DEVELOPMENT-INDIA: Cotton Farmers in Distress – Relief Given Elsewhere

By Jaideep Hardikar*

Jyoti holds up the picture of her husband Santosh Deshmukh, one of three indebted Deshmukh men who committed suicide

Credit:Jaideep Hardikar/IPS

PUNE, Maharashtra, Mar 21 (IPS) – On Mar. 4, barely four days after Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram announced a mammoth loan waiver for farmers, 55-year-old Dattu Chaudhary, who owned 3 hectares (ha) of land committed suicide in Nara village in Maharashtra state.

Two other farmers also ended their lives on the same day. All three were dry-land cotton farmers in Vidarbha, a region synonymous with farmers’ suicides in India. Poor cotton growers have been driven to death by debt.

Chaudhury gave up hope when he saw that he was above the finance minister’s cut-off mark of 2 ha (1 ha=approx 2.46 acres) for the bank loan waiver.

With 3 ha, he could only have got a 25 percent rebate on the loan, says his nephew Gajanan Chaudhury. Nara is 45-kms west of Wardha in western Vidarbha.

“My uncle owed 75,000 rupees (1,800 US dollars) to the State Bank of India. He was already bankrupt, he could not have repaid 75 percent all at once to avail of the rebate benefit,” Gajanan told IPS.

The two other farmers who killed themselves by consuming pesticide were, as reports indicate, out of the institutional credit structure. Their loans were from private moneylenders. Chidambaram’s waiver gift is only for borrowings from public banks.

The finance minister said in Parliament that he expects 30 million farmers to benefit. Small and marginal farmers owe the banks 1.2 billion dollars, while the ‘one time settlement’ offer would cost 2.5 billion dollars to the government exchequer.

But most Vidarbha farmers are outside the limit. As farmer Vitthal Elkunchwar, 60, in Bhadumri village in Yavatmal district, puts it, “The total loan waiver is for 2 ha farmers, but thousands of farmers like me have land holdings of five acres, or just over 2 ha.”

He owns 2-ha-2-R which equals 5 acres of land. ‘R’ is an old unit of land measurement. One acre of land is 40-R. He misses the cut off for total waiver by 2-R.

Nanda Bhandare, the widow of Dnyaneshwar, a farmer with six acres who committed suicide in 2005 owing to distress, can barely hide her tears. She cannot avail of the total waiver. With two children and her old mother-in-law to look after, she has struggled. “I can’t repay my loans; the land is giving me no income,” she cries.

In Katiyar Village, Akola District, Jyoti Deshmukh’s husband who owned 20 acres of cotton land killed himself in 2007. Before that her brother-in-law and father-in-law took their lives.

Farm leader in Wardha, Vijay Jawandhia, believes the loan waiver package benefits western Maharashtra’s farmers more than those in Vidarbha. “When the country enacted the Land Ceiling Act, it imposed a ceiling of 18 acres on irrigated areas and 54 acres in the dry land areas. Naturally, 30 years later, farmers with irrigated land have smaller land holdings than their counterparts in the rain-fed areas.”

As a result the average per capita holding in Vidarbha is 3.03 ha (7.5 acre), which is far bigger than the average of 1.75 ha in the sugar belt of the Pune revenue division. More importantly, the average loan burden on Vidarbha farmers is only 200 dollars, a fourth of the average outstanding loans of farmers in the irrigated western Maharashtra districts, as per the government’s cooperative department’s records.

The average crop loan from the banks for sugarcane is 325 dollars per acre. Apart from which farmers get up to 450 dollars per acre for drip irrigation. In Vidarbha’s cotton regions, the average loan is just 110 dollars per acre. The scale of the finance minister’s write-off for relatively better off farmers is greater.

Maharashtra minister for cooperation Patangrao Kadam says the state would get benefits to the tune of 3.2 billion dollars, or over a fifth of Chidambaram’s 15 billion dollars waiver outlay. But, Vidarbha’s share would be around Rs 375 million dollars, while that of western Maharashtra about 1.5 billion dollars.

The agriculture department’s statistics show that roughly half of Vidarbha’s 3.5 million households have up to 2 ha of land. Of this, 760,000 farmers have less than 1 ha. It is not clear how many get bank loans. By one estimate, more than half of Vidarbha’s distressed farmers are out of the formal credit basket.

“That is one reason why thousands of them borrow money from private usurers at exorbitant rates for farm and domestic needs,” explains Mohan Jadhav in Pandharkawda town, Yavatmal district.

Often poor farmers are not the land owners, and hence ineligible for bank loans. Most land holders do not bother to transfer holdings to their name. Farms are shown as undivided in village records even years after it was partitioned among family members.

Farm leaders like Jawandhia point out that by itself Chidambaram’s total farm loan waiver is puny when compared with the annual tax and duty concessions given to a handful of industries.

Loan write-offs to industry are done quietly. Between 2000-04, government-controlled banks cancelled a staggering 11 billion dollars, mainly to a few wealthy people.

Every year banks write off 20,499 crore rupees (5.1 billion dollars) as bad debts for industry, which is the total amount owed to banks by some 7 million farmers with less than 1 ha land. This is from the Reserve Bank of India’s, Handbook of Statistics on the Indian Economy, 2006-07.

Thirty year-old Vandana Shende’s husband was driven to suicide by debts two years ago. “We were unable to repay debts. Even today, much of that loan remains to be repaid,” says the frail woman, who has been tilling the land, a little over 2 ha. “Of the 85,000 rupees (2,125 dollars) I owe, 15,000 rupees (375 dollars) is from the bank, the rest is from private sources,” she confides. “Over two thirds of Vidarbha farmers’ debts are on non-institutional credit,” says Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a farmers’ movement.

A Planning Commission team that visited Vidarbha in 2006 found banks considered only a quarter of cotton farmers as credit worthy. It was only after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s much-publicised two-day visit (Jun. 30 and Jul 1) that the number of farmers in institutional credit went up to 50 percent in Vidarbha.

Munna Bolenwar, a farmer with 15 acres of unproductive and unirrigated land in Vidarbha, shares his anguish. “The government has provided relief to sugarcane farmers, when the real distress is here,” he told IPS.

