Homa Therapy Helpline for India.

10am to 5pm

09522333969, 09826985222 (Hindi)
09755004401, 09158202742 (English)
09923552154 (Marathi)

This clock shows exact time everywhere in India.

Accuracy of the clock depends on having a fast broadband internet connection.

Ground Reality

Syndicate content
Understanding the politics of food, agriculture and hunger
Updated: 55 min 20 sec ago

Debt and farming have now become synonym.

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 15:50

Pic: From Web
It was exactly in the month of August 2016. A suicide note left behind by a 22-year-old graduate student, Gopal Babarao Rathod, son of a small farmer from Yavatmal in Maharashtra, made such a poignant reading, but at the same time he in his own humble way questioned the very premise behind the prevailing economic policies. He asked: “A teacher’s son can easily afford to pay a fee of Rs 1-lakh to become an engineer but tell me how a farmer’s son can afford so much fee?” He then went on to add: “why is it that the salaried employees get dearness allowance without even asking for it whereas farmers are denied adequate compensation for their produce?”
More recently, in April this year, another 21-year-old student, daughter of a Maharashtra farmer, committed suicide. Unable to bear the stress her parents were undergoing in trying to find a suitable match for her and to get her married, Sheetal Yankat decided to end her life by jumping into a village well. In a suicide note she left behind, she wrote: "My parents are extremely poor and have been unable to raise money for my marriage. I am committing suicide because I don't want my parents to come under a debt burden. The economic condition of my family has worsened over five years because of the failure of crops. My two sisters got married somehow with very simple marriage ceremonies. My father is trying his best for my marriage. But since the middlemen are not able to lend money, my marriage has got delayed for two year. Therefore, I am ending my life with the hope that my father will not be burdened by anymore debt and perhaps my death will also end the dowry practice.”
A few months back in Punjab, a young farmer Jaswant Singh committed suicide. He owned three acres of land and had an outstanding debt of Rs 10-lakh. The distress that he was undergoing was clearly visible. But one fine day he took his five-year-old son for a bicycle ride. Eyewitnesses say that he first tied his son to his waist before he jumped into a nearby canal. In a suicide note he left behind he regretted carrying his son to the watery grave but categorically stated that he knew his son would not be able to repay the outstanding dues and so it wasn’t worth living. 
The tragedy that struck these farming families symbolises the agony that the entire farming community is living with. There is hardly a day when farm suicides are not reported from one part of the country or other. The serial death dance on the farm continues unabated. Majority of these deaths are because farmers are unable to pay back loans. They can’t pay back loans because agriculture has over the years turned uneconomical. They are in reality buried under piles of credit taken from multiple sources. In the absence of adequate income, they have no option but to rely on credit. After all, they too have to bring up their families; they too have to educate their children; they too have to provide for health expenses; and they too have to meet the aspiration of their children.
The Union Minister of State for Agriculture in November 2016 had acknowledged in Parliament that farmers are reeling under an outstanding debt of Rs 12.60-lakh crore every year.
In the past 22 years, mounting indebtedness has pushed an estimated 3.30 lakh farmers to take their own lives. Those who have refrained from taking the extreme step are no better. They continue to somehow survive, living in acute distress, and hoping against hope. Several studies have shown that almost 58 to 62 per cent farmers sleep empty stomach. They are the victims of an economic designWhile the policy emphasis has been on increasing crop production, the more important issue of whether this is accompanied by a rise in farm incomes has been simply pushed under the carpet.
For all practical purposes, debt and farming have now become synonym. Seventy years after Independence, and 55 years after the Green Revolution was launched, economic freedom continues to elude farmers. Economic Survey 2016 made it abundantly clear. Accordingly, the average income of a farming family in 17 States of India does not exceed Rs 20,000 a year. In other words, farming families in roughly half the country are surviving on less than Rs 1,700 a month. Knowing that it is not possible to rear a cow in the same amount, I shudder to think how these families survive year after year. 
Year after year farmers have toiled hard to produce a bumper harvest. But little do they realise, when they cultivate a crop, they actually cultivate losses. In order to keep food inflation under control, successive governments have denied farmers their rightful income. The entire burden of keeping food prices low has been very conveniently passed on to farmers. In other words, it is the farmers who are bearing the entire cost of subsidising the consumers. Farm incomes remain almost frozen or bare enough to cover only the cost of production. Over the past few decades, agriculture has been deliberately kept impoverished.
The Commission for Agricultural Cost and prices (CACP) computes the net returns. Let’s try to see whether the net returns have increased. In Maharashtra, which has been faced with massive silent protests by Marathas, and which I believe is the primary reason for the discontent, the net return per hectare for paddy is Rs 966, which means if worked on a monthly basis it will come to less than Rs 300 a month. For Ragi, Maharashtra farmers actually incur a loss of Rs 10,674 per hectare; for Moong (minus Rs 5,873); for urd (minus Rs 6,663). Even for cotton, the net return is only Rs 2,949 per hectare. Considering that cotton is sown in June and its harvesting begins in October, with the pickings going on to November, December or even January, the average income per month from cultivating cotton comes to a paltry Rs 700 per hectare. 
Viewed from the national level, the net returns for crops like paddy, sugarcane, maize, and cotton have actually declined in the past three years. For most of the dryland crops, the returns are in the negative. If the farmer is destined to harvest losses, I wonder what kind of technological and financial support can bail them out. Giving them more credit, even if it comes from institutional agencies/banks, has only pushed them further into a debt trap. As a former Prime Minister Chaudhury Charan Singh had once remarked: A farmer is born in debt and dies in debt.
Keeping food prices low is in consonance with the dominant economic thinking aimed at drastically reducing the work force in agriculture. This is what the World Bank had desired way back in 1996. It had expected 400 million people to be moved out from the rural to the urban areas in India by the years 2015. Successive governments have therefore created conditions of economic hardship to make it possible. Public sector investments have declined over the past few decades, especially after the economic reforms were unleashed in 1991. Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan used to say that the biggest reforms would be when farmers are moved out of agriculture, to meet the ever-growing demand of cheaper labour for the infrastructure industry. The National Skill Development Council already has spelled out plans to bring down the population in farming from the existing 52 per cent to 38 percent by 2022.
It is all going as per the design.
Farmer is no longer seen with pride. Gone are the days of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan. Today, farmer has become a burden on the nation, and the entire effort of policy planning is to off-load the burden as quickly as possible. #
Agrarian crisis: Gone are the days of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan; the debt-ridden farmer is a liability. FirstPost. Aug 15, 2017. http://www.firstpost.com/india/agrarian-crisis-gone-are-days-of-jai-jawan-jai-kisan-the-debt-ridden-farmer-is-now-a-liability-3932941.html 
Categories: Ecological News

Trees in Amazon make their own rain. Be sure, tropical forests in India also do the same.

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 13:19
Pic: tourmyindia.com
Whenever I drive up the mountains, what often strikes me first are the low hanging clouds in the midst of the mountain ranges. I had always thought that the formation of the vapor clouds, considering that the monsoon clouds were still far away, was because of the trees. The higher the density of trees, the higher the probability of vapor clouds.

I couldn't say for sure because I had no scientific backing to prove my point. Most people, I am sure, too thought they knew it but like me were unsure in the absence of a proper scientific explanation. The low hanging clouds were simply dismissed as 'mist' and that was it. “All you can see is the water vapor, but you don’t know where it comes from,” says Rong Fu, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. (See the Science report, link below)  

Like many of us, Rong Fu too thought it was possible that plants were releasing enough moisture to build low-level clouds. But she needed to explicitly establish the connect, between moisture and the forests. To find out, she and her colleagues began researching in the tropical forests of Amazon, using NASA’s Aura satellite, a spacecraft dedicated to studying the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere. While the low hanging clouds over Amazon were clearly visible but what needed to be established was that these were not as a result of a drift of moisture from the ocean. Satellite data helped her prove the point. Two significant conclusions are: 

1) Moisture that evaporates from the ocean tends to be lighter than water vapor released into the atmosphere by plants. That’s because during evaporation, water molecules containing deuterium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen made of one proton and one neutron, get left behind in the ocean. By contrast, in transpiration, plants simply suck water out of the soil and push it into the air without changing its isotopic composition.

2) From the satellite data she found that the early moisture accumulating over the rainforest was high in deuterium—“too high to be explained by water vapor from the ocean,” Fu says. What’s more, the deuterium content was highest at the end of the Amazon’s dry season, during the “greening” period when photosynthesis was strongest. 

This explained, as a news report -- Trees in the Amazon make their own rain -- published in the American journal Science (Aug 4, 2017) states: The Amazon rainforest is home to strange weather. One peculiarity is that rains begin 2 to 3 months before seasonal winds start to bring in moist air from the ocean. Now, researchers say they have finally figured out where this early moisture comes from: the trees themselves.

What is true for Amazon is also true for the rest of the tropical forests, which we have been mercilessly cutting down in the name of development. While rainforests are threatened by climate change, the reverse is also true. Indonesia for instance had experienced several severe droughts in recent decades. The worst occurred in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 when millions of acres of forest burned. Even in the Amazon, between 2005 and 2010,  severe droughts were recorded. Rivers dried up, isolating communities, and millions of acres burned. (http://kids.mongabay.com/elementary/501.html#cc). It now becomes apparent as to why Western Ghats need to be saved from the kind of economic growth that Amazon has been lashed withIn India, the monsoon period is not only shifting but is also squeezing. If you want the rains back, save trees. 

Environmentalist Usha S from the Thiruvanthapuram-based voluntary society Thanal, says: "This is what tropical rainforests used to do. South Kerala used to have rains for 11 months in a year." 
Ironically, Kerala was faced a severe drought last year, some considered it to be the worst in 125 years. Well, the policy makers may not agree but the fact remains that the imposition of a flawed development model had actually acerbated the drought crisis. 

So far it was believed that trees play a crucial role in producing oxygen and absorbing carbon-dioxide, which helps to reduce the climate change impact. But while Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) and the resulting heating of the climate was being blamed for freaky weather, extended periods of acute drought, more flooding in some regions, and the monsoon going topsy-turvy, the role trees play in maintaining an ecological balance was not considered economically significant. According to Nature (Sept 2, 2015), since the beginning of the civilisation, 46 per trees have been axed. Every year, 15 billion trees are being felled. 

Well, if the rains have disappeared don't blame the raingods. 

Over the years, I have seen, followed and admired the role of the World Rainforest Movement. What the WRM has been saying for long, and which makes terrific economic sense, has been simply ignored by the policy makers as an 'anti-development' stand by a bunch of activists. Its recent statement about climate change and forest crisis makes a very important point about the fallacy of the recent proposals by aiming at a 'zero net deforestation'. Accordingly, “zero net deforestation” means that large-scale deforestation can continue as long as large-scale industrial monoculture plantations of eucalyptus, acacia, pine and other trees continue to expand.  

It further states: The New York Declaration on Forests that includes a pledge to end “net” deforestation, which means they will continue logging if the damage can be “offset” somewhere else. The Declaration was signed in 2014, on the sidelines of the UN Secretary General’s climate summit. Yet, this Declaration, stating that it aims “to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strive to end it by 2030”, does not spend a word on what its agri-industry signatories will do to actually halt plantation expansion. This very expansion continues to lead to deforestation in direct and indirect ways." (Read the fill statement here: http://wrm.org.uy/actions-and-campaigns/the-climate-and-forest-crises-cannot-be-solved-with-number-games-and-false-solutions/)

Rong Fu's latest study reinforces what sensible people have been pointing to for quote long now. I think it should make the world to sit back and re-think about the very basis of what constitutes growth economics. Destroying pristine forests and commodifying natural resources is not growth economics; it is violent economics. We cannot allow growth economists to confuse us with numbers anymore. We need adequate rains. #

More reading: 

Trees in Amazon make their own rain. Science, Aug 4, 2017. 
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/trees-amazon-make-their-own-rain
Categories: Ecological News

RCEP will undo the gains of food self-sufficiency built so assiduously over the decades

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 17:26

Pic: Global Politics and Law
The damage caused by climatic change is not going to be the biggest worry that a farmer is likely to face in future. There is a still a bigger disaster would be a price crash after a bountiful harvest. Farmers know when the drought is approaching; they know what precautions to take when the heat spell extends for long. They remain prepared to face insect attacks and know how to minimise crop losses at times of heavy rains. But just imagine the severe blow that a farmer receives when he finds that after an abundant, the prices crash.
This is what I call as ‘Produce and perish’. Farmers produce a record harvest, only to suffer an unforeseen disaster. 
After two years of back-to-back drought, the rain gods finally smiled. Expecting a normal crop season, farmers put in their labour hoping to partly offset the losses suffered in the past two years. A bountiful harvest would result in good prices for them, they thought. But the markets suddenly crashed. Prices of dal, tomato, potato, onion, sarson, and all other vegetables crashed forcing farmers to dump the produce on the highways at many a places. Farmers’ anger imploded into a massive protest that began from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, eventually resulting in five farmers dying from police farming. 
But there is more trouble brewing on the farm front. At a time when farmer unions are planning for a jail bharo protest from Aug 9 to Aug 15 seeking farm loan waiver and implementation of the Swaminathan Committee recommendation of providing 50 per cent profit over the cost of production, what they are not aware is that an international trade negotiations currently underway holds a much bigger threat to the future of Indian agriculture. In fact, as and when it comes into existence, it would allow unbridled imports of highly-subsidised agricultural commodities at zero duty thereby pushing small farmers to abandon agriculture.
Let’s examine what is at stake. Over the past few decades, especially after 1995 when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into existence, the effort has been to force the developing countries to remove trade barriers and import duties. What was attempted initially through the WTO was aggressively pushed under the bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) between two countries or a group of countries. While numerous studies have shown that India has hardly gained from the opening up of the domestic market, the damage done to agriculture has been enormous.
Sridhar R from Thanal, a voluntary society based in Thiruvanthapuram, explains how the FTA with ASEAN trading block has already hit the livelihoods of plantation growers in Kerala. “Seven years ago, we, as civil society and the Govt of Kerala, had predicted that reduction in import tariffs would impact Kerala seriously, especially in rubber, and spices.” He says that as per the prediction the imports have increased and prices have fallen. The Central Government, which went ahead and signed the deal, has done nothing whatsoever to compensate or support the farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been affected. However, Kerala is left to shoulder the burden of providing Rs 5 billion every year to compensate the rubber farmers for the price fall. Only about 30 per cent farmers get the compensation, with the rest of the community gradually moving out.
As if this is not enough, a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) treaty, which concluded its latest round of negotiations at Hyderabad in July, is considering removing import duties on 92 per cent of the traded commodities. Still worse, the import duties that will be reduced to zero under the treaty cannot be raised later, a provision that even the WTO did not impose. In other words, the RCEP treaty, if India agrees to sign, would open up the Indian market for zero import duty for all times to come. It will take away the right from India to protect and ensure the livelihood security of its 600 million farmers. The treaty is being negotiated between 16 countries, including South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and China. 
Surprisingly, every time India enters into a trade negotiation, it seeks ‘greater market access for its services, including easier norms for its professionals to move across borders for short-term work’. While this is certainly important but I what I fail to understand is why agriculture is being deliberately sacrificed in the process. After all, protecting domestic agriculture, which entails the livelihoods of 600 million farmers, cannot be placed on the chopping block of international trade. Take the case of dairy sector. According to Jayan Mehta, senior general manager of Amul dairy cooperatives, 15-crore livelihoods engaged in dairy farming will be severely hit from the current RCEP negotiations.
India is the biggest producer of milk in the world. Presently, the imports of milk and milk products are allowed with an import duty ranging between 40 to 60 per cent. This provides enough protection for the local dairy industry to build its competitiveness. Opening up the flood gates will inundate India with cheaper milk flowing in from Australia and New Zealand. Let us not forget that while Australia which has only 6,300 dairy farmers; and New Zealand with 12,000 dairy farmers are pushing in aggressively to protect the economic interests their small dairy farming community, India is willing to sacrifice the livelihoods of 15- crore farmers.
Since India has a huge domestic demand of milk, it doesn’t have the kind of export surplus that Australia and New Zealand have.  Just because Australia and New Zealand are willing to provide more access to IT professionals does not mean India should put dairy farmers on the chopping block.
Dairy is not the only commodity for which the market is to open up. India will have to open up for all kinds of fruits, vegetables, pulses, potatoes, spices, plantation crops, seeds, silk, processed foods etc. Although India is still insisting on allowing zero tariff import on only 80 per cent of the traded goods, and is seeking a three-tier structure, the negotiations are led by the dominant and aggressive stance of countries like China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, which will eventually have their say.
It has taken so many years for the world to understand that WTO was designed to serve the commercial interests of only the top 1 per cent. Not drawing any lessons, the RCEP treaty is being negotiated under a complete secrecy. What was negotiated at the Hyderabad round of talks has not been made public. A few people sitting in heavily guarded negotiations take decisions, which eventually impact the future of 99 per cent of the population. This is grossly unfair. # 
Categories: Ecological News

Global Agriculture -- What the World Failed to Follow

Sun, 07/30/2017 - 21:06

Pic courtesy: 123RF.com 

It has been exactly 13 years since I was invited by the UK Food Group and Sustain to make a presentation on My Vision for a Global Agriculture at a Dialogue on Agricultural Trade Reform, Subsidies and the Future of Small and Family Farms and Farmers, held at London, on June 30, 2004. But looking at the recommendations I made, and I would like you to look at them carefully, you will agree that crisis wouldn't have been of the order that we see today. had the world taken a wise step towards ushering in equity and sustainability. Not only this would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions and in the bargain limited the damage by climate change, what I suggested would have also reduced the yawning inequality.
  
