India and Foreign Hand

 Indian toiling people like the peasants, workers, Adivasis and dalits have suffered the cruellest aspects of the foreign hand. The deceit, sadism and the helplessness of a colonized people cannot be worse when the British imperialists under the premiership of Winston Churchill diverted grain for British war abroad, resulting in the Great Bengal Famine where millions of people died of starvation. “We got a taste of foreign hand”. Hence, we really cannot forget the foreign hand and so we are still struggling to fight that foreign hand. Broad masses of the working people and other artisans cannot forget the fact now that their indigenous textile industries and other crafts were destroyed.

The Adivasis are offering stiff resistance to the present foreign hands like Wall Street, hot money flowing via POSCO, Vedanta, Areva, etc., and their local agents like Manmohan Singh who have thrown open their resources, forests, livelihood and habitats cheaply for rapacious national and multinational corporations. It is the continuation of a glorious tradition of Adivasis’ rebellions led by Birsa Munda, Sidhu Kano, in the Santhal Parganas, and Chhitu Kirad in the Bhil region of western MP and eastern Gujarat. From Rajmahal Hills in the east to Khandesh in the west, the heroic Adivasi uprisings fought against the then foreign hand – the marauding British imperial invaders, who were out to usurp their land, livelihood and territories. They brutally colonized northeast; even in the post-independent era the Indian state betrayed the democratic aspiration of the people of northeast and resorted to the worst kind of neo-colonial plunder, brutally suppressing the peoples’ aspirations for a dignified life with barbaric state repression under draconian laws like AFPSA. The Adivasis had the bitter taste of foreign hand when their forests were snatched away by the British imperialists. Under the Indian Forest Act, they were declared intruders in their own habitat. There was massive deforestation for the sleepers for British Railways to plunder the natural resources of India, most of which is in Adivasi regions. Even after the transfer of power in 1947, the neo-colonial extractive plunder continues for cheap natural resources for world imperialism and their junior partners in the third world.

In India, the contemporary symbol of Uncle Sam’s hand is Manmohan Singh; like the earlier foreign hand, the British imperialists, the present dispensation is continuing with extreme repressive measures like Operation Green Hunt.

The post-war era was also the defining moment of national liberation struggle and decolonization. After the victory of the Chinese revolution and the emergence of an assertive socialist bloc, Sputnik was sent to space and Valentina Tereshkova created hopes in working women that socialism provides the necessary base for every working woman to develop her potential. Socialism was in the air, it was hope of the oppressed masses. The idea of socialism reinvigorated the trajectory of history towards national liberation, equality and dignity. World imperialism, now led by the USA, faced its nemesis socialism. Socialism was the guiding compass for the struggle for justice, democracy and equity. The European bourgeoisie took recourse to social democracy and welfare state to legitimize itself and fend off challenges posed by the socialist camp and militant trade union movement in their own countries trying to co-opt its own working classes.

Therefore, one has to deconstruct the project of decolonization in the third world countries in the context of growing attraction of the idea of socialism and the need for legitimacy of the third world ruling classes. Foreign hand again played a significant role in the lives of the oppressed masses in the third world in the so-called post-colonial world. Post-colonialism is the biggest myth because of the neo-colonial exploitation of the people and natural resources of the third world.

Absolutely intellectual slaves of imperialism and the compradors of the third world helped to perpetuate this neo-colonial exploitation. For the past two decades, Manmohan Singh has been the most crucial foreign hand in India for ruthlessly implementing the policies of neo-colonial exploitation in India. The so-called project of “Decolonization” proved to be fraudulent. Imperialism changed it from colonial exploitation to neo-colonial exploitation where the broad masses of people of the third world have entered into a direct contradiction with world imperialism.

The Bretton Woods Institutions like World Bank, and IMF of late WTO, were used as instruments of neo-colonial exploitation of the third world. In the post-war period, the cruelty of the foreign hand did not stop despite the rhetoric of “Decolonization” and “Non-Alignment”. It became more ruthless, cruel, barbaric and genocidal in the post-war period, under the leadership of the super imperial state – United States of America. The imperial horror continued. Vietnam was carpet-bombed, people sprayed up poisonous chemicals, Korea was invaded, Allende and Patrice Lumumba were murdered, hundreds of plots were made to assassinate Fidel Castro, and the great revolutionary Che Guevara was murdered. Tin-pot dictators imposed on Latin America to further enlarge the open veins of neo-colonial exploitation of its natural resources and sucking the blood of its working people. Compradors were installed in the name of regime change and so-called democracy (truly meaning exploitative bourgeois democracy and class rule). The predatory rule of the imperialist camp was managed by the local elites for their western masters as Manmohan Singh is doing now. The foreign hand was its most repulsive and sadistic impact in the recent decades.

Iraq and Afghanistan were mercilessly invaded by US-led NATO troops. Millions were killed, while the ordeal of Palestine continues under Zionist Imperialist designs. Another anti-people predatory weapon of the foreign hand has also used the anti-democratic arbitrary instrument of economic sanctions. It tried to strangle Cuba through sanctions; for appeasing the Zionist lobby, the criminal cowboy has used it against Iran recently. But the most savage, cruel and sadistic exploitative use of this monster US foreign hand was the sanction against Iraq to capture Iraq’s oil and the US imposed sanction has murdered 5 million Iraqi children much before its fascist attack on Iraq in 2003, overriding the democratic protests of the entire globe. The invasion on Iraq was most barbaric, ostensibly in the name of democracy and the non-existent weapons of mass destruction camouflaged to capture Iraq’s oil and to bring it under US imperial hegemony. Left thinker Ravi Sinha explains the attack on Iraq in the following words:

“We are all witness to and victims of the times characterized by monstrous brutalities of war and deep scars of deprivations, inequities and oppressions. We live under a world order wherein those who brought, for example, untold tragedy and destruction of Iraq, will never be brought to justice because they are global hegemons. They will not be questioned about the hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqi men, women and children; they will not be questioned about the thousands of dead and decapitated American soldiers; they will not be questioned about the trillions of dollars spent on the war and further trillions destroyed by the war; and they will not be questioned about the kind of Iraq they are leaving behind.”

Further, Ravi Sinha says about our immediate neighbourhood:

“We on the sub-continent, too, have suffered grievously and felt the heat form far too close. Afghanistan is a continuing saga of tragedy; Pakistan has been made to pay too heavy a price; and India too has not managed to steer clear of catastrophe. And we know very well that when we count the countries that have suffered, the loss is borne invariably by the people and not by their rulers. [See Ravi Sinha’s ‘Three Formidable Barriers to the Advance of Democracy’ keynote address at the joint convention of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) at Allahabad from 29 to 31 December 2011].

Well, this is the foreign hand “US imperialism”. This is the story of real foreign hand, Uncle Sam’s monstrous brutalities. The obscene saga of Yankee Imperialism. The recent global economic crisis in 2008 was created by the favourite nieces and nephews of Uncle Sam, the greedy Wall Street operators of finance capital supported by the super imperial US state, or the emperor of the modern empire. Therefore, it is necessary to expose the economic basis of US imperial power. Explaining the economic basis of imperial power, James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer write: “Imperialism has taken diverse forms over time: ‘pre-modern’, ‘modern’, or ‘post-modern’ – to use the language of Robert Cooper, advisor to Tony Blair – or, in more analytically useful terms, pre-capitalist or capitalist. Lenin, one of the major 20th century theorists of capitalist development and socialism, defined imperialism as the most advanced stage of capitalism, in which financial and industrial forms of capital are merged into large corporate monopolies that, through the dynamics of state power (military force, principally), engage in a process of carving up the world into markets for their capital and surplus production, converting subordinate countries into colonies and local ruling classes into satraps and clients. However, whatever the form taken by imperialism, it entails the projection of state power in its various forms (economic, political and military) – whatever it takes for some nations to dominate others – to advance their class or national interests and subordinate other countries to these interests.

The dominant actor involved in this projection of power and creating the resulting relations of domination-subordination within the current arena of global politics is the capitalist nation-state. It has evolved diverse forms: democratic or authoritarian, and (with reference to its dominant policy agenda) liberal or neo-liberal. Other agents of imperialism include the largest capitalist corporations, which, in popular imagery or the dominant political “imaginary” of academic, roam the world in search of returns on their investment or capital. However, these corporations are not footloose or free from consideration of national interest. Indeed, the economic interest advanced and protected by the nation-states that make up what can be termed the “imperial state system”, a system currently dominated by the US state.