86,922 farmer suicides in 2001-05: UN

Statesman News Service
NEW DELHI, March 29: In a report vindicating the government’s move to waive farmers’ debt as announced in the Union Budget, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-Escap) has pointed to the 86,922 farmer suicides in the country between 2001 and 2005.
Indicating the link between farm debt and agriculture crisis, the Escap report said this was evident from the large number of farmer suicides in some regions. “During 2001-05, 86,922 farmers committed suicides ~ 54 per cent from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra,” said the survey released here today. “Driving the distress were declining profitability, growing production and marketing risks, an institutional vacuum and lack of alternative livelihood opportunities.”
Lauding the government’s move to address the farm debt issue in the Union Budget, UN Under-Secretary General and ESCAP executive secretary, Ms Noeleen Heyzer, said “Agriculture needs another revolution for a further decline in the poverty levels, especially rural poverty.” Pointing out that Indian agriculture faced a crisis from debt, especially since the mid-1990s, the survey said “Of the estimated 89.3 million farmer households in 1993, 43.42 million (48.6 per cent) were indebted.” Quoting Indian government reports, it said, the average outstanding debt was Rs 12,585 per farmer household and Rs 25,902 per indebted farmer household.
Interest rates for home and car loans were lower than those for farm loans, the survey said, noting that even banks and micro-finance institutions charged 18-24 per cent on farm loans. Institutional debt could reduce the debt burden of farmers, it suggested.
The Escap report also said farmers indeb-tedness was low in less developed states and high in agriculturally developed states. More than half the indebted farmers took loans for capital or current business expenditure, accounting for 58.4 per cent of outstanding loans, it added.
Stating that the sources of the debt made a big difference, the report said at one end of the spectrum was Maharashtra, where institutional credit ac-co-unted for most of the indebtedness. On the other hand, in Andhra Pradesh, local moneylenders dominated the scene. Across India, more than two-fifths of debt was owed to non-institutional agencies, the report noted. Of this, 37.5 per cent carried an interest rate above 30 per cent

Survey report:

Indian Country Background

4,750 rural bank branches closed down in 15 years

P. Sainath

In the same period, scheduled commercial bank branches in metros doubled

The figures muddy claims of massive increases in rural credit

More farmers being pushed towards moneylenders

MUMBAI: India has seen the closure on average of one rural branch of a scheduled commercial bank (SCB) every single working day for the last 15 years. In the same period, bank branches in urban metros doubled, opening at a rate of more than one every day. The figures muddy government claims of massive increases in rural credit and plans to boost it.

The Reserve Bank of India’s Handbook of Statistics on the Indian Economy (2006-07) shows there were 30,639 rural branches of SCBs in 2007. That is, 4750 less than there were in 1993. In other words, an average of 26 bank branches shut down each month, or one every working day.

However, branches in metros shot up from 5,753 to 11,826 in the same period. In other urban centres, the numbers climbed from 8,562 to 12,792 in this period, while also going up in semi-urban locations from 11,356 to 16,214.

Bankers and RBI officials argue these are not all closures but “consolidation,” or “mergers” or the creation of satellite offices. The fact remains, though, that there were 4,750 rural branches less in 2007 than at the start of the reforms period. The trend holds through most UPA years. Indeed, 2006 saw the sharpest drop, with 1,503 branches shutting shop at a rate of one every six hours, on average. The rapid decline has pushed more farmers towards moneylenders.

“If you ‘merge’ a couple of banks 200 kilometres apart,” says Devidas Tuljapurkar of the All-India Bank Employees Association, “how does this make life easier for villagers already journeying far to their banks? It just rules them out. And it is absurd to say that more ATMs have opened to fill the need. ATMs are mostly in cities.” Also, loans are not given at ATMs.

The share of rural credit as a percentage of total credit disbursed by all SCBs (including Regional Rural Banks) stood at just around 7.93 per cent in March 2007. Less than the previous year’s 8.39 per cent. Much less than the 10 per cent it stood at in 2001. And farmers account for only a part of it. ‘Rural credit’ includes many sectors beyond agriculture. The 2001 Census says 72 per cent of Indians live in rural areas. However, the share of urban and metro regions in total credit went up to 82.32 per cent in the same period as the closures.

Predatory Growth

(source unknown)