This was written in 2004. It certainly needs to be updated. But the essence remains the same, even now. This is what I wrote: "My Vision for a Global Agriculture comes at a crucial time in the history of international agriculture. I wish the powers that be, and that includes the agriculture ministers of the G-8 countries, and international agencies like FAO/IFAD/World Bank and the likes had paid some attention to it, and the world wouldn't have been faced with the kind of crisis that we are confronted with now. It is my strong belief that sooner or later the world will have to return to a sustainable pathway in agriculture, the sooner it happens the better it will be for humanity.
Well, the short of it is this didn't happen. And the crisis on the farm meanwhile has meanwhile worsened, the environment already devastated. Climate change has the world sitting on a tripping point, and inequality has only multiplied so much so that the world is in dark without any silver lining visible on the horizon. 

On how to resurrect agriculture.  
Restoring the pride in agriculture should be the obvious challenge for the global community. Numerous international approaches show emphasis, through the use of cliches like strengthening marketing infrastructure, scientific management of scarce water resources, empowering farmers to take informed decisions and so on. A growing volume of evidence now clearly suggests that such jugglery in presentation has not helped. Hidden in the jargon is the intention to commodify natural resources. What is needed is a fresh approach that takes the ground realities into consideration before embarking upon any policy imperatives.
I am trying to spell out a series of parameters that should underline all international approaches to agriculture. These are based on Mahatma Gandhi's Talisman that suggests: 'Think of the poorest person you have ever known, and ask if your next step will be of any use to him. In short, the effort should be to wipe every tear from every eye.'
Sustainable Livelihoods: focusing on tackling the causes of poverty, hunger, the inequitable distribution of income and low human resource base with the objective of providing everyone with the opportunity to earn a sustainable livelihood. The green revolution areas are encountering serious bottlenecks to growth and productivity. Excessive mining of soil nutrients and groundwater have already brought in soil sickness. If the livelihood of the marginalised in the society (and that in the majority world is in agriculture) it must be secured by economic activities that are sustainable, that do not threaten the integrity of the environmental assets on which they depend.
Food Sovereignty: Every country should have the right to food sovereignty. It should result from the interplay of three determining factors: food production, food availability and access to food. A sustainable livelihood approach is the strength of food sovereignty. It should be people centric, based on community strengths, eco-friendly and gender sensitive. Food production, a central pivot of food sovereignty, must be based on minimal use of external inputs and that includes chemicals, transgenics and water. Access to food cannot be left to the market forces, it has to be the obligation of the society and the state.
Local Solutions: For the past three decades, more so after the introduction of the land-grant system of education, the focus is on finding global solutions to local problems in agriculture. The World Bank/IMF, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and now some of the major donors like DFID and GTZ have been embarking of translocating alien approaches to agricultural improvement and have thereby exacerbated the crisis on the farm front. This process must be immediately stopped, if not reversed. Given the diversity of the agro-ecological regions, sustainable agriculture needs location-specific solutions.
Multiple Cropping: Emphasis on commodities has encouraged monocultures, loss of biodiversity, encouraged food trade in some commodites, distorted domestic markets, and disrupted the micro-nutrient availability in soil, plant, animals and humans. Thrust on farm commodities have also pushed in trade activities, encouraged food miles, adding to greenhouse emissions, water mining, and destruction of farm incomes. The need is to revert back to the time-tested farming systems that relied on mixed cropping and its integration with farm animals, thereby meeting the household and community nutrition needs from the available farm holdings.
Away from Cash Crops: For the past two decade at least, the World Bank/IMF and some other academia and donors have been pressing developing countries to diversify from staple foods to cash crops in what is being projected as the right approach to add to farm incomes. This is a politically motivated advise and runs counter to the sustainable approached spelled out above. Many Latin American countries are faced with a serious land degradation crisis and increasing hunger as a result. It also pushes farmers into a death trap since the developing countries do not have the resources to provide for adequate marketing infrastructure.
Reversing Farm Exodus: The disappearing family farms in the developed countries and the process of further marginalisation of the farming communities in the developing world are the symptoms of the same malaise. Farmers are being pushed out of agriculture through a farming system that is becoming increasingly unremunerative and industrialised. To maintain ecological balance, and to maintain the multi-functionality of agriculture, as well as to ensure sustainable livelihoods, the focus of any policy imperative should be to restore the pride in family farms. This will need adequate state protection and support and at the same time should be based on the principle of mutual compatibility with the small farmers in the majority world.
Reorienting Farm Research: International agricultural research, as well as the national agricultural research systems, should re-orient the focus of farm research based on the principles of - farmer friendly, environment friendly and long-term sustainability. Instead of the 'Lab-to-Land' approach, which has done immense damage to agriculture globally, the emphasis should be on learning from the land, meaning going back to farmers and the traditional farming systems. Technology need not always be high-tech and sophisticated. It can be simple and effective. This can only be ensured if the effort is to fit the new and improved technology to farmers need rather than asking farmers to fit into the technology package developed. This can only happen if farm research is brought back to the public sector. All technology should be freely available, and should not come with any proprietary tags.
Changing Food habits: Obesity has already emerged as the biggest killer in America, leaving tobacco-related deaths to the second position. This is the outcome of the private industry efforts to change the food and dietary habits to suit their commercial interests. First junk foods, and now genetically modified foods, the industry is desperate to ensure its acceptability irrespective of the human costs involved. Changing food habits of the urban consumers, that dictates the market demand, is certainly a difficult task. No effort can be meaningful as long as the food industry is allowed to use advertisement space. Food advertisements should therefore be banned. If hospitals are not allowed to advertise, there is no reason why the food industry cannot be directed to stop media advertisements.
Encouraging Local Markets: Creating a global market for farm produce is the bane of modern agriculture. The seed multinationals, the food giants, and the supermarkets, have cornered the food chain in the process thereby destroying livelihoods, local markets and also drastically reducing food choices. Such a market strategy has resulted in the disappearance of locally produced nutritious foods as a consequence of which micro-nutrient deficiency in human populations have grown manifold. Encouraging local markets will also reduce the dependence upon long distance transportation thereby minimising global warming. It will also help in bringing back the traditional and neglected crops, and help in changing the food habits.
Jai Kisan: A happy farming family is the base for any and every strong economy. It is also the foundation for an all-round economic growth and development. It is also the pre-requisit for sustainable development at the local, national and international level. Unfortunately, the farmer (called Kisan in India) has become a burden on the global society. Every government is keen to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Globalisation, economic liberalisation and the free trade paradigm are all aimed at pushing farmers out of agriculture. This political process and the mainline thinking has to be reversed for the sake of the global economy as well its sustained future. We need a world where every country is proud of its farmers, and where every farmer is proud to be the food provider - the annadata

For the detailed paper, just see the 2nd item on this linkhttp://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7850

Read also: An 11-Point Agenda for resurrecting Indian agriculture and restoring the pride in farming. May 2014. http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2014/05/my-11-point-agenda-for-resurrecting.html


--------------

Categories: Ecological News

70 years after Independence. With each passing year, the economic crisis on the farm has only worsened.

Sat, 07/29/2017 - 13:27

When Will the Sun Dawn on Indian Agriculture? -- pic from Web
“Woh Subah Kabhi to Aayegi”
Whenever I see the face of a farmer I am reminded of this Raj Kapoor song from a yesteryear film. With misery writ all over, the resulting despondency is clearly evident. But while Raj Kapoor was able to sing his way out for a happy ending, the Indian farmer is getting deeper and deeper into the clutches of a chakravayuah.
It has been an endless wait. For 70 years, the farmers have toiled hard to produce bumper harvests. Year after year, the records have tumbled. But with each passing year, the plight of a farming family has only worsened. For a country, which was somehow surviving not long ago in what is generally referred to as ‘ship-to-mouth’ existence, with food aid rescuing a large section of the population from starvation; the valiant farmers have pulled the country out from the throes of what many writers had predicted to be a fit case for a mass slaughter.
Once the pride of the nation, farmers have now become an economic burden. An ungrateful nation is waiting for every available opportunity to offload the burden.
It was in 1965 that the then US President Lyndon Johnson had got upset over a statement the Indian Prime Minister made. In an interview toa US newspaper Lal Bahadur Shashtri had termed the American war in Vietnam as “an act of aggression”.  But this was unacceptable. How could a hungry nation dare to call the US an aggressor? The US stopped food supplies, sending the Indian government into a tizzy. The then food minister C Subramaniam later told me that there was a time when the country was left with food stocks for only seven days. There was panic all around.
In response to the deepening food crisis, Shashtri had appealed to the nation to fast on Mondays. Realising the great role farmers can play in bringing food self-sufficiency, he coined the popular phrase Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan.
After Lal Bahadur Shashtri successful launched the milk cooperatives, which later brought in the white revolution, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi literally sowed the seeds of Green Revolution. While the government imported high-yielding seeds of dwarf wheat from Mexico, and made available irrigation along with external inputs like chemical fertiliser and pesticides, farmers did the rest. In 1967, the first harvest after the Green Revolution technology was introduced was a record 5 million tonnes higher. Since then the country has not looked back. From an era of food imports, India graduated to food self-sufficiency.
But what is little known is the financial impetus the government provided to farmers. In 1970, when the salary of school teachers was Rs 90 per month, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat was Rs 76 per quintal. Giving a higher assured price to farmers as well as an assured market (by setting up the Food Corporation of India), the policy makers have to be appreciated for ushering in what was essentially a famine-avoidance strategy. For a country which witnessed 28 famines during the British Raj, the remarkable turnaround was only made possible by a valiant farming community.Defying all prediction, famine had become history in India.
The ‘glorious’ period for farmers lasted for a decade and a half. Although Green Revolution had bypassed small farmers, an effort was made to paint a rosy picture of prosperity. The image of a progressive farmer driving a tractor was flashed as a sign of prosperity. In reality, the increase in production did not commensurate with an accompanying increase in farm incomes. While the successive governments were content with bumper harvests, farming as a community remained neglected. Coupled with a declining rate of public sector investments, the demise of agriculture began soon after the mid-1980s.
I remember when Punjab and Haryana, comprising the food bowl, registered a shortfall in wheat procurement in 1983-84; the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had made an air dash to Chandigarh. She was visibly upset and made it loud and clear when she pulled up the Chief Ministers – Darbara Singh of Punjab and Bhajan Lal of Haryana – at the airport itself. She was furious at the failure of Punjab and Haryana to meet the food procurement targets.
And then began the downslide.
By 1991, when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into existence, a complacent nation began to shift focus from agriculture. With Europe and America too building mountains of food, milk and butter surpluses in the same period, the dominant economic thinking turned to global competitiveness thereby reducing import tariffs to allow for cheaper imports. At the same time, the entire burden of keeping food inflation under control was passed on to farmers. Farm output prices globally remained frozen. According to an UNCTAD study, between 1990 and 2010, a period of 20 years, farm gate prices had remained static.
The dismal trend has since continued. While farmers were denied their rightful income, huge salary jumps were provided to other sections of the society. From a monthly salary of Rs 90 per month in 1970, the salary of school teachers for instance jumped by 280 to 320 times by the year 2015, a period of 45 years. In the same period, salary of government employees went up by 120 to 150 times; and that of college professors by 150 to 170 times. Wheat price for farmers on the other hand increased by a paltry 19 times in the same period. Agriculture turned uneconomical, and repeated demands for providing a level playing field fell on deaf years.
It was in 1996 that the World Bank directed India to move 400 million people out of agriculture in the next 20 years, by 2015. Since every World Bank loan comes with roughly 140 to 150 condionalities, each loan re-emphasised the urgency to move farmers out of agriculture. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had time and again expressed the need to shift 70 per cent farmers. Raghuram Rajan, former Reserve Bank of India governor had said that the biggest reforms would be when India moves farmers out of agriculture. Then only will cheap labour be available for infrastructure development.
For nearly three decades, more so after the economic reforms were ushered in, agriculture has been a victim of deliberate neglect and apathy. Successive governments had deliberately created conditions turning farming non-viable thereby forcing an increasing number of farmers to abandon agriculture and migrate to cities. Meanwhile, food imports have soared. According to Down to Earth magazine, food import bill for 2015-16 stood at Rs 1,402,680,000,000. This was more than the annual budget for agriculture.
The shift to imports comes at a time when the emphasis is to drive farmers out of agriculture. As I said earlier, to keep food inflation under control, farmers have been routinely paid less, not even to cover the cost of production, thereby driving them against the wall. Signing MoU with African and BRICK countries for importing pulses, oilseeds and wheat in future is simply an effort to shift from food self-reliance to meeting the domestic food requirement through imports. What is not being realised is that importing food is like importing unemployment. Food imports first hit the small farmers, who are the first to abandon farming and migrate to cities.
But I doubt if such details mean anything to mainline economists and policy makers. Their focus is on creating economic conditions that force farmers to move out of agriculture. This is exactly what the mainline economic thinking prescribes, and Indian policy makers are blindly following a strategy that has failed the world over. After all, with country after country facing jobless growth, and India being no exception, what is not being realised is that only agriculture can bail out the economy.
Nevertheless, with the markets crashing after every harvest, and with the government reluctant to save farmers by ensuring that they get at least the Minimum Support Price (MSP) that has been announced, farmers are pushed deeper and deeper into chakravuyah -- a never ending cycle of debt. Even the MSP being given is often less than the cost of production. In Maharashtra, for instance, the production cost of tur dalhas been worked out at Rs 6,240 per quintal. The MSP announced was Rs 5,050 per quintal, and in reality what the farmers were able to sell tur, and that too after waiting for a week or so in the mandis, was between Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,200 per quintal.
Take another case. A farmer in Haryana toils hard for three months, putting all his labour to reap a bountiful harvest of potato, only to find the prices crashing thereby forcing him to sell 40 quintals of potato for just 9 paise a kg. These are not isolated cases. It is because of distress prices becoming a norm rather than an exception that the country faced an angry protest by farmers in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh recently. The shock a farmer gets when prices crash often turns fatal. But the fact remains the government has rarely come to his rescue. And in my understanding, the recent protests were only a trailer; the full movie will follow.
Poor farmer has been left to live in indebtedness, which keeps on multiplying with every passing year. The economic crisis farmers are facing is compounded by the denial of a rightful income to farmers for his produce. To keep food inflation under control it is the farmers who have paid the price. In reality, it is the farmers who have been subsidising the nation all these years. Successive governments have therefore deliberately kept agriculture impoverished. An estimated 58 per cent of the farmers go to bed hungry every night.
With each passing year, the economic crisis on the farm has worsened. The Economic Survey 2016 tells us that the average income of a farming family in 17 states of India, which means roughly half the country, is a mere Rs 20,000 a year or less than Rs 1,700 a month. Such a dismal income, merely enough for subsistence, was the outcome of economic policies over the years. I shudder to think how these farming families must be surviving all these years. After all, it is not even possible to rear a cow in less than Rs 1,700 per month. Will these farmers ever be able to witness a new dawn; a new dawn that bring back the pride in farming? Woh subah kabhi to aayegi?
I have my doubts. Despite the farmer protests, the policy push is to drastically cut down the number of people on the farm and move agriculture into the hands of corporate. The National Skill Development Council report makes it abundantly clear. It has already laid out a target of bringing down the population engaged in agriculture from the existing 57 per cent to 38 per cent in the next five years, by 2022. While the job market is drying over the years, with only 1.6-crore jobs created in past 13 years, against 16.25-crore jobs expected to be created in the same period, pushing small and marginal farmers out of agriculture will only worsen the employment prospects. After all, if a daily wage worker or a dehari mazdoor is what the government has in mind when it talks of job creation then it is high time to revisit the economic policies. 
Agriculture is being killed deliberately to keep economic reforms going. To achieve economic growth, mainline economists tell us that it is absolutely essential to move bulk of the population from agriculture to the cities. Food can be produced by promoting corporate farming or can be imported. This is exactly the roadmap that has been laid by the World Bank and the financial institutions. Credit rating agencies provide a higher ranking for achieving the target. The economic design is well laid out. #