Furthermore, it is these states, in their projections of military and political power, that create the conditions needed for the home-based multinational corporations to take advantage of and operate profitably in the world’s “emerging markets”. The US imperial state, both directly (via the departments of state and defense) and indirectly (via control over financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF), constitutes a directorate to manage the global systems. Just like the government of the country, the decision-making power concentrated in this directorate of the new world order (the world capitalist or imperialist system) is backed up by a repressive apparatus, the armed forces of the US State, whose maintenance and global operations cost US tax payers and US capital around $300 billion a year in 2003, at least $480 billion in 2004, and over $500 billion in 2005, including Iraq and Afghanistan supplementary budgets. (See “Empire with Imperialism – The Globalizing Dynamics of Neoliberal Capitalism”, James Petras and Henry Veltmayer. Aaakar Books, New Delhi.)

Foreign Hand and the Post-Colonial Developmental Trajectory of India :

Like elsewhere in the third world, the project of decolonization in India was equally fraudulent. Behind the veneer of “Nehruvian socialism”, “self-reliance”, “import substitution” and “non-alignment”, the Indian ruling classes maneuvered their path in the cold war rivalry to build what Prof. Randhir Singh calls “India specific capitalism”. True to the new Indian states commitment to the pre-independent “Bombay Plan”, the consumer goods sector was dominated by multinational corporations for which public money was spent to provide them infrastructure.

The public sector was projected as socialism, while in reality it was facilitating ruthless accumulation by imperialists and their Indian junior partners. Nehruvian socialism was extremely deceptive, American think-tanks like Ford Foundation imposed the so-called “Green Revolution” taking advantage of the humiliating PL-480 arrangements. Green Revolution opened up Indian agriculture for predatory penetration of imperialist capital. It was a big blow to the self-reliance and dignity of the Indian farmers. Hybrid seeds, pesticides (which were developed from Agent Orange used on Vietnamese) and chemical fertilizers were imposed on India to fill the coffers of the multinational corporations who control the seed and pesticide market. The entire Indian agriculture and the peasantry was mortgaged to the international agri-business, especially companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, etc. This is the foreign hand. Indian farmers still suffer the worst symptom of this –  the suicide of hundreds of thousands of farmers, unprecedented in Indian history.

Primitive Accumulation: Neo-Liberal Regime and Manmohan Singh the Contemporary Foreign Hand in India :

Due to the accumulation crisis suffered by global capitalism, world imperialism gave up Keynesian “demand management”, “welfare state” to adopt neo-liberalism. Oil price shock, falling rate of profit and stagnation led to the abandonment of the Bretton Woods arrangements, dollar was delinked from gold, and the collapse of the socialist camp led the imperialist masters to “Washington consensus”. The third world rulers were arm-twisted to adopt the new mantra “market fundamentalism”, where “liberalization”, “privatization” and “globalization” became the buzzword. Pauperisation, dispossession and commodification were the order of the day. Public sector, built on the sweat and toil of the working class, was sold to private players at throw-away prices. The imperialist camp, led by the US, unleashed the worst kind of primitive accumulation on the third world peasantry under the neo-liberal world economic order, forcible depeasantizationwas ruthlessly imposed on the third world peasantry to create the new reserve army of labour for predatory capital.

Following the balance of payment crisis, this World Bank employee Manmohan Singh, a slave of imperialist economic training, was imposed on India as the Finance Minster. The rest is history. World imperialism never had a faithful puppet like Manmohan Singh. This foreign hand was most useful and loyal to the imperialist masters, and institutions like IMF, World Bank and WTO dictated their policies to Manmohan Singh who sincerely implemented them. After the Narasimha Rao government, India has seen various formations like the United Front and the “India Shining” NDA rule marked by the ghastly Gujarat pogrom. Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister in 2004 entrenching neo-liberalism in India. Explaining this phase and the hegemony of the neo-liberal project, my friend Shanker writes about the hegemony of the Indian neo-liberal project, “In itself the media’s behavior may seem nothing surprising. The alienation of the English media from India’s polity, and the solipsism and blindness of the elite it speaks for are hardly anything new; indeed, if anything, 2004 was only a further exposure of what was already increasingly obvious”.

But, in a way, this was precisely the reason why it was significant, for it hence had direct implication for the role that the English media has played in the rise of Indian neo-liberalism. To discuss this role, it is first important to note that, in the absence of a political/institutional formation that has generated and detained Indian neo-liberalism as an ideology (in contrast to Thatcherism, Reaganism or other such forces), the effort to push neo-liberalism as a political project in India has taken place in a far more diffused and complex manner. The functions that such formation would play, rather than being concentrated and organized, have instead been dispersed to multiple centres of power in the Indian system.

For instance, one such function – the individual policy changes and reforms that are required has worked not through “public opinion” or the legislative system, but instead through backdoor operations primarily focused in the bureaucracy (and in cases that do require legislation, through “consensus” achieved by cross party action through neo-liberal elements without an organized formation). This was described by Rob Jenkins as a process of “reforms by stealth”.

The second such role, increasingly appropriate in a time of shifts towards accumulation by dispossession, has been played by the judiciary. This has been the elimination and dilution of, on the one hand, legal protection for labour and criminal procedure, and on the other the strengthening and widening of state, coercive powers over resources (forests and urban land being the two most striking examples).

However, the third, and in our context the most important function, has been the evolution and projection of a hegemonic ideological project for neo-liberalism in the Indian context. (See Shankar Gopalakrishnan: The UPA Moment: Shadows of a Growing Crisis for the Indian State? In: Neoliberalism, Primitive Accumulation and Politics in India.)

This loyal foreign hand Manmohan Singh’s biggest regret in his tenure in UPA-1 and UPA-2 has been the opposition of the mass movements of the urban and rural working classes, the peasantry and Adivasis to his big ticket reforms like:

(1)      Dismantling of labour laws facilitating longer working hours, contractualisation of the workforce including the right to hire and fire.

(2)      Withdrawal of food subsidies and withdrawal of PDS

(3)      Privatisation of all major public sector enterprises

(4)      Withdrawal of fertilizers and other subsidies to agriculture

(5)      Pushing FDI in retail sector

(6)      Pushing financial deregulators, banking and insurance sector reforms

(7)      Unprecedented forcible land grab and expropriation of the peasantry

(8)      Pushing the dangerous option of nuclear energy upon an unwilling population

(9)      Severe repression of the mass movements

…. the list is endless.

Like the British imperial invaders, under this foreign hand Manmohan Singh, the peasants and Adivasis are facing the brunt of most violent dispossession in this neo-liberal regime of accumulation through dispossession. Millions of hectares of land are forcibly snatched, turning them into paupers and converting them into an impoverished army of reserve to serve as cheap contract labour for the private sector.

Singur, Nandigram, Kalinganagar, Kashipur, Bhatta Parsaul, etc., speak about the horrors of the 21st century primitive accumulation in India pushed by Manmohan Singh. This loyal foreign hand not only has forced hundreds of thousands of farmers to commit suicide, but is also responsible for the extreme brutalization of the Indian is policies have produced poverty, destitution and marginalization. It is this foreign hand – the loyal slave of  World Bank, that has created Arjun Sengupta’s 77% subsisting on Rs. 20/- a day. His push to primitive accumulation has turned fertile lands into the deserts of destitution. All this is done to please his masters at the Capitol Hill and Wall Street. For this, I want to underline the role of International Finance Capital and its third world agent Manmohan Singh – the loyal foreign hand in India.

International Finance Capital, through its myriad institutions and the exercise of diplomatic pressure, has put in place most developing countries, local servitors in key decision-making positions to implement that particular set of policies which serve the interests of global finance and, to a lesser extent, of global industry. The core elements of these policies include, as is well-known by now, trade and investment openness, income deflating fiscal and monetary measures which reduce public development spending and social sector spending, privatization of public sector undertakings, an attack on labour unions, and an attack on the livelihood and assets of small producers mainly comprising peasants and artisans, in order to promote corporatization. In most developing countries, the peasantry and artisans numerically outnumber by far the class of wage paid workers.