Over the last two decades or so, the two most populous, large countries in the world, China and India, have been growing at rates considerably higher than the world average. In recent years the growth rate of national product of China has been about three times, and that of India approximately two times that of the world average. This has led to a clever defence of globalisation by a former chief economist of IMF (Fisher, 2003). Although China and India feature as only two among some 150 countries for which data are available, he reminded us that together they account for the majority of the poor in the world. This means that, even if the rich and the poor countries of the world are not converging in terms of per capita income, the well above the average world rate of growth rate of these two large countries implies that the current phase of globalisation is reducing global inequality and poverty at a rate as never before.
Statistical half truths can be more misleading at times than untruths. And this might be one of them, in so far as the experiences of ordinary Indians contradict such statistical artefact. Since citizens in India can express reasonably freely their views at least at the time of elections, their electoral verdicts on the regime of high growth should be indicative. They have invariably been negative. Not only did the ‘Shining India’ image crash badly in the last general election, even the present prime minister, widely presented as the ‘guru’ of India’s economic liberalisation in the media, could never personally win an election in his life. As a result, come election time, and all parties talk not of economic reform, liberalisation and globalisation, but of greater welfare measures to be initiated by the state. Gone election times, and the reform agenda is back. Something clearly needs to be deciphered from such predictable swings in political pronouncement.
Politicians know that ordinary people are not persuaded by statistical mirages and numbers, but by their daily experiences. They do not accept high growth on its face value as unambiguously beneficial. If the distribution of income turns viciously against them, if the opportunities for reasonable employment and livelihood do not expand with high growth, the purpose of higher growth would be widely questioned in a democracy. This is indeed what is happening, and it might even appear to some as paradoxical. The festive mood generated by high growth is marinated in popular dissent and despair, turning often into repressed anger. Like a malignant malaise, a sense of political unease is spreading insidiously along with the near double digit growth. And, no major political party, irrespective of their right or left label, is escaping it because they all subscribe to an ideology of growth at any cost.
What exactly is the nature of this paradoxical growth that increases output and popular anger at the same time? India has long been accustomed to extensive poverty coexisting with growth, with or without its ‘socialist pattern’. It continues to have anywhere between one-third and one-fourth of its population living in sub-human, absolute poverty. The number of people condemned to absolute poverty declined very slowly in India over the last two decades, leaving some 303 million people still in utter misery. In contrast China did better with the number of absolutely poor declining from 53 per cent to 8 percent, i.e. a reduction of some 45 percentage points, quite an achievement compared to India’s 17 percentage points. However, while China grew faster, inequality or relative poverty also grew faster in China than in India. Some claim that the increasing gap between the richer and the poorer sections in the Chinese society during the recent period has been one of the worst in recorded economic history, perhaps with the exception of some former socialist countries immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The share in national income of the poorest 20 per cent of the population in contemporary China is 5.9 percent, compared to 8.2 per cent in India. This implies that the lowest 20 per cent income group in China and in India receives about 30 and 40 percent of the per capita average income of their respective countries. However, since China has over two times the average per capita income of India in terms of both purchasing power parity, and dollar income, the poorest 20 percent in India are better off in relative terms, but worse off in absolute terms. The Gini coefficient, lying between 0 and 1, measures inequality, and increases in value with the degree of inequality. In China, it had a value close to 0.50 in 2006, one of the highest in the world. Inequality has grown also in India, but less sharply. Between1993-94 and 2004-5, the coefficient rose from 0.25 to 0.27 in urban, and 0.31 to 0.35 in rural areas. Every dimension of inequality, among the regions, among the professions and sectors, and in particular between urban rural areas has also grown rapidly in both counties, even faster in China than in India. In short, China has done better than India in reducing absolute poverty, but worse in allowing the gap to grow rapidly between the rich and the poor during the recent period of high growth.
A central fact stands out. Despite vast differences in the political systems of the two countries, the common factor has been increasing inequality accompanying higher growth. What is not usually realized is that the growth in output and in inequality are not two isolated phenomena. One frequently comes across the platitude that high growth will soon be trickling down to the poor, or that redistributive action by the state through fiscal measures could decrease inequality while keeping up the growth rate. These statements are comfortable but unworkable, because they miss the main characteristic of the growth process underway. This pattern of growth is propelled by a powerful reinforcing mechanism, which the economist Gunner Myrdal had once described as ‘cumulative causation’. The mechanism by which growing inequality drives growth, and growth fuels further inequality has its origin in two different factors, both related to some extent to globalisation.
First, in contrast to earlier times when less than 4 per cent growth on an average was associated with 2 percent growth in employment, India is experiencing a growth rate of some 7-8 per cent in recent years, but the growth in regular employment has hardly exceeded 1 percent. This means most of the growth, some 5-6 percent of the GDP, is the result not of employment expansion, but of higher output per worker. This high growth of output has its source in the growth of labour productivity. According to official statistics, between 1991 and 2004 employment fell in the organised public sector, and the organised private sector hardly compensated for it. In the corporate sector, and in some organized industries productivity growth comes from mechanization and longer hours of work. Edward Luce of the Financial Times (London) reported that the Jamshedpur steel plant of the Tatas employed 85,000 workers in 1991 to produce 1 million tons of steel worth 0.8 million U.S. dollars. In 2005, the production rose to 5 million tons, worth about 5 million U.S. dollars, while employment fell to 44,000. In short output increased approximately by a factor of five, employment dropped by a factor of half, implying an increase in labour productivity by a factor of ten. Similarly, Tata Motors in Pune reduced the number of workers from 35 to 21 thousand but increased the production of vehicles from 129,000 to 311,500 between 1999 and 2004, implying labour productivity increase by a factor of four. Stephen Roach, chief economist of Morgan Stanley reports a similar case of the Bajaj motorcycle factory in Pune. In the mid-1990s the factory employed 24,000 workers to produce 1 million two-wheelers. Aided by Japanese robotics and Indian information technology, in 2004, 10,500 workers turned out 2.4 million units, i.e. more than double the output with less than half the labour force, an increase in labour productivity by a factor of nearly 6. (Data collected by Aseem Srivastava, ‘Why this growth can never trickle down’, One could multiply such examples, but this is broadly the name of the game everywhere in the private corporate sector.
The manifold increase in labour productivity, without a corresponding increase in wages and salaries becomes an enormous source of profit, and also a source of international price competitiveness in a globalizing world. Nevertheless, this is not the entire story, perhaps not even the most important part of the story. The whole organized sector to which the corporate sector belongs, accounts for less than one-tenth of the labour force. Simply by the arithmetic of weighted average, a 5-6 per cent annual growth in labour productivity in the entire economy is possible only if the unorganized sector accounting for the remaining 90 per cent of the labour force also contributes to the growth in labour productivity. Direct information is not available on this count, but several micro studies and surveys show the broad pattern. Growth of labour productivity in the unorganized sector, which includes most of agriculture, comes from lengthening the hours of work to a significant extent, as this sector has no labour laws worth the name, or social security to protect workers. Sub-contracting to the unorganized sector along with casualisation of labour on a large scale become convenient devices to ensure longer hours of work without higher pay. Self-employed workers, totaling 260 million, expanded fastest during the high growth regime, providing an invisible source of labour productivity growth. Ruthless self-exploitation by many of these workers in a desperate attempt to survive by doing long hours of work with very little extra earning adds both to productivity growth, often augmenting corporate profit, and to human misery.
However inequality is increasing for another reason. Its ideology often described as neo-liberalism, is easily visible at one level; but the underlying deeper reason is seldom discussed. The increasing openness of the Indian economy to international finance and capital flows, rather than to trade in goods and services, has had the consequence of paralysing many pro-poor public policies. Despite the fact that we continue to import more than we export (unlike China), India’s comfortable foreign reserves position, crossing 230 billion U.S dollars in 2008, is mostly the result of accumulated portfolio investments and short term capital inflows from various financial institutions. To keep the show going in this way, the fiscal and the monetary policies of the government need to comply with the interests of the financial markets. That is the reason why successive Indian governments have willingly accepted the Financial Responsibility and Budget Management Act (2003) restricting deficit spending. Similarly, the idea has gained support that the government should raise resources through privatisation and so-called public-private partnership, but not through raising fiscal deficit, or not imposing a significant turnover tax on transactions of securities. These measures rattle the ‘sentiment’ of the financial markets, so governments remain wary of them. The hidden agenda, vigorously pursued by governments of all colours has been to keep the large private players in the financial markets in a happy mood. Since the private banks and financial institutions usually take their lead from the IMF and the World Bank, this bestows on these multilateral agencies considerable power over the formulation of government policies. However, the burden of such policies is borne largely by the poor of this country. This has had a crippling effect on policies for expanding public expenditure for the poor in the social sector. Inequality and distress grow as the state rolls back public expenditure in social services like basic health, education, and public distribution and neglects the poor, while the ‘discipline’ imposed by the financial markets serves the rich and the corporations. This process of high growth traps roughly one in three citizens of India in extreme poverty with no possibility of escape through either regular employment growth or relief through state expenditure on social services. The high growth scene of India appears to them like a wasteland leading to the Hell described by the great Italian poet Dante. On the gate of his imagined Hell is written, “This is the land you enter after abandoning all hopes”.