आजादी के 70 साल से भारत के किसानों का कभी न खत्म होने वाला इंतजार Gaon Connection. Aug 9, 2017 https://www.gaonconnection.com/samvad/70-years-of-independence-endless-waiting-of-indian-farmersस्वतंत्रता दिवस विशेष : अपने हक की‍ आय भी नहीं मिलती किसानों को, पार्ट-2. Gaon Connection. Aug 9, 2017. https://www.gaonconnection.com/samvad/farmers-did-not-get-their-income-even-70-years-of-independence-column-by-devinder-sharma
వేకువ వచ్చేనా.. Sakshi, Hyderabad. Aug 10, 2017http://epaper.sakshi.com/c/21235166
Pawning Nation's Spine. Orissa Post. Aug 9, 2017http://www.orissapost.com/epaper/090817/p8.htm 
Categories: Ecological News

Need to look beyond farm loan waivers.

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 12:45
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has time and again reiterated that his government will waive small farmer’s loan up to Rs 2 lakh. This will cost the state exchequer close to Rs 9,500-crores benefitting 10.25 lakh farmers. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that Rs 34,000-crore farm loan waiver will benefit 89 lakh small farmers.  And yet there is a spurt in farmer suicides.
Punjab has recorded 21 suicides in the past 20 days. The Chief Minister himself says that he doesn’t understand why the suicides have risen ever since he announced a loan waiver. In Maharashtra, 42 farmer suicides have been recorded in the past two weeks. In Marathwada region alone, 19 farmers have ended their lives in 7 days, between June 19 and June 25. In Madhya Pradesh, 38 farmers have committed suicide since the day 5 agitating farmers were shot dead in police firing.Ideally, the number of farmer suicides should have come down after a loan waiver is announced. After all, if not all the farmers, the loan waivers do benefit a section of the small and marginal farmers. That the number of suicides pick up after a loan waiver is announced shows there is something terribly wrong in our understanding of the farm crisis. Either the loan waiver isn’t the right way to address the prevailing farm crisis or the way loan waivers are designed and implemented, even small farmers don’t see much benefit.
With no hope of an economic price, farmer’s problem is how he will repay back the loan that he is going to take for the next crop that he plans to cultivate. After all, even if a fraction of farmers’ outstanding loan is waived, he still has to take credit to sow the next crop. While I agree that farmers have been deprived of their rightful price all these years, and therefore the loan waiver should be seen as an opportunity to payback the gratitude, I think the time has also come to look beyond loan waivers. Economists and policy makers need to be a little more imaginative and suggest measures that can provide real income in the hands of farmers in the long run.
Take the case of Punjab, the food bowl. With 98 per cent assured irrigation and productivity of cereal crops (wheat, paddy and maize) being the highest in the world, I see no reason why these progressive farmers should be committing suicide. Punjab has now become a major hot spot of farmer suicides. This is primarily because farmers have been deprived of their rightful income, which essentially comes from Minimum Support Price (MSP). I have always wondered why Punjab, which has a wide network of APMC regulated mandis and village link roads, cannot provide farmers with 50 per cent profit over the cost of production (C2 cost) as recommended by the Swaminathan Commission. But then this is only a practical solution for Punjab and Haryana, which have a fairly well-developed network of crop procurement. For the rest of the country, I have always been suggesting setting up a Farmers Income Commission. 
If Punjab, for instance, were to announce that it is willing to provide farmers with what the Swaminathan Commission recommends, it will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 8,237-crores. My calculation shows that in case of wheat, the C2 cost comes to Rs 1,203 per quintal and adding 50 per cent profit, the total comes to Rs 1,805 per quintal. Since the MSP being paid by the centre is Rs 1,625 per quintal, the remaining Rs 180 per quintal is what the State government needs to pay. In other words, given that 106.5 lakh tonnes of wheat was procured in 2016-17 marketing season, the total burden on Punjab government will be Rs 1917-crore. 
In case of paddy, the C2 cost plus 50 per cent profit, is a little higher. The C2 cost of Paddy is Rs 1,484 per quintal and adding 50 per cent profit takes the price to Rs 2,226 a quintal. Since the MSP is Rs 1,550 per quintal, it leaves a margin of Rs 676 per quintal. Considering the paddy procurement of 93.6 lakh tonnes in 2016, the total burden to implement Swaminathan Commission recommendation comes to Rs 6,320-crore. For both the crops, the annual burden that will accrue to the Punjab government would be Rs 8,237-crore. 
If you think Rs 8,237-crore is too big an amount, and would be a waste of scarce resources that the Punjab government has, think again. Punjab farmers have been deprived of their rightful price all these years. According to Dr R S Ghuman committee report, which was instituted by the previous Badal government, Punjab farmers had lost Rs 62,000-crore between 1970 and 2007 on account of being paid a low MSP which did not even compare favourably with the wholesale price. The economic deprivation of agriculture therefore is not a recent phenomenon, it has been going on ever since the formative days of Green Revolution. Isn’t it therefore the time to pay back? How long can we go on treating farmers as second class citizens? Whenever there is a talk of raising the MSP for farmers, I see an uproar saying that it is not wanted, the prices should be kept low because otherwise the retail food prices will go up. In other words, farmers have been kept impoverished to provide cheaper food for the consumers.
Much of the drug problem in Punjab is also related to the demise of agriculture. With agriculture becoming uneconomical over the years, and with little possibility of employment in cities, rural youth had taken to drugs. Turning farming profitable is perhaps the only way left now for the policy makers to create sustainable livelihoods. We are talking of 18-lakh farming families, and if these families can see an economic worth is farming, Punjab can restore the pride in agriculture. It is high time Punjab takes the Udta Punjabimage in its stride and makes a course correction that can lay a model for the rest of the country. Punjab government’s job is not only to take care of its employees, ensure they get monthly income package plus a plethora of allowances. Its job is also take care of farmers and farm workers. #
Categories: Ecological News

Were the farmers' protest only for the sake of 6% farmers?

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 16:42
Pic: Civilsdaily
After all the angry farmer protests, including the death of five farmers from police firing in Madhya Pradesh, the demand from farm unions across the country has narrowed down to waiving outstanding farm loans and to raise the minimum support price (MSP) by 50 per cent as recommended by the Swaminathan Commission.
While it is heartening to see diverse groups of farmer unions coming together at this critical juncture, I sometimes wonder whether all the protests and agitations are actually aimed for only 6 per cent of the farming community. Why I am mentioning this miniscule farm percentage is because as per the Shanta Kumar committee only 6 per cent farmers get the benefit of MSP. If this is true, the demand for MSP plus 50 per cent profit as recommended by the Swaminathan Committee has no meaning for the remaining 94 per cent of the farmers.
I remember when the high-powered Shanta Kumar committee was examining how to restructure the Food Corporation of India (FCI) I was among the several experts/institutions invited to present our views. In my presentation, I told the committee that since 30 per cent of the wheat and rice produced is being procured every year, I presume the benefit of MSP goes to approximately 30 per cent farmers. Shanta Kumar was visibly surprised to hear this and said normally it is presumed that all farmers get the Minimum Support Price.
He asked me the basis of my calculations. I told him that in the absence of any real estimates, it was just a presumption that I was making. In fact, since the procurement operations in the country are performed on behalf of the FC, they should be able to tell us the exact number of farmers who avail MSP. Finally, as the per the Shanta Kumar committee calculations only 6 per cent farmers are able to sell at the minimum support price.
Even the MSP going to this small percentage of the farmers is not palatable to the mainline economists and academicians. For several years now, policy makers are keen to dismantle the procurement system built so assiduously over the years. The argument is that MSP has created a state monopoly as a result of which farmers are not able to realize better prices. In fact, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) which works out the procurement prices is in reality leading the campaign seeking removal of MSP and thereby allow markets to take care of farm output prices.
If markets were so efficient, I see no reason why farmers would demand MSP plus 50 per cent profit. In any case, undertaking procurement of a commodity at the MSP becomes the primary requirement for a better price realization. To understand, let’s make a comparison between Punjab and Bihar. Punjab has a very well laid out network of mandis and village link roads. As a result, farmers this year have been able to get a procurement price of Rs 1,625 per quintal for wheat. Bihar on the other hand does not have APMC regulated mandis since 2007. Bihar farmers too put in their hard labour to produce a bumper crop of wheat. But in the absence of APMC mandis they are unable to get the MSP. 
Most farmers therefore are forced to sell at a distress price. Even in Uttar Pradesh, where only 3 per cent farmers get MSP, bulk of the sale is at a distress price with prices fluctuating between Rs 1,200 to 1,500 per quintal.
The question that arises therefore is when farmers demand MSP plus 50 per cent profit, the benefit goes only to the 6 per cent who have access to APMC mandis. What about the remaining 94 per cent farmers? Should they continue to live in penury? Should they go on committing suicides?
The time has come when farmers, more particularly, the current crop of farmer leaders, need to think beyond MSP. More so at a time when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is opposed to any move to further raise the MSP in India saying it violates the provisions wherein no developing country can raise MSP beyond the permissible limits, farmer leaders need to understand that the policy space for enhancing price support for crops is now restricted. Moreover, since the governments are using farmers as the primary tool to contain inflation, there is hardly any possibility of enhancing MSP as per the Swaminathan Committee report. This government has already told the Supreme Court that it cannot provide 50 per cent profit to farmers as it will distort market prices.In other words, farmers are being penalized to grow food.
To understand, let’s look at the latest procurement prices announced for Kharif crops. In the midst of farmers protest across the country, procurement prices have been announced. Unfazed by the growing demand to add 50 per cent profit to MSP, the Kharif prices barely cover the cost of production. For paddy, the new price is Rs 1,550 per quintal, an increase of Rs 80 per quintal. This is an increase by 5.4 per cent over the previous year’s price. Similarly, for cotton, maize and sunflower seed, the percentage increase in prices is not more than 4.4 per cent. For kharif pulses like tur, urad and moong, the price increase is by 6.7 to 7.9 per cent. 
According to an analysis by Mint newspaper, the percentage increase over the cost of production is only marginal. Now the problem is that the government will procure pulses for its buffer stock at the MSP and leave the rest of the farmers to face the vagaries of the markets. Like last year, when the open market prices had slumped drastically, I fear the same distress situation developing this year too.
In such situation, where the MSP itself has been deliberately kept low all these years to contain inflation, and considering that 94 per cent farmers do not get MSP, the time has come when the farming community needs to move from an era of ‘price policy’ to ‘income policy’. Loan waiver too must be followed by policies that ensure the loans don’t pile up again. A tinkering here and there is not going to address the agrarian crisis. It needs a holistic approach, a paradigm shift in economic thinking. To begin with, the effort should be to make farming economically viable.
1) The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, which works out the MSP for crops, should be directed to factor in 4 allowances in the MSP being paid to farmers – House allowance, Medical allowance, Educational allowance and Travel allowance. So far, the MSP only covers the cost of production. Compare with the government employees, thet get a total of 108 allowances.
2) Since MSP benefits only 6 per cent farmers, it needs to be understood that the demand for providing 50 per cent profit over MSP will benefit only these 6 per cent farmers. For the remaining 94 per cent farmers, who are dependent on the exploitative markets, the need is to setup a National Farmers Income Commission, with the mandate to provide a minimum assured monthly income package of Rs 18,000 to a farmer’s family.
3) Public sector investments must come in urgently for constructing APMC mandis, and also for storage godowns. At present, there are only 7,700 APMC mandis. What India needs is to set up 42,000 mandis for every 5 kms radius. And like in Brazil, where it is mandatory for a market yard to procure anything a farmer brings, APMC mandis should be quipped to do the same. #  
Categories: Ecological News

"We have socialism for corporates, and capitalism for farmers": My interview

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 14:48
Farmer widows in a protest in Punjab. Pic- India Today 
Devinder Sharma warns of agrarian explosion THE CITIZEN BUREAUWednesday, June 14,2017MOHALI: “We have socialism for corporates, and capitalism for the farmers,” summed up agrarian expert Devinder Sharma, worried and distressed about the crisis. As he said, the current spate of protests are just a “trailer, the bigger picture has yet to come as the crisis is very serious, very deeprooted and somehow we just do not want to accept this.”

Sharma who has been writing on the agrarian situation and like all experts including Dr MS Swaminathan knows the distress to be a sign of economic distress in the agricultural sector was not particularly confident of the governments recent efforts to “handle” the situation. In an interview with The Citizen from Mohali, Sharma said the measures being suggested at best temporary, and certainly not a solution for the crisis that has taken hold of the rural areas. He has been warning of this for a while now but successive governments have turned a deaf ear.

Sharma said that the crisis was linked basically to economic deprivation. And for at least 25 years if not more successive governments had decided to keep agriculture “deliberately impoverished.” He said that just the other day he want to the vegetable market and bought 3 kilos of cauliflower for just Rs 10. He said he asked the vegetable seller what then the farmer would be getting out of this absurdly low amount and was astounded to be told that the seller himself was the fourth middleman through whom the produce had passed!

