Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Food grain Exports - Good or Bad ?

Many so called NGOs are demanding lifting the ban on Food grain exports - As an Organic farmer, Environmentalist, Development economist, Researcher in Vrukshayurveda my views.

Instead of increasing the MSP Government is trying to promote food grain Export which is actually anti-farmer and pro-corporate farming this policy will result in many dangerous consequences... some are stated below

1). Initially export will start with Rice and Wheat (this itself will increase the price in local market) then slowly the world would wants us to grow Corn (already 10% of wheat farms are converted GM Corn fields) because they want to import Corn (mainly as poultry feed) Canola, Soya, Oats and host of other food grains which are unsuitable to Indian weather conditions.

Note: These non-native crops need lot of fertilizer, herbicides (in the case of GM), huge amount of water etc., when grown in an unsuitable area. Posing as a saviour some chemical co. will come out with a patented GM seed claiming that their GM variety offers better yield ?! just to sell their seeds and herbicides - then sometime later when soil is spoiled after dumping their poisonous chemicals and synthetic seeds and when land became desert the business will move to Congo or Papua New Guinea and spoil the environment there - this kind of moving to a green patch and making it a desert is happening from 1900s

2). These export specific grains will be grown at the cost of Indian Vegetables and food products like Kootu, Barley, Ragi, Baajra, jowar, wheat, etc. - these may not fetch big money to farmers but they are the lifeline of many poor and most of them are rain-fed and Arid crops grown on wayside lands - India has wonderful varieties of these native species (Note if India didn't have these native germplasm wealth then the foreign giant ICRISAT won't be here to so called learning from us. (they are stealing our germplasms and patending our native seeds is another matter altogether)

3). many of the so called human food grains that are imported by foreign countries are for poultry feed - why we should sell our land's fertility, productivity, land's grain for the people of rich countries to eat Red meat - which by itself causes the largest global warming as well as poultry originated diseases - H1N1, SARS, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, Mad-cow disease, etc.

4). we can't equate everything with money - the poor farmer may not have big money but what is to be ensured is that he has food, water and other basic amenities and not money because money is a poor substitute for real goods with price rise money will just be another paper. Today the poor farmer may afford some with his money tomorrow when the prices rise that may not be the case

5). Already millions of acres of Indian agricultural land in the past 15 years have transferred hands from small and marginal farmers to large /corporate farmers - particularly in Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab - many have Vine yards, Corn farms and export /sell to poultry corporates - this has in no way improved the life of poor farmers - 90% all farmer suicides post independence have taken place only in the past 15 years - this is due to wrong agricultural policies - let this also not become one among them

6). The big farm-corporates may have the muscle to play in the commodities market thus can control their losses (The fact is that 99.99% of all commodities trading is nothing to do with commodities buyers or sellers but by speculators and investors for hedging purpose - which is another dirty secret known to all in the Govt. but none want to talk about it )

7). Rice and wheat instead of being seen as food for the children of the country will be seen as money and whereever more money, there these will flow there thus will lead to price rise and scarcity in many places in rural India.

It appears that there is a lack of exposure to root cause by the NGOs who are demanding lifting of Foodgrain export ban (Root-cause and not superficial ones) of the problems faced by small and marginal farmers in many rural areas are out of sight for many of the City based power hungry NGOs - which goes by the demands of one small section of farmers and demanding changes to national policies - the sad part is that our Government is also listening to these big corporate funded NGOs.

People like Bhaskar Save, Nammaalvar, Vandana Shiva, Claude Al-wares, Subhash Palekar, Thanal, OFAI, Virendra Bhatt, SFA - many of these people are witness to the region specific damages of green revolution & chemical agriculture and its effects on health as well as rural economy and now in some regions the bigger danger of Transgenic agriculture. They all have written many valuable articles but those are not brought to limelight in a big way

If Government stops all food grains exports and stop all trading of food items in commodities exchange - we can witness a straight 60% drop in food prices and thus poor will have sufficient food items to eat - they may not have big money or be able to afford the lifestyle of the city dwellers - but there won't be single death health deterioration due to malnutrition.

