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
devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/​
and the farming communities of Punjab.

Produced by Chintan Gohil chintangohil.com

Centre for Interdisciplinary Study cintdis.org/​
Music by Alien Soap Opera, Second Wave

Q&A: M S Swaminathan, member of NAC ‘A second Green Revolution will never happen’

A old but interesting interview with Dr. Swaminathan

Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi March 13, 2011, 0:56 IST

M S Swaminathan, member of the National Advisory Council and father of the Green Revolution, tells Sreelatha Menon that the government’s allocation for agriculture is insignificant Doesn’t the Union Budget reflect a new focus on agriculture? I have got tired of this kind of lip service. In the last budget there was an announcement to encourage 60,000 villages to grow pulses. But the allocation was so small that each village would have barely got Rs 50,000. Revenue foregone in corporate taxes is Rs 3.75 lakh crore and you give Rs 300 crore for a second green revolution. It is all lip service! Click here to visit SME Buzz Also Read Related Stories News Now – International news of the week – Communal Violence Bill on the backburner – View from the field – Rio Tinto raises Riversdale bid to $3.9 billion – Q&A: Deepak Patel, Global CEO, Aditya Birla Minacs – ‘India’s ethnic foods’ wellness aspect needs attention’ You were part of the Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi establishments and were even appointed as the agriculture secretary. What is the difference between the governments then and now? It was totally different then. The country was under pressure. We were importing 10 million tonnes of wheat and the population was only 450 million. A number of books then said India would not survive and Indians would die like sheep going to slaughter houses. There was political support and determination to make the country self-sufficient. Now all that is gone. The prime minister and the economic survey do vow to bring in a second green revolution. What is the problem then? Their aim is to bring in foreign companies. They want to hand over the retail sector to Walmart and others. These companies have access to people in power, whether it is Montek Singh Ahluwalia or others. They are not looking at how small-scale retail and small-scale farming are the largest self-employment sectors in the country. If you destroy their livelihoods by corporate farming, then what are we talking about? Today, public policy projects itself as pro-farmer but it does it half-heartedly. So, you don’t believe there will ever be another Green Revolution? Never! For another Green Revolution, you need four ingredients: Technology, which gives a quantum jump in yield; services, like electricity and water; marketing, through a public policy, and lastly, farmers’ enthusiasm. The last is the most important input and it is totally absent. So, there cannot be a second revolution in this country. The NSSO survey says 45 per cent of the Indian farmers (if given the chance) would not want to continue farming. The Budget has nothing in it to re-instill enthusiasm by improving their incomes. The National Farmers’ Commission had suggested a Mahila Sashaktikaran Yojana and this Budget has omitted it. Educated youth do not want to remain in villages and continue farming. Is there something wrong with education or agriculture? There has to be avenues for non-farm income in villages and that alone can keep the youth from migrating to cities. The farm and non-farm sectors should hold each other up and keep the village prosperous. The youth can set up agriculture transformation centres, which will deal with farm to plate services like storage, processing and so on. If every village had these centres and bank loans were made available for them, why would educated youth leave villages? China also brought industry into villages… No, the original Chinese model in 1980 was about having farm productivity interlinked with non-farm income. The township village enterprises helped them do this. The report you prepared for the National Farmers Commission has got nowhere. You are still part of the NAC. Do you feel frustrated and angry? I feel frustrated all the time. So much can be done. But what you see is the Adarsh and black money scams. Since, there is so much greed revolution in this country, there will be no green revolution. Agricultural land is under attack all the time. There seems to be no law prohibiting acquisition or changing land use of agriculture land. Land is a shrinking asset. It goes for housing, roads, everything. But prime farm land should be conserved. When Morarji Desai was the deputy prime minister and finance minister in 1967, we were discussing building of storage areas for wheat. He wanted a wheat revolution and wanted storage areas built everywhere. For, at that time, we had them only in ports. It was a port-to-mouth existence. He called a meeting and said storage facilities should be built only on usar land, that is, unyielding land. He was so sensitive to the need to conserve agricultural land. When he became the prime minister, he called me and said ‘I want someone who knows agriculture to be the agriculture secretary’. And he asked me to be the first and last non-IAS agriculture secretary. The new chairman of Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices Ashok Gulati is a non-bureaucrat too. But his views contradict yours. He favours markets driving farmers’ incomes, while you say farmers should be given a 50 per cent profit and cost of production as a minimum support price. Gulati’s appointment is as grave an error of judgement on the part of the government as the appointment of the CVC. It does not bode well for agriculture and, more so, for farmers. The pro-US interests have the upper hand in the government and the pity is that they don’t understand the human aspect of agriculture. What is your solution for the continuing agrarian distress? The national policy for farmers calls for an income orientation to farming and the measurement of agricultural growth in terms of the growth rate in the real income of farm families. It also calls for an integrated action plan involving higher farm productivity and larger income from non-farm activities like providing end-to-end services. The government should reap a demographic dividend from the youth population in rural areas by facilitating growth of non-farm end-to-end service centres owned and operated by youths. That can keep agriculture more remunerative and meaningful for farmers. Why is the country plagued with malnutrition, despite the high economic growth? High economic growth reflects neither in food intake nor in the prosperity of farmers. The GDP may be growing but the contribution of agriculture to GDP is going down. People dependent on agriculture are, however, growing in number. So, people are getting poorer not because of poor productivity, but because plot sizes got reduced. As for the food intake, the government has a list of programmes that don’t seem to be reflected in outcomes of good nutrition. These have to be revisited and the matter has to be looked at holistically.