To further illustrate the point that agriculture was deliberate being kept impoverished, Sharma pointed out that Punjab had 98% assurance of irrigation, the highest in the world. The United States had 11.4% irrigation assurance. And yet 3-5 farmers were committing suicide a day in Punjab despite good monsoons and bumper crops as the price of produce was so low that the farmers could not meet the cost of farming.

Criticising the media of which he was himself once a part. Sharma said that the press also joined the governments and the corporates in blocking any possible increase in the price of produce for the farmers, apart from other measures. He said even now when the loan waiver was being discussed by television channels the words used by the anchors were “humongous”. “Look at the disparity,” Sharma said, “when it comes to loan write offs for sectors like Telecom it is part of economic growth and more productivity, but when it comes to waivers for the farmers it is fiscal slippage.”

Sharma said that the protests would escalate now as “for how long can a poor man be pushed against the wall without speaking out.” Asked about voices of protest emerging now from Uttar Pradesh where Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had been the first to announce waiving off loans Sharma explained, “ there are 2.14 crore farmers in UP, of these loans of just about 93 lakhs are being written off. What about the rest? Obviously this is not going to be acceptable?”

Citing recent examples Sharma spoke of the farmer who tied his five year old son to his back and jumped into the canal. Both drowned. In his suicide note the farmer said that he was deep into Rs 10 lakh debt, and he knew his son would spend an entire life trying to repay it, so to prevent this he was taking his son with him.

In another incident a schoolgirl killed herself and in her note said her farmer parents were already deep in debt, impoverished, and yet trying to collect money to get her married. Where will they get it from, it is better I remove myself, she said.

Sharma, however, pointed out that loan waivers in itself was not a solution. It could be a one time concession by the government to give the farmers a fighting chance through the development of an agrarian model where they would get better rates for their produce, and where agriculture through a slew of reforms and measures would be converted into a productive profession. He said it was strange that governments, moving on World Bank proposals, were bent on making agriculture non-remunerative, drive the rural population into the cities, and provide jobs as the solution. “They want to bring 60 crores of farmers into the cities and make them daily wage labourers, is that any solution” he asked.

Sharma said that despite announcing various measures the Modi government had been able to create just 6.5 lakh jobs in the three years, when the basic requirement was for the creation of 1.25 crores jobs per year. “This is not even a drop in the situation and they are set on targeting the agrarian economy, and messing around with 60 crores in the villages instead of making agriculture self sufficient,” he pointed out.

Sharma spoke of the low remunerative prices fixed for food. As he said the wages of Professors had increased 200 times over between 1970-2015, of school teachers almost 300 times, but of farmers the increase was just about 19 times. As he pointed out, if the wages of bureaucrats had remained static over these years, as well as of others, they too would have been committing suicide.

The Niti Aayog keeps referring to two desirables, increasing productivity and the lower cost of production. The media repeats this ad nauseum. But this does not resolve the issue for the farmers, for whom increased productivity has spelt a death knell, as it has lowered food prices and made agriculture non-viable. The need is to strengthen agriculture, to bring in reforms, and to make farming a viable venture.

Where do they want the farmers to go, to Timbuctoo, Sharma asked. He said that it was clear that the government was just trying to “handle” the current crisis with some announcements, and was not looking at long term measures to deal with the crisis. He said that even if the stir subsided now, this would only be temporary as the situation will explode.

Source: "We have socialism for corporates, capitalism for farmers" The Citizen. June 17, 2017
http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/1/11001/We-Have-Socialism-for-Corporates-Capitalism-for-Farmers-Devinder-Sharma-Warns-Of-Agrarian-Explosion
Categories: Ecological News

The entire burden of keeping food prices low is borne by farmers.

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 16:13




A Chandigarh artist portrays the agrarian crisis. 
Farmers anger is spilling over. The violent farmers’ agitation that erupted in the Malwa belt of Madhya Pradesh, resulting in the death of six farmers from police firing, has now spread to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. The demand for farm loan waiver accompanied by higher crop prices, is now gaining momentum.

More than 3.18 lakh farmers have committed suicide in past 21 years. Every 41 minutes a farmer commits suicide somewhere in the country. While I agree that farmer suicides is a symptom of bigger malaise that afflicts agriculture, policy makers failed to take the massive death toll as a sign of terrible economic depravity that plagued the rural landscape. How long could we expect farmers to take the hit silently. It had to happen one day, and no one knew what will trigger it. Farmers outburst we see now is simply a trailer.

For nearly three decades, more so after the economic reforms were ushered in, agriculture has been a victim of neglect and apathy. Following the World Bank prescription of moving 400 million people from the rural to the urban areas by the year 2015, successive governments had deliberately created conditions turning farming non-viable thereby forcing an increasing number of farmers to abandon agriculture and migrate to cities. To keep food inflation under control, farmers have been routinely paid less, not even to cover the cost of production, thereby driving them against the wall.

With each passing year, the economic crisis on the farm worsened. The Economic Survey 2016 tells us that the average income of a farming family in 17 states of India, which means roughly half the country, is a mere Rs 20,000 a year or less than Rs 1,700 a month. Such a dismal income, merely enough for subsistence, was the outcome of economic policies over the years. I shudder to think how these farming families must be surviving all these years. After all, it is not even possible to rear a cow in less than Rs 1,700 per month.

But I doubt if such details mean anything to mainline economists and policy makers. With the markets crashing after every harvest, and with the government reluctant to save farmers by ensuring that they get at least the Minimum Support Price (MSP) that has been announced, farmers are pushed deeper and deeper into a never ending cycle of debt. Even the MSP being given is often less than the cost of production. In Maharashtra, for instance, the production cost of tur dal has been worked out at Rs 6,240 per quintal. The MSP announced was Rs 5,050 per quintal, and in reality what the farmers were able to sell tur, and that too after waiting for a week or so in the mandis, was between Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,200 per quintal.

Take another case. A farmer in Haryana toils hard for three months, putting all his labour to reap a bountiful harvest of potato, only to find the prices crashing thereby forcing him to sell 40 quintals of potato for just 9 paise a kg. The shock a farmer gets when prices crash often turns fatal. But the fact remains the government has rarely come to his rescue. Compare this with the fall in stock markets, and the Finance Minister promises to monitor the crisis on an hourly basis, holding a press conference to assuage the investors. Have we ever seen the Finance Minister or the Agriculture Minister monitoring the deplorable condition when farm prices crash?  

Poor farmer has been left to live in indebtedness, which keeps on multiplying with every passing year. The economic crisis farmers are facing is compounded by the denial of a rightful income to farmers for his produce. To keep food inflation under control it is the farmers who have paid the price. In reality, it is the farmers who have been subsidisng the nation all these years. Successive governments have therefore deliberately kept agriculture impoverished. An estimated 58 per cent of the farmers go to bed hungry every night.

After Yogi Adityanath announced a farm loan waiver of Rs 36,359-crore, which will benefit 92 lakh small and marginal farmers when implemented, Maharashtra has announced a loan waiver of Rs 30,500-crore. Punjab is expected to take over at least Rs 30,000-crore of the farm bad loans. Although I am not in favour of loan waivers but in a deplorable situation that agriculture has been pushed into, farm loan waiver is a short-term relief. It is an emergency measure to bail out millions of small and marginal farmers in distress. IndiaSpend estimates a total of Rs 3.1 lakh crore of farm loan that needs to be waived. This is still far less than Rs 4-lakh crore bailout package that the telecom industry alone is seeking. Another Rs 1.7 lakh crore of bad debt is what the steel industry hopes will be written-off.

Loan waiver must be followed by policies that ensure the loans don’t pile up again. A tinkering here and there is not going to address the agrarian crisis. It needs a holistic approach, a paradigm shift in economic thinking. To begin with, the effort should be to make farming economically viable.

1) The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, which works out the MSP for crops, should be directed to factor in 4 allowances in the MSP being paid to farmers – House allowance, Medical allowance, Educational allowance and Travel allowance. So far, the MSP only covers the cost of production. Compare with the government employees, thet get a total of 108 allowances.

2) Since MSP benefits only 6 per cent farmers, it needs to be understood that the demand for providing 50 per cent profit over MSP will benefit only these 6 per cent farmers. For the remaining 94 per cent farmers, who are dependent on the exploitative markets, the need is to setup a National Farmers Income Commission, with the mandate to provide a minimum assured monthly income package of Rs 18,000 to a farmer’s family.

3) Public sector investments must come in urgently for constructing APMC mandis, and also for storage godowns. At present, there are only 7,700 APMC mandis. What India needs is to set up 42,000 mandis for every 5 kms radius. And like in Brazil, where it is mandatory for a market yard to procure anything a farmer brings, APMC mandis should be quipped to do the same. #  

Source: Farm protest rages across India. Deccan Herald. June 18, 2017
http://www.deccanherald.com/content/617965/farm-protest-rages-across-india.html

Categories: Ecological News

कृषि संकट : आर्थिक कुप्रबंधन की देन है. My interview (in Hindi)