Extremely slow growth in employment and feeble public action exacerbates inequality, as a disproportionately large share of the increasing output and income from growth goes to the richer section of the population, not more than say the top 20 per cent of the income receivers in India. At the extreme ends of income distribution the picture that emerges in one of striking contrasts. According to the Forbes Magazine list for 2007, the number of Indian billionaires rose from 9 in 2004 to 40 in 2007, much richer counties like Japan had only 24, France had 14 and Italy 14. Even China, despite its sharply increasing inequality, had only 17 billionaires. The combined wealth of Indian billionaires increased from US dollars 106 billion to 170 billion in the single year, 2006-07. This 60 per cent increase in wealth would not have been possible, except through transfer on land from the state and central governments to the private corporations in the name of ‘public purpose’, for mining, industrialisation and special economic zones (SEZ). Estimates based on corporate profits suggest that, since 2000-01 to date, each additional per cent growth of GDP has led on an average to some 2.5 per cent growth in corporate profits. India’s high growth has certainly benefited the corporations more than anyone else.
After several years of high growth along these lines, India of the twenty first century has the distinction of being only second to the United States in terms of the combined total wealth of its corporate billionaires coexisting with the largest number of homeless, ill-fed, illiterates in the world. Not surprisingly, for ordinary Indians at the receiving end, this growth process is devoid of all hope for escape. Nearly half of Indian children under 6 years suffer from under-weight and malnutrition, nearly 80 per cent from anaemia, while some 40 per cent of Indian adults suffer from chronic energy deficit. Destitution, chronic hunger and poverty kill and cripple silently thousands picking on systematically the more vulnerable. The problem is more acute in rural India, among small children, pregnant females, Dalits and Adivasis, especially in the poorer states, while market oriented policies and reforms continue to widen the gap between the rich and the poor, as well as among regions.
The growth dynamics in operation is being fed continuously by growing inequality. With their income rapidly growing, the richer group of Indians demand a set of goods, which lie outside the reach of the rest in the society (think of air conditioned malls, luxury hotels, restaurants and apartments, private cars, world class cities where the poor would be made invisible). The market for these good expands rapidly. For instance, we are told that more than 3 in 4 Indians do not have a daily income of 2 U.S dollars. They can hardly be a part of this growing market. However, the logic of the market now takes over, as the market is dictated by purchasing power. Its logic is to produce those goods for which there is enough demand backed by money, so that high prices can be charged and handsome profits can be made. As the income of the privileged grows rapidly, the market for the luxury goods they demand grows even faster through the operation of the ‘income elasticities of demand’. These elasticities roughly measure the per cent growth in the demand for particular goods due to one per cent growth in income (at unchanged prices). Typically, goods consumed by the rich have income elasticities greater than unity, implying that the demand for a whole range of luxury goods consumed by the rich expands even faster than the growth in their income. Thus, the pattern of production is dictated by this process of growth through raising both the income of the rich faster than that of the rest of the society, and also because the income elasticities operate to increase even faster than income the demand for luxuries.
The production structure resulting from this market driven high growth is heavily biased against the poor. While demand expands rapidly for various up-market goods, demand for the basic necessities of life hardly expands. Not only there is little growth in the purchasing power of the poor, but the reduction in welfare expenditures by the state stunts the growth in demand for necessities. The rapid shift in the output composition in favour of services might be indicative of this process at the macro level. But specific examples abound. We have state-of-the-art corporate run expensive hospitals, nursing homes and spas for the rich, but not enough money to control malaria and T.B. which require inexpensive treatment. So they continue to kill the largest numbers. Lack of sanitation and clean drinking water transmit deadly diseases especially to small children which could be prevented at little cost, while bottled water of various brands multiplies for those who can afford it. Private schools for rich kids often have monthly fees that are higher than the annual income of an average unskilled Indian worker, while the poor often have to be satisfied with schools without teachers, or class rooms.
Over time an increasingly irreversible production structure in favour of the rich begins to consolidates itself. Because the investments embodied in the specific capital goods created to produce luxuries cannot easily be converted to producing basic necessities (the luxury hotel or spa cannot be converted easily to a primary health centre in a village etc). And yet, it is the logic of the market to direct investments towards the most productive and profitable sectors for ‘the efficient allocation of resources’. The price mechanism sends signals to guide this allocation, but the prices that rule are largely a consequence of the growing unequal distribution of income in the society. The market becomes a bad master when the distribution of income is bad.
There are insidious consequences of such a composition of output biased in favour of the rich that our liberalised market system produces. It is highly energy, water and other non-reproducible resources intensive, and often does unacceptable violence to the environment. We only have to think of the energy and material content of air-conditioned malls, luxury hotels and apartments, air travels, or private cars as means of transport. These are no doubt symbols of ‘world class’ cities in a poor country, by diverting resources from the countryside where most live. It creates a black hole of urbanization with a giant appetite for primary non-reproducible resources. Many are forced to migrate to cities as fertile land is diverted to non-agricultural use, water and electricity are taken away from farms in critical agricultural seasons to supply cities, and developmental projects displace thousands. Hydroelectric power from the big dams is transmitted mostly to corporate industries, and a few posh urban localities, while the nearby villages are left in darkness. Peasants even close to the cities do not get electricity or water to irrigate their land as urban India increasingly gobbles up these resources. Take the pattern of water use. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General report released to the public on 30 March 2007, Gujarat increased the allocation of Narmada waters to industry fivefold during 2006, eating into the share of drought-affected villages. Despite many promises made to villagers, water allocation stagnated at 0.86 MAF (million acres feet), and even this is being cut. Water companies and soft-drink giants like Coca-Cola sink deeper to take out pure ground water as free raw material for their products. Peasants in surrounding areas pay, because they cannot match the technology or capital cost. Iron ore is mined out in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa leaving tribals without home or livelihood. Common lands which traditionally provided supplementary income to the poor in villages are encroached upon systematically by the local rich and the corporations with active connivance of the government. The manifest crisis engulfing Indian agriculture with more than a hundred thousand suicides by farmers over the last decade according to official statistics is a pointer to this process of pampering the rich who use their growing economic power to dominate increasingly the multitude of poor.
The composition of output demanded by the rich is hardly producible by village artisans or the small producers. They find no place either as producers or as consumers; instead, economic activities catering to the rich have to be handed over to large corporations who can now enter in a big way into the scene. The combination of accelerating growth and rising inequality begins to work in unison. The corporations are needed to produce goods for the rich, and in the process they make their high profits and provide well-paid employment for the rich in a poor country who provide a part of the growing market. It becomes a process of destructive creation of corporate wealth, with a new coalition cutting across traditional Right and Left political division formed in the course of this road to high growth. The signboard of this road is ‘progress through industrialisation’. The middle class opinion-makers and media-persons unite, and occasionally offer palliatives of ‘fair compensation’ to the dispossessed. Yet, they are at a loss as to how to create alternative dignified livelihood caused by large scale displacement and destruction in the name of industrialisation. Talks of compensation tends to be one sided, as they focus usually on ownership and, at best use rights to land. However, the multitude of the poor who eke out a living without any ownership or use right to landed property, like agricultural labourers, fishermen, or cart-drivers in rural areas, or illegal squatters and small hawkers in cities, seldom figure in this discussion about compensation. And yet, they are usually the poorest of the poor, outnumbering by far, perhaps in the ratio of 3 to 1, those who have some title to landed property. Ignoring them altogether, the state acquires with single minded devotion land, water and resources for the private corporations for mining, industrialisation or Special Economic Zones in the name of public interest. With some tribal land that can be acquired according to the PESA (1996) act only through the consent of the community (Gram Sabha), consent is frequently manufactured at gun point by the law and order machinery of the state, if the money power of the corporations to bribe and intimidate prove insufficient. The vocal supporters of industrialisation never stop to ask why the very poor who are least able, should bear the burden of ‘economic progress’ of the rich.
It amounts to a process of internal colonisation of the poor, mostly dalits and adivasis and of other marginalised groups, through forcible dispossession and subjugation. It has set in motion a social process not altogether unknown between the imperialist ‘master race’ and the colonised ‘natives’. As the privileged thin layer of the society distances itself from the poor, the speed at which the secession takes place comes to be celebrated as a measure of the rapid growth of the country. Thus, India is said to be poised to become a global power in the twenty-first century, with the largest number of homeless, undernourished, illiterate children coexisting with the billionaires created by this rapid growth. An unbridled market whose rules are fixed by the corporations aided by state power shapes this process. The ideology of progress through dispossession of the poor, preached relentlessly by the united power of the rich, the middle class and the corporations colonises directly the poor, and indirectly it has begun to colonise our minds. The result is a sort of uniform industrialisation of the mind, a standardisation of thoughts which sees no other alternative. And yet, there is a fatal flaw. No matter how powerful this united campaign by the rich corporations, the media, and the politicians is, even their combined power remains defenceless against the actual life experiences of the poor. If this process of growth continues for long, it would produce its own demons. No society, not even our malfunctioning democratic system, can withstand beyond a point the increasing inequality that nurtures this high growth. The rising dissent of the poor must either be suppressed with increasing state violence flouting every norm of democracy, and violence will be met with counter-violence to engulf the whole society. Or, an alternative path to development that depends on deepening our democracy with popular participation has to be found. Neither the rulers nor the ruled can escape for long this challenge thrown up by the recent high growth of India.
References for sources of data and other information.
India Development Report, edited by R. Radhakrishna, Oxford University Press, 2008.
Alternative Economic Survey, India 2006-2007, by Alternative Survey Group, New Delhi, Dannish Books, 2007.
Government of India, Economic Survey, 2006-2007, New Delhi, Ministry of Finance, 2007.
‘Revisiting employment and growth’ by C. Rangarajan, Padma Kaul and Seema, Money and Finance, September, 2007.
‘Service-led growth’ by Mihir Rakshit, Money and Finance, February, 2007.
Inclusive Growth in India, by S. Mahendra Dev, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2008.
Green Left Weekly issue no.710, May, 2007.
Information from Forbes quoted in ‘Globalisation: the Indian experience’ by Anil Kumar Jain and Parul Gupta, Mainstream, Delhi, February 8-14, 2008.