The attack on the peasantry’s land assets and forest resources by the corporate sector – both domestic and foreign – usually aided by the ruling state power, is seen virtually everywhere in countries as diverse as India and China in Asia, and in Tanzania, Madagascar and Ethiopia in Africa. The bitter reaction which it has provoked, the resistance of the peasantry to corporate and state acquisition of its assets, is the stuff of the most significant unfolding of social and political mass mobilization to be seen today. What we see is a new phase of what Karl Marx had called “primitive accumulation of capital,” comprising the separation of small producers from their means of production. The difference between the earlier phase of primitive accumulation and the present one, however, is all-important. Earlier phases were transitional to industrialization in Europe and in the lands settled by Europeans and the new world. The present phase of primitive accumulation in developing countries is transitional not to capitalist industrialization but to the accumulation of riches at one pole of the social structure, with rising unemployment, pauperization, the proliferation of small-scale services, and increased absolute poverty at the other pole.

This conclusion of absolute immiserization is not generally accepted in the extant mainstream or even the so-called “heterodox” discussions of globalization. (See Utsa Patnaik: “Capitalism and the Production of Poverty”, Social Scientist Vol. 464-465.)

Manmohan Singh and his camp followers like Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Chidambaram (with their unflinching loyalty to World Bank/IMF guidelines to cut subsidies on essential items like food grains and kerosene, despite rising food prices) have made the working people’s life hell. On the other hand, the working people have been subsidising the corporate sector. According to P. Sainath, since economic reforms led by this World Bank stooge Manmohan Singh, the Indian government has subsidised the corporate sector to the tune of Rs. 20 lakh crores, while his lackeys in the media and Planning Commission make a big hue and cry over MNREGA, proposed Food Security Act, etc.

POSCO is a test case, where this shameless comprador Manmohan Singh bends backwards to please his imperialist masters. Under pressure from the Korean President, the PMO directed the Ministry of Environment to give forest and environment clearance to the POSCO project. It is to be noted that both the Meena Gupta Committee and Saxena Committee had written in their reports about the serious violations of the Forest Rights Act and had recommended cancellation of the forest clearance. However, under pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Environment was forced to give forest and environmental clearance to POSCO. These examples are numerous.

Biodiversity, GM Foods and the Foreign Hand :

India has very rich flora and fauna with several agro-climatic zones – from the Himalayas to thick rain forests of the Western Ghats and various types of traditional agricultural practices, to food grains. Manmohan Singh is the biggest robber of India’s biodiversity and our seeds. He is the cruel imperial foreign hand to wipe out our seeds, traditions and agricultural practices.

Manmohan Singh is the foreign hand that facilitates “the great gene robbery” by multinational seed companies, especially Monsanto. Manmohan Singh is the foreign hand which has pushed Bt cotton down the farmers’ throat. He is that foreign hand which like a vulture feeds on the corpses of tens of thousands of Bt cotton farmers who were forced to commit suicide. It is a cruel paradox of history when this imperialist lapdog talks about the foreign hand behind the anti-GM seed campaign. The reality is Manmohan Singh is trying to work very hard to be the best area sales manager for Monsanto.

Protesting against Manmohan Singh’s interview to Science magazine about the foreign hand behind Kudankulam anti-nuclear struggle and anti-GM food campaign, eminent people like Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Prof. Romila Thapar and 17 others say in their letter to Manmohan Singh, “There has been vide coverage of your interview with the journal ‘Science’ on 24 February 2012, concerning the opposition to nuclear power plants and GM crops in India. You choose to resurrect the old bogeyman of a ‘foreign hand’, this time pointing to external funding of NGOs to oppose Indian development, as if they are some sort of a fifth columnist operating to undermine that nation’s interest. This, we feel, is a highly inappropriate misrepresentation of facts. The misdemeanours of these NGOs, if any, may well be only minor infringements of the letter of restrictive law that enables government to harass them as is now being undertaken. In reality, what we are all fighting against is indeed a foreign hand operating at the behest of and from within your Government, supported by Indian and foreign commercial entities, to corporatize Indian agriculture and farming practices and the energy sector, without in-depth and impartial analyses which prioritise the country’s security and safety. If this is their sin, it is our too!

Your remarks, in essence, indict every signatory to this letter. Our individual and collective “unthinking state”, an unlikely charge as that is, does not unduly perturb us; on the other hand, your charge that all those who voice dissent of your government’s policy on GM crops and nuclear power do not belong to the “thinking segment” of society, is an indictment of a large section of our citizenry. It betrays an inappropriate distinction between “thinkers” and “non-thinkers” solely on the basis of agreement or disagreement with government policy. Surely, this cannot be. Informed dissent and a healthy response to it by our government through trusted dialogue are vital for a functioning democracy. The absurdity of this position is therefore self-evident and it absolutely requires us to make a measured and robust response through addressing the key issues surrounding GM crops and the nuclear power sector.

The prominently visible foreign hand of the US, in these greatly important issues with ramifications of our country far into the future (and with regard to GM crops, irreversibly so), is squarely created and abetted by the UPA government. One indication of such collusion is the line-up of support your government has sought or received thus far from ABLE (Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises). The Indo-US knowledge initiative on agriculture, the Indo-US CEOs Forum, the Indo-US Business Council, etc., all of which expose the distinct foreign influence, are deliberately brought into these critical policy areas. Along with your investigations of the so-called ‘anti-national misdeeds of the NGO’, why is your government not probing the influence peddled by these agencies and entities who are primarily furthering the interests of foreign governments and private multinational corporations? Or, is it that only those who support your policies are helping the nation, while those raising legitimate and scientifically based dissent are all branded as traitors working against the national interest?

(See the letter written by Krishna Iyer, Romila Thapar, Praful Bidwai, Admiral Ramdas and others to Manmohan Singh, dated 5 March 2012).

In fact, this insidious foreign hand Manmohan Singh (who is trying to devastate Indian agriculture and forcing farmers to commit suicide), is behaving like a ruthless field marshal of a foreign invading army. The great Second Green Revolution has been declared with much fanfare after turning the fields of Punjab and Haryana barren and poisonous. Now this salesman of international agri-business is casting his greedy eyes on the eastern states of India.

The aim of Indo-US knowledge initiative on agriculture is a conspiracy to recolonise India. The plan is being implemented through the present day Mir Jafar Manmohan Singh.

By submitting the Biotechnology Authority Bill in Parliament, this foreign hand is trying to impose legislative sanction for destroying Indian agriculture and handing it over to US-based seed giants. GM crops will not only damage health and environment, but our seeds will be lost forever and the entire peasantry will be mortgaged to the international agri-business led by Monsanto.

In the context of GM crops, Manmohan Singh’s loyalty to his imperial masters is self-evident. GM crops were invented by the US; given their raison’d’etre of profit for the industry patent laws in that country and their commercialisation promoted at the behest of the White House to “foster the biotech industry” led by Monsanto, the international market leader holding 90% of crop patents. No GM crop is approved “as safe” by the US regulatory authorities in the US when they are put to market GM cotton and other crops. The industry has held sway; there is little regulatory oversight.

Indo US Nuclear deal, Kudankulam Struggle and the Foreign Hand

Yankee imperialism can never find such an obedient puppet like Manmohan Singh in the entire world who even staked his own Government to implement Indo US nuclear deal. The entire episode was akin to feudal loyalty of the peasant serf to the lord of manor. It is a well known fact that nuclear energy is an extremely obsolete screw driver technology which is not even preferred in Manmohan Singhs ideological Mecca the United States.

Manmohan Singh’s imperial masters who have themselves abandoned this in their own country found a loyal slave in Manmohan Singh to bail out their private nuclear corporations like Westinghouse to make super profits in a poor third world country like India, when in their own country the technology is destined for oblivion. After Fukushima disaster when the ruling classes of advanced capitalist countries are giving up nuclear power this intellectual slave of the neo-liberal west is so blind informationwise. So blocked in his thinking that while his master have outgrown the nuclear option this loyal slave still thrusting nuclear energy into our throat. Nuclear Energy in India becoming an instrument for super profits of American nuclear corporations. They have  imposed their obsolete and dangerous technology in India.

The Indo US nuclear deal was not only an instrument for bailing out the American nuclear corporations but it was an brazan attack on our sovereignty. It allows unrestricted entry into our nuclear installations by the Americans, it was an outrageous act by the US imperialists to consolidate their hold in South Asia for their defense and geo strategic interests. This foreign hand Manmohan Singh did everything in his capacity including striking a deal with Samajwadi Party to thrust the imperialist Indo US nuclear deal on Indian people. The loyal Foreign hand in India was at full play during the debate on Indo US nuclear deal. A conservative estimate puts it that the US nuclear corporation will make around 6 lakh crores of the business facilitated by the  Indo US nuclear deal, Uncle Sam will never find such loyal agent like Manmohan Singh any where else.