Create special agri zones, manage small farms: Swaminathan

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsi…

Express News Service

Ahmedabad, March 30: Managers should start thinking about ways and means to manage small farms in a more profitable manner and like the Special Economic Zones, Special Agricultural Zones (SAZ) should be created.’’ Renowned agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan said this at a function here on Friday.

Swaminathan was giving away the ‘AMA-Metrochem Outstanding Manager of the Year Award 2006’ to Alan D’Souza, Acting Dean, Mudra Institute of Communication Research. The award was conferred on D’Souza by the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA).

“While the contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP is going down every year, the percentage of population depending upon agriculture is not going down,” said Swaminathan, adding that it was important that the managers now also start thinking about ways and means to manage small farms in a more profitable manner.

Swaminathan, who is credited with Green Revolution in the country, stressed the need for the development and sustainability of agricultural sector.

“While sectors like ICT, BT, nuclear and renewable energy will dominate the world of technology in the days to come, the agri sector should also be better managed,’’ he said.

“We have seen some profitable partnership among the farmers in sectors like tobacco and sugar cotton, however the same has not happened in the case of cotton,’’ Swaminathan observed, adding that in case of contractual farming such formula need to be worked out so that a win-win situation can be worked out between the industry and the farmer.

Later interacting with the media, Swaminathan said that apart from its obvious importance, food is also becoming a political weapon in the changing global scenario and it is important that adequate impetus be given to generate sustainable and enhanced food productivity.

“Like the Special Economic Zones, Special Agricultural Zones (SAZ) should also be created,” Swaminathan said, adding that such zones would serve to conserve prime farm land for agriculture, realise the untapped production potential of rainfed areas, apart from ensuring national nutrition security and food sovereignty.

As in the case of SEZs, special support and incentives will have to be given to farm families in SAZ as well, Swaminathan said, adding that such support package would include support for conservation farming, timely supply of credit, effective insurance system and post-harvest infrastructure for value addition to primary produce, biomass utilization and for producer oriented marketing.

In this connection, Swaminathan lauded the efforts made by Gujarat government to introduce soil health cards and such measures to the farmers. He further said that such measures need to be introduced by the governments across the country.

Keeping Indians poor: Grand government design

M R Venkatesh | March 27, 2007 |

A bit of digression at the outset is crucial to understand the depth of food depravation, associated poverty and the resultant food insecurity prevailing in India.

For the ordinary Indian it must be shocking to know that food security in India is a falsehood propagated repeatedly by the government since the mid-eighties.

To understand the enormity of the falsehood, let me put things in perspective. The net per capita food availability in India in 1971 was 394 gm per day. This was just after the onset of Green Revolution in India. Exactly 30 years later, in 2001, the net per capita of foodgrain availability was 396 gm per day: a princely rise of 2 gm! In effect, for over 30 years our farm growth has barely kept pace with our population growth. This sets up the debate.

A comparison with other countries is central to understanding the extent of food shortage prevailing in India. Advanced countries, on a per capita basis, consume anywhere between 500 gm to 600 gm per day. Such healthy consumption in these countries is supplementary to the substantial quantity of meat, fruits, vegetables and milk.

On this score, our consumption on a per capita level is far below the world average and significantly below the average of the developed countries. It would seem that, we as a nation, seem to have declared food self-sufficiency on virtually empty stomachs.

A reference to China is unavoidable here. China, a country with approximately 1.2 times our population, produces approximately 450 MT of foodgrain every year — more than double that of India. Does this comparison with other countries not blow the myth of self-sufficiency in India?

What is appalling is the fact that even after the British took over the reins of India, they constituted a commission to look into the quantity of food required in India, should India were to be hit by a famine. For this purpose, the per capita food consumption was held to be 500 gm per day by the said commission. It has to be noted that the British fixed this norm for consumption of Indians during a famine. It would seem that our colonial oppressors had a more charitable view than our own democratically elected government!

A callous approach to agriculture

Thousands of farmers have committed suicide in India in the past few years. Yet governments, both in the States and at the Centre, have been shying away from dealing with the issue appropriately. While there has been occasional media outcry, the ‘packages’ announced by the government have hardly made an impact. And if these packages do take effect, experience shows that this would at best be insignificant.

The issue is not merely of agriculture, food security and farmers: it is something much more. Agriculture is far too central to the Indian economy than can be imagined by many of us. It is our route to food security, economic well-being, poverty alleviation and, crucially, national security.

But like all other things in India, the seriousness of the issue is inversely proportional to the attention it gets.

Structural issues remain un-addressed

At the root of the current crisis in the farm sector is the fact that decades of neglect has de-legitimised the farm sector. There are a number of structural issues that remain un-addressed within the farm sector today. These include:

Farm Credit: Lack of an appropriate lending mechanism, which means farmers are forced to obtain credit at exorbitant rates from the informal sector. Though credit expansion by the formal sector has taken place in the recent past, it is inadequate.

