The End of Poverty

The aphorism “The poor are always with us” dates back to the New Testament, but while the phrase is still sadly apt in the 21st century, few seem to be able to explain why poverty is so widespread. Activist filmmaker Philippe Diaz examines the history and impact of economic inequality in the third world in the documentary The End of Poverty?, and makes the compelling argument that it’s not an accident or simple bad luck that has created a growing underclass around the world. Diaz traces the growth of global poverty back to colonization in the 15th century, and features interviews with a number of economists, sociologists, and historians who explain how poverty is the clear consequence of free-market economic policies that allow powerful nations to exploit poorer countries for their assets and keep money in the hands of the wealthy rather than distributing it more equitably to the people who have helped them gain their fortunes. Diaz also explores how wealthy nations (especially the United States) seize a disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources, and how this imbalance is having a dire impact on the environment as well as the economy. The End of Poverty? was an official selection at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

Global poverty did not just happen. It began with military conquest, slavery and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land, minerals and forced labor. Today, the problem persists because of unfair debt, trade and tax policies — in other words, wealthy countries taking advantage of poor, developing countries. Renowned actor and activist, Martin Sheen, narrates THE END OF POVERTY?, a feature-length documentary directed by award-winning director, Philippe Diaz, which explains how today’s financial crisis is a direct consequence of these unchallenged policies that have lasted centuries. Consider that 20% of the planet’s population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate. At this rate, to maintain our lifestyle means more and more people will sink below the poverty line. Filmed in the slums of Africa and the barrios of Latin America, THE END OF POVERTY? features expert insights from: Nobel prize winners in Economics, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz; acclaimed authors Susan George, Eric Toussaint, John Perkins, Chalmers Johnson; university professors William Easterly and Michael Watts; government ministers such as Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and the leaders of social movements in Brazil, Venezuela, Kenya and Tanzania. It is produced by Cinema Libre Studio in collaboration with the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. Can we really end poverty within our current economic system? Think again.

Not a very green revolution

Not a very Green Revolution from the source project on Vimeo.

We are now witnessing the beginning of the second Green Revolution in India. The Punjab in the north west of India was an experiment to test an oil based, chemically dependent, corporately controlled model. The land, the water and its inhabitants are now testament to a failed system. A system driven not by a desire to enhance an already sustainable system but to destroy it and replace it with one orientated around profit and plunder.

The film is from an interview taken with Indian food policy analyst Devinder Sharma​
and the farming communities of Punjab.

Produced by Chintan Gohil

Centre for Interdisciplinary Study​
Music by Alien Soap Opera, Second Wave

Criminal Waste of Food Grain

Punjab has had a bumper wheat crop this year, the yield touching 135 lakh metric tons. But the storage agencies in the state have only 30 Lakh MT of indoor space, that is already occupied by the stocks of previous batches. Wheat of the older batches is dotting several places in Punjab and Haryana where stocks have rotted long ago, and foul smell now emanates from it making life miserable for the people living in the nearby area. With the arrival of the monsoon, this rot is only going to get bigger.

Times Now visited one such outdoor storage facility where over one lakh sixty thousand quintals of wheat has been rotting in the open since 2007.

Workers at the storage facility say that the wheat was stored here immediately after it was procured in 2007 and could have been saved if they had been provided plastic sheets and holding nets to cover the wheat stocks to save it from scorching sun and rain. But the department didn’t provide these things after the first year.

At the scene one of the workers said, “The entire crop has rotten. Nothing is left. This crop has been here since 2008. The owners got this crop. They didn’t give us any cover or anything. The inspector tried a lot but even he can’t do anything. They don’t provide us any expenditure labour costs.”

Thousands of tons of precious grain has been rendered unfit for consumption, not just be humans but also by animals. This stock of rotten wheat will now be auctioned to be used in liquor making.

Farmer suicides increase at an alarming rate

A old but interesting news story about farmers suicides in India.
Rupasree Nanda, Jan 18th 2011 CNN-IBN

New Delhi: January 18: Some alarming revelations have surfaced from a new study. A record 2.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide in India over the last 13 years. Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s home state Maharashtra tops the list. It has the worst record for the 10th consecutive year.

According to The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, more than 2,16, 000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997. P Sainath, Rural Affairs editor for ‘The Hindu’, says: Add figures for the years 1995 and 1996 and 2010, the total figure crosses 2,50,000!

UPA 2 says the problem is systemic. Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar whose state has the worst figures for the 10th consecutive year has stopped quoting NCRB figures since 2007.

More than 17,000 farmers committed suicide in 2009, the worst since 2004. That takes the total number of recorded farmer suicides since 1997 to 216,500.

But the figures could be starker. P Sainath, who broke the story, explains it could be beyond a quarter million people.

“The numbers are from the annual report of the Government of India’s own National Crime Records Bureau. Their yearly total for farmer suicide from 1995 to 2009 bring us to a total of 2,40,000. So even if we assume that 2010 saw far fewer suicides than the average of the last decade, it still takes the figure past 2,50,000 or a quarter of a million farmer suicides,” explained P Sainath.

For the 10th consecutive year, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s home state has the worst record with 2,872 farmers committing suicide, despite the much hyped prime minister’s relief package.

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh follow closely, with two thirds of farmer suicides being reported from these states.

But the question is that are more number of suicides being reported simply because there are more people in agriculture?

“Even the latest NCRB annual report of 2009 points out that general suicides in the whole country increased 15 per cent between 1999 and 2009, but the population of the country increased 18.5 per cent in the same decade. This means that there is an actual annual decline in the general suicide rates. But in the same period, the farmers’ population declined as more people left agriculture. But the suicide rate rose steeply till they are double of the non- farmers’ in the main states,” said P Sainath.

The despair has deepened over the past year with 18 of the 28 states reporting more suicides. The farmer suicide graph has been steadily rising.

“I believe the issue is more systemic. Because if you are talking about 15 years, you are talking about one and a half decades. There is a need to hold our horses, study the report and then comment,” exclaimed Congress spokesperson Manish Tewary.

In 2007, the agriculture minister in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha had said that there were more than 1,49,000 farmer suicides between 1997 and 2005. Since then, however, he has not fallen back on the NCRB numbers to explain the distress. But perhaps the first step in solving a crisis is acknowledging that one exists