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:14


देश में खेती की निर्भरता का सच क्या है? जीडीपी में योगदान का वास्तविक आंकड़ा कितना है?सच ये है कि हर प्रधानमंत्री देश को कृषि प्रधान बताता है। मगर बजट पेश करने वाला हर वित्त मंत्री बजट में एग्रीकल्चर बाटम पर व उद्योग टाप पर रखता है। लोगों को विश्वास दिलाने को कहता है कि देश कृषि प्रधान है। हम खेती को ऐसा मंच नहीं बना पाये कि खेती देश के लिये लाभकारी साबित हो सके। वास्तव में कुल 52 फीसदी लोग कृषि पर प्रत्यक्ष व अप्रत्यक्ष तौर पर निर्भर हैं। यानी  कुल 60 करोड़ लोग खेती पर निर्भर हैं। पिछली जनगणना में यह तथ्य सामने आया कि खेती पर निर्भर जनसंख्या कम होती जा रही है। अब  भूमिहीन काश्तकार का आंकड़ा बड़ा है। हम मानकर चलें कि करीब 35 करोड़ किसान भूमिहीन हैं और करीब कुल 25 करोड़ किसान खेत वाले हैं।
सकल घरेलू उत्पाद में खेती का योगदान लगातार घटा है?
जहां तक जीडीपी  का सवाल है तो यह कुल योगदान का 14 प्रतिशत है। यह धारणा फैलायी जा रही है कि खेती का सकल घरेलू उत्पाद में योगदान कम हो रहा है। जब हम किसानों को दाम का हक नही देंगे तो स्वाभाविक रूप खेती का जीडीपी में शेयर कम होगा। सीधी सी बात है कि यदि इनकम कम होगी तो उसकी हिस्सेदारी भी कम होगी। ये इरादतन कम किया गया है।
आरोप लगते रहे हैं कि सरकार कॉरपोरेट को श्रमिक उपलब्ध कराने के लिये किसानों को खेती से बेदखल कर रही है?देविंदर शर्मापहले  सरकार की नीतियों को समझना जरूरी है। वास्तव में ये नीतियां क्या हैं। वर्ष  1996 में मुझे एमएस स्वामीनाथन फाउंडेशन के चेन्नई सम्मेलन में भाग लेने का मौका मिला। वहां विश्व बैंक के एक वाइस प्रेजीडेंट ने एक आंकड़ा प्रस्तुत किया। विश्व बैंक के अधिकारी ने कहा था कि 2015 तक भारत में गांव से शहर जाने वाले किसानों की संख्या इंग्ालैड, फ्रांस व जर्मनी की जनसंख्या से दोगुनी होगी। उस समय तीनों देशों की जनसंख्या बीस करोड़ थी यानी कि 40 करोड़ शिफ्ट होंगे। तब मैंने सोचा कि विश्व बैंक हमें सचेत कर रहा है। मगर जब मैंने 2008 में विश्व बैंक की रिपोर्ट देखी तो उसने सरकार को उलाहना दिया कि अब तक ये किसान कृषि से निकाले क्यों नहीं जा सके। डेवलेपमेंट रिपोर्ट में कहा गया कि जमीन अयोग्य लोगों के हाथों में है, जमीनों का अधिग्रहण तेज किया जाये। जो लोग खेती के अलावा कुछ नहीं जानते, उन्हें कृषि से हटाया जाये। जो युवा लोग खेती से जुड़े हैं, उन्हें ट्रेंिनग इंस्टीट्यूटों में, उद्योगों में काम करने का प्रशिक्षण दिलाया जाये। इसके ठीक एक साल बाद मैंने पाया कि 2009 में तत्कालीन वित्तमंत्री पी. चिंदबरम ने तत्काल 1000 आईटीआई खोलने की मंजूरी दे दी। यह सब सोची-समझी रणनीति के तरह लोगों को खेती से हटाने का उपक्रम है। ऐसे तौर-तरीकों से विकास नहीं होता। हम ये बात अब भी नहीं समझते कि यूरोप व अमेरिका में हुए बदलावों और भारत की स्थितियों में फर्क है। इससे आने वाले वर्षों में सोशो-इकोनॉमी चुनौती से देश में भयावह परिदृश्य उत्पन्न होगा।
क्या असली मुद्दा किसान की लागत न निकल पाना है?
दरअसल, किसान की लागत और मुनाफे की तो बात ही नहीं होती। जब हमारी व्यवस्था का मकसद ही खेतिहर लोगों को खदेड़ना है तो फिर क्या कहा जाये। दरअसल, हमने आधा अधूरा अमेरिकी माडल अपनाया है। पब्लिक सेक्टर में निवेश किया ही नहीं। कोशिश की कृषि उत्पादों की कीमत कम रखिये, जिससे मजबूर होकर किसान खेती छोड़कर मजदूर बन जाये। सही मायनो में हमने वाजिब दाम दिये ही नहीं। हमने कभी किसान की लागत को वर्क आउट किया ही नहीं। आंकड़ों पर नजर डालें तो जो गेहूं 1970 में 76 रुपये कंुतल था वह 2015 में 1450 रुपये कुंतल था  यानी 45 साल में उसमें सिर्फ 19 गुना ही वृद्धि हुई। इस अवधि में यदि हम सरकारी कर्मचारियों के वेतन में वृद्धि देखें तो बेसिक पे व डीए में करीब 120 से 150 गुना, कालेज टीचर के वेतन में 120 से 150 गुना और प्राइमरी टीचर के वेतन में 280  से 300 गुना तक वृद्धि हुई है। कर्मचारियों के कुल 108 तरह के भत्ते शामिल हैं, जबकि किसान को एक भी भत्ता नहीं मिलता। यानी किसान के खिलाफ मैच फिक्स है। वह खाद्यान्न की नहीं बल्कि दुखों की खेती करता है।
क्या किसान आंदोलन  नोटबंदी के परिणामों और विपक्ष की राजनीतिक हताशा की शह से उपजा है?
मैं  आंदोलन को इस तरह से नहीं देखता। किसानों के दिल में भयंकर  गुब्बार  है। ये  गुस्सा  तो फूटना  ही था। मौजूदा आंदोलन का अभी जो आप समापन  देख रहे हैं, उसे किसी तरह हैंडल कर लिया गया। यदि हालात इसी तरह चलते रहे तो यह गुस्सा भयंकर ढंग से फूटेगा। खेती की अनदेखी की जा रही है, जानबूझकर किसान को खेती से बेदखल किया जा रहा है। ये तो अभी  ट्रेलर है, असली फिल्म अभी बाकी है।
किसानों की समस्या की असली जड़ कहा है?
मूलत: कृषि समस्या आर्थिक कुप्रबंधन की समस्या है। इसके मूल में आर्थिक असुरक्षा है। साल-दर-साल किसान पिस रहा है। सरकार की कोशिश होती है कि किसी तरह से मुद्रास्फीति को नियंत्रण में किया जाये। ठीक है लोगों को सस्ता अनाज मिल रहा है, मध्य वर्ग खुश हो जाता है। मगर सवाल यह है कि जो अन्नदाता उपज पैदा कर रहे हैं, उसे आप क्या दे रहे हैं? उसे खेती से बेदखल किया जा रहा है। उससे हम पैसा ले तो रहे हैं मगर  दे नहीं रहे हैं।
ऐसा क्यों है कि किसान की आत्महत्या की खबरें संपन्न इलाकों पंजाब, महाराष्ट्र आदि से आ रही हैं? 
ऐसा नहीं है। इस समस्या के दो पहलू हैं। एक तो जो आत्महत्याएं हो रही हैं, उसकी सही तस्वीर सामने नहीं आ रही है। महत्वपूर्ण कारण यह है कि जहां किसान का फसल के साथ रिस्क जुड़ा है, वहां से आ रही हैं। जहां कैश क्रॉप के रूप में अंगूर, कपास आदि हैं, वहां से ज्यादा आत्महत्या की खबरें हैं। कुल 70 प्रतिशत कपास का क्षेत्र संवदेनशील है। दूसरे आत्महत्या के आंकड़ों की हकीकत सामने नहीं आ रही है। विदर्भ के इलाके में स्वयंसेवी संस्था से जुड़े किशोर तिवारी ने आत्महत्या का डाटा एकत्र कर देना शुरू किया। जब यह आंकड़ा निकलकर एनजीओ व मीडिया के पास आया तो  देश को  विदर्भ की हकीकत का पता चला। यदि ये सारे देश में होता तो वास्तविकता उभरकर सामने  आती। बुंदेलखंड से  भी आत्महत्याओं की खबरें आ रही हैं। अब लोग जागरूक हो रहे हैं। मैं चार साल पहले दिल्ली से चंडीगढ़ आया। प्रिंट मीडिया से मिली आत्महत्या की जानकारी को मैंने हर रोज ट्वीट करना शुरू किया। पंजाब हॉटस्पाट के बारे में लोगों को पता चला। दरअसल, सूचना बंटेगी तो पता चलेगा। उड़ीसा में भयंकर सुसाइड के मामले सामने  आ रहे हैं। देश में क्रेश क्रॉप की इनपुट कास्ट बढ़ी है।
आने वाले वक्त में खाद्य जरूरतें कितनी बड़ी चुनौती है?
ये बात कोई समझने की कोशिश नहीं कर रहा है। वर्ष 1965 में पहली बार खाद्यान्न का आयात किया गया। वर्ष 1967 में  सबसे ज्यादा 11 मिलियन टन अनाज आयात किया गया। तब इसे हम शिप टू माउथ कहते थे। यानी जहाजों से उतरा  और सीधे खाद्यान्न के रूप में इस्तेमाल हुआ। देश में हरित क्रांति आई, इम्पोर्ट बंद हुआ। मगर आज हम उन्हीं नीतियों पर जा रहे हैं। इतने बड़े देश को फीड करना आसान नहीं होगा। जब भारत मार्केट में उतरता है तो कीमतें बढ़ती हैं। वहीं जब हम बेचने जाते हैं तो कीमतें गिर जाती हैं। भारत विश्व बाजार में बड़ा देश है तो उथलपुथल होगी। इतने बड़े देश को आयात करके खिलाना संभव नहीं है। हमें यह नहीं भूलना चाहिए कि हमारी नेशनल सिक्योरिटी खाद्य सिक्योरिटी से जुड़ी है। हम जय जवान, मर किसान का नारा नहीं लगा सकते। वर्ष 2007-08 में जब खाद्यान्न संकट हुआ तो 37 देशों में खाद्यान्न को लेकर दंगे हुए। मगर भारत की स्वतंत्र व्यवस्था के चलते हम इससे  प्रभावित नहीं हुए। भारत में खाना न हो तो क्या हो।
क्या परंपरागत फसलों की पैदावार खत्म होने व पानी वाली फसलों के प्रचलन से समस्या बढ़ी है?
असली समस्या तो लागत की है। हरेक चीज रिलेटिव  है। हरित क्रांति से पहले भारतीय परंपरागत फसलों के हालात एेसे नहीं थे कि हम पूरे देश का पेट भर सकें। हरित क्रांति के बाद दो महत्वपूर्ण कदम उठाये गये। एक तो फसलों के न्यूनतम समर्थन मूल्य का निर्धारण, जिससे किसानों का व्यवस्था पर भरोसा बढ़ा। दूसरा एफसीआई का गठन । इतने बड़े देश में खाद्यान्न को हेंडल करना व  डिस्िट्रब्यूट करना आसान नहीं था। माना कि भ्रष्टाचार  बड़ी समस्या है मगर इसे डिस्मेंटल करना आत्मघाती कदम होगा। हम फिर शिप टू माउथ की स्थिति में पहंुच जायेंगे। हमें कास्ट आफ प्राडक्शन भी देखनी है। किसान को न्यायसंगत दाम तो मिलें। यदि किसान को मुद्रास्फीति के हिसाब से मौजूदा दर पर अनाज की कीमत मिले तो शहर गये लोग गांव आना शुरू कर देंगे। अनाज का बाजार मूल्य दें और बाकी लागत उसके जन धन खाते में स्थानांतरित कर दें।
देश में अथाह गरीबी  है। कीमतें बढ़ाने से बढ़ी महंगाई से सामाजिक असमानता नहीं बढ़ेगी?
बिल्कुल नहीं। दुनिया में असमानता हर देश में है।  कुल टॉप एक प्रतिशत लोगों को मोटा पैसा मिलता है। मिडिल क्लास को छोड़ दें तो देश में 60 करोड़ लोग खेती से जुड़े हैं। देश के आधे यानी 17 प्रदेशों में किसान की मासिक आय 1700  रुपये से कम प्रतिमाह है। इतने में तो हम गाय नहीं पाल सकते। आज जब मिनिमम लिविंग वेज की बात होती है तो किसान को भी तो यह मिलना चाहिए। हमारे देश में किसान उत्पाद भी है और उपभोक्ता भी है। यदि हम किसान को खर्च के बराबर पैसा देते हैं तो हमारी सात-आठ फीसदी  के आसपास रहने वाली जीडीपी 15 तक पहुंच सकती है। तभी तो सबका साथ, सबका विकास होगा।
न्यू्नतम समर्थन मूल्य किसान के हित में कितना कारगर है?
मैं सीआईआई व फिक्की की बैठक में शामिल था तो खाद्य मंत्री ने पूछा कि एमएसपी के दायरे में कितने किसान हैं? अंदाजे से मैंने तीस फीसदी बताया। अधिकारी जबाव न दे पाये। एफसीआई को पता नहीं था, अगली मीटिंग में खुलासा हुआ कि छह प्रतिशत। यानी कुल 94 फीसदी किसान को कोई सुरक्षा कवच नहीं ।  ऐसे में किसान आत्महत्या नहीं करेगा तो क्या करेगा? कैसे जीयेगा किसान?
Source: कृषि संकट: आर्थिक कुप्रबंधन की देन है Dainik Tribune. June 16, 2017. http://bit.ly/2t8ijHb
Categories: Ecological News

Why is it that corporate never protest on streets to seek loan waivers?

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 15:12

Farmers protested in Madhya Pradesh/Maharashtra by cutting off supplies of milk and vegetables to cities. 
Just think about it. Why is that to seek loan waiver, farmers have to take to streets, block the highways, hold protest marches, face tear gas and sometime face bullets? Why is that I have never seen the corporate bigwigs sitting at a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding loan waiver? 
After the agitation in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, which left sic farmers dead in police farming, Maharashtra has finally agreed to waive Rs 30,500-crore of bad loans of farmers. Earlier, Uttar Pradesh had announced striking out Rs 36, 359-crore of unpaid loans of small and marginal farmers. Farmers’ protests are now spreading to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Such is the deplorable condition of farmers that at a farmers protest in Moga in Punjab, one farmer committed suicide unable to wait to live with the promise of a loan waiver.
Already dharnas have begun with farmers demanding debt waiver. Farmer unions have also given a call for three-hour rail roko and rasta roko agitation throughout the northern regions on June 16, demanding farm loan waiver. But why is that farmers have to launch a series of protests to highlight the plight and suffering of the farming community to drive home the point that farmers desperately need loan waivers? Don’t the policy makers already know that farmers are dying all across the country? Agriculture is in an emergency situation.
In the past 21 years, more than 3.18 lakh farmers have committed suicide. Every 41 minutes, one farmer ends his life somewhere in the country. Majority of these deaths are because farmers are unable to pay back loans. They are in reality buried under piles of credit taken from multiple sources. The Union Minister of State for Agriculture in November 2016 had acknowledged in Parliament that farmers are reeling under outstanding debt of Rs 12.60 lakh crore every year, so writing-off of farm loans not only makes good politics but also good economics.
But before we see how the loan waiver policy discriminates farmers, I fail to understand why do farmers have to undergo all the trouble while the corporate quietly get the loan waiver? They don’t even have to step out of their cars what to talk of organizing a protest. The question that needs to be asked is why do industrialists get a preferential treatment whereas farmers have to take to streets and face bullets? After all, both farmers as well as the industrialists draw loans from the same bank, and I see no reason why the banks should be treating industry defaulters with kid gloves and put the farmers to undergo the trouble of protesting on the streets?
Soon after Yogi Adityanath announced the farm loan waiver in Uttar Pradesh, the State Bank of India chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya remarked that farm loan waiver leaders to disruption of credit discipline. A few weeks later, she wrote a letter to the Finance Minister pleading to provide a bail out to the telecom industry which is reeling under an ‘unsustainable’ stressed loan of Rs 4.85-lakh crore. What I fail to understand is that why did the SBI chairperson seek a bailout package on behalf of the defaulting telecom companies? Why couldn’t the top honchos of telecom companies be made to sit on a dharna in New Delhi like the way the farmers normally do to seek a write-off?
This is how the banking system discriminates the poor borrowers, and frowns when farmers use the same clean-up mechanism that has been reserved for corporate balance sheet.
The discrimination doesn’t end here. While the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has made it clear that the states will have to find resources to write-off farm loans, an inter-ministerial panel led by a senior official in the telecom ministry has been constituted to examine the possibility of bailout for debt-ridden telecom companies. Earlier, the Business Standard (Mar 23) had reported that the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) was likely to step in to resolve steel companies bad debt issue. Accordingly, the PMO, along with the Finance Ministry, was working on a fresh package for top steel companies and also for the top 40 accounts that were under stress. The total debt of these companies stands at Rs 1.5-lakh crore.
The bias against the farm sector does not end here. Ever since Maharashtra announced the farm loan waiver I find many TV channels are devoting time to misguide the people by claiming that the farm loan waiver will hit the national economy, raise inflation, raise home loan EMIs etc. Farmers are being deliberately painted as culprits whereas these points are never highlighted when corporate get the bail out. In fact, the corporate bailout is projected as essential for economic growth whereas farm loan waiver is blamed for fiscal slippage.
According to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report, roughly Rs 2.57 lakh crore of farmers’ loans, or 2 per cent of India’s GDP, is expected to be waived-off in the run-up to the 2019 general elections. But again, Merrill Lynch never told us how the humongous write-off of corporate loans affects the economy. I agree Rs 2.57 lakh crore of farm loan waiver in the next two years is a big bailout package for farmers but why doesn’t Merrill Lynch ever talk about the proposed Rs 4-lakh crore bailout to the telecom industry? By painting the farmers in bad light, Merrill Lynch is essentially trying to defend the huge corporate defaults that are routinely undertaken.
This is how the banks play the game. This is not only a moral hazard but is completely unethical. The rules of the banking system should not discriminate against the poor. #
Categories: Ecological News

Farmers don’t only cultivate a crop, they actually cultivates losses

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 09:56


Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to give farmers 50 per cent more profit over the cost of production if voted to power. They voted him to power with a thumping majority. But he doesn’t talk about his promise any more. In fact, the NDA government has in an affidavit before the Supreme Court clearly ruled out the possibility of raising the minimum support price (MSP).

Before he became the Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis while leading a farmers rally had demanded the price of soyabean to be raised from the then prevailing market price of Rs 3,800 to Rs 6,000 per quintal, and that of cotton from Rs 4,000 to Rs 7,000 per quintal. But ever since he became the CM he doesn’t talk any more about raising farm prices. In fact, Maharashtra failed to even provide this year the minimum support price of Rs 5,050 per quintal for tur dal at that too at a time when production increased manifold. Farmers had waited for weeks together in the mandis to finally sell the crop at a distress price of not more than Rs 3,500 per quintal.

When in opposition, all political leaders speak loudly in favour of farmers. They promise the moon, but the moment they come into power, farmers disappear from their list of economic priorities. For 70 years, irrespective of the party, the same pattern has prevailed. Meanwhile, over the years farmers continue to be driven to the wall. Economic Survey 2016 tells us that the average income of a farming family in 17 States of India, roughly half the country, is less than Rs 20,000 a year. You can’t even raise a cow in Rs 20,000 a year; and knowing this income level is even less than a subsistence allowance I shudder to think how these farming families must be surviving.

The decimation of agriculture is all too apparent. The design is obvious. Chairperson of the State Bank of India, Arundhati Bhattacharya, has made it abundantly clear how deviously the economic policies are designed to hit agriculture. She had expressed resentment at Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s decision to waive Rs 36,359-crore farm loan waiver saying that it leads to credit indiscipline, but on the other hand did not even bat an eyelid when she pleaded to bail out the telecom companies which had accumulated Rs 4-lakh crore of highly unsustainable debt. Doesn’t this smack of double standards?

To keep food inflation under check, farmers are being denied the rightful price. In fact, farmers are actually being penalized to grow food. Let me explain. Between 1970 and 2015, wheat procurement price had increased only by 19 times whereas the basic income of government employees in the same 45-year period was raised by 120 to 150 times; of college teachers/professors by 150 to 170 times; and of school teachers by 280 to 320 times. In addition, the employees get in all 108 allowances put together. Farmers don’t even get a single allowance. The match therefore is fixed against farmers. What the farmer doesn’t realize is that he doesn’t only cultivate a crop, he actually cultivates losses.
Despite the economists and agricultural scientists blaming low crop productivity for the agrarian crisis, farmers know where the show pinches. As debt continued to mount, the spate of farmer suicides grew. In the past 21 years, over 3.18 lakh farmers have committed suicide; one farmer ending his life every 41 minutes. The tragic serial death dance was considered to be a sign of weakness, but in reality was a farmer’s unique way of making a political statement. Every death on the farm infuriated the farmers, their families. The simmering discontent had turned into outright anger. But political leaders have always failed to ignore the warning. Not realizing that the day farmers wake up, Indian politics will change forever.

In just three days the blockade of vegetables and milk to the cities in Maharashtra brought the farmers anger to the national headlines. Breaking away from the traditional approaches of blocking highways and squatting on railtracks, the umbrella organization which led the campaign in Maharashtra –Kisan Kranti-- moved to instead stopping the flow of milk and vegetables to the cities. Disrupting the food lifeline to the cities is the right way to get attention, and this worked. In Madhya Pradesh, another group of young and educated farmers led by Aam Kisan Union, and supported by a little known faction of Bharti Kisan Union, too managed to evoke a strong response.