Soaring costs of inputs: Apart from interest costs, other input costs (viz. seeds, power, etc) — barring fertiliser — have shown significant increase in the past few years. This rise in input costs has been disproportionately higher than the rise in the selling price of farm produce. Naturally farmers are reeling under huge debt, a sure sign of a losing economy.

Lack of water: Water is crucial to farm activity. Successive years of drought in many parts of India have reduced agriculture in India to a gamble on the monsoon. With a mere 40 per cent of farmland irrigated, Indian farmers have been at the mercy of the weather gods. Under the liberalisation programme, the fundamental assumption is that virtually every government activity can be privatized: however, it needs to be understood that irrigation and capital formation within the farm sector cannot be privatised so easily in India. It has to remain a government function, essentially.

Farmers are entrepreneurs. They take risks. Their risk gets compounded due to the vagaries of monsoon. They do not look to the State as a benefactor. Rather they would prefer the government to be a genuine facilitator in lowering these risks.

Today a farmer gets a fraction of the final retail price while a substantial portion of the prices that we pay for our food goes to the retailers, wholesalers, middlemen and others. These are structural issues that can be addressed only by the government.

And due to these distortions within the system we are witness to a strange paradox: rise in prices of farm products strangely resulting in farmers committing suicide.

However, due to fiscal orthodoxy and indifference to the farm sector, the government has been reluctant to deal with this issue of capital formation in the farm sector. And in areas where the government has done so, it has been far from satisfactory.

A leading daily in Chennai had recently exposed as to how despite the government spending in excess of Rs 35,000 crore (Rs 350 billion) in the past decade or so under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), there has not even been a marginal increase in the gross farm land under irrigation in the country, which virtually stands at 40% of the total farm land.

The Indian economy has yet to mature to expect that the private sector would step in to the space created due to the government’s exit. If the government cannot handle this crucial issue — of rural infrastructure — why do we have governments?

The government spends about Rs 26,000 crore (Rs 260 billion) every year on food subsidy, through the public distribution system (PDS), for those living below the poverty line. It is estimated that for every Re 1 of subsidy to reach the ultimate beneficiary, the government has to spend approximately Rs 7 on the administrative mechanism. In fact, of the 300 million poor estimated to be below the poverty line in the country, only 25 per cent are estimated to have access to PDS.

The rest are left to fend for themselves. In effect, the government’s programme — in intent and in execution — leaves a lot to be desired.

Yet, is it a failure of the delivery system, or is there something more to it than meets the eye?

Keeping farmers poor, a grand design

Speaking on the issue of farmers and the general lack of food security prevailing in the country, I suggested to a retired bureaucrat (who held very high positions in the Government of India) that India must double its food production from its existing 200 MT. This, I argued, would boost the income of the farmers as well as provide access to food at far cheaper rates to those living below the poverty line.

The bureaucrat was appalled. Clearly stating that India required nothing more than 200-220 MT of foodgrain, he dismissed my line of reasoning.

Crucially, through a paradigm of shortages, the government and its officers have increased their relevance, power and authority. In contrast, farmers have been reduced to play the role of applicants and would forever remain in the clutches of the State and its draconian agencies.

The net result of our ‘planned’ neglect of the farm sector has meant that today approximately 50 per cent of our population is malnourished. Some international agencies report that certain pockets in India suffer from acute malnutrition more than some African regions.

Robust growth in the farm sector acts as a trigger for overall economic growth. Economis
ts have been repeatedly pointing out that a one per cent growth in the farm sector acts as a significant multiplier in industry and the services sectors, leading to increases in aggregate demand within the Indian economy.

Despite a decade and half after the initiation of reforms, the government has yet to come out of its socialist mindset vis-�-vis the farm sector. This is not without purpose and falls within the government’s grand design of keeping farmers — and India — poor.

The failure of the farmers comes with an attendant and natural bonus — it can ensure that a substantial portion of our population is underfed, under-clothed and mired in acute poverty. And that directly increases the importance of the government, the politicians and the bureaucrats.

If farmers were to succeed, it would mean the failure of our politicians and the brand of politics practiced in this country since 1947 by the Left and the Right.

And that explains why the government is keen on a failed farm sector: the idea is to merely keep it on a life support system, allow it neither to die nor to bloom. And that ensures that India remains poor, while its politicians are rich.

National farm strategy to be presented to NDC soon

http://www.thehindu.com/2007/03/28/stories/2007032802761300.htm

Special Correspondent
The document would cover all aspects of agriculture and give a road map

Corporate sector could provide technology, extension advice, marketing, logistics’ Sector urged to institute scholarships for rural students

