Destroying Global Agriculture

Agriculture is the backbone of global society. Contradictory this truth some foolish economists are persuaded developed nations to switch over to industrial mode of production completely.More than half of the world is developing and a quarter is undeveloped. Now these anti agriculture tribe is compelling developing and underdeveloped nations to shed agriculture. Where will the world will go to beg for the food.


Suman Sahai writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 27 November 2010


A new colonialism is underway. Rich, food-importing countries are grabbing the world’s farmland for captive food production for their people. China, South Korea, Japan, as well as Saudi Arabia and the Arab states are the new colonisers. Africa, with its large land mass, fertile land in most places and abundant water, is a target, like India, with its fabled wealth that once was. Only this time, India is joining the ranks of the land grabbers, not on the same scale as the biggies but India, too, is acquiring land in Africa.

The tragedy of Africa is that it remains food insecure despite its fertile farmlands, receiving food-aid from UN agencies like the World Food Programme. Ethiopia, which is aggressively promoting the lease out of its land to foreign investors, receives food aid worth $115 million but its lands generate cereals worth $100 million for Saudi Arabia. Ethiopian land produces food for foreigners but cannot do the same for itself! Similarly, Sudan which receives as much as $1.6 billion worth of free food from international agencies, grows wheat for Saudi Arabia, vegetables for Jordan and its own staple food, sorghum, for animal feed in the United Arab Emirates.

The food crisis of 2008 and high food inflation brought home to many how fragile the global food situation can be, not just for the poor but also for the rich who do not have sufficient land to grow the food they require. When global food commodities disappeared from the international market as a result of factors like speculation leading to hoarding, diversion of foodgrains like corn and soybean to biofuels and increased demand for animal feed, the rich food-importing nations realised that it was not sufficient to have money. To be food secure, they decided, they could not depend on international food stocks but must have control over food production directly. If they did not have enough land in their sovereign territories, they would simply acquire this land elsewhere, produce the food there and ship it home. This would allow them to bypass global food markets and the volatility associated with them in the recent past. It is estimated that in the last few years, up to 20 million hectares of land are either already leased or are being negotiated for lease.

This new colonialism takes forward the trend of the last centuries. The 19th century Europe took over large tracts of farmland in Africa for coffee and cocoa plantations. US-based fruit growing conglomerates appropriated farmland in South and Central America and in Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines to produce bananas, pineapples and other tropical fruits for the world market. The farmland grab of today is fundamentally different though. Earlier it was cash crops and a means to wealth generation, today it is based on straightforward food security instead of revenue generation. Food-importing countries are seeking the first instance to secure food supplies for themselves.

Not just the wealthy countries, others have also joined this exploitation of global farmland.

In neighbouring Pakistan, the government is offering farmland to (largely) Arab investors. Government-backed roadshows are being held in the Gulf state, offering extremely generous tax incentives to attract investment. Given the state of the country’s domestic security situation, an additional bonus that Pakistan offers is a one lakh strong security force to protect the foreign investments.

India too is in the thick of the land grab. Indian companies have found a way out of the land ceiling laws in India to build vast agriculture operations in Africa where there is no ceiling on land ownership. Building huge agriculture empires is not possible in India, but it is in Africa. The Indian government supports this move and provides soft loans and reduced import duties to enable the shipment of agriculture produce to India. Indian farming companies have bought thousands of hectares of land in Africa and are growing rice, maize and pulses which they sell to India. These companies have invested upwards of $2.4 billion to buy up farmland in Ethiopia alone. Karuturi Global, a Karnataka-based company is one of the biggest land owners in Africa, where it grows cash crops like sugarcane and palm oil, as well as rice and vegetables. Not surprisingly, the backlash from people in Africa against foreign investments has begun. Karuturi is one of the prime targets. Activist groups are calling the investments a “land grab” taking away the entitlements of the African people. They say such alienation of land will deprive locals of their livelihoods. They have a point.