For the past 30 years now, I have watched with dismay how farm movements disintegrate after the launch of any big protest. Individual egos, ideologies, and political leanings have led to clashes among farmer leaders. Politics takes over. This was perhaps summed up best by what the former Chief Minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal, is known to have told a delegation of farm union which went to meet him. He asked the farmer leaders did they know why no political parties treat them as a vote bank, and answered by saying because farmers are a divided lot. They either vote as a jat or a sikh or a Maratha but never as a kisan. Whether farmers are 52 or 60 per cent of the population, the fact remains they have never voted as Kisan.

I am therefore happy to see the emergence of a young and educated farm leadership. This is happening across the country. They have to ensure they don’t fall in the same trap as the old guard. Farmers are looking desperately for a new leader on whom they can have faith.Back to issues, farm loan waiver is definitely justified. When SBI is willing to provide a bailout of Rs 4-lakh crore to Telecom companies, I see no reason why banks cannot be directed to write-of the same amount of outstanding loans to millions of farmers. In addition, the demand should include:

1)  State Governments should factor in 4 allowances in the MSP paid to farmers -- House Allowance, Medical Allowance, Educational Allowance and Travel Allowance. So far, the MSP only covers the cost of production.

2)  Since MSP benefits only 6 per cent farmers as per the Shanta Kumar Committee report, a State Farmers Income Commission should be set up with the mandate to provide a minimum assured monthly income package of Rs 18,000 to a farmer family.

3)  It should be mandatory for the State governments to buy all the 24 crops for which MSP is announced. At present, only two crops – wheat and rice – are officially procured.  A loan waiver should be accompanied by a series of steps that should ensure that loans again do not pile up. #

Farmers don’t only cultivate a crop, they actually cultivates losses. Newslaundry, June 8, 2017
https://www.newslaundry.com/2017/06/08/only-a-unified-kisan-identity-will-make-politicians-take-notice-of-the-agrarian-crisis

Categories: Ecological News

By all scientific norms, GM Mustard variety should have been confined to the dustbin.

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 17:02
The news has still not sunk in. The nation has still not been able to understand the serious ramifications of allowing commercial cultivation of GM (genetically modified) food crops. The regulatory approval granted to is actually aimed at opening the flood gates for GM foods. India is, in reality, is getting ready to be the world’s biggest dustbin for a risky, unwanted and harmful technology. 

As continues to stand firmly against GM crops, so much so that after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s firm opposition, the incumbent French President has now made it abundantly clear that he will not allow GM crops, all eyes were on India. Why India? Simply because even China, despite the communist regime, has remained wary of the risky technology. Where else could the GM industry turn to in these difficult times? 

There is no denying that science and technology will lead the world into the next century. But if in the name of technological innovation, a junk genetically mustard variety — DMH-11 — has to be given a nod for commercial cultivation, it only shows how unscientific the entire process of scientific regulations has turned out to be. I have never doubted the ability of The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to be a rubber stamp for the GM industry but the shoddy way the approval has been granted to breaks all scientific norms. It is a scientific fraud. If the has to fall over backwards to simply be in the affirmation of Niti Aayog’s recommendation to usher in GM technology to address the continuing agrarian crisis there is something terribly wrong with policy makers understanding of what has led to the prevailing farm crisis. 

Nevertheless, let’s look first at an absurd claim that has been hyped by most newspapers in the editorial columns. It is often said that repeat a lie a hundred times, and it becomes the truth. The claim that yields 30 per cent higher and therefore would be India’s best bet to reduce the Rs 76,000-crore edible oil import bill, simply falls in that category. It is a lie that has been spoken a hundred times, and since it is now generally accepted that will help cut down on imports, I find it is actually the that has been prompting it. The absurdity of the fake claim lies in the fine print. The devil is in the detail. DMH-11, the variety that has been approved, is not a high yielding variety. Its productivity is less than three other non-GM varieties that exist. DMH-11 is therefore actually a junk variety. By all scientific norms, it should have been confined to the dustbin. 

In a presentation made by a scientist of the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi South Campus (see the attached chart) it has been conclusively shown that there already exist four mustard varieties with higher productivity. Three of the varieties are in the same DMH series and in fact DMH-4, which is a traditional variety, provides 14.7 per cent higher yield than  Two more varieties, produced by Pioneer and Advanta, too give higher or almost equal yield than the variety for which the media has falsely gone to the town saying it gives 30 per cent high yield. I therefore don’t understand how does India plan to cut down on edible oil imports by cultivating a low-yielding variety? Are public policy decisions taken by just what is planted in the media? 

In 2016-17, India had a record mustard harvest. A bumper production and the prices crashed. Reports coming from the mustard growing areas show how farmers had to resort to distress sale. Prices on an average fell by Rs 400-600 per quintal for farmers. Cultivated in nearly 65 lakh hectares, mustard has never been faced with problems associated with low productivity. The biggest problems farmers face is the failure to realise a remunerative price, matching at least the minimum support price (MSP) that the government announces. Not even remotely making an effort to provide farmers with an assured price, the has been deliberately diverting attention from the dire need to provide a higher income to as if productivity is the main problem. Neither the government not the consumers will benefit from its questionable wisdom.

I remember it was in 1985, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi decided to reduce the current account deficit by cutting down on edible oil imports. At one stage he had asked me whether I thought raising domestic production was a better way than to go on with edible oil imports, which were the third largest import at that time. He launched an Oilseed Technology Mission, and by 1993-94 India became almost self-sufficient in edible oil imports. As much as 97 per cent of the edible oil requirement was met domestically and only 3 per cent was imported. 

The “Yellow Revolution” as it was called simply didn’t last long. Successive governments went on slashing the import duties. Against the bound rate of 300 per cent import tariffs that India could impose, the import duties were subsequently brought down to almost zero. Cheaper imports, and that too predominantly of palm oil, began to flood the domestic markets. From just 3 per cent imports, India now imports more than 60 per cent of its edible oil requirement. This forced oilseed farmers, mostly cultivating in the harsh drylands of the country, to shift to other unremunerative crops, and the domestic edible oil industry too brought down its shutters. So much so that some Indian companies had even moved to Sri Lanka, setting up processing plants and then exporting processed edible oil to India. 

If cutting down the edible oil import bill is the objective, what is required is to first provide the same enabling environment. Unless the import tariffs are raised to level that can turn imports uneconomical, any talk of reducing the import bill is meaningless. The knows this. It is aware that India will have to walk down the “Yellow Revolution” pathway if the intentions are to increase domestic production of edible oil. But cutting down on import bill is not the intention. The objective is to push in GM crops through the back door using a flawed argument of the need to raise production simply to justify the risks any GM technology brings along. 

The has also denied that the is actually a herbicide-tolerant crop in disguise. It was shocking to know that some members had even told a group of civil society representatives that they know DMH-11 will push in herbicides but since the chemicals are expensive they expect farmers will refrain from purchasing the herbicides. If this is a scientific explanation, please tell me what is unscientific.




India gearing up to be the biggest dustbin for risky, harmful technology. Business Standard, May 16, 2017. http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/gm-mustard-india-gearing-up-to-be-biggest-dustbin-for-risky-harmful-tech-117051600321_1.html
Categories: Ecological News

Whether mainline economists like it or not, the time has come for setting up a farmers income commission. There is no other way out.

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 10:23


“The Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) has forecast a normal monsoon for this year. If the monsoon is good, I am confident that foodgrain output will be a record again and boost growth rate to more than 4.4 per cent achieved in 2016-17,” stating this, the Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh shared with the media the government’s achievements in the farm sector in last three years.
A bountiful monsoon always brings cheers to the economy, and I am sure every Indian would pray for normal rains in the years ahead. This is perhaps the reason a former Agriculture Minister, the late Chauranan Mishra often used to say: “The real agriculture minister is Mr Monsoon. If the monsoon is good, agricultural production will be good and vice versa.” No wonder, food production has been at an all time high of 273.38 million tonnes this year.
After two years of back-to- back drought, in 2014-15 and 2015-16, agriculture production has looked up. The agricultural growth rate has gone up, which in turn is expected to drive up the country’s economic growth rate. But behind the statistical configurations that provide the much needed feel good factor, agriculture continues to be in the throes of a terrible distress. The dark rural underbelly has been gasping for breath for long, but has for reasons that remain largely unexplained agriculture continue to be a victim of apathy and neglect. There is hardly a day when reports of farmers committing suicides, a reflection of the grave tragedy prevailing on the farm, do not appear in newspapers in some or the other parts of the country.
In recent years, there has been a spurt in farmer suicides. Much worse, even Punjab, the food bowl of the country has now turned into a hot spot of farmer suicides.
This week, a news report highlights the pitiable condition of onion farmers in Madhya Pradesh. After a bumper crop of potato, which forced farmers to resort to distress sale, hundreds of farmers in Indore have been forced to burn the standing crop or feed it to animals. In Indore, onion was fetching a price ranging between 50 paise to Rs 3 a kg. Earlier, onion farmers in Maharashtra had to dump their crop on to the streets when they couldn’t realize a better price. Not only onion, irate farmers had been throwing tomato crop on the highways in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. During the peak season, model price for tomato in some of the Andhra mandis had prevailed at 30 paise a kg to Rs 2 per kg. The slump in market prices is often shrugged off as a seasonal phenomenon, I shudder to think of the economic blow it causes to the livelihood security of farmers who had toiled hard and yet when the time comes to reap the harvest, markets fail.
Take the case of pulses. After a stupendous rise in retail prices of pulses, the government adopted a twin approach to raise availability of pulses. On the one hand it signed a memorandum with Mozambique to cultivate and procure pulses, to be shipped to India and on the other provided an additional bonus over the minimum support price to encourage domestic production. But when pulses production, including that of tur, increased to 22 million tonnes, and the market prices crashed, it just procured enough to meet its buffer stocks requirement, and left majority farmers to face the cruelty of markets.
The food mismanagement continues. If you think 2017 was a particularly bad year for tomato farmers when over-production led to an unprecedented glut, you are mistaken. The story remained the same in 2016, 2015 and 2014. Even prior to that, farmers had suffered in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Just do a Google search and you will find the same pattern of bumper crops and dejected farmers. Search beyond tomato, and you will find the story of tomato is repeated in other crops – onions, potato, pulses, cauliflower, mustard, soyabean, cotton, chili, castor, and even in wheat and paddy in most parts of the country. And invariably, the state has failed to come to the rescue of beleaguered farming community 
Now compare this with the stock markets crash in August 2015. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had swung into action within a few hours of the crash, holding a press conference to assure the investors saying that the government was keeping a close tab. A war room was set up to monitor the developments. Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian was on his toes throughout the day. But when it comes to farmers, facing an unprecedented price crash, which results in destroying livelihoods of millions of small and marginal farmers, I haven’t ever seen even a fraction of the kind of alertness exhibited at the time of stock markets crash. The disparity therefore is clearly visible.
The disparities don’t end here. Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitaraman said the other day: “Roughly about 7,000 big, small, medium, and nano measures have been taken on ease of doing business. As a result of which, we feel that states have realized that ease of doing business is a major agenda and they also see the benefit on going on that route.” In addition, the Chief Economic Advisor has already gone on record saying that writing-off of bad loans of the corporate sector makes economic sense. “This is how capitalism works.”
But when it comes to agriculture, there are not more than a dozen public sector investment programmes that can be easily counted on finger tips – Doubling Farmers Income in next five years, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna (PMSKY), e- National Agricultural Market (e-NAM) Soil Health Cards, Neem Quoted Urea, More Crop Per Drop to name a few. Besides the flagship programmes, there are a number of other initiatives like direct benefit transfer of fertilizer subsidy, market intervention programmes etc. Put together, I bet if the government can list more than 50 big or small initiatives (including some of the re-casted programmes/projects) in agriculture.
Writing-off farm loans too continues to receive flak. While India Ratings estimates that roughly Rs 4-lakh crore of stressed corporate credit is expected to be struck down, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has made it abundantly clear that it is not in favour of disclosing the names of even the willful defaulters. (see my article: https://thewire.in/119889/banking-system-farmers-loans/) Just 6,857 companies have willfully defaulted on loans of Rs 94,649-crores. RBI has already announced that it is not in favour of Rs 36,359-crore of farm loan, expected to benefit 92 lakh farmers, that has been written-off in Uttar Pradesh, thereby sending a strong message to other states under pressure to write-off farm loans to apply restraint. The honest credit culture that RBI harps on is undermined only when farmers don’t repay back. The privilege of bad debt being struck down is only meant for the corporate. This is how capitalism works, we have been told.
While the debate around doubling farmers income in the next five years has itself doubled in the past few months, I don’t see any focused attempt being made to pull out farmers from the crisis they have been pushed deeper and deeper into with every passing year. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has presented three budgets. Except for repeating the promise of doubling farmers’ income, there is no clear map laid out. To say that enhancing the farm credit limit by Rs 1-lakh crore to reach a peak of Rs 10- lakh crore is aimed at providing credit support to a sector faced with continuing distress is a clever way of diverting attention from the failure to implement its own promise of providing 50 per cent profit over cost of production.
I have always maintained that let us move to measures that can prop up farmers income, give him a little respite from the economic crisis that he has been pushed into year after year. The urgent need for instance is to withdraw the Rs 1-lakh crore addition farm credit and instead start with 50 per cent more profit as way of farm price. This is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself promised before the general elections, and this is where the government has gone back, giving a written affidavit in Supreme Court saying it is not possible.
Leaving the majority farmers behind – nearly 83 per cent farmers own less than 2 hectares of land – the government policies are instead moving rapidly away from subsistence farming to promote corporate agriculture. The e-NAM initiative, which proposes to link 585 regulated wholesale markets, is in reality integral to commodity trading. A model law on contract farming has already been circulated to states, and adequate legal framework on land leasing and land acquisitions are already in offing. Seen in conjunction with a policy framework already laid out under the National Skill Development Council (NCDC), which aims to reduce the farming population from the existing 58 per cent to 38 per cent by the year 2022, the shift to corporate farming becomes obvious.
At a time when IndiaSpend tells us that on an average 2.13 lakh jobs have been created every year on an average in past three years, pushing farmers out of agriculture to join the growing army of jobless youth does not make any economic sense. Three years is quite a significant milestone for any government, to sit back, take stock and make appropriate policy corrections aimed at Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas. The first and foremost policy correction is to stop viewing record grain production as an indicator of all is well in farming. It is time to move away from policy obsession with agricultural growth rates and instead focus on farmer’s welfare, beginning with a substantial rise in farm incomes.
Economic Survey 2016 categorically states that the average income of a farm household in 17 states of India, or roughly half the country, stands at a paltry Rs 20,000 per year. This is less than the annual mobile bill of an average upward mobile citizen living in the cities. Unfortunately, Niti Aayog, as well as the Prime Minister’s Office, continues to prescribe the same faulty prescription that have led to the present crisis. Raising crop productivity, reducing the cost of production and allowing markets to discover farm prices is actually part of the same flawed decision making that has pushed agriculture into a deeper quagmire. It has invariably helped input providers, and that is how a dominant narrative is created.
Punjab has already reached the efficiency level that Niti Aayog wants the rest of the country to achieve. With 98 per cent assured irrigation (no country in the world is any way near) and with highest productivity among cereal crops in the world, I see no reason why Punjab farmers should be dying. Ignoring Punjab’s debacle and instead forcing other States to also follow the same path clearly shows that there is something terribly wrong in policy panning. It is not farmers who have failed; it is the economists and policy makers who have failed farmers.
During these depressing times, only agriculture has the potential to reboot the economy. Redrawing the economic road ahead can only happen if the government decides to discard the pathway shown by Credit Rating agencies. It is possible provided the government builds up the political courage to make agriculture the pivot of growth and sustainable development. Whether mainline economists like it or not, the time has come for setting up a farmers income commission, with the mandate to ensure that every farm household gets an assured monthly income package of Rs 18,000. The minimum income package should be linked to production and to the geographical location of the farm. That's true Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. 
Farm Output May Have Increased in Three Years But Farmer's Welfare has Not. The Wire, May 26, 2017. https://thewire.in/140464/modi-three-years-farmers-agriculture/
Categories: Ecological News

Why do tainted senior officers as well as willful bank defaulters need government's protection?