CHENNAI: A national agricultural strategy is likely to be presented before the National Development Council, which is to meet in two months, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, said here on Tuesday.
Pointing out that a committee headed by the Union Agriculture Minister had been set up, Mr. Ahluwalia told a seminar organised by the Madras Management Association (MMA) that sub-groups comprising Chief Ministers were holding discussions. The proposed strategy document would cover all aspects of agriculture and give a road map for the farm sector.
Speaking on the corporate sector’s role in rural development, the Deputy Chairman said while the Central and State Governments had a critical role to play in the areas of irrigation and roads in rural areas, the corporate sector could take care of technology, extension advice, marketing and logistics.
On the possible impact of global warming in the country’s agriculture in future, he called for the development of varieties in crops resistant to climate change. The public sector should engage itself in the basic research while the corporate sector could devote itself to making different varieties commercially attractive and building on the basic research.
Water management
Arguing that issues concerning water management were more important than the energy crisis, he said some parts of the country were already in water stress conditions. Though water was the most scarce commodity, people expected to get water free unlike in the case of energy.
Calling for efficient water use among the people generally and among farmers particularly, Mr. Ahluwalia said that even within the existing seeds and water availability, it was possible to achieve 40 per cent to 80 per cent increase in the agricultural yield through improved cultivation practices.
On the free electricity scheme for farmers and the consequent adverse impact on groundwater and water resources, he acknowledged that it introduced distortions into the system but there were political constraints (in lifting the scheme). Pointing out that electricity was massively subsidised in general, he said “there are better ways of subsidising farmers than what we have been doing.”
As for the entry of big players in retail trade and the likely impact on small traders, he said that it would be a good idea to introduce modern retail trade if farmers were to be given a fair deal. “Nowhere in the world has small retailing disappeared. But, nowhere in the world has modern retailing not come in.”
Inaugurating the seminar, K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty, State Rural Development Secretary said the corporate sector could play a vital role in the areas of training, marketing and communication strategies, targeting the rural sector.
He urged the corporate sector to institute a large number of scholarships and endowments for rural students.
Jayshree Venkataraman, MMA vice-president, said a concerted effort towards establishing cottage industries appropriate to natural resources and raw materials available locally might help to retain migration to cities.
© Copyright 2000 – 2006 The Hindu

India is colonising itself

By Arundhati Roy & Shoma Chaudhuri

26 March, 2007
Tehelka

There is an atmosphere of growing violence across the country. How do you read the signs? Do you think it will grow more in the days to come? What are its causes? In what context should all this be read?

You don’t have to be a genius to read the signs. We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It’s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They’re fighting for the right to merge with the world’s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere. They’ve managed to commandeer the resources , the coal, the minerals, the bauxite, the water and electricity. Now they want the land to make more cars, more bombs, more mines – super toys for the new super citizens of the new superpower. So it’s outright war, and people on both sides are choosing their weapons. The government and the corporations reach for Structural Adjustment, the World Bank, the ADB, FDI, friendly court orders, friendly policy makers, help from the ‘friendly’ corporate media and a police force that will ram all this down peoples’ throats. Those who want to resist this process have, until now, reached for dharnas, hunger-strikes, satyagraha, the courts, and what they thought was friendly media. But now, more and more are reaching for guns. Will the violence grow? If the ‘growth rate’ and the sensex are going to be the only barometres the government uses to measure progress and the well-being of people, then of course it will. How do I read the signs? It isn’t hard to read sky-writing. What it says up there, in big letters is this: The shit has hit the fan, folks.

You once remarked that though you may not resort to violence yourself, you think it has become immoral to condemn it, given the circumstances in the country. Can you elaborate on this view?

I’d be a liability as a guerilla! I doubt I used the word ‘immoral’-morality is an elusive business, as changeable as the weather. What I feel is this: Non-violent movements have, for decades knocked on the door of every democratic institution in this country and have been spurned and humiliated. Look at the Bhopal Gas victims, the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The NBA for example, had a lot going for it, high profile leadership, media coverage, more resources than any other mass movement. What went wrong? People are bound to want to re-think strategy. When Sonia Gandhi begins to promote Satyagraha at the World Economic Forum in Davos it’s time for us to sit up and think. For example, is mass civil disobedience possible within the structure of a democratic nation-state? Is it possible in the age of disinformation and corporate-controlled mass media? Are hunger-strikes umblically linked to celebrity politics? Would anybody care if the people of Nangla Machhi or Bhatti mines went on a hunger-strike? Sharmila Irom has been on a hunger strike for six years. That should be a salutary lesson to many of us. I’ve always felt that it’s ironic that hunger-strikes are used as a political weapon in a land where most people go hungry anyway. We are in a different time and place now. Up against a different, more complex adversary. We’ve entered the era of NGOs – or should I say the era of palthu shers – in which mass action can be a treacherous business. We have demonstrations which are funded, we have sponsored dharnas and social forums which posture militantly but never follow up on what they preach. We have all kinds of ‘virtual’ resistance. Meetings against SEZs sponsored by the biggest promoters of SEZs. Awards and grants for environmental activism and community action given by corporations responsible for devastating whole ecosystems. Vedanta, a company mining bauxite in the forests of Orissa wants to start a university. The Tatas have two charitable trusts that directly and indirectly, fund activists and mass movements across the country. Could that be why Singur has drawn so much less flak than Nandigram, and why they have not targeted, boycotted, gheraoed? Of course the Tatas and Birlas funded Gandhi too – maybe he was our first NGO. But now we have NGOs who make a lot of noise, write a lot of reports,but who the sarkar is more than comfortable with. How do we make sense of all this? The place is crawling with professional diffusers of real political action. ‘Virtual resistance’ has become something of a liability.