If this form of land leasing is to be made fair and sustainable, a code of conduct must be formulated. This could be done by bodies like the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

– Dr Suman Sahai, a genetic scientist who served on faculty of the Universities of Chicago and Heidelberg, is convenor of Gene Campaign

There is a fear that the foreign investments in food production will end up hurting farmers as corrupt local governments allow the land to be leased out without building in any securities for the land owners. These could often be small farmers with little idea of what has been negotiated or what would be the terms of getting their land back. Would the land owner have some right to the food that is produced on his land? Would the local community have preferential rights to access the food or could it be all exported without leaving anything for the local people? Who would ensure that the land is not degraded during the lease period and that it is returned to the owners in a healthy state? Such investment deals have been notoriously non-transparent in most cases so far.
If this form of land leasing is to be made fair and sustainable, and if the small landholders are also to benefit from it, a code of conduct must be formulated. This could be done by bodies like the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. They should define the terms and conditions under which land is made available for contracted food production. There must be a consultative process with not just the governments but with the land owners directly and the terms and conditions must be made clear to them. Prior Informed Consent, a feature of recent negotiations determining access to resources, as for instance in the Convention on Biological Diversity, must be made standard features in all such arrangements, before a deal can be finalised. The international community must put its weight behind compliance of the code of conduct in both the host and investor country so that such deals do not become tools of exploitation, depriving the poor and hungry and robbing them of the chance to ever become food secure.




Corrupt Chief Vigilance Commissioner?

The UPA is self-contradicting its dhramic philosophy. The promise made by Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh duo in 2004 was to stem the rot of corruption and provide good governance. Day in and day out it seems this duo will outlive the previous corrupt regimes in the country. May be they are not corrupt personally. Failure to the control the other’s corruption when they are in power to control will amount to personal corruption. This inefficiency is worst than the personal corruption. Worst of all the tragedies happened in the UPA governments in 2004 and 2oo9 afterwards it the appointment of P.J.Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. The tainted bureaucrat whose hands are full of bribes and black marks were appointed as the CVC despite opposition from Sushma Swaraj during the selection committee meeting. The invitation to the leader of opposition during the selection process was mere formality than any sincerity. Now the onus is on Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi to clean the dirty linen which they got in the government’s hands.


PJ.Thomas, the former telecom secretary was appointed as the CVC to cover up the 2G and other telecom scams. Who was behind his appointment? Surely there was extra Prime Ministerial and Congress presidential authorities in this matter.


The Deccan Chronicle writes on 24th November 2010


At a time when UPA-2 finds itself in political difficulty following revelations over the 2G spectrum allocations, the Supreme Court has embarrassed the Manmohan Singh government by questioning its decision to appoint P.J. Thomas as chief vigilance commissioner, although it appears the government did so in good faith. From the arguments advanced by attorney-general Goolam E. Vahanvati in the court on Monday, the government appeared to believe it had the right man for the job, even though his name figures in a chargesheet filed in Kerala in 2000 as an accused in a case of import of palmolein. There is an impression that the case has not moved forward, in the past 10 years, for reasons that appear partly technical, and partly an attempt on the part of the CPI(M) to embarrass the Congress during whose tenure the import was made. The attorney-general has also argued that there was no case involving the Prevention of Corruption Act against Mr Thomas. He noted that when the then chief secretary was empanelled to become parliamentary affairs secretary, his name was cleared by the then CVC. The final point in Mr Vahanvati’s brief is that the former chief election commissioner, Mr J.M. Lyngdoh, had once noted in an annual confidential report on Mr Thomas’ performance that he possessed “integrity beyond doubt”. The irony is that the questioning of Mr Thomas’ appointment as the new CVC has come in a pubic interest litigation case filed by Mr Lyngdoh and others.
To be fair, the first instance we should perhaps suspend judgement on Mr Thomas’ presumed guilt. We should also hope that the system is made to improve so that no case is permitted to drag out so long. All the same, given the totality of circumstances, it is clear that appointing Mr Thomas as CVC has been singularly unwise. The most important reason is suggested by the key question posed by the Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia. The CJI has maintained quite appropriately that since the CVC remains an accused in a listed case, he will not be in a position to issue notice to a party in matters brought before him, rendering him effectively “non-functional”. This makes eminent sense. It is a pity that the attorney-general did not grasp this, especially when he is dealing with as sensitive a constitutional appointment as that of the CVC, whose role is decide corruption matters concerning senior officials.
To make matters worse, the attorney-general argued with uncommon foolishness that if the idea of “impeccable integrity” were to be strictly adopted, key judicial appointments might come under scrutiny. This would sound like a threat to most people. Indeed, the attorney-general must be asked why the Indian citizen must not aspire to have only those of “impeccable integrity” holding top administrative and constitutional positions. This is among the reasons why the BJP’s Ms Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition, had opposed Mr Thomas’ appointment. The CVC is chosen by a troika comprising the Prime Minister, Union home minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Overlooking Ms Swaraj’s objections clearly looks like a mistake and amounts to the disregard of a well-conceived institution.