Mass suicides by Indian farmers…shape of things to come

Arun Shrivastava CMC
The truth is slowly emerging. A Home Ministry report, monitoring deaths by suicide, says that roughly 100,000 farmers committed suicide over six years to 2003 in India. On 18th May 2006, Sharad Pawar, the Minister of Agriculture [MoA], Government of India, presented the data to the Upper House [Rajya Sabha] adding that investigations by state governments on agrarian distress show that the main “cause of suicide is indebtedness.” In the dehumanized statistical gimmickry, the utter devastation of the 100,000 households of dead farmers comprising women, children and elders was quietly buried under the soft thick carpet of the Indian Parliament.
India, with adequate rainfall, warm climate, enormous biological diversity, and excellent traditional agricultural practices, has no reason to face agrarian crisis and, given nature’s bounty, its farmers have no reason to commit suicide. This paper deals with how the rule of one British company and its buccaneers started a process in 1760 that continues to this day, ravaging the farmers of the sub-continent and how independent farmers everywhere are under threat of extinction.
Indian farmers before the “Company rule”
An average Indian peasant at the beginning of 19th century earned significantly more than his British counterpart and there was no substantial difference between the diets of a peasant and a rich landlord in India. Most significantly, there was a tradition to feed outsiders first, including beggars, before a family sat down to eat. The affluent households did not sell milk and milk products; they were distributed free within the community, a practice that continued right up to 1960s in many parts. The destruction of India’s agriculture and destitution of its farmers is a story of corporate greed and the utter ruthlessness of a small group of people in Europe and the United States who do not value human beings: whites, browns, yellow, or black. The sooner we realize this and take effective action, better will it be us and the farmers.
The genesis of agrarian distress
Agrarian distress starts with colonization of eastern India by a British company, the East India Company [EIC] around 1760, their system of extortionate land tax, combined with forcing farmers to grow cash crops [chiefly indigo and cotton] on the best lands and not paying appropriate price for the produce. They systematically destroyed a sustainable agriculture system that’d fed millions for over 6,000 years and then introduced money lenders and rack renters to trap farmers in debt.
The colonial system of land use led to frequent collapse of India’s farms resulting in food shortage, famine, mass deaths, destruction of fertile lands, and destruction of age-old symbiotic system of farming, animal husbandry, and forestry. While doing nothing to alleviate agrarian distress, the Colonial officials kept repeating, parrot-like, that there are too many Indians! Henry Waterfield’s paper on India’s population density and comparison with some of the regions/countries of Europe is most illuminating: whilst the population density of British Indian Empire was 165 per square mile in 1875, the density of Belgium was 447, England 422, Saxony 377, the Netherlands 291, Italy 237, German Empire 193, Prussia 180, and Switzerland 175. Only France, Denmark, Scotland, Portugal, Spain and Greece had lower population density as compared to India. [Henry Waterfield , (1875), Memorandum on the Census of British India 1871-72 , London , Eyre and Spottiswoode , p. 6;]
The British fixed the tax from land at fifty percent of the average gross produce and collected the tax in cash [rupee] that forced the farmers to first sell their produce, earn cash, and then pay tax. This was a unique experience for the Indian peasantry. The costs of maintaining cultural and religious institutions, healthcare facilities, schools, irrigation infrastructure, roads, serais [places where a person could halt at night, somewhat like Inns in England], etc., were extracted in addition to the land tax at least during the first eight decades [1780-1860]. No mercy was shown in matters of tax collection: if harvest was less than normal, the tax could be more than 100% of the value of produce. If price of crops collapsed because of bumper harvest, again the farmer lost to the tax collector.
Economic historians, like Dharampal, have calculated that, for example, in Madras presidency [present day Tamil Nadu state], from 1830s onward, around one-third of the most fertile land, probably larger in area than the available cultivable land in major counties of England, went out of cultivation by 1840 because, even with 100% produce sold for cash, land tax demand could not be met. The British called it “substantial ‘decay’ of revenue.”
[Dharampal. India Before British Rule and the Basis for India’s Resurgence. 1998. Gandhi Seva Sangh, Sevagram, Wardha, Maharashtra; It should be noted that Sevagram was established by Mahatma Gandhi.]
That substantial revenue decay did not stop their territorial expansion. John Stuart Mill wrote in 1858 that not a penny was spent by British tax payers for the conquest and control of India and the region from St. Helena on the west coast of Africa to Hong Kong in China. The resources, every single penny, were extorted from India’s farmers. India was an awesome cash cow to the company.
For Indian farmer to go hungry, or even remain undernourished, was a new experience, and they retaliated; the history of 1780-1858, is one long list of spontaneous uprisings throughout India.
Indian farmer again begin to feed the millions
The population of India was 238.4 million in 1900. The Colonialists said, “too many, can’t feed ’em all.” It went up to 252.1 million in 1911 and the colonialists said, “too many, can’t feed ’em all.” In 1947, when India became independent, India’s farmers could feed all of the 325 million. In 1991 there were over 844 million and the farmers fed them all; no famine and no collapse of agriculture as happened time and time again during the British period. Agrarian distress and consequent mass suicide since 1997 once again starts when India exposed its agriculture to foreign companies in 1991. It is again driving India’s farmers to hell and this time with full support of the Indian government, officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ag-scientific establishment. This time there is method in the madness.
Agrarian distress and the Warehousing Act
In 1945, economists of the Reserve Bank of India, in anticipation of India’s independence, studied farmers’ indebtedness and made four key recommendations:
(a) Farmers be provided with facilities for scientific storage of produce in proper warehouses to minimize post-harvest losses;
(b) Farmers be issued warehousing receipts against their stocks which could be used to borrow cash from normal banking channel, thereby eliminating dependence on private money-lenders who often charged a minimum of 60% interest;
(c) Each warehouse to have a trained technical team who would work closely with agriculture scientists, provide extension services including advice on seeds, fertilizers, and scientific storage of produce; and
(d) The warehouse superintendent would advice the farmers when to sell their produce in order to maximize revenue and prevent distress sale.
Whilst the recommendations were excellent, it was only nine years later, in 1956, that the Warehousing Act was passed by the Parliament. From 1956 to 1971, nearly every state constructed a number of warehouses. The technical people employed in these warehouses were generally competent and highly motivated; they worked with the farmers, helped them, and brought about a degree of stability within rural farming communities.
From 1971 onward the focus of warehousing corporations shifted. The scheme of warehousing receipt was allowed to fall into disuse for various reasons including corruption within warehousing corporations, and pressure from fertilizer and chemical companies to allocate more space for their products. It was a convenient arrangement: the companies got highly subsidized warehousing space and the warehousing corporations got assured income by way of rent with the added comfort of reduced paperwork and virtually no fieldwork with the farmers. Thus, an excellent strategy to pull farmers out of desperation was allowed to fail.
In 1966 the food situation was desperate following three consecutive draughts. The US Government refused to allow sale of wheat to India because of India’s refusal to fall in line with US policies in Asia.