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 18:36
On April 5, 2017, Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari warned in a letter to the newly elected Chief Minister in the Himalayan State of Uttarakhand that a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged road scam "would have an adverse impact on the morale of the officers." and the ministry "would have to re-examine the usefulness for taking up more projects in the state".

In a news report, titled: Gadkari warns Uttarakhand Govt against CBI probe in road projects published in Indian Express, May 26, 2017 (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/nh-74-land-acquisition-nitin-gadkari-warns-uttarakhand-govt-against-cbi-probe-into-road-projects-4674098/). The previous government had detected irregularities worth Rs 240-crore in the acquisition iof farm land for the proposed National Highway (NH) -74 passing through Uddham Singh Nagar district. It had referred the case to CBI saying not all areas of probe were within its control. The news report quoted sources in Gadkari's office saying that the minister had to make the point "since the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) top brass had informed him that key officials had left the state after being summoned repeatedly by state police and project work was being affected." What a strange reasoning?

Whatever be the reasons, I think this goes against the very grain of Prime Minister's commitment of ensuring probity in public life, when he had said: Na khaaonga, Na khaane dunga.

If it is the 'morale of the officers' that has to be protected, it is the 'country's economy' that gets impacted if the names of willful defaulters who had swooned the banks of thousands of crores are to be made public. Don't forget what the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had pleaded before the Supreme Court:"the RBI had provided a list of defaulters to the court in a sealed cover and told the court not to disclose the names. During the argument, the RBI submitted that the information was obtained by it in a fiduciary capacity and any exposure will have an impact on the country's economy and reduce confidence within the business and investment sector" (DNA, Mumbai, April 13, 2016: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-any-problem-with-disclosing-loan-default-amounts-supreme-court-asks-rbi-2201529). The apex court was told that 57 rich borrowers had defaulted the banks to the tune of Rs 85,000-crore.

I was in fact aghast when I read what the then RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had to say: "The act of default happens in business. Sometimes it's not the business' fault; the demand is weak or prices are low, there is dumping going on, or government permissions don't come on time. to then put the promoters' name up without the details of why the default happened, will only lead to anxiety and a fall in business activity." (DNA, April 5, 2016). If this is true, I don't understand why the names, along with the pictures, of defaulting farmers are pasted in tehsil offices. If companies can default because of extraneous reasons, don't we know the farmers too default because of reasons beyond their control. Drought, floods are certainly not in their control. So why treat them as criminals? Just because they are poor? 

Sometimes back I wrote; "You may have forgotten something that still remains embedded in me. When the Securities Scam burst in India, and I am talking of the period when Manmohan Singh was the Finance Minister, it was not only stock broker Harshad Mehta who was involved. Two foreign banks were also involved. I still remember vividly when Manmohan Singh refused to initiate any action against the erring banks, saying: "It will send out a wrong signal." (Read here: http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2010/06/bhopla-gas-tragedy-company-raj-is-back.html). Any sensible economist would agree that not tolerating corruption would send a right signal. But still, the government's use the protective shield of 'hitting business sentiments or impacting economic growth' to justify the wrongs the big players make.

And if you point to this, the answer is you still carry a Colonial mindset !

Isn't it therefore clear that corruption in high places gets a very powerful protective cover? Governments want to ensure that no action that upsets the morale of corrupt top brass should be allowed, No action against big swindle and huge bank defaults (even if you are accustomed to the defaulting game) has to be taken as it may impact economic growth, and still worse any punitive action against the big loot will send a wrong signal to investors. Sad isn't it? But, that's the truth.

You will ask me how come then the banks are after Vijay Mallaya? Well, this is what MC Govardhana Rangan lucidly explains in the Economic Times (May 12, 2017). Under the headline: Urjit Patel's should worry banks more than cheer, he says "In this context, Vijay Mallya’s stands out. Banks are after him because they are sure they can recover the last penny due to his personal and other holding company guarantees. But others who have defaulted on thousands of crores haven’t provided such guarantees, so losses fall on banks, hence the status quo. History may see Mallya more as a fool than as a crook. (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/markets/stocks/news/urjit-patels-message-should-worry-banks-more-than-cheer/articleshow/58639153.cms).

Vijay Mallaya probably didn't follow the rules of the game. If he had played the game well, following the rules of the game properly, the banks would have probably been defending him rather than end up chasing him. That's why as the ET report said: History may see Mallaya more as a fool than as a crook.

Zero-tolerance for corruption it seems is only meant for the common man. #


Categories: Ecological News

Why do tainted senior officers as well as willful bank defaulters need government's protection?

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 18:36
On April 5, 2017, Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari warned in a letter to the newly elected Chief Minister in the Himalayan State of Uttarakhand that a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged road scam "would have an adverse impact on the morale of the officers." and the ministry "would have to re-examine the usefulness for taking up more projects in the state".

In a news report, titled: Gadkari warns Uttarakhand Govt against CBI probe in road projects published in Indian Express, May 26, 2017 (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/nh-74-land-acquisition-nitin-gadkari-warns-uttarakhand-govt-against-cbi-probe-into-road-projects-4674098/). The previous government had detected irregularities worth Rs 240-crore in the acquisition iof farm land for the proposed National Highway (NH) -74 passing through Uddham Singh Nagar district. It had referred the case to CBI saying not all areas of probe were within its control. The news report quoted sources in Gadkari's office saying that the minister had to make the point "since the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) top brass had informed him that key officials had left the state after being summoned repeatedly by state police and project work was being affected." What a strange reasoning?

Whatever be the reasons, I think this goes against the very grain of Prime Minister's commitment of ensuring probity in public life, when he had said: Na khaaonga, Na khaane dunga.

If it is the 'morale of the officers' that has to be protected, it is the 'country's economy' that gets impacted if the names of willful defaulters who had swooned the banks of thousands of crores are to be made public. Don't forget what the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had pleaded before the Supreme Court:"the RBI had provided a list of defaulters to the court in a sealed cover and told the court not to disclose the names. During the argument, the RBI submitted that the information was obtained by it in a fiduciary capacity and any exposure will have an impact on the country's economy and reduce confidence within the business and investment sector" (DNA, Mumbai, April 13, 2016: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-any-problem-with-disclosing-loan-default-amounts-supreme-court-asks-rbi-2201529). The apex court was told that 57 rich borrowers had defaulted the banks to the tune of Rs 85,000-crore.

I was in fact aghast when I read what the then RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had to say: "The act of default happens in business. Sometimes it's not the business' fault; the demand is weak or prices are low, there is dumping going on, or government permissions don't come on time. to then put the promoters' name up without the details of why the default happened, will only lead to anxiety and a fall in business activity." (DNA, April 5, 2016). If this is true, I don't understand why the names, along with the pictures, of defaulting farmers are pasted in tehsil offices. If companies can default because of extraneous reasons, don't we know the farmers too default because of reasons beyond their control. Drought, floods are certainly not in their control. So why treat them as criminals? Just because they are poor? 

Sometimes back I wrote; "You may have forgotten something that still remains embedded in me. When the Securities Scam burst in India, and I am talking of the period when Manmohan Singh was the Finance Minister, it was not only stock broker Harshad Mehta who was involved. Two foreign banks were also involved. I still remember vividly when Manmohan Singh refused to initiate any action against the erring banks, saying: "It will send out a wrong signal." (Read here: http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2010/06/bhopla-gas-tragedy-company-raj-is-back.html).

Isn't it therefore clear that corruption in high places gets a very powerful protective cover? Governments want to ensure that no action that upsets the morale of corrupt top brass should be allowed, No action against big swindle and huge bank defaults (even if you are accustomed to the defaulting game) has to be taken as it may impact economic growth, and still worse any punitive action against the big loot will send a wrong signal to investors. Sad isn't it? But, that's the truth.

You will ask me how come then the banks are after Vijay Mallaya? Well, this is what the Economic Times (May 12, 2017) had to say in a report under the headline: Urjit Patel's should worry banks more than cheer "In this context, Vijay Mallya’s stands out. Banks are after him because they are sure they can recover the last penny due to his personal and other holding company guarantees. But others who have defaulted on thousands of crores haven’t provided such guarantees, so losses fall on banks, hence the status quo. History may see Mallya more as a fool than as a crook. (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/markets/stocks/news/urjit-patels-message-should-worry-banks-more-than-cheer/articleshow/58639153.cms).

Vijay Mallaya probably didn't follow the rules of the game. If he had played the game well, following the rules of the game properly, the banks would have probably been defending him rather than end up chasing him. That's why as the ET report said: History may see Mallaya more as a fool than as a crook.

Zero-tolerance for corruption it seems is only meant for the common man. #


Categories: Ecological News

Anil Dave: Left to him, he would have steered country's environment to a safer haven. But politics weighed on him.

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 12:43


It was a shocking news. When I read Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter expressing his sincere condolences on the sudden passing away of Environment Minister Anil Dave, it took a few minutes for the tragic news to sink in. Only a few days back I was talking to him, and he certainly sounded under stress but as usual was so warm and humble.

It was a matter of routine for us. Whenever we would meet or talk on phone we would first inquire about how we were coping with life after our respective heart bypass surgeries. Knowing that I have a heavy travel schedule, he would always tell me not to stretch myself since I have already undergone an open heart surgery. “Take your medicines regularly, Devinder ji, the country needs you,” he would often say. I would just laugh it off quoting what the late journalist Prabhash Joshi often used to say: “At the pace I am travelling across the country, even the Yumraj would get tired chasing me.”

I couldn’t tell him to take his medicines regularly because he was always so particular. He always carried a box in which the medicines were neatly stacked and carried the time slot in which they were to be taken. He did his yoga regularly, and led a simple lifestyle which doesn’t give you the remotest of inkling that his days were numbered. Not many knew that he had undergone a bypass surgery some three to four years back, about two years after I had a bypass surgery. That is why he always considered himself to be my junior.

When I learnt that he had actually suffered a heart stroke, I couldn’t believe my ears. After all, he was my “junior” and going by the bypass medical history, he should have under normal circumstances lived for another 15 years or so or perhaps longer. I knew he was under severe political pressure to approve the controversial genetically modified mustard (GM Mustard) but even in my farthest of dreams I couldn’t read what was coming ahead. He had told me that given a choice he would never approve GM Mustard but at the same time he didn't want to share with me the kind of pressures that he was faced with. I had suggested to him to resign rather that give in to pressures. I even went to the extent of reminding him of the only incident I could recall when Lal Bahadur Shashtri had resigned taking moral responsibility for a train accident. “The nation respects such decisions taken on high moral grounds. You will leave behind a tradition which the country would always recall with pride,” I had told him. 

Anil Dave is no more with us to share how he couldn’t survive the pressure, but his untimely passing away has certainly left a void. As I tweeted the other day, there are hardly a handful of politicians like Anil Dave left now on the country’s political horizon. People like him wouldn’t even survive in politics; majority would never even dare to join the murky world of politics. He was not only an exception, but the fact he rose to head the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, and was then nominated to Rajya Sabha and eventually became a minister (with independent charge) and that too held a portfolio that was close to his heart speaks volumes of the strength of his character. Left to him, I am sure he would have steered the country's environment and wildlife to safer haven. 

I met him first time when he was planning to launch the annual “Narmada Samagra” drawing environmentalists, politicians, policy makers, NGOs, and concerned citizens to save the mighty Narmada River. I was in fact introduced to him one fine day by my friends Bhavdeep Kang and Atul Jain in New Delhi. I must acknowledge I didn’t even notice him sitting demurely in one corner till I was formally introduced. We sat down for lunch, and therein he shared with me what he proposed to achieve from “Narmada Samagra”. He even told me: “You may think it is a government show but all I can tell you there are good people in the government who too want to protect the rivers,” I still recall his words, and could see through the deep commitment.

I traveled to participate in the first “Narmada Samagra” held at the banks of river Narmada.

Later, I used to meet him whenever I would visit Bhopal for some event or the other. At least on two occasions, he saw me sitting in the front row while was on the stage and didn’t forget to invite me on to the stage to speak a few words even though I was not listed to speak in that session. “How can we not listen to Devinder Sharma when he happens to be amongst us,” he would say. Feeling embarrassed, I responded by telling the audience that Anil Dave’s words only reflected his respect, love and affection for my work. He would smile but still urge me on. On a number of occasions I found he would often speak with a lot of respect for some of the well-known environmentalists. "Sad, in this race to attain a higher GDP, we are mercilessly killing the environment, cutting down the trees, polluting the rivers ...."      I specifically recall when once I gave him a call, and told him I was in the city. At his insistence, I drove to ‘Nadi Ka Ghar’ where he greeted me. Took me around the building, introducing me to his colleagues, and finally we went to the top floor to his room. Before we sat down for a long chat, he presented me a copy of his book on Shivaji, and then we gt into discussing a wide array of subjects – from rivers, to deforestation and to non-chemical agriculture. “I am telling the Chief Minister to ban chemical farming around Narmada. All these chemicals – fertiliser and pesticides -- eventually flow into the river,” he told me. He wanted a massive plantation drive along the river banks, and I am glad Madhya Pradesh has undertaken that exercise.

For a man who in his heart only revered the nature, it wasn’t easy take a call on GM Mustard. As Tarun Vijay wrote: "He was to  take a final decision on an application for an indigenously-developed GM crop of mustard. Everyone who knew him was sure that he would ban it in India."  On that fateful day, after witnessing a civil society protest outside his office during the day, and later inviting a six-member team for discussions in his office, the same evening he met the Prime Minister at his residence late in the evening. As the Prime Minister had tweeted, acknowledging, he had long discussions around policy issues with Anil Dave the fateful night, it is quite obvious that the contentious issue of GM Mustard approval too must have been discussed. 

A few hours later he complained of pain in the chest and was rushed to the hospital. #
Categories: Ecological News

Rethinking Revolutions: The story of the failed Yellow Revolution, and eChoupals

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 09:56


At a time when doubling farmer’s income in the next five years has become the catch phrase, the policy emphasis is on the oft-beaten approach of boosting crop productivity, reducing the cost of cultivation, expanding the area under irrigation and providing a unified national agricultural market.

This makes me wonder. If increasing crop productivity, which is what economists and policy makers have been relentlessly asking for, then why is Punjab, the food bowl of India, faced with a terrible agrarian crisis? In a State which has 98 per cent assured irrigation and where the per hectare yields of wheat and rice match international levels I see no reason why should farmers be then dying. Is there something that I am missing in my understanding of agriculture or is that the policy makers have still not be able to emerge out of the tragic narrative of the past, so well crafted and hyped.

Raising crop productivity is the only paradigm within which agriculture has been understood and evaluated, says Richa Kumar in her magnificently researched book Rethinking Revolutions (Oxford University Press, 2016). Richa Kumar teaches in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Although she examines the politics of agriculture through the prism of the “Yellow Revolution”, which essentially began with the introduction of soyabean cultivation in Central India, and subsequently propped up with the advent of eChaupals, she dwells much deeper to successfully demolish the popular notion that narrow, technological solutions alone are the answer. 

