed global regulatory norms of which India is a party.  For example, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development etc.
  • Some international scientists have raised doubts about Bt Brinjal and the way the tests were conducted.
  • Many Indian scientists have supported commercialization of Bt Brinjal such as Dr G. Padmanabhan of the Indian Institute of Science; Dr Deepak Pental, Vice Chancellor of Delhi University; and Dr Raj Bhatnagar of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi.  However, even they have mentioned the need for a statutory body with regulatory powers and R&D capabilities to govern all aspects of GM crops.
  • The Indian Council of Agricultural research and a number of farmer’s groups have come out in support of the move to introduce Bt Brinjal.

In order to understand the process followed by GEAC before giving the green signal to Bt Brinjal, we have made a timeline in which the plant was approved and the bodies involved in the process.

2000-2005 Scientific tests carried out by Mahyco on Bt Brinjal
2006 Mahyco submits bio-safety data to GEAC (regulatory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests). Seeks permission for large scale trials.
  Supreme Court stops ongoing field trials of GM crops due to a PIL filed by civil society representatives.
2007 The expert committee 1 set up by GEAC, submits its report.  Recommends seven more studies on bio-safety be repeated for reconfirmation of data generated during confined multi-location trials but approves large scale trials.
  Supreme Court lifts ban on GM crop field trials subject to conditions such as isolation distance etc.
  As per GEAC direction, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR) takes up the responsibility of large scale trails of Mahyco's Bt Brinjal trials at 10 research institutions across the country in 2007 and 11 in 2008.
2009 Jan: IIVR submits the results of the large scale trails. Due to concerns raised by several stakeholders, GEAC constitutes another expert committee to look into adequacy of biosafety data generated as well as the concerns raised by all stakeholders.
  Oct 8: Expert-committee 2 submits its report. States benefits of Bt Brinjal far outweigh the perceived and projected risks.
  Oct 14: GEAC approves the environmental release of Bt Brinjal containing the event EE1 (with one dissent note from P.M. Bhargava).
  Oct 15: Jairam Ramesh announces a nationwide consultation in January and February of 2010 pending a final decision on this issue.
2010 Jan 13 to Feb 6: Public meetings were organized on the Bt Brinjal issue. The summary of the consultations is available on the Ministry’s website.
  Many states announce ban on commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal including Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.
  Feb 9: Jairam Ramesh decides to halt the commercialization of Bt Brinjal.

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has decided to conduct an off-cycle meeting today to discuss the failure to meet the inflation target under Section 45ZN of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. As per the Reserve Bank of India Act (RBI), 1934, MPC is required to meet at least four times each year, to discuss the macroeconomic issues in the country, and take policy decisions to address those. This is the second time MPC has conducted an off-cycle meeting in 2022-23. The meeting is scheduled in light of inflation being consistently high for nine consecutive months.

In this blog, we discuss what the inflation targeting framework is, examine retail and wholesale prices, and the divergence between them.   

What is the inflation targeting framework, and what happens if inflation is persistently high?

In 2016, Parliament amended the RBI Act, 1934 to change the monetary policy, and introduce an inflation targeting framework. This framework prioritises price stability to achieve sustainable GDP growth. Price stability allows investors to confidently invest their money for productive activities, without worrying about it losing value. Price stability also maintains the purchasing power of consumers, i.e., the ability to purchase a good (or service) with a given amount of money.

As per the new framework, the central government, in consultation with RBI sets: (i) an inflation target, and (ii) an upper and lower tolerance level for retail inflation. The target has been set at 4%, with an upper tolerance limit of 6% and a lower tolerance limit of 2%. The upper and lower limits indicate that although it is desirable for inflation to be close to 4%, deviation between these limits is acceptable. The target and bands are revised every five years. In March 2021, the existing targets were carried forward.  

Retail inflation has been above 6% for the past nine months, and it has been above 4% from October 2019 onwards (See Figure 1).