On the advice of MS Swaminathan, the Government decided to make available fertilizer, pesticides and hybrid seeds to the farmers through these warehouses, at the same nominal rent which was actually meant for the farmers. This is still true in 2006. Thus, the many private and public sector seeds, fertilizer and chemical companies benefited a lot more than India’s peasants from the existing warehousing facilities. Also, the big farmers benefited.
The economics of farming in India: a simple illustration
The following analysis is based on agriculture practice in one of the largest regions [roughly 700 square kilometres] growing potato and onion and some vegetables. The region is south east of Patna and falls within the Gangetic plains. Potato crop is taken in three and half months, onion in about five and half around May. During rainy season the area gets inundated so people have stopped growing paddy. Most of the farmers have forgotten the rejuvenating role of paddy: the algae that grows on stagnant water is nature’s way of fixing nitrogen to the soil, a reason as Sir Albert Howard found why farmers of the Gangetic plains had been growing food, season after season, year after year, since hoary antiquity. It should be noted that when the British forced Indian peasants to grow cotton and indigo on lands that were best for paddy, they also destroyed the system of fertility recovery, which caused collapse of winter crops. But let us fast forward to 2004. I found that seeds accounted for 20% of input costs, chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) about 32%, diesel (to draw water out of the underground aquifers for irrigation) about 10%, and labour 38%. Give or take a few percentage points, this is the break-up of input costs, together for potato and onion crops and is broadly representative of the average costs of farmers in northern India.
With this input, the farmers take about 7 metric tonnes each of potato and onion per bigha (1.59 bigha in this area equals one acre). The five-year average ex-farm price for potato is about Rs 200 per quintal [1 quintal=100 kgs] and Rs 250 for onion. Wastage can be pegged anywhere between 10 to 40% on account of drying, rotting, and losses in transit (various government estimates). If the farmer is lucky, and responds to market prices intelligently, he can average about Rs 2000 per tonne for potato and onion. In other words, from two crops he can generate revenue of about Rs. 44,500 per year per acre [about US$ 1,000]. With input costs per acre of about Rs. 38,000, the ex-farm return is about 6,500 plus savings in labour costs that is achieved because the entire household works these farms. This calculation does not include post harvest losses due to rotting, drying, and spoilage during transportation nor does it include cost of borrowed capital.
The Rs 14,440 computed for labour costs if saved can give the household a net income of Rs 20,900 per acre per year, that is about the same if a family of six were living below the poverty line. Majority is small (below 2 hectare holding) and marginal (below 1 hectare) farmer. So, SMFs can generate a maximum income of about Rs. 50,160 per hectare (Rs 20,900 x 2.4 acre) (or US$ 1,114 per annum per hectare), excluding cost of capital. Rarely do farmers achieve this level of notional mean income.
If a farmer finances 50% of his input costs from borrowings, even at 36% (3% flat rate per month) interest he lands up in serious financial trouble. Many borrow 75-100% of their input costs sometimes at 40% rate of interest. Invariably at harvest time, when there is glut, prices crash. Small and marginal farmers do not have the resources to hire storage space and obtain better price at some future time. Distress sale further erodes a farmer’s financial viability. Those who store their surplus end up losing 10-20% stock due to spoilage and drying shrinkage neutralizing any gains through seasonal price fluctuation.
If the market price drops by 20%, even if the farmer has not borrowed money, he would be in loss to the tune of Rs 2,384 [US$ 53] per acre. Every third year or so, prices crash by as much as 30-50%, largely engineered by traders, leaving farmers deeply in debt. Therefore, the talk of helping farmers with greater access to market, a promise that has been repeated by every politician and every Agriculture Minister since 1947, is unlikely to resolve the problem of assured minimum income. As shown above, SMFs can’t benefit from market access; rather the market left to its own devices works against the interest of SMFs.
It demonstrates how conventional method of farming traps small and marginal farmers into debt, a system of farming that was promoted by Swaminathan, a Rockefeller plant. Swaminathan exploited the desperate food situation in 1966 to the hilt: without critical appraisal of our indigenous system of farming, he vigorously pushed industrial farming methods, trapping farmers into spiraling cost of production financed by debt. This is how small independent farmers in North America were destroyed, to be replaced by industrial farmers. This is how Indian farmers are being destroyed.
Despite the fact that 70% of India’s voters are SMFs living in 600,000 villages, and despite the fact that every politician ritually genuflects to these impoverished pissants at election time, not once the Government of India, or any state government of any political hue, has shown seriousness to pull them out of poverty, poor health, malnutrition, and illiteracy.
The failure of development programmes in India
Since 1951, India ostensibly started its Five Year Plans for “planned development” under the influence of Soviet Russia but surprisingly its agriculture policy was directly under control and influence of the Rockefellers, Ford Foundation and USAID. In every Five Year Plan, agriculture and rural development was top priority on paper but the ground reality is quite different.
. Older farmers remember that in 1960s, every agriculture extension officer would go around villages encouraging them to take the “free kit” containing hybrid seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Initially, output did rise phenomenally. For example the output of wheat went up by 500%, rice by 300%. But in the process many farmers stopped saving their seeds and became heavily dependent on purchased hybrids, a deliberate policy of deskilling farmers.
. Irrigation canals were dug up for the farmers, all over the country but many of these never got water; even after three or four decades majority is bone dry. Only few, those dug up in Punjab and Haryana, have water because the engineers diverted perennial Himalayan rivers. The irrigation departments of most states are now infamous more for their corruption and for harassing farmers than for constructing working canals.
. The Rural Electrification programme, started with much fanfare in 1970s, ostensibly for farmers, has failed. In villages after villages one sees electric poles and wires, some have existed for over three decades, but the people are still waiting for electricity. So farmers came to depend upon diesel engine to draw water from underground aquifers. As they drew more water, the water table dropped, requiring more diesel oil to pull water up. Forty years ago one could hit water six feet
under ground and construct a perennial well about 12-15 feet deep. Today one would be lucky to get water at less than 120 feet.
. World’ largest supplementary nutrition programme run by the Indian government since 1974, with financial assistance of UN agencies [Food & Agriculture Organisation, UN-World Food Programme, UNICEF] and the World Bank, supposed to feed pregnant women, nursing mothers, adolescent girls and children under 6 years of age 25 days per month, operates for four or five in majority of distribution centres in the most populous state of India, Uttar Pradesh. The feed is often sold to local traders, which in turn ends up as cattle feed in factory farms or as raw material in food processing industry, or ends up in local grocery stores. The inter-generational cycle of malnutrition has been perfected to the level that the SMFs are walking skeletons in most places.