There was a time when mass movements looked to the courts for justice. The courts have rained down a series of judgments that are so unjust, so insulting to the poor in the language they use, they take your breath away. A recent Supreme Court judgment allowing the Vasant Kunj Mall to resume construction though it didn’t have the requisite clearances said in so many words, that the question of Corporations indulging in malpractice does not arise! In the era of corporate globalization, corporate land-grab, in the era of Enron and Monsanto, Halliburton and Bechtel, that’s a loaded thing to say. It exposes the ideological heart of the most powerful institution in this country. The judiciary along with the corporate press, is now seen as the lynchpin of the neo-liberal project.

In a climate like this when people feel that they are being worn down, exhausted by these interminable ‘democratic’ processes, only to be humiliated eventually, what are they supposed to do? Of course it isn’t as though the only options are binary – violence versus non-violence. There are political parties that believe in armed struggle, but only as one part of their overall political strategy. Political workers in these struggles have been dealt with brutally, killed, beaten, imprisoned under false charges. People are fully aware that to take to arms is to call down upon yourself the myriad forms of violence of the Indian State. The minute armed struggle becomes a strategy, your whole world shrinks and the colors fade to black and white. But when people decide to take that step because every other option has ended in despair–should we condemn them? Does anyone believe that if the people of Nandigram had held a Dharna and sung songs the West Bengal Government would have backed down? We are living in times, when to be ineffective is to support the status quo (which no doubt suits some of us). And being effective comes at a terrible price. I find it hard to condemn people who are prepared to pay that price.
You have been traveling a lot on the ground — can you give us a sense of the fissures you are seeing on the ground. What are the trouble spots you have been to? Can you outline a few of the combat lines in these places?

Huge question – what can I say? The military occupation of Kashmir, neo-facism in Gujarat, civil war in Chhattisgarh, MNCs raping Orissa, the submergence of hundreds of villages in the Narmada Valley, people living on the edge of absolute starvation, the devastation of forest land, the Bhopal victims living to see the West Bengal government re-wooing Union Carbide – now calling itself Dow Chemicals – in Nandigram. I haven’t been recently to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharshtra, but we know about the almost hundred thousand farmers who have killed themselves. We know about the fake encounters and the terrible repression in Andhra Pradesh. Each of these places is has its own particular history, economy, ecology. None is amenable to easy analysis. And yet there is connecting tissue, there are huge internatio
nal cultural and economic pressures being brought to bear on them. How can I not mention the Hindutva project, spreading its poison sub-cutaneously, waiting to errupt once again. I’d say the biggest indictment of all is that we are still a country, a culture a society which continues to nurture and practice the notion of untouchability. While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people, human scavengers – earn their living carrying several kilos of other peoples’ shit on their heads every day. And if they didn’t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some fucking superpower this.

How does one view the recent State and police violence in Bengal?

No different from police and State violence anywhere else – including the issue of hypocrisy and doublespeak so perfected by all political parties including the mainstream Left. Are communist bullets different from capitalist ones? Odd things are happening. It snowed in Saudi Arabia. Owls are out in broad daylight. The Chinese Government tabled a bill sanctioning the right to private property. I don’t know if all of this has to do with climate change. The Chinese Communists are turning out to be the biggest capitalists of the 21st century. Why should we expect our own Parliamentary Left to be any different? Nandigram and Singur are clear signals. It makes you wonder – is the last stop of every revolution advanced capitalism? Think about it – the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Vietnam War, the Anti- Apartheid struggle, the supposedly Gandhian Freedom struggle in India…what’s the last station they all pull in at? Is this the end of imagination?

The Maoist attack in Bijapur — the death of 55 policemen. Are the rebels only a flip face of the State?

How can the rebels be the flip side of the state? Would anybody say that those who fought against Apartheid – however brutal their methods – were the flip side of the state? What about those who fought the French in Algeria? Or those who fought the Nazis? Or those who fought Colonial Regimes? Or those who are fighting the US occupation of Iraq? Are they the flip side of the State? This facile new report-driven ‘human rights’ discourse, this meaningless condemnation game that we all are forced to play, makes politicians of us all and leaches the real politics out of everything. However pristine we would like to be, however hard we polish our halos, the tragedy is that we have run out of pristine choices. There is a civil war in Chattisgarh sponsored, created by the Chattisgarh Government which is publicly pursing the Bush doctrine – if you’re not with us, you are with the terrorists. The lynch pin of this war, apart from the formal security forces, is the Salwa Judum – a government backed militia of ordinary people forced to take up arms, forced to become SPOs (Special Police Officers). The Indian State has tried this in Kashmir, in Manipur, in Nagaland. Tens of thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands tortured, thousands have disappeared. Any Banana Republic would be proud of this record.. Now the government wants to import these failed strategies into the heartland. Thousands of Adivasis have been forcibly moved off their mineral –rich lands into police camps. Hundreds of villages have been forcibly evacuated. Those lands, rich in iron-ore are being eyed by corporations like the Tatas and Essar. MOUs have been signed, but no one knows what they say. Land Acquisition has begun. This kind of thing happened in countries like Colombia – one of the most devastated countries in the world. While everybody’s eyes are fixed on the spiraling violence between government backed militias and guerilla squads, multinational corporations quietly make off with the mineral wealth. That’s the little piece of theatre being scripted for us in Chattisgarh.