It is a common sense world over that nuclear energy is undesirable ad dangerous. The per megawatt cost of nuclear energy is much higher than any other forms of power generation. Yet this extremely dangerous and price wise exorbitant this killer energy is being forcibly  thrust on Indian people by this loyal Foreign hand Manmohan Singh Nuclear Energy hardly provides 1% of our power generation, and the official claim of being a clean and green source of energy is pure bullshit. The nuclear establishment clearly fails to account the embedded energy requirement to build a nuclear power plant. There is genuine and increasing public concern over the dangers of nuclear technology, particularly because the Indian nuclear establishment is directed by the government to expand their nuclear power activity on the basis of the import of untested reactors and in the absence of an independent and transparent nuclear safety regulator.

No nuclear power plant is 100% safe and for the government to make such a statement, as have been made only recently, stretch credulity and cone across as glib assurances in the back drop of the Fukushima accident, which has been particularly devastating and is fresh in people’s minds. The accidents at Three Mile Island (1979) Chernobyl (1986) also involved human error and weak nuclear safety regulation. Japan is a technologically savvy country. Despite this, they have not been able to respond till date to the sheer Scale of the Fukushima disaster to contain its impacts. In India, with our dense population, our lack of management skills, the unilateral decision-making at the highest political levels on the purchase of very complex and hither to untested nuclear reactors and technology systems with out involving the national safety evaluation process, refusal to constitute a totally independent and transparent nuclear safety regulatory system in the country, and our singularly inefficient disaster mitigation abilities, etc. could altogether land us in a major nuclear disaster soon, if these deficiencies are not immediately corrected, cost estimates of the Fukushima accident are currently placed at more than immediately corrected. Cost estimates of the Fukushima accident are currently placed at more than US $16 billion and it is still rising.

It will take decade to cleanup Fukushima and the significant strech of surrounding areas of radioactive contamination, and the clean up may never be complete, as evident from the Chernobyl experience where the Russians are setting up a sarcophagus to shield the stricken reactors from humanity and the environment.

Despite an assurance given by the Prime Ministers office on April 26, 2011 that “Action taken on previous safety reviews will be put in the public domain”, neither the DAE Nor NPCIL seems to make a mockery of the spirit of Article 19 of the constitution that entitles every citizen, as a fundamental right, to be informed about the functioning of any public authority, to the extent that its acts of omission and commission affects individual life. AERB, which is required to oversee and regulate the activities of DAE and NPCIC, continues to be subordinate to DAE and the new regulatory authority bill introduced by DAE before parliament, further more, does not ensure the independence of the regulator from the executive that controls it.

At many of our nuclear sites including Kudankulam, no truthful and comprehensive EIAs have been made and associated public hearing conducted as stipulated by law. Where representations of the local population have prepared scientific reports to the best of their ability, on their own, on pertinent safety deficiencies of a nuclear plant, and DAE has ignored those reports and not responded to the concerns expressed. A typical example is the recent PMANE expert groups report dated 12th Febuary 2012, which the Kudankulam protest groups prepared and submitted to the DAE. This report highlights serious questions about the safety of the Kudankulam site based on geotechnical and oceanographic considerations, backed by independent and scientific data ands publications from academic and research institutions. Through all this, the AERB which must come forth and defend the safety of these plants, has maintained a stoney silence, whereas, in any civilized country, it is the regulator’s duty to defend what they have approved as safe. In India, it is because the AERB is a captive regulator who seeks permission of the DAE before they speak publicly on any issue.

Let us be clear that nuclear power, like most other power technologies, is not 100% safe and can never be. But, given that the downside risk of a nuclear accident can be immeasurable and the empirical evidence from the past three core meltdowns  the world has witnessed reinforces such a possibility, how safe it can be will depend on the integrity of our regulators and our leaders who on the other hand are constantly manipulating the system, including the safety regulator. Our government has not yet realized that there is a strong positive correlation between the transparency of a safety regulator and the degree of eventual safety obtained. While the public is kept entirely in the dark on how safety is assured, the Prime Minister personally continues to endorse the relentless claims of DAE and NPCIL that nuclear power technology is 100% safe. On that basic there is little reason for comfort.

The enactment of the current civil liability law by the government betrays the PM’s stance on safety claims. The government has gone out of its way to bow to pressures and demands exerted by the US and Western MNCs to ensure that civil nuclear liability law shields reactor suppliers from accident liability in excess of the ridiculously low cap of Rs 1500 crore (equivalent to US $ 300 million). Evidently, foreign reactor suppliers themselves are not as confident as the PM seems to be of the safety of their own reactors and want the Indian tax payer to bear what could be an astronomical part of the liability in case of a nuclear accident. The latest estimate of the Fukushima liability has touched US $ 16 billion, compared to the cap of US $ 300 million imposed by the civil nuclear liability law that the Indian government has enacted. Further more, yielding further to MNCS’ pressure, the government has framed the rules under the liability law, exceeding the limits set by the law itself, imposing limitations on the definition of “consequential” casts and the timespan within which the Indian operator can prefer accident claims against reactor suppliers. The easy terms that the Indian government has agreed to in this matter are truly a national betrayal; a constitutional aberration in letter and spirit.

As far as Kudankulam unit 1 and 2 are concerned, the sketchy EIA report completed several years ago does not contain a comprehensive risk analysis, estimation of the probabilities of core-melt down or major radioactive releases, the factoring in of potential human errors, or a proper site evaluation from the geotechnical and oceanography points of view. We believe not even a cursory examination of such issues was done when the site was finalized, or thereafter. Even if NPCIL claims that such an analysis has been carried out, they have not placed it in public domain. When DAE and NPCIL choose to function in a shroud of secrecy with the implicit approval of the Prime Minister, it hardly seems fair of prudent on the part of the government to demand that the people who are going to be directly affected should refrain from raising their concerns. Why should this be? If the government has decided to investigate NGOs who have allegedly received foreign funding, it is appropriate and even more necessary to investigate thoroughly, the circumstances under which unusual accommodation with western MNC’s has been made by the same government. (See the appendix to the letter written to the Prime Minister by eminent citizens)

The US pressure on the civil nuclear liability bill shows the impact of foreign hand in the nuclear matters in India. The struggle against the nuclear power plat at Kudankulam is the struggle against this foreign hand.

Conclusion: Manmohan Singh, operation Green hunt and state repression in India:

This foreign hand Manmohan Singh whose grips are tightening over throats of helpless peasants, Adivasis women, religious and national minorities has proved to be the most cruel henchman of Yankee imperialism in the third world, Manmohan Singh outclasses puppets like Batista, Marcos, Pinochet and other monsters in his competition to appease his imperial masters. How he crawls in front of his masters from the white house is proved by the fact he broke the tradition and protocol and went to receive Obama personally at the Delhi Airport. How he behaves as a starry eyed teenager was noticed when to meet President Bush he fell into love with him. This Uncle Sams favorite butler whose entire training has been in institutions like world bank designed for imperialist hegemony, has been ruthlessly commodifying every necessary life needs of Indian people, food, shelter, water, rivers, land, forest and so on. Life for the poor has become most difficult in the era of forward trading and speculative finance capital.

 

As soon as Manmohan Singh was sworn in as Prime Minister, he declared Maoists to be the greatest internal threat to India. Thus he declared a war on the poorest and poor people who are struggling for survival and dignity against snatching away their water, forest land, life livelihood and dignity. At the behest of his imperial masters Manmohan Singh has launched a war on his own people to snatch away their land, forest, mines and water for rapacious plunder by international and national corporates. He installed another running dog of imperialism Chidambaram as Home Minister who in equal desperation to please his imperial masters launched “Operation Green Hunt”. Tens of thousand of paramilitary forces with the tacit help of the army were deployed to severely crush the poorest of the poor’s uprising against total destitution and state repression. Hounds of the Indian ruling classes BSF, CRPF, COBRA, GREYHOUND were unleashed on the struggling Adivasis’ from Jangalmahal to Chattisgarh to Narayana Patna. Thousand were murdered, raped and tortured. Custodial torture, death and rape has became order of the day in the name of “Operation Green Hunt”. The recent brutal custodial torture of Soni Sori will put to shame even the most cruel dictators. There is a witch-hunt on oppressed nationalities and minorities. Kashmir, North-east and the Batla house encounter are stark indicators of what is being done to the oppressed nationalities and minorities in this country. The recent arrest of the Delhi based journalist Mr Kazmi under pressure from the imperialist Zionist lobby is a test case, how Manmohan Singh operates on behalf of CIA and Mossad. This Foreign hand Manmohan Singh’s hand is dripping in Blood from Kashmir to North-east, and regions from Bastar to Jangalmahal. We have seen blood dripping from this hand at Jaitapur, Kalinganagar, Nandigram, Narayan Patna, Kashipur, Sompetta, Bhatta parsaul and Tappal, the list is endless.