Crush the reality shows

In the name of reality some shows exceed the social limit and create havoc in the lives of common people. Due to the hgih TRP ratings media goes gung ho over these shows. With the media frenzy people too get attracted towards these televisions shows without any distinctions. Age, class, caste and other social factor become invalid when it comes to these shows. The social psychology of the Indian society cannot be controlled by the intellectual warnings. It is better to censor these shows. Left unchecked will create devastation in the society. It is like leaving the criminals free.


The Deccan Chronicle writes on 19th November 2010


The eclipse of Doordarshan’s monopoly on the small screen, and the opening of the brave new world of liberalisation and globalisation, have served several worthwhile objectives and brought to our milieu many laudable commodities and services that we were earlier missing out on. Alas, a good deal of television programming is not in this category. The independent news and current affairs channels are generally second class, although enough years have passed since they first appeared. Of the fare these purvey in the name of entertainment, the less said the better. But many will probably agree — it is impossible to speak for the majority in the matter of personal tastes, and when it comes to offering a non-legal definition of decency — that the so-called entertainment channels have plumbed depths that we didn’t suspect existed in our broad cultural context, although that area too is elusive of a definition that may satisfy most. So, the question is does the recent directive of the information and broadcasting ministry asking two channels that broadcast Bigg Boss and Rakhi ka Insaaf respectively to broadcast at times that will blank them out of viewers and hit their earnings hard, come to the rescue of those of us who look upon these serials as base, gross, vulgar or otherwise unacceptable? Making the effort to be careful, the government order has not asked the channels in question to stop broadcasting the serials it finds offensive, or to televise only duly edited parts. However, the Bombay HC has stayed the I&B instruction. There is every likelihood that the channels will come up with the freedom of expression argument. Of course, no freedom is absolute and reasonable restrictions do come into play in a democratic order. Probably the judges will eventually look at the question whether the broadcast material causes enmity between sections of the people, nudges viewers to violence, or outrages the sense of public modesty in the manner open pornography (whose public representation is taboo in India while it is not in some Western democracies) does. These grounds have been trodden before, needless to say. At least at the level of theoretical discussion there can be no serious disagreement that freedom of expression should apply even to those who provide lousy fare, or make a living out of choosing to be vulgar. In effect, then, the HC is likely to be ruling on whether the particular material placed before them — and this might amount to going over each episode — is deleterious to the society’s health and causes internal divisions, sabotage or unrest. This is frankly quite absurd. After all these programmes have been on a long time and the government has not sought to clamp down on them before. In the spirit of democracy and free expression, it might be best if the government withdrew its order (although it might find many takers) altogether. What the I&B ministry has done is censorship by another name. That much is clear, and that is exactly what some right-wing groups tend to do through display of open goonda force. Perhaps the choice of viewing a particular programme should be left, in the final analysis, to those who subscribe to them.