Of course it’s horrible that 55 policemen were killed. But they’re as much the victims of Government policy as anybody else. For the Government and the Corporations they’re just cannon fodder – there’s plenty more where they came from. Crocodile tears will be shed, prim TV anchors will hector us for a while and then more supplies of fodder will be arranged. For the Maoist guerillas the police and SPOs they killed were the armed personnel of the Indian State, the main, perpetrators of repression, torture, custodial killings, false encounters. The ones whose professional duties involve burning villages and raping women. They’re not innocent civilians – if such a thing exists – by any stretch of imagination.

I have no doubt that the Maoists can be agents of terror and coercion too. I have no doubt they have committed unspeakable atrocities. I have no doubt they cannot lay claim to undisputed support from local people – but who can? Still, no guerrilla army can survive without local support. That’s a logistical impossibility. And the support for Maoists is growing, not diminishing. That says something. People have no choice but to align themselves on the side of whoever they think is less worse.

But to equate a resistance movement fighting against enormous injustice, with the Government which enforces that injustice is absurd. The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. When people take to arms, there is going to be all kinds of violence – revolutionary, lumpen and outright criminal. The government is responsible for the monstrous situations it creates.

The term Naxals and Maoists and outsiders is being used very loosely these days. Can you declutter it.

‘Outsiders’ is a generic accusation used in the early stages of repression by governments who have begun to believe their own publicity and can’t imagine that people have risen up against them. That’s the stage the CPI (M) is at now in Bengal, though some would say repression in Bengal is not new, it has only moved into higher gear.. In any case what’s an outsider? Who decides the borders? Are they village boundaries? Tehsil? Block? District? State? Is narrow regional and ethnic politics the new communist mantra? About Naxals and Maoists – well… India is about to become a police state in which everybody who disagrees with what’s going on risks being called a terrorist. Islamic terrorists have to be Islamic – so that’s not good enough to cover most of us. They need a bigger catchment area. So leaving the definition loose, undefined, is effective strategy, because the time is not far off when we’ll all be called Maoists or Naxalites, terrorists or terrorist sympathisers and shut down, by people who don’t really know – or care -who Maoists or Naxalites are. In villages of course that has begun – thousands of people are being held in jails across the country, loosely charged with being terrorists trying to overthrow the state. Who are the real Naxalites and Maoists? I’m not an authority on the subject, but here’s a very rudimentary potted history.

The Communist Party of India the CPI was formed in 1925. The CPI (M) Communist Party Marxist- split from the CPI in 1964 and formed a separate party. Both of course were parliamentary political parties. In 1967 the CPI (M) along with a splinter group of the Congress, came to power in West Bengal. At the time there was massive unrest among starving peasantry in the countryside. Local leaders of the CPI(M) – Kanu Sanyal and Charu Mazumdar led a peasant uprising in the district of Naxalbari which is where the term Naxalites comes from. In 1969 the government fell and the Congress came back to power under Siddharta Shankar Ray. The naxalite uprising was mercilessly crushed – Mahashweta Devi has written powerfully about this time. In 1969 the CPI (ML) – Marxist Leninist split from the CPI (M). A few years later around 1971, the CPI (ML) devolved into several parties: the CPI -ML (Liberation) largely centred in Bihar, CPI –ML (New Democracy) functioning for the most part out of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, the CPI-ML (Class Struggle) mainly in Bengal. These parties have been gen
erically baptized ‘Naxalites.’ They see themselves as Marxist Leninist, not strictly speaking Maoist. They believe in elections, mass action and, when, absolutely pushed to the wall or attacked- armed struggle. The MCC – the Maoist Communist Centre at the time mostly operating in Bihar was formed in 1968. The PW Peoples War, operational for the most part in Andhra Pradesh was formed in 1980. Recently, in 2004 the MCC and the PW merged to form the CPI (Maoist) They believe in outright armed struggle and the overthrowing of the state. They don’t participate in elections. This is the party that is fighting the guerilla war in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The Indian state and media largely view the Maoists as “internal security” threat. Is this the way to look at them?

I’m sure the Maoists would be flattered to be viewed in this way.
The Maoists want to bring down the State. Given the autocratic ideology they take their inspiration from, what alternative would they set up? Wouldn’t their regime be an exploitative autocratic violent one as well? Isn’t their action already exploitative of ordinary people? Do they really have the support of ordinary people?