 

The people in Fatehabad, Jaitapur, Mithivirdi, Chutka are fighting to shove off this foreign hand off their back, to save themselves from the disasters of nuclear power plant. The struggle in Kudankulam is a struggle against this Foreign hand Manmohan Singh who is forcibly pushing the nuclear power plant into their throat. To save the people and environment of this and to free ourselves from the clutches of US imperialism this hand needs to be chopped off.

Blog:

www.stormingthewinterpalace.blogspot.com & www.revolutionarynucleus.blogspot.com

Email: asit1917@gmail.com

Monsanto let off the hook on Bt Brinjal Monsanto let off the hook on Bt Brinjal

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=Ne250212Monsanto.asp

CURRENT AFFAIRS
KARNATAKA

Despite violating the Biodiversity Act, American seed major escapes legal action, reports Imran Khan

Farmers protest against Monsanto in Bengaluru
Bad genes Farmers protest against Monsanto in Bengaluru

AFTER GUNNING for American seed major Monsanto and its Indian subsidiary Mahyco for violating the Biological Diversity Act in the Bt Brinjal case, the Karnataka State Bio-diversity Board has decided not to prosecute the violators.

The decision was taken on 20 January while reviewing the complaint of Bengaluru based Environment Support Group (ESG) against Monsanto, Mahyco and the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, accusing them of violating norms by illegally accessing six varieties of brinjal endemic to India and genetically modifying it, resulting in Bt Brinjal.

In a letter dated 15 February 2010 addressed to the KSBB and the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), ESG had alleged that Monsanto, Mahyco and UAS used six local varieties of brinjal for developing Bt Brinjal without the approval of the board or the local biodiversity committees as required by law.

ESG said that the development of Bt Brinjal was undertaken on the basis of an MOU signed between Mahyco along with Sathguru (a front company of USAID and Cornell University) and UAS based on their deal of 2 April 2005. A similar deal was signed with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, and Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Lucknow.

The KSBB wrote a letter to the NBA on 10 March 2010 seeking its legal opinion. On 11 August 2011, the NBA acknowledged that the complaint merits a legal case.

On 28 September, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan said in the Lok Sabha: “The NBA has recommended legal action against the alleged violators for accessing and using local brinjal varieties without prior approval of the competent authority.”

However, in a U-turn, the KSBB resolved: “It is for the NBA to take necessary action against the institutions/companies regarding alleged violations of provisions under the Biodiversity Act.”

The resolution made Leo Saldanha of ESG furious. “There is little doubt that this controversial resolution was passed to unhook Monsanto and its collaborators from biopiracy charges,” says Saldanha. “It is tenable to draw such a conclusion as the current action agitates against the consistent position held by the KSBB that our complaint has merit and action must be initiated.”

In a U-turn, the KSBB resolved that it is for the NBA to take action against Monsanto

Saldanha claims that former state environment minister and KSBB chairman Krishna Palemar had earlier demonstrated his intent to prosecute the violators. However, in the 20 January meeting of the KSBB, he became party to passing a resolution that amounts to abdicating his responsibility. Interestingly, Palemar was one of the three ministers caught in the infamous porngate scandal.

But KSBB officials had a different story to tell. “We lack the staff and technical expertise to pursue the case,” says KSBB Member Secretary KS Sugara. “The Act is new and our officers are not well versed with it. We don’t have the powers to prosecute anybody, it can be done only through the wildlife wing.”

Meanwhile, Additional Chief Secretary Kaushik Mukherjee was more forthcoming in his support for Monsanto. “It has not violated any laws and there is no need to seek permission from the board, since it’s an issue concerning the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. It’s just a hue and cry raised by NGOs. While they are eager to point out genetic modification in food crops, they don’t utter a word when it comes to drugs that have GM molecules,” he says

NBA Chairman Balakrishna Pisupati refused to comment on this issue. So was the case with Monsanto. A letter addressed to Mahyco Chief Technological Officer Usha Barwale Zehr seeking her company’s comment went unanswered.

“This is an astonishing act of abandoning the KSBB’s obligatory functions of taking appropriate legal action against Monsanto and Mahyco and their collaborators for committing criminal acts of biopiracy,” says Saldanha.

Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com. 
imran@tehelka.com

“FAO recognition of traditional farming should keep GM away”

The traditional agricultural system of Koraput (Odisha) has been recognized by the FAO as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Site (GIAHS) at the recently concluded 99th Science Congress. This recognition is for outstanding contribution to promoting food security, biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and cultural diversity for sustainable and equitable development. Living Farms is a non profit working in the Koraput region of Odisha with the tribal communities practicing the traditional form of agriculture. Debjeet Sarangi of Living Farms spoke the to The Environment Health Bulletin and explains what this recognition means for the region.

Debjeet Sarangi What does this recognition by the FAO mean for agriculture in the Koraput region ?

The recognition of this traditional form of agriculture as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Site (GIAHS) is quite significant for the local communities, their traditional knowledge and agriculture systems. To begin the UN body has recognized the intrinsic value of the tribal agriculture system which is the custodian of thousands of traditional rice varieties, rich millets based mixed farming, sacred groves and agricultural ecosystems. We hope that our policy makers, institutional researchers, and research bodies also recognize this. We expect them to take strong policy decisions to conserve this heritage and ensure that the tribal communities of the region continue to live with dignity.

We also expect from the state and central government that Genetically Modified (GM) seeds and /crops will not be introduced here. The GM crops will contaminate the local agriculture system especially the local rice biodiversity and marginalize and weaken the local farming population. This recognition should also ensure that the chemical intensive mono cropping trend driven by the second Green Revolution program is not imposed or implemented here. It is also important that the land under agriculture in this region is conserved and not diverted for any other purpose.

Is this traditional system restricted to Koraput alone?

The Jeypore tract (undivided old Koraput district), is conceived by rice researchers as a centre of genetic diversity and secondary center of origin of rice. This traditional form of agriculture is not just practiced in Koraput. Its practiced in all the tribal districts of Southern Odisha. Koraput  has the highest population growth in the state. The district is primarily a tribal district; more than 70% of the total population belongs to one of the district’s 52 tribal groups. Some of the numerically large tribes in the district are Khond, Bhatada, Paroja, Bhumia and the Bondas.

What do the tribals largely rely on?

They practice millets based  mixed farming system consisting varieties of millets, sorghums, varieties of pulses, legumes, oil seeds, roots and tubers and vegetables. They have been conserving thousands of traditional varieties of rice. Apart from the cultivated sources a lot of their food, nutrition and livelihood come from commons- forests and waterbodies. So, there is an urgent need to conserve the commons in this region as well as to ensure that local tribal communities continues to  have access to their commons. (For instance if people upstream use pesticides it flows through the river and those living downstream are going to be affected)

How is this tribal agriculture and food system of Koraput different from the conventional agriculture or even the chemical free agriculture?

The tribal agriculture and food system consists of cultivated and uncultivated ecosystems. Apart from the agro-climatic situation their cultural practices and food habits, play a very important role in shaping up this system. Many festivals and rituals revolve around their agriculture and food system. They  view  cultivation as more than just a means of their food and  livelihood, they view it as a way of life.

The topographic diversity of the Koraput region has resulted in a wide diversity in ecosystems under which rice is cultivated: upland (unbunded as well as bunded), medium land (irrigated and rain fed) or low land condition. Within each ecosystem, innumerable rice varieties are grown depending on the local preferences for morphological characters (such as plant height, pigmentation of plant parts, grain shape and size, presence of awns) or cultural practices such as broadcasting, transplanting, food preparations (such as cooked rice, popped rice, puffed rice), palatability (aromatic or non-aromatic).