The popular notion behind any ‘revolution’ – green, yellow white and blue – is the remarkable ability to frame the agrarian crisis in terms of production alone. If productivity increases, income of farmers also increases. This dominant notion, prevalent for over 100 years, has established firm roots. I must acknowledge that as a student of agriculture, I had realised early that the entire effort by way of research, education and extension is to programme (in IT parlance) the thinking of students around this dominant narrative. And let’s not forget that agricultural universities in India were initially set up by USAID bringing in educational curriculum from the Land Grant system of education from the United States.

The British built this notion to increase revenue collections during the days of the Raj, but subsequently the international influence, reinforced through expanding agribusiness interests, has put a stamp on it. Those farmers who obediently follow the scientific prescriptions to achieve higher productivity are called ‘acche kisan’ and those who carried more knowledge and wisdom were branded as unproductive, and farm scientists firmly believe they need to be pushed out of agriculture.‘Since then, it has been the primary measure used to judge the success or failure of farmers’. 

It is primarily for this reason that the technological breakthrough achieved in Punjab defies the dominant narrative. As per the Economic Survey 2016, the per hectare yield of wheat in Punjab stands at 4,500Kg/hectare which matches the wheat yield in United States. In case of paddy, the average yield is 6,000 Kg/hectare, quite close to the 6,700 Kg/hectare achieved in China. With such high yields and with so much of abundant irrigation I see no reason why should Punjab turn into a hot spot for farmer suicides. Since Punjab farmers were on the forefront of accepting every new scientific and technological input, why should then acche kisan be committing suicide and that too in droves?

Economist Willard Cochrane (1958) calls it agricultural treadmill, an idea which Richa Kumar very eloquently extends to explain the prevailing distress in agriculture: “They (farmers) are running a race against insects, but to win, they are dependent upon scientists to create pest-resistant varieties and dependent on private companies to develop ever more potent pesticides. As one fails, the next is one is ready. But there is no respite.” This is what I had always termed as chakravyuah, pushing the farmer deeper and deeper into a quagmire of financial indebtedness.

The story of the failed Yellow Revolution had little to do with technology failure. It was the result of a shift in trade policies which reduced import tariffs thereby bringing in a flood of cheaper edible oil imports. In the process, Richa Kumar revisits the famed saga of a technology-mediated development model, dissecting in detail the claims of prosperity and empowerment of farmers, and demonstrating clearly how detrimental it has been to understand the agrarian change by ignore the social – caste, class and gender, as well as the environmental factors. 

The book is neatly divided into 11 chapters, including conclusion, and I found each chapter gradually building on the argument that techno-fix solutions alone are a myopic way of addressing the farming crisis. Agriculture treadmill forces farmers to move to a more potent, expensive and sophisticated technology, providing at best a temporary solution. But the socio-economic and environmental dimension of the crisis only grows, waiting to explode at an appropriate stage. That’s perhaps the reason why India is faced with a terrible agrarian crisis fifty years after the Green Revolutionwas launched. In the past 21 years, more than 3.18 lakh farmers have committed suicide. 

The ethnographic study, and the scholarly analysis provides a very powerful insight into how deceptive is the entire debate on what constitutes agriculture growth. More relevant in the present debate/discussions surrounding the promise of doubling farm income, the story of eChoupals, using information technology as an autonomous agent of change, and hailed as the lone success story to bridge the information divide. As Richa Kumar says the eChoupals very appropriately fitted into the post-liberalisation phase where the role of the state was to be replaced by private corporations in the name of market efficiency.

eChoupals were launched in the year 2000 with much fanfare. I remember some popular magazines had even done cover stories projecting how eChoupals had ‘empowered’ farmers by providing information and removing ‘corrupt’ intermediaries. What was not told was that ITC-IBD, which operated eChoupals, was also an intermediary. Its underlying objective was to procure soyabean for the international value chain. Subsequently, it was also established that the price ITC-IBD paid to soyabean farmers over the years was almost equal to what the traditional mandis were offering. The soyabean price paid to farmers was driven by the Chicago Board of Trade and the Kuala Lumpur Commodities Exchange.

Nevertheless, by 2005, the eChaupals had converted into a rural retail network of malls known as Choupal Saagars to sell FMCG products to villagers. That is why eChoupals are not even remotely mentioned in the ambitious electronic National Agricultural Market (eNAM) initiative that the government is now promoting. The eChoupal debacle therefore has lessons agalore that simply cannot be brushed aside. Dismantling the APMC regulated markets and bringing in instead the eNAM network suffers from the same ideological thinking. Let us also not forget that to up the ante even eChoupalshad received numerous awards and recognition. That’s the way dominant narrative is conveniently changed.

Richa Kumar has conclusively established that increasing crop productivity alone is a misleading yardstick in measuring agricultural growth and prosperity. Rethinking Revolutions is the outcome of painstaking research and analysis, and ignoring the powerful message it conveys will be to the detriment of not only the farming community but to the country’s overall growth and development. The entire discourse on the political economy of development needs a radical overhaul. This is a book I will recommend for all policy planners, economists, scientists and should be a mandatory reading in agricultural curriculum. #  

Source:  Not by productivity alone. The Book Review. May 2017. Volume XLI Number 5   
Categories: Ecological News

Indecent tax proposal

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 12:50

Pic: Rediff.com
A growing clamour for taxing agricultural income to shore up government revenues comes up at a time when the government is merrily providing massive tax concessions to the rich and powerful.  Isn’ this like robbing Peter to pay Paul?

But why should rich farmers not be brought under the tax regime? According to IndiaSpend, farm incomes declared by tax payers in 2014, for exemption in the assessment year 2014-15, stood at Rs 9,338-crores. Even if you were to tax this income, probably not more than a third of this amount, or roughly Rs 3,000-crore could be mopped up as tax revenue. But this is not even a drop in the ocean when you compare with the Rs 17.5-lakh crore tax concessions granted to corporate in just the three year period, 2013-16, as Parliament was informed the other day.

The question that needs to be therefore asked is whether the objective of taxing agricultural income is simply to provide a smokescreen to the massive tax concessions being given to the industry each year. As per a reply given in Parliament, Rs 6.11-lakh crore of tax concessions was given in 2015-16 alone. In the past 13-years, between 2004-05 and 2016-17, the total tax concessions given to the industry, clubbed under the category of Revenue Foregone in Budget documents, exceeds a whopping Rs 55-lakh crore.

Yes, you heard it right. Rs 55-lakh crore.

When I brought this up in the TV discussion, a BJP spokesperson said that it reflected a “colonial mindset”. I wasn’t surprised, after all a similar argument was raised when the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had waived Rs 36,359-crore of farm loans. While the RBI governor Urjit Patel had decried the farm loan waiver as disrupting an honest credit culture, he didn’t find any fault with the massive corporate loan waivers. The Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramaniam had even gone to the extent of justifying the corporate loan waiver as good economics, stating ‘this is how capitalism works’.

According to India Ratings, Rs 4-lakh crore of bad debts of corporate is expected to be written-off in near future.

The entire controversy erupted after Niti Ayog member Bibek Debroy made a strong case for bringing agriculture under the tax net with a view to increasing the resources of the state. For reasons explained above, I see no justification for taxing farm incomes unless the corporate tax concessions are not scrapped. Even the distinguished scientist-administrator Dr M S Swaminathan had questioned the move to bring agriculture under tax bracket but had agreed to taxing the rich who treat agriculture as a parking lot for black money. He tweeted to say: “There could be other methods of taxing rich farmers with multiple sources of income.”

I too agree. If some States can impose tax on certain kinds of agricultural incomes, like plantations (including tea, coffee, rubber, spices etc), I see no reason why the State governments cannot evolve some mechanism to tax farm incomes from dubious sources. But to bring the entire farm sector under tax net, making small and marginal farmers to file annual returns is simply a stupid idea.

But just imagine, at a time when Economic Survey 2016 tells us that the average income of a farm family in 17 States is a paltry Rs 20,000 a year, to even talk of income tax shows how disconnected the policy makers are from the ground realities. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, more than 3.18-lakh farmers have committed suicide in the past 21 years, and many states are grappling with the possibility of waiving outstanding farm loans on the lines of Uttar Pradesh loan waiver.

At the same time, I see no justification in allowing the multinational seed company, Monsanto India, to claim tax exemptions of Rs 94.40-crore from agricultural income. Another seed giant, Kaveri Seeds, claimed Rs 186.63-crore exemption and made a profit of Rs 215.36-crore before tax. As Bibek Debroy points out in an article: Twelve Reasons Why (Indian Express, May 3, 2017), in 2015, at least 307 individuals had reported an income exceeding Rs 1-crore per year. They certainly need to be brought under the tax net. There have also been reports of some of the well-known political leaders claiming huge returns from agriculture, which of course defies all logic, and should therefore be taxed.

I see another disturbing trend. Many bureaucrats and businessmen are buying land simply to park their unaccounted income. This trend is growing, and should be a cause for worry. My suggestion is that for the salaried class, any combined income (including from farming) shown beyond the taxable income limits should be taxed. The reason is simple. The tax exemption should be available only to those who work as full-time farmers, not to people who get regular salaries which mean they have no time for farming. Then how can they claim tax exemption for an activity they have not participated in? Similarly, for the business class, any combined income (including from agriculture) beyond the Rs 15-lakh annual limit should be brought under the tax net. The reason why I say so is the same, as before. Unless they are full-time farmers, they should not be allowed to take advantage of agriculture tax exemptions. But first, the provision to allow seed companies tax exemption under agricultural incomes should be immediately withdrawn.

Taxing the rich farmers (owning sprawling farm houses and having income from multiple sources, including agriculture) is long overdue. But this has to be accompanied by scrapping the provisions of doling out massive tax concession so the corporate. Otherwise, it will turn into a self-defeating exercise. # 


Categories: Ecological News

How come mega cities like Bangalore never give an inkling of a severe drought in its own backyard?

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 14:30

This is Bangalore. Hustling and bustling with life


Just two hours away from Bangalore, life in this village is at standstill
I travel to Bangalore very often. At least four times a year, if not more. But every time I go to Bangalore I have never even remotely felt that Karnataka has been reeling under a severe drought. Life in the mega city does not even provide an inkling of a severe drought prevailing just 30 kms away. I am told as many as 139 of the 176 taluks have been declared drought hit this year. Still worse, Karnataka has reeled under drought for 11 years out of the past 16 years.

Just two hours away from Bangalore is the Anantpur district in Andhra Pradesh. A report in New Indian Express (April 28) brought tears in my eyes. “Has my father come back?” asks a 12 year-old Divakar, as he runs into the house straight from the school. “No, he will come back next month and bring you lots of toys from Bangalore,” replies his uncle, Eswarayya. The child is distraught, dumps his school bag, changes his dress and gets on his tricycle to ride along an empty street lined with an endless sequence of locked houses.

Journalist Harish Gilai’s account of how Andhra’s Anantpur district town and villages have become empty is an insight into the tragedy of rural India that no one wants to read. Kutapalle village in Nallamada mandal of Anantpur district in Andhra Pradesh is a ghost town, he writes. Half the houses there were locked. You either find the aged walking about or the kids playing in the street. In another news report, Aditi Mallick and Geetika Mantri, who were part of fact finding mission tells us (TheNewsMinute, May 9) heart-rending stories of how elders in the family have migrated in search of menial jobs leaving behind their children to take care of themselves (to know more, click here: http://www.kisanswaraj.in/wp-content/uploads/Rapid-Assessment-of-Drought-in-Anantapur-and-state-of-citizens-entitlements.pdf)

“Twelve-year-old Bukya Syamulamma, a tribal girlin Kareddipalli village in Anantpur district, lives all alone with her two younger siblings. A petite figure, she lugs 25 kilos of ration to and fro from a PDS shop located in the neighbouring village. Having lost her father to alcoholism last year, Bukya is now responsible for taking care of herself and her brother and a sister.” This seems to be a scene out of a Bollywood blockbuster but let’s not forget this is for real.

“Another 15-year-old in Kareddipalli lives by herself after her parents migrated to Kerala searching for employment. Rama Devi says that she sometimes fears for her safety.” But the bigger question that concerns me is how acute must be the suffering that Rama’s parents must be undergoing that they were forced to leave behind their only girl child in search of a job. Their choice was limited. I am sure no parent would ever think of leaving their children behind. This certainly is not a scene from Hollywood’s popular movie Home Alone. Hundreds of children have been left behind by parents who have migrated in search of whatever little job they can manage.

Anantpur district is reeling under the 6thconsecutive year of drought.

In Kerala, no longer God’s own country, families survive on 10-15 buckets of water a week in the Palakkad district. Writing in the Indian Express (May 8), Shaju Philip takes us to Attapaddy, which is faced with the second consecutive year of drought. Kerala is facing its worst drought year in 115 years. All the 14 districts of Kerala were declared drought hit by October, 2016. And yet, if you travel to Thiruvanthapuram or Kochi or Kozhikode or for that matter any of the major cities or towns you don't get a feeling as if Kerala is reeling under a drought.




Concluding his five-day yatra through the drought-hit parts of Tamil Nadu, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan lamented: “The indifference shown by the Union Government has paralysed the State’s machinery and is taking a heavy toll on the farmers in state,” adding: “Cattle deaths are only an indicator of a possible famine in the State.” The recent protest by a handful of Tamil Nadu farmers at Janta Mantar in New Delhi wanting a Rs 40,000-cr loan waiver had attracted a reasonably good media coverage but failed to move the nation. “It’s an unprecedented situation,” S Panneerselvam, Prof of AgroMetereology at the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University told IndiaSpend. He said the drought had affected 21 of the 32 districts of Tamil Nadu. Incidentally, the State is reeling under the worst drought in 140 years. But again, if you were to travel to Chennai or Coimbatore or for that matter any other town in the State, you don’t get a feel of a severe drought prevailing just a few kms outside the city.

I find it too strange. After all, have you ever pondered why is that while drought hits the region as a whole it is only people living in the villages who bear the brunt? Why is that drought rarely, if at all, strikes the cities and towns? I am sure the God’s were not so unfair so as to ensure that crippling drought strikes only the rural constituencies. I am sure God did not want to punish the people living in the villages for no fault of theirs. So how come the divide that leads to the terrible consequences of drought being inflicted on the rural people has become so targeted?

Latur town in the dry Kuchh region in Gujarat may be an exception but it is very rare that the city of Chennai for instance is faced with severe water crisis requiring water trains to carry water. Not only water shortage, drought normally brings along a whole lot of problems, which are rarely felt in the cities. This must be the outcome of an inequality woven through the process of development. In my understanding, the development process is so designed that the cities have been made drought proof over the years. The rural-urban divide is so apparent. All efforts have gone to ensure that the urban population does not have to suffer the consequences of a drought. The rivers and canals flowing into the countryside can go dry, but worse-cum-worse the tap water supply in the cities is available for a few hours every evening and morning. Even if water for New Delhi has to be fetched from as far as Renuka dam in Himachal Pradesh or the water supply in Mumbai has to be sucked from the adjoining regions of Western Ghats, life in cities remain oblivious to the terrible cost that is inflicted in the bargain on the rural populace. 

This is primarily the reason why people living in the cities are so disconnected from the realities of rural India. They are happy in their own world, and they give a damn to the extent of human suffering just a few miles away in their own backyard. Well, this is where the civilized world has led us to. In a world of selfies, selfishness has reached the limit. #
Categories: Ecological News