I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that both Mao and Stalin are dubious heroes with murderous pasts. Tens of millions of people were killed under their regimes. Apart from what happened in China and the Soviet Union, Pol Pot, with the support of the Chinese communist party (while the West looked away discreetly) wiped out two million people in Cambodia and brought millions of people to the brink of extinction from disease and starvation. Can we pretend that China’s cultural revolution didn’t happen? Or that that millions of people in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were not victims of labour camps, torture chambers, the network of spies and informers, the secret police. The history of these regimes is just as dark as the history of Western Imperialism, except for the fact that they had a shorter life-span. We cannot condemn the occupation of Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir while we remain silent about Tibet and Chechnya. I would imagine that for the Maoists, the Naxalites as well as the mainstream Left, being honest about the past is important to strengthen peoples’ faith in the future. One hopes the past will not be repeated, but denying that it ever happened doesn’t help inspire confidence….Nevertheless, in this part of the world, the Maoists in Nepal have waged a brave and successful struggle against the monarchy in Nepal. Right now in India the Maoists and the various Marxist Leninist Groups are leading the fight against immense injustice in India. They are fighting not just the State, but feudal landlords and their armed militias. They are the only people who are making a dent. And I admire that. It may well be that when they come to power they will as you say, be brutal, unjust and autocratic, even worse than the present government. Maybe, but I’m not prepared to assume that in advance. If they are, we’ll have to fight them too. And most likely someone like myself will be the first person they’ll string up from the nearest tree – but right now, it is important to acknowledge that they are bearing the brunt of being at the forefront of resistance. Many of us are in a position where we have are beginning to align ourselves on the side of those who we know have no place for us in their religious or ideological imagination. It’s true that everybody changes radically when they come to power – look at Mandela’s ANC. Corrupt, capitalist, bowing to the IMF, driving the poor out of their homes – honouring Suharto the killer of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists with South Africa’s highest civilian award. Who would have thought it could happen? But does this mean South Africans should have backed away from the struggle against apartheid? Or that they should regret it now? Does it mean Algeria should have remained a French Colony, that Kashmiris, Iraqis and Palestinians should accept military occupation? That people whose dignity is being assaulted should give up the fight because they can’t find saints to lead them into battle?

Is there a communication breakdown in our society?

Yes.

Soap opera aims to stop farmer suicides

Ashling O¿Connor in Bombay

  • March 26, 2007

Burdened by crop failures and unmanageable debts, thousands of desperate farmers are killing themselves every year despite the announcement of sizeable subsidies that were supposed to improve their lot.

There have been more than 200 suicides this year in the western state of Maharashtra alone, adding to 1,452 in the region last year. Official estimates put the death toll since 2001 on India’s western and southern farming plateaus at more than 5,000; unofficial surveys suggest that the number could be near double.

Faced with these alarming statistics, state officials have produced a docu-soap as a way of engaging with increasingly depressed and disenfranchised farmers.

The half-hour programme will run for three months initially on Sahyadri, the Marathi language channel belonging to Doordarshan, the state-owned national television network.

The concept is part enactment and part reality TV. A handful of professional actors would be required for some storylines but the central creative thread is that the farmers are the stars of the show.

The aim is to educate farmers on emerging cultivation methods, diversification options, available subsidies and loans as well as offer tips and counselling for dealing with a harsh and unwanted existence.

A popular quip among the 650-million-strong agricultural workforce is that, given the choice, they would rather be reborn a European cow than an Indian farmer.

Government officials are discussing deals with two production companies and hope to release the programme on June 6, World Environment Day.

“Television is a very important medium. It has a far reach, which means we can address their problems directly,” Leena Mehendale, principal secretary of Maharashtra’s animal husbandry department, said.

“One farmer can watch the serial and be entertained while another may pick up tips or good practices. The success of the programme will be judged on whether farmers have felt the need to participate and have felt that it will help them.”

The problem of farmer suicides has dogged a Congress-led administration aware that it must include agriculture in the Indian success story if the wider economy is to continue growing at 9 per cent a year and social frictions are to be avoided.

Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, toured the worst-affected area of Vidarbha last July to assure farmers that their need for a fairer system of credit and improved irrigation facilities would be addressed.

His 37.5 billion rupee (£440 million) relief package has yet to make a real difference. After visits by more than 16 government committees, farmers in Vidarbha continue to borrow from loan sharks charging 60 per cent interest.

Nearly 2.8 million of the 3.2 million cotton farmers are defaulters and for every 100 rupees they borrow, about 80 rupees goes into servicing old loans, according to the Planning Commission. Meanwhile, only 3.5 per cent of the land is irrigated in a region that receives more than 800mm (30in) of average rainfall annually.

The docu-soap idea has emerged as pure monetary measures fail to stem the suicide rate. The Roman Catholic Church in India is thinking along similar lines. It recently began a counselling programme involving street plays, songs and art exhibitions to cheer farmers.

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the so-called hugging saint, has also announced a two billion rupee programme focused on farmers’ psychological, emotional and spiritual needs.

Soap opera aims to stop farmer suicides

Ashling O¿Connor in Bombay

  • March 26, 2007

Burdened by crop failures and unmanageable debts, thousands of desperate farmers are killing themselves every year despite the announcement of sizeable subsidies that were supposed to improve their lot.

There have been more than 200 suicides this year in the western state of Maharashtra alone, adding to 1,452 in the region last year. Official estimates put the death toll since 2001 on India’s western and southern farming plateaus at more than 5,000; unofficial surveys suggest that the number could be near double.

Faced with these alarming statistics, state officials have produced a docu-soap as a way of engaging with increasingly depressed and disenfranchised farmers.

The half-hour programme will run for three months initially on Sahyadri, the Marathi language channel belonging to Doordarshan, the state-owned national television network.