The official net sown area is around 25% of the total area of the region and is concentrated in plateaus and the wide river valleys. In the hilly areas however, permanently cultivated fields can be as low as 10% of the landscape. 33% of the cultivated area is irrigated; paddy occupies around fifty percent of the cultivated lands. Upland paddy and ragi (finger millet) are cultivated on around one third of the cultivated area.

Using their indigenous knowledge they take the viability test for seeds before sowing, maintain the soil fertility and conserve the landraces of rice and other crops. This knowledge has been transmitted from generation to generation among the family members.

How do the tribals preserve their plant genetic resources?

The “Sacred Grove” is an effective method of preserving plant genetic resources. It is a biological heritage as well as social mechanism by which a forest patch is protected. The concept of “sacred grove” is found deep rooted in the minds of different communities in Koraput region. Even today some forest patches are left to local deities as a traditional custom. Studies carried out by the Botanical survey of India and National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources reveal that there is a rich assemblage of species useful for food.

Rice is the predominant crop in the Jeypore area –both in terms of land as well as in terms of production. More than 40% of the land is under paddy cultivation. The other crops grown are maize, finger millet (Eleusine coracana), green gram (Vigna radiata), black gram (Vigna mungo), mustard (Brassica juncea), sesame (Sesamum orientale), groundnut (Arachis hypogea) etc. The tribal people in the hills grow minor millets, littlemillet (Panicum miliaceum), foxtail millet (Staria italica), niger (Guizotia abyssinica), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) and horse gram (Dolichos biflorus).

Are these traditional forms of agriculture in any kind of a risk from the much talked about second green revolution ?

The second green revolution has been promoting subsidized  hybrid rice, hybrid maize, hybrid sunflower along with synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides. A region of mixed farming, local resource based agriculture is witnessing replacement of mixed farms of food crops by mostly mono cash crops. Traditional maize was never grown as a mono crop in this region. It used to be a part of a mixed farming. Are we not making the farms and farmers more vulnerable especially in this era of climate crisis ? What will happen to farmers of this region once the subsidy is withdrawn? Who will be held responsible if these tribal farmers are pushed out of their farms due to increased cost of production followed by indebtedness as a consequence of the second green revolution. We sincerely hope that the government revisits its decision on the present format and structure of the second green revolution program and re-design it to support local resource based farmer led ecological agriculture  in Koraput region as well as in rest of the Odisha.

How is this recognition going to affect the tribals ?  This agriculture system was awarded in the past on two different occasions – the Equator Initiative Partnership Award in 2002 and the plant genome saviour community award in 2006- How did they help in promoting the agriculture system and the state of tribals in the region?

We do not know whether the news of this recognition and its significance has reached to the local tribals. We hope that the cash associated with the previous  two different awards – the Equator Initiative Partnership Award in 2002 and the plant genome saviour community award in 2006 and the present one have reached the local communities. It is their community based institutions which have been the bed rock of their traditional knowledge and farming system and they should decide how the prize money should be utilized.


Protecting Oryza in Odisha

by Shalini Bhutani | December 07, 2011

The eastern Indian state of Odisha is regarded as the place of origin of Oryza sativa, the plant species commonly known as rice. In fact, many believe that Odisha even got its name from the term “oryza”. Now however, Odisha is fast becoming the centre of action on intellectual property rights on rice in India. The Delhi-based national Protection of Plant Variety Authority has started a massive rice varieties registration initiative with the State Government of Odisha.

Plant variety protection (“PVP”) is a type of intellectual property. PVP laws grant economic rights known as plant breeder rights (“PBR”) to breeders vis-a-vis the new, distinct, uniform, and stable varieties of crops that they develop. This intellectual property right is of European origin. In the 1950s, countries in Europe started designing laws for protecting to protect the interests of their plant breeders. This was extended throughout Europe through the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (“the UPOV”), which was established in 1961 by the UPOV Convention.

It is critical to understand the relationship between the implementation of PVP laws and the World Trade Organisation Organization (“the WTO”) and its intellectual property rights (IPR) agreement, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“the TRIPS Agreement”). Even though the text of the TRIPS Agreement does not mention the UPOV, the latter has been pushed by the developed world as the “effective sui generis system” by which to implement the TRIPS Agreement. Developing country governments that were reluctant to make laws allowing patents on plants were shown the UPOV as the way out for complianceto comply with the TRIPS Agreement. This was convenient for developing countries in several ways. Their administrators could avoid the hard work of designing something from scratch for the specific needs of their own country. They agreed to use the ready-made solution offered by the UPOV model; other governments were forced to do so. This also meant that there would be no risk of not gaining acceptability from other WTO member countries. Further, for governments that had also faced public opposition to patents on life forms, lawmakers could simply point to the characteristics of PVP, which make it look relatively less restricting. For instance, in a PVP law, unlike in a patent law, the “research exemption” can allow others to use the breeder’s protected material for research purposes. More importantly, the PVP law can (optionally) provide for a “farmer’s privilege”, which would permit farmers and small growers to save and re-use seeds from the PVP-protected variety. The term of protection under PVP law (fifteen years) is also shorter than that for patents (twenty years).

Does the PVP law protect the rights of the farmers of Odisha adequately?

Image above and on article thumbnail from rajkumar1220’s photostream on Flickr.

Image (but not the rest of the work) published under :

Creative Commons License

The fundamental problem remains – that agreeing to pass a PVP law means that a country is no longer against the grant of intellectual property rights on planting material. The supreme irony is that countries legislating for the first time on farmers’ rights have landed up situating them within a commercial law. This is how the South has lost the battle against the privatisation of life forms. In effect, it means that the so-called exception to patents that developing countries and less-developed countries legitimately had in the TRIPS Agreement has been reduced to naught. With PVP laws, patent-like protection is being given. This also forecloses possibilities of a discussion on interpreting ‘sui generis’ to mean methods outside of intellectual property rights to ‘protect’ plant breeders’ varieties.

Fifty years after UPOV and over fifteen years after the TRIPS Agreement, the global seed industry (including theInternational Seed Federation and the Asia and Pacific Seeds Association) is looking for tighter intellectual property protection for its seed products. Yet some European plant breeder associations want a breeder’s exemption even to patents, so that they have more material under patent protection available for breeding. Meanwhile, Tthe ‘maximalist’ agenda for intellectual property includes demands for the removal of the two exceptions from breeders’ rights that PVP laws currently permit. While this will reduce the distance between a PVP and a patent, there are also lobbying efforts underway for an extension of patentthe PVP terms to twenty-five years.

Since the economic ‘reforms’, the political economy has also undergone drastic changes. Liberalisation of agriculture has meant that more private players are encouraged in the seed sector. Large corporations now have a much larger role in seed production and agricultural research and development. Informal breeding by farmers is being systematically sidelined. Both, the public sector and private corporations, are in the race for PVP certificates, for existing as well as for new varieties.

India passed its PVP law – the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act (“the PPVFR Act”) in 2001. In 2003, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Rules (“the PPVFR Rules”) were issued. In 2005, the PPVFR Authority (“the Authority”) was set up in Delhi. In 2009, the first PVP certificates were granted in India. Rice was amongst the first crops that the Central Government notified as eligible for the registration of varieties. In the Indian PVP law however, the fact that the definition of ‘breeder’ includes farmers, does not take away from the fact that the ‘protection’ offered by the law to even farmer-bred varieties is an intellectual property right. This is in complete contrast to the seed cultures that small farmers in India and elsewhere live by. The law and its ongoing implementation processes offer many sops to farmers to lure them into the PVP system. These include the waiver of fees and “genome saviour” awards such as the one awarded to the Panchbati Gramya Unyan Samiti of Koraput, Odisha. The law also promises a share of ‘benefits’ (read money) if and when the farmers’ material is used in the development of a new plant variety. For formal plant breeders, the varieties from the informal sector are important raw material from which to develop ‘new’ marketable products. Hence the drive to encourage farmers to register their varieties and have a sample of the same deposit samples of their varietiesed with the Plant Authority. It is however, pertinent to note that the Authority puts a time limit on the registration of farmer varieties (“FVs”).