. The Adult literacy programme started in 1950s failed; thirty years later the number of illiterate adults actually doubled in India. In 1988 another “National Literacy Mission” was started but by 1993 it was tottering. Whilst many districts returned fudged figures, the Census 2001 actually reveals that majority of rural people in India is still illiterate. There are villages where not one woman is literate. The resources have been siphoned off but not one officer has been prosecuted. The farming community remains illiterate.
. Majority of farmers do not have access to safe drinking water. The drinking water programme now has provision for restoring traditional rainwater harvesting structures at community level but in majority of villages only water tank, electric pump to draw underground water and expensive pipes are being laid, benefiting manufacturers of these items. Underground aquifers are laced with leached pesticides rendering them unfit for consumption. Because there is no electricity and energy crisis is already reaching explosive proportion, many of these assets will soon become inoperable. Consequently water borne diseases and chemical poisoning are endemic in India and farmers suffer the most.
. Majority of villages do not have sanitation. There are districts where 93% rural households do not have a toilet. Under Total Sanitation Campaign of the Indian Government, toilets have been constructed with waste water draining out in the streets. Simple solutions like composting toilet system have been ignored. These toilets are actually the world’s biggest sanitation disaster in the making.
With few exceptions, the story is the same right across India.
A common strand in nearly all development programmes for rural India is that they neither benefit the people, nor the local communities. In fact, these programmes not merely cause colossal wastage of tax-payers money; they actually create conditions for slow death by ignorance and filth and diseases while large corporations profit.
So, all programmes seeking to alleviate rural poverty, educate the peasantry, and create rural infrastructure are made to fail but no officer and no politician can be held accountable for the failure. The administration operates with rules that ensure that persons in positions of authority can’t be held accountable, ever, for failure. There are indeed excellent officers and effective politicians, but they are invariably marginalized. There is a method at work which few can cope with in this country.
The machinations of the New World Order
Why is it that the elected leaders and the professional civil servants in the world’s largest democracy deliberately keep 70% of its people, the SMFs, in perpetual servile subjugation? Something very sinister is happening here in India, something as despicable as happened in the Soviet Union about 70 years ago and something that happened in the US over the last 100 years: utter decimation of the independent farmer.
According to John Coleman “One of the principal but little known operations of the Rockefeller Foundation has been its techniques for controlling world agriculture.”
Its director, Kenneth Wernimont, set up Rockefeller controlled agricultural programs throughout Mexico and Latin America. The independent farmer is a great threat to the World Order, because he produces for himself, and because his produce can be converted into Capital, which gives him independence. In Soviet Russia, the Bolsheviks believed they had attained total control over the people; they were dismayed to find their plans threatened by the stubborn independence of the small farmers, the Kulaks. Stalin ordered the OGPU to seize all food and animals of the Kulaks, and to starve them out.”
In the United States, the foundations are presently engaged in the same type of war of extermination against the American farmer… The Brookings Institution and other foundations originated the monetary programs implemented by the Federal Reserve System to destroy the American farmer, a replay of the Soviet tragedy in Russia, with one proviso that the farmer will be allowed to survive if he becomes a slave worker of the giant trusts.”
Dr. John Coleman, a former intelligence agent of British MI6
Dr John Coleman’s research sheds a new light that forces one to view the present agrarian crisis in a new perspective, possibly never explored before by the Indian intellectuals, whatever that term means, particularly those who claim to represent the civil society; the official intellectuals are anyway deadwoods, co-opted side-kicks of the Rockefellers.
First, the bankers, chiefly the Rockefellers, were responsible for destroying the independent farmer in the US and that story is being repeated in India: destroy the will of SMF in order to control 700+ millions Indians forever, condemned to perpetual slavery. This was started by the British colonialists who kept them perpetually hungry for 180 years. In free India the same policy is being continued by the co-opted Indian ruling elite by keeping SMFs illiterate, malnourished, and without any basic services like healthcare, sanitation, clean water, schools, and roads.
Second, the independent farmer is the greatest threat to the power of the ruling elite the world over because the farmer can produce for himself. He can’t starve. If all independent farmers produced only for personal consumption, the rest of the world can starve, the ruling elite can also starve [unless they eat Martian wheat or Plutonian meat], the square mile of Delhi, where the Indian ruling elite dwells will definitely starve, but not the farmers. If the independent farmer and the SMFs refused to sell their surplus to the food-MNCs, that decision can destroy the global US$3.2 trillion food racket and make people so healthy that it would in turn destroy the US$466 billion pharmaceutical industry as well. Oh no, too much money is involved. Hence, the elaborate charade of “farmer-friendly” government, an elaborate mechanism to steal tax-payers money in the name of “poor farmers,” brilliantly engineered by the Leftists and Socialists [chiefly Jawaharlal Nehru and his minions] since 1947. And all this money, running into trillions of rupees since 1947, has neither improved the lot of SMFs, nor helped create sustainable rural infrastructure. The money has simply evaporated and no questions are being asked.
Third, the independent farmers or SMF need capital for labour, inputs and knowledge. Knowledge (to reduce risk) and inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds are all controlled by big business and under tutelage of big business by government officials, including scientists of the Indian Agricultural bureaucracy. The money to buy these critical inputs is supplied by the bankers in the US/EC/Australia and New Zealand AND not supplied by the Indian banking system, now effectively under control of the World Bank and the IMF, which in turn is controlled by the plutocrats like Baring, Hambros, Lazard, Erlanger, Mirabauld, Fould, Mallett, Rothschild+Morgan, Schroeder, and of course the Rockefellers.
Fourth, the SMFs are
under pressure in India to produce for Food-MNCs, like Pepsico and others. The name of PepsiCo comes up time and again when I meet SMFs in northern India. Their field staff has been offering “lucrative” deals for contract farming, a new concept in India. Started by the previous BJP Government, [Hindoo Nationalists, as the British Blabbering Corporation would have us believe, as if Hindooo Nationalists are siblings of the Taliban], the scheme seeks to rent land from SMFs to grow crops that these MNCs need for their food processing business. This will displace millions of SMFs from their farms and further erode India’s farming skills. Where will they go, how they will spend their time, how much these MNCs will pay them, whether they will pay them at all, and whether they will return the land to the rightful owners are questions that do not occupy the minds of Indian ruling elite. It has the machinations of East India Company written all over. And the same agenda, of the previous Hindooo Nationalist party is being perfected under the present “secular” government, great favourites of Fox, CNN and of course the Leftist BBC, ably supported by the Rightist and Centrist-leftists of India. So, all governments and all political parties are implementing the agenda of the Rockefellers and their ilk, through powerful food-MNCs; we are back in the 1760s, only the names have changed.