The concept is part enactment and part reality TV. A handful of professional actors would be required for some storylines but the central creative thread is that the farmers are the stars of the show.

The aim is to educate farmers on emerging cultivation methods, diversification options, available subsidies and loans as well as offer tips and counselling for dealing with a harsh and unwanted existence.

A popular quip among the 650-million-strong agricultural workforce is that, given the choice, they would rather be reborn a European cow than an Indian farmer.

Government officials are discussing deals with two production companies and hope to release the programme on June 6, World Environment Day.

“Television is a very important medium. It has a far reach, which means we can address their problems directly,” Leena Mehendale, principal secretary of Maharashtra’s animal husbandry department, said.

“One farmer can watch the serial and be entertained while another may pick up tips or good practices. The success of the programme will be judged on whether farmers have felt the need to participate and have felt that it will help them.”

The problem of farmer suicides has dogged a Congress-led administration aware that it must include agriculture in the Indian success story if the wider economy is to continue growing at 9 per cent a year and social frictions are to be avoided.

Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, toured the worst-affected area of Vidarbha last July to assure farmers that their need for a fairer system of credit and improved irrigation facilities would be addressed.

His 37.5 billion rupee (£440 million) relief package has yet to make a real difference. After visits by more than 16 government committees, farmers in Vidarbha continue to borrow from loan sharks charging 60 per cent interest.

Nearly 2.8 million of the 3.2 million cotton farmers are defaulters and for every 100 rupees they borrow, about 80 rupees goes into servicing old loans, according to the Planning Commission. Meanwhile, only 3.5 per cent of the land is irrigated in a region that receives more than 800mm (30in) of average rainfall annually.

The docu-soap idea has emerged as pure monetary measures fail to stem the suicide rate. The Roman Catholic Church in India is thinking along similar lines. It recently began a counselling programme involving street plays, songs and art exhibitions to cheer farmers.

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the so-called hugging saint, has also announced a two billion rupee programme focused on farmers’ psychological, emotional and spiritual needs.

ADB says rural loan may help stem farmer suicides

http://www.ndtvprofit.com/homepage/news.asp?id=291…

March 15, 2007
By Unni Krishnan and Surojit Gupta
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Asian Development Bank hopes a $1 billion loan aimed at reforming India’s rural credit structure will help stem farmer suicides in the country, a senior official said on Thursday.
An estimated 5,000 farmers have killed themselves over six years across India’s sprawling western and southern plateau — where the black soil has long borne a rich harvest of cotton — because they could not repay loans taken for their crops.
The spate of suicides in the country’s richest state of Maharashtra has not abated despite efforts by New Delhi to ease the farmers’ financial burden.
“We are hoping in terms of outcome I hope two years from now there will be a reduced number of farmers committing suicides,” Kunio Senga, director general of the South Asia department of the bank told Reuters in an interview.
The programme, carried out in five Indian states, aims to revitalise the cooperative credit structure and reach masses of small farmers, Senga said.
Economic growth of more than 8 percent in the past three years has made millions in the cities richer, but it has bypassed the farming sector that supports more than 60 percent of India’s one billion-plus people.
Most of India’s farming community is poverty-stricken and many farmers borrow from the village moneylender at rates as high as 30-60 percent a month.
Ensuring economic growth was inclusive of poorer members of society has become increasingly important in India and the communist-backed ruling coalition has made it the centrepiece of its economic agenda.
The Congress party-led coalition, which swept to power in May 2004, has been trying to bridge the rural-urban divide and include millions of poor in the country’s largely city-based boom. “We are very much into assistance directly to address inclusiveness of growth. Our $1 billion rural finance programme is one signal that we are very much now into inclusiveness of growth,” Senga said.
He said upgrading of rural infrastructure, particularly to develop the farm sector, was key to sustaining growth and the bank was optimistic about reforms undertaken by the government to reform the sector.
The Union budget for 2007/08 has doled out gifts aimed at giving a major boost to the ailing farm sector which puts food on the tables of 115 million farming families.
Analysts say the government should focus on linking farmers to the markets through private investment in production, post-harvest infrastructure and refrigerated distribution.
“Inclusiveness requires more reforms including agricultural related and I am quite optimistic,” Senga said.

Budget 2007 is an exit budget for farmers, says Devinder Sharma

Express News Service

Ludhiana, March 7: Well-known activist, and Director, Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, New Delhi says the Budget is an exit-budget for farmers. “This budget does not want the farmers who earn their livelihood. This budget wants them to give up agriculture,” said Dr Sharma, who was in PAU today to deliver a lecture. “The intention of the government help the farmer can be gauged from the fact that farmer suicides continue despite the so called futuristic budgets,” he said.

Ridiculing Dr Manmohan Singh announcement of a grant for Vidharbha and subsequent claim that the impact of it would be visible in six months at farmer suicide ridden land, Dr Sharma said the impact was visible, as the rate of suicide rate has gone up from one in every eight hours to one in every four hours.

Dr Sharma said, “Farmers need credits and need income, too, and for that we need to work towards making agriculture sustainable. But the mindset of our policy maker has changed from that of sustainable agriculture to commercial agriculture. Our finance minister says that and more clearly does out agriculture minister who candidly says there is no place for small farmers