Odisha’s former Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Damodar Rout, had recently announced that hundreds of traditional paddy varieties of the state would be registered under the PPVFR Act. As a consultant to the process, a significant role is envisaged for the Swaminathan Research Foundation in the collection of sample seeds of traditional varieties and their subsequent registration. Reportedly, the farmers who provide up to five kilograms of samples of their varieties and the basic information along with it will be recognised as facilitators. Ironically, the Minister’s announcement says that the ownership of these traditional rice varieties “shall be vested in the Government of Orissa, on behalf of the people…” Why should this be so, when the law expressly provides for a specific category – that of FVs? Meanwhile, the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (“the OUAT”) has already registered eight of its own varieties so far as extant varieties, including “‘Pratikhsya” ’ (ORS 201-5) (IET-15191) and “‘Jogesh” ’ (OR 1519-2) (IET-15169) for the seeds of which the Vice-Chancellor has the exclusive right to produce, sell, market, distribute, import, or export of the seeds of these two varieties for a initial term of six years commencing July 20, 2009. The DuPont-owned Pioneer Overseas Corporation has also sought PVP for hybrid rice varieties.

The members of the Rice Varieties Registration Committee in Odisha will be:

1. Director, Directorate of Agriculture and Food Production;

2. Dr. S.R. Dhua, Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack;

3. Dean, Research, OUAT;

4. J.D.A. (Special Programme and Crops), Directorate of Agriculture;

5. Dr. Baburam Singh, OUAT;

6. J.D.A. (Farms and Seeds), Directorate of Agriculture;

7. Dr. Ravi Kumar Pattnaik, Associate Dean, College of Agriculture, Bhawanipatna;,

8. Director, Orissa State Seed and Organic Products Certification Agency;

9. Dean, Extension, OUAT; and

10. Dr. Satya Ranjan Dash, Professor, Plant Breeding, OUAT.

The rice knowledge of farmers has to be protected from IPR and not by an IP system like PVP, which was designed to eventually put restrictions on farmer seed-saving. Those pushing for PVP certificates not only in Odisha but across India have to fully understand the long term implications of such variety registration. If the government authorities are genuinely interested to save the people’s know-how on rice, then they should not be encouraging the many potentially destructive development activities in the State of Odisha. That will be real plant PROTECTION of rice varieties.

Shalini Bhutani is a Delhi-based lawyer working independently on issues of trade, agriculture, and biodiversity.

 

The native seed man

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12 November 2011

Veteran activist and farmer Vijay Jardhari is on a mission to preserve India’s native seeds in the hills of Uttarakhand. In times of fast waning traditional agricultural practices, his efforts aim to restore the nutritional value of food grains and reduce food insecurity.

OneWorld: The Beej Bachao Aandolan aims to make farmers self-sufficient through traditional agricultural practices. What made you start this campaign in Uttarakhand?

Vijay Jardhari: The real source of inspiration is the Chipko Movement with which I was associated. Chipko movement had a slogan “kya hain jungle ke upkar? Mitti, paani aur bayar, jinda rahne ke aadhar” (What are favours of forest upon us? Soil, water and air that help us live).

 

Vijay-jardhari-BBA.jpgVijay Jardhari, one of the founders of the Beej Bachao Andolan/ Photo credit: The Hindu 

The Chipko struggle continued until the beginning of 1980 and I was there during the decade of 70s. When the movement became successful, I returned to my village to farm with my parents. By that time, new seeds and chemical fertilizers of the Green Revolution were available.

New seeds were provided with a kit containing fertilizers and other chemicals. We too used them and had a bumper crop in the first year. We decided to use the same seeds next year without the chemicals and fertilizer. But production went down; we used the same seed again but yield declined.

We then sat and discussed it with our elders. They said that we were witnessing this problem for many years. Since we started using new seeds, our own native seeds have disappeared. This opened our eyes and then we decided to look for old seeds.

I went to the mountains, the fields where today’s growth, development and agriculture officials have not reached, where diversity existed. We started bringing back old seeds, cultivated them in our fields, and then shared them with other farmers.

At the same time, it was being told that soybean cultivation is full of money, so leave traditional farming and start growing soybean. Initially people started cultivating it but it was also a big mess. We asked people to not grow soybean but they didn’t listen. Things went well in the first year of cultivation but problems started surfacing the next year.

We then discussed it with the women of the village; they said that it was not good for us, it doesn’t produce fodder. Another argument was that it was difficult to sell soybean in the market as everybody had started cultivating it. As far as traditional crops are concerned you can get grains as well as fodder.

This brought people’s attention back to traditional farming; they understood the cost incurred is very less – you have seeds of your own, manure from your home and even the pesticides. But in modern agricultural practices you get everything for free initially but later you find yourself dependent on the market.

We had the same experience with chemical fertilizers. It is similar to alcohol addiction; chemical fertilizers are making our land addicted.

OW: What is the 12 grain technique that you use? Can this be easily adopted by farmers?

VJ: The 12 grain technique (Barahnaja in Hindi) is a part of our life style, agricultural system and culture. It is full of food of high nutritional value and finger millet is central to it. Finger millet is rich in calcium, iron and iodine.

It is cultivated with other crops, at some places with six crops or twelve or even with more than that. These crops depend on each other. For example, many crops depend on Amaranthus for its growth and share a symbiotic relationship. Pulses, vegetables and oilseed crops are also there, for example, beans, black lentil,naurangi, gahat and bhatt.

In 12 grain technique you have enough for yourself and for your land. It increases soil fertility even if a crop takes in little higher dose of nutrition from soil. Pulses increase soil fertility and also support other crops. It is similar to the hand holding support that we provide to a child to walk. When there are 12-14 types of crops in a family, they feel food secure at least for six months. This 12 grain technique is philosophy of our life, culture and a medium for livelihood.

It is also very effective in fighting climate change because these crops can withstand heat and survive in dry conditions. In 2009, which is considered to be the year of severe drought in the mountains of Uttarakhand, there was no difference in yields of finger millet, Amaranthus and goda.

Also, if we see the damage of crops done by wild animals… a farmer cultivates six crops and one or two get ruined, then the rest of crops would be good. This is a complete crop rotation. Suppose Amaranthus was harvested in October and November and fields become empty; now the next crop wouldn’t be finger millet, it would be jhangora.

OW: You insist on collection of native seeds. How does the seed bank help farmers in the state and those outside?

VJ: Seed bank is a new term but every farmer in Uttarakhand has his own seed bank. Every farmer identifies and sorts vigorous seeds for the bank. Farmers have their own technique of sorting and identifying seeds; if you are sorting the seeds of paddy and finger millet, the process is known as ‘Rotyana’. Every crop has a different method of harvesting. But when it comes to seeds, every seed is identified, properly dried and then stored.

We have tried cultivating seeds which have got extinct or are on the verge of extinction. For example, we have grown 20 different verities of beans.  Now, when someone in nearby village requires these seeds we provide them through women groups or SHGs. We also have a tradition of exchanging seeds with neighbouring villages.

We have replicated ourselves in many states to provide native seeds. Recently we provided native seeds of finger millet to Jagori Grameen in Himachal Pradesh. We also provided Amaranthus seeds to Orissa and they have reported good yields. Many states themselves have come forward and asked us for the seeds.

OW: How will indigenous seeds and traditional farming techniques strengthen food security and preserve the environment?

VJ: We have so many misbelieves here, for example, we would not be able to feed our growing population if we adopt traditional agriculture. But we believe that some of the old varieties of seeds may have lost vigour with passage of time but they are more vigorous than the modern hybrid seeds.

You need to put a lot of input into hybrid seeds and they are very prone to diseases. But native seeds do not require high inputs. You need manure and bio-fertilizers, and if we put a small sincere effort in cultivating them, no one can stop them from a high produce.

We have cultivated a native paddy – thappacheeni, and produced 72 quintals of rice in a hectare; it also provided fodder of around 90 quintals per hectare.

Second, our state produces a good amount of finger millet and jhangora which is equal to our national standards. Government or agriculture scientists try to sell the seeds and fertilizers of MNCs. They insist on using chemical fertilizers – urea and DAP in finger millet and jhangora. However, these crops do not need it. This will ruin ukhad crop too, if used.

We firmly believe that traditional agriculture can feed people and is critical for food security but needs attention. You are subsidizing chemical fertilizers, modern agriculture practices but the same amount or even less than that needs to be spent on traditional agriculture. Organic farming and native seeds should be promoted because these are the seeds of future.

We have a variety of paddy, kankuri and gorakhpuri which can withstand drought and grow in only 90 days. You see how these native seeds are capable of tolerating tough climate and producing good yield; however the hybrid seeds are not.

OW: What are the future plans of Beej Bachao Aandolan?