Figure 1: Consumer price index (year-on-year; in percentage)


Sources: Database on Indian Economy, Reserve Bank of India; PRS.

If inflation is above or below the prescribed limits for three quarters, RBI must submit a report to the central government explaining why prices have been rising (or falling) persistently, what will be done to correct that, and an estimate as to when the target will be achieved.   

The MPC uses tools such as interest rates to control the level of inflation in the economy. One such rate is the policy repo rate, which is the rate at which RBI lends money to banks. An increase in the policy repo rate makes borrowing money more costly, and hence is expected to control inflation by reducing the money supply. MPC increased this rate from 4% in April 2022 to 4.4% in May 2022, to 4.9% in June 2022, to 5.4% in August 2022, and to 5.9% in September 2022.

Breaking down the Consumer Price Index and the Wholesale Price Index

Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the general prices of goods and services such as food, clothing, and fuel over time. Retail inflation is calculated as the change in the CPI over a period of time. Goods and services such as petrol, food products, health, and education are considered for its calculation, which are assigned different weights (See Table 1). Between February 2022 and August 2022, the average annual inflation was 6.9%. The rise in prices of subcomponents of the CPI during this period is indicated in Table 2.

Table 1: Assigned weights for the calculation of CPI



Food and beverages


Miscellaneous (including petrol and diesel, health, and education)




Clothing and footwear


Fuel and light


Pan, tobacco, and intoxications




Sources: MOSPI; PRS.

Table 2: Average inflation of some CPI components
between February 2022 to August 2022 (in percentage)

Subcategory of CPI

Average inflation



Oils and fats




Fuel and Light


Transport and communication


Cereals and products


Sources: Database on Indian Economy, RBI; PRS.

CPI is not the only index that measures inflation in an economy. The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) measures the wholesale prices of goods. A change in wholesale prices reflects wholesale inflation. Table 3 indicates the weights assigned to goods for calculating the WPI. Manufactured goods include metals, chemicals, food products, and textiles.   

Primary articles (23%) include food articles, and crude petroleum and natural gas. Fuel and power (12%) include mineral oils, electricity, and coal.  WPI has remained above 10% from April 2021 onwards. It reached an all-time high of 17% in May 2022. This was driven by the inflation in metals, kerosene and petroleum coke, fruits and vegetables, and palm oil.

Table 3:Assigned weights for the
calculation of WPI (in percentage)



Manufactured products


Primary articles


Fuel and power


All commodities


Sources: Ministry of Commerce and Industry; PRS.

Why has WPI inflation been consistently above CPI inflation?

Movements in the WPI have an impact on the CPI.  For almost a year and half, CPI inflation has remained below WPI inflation.  However, as per the design of the indices, it is expected that CPI would remain above WPI, and that any increase in WPI would reflect in the CPI after a time lag.  This is because retail prices include taxes (as a percentage of price), while wholesale prices do not.  Additionally, some of the goods in WPI act as inputs in the goods considered in CPI.  An increase in input prices would lead to higher retail prices after a time lag.

We discuss possible reasons for why CPI has remained below WPI for a year and a half.

Figure 2: Consumer Price Index and Wholesale Price Index


Sources: Database on Indian Economy, Reserve Bank of India; PRS.

Composition of indices

As indicated in Table 2 and 3, the composition of the two indices varies. For instance, prices of manufacture of basic metals, chemicals, and machinery grew at an average rate of 13% between February 2021 and September 2022.  They contribute 7% to the WPI. These are input goods for producing final goods and services such as automobiles, which are included in the CPI. The rise in prices of transport vehicles, communication devices, fuel for transport, and housing (CPI components) rose by 6% during this period.

The Ministry of Finance has observed that wholesale prices did not feed into retail prices (from March 2021 onwards) as wholesalers absorbed the rising input costs and did not pass them on to retailers. In August 2022, it noted that as retail prices are rising now, the pass-through may occur.