Fifth, backward and forward linkages of SMFs’ supply chain are now under control of the big business. Multinational seed companies have set up operations in India, some are frequently in the news for stealing local seeds [Monsanto and Syngenta]. They, along with illustrious names like Swaminathan, are responsible for the destruction of India’s bio-diversity. It should be noted that India had 100,000 rice varieties; today barely 50 are available. Farmers are now dependent upon these multinational seed companies and the first step they have taken is to push hybrid seeds, often stolen from indigenous people. To add icing to their thievery, these seed MNCs are now deliberately contaminating local seeds with genetically engineered ones. Local seeds in 39 countries are now contaminated with genetically engineered seeds as reported by Dr Mae Wan Ho of ISIS-UK.
“In his major expose, “The Great Gene Robbery”, Dr. Claude Alvares reveals how the US government stole genes from India through [active connivance of] scientists such as Dr. M S Swaminathan, who was once widely hailed as the father of the Green Revolution” and still influences decisions in India’s Agriculture Ministry. “Alvares describes the marginalization of the brilliant rice specialist, Dr. R H Richharia, who single-handedly fought to preserve a precious. national heritage [the rice seeds] – only to lose to the agents of the US.” [The Illustrated Weekly of India; pages 6-17, March 23-April 5, 1986]. This is not India-specific problem; farmers everywhere are fighting a losing battle in matters of seeds.
Similarly fertilizer and pesticides manufacturers now cover the whole of India, with local retail outlets selling potent poisons and the farmers use them without shoes, without facial masks, while women and children are sitting nearby. Recent reports by an NGO reveal that cotton farmers in Punjab state have high levels of pesticide residue in their blood. Incidences of cancer have soared; farmers are dying of pesticide poisoning.
There is no difference in the action of the thieves of East India Company [1760-1857], the looters of British India [1857-1947] and the co-opted Indian Government [since 1947].
Except that the form of extortion has changed
Each acre under onion and potato gives the MNCs sales worth US$523 in terms of seeds, diesel oil, fertilizers and pesticides, and gives a maximum of US$ 464, under ideal conditions, to the farmer.
Income of farmers [Per annum, per acre]
Farmers : US$ 144.00
Savings in labour : US$ 320.00 [If no bought-in labour cost is incurred]
Gross surplus : US$ 464.00 [excluding cost of capital]
Income for corporations [per annum, per acre]
Seeds : US$ 168.89
Diesel : US$ 84.45
Fertilizers and pesticides : US$ 270.23
Total to corporations : US$ 523.57
If the farmer is taking $464 to an acre, the social cost of $320 additional revenue is enormous: children remain out of school, women work a back-breaking 16-hour day, and the family barely scrapes through two meals a day, sometimes not even that. On the other hand, the environmental cost of $523 going to US and European multi-nationals, their distributors and retailers is also enormous: depleted water resources, poisoned land, dead soil, destroyed bio-diversity, contamination of natural seeds with genetically engineered ones, destruction of the habitat, contamination of natural water bodies, emergence of unknown diseases and widespread health problem including cancer, diabetes, immune disorders, etc.
Shape of things to come
The global food industry is worth 3.2 trillion US dollars and growing, possibly worth US$ 4 trillion. The food industry can maximize its profits only if it controls the farm workers and their land; that is the logic of food business.
US$ million % of total
Seeds 21,000 0.55%
Fertilizer 80,000 2.10%
Pesticide 35,400 0.93%
Food industry 3,200,000 84.16%
Pharmaceutical 466,000 12.26%
Total 3,802,400 100.00%
Table 1 shows that people purchased food worth US 3.2 trillion dollar on earth. In order to generate 3.2 trillion dollar worth of sales for the food industry, the farmers paid 21 billion dollars to the seeds industry, 80 billion dollars to the fertilizer industry, and 35.4 billion dollars to the pesticide industry. And each industry is a silent killer. When people got sick and debilitated, they paid an additional US$ 466 billion to the pharmaceutical industry to cope with the after effect of that food, remain sane and survive. The plutocrats who control the banks control seeds, fertilizers, and food industries and also control the pharmaceutical industry. Through well funded AID agencies and research foundations they promote spurious technologies and destroy sustainable indigenous systems. The Indian Government’s complicity is all over: [a] It has signed Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture [KIA] with mass murderer George Bush in Hyderabad [Match 2006] knowing fully well that the initiative seeks to slip in technologies destructive of India’s food security and indigenous farming methods; [b] there is a major attempt underway to de-regulate food safety in favour of transnational food corporations; [c] farmers in UP and Bihar have frequently complained of their inability to store seeds, which indicates that genetically engineered terminators are present in the market despite laws banning GM seeds; [d] the Genetic Engineering approvals committee [GEAC] of Ministry of Agriculture is nothing more than rubber stamping body; [e] western governments and the transnational food corporations under WTO are rewriting all rules covering all foods (Codex). All this will push the SMFs into debt and slavery. Today, nearly all systems that support health and longevity have been destroyed and people are forced to depend upon the corporations for their survival.from seeds to food and medicines and in this globalization without consent the survival of SMFs is not an issue.
The truth
A poor farmer of India today earns US$ 144 from his back-breaking effort: exactly 12 dollars per month. If the entire household works an acre, including children as young as five, they just might earn US$ 464 from their meager holdings, provided all factors are favourable, which rarely happens. But the corporations, their distributors and retailers extract US$ 523.57 from each acre worked whether the farmer earns even a dollar or not. The Rockefeller-engineered destruction of the independent farmers in the US is being repeated here in India.
The suicides of Indian farmers serves two purposes: one, it is reducing the population of India and reducing the pressure on natural resources for reasons that have been engineered by neo-conservative thinke
rs controlling Washington’s policy. World population must be reduced to 1750 level of 770 million if the planet is to survive in post oil era. This was known to a small group in the US back in 1974 and the plan for culling world population was set in motion by Henry Kissinger, endorsed by Jimmy Carter, furthered by Reagan, George Bush senior, Clinton, and now being expedited by baby George. And two, while the plutocrats implement their agenda through the co-opted Indian ruling elite, they’d extract as much profit as they can, while simultaneously killing as many on earth. Profit must be ensured, no matter how many die. And the Indian governments have been active co-conspirators in this agenda since 1947. Earlier it was Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi who ruled India for 34 years. Then Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi’s son, who ruled this hapless nation. Today, Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh, Chidambaram, Karat, Sitaram, and the entire Indian political and bureaucratic establishment is responsible for creating conditions for culling India’s population.
The tragedy of it all is that every person on this earth is under death sentence from depleted uranium contamination of the earth’s atmosphere: every person of every class, colour, creed, or religion. The ruling elite of Delhi are particularly vulnerable. They have been breathing depleted uranium contaminated air since 1991 and they are all under death sentence. How long they will lead a normal life before dying a painful, prolonged death is their problem, not mine. But they are as much responsible for the death of farmers as they would be for their own death and the death of an ancient civilization because they failed to read the writing on the wall.
World’s two greatest democracies are writing the epitaph of the independent farmers and their own people. The irony of it all is that gravestones for American farmers are actually produced in the stone quarries of India by surplus farm hands, while the wood for funeral pyres of India’s dead farmers are sourced by bribing forest officials here, directly or indirectly. The Illuminati rules, okay!