VJ: The farmer is our only hope. We believe that if people start using traditional seeds, adopt traditional agriculture practices, this will definitely ensure food security, nutrition and freedom from diseases. Climate change is a continuous process; we cannot stop it because whether it is India or any other country, no one is going to reduce carbon emissions. So traditional seeds are the future and our hope is associated with them.

The agriculture policy is not in favour of Indian farmers. It favours multinationals manufacturing seeds, chemical fertilizers and weedicides. MNCs first send weeds and later on sell weedicide.

Farmers must be consulted while making agriculture policy. This will not only help the farmers but also the consumers. Farmer suicide is prominent in those areas where they have left the traditional and mixed agriculture. You will not find a single case of farmer suicide in areas where people are still doing mixed farming. Agriculture is cost dependent and modern agriculture is pushing these farmers towards darkness.

Second, farmers need to be given a respectable place in society. The new generation and education do not respect the farmer; it is important in order to involve younger generations in agriculture.

There’s the need to increase the income of a farmer.  It becomes very difficult for farmers to ensure livelihoods as there isn’t any surety of crops. The farmer’s life is very tragic. What will a farmer do if there is a drought, hailstorm or heavy rain? Wild animals damage our crop. That is why we have given a slogan “Kheti par kiski maar, jungli jaanwar, mausam aur sarkar” (Who damages our crop? Wild animals, weather and the government).

If rains start occurring on time, seasons start changing on time and if wild animals stop damaging our crops, then nothing special needs to be done for the farmer. If farmers have to prosper, then agricultural policies must be in accordance to them.

The ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ [BBA], begun in the late 1980s, led by farmer and social activist Vijay Jardhari. The Andolan started in the village Jardhargaon of district Tehri, ttaranchal, famous for its unique movement to save the traditional seeds of the hills. The ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ [Save the Seed Movement or BBA] is not only a crusade to conserve traditional seeds but also to promote agriculture and local tradition.

Intellectual Property, Agriculture and Global Food Security

 

 

Read online http://www.iddri.org/Publications/Publications-scientifiques-et-autres/Intellectual-Property,Agriculture-and-Global-Food-Security

Description

‘This thoughtful book raises important issues about ownership of agricultural resources, the environment and food security. Claudio Chiarolla has written an important book that challenges traditional notions of plant genetic resources and agricultural research. The author’s detailed and thorough approach ensures that the book will make a valuable contribution to the debate about sustainable agricultural development and it is highly recommended to anyone interested in intellectual property rights and sustainable agriculture.’
– Duncan Matthews, Queen Mary, University of London, UK

 

‘The instability of the global food supply system requires our urgent attention. There are no easy solutions but the starting point must entail a critical analysis of the existing institutions governing the ownership and exchange of the plant genetic resources that underpin our long-term food security. Dr Chiarolla’s book makes a valuable contribution to the debate.’
– Graham Dutfield, University of Leeds, UK

‘This book captures some of the key issues underlying the ever-lasting food crises both at national and global levels. It demonstrates how global policies impact national and local actions while food insecurity seems to be a constant companion to many, in spite of decades of our work on securing food as a fundamental right for the poor.’
– Balakrishna Pisupati, United Nations Environment Programme, Kenya

Further information
This well-researched book focuses on international governance of crop diversity and agricultural innovation. It highlights the implications that the future control of food, including access to agricultural resources and technologies, might have for global food security. Claudio Chiarolla analyses developmental implications of global regulatory reforms that impact on access to agricultural knowledge, science and technology for sustainable development. Current global arrangements fall short of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals’ framework. Therefore, the book proposes ways to achieve international equity in the way agricultural research is conducted, how its results are disseminated and the benefits shared. This definitive study will be a valuable resource for policymakers and practitioners, legislators, academic professionals, civil society activists and scholars in legal, environment and development studies.

The world needs to let farmers recycle seeds

Shalini Bhutani

The linkage between agriculture and environment is well understood. But not everything that is sold as good for agriculture is good for the environment! As more new untested agricultural technologies hit the market, risks for the environment rise too.

New varieties of crops, high-yielding only if grown with  agricultural chemicals and abundant water, clearly have environmental implications. Similarly, potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) seeds may trigger irretrievable genetic change in agro ecological systems. Yet an environmental principle could well show the way forward for agriculture – that of recycling.

Recycle means to cause to repeat a cycle. In industry it is the process by which used materials are processed into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce consumption of fresh raw materials, cut down energy usage, minimise air and water pollution and lower green house gas emissions. Environmentalists have long been rallying for a more organised way to do this. Likewise, small farmers too are asking for their space to recycle. In small farm agriculture, the saving of seeds and re-using them in the next season is a time-honoured tradition. This recycling of seeds is what is under threat today.

Recycling seeds is direct competition for seed companies. ‘Reduce, resuse, recycle’ seeds clearly comes in the way of their business. Sure the seed, food and fuel industry is looking at agricultural waste and byproducts from farming. But that is purely to develop its carbon portfolios for profits.

Agro fuels so produced are yet to tip the energy balance in their favour. Meanwhile, large populations of farmers in agrarian societies like India and other parts of the world are the untapped market the seed industry is yet to totally conquer.

However, no better than in the (informal) seed sector would recycling the biological material produce a fresh supply of the same planting material. This is not guaranteed by company seeds. To assure themselves of a market, what the seed companies sell in the market are either increasingly hybrid or GE products. Hybrid seeds are the obvious choice of industry since the farmers need to buy the seeds every season. Likewise, GE seeds containing technologies that make the seed sterile, make it impossible for farmers to recycle their seeds. The practice of seed-saving is thus rendered redundant by such seed technologies.

Gap in policy

The country’s seed policies are precisely encouraging such technologies, rather than facilitating farmers to save their own seed. The ministry of agriculture (MoA) has a plan to increase the Seed Replacement Rate (SRR). As explained by MoA, seed replacement rate is the percentage of area sown out of total area of crop planted in the season by using certified/quality seeds other than the farm-saved seed. In the official view the farmers’ reliance on farm saved seeds is seen as something that needs to be corrected. There is an obvious gap in law and policy for the promotion of farmers’ seeds.

The proposed Seed Bill is about putting in place marketing rules for certified seeds of ‘quality.’ Even in the India’s National Seeds Policy 2002 the enhancement of SRR is one of the thrust areas. The intent is to replace the use of farm-saved seeds. The country’s National Seed Plan expressly aims at ensuring the SRR at 25 per cent for self-pollinated crops, 35 per cent for cross-pollinating crops and 100 per cent for hybrids. To be able to meet the demand of seed as per projections of this plan, several quintals of seeds have to be produced and the distributed to farmers across the rural landscape.

The key players envisaged in seed production are the seed industry. The government is also fostering public-private partnerships with state agricultural universities and the State Farms Corporation of India (SFCI). Seed production is the main activity at SFCI farms. Yet the reality is that the National Seed Corporation and the State Seed Corporations are not able to supply the quality and quantity of seeds that farmers need.
Interestingly, both the public and private seed sector actively prospect for farmers’ varieties as a base to build new seed products on. That explains the official emphasis on ex situ conservation and the storing away of traditional varieties in centralised collections. And there seems to a one-way traffic in terms of seed and planting materials being collected by state agencies, be it agricultural universities, research institutes, gene banks or the plant authority. The seeds that come out of these institutions are not re-usable by farmers. But the dichotomy of the situation is that farmers’ seed is considered inferior as against ‘quality’ seed mass manufactured by industry.

There is worldwide concern about the environmental impacts of achieving global food production targets. Yet growing more with less is what small farm agriculture allows. It provides a ready-made low-carbon solution for mitigating global climate change. At the centre of the many small diverse adaptive decentralised food production models are local seeds. Recycling these will also help to keep farmers as the original producers of seeds. So yes the world needs to recycle, but most of all it needs to let farmers’ recycle their own seeds.

(The writer specialises in agriculture and biodiversity issues)

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/194608/world-needs-let-farmers-recycle.html

How do biodiversity and poverty relate? An explorative study

This study indicates that two intervals exist: biodiversity is being lost while human well-being is improved and poverty is initially reduced, and secondly, biodiversity loss is reaching a critical value whereby production drops and human well-being and poverty are both affected negatively. The first interval appears in non-vulnerable ecosystems, the second one in ‘brittle’ ecosystems where poverty is often concentrated.

http://www.rivm.nl/bibliotheek/rapporten/555050004.pdf