Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2012

Renewable Resource Shocks and Conflict in India's Maoist Belt

Devesh Kapur, Kishore Gawande, Shanker Satyanath

August 2012

Center for Global Development


Is there a causal relationship between shocks to renewable natural resources, such as agricultural and forest lands, and the intensity of conflict? In this paper, we conduct a rigorous econometric analysis of a civil conflict that the Indian Prime Minister has called the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by his country, the so-called Maoist conflict. We focus on over-time within-district variation in the intensity of conflict in the states where this conflict is primarily located. Using a novel data set of killings, we find that adverse renewable resource shocks have a robust, significant association with the intensity of conflict. A one standard deviation decrease in our measure of renewable resources increases killings by 12.5 percent contemporaneously, 9.7 percent after a year, and 42.2 percent after two years. Our instrumental variables strategy allows us to interpret these findings in a causal manner.