But even in Cities 80% of people's life is not good, the population of downtrodden in cities are increasing day by day. Let the farmers live in peace in village itself instead we are making them as slum dwellers in cities with short sighted agricultural policies and stupid media which boasts city-life as superior!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Systemic Corruption

In my view the corruption is of 2 types - Systemic and Operational - we have been focusing only on the operational one, which has been our fundamental mistake for a very long time

By looking at 2 examples this would become clear - First - In Tamil Nadu the State Govt. earns enormous income (estimated to be Rs. 15000 crores per month) from Liquor sales (the liquor is distributed and sold by State Govt.in TN). We have been only focusing on the scams with respect to Liquor manufacturing licensing and the associated corruption, the cost of the liquor when it was sold to Govt., the tendering process, etc. and the associated corruption, the accounting and the associated corruption, distribution and associated corruption. Now even if all the operational corruption is curtailed still the fact remains that the State Government's revenue comes from Liquor sales - which is what I would term as systemic corruption. With money from the poor labours (which they spend on liquor daily) we have roads, street lights and even Govt. festival celebration - isn't this a bigger shame. Dent in revenue will be witnessed if toddy is allowed, that's why Govt. doesn't allow the healthy natural sedative Toddy and promotes unhealthy liquor which costs 10 times

Second - Our central Govt. is making huge money out of Petrol - around 35% of the entire national revenue - if one reads various analysis post budget published in press - the income to Govt. - the pie-chart of how each rupee comes - there one can see that - 2 pieces of the pie, customs duty and import duty - one of these refers exclusively to petroleum. Another major source of income (the pie) excise duty - in which also the major portion is contributed Petrol and by other petroleum products (fertilizer, etc.) and by-products (naphtha, chemicals, plastics, etc.). For a nation which is not a producer of Petrol earns a whopping 35% national revenue (central Govt. alone) from petrol - this by itself is the prime reason for Govt. not promoting, not even encouraging Alternative source of Energy etc. - isn't this a classic example of systemic corruption.

One the one hand Govt. allows Iron ore export - revenue. Also iron ore import - again revenue. Food products export as well as food products import - Govt makes money from both export and import - duties, taxes, licensing fees, Corporate and income tax from both importers and exporters. - what a wonderful way to make money - isn't this the biggest corruption. And why we all don't know about these things because we don't know any other model of governance - know only the model of earn-spend - The model of Earn-Spend only generates the so called GDP.

The solar cell module of a simple solar water heater - costs around Rupees. 5000/- in India (manufactured in India) - whereas in China a similar module costs only Rs. 1500/- equivalent in retail. - where is Government's role in promoting this - this alternative energy product should in fact be encouraged even at the cost of or even loss to Govt's exchequers. - If each household installs a small wind-turbine and a 10ft x 10ft solar cell added with a portable anaerobic digester based natural gas (very similar to Gobar gas but portable one with out the need for Cow dung but works with Organic waste - costs around Rs. 30,000 - 40,000). If all these are subsidized and easily available - One need not look towards Government for energy for the rest of his/her life. If this happens then the Govt. will loose its controlling power over its subjects - the people - which is the primary worry of the Govt. in not decentralization of Energy production. (I'll be writing another article on this) and not encouraging alternative energy sources.

Similarly if the Government promotes Organic farming at national level - people's and environmental health will improve - fertilizer /pesticide sales will drop and the associated revenue to Govt. - Our central Govt. is not even banning the internationally banned Endosulfan - how would they promote Organic farming? - Isn't this a bigger corruption ?

The western ideology is that there should be no operational corruption but they don't care for systemic corruption rather they encourage and exploit - whether the Govt. revenue comes from liquor sales or Arms sales or Seeds patenting or occupation of other countries natural resources like Oil, Gas and even Agricultural lands or countless other white collar crimes

The TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL which publishes the corruption index don't care about these corruption - what double standards. This is like AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL which has double standards for Human Rights violation in the West and East. The biggest human rights violation is when one pays for drinking water, seeds and soon for clean air - yet the so called human rights activists don't care for these violations simply because these watchdogs are leashed and held by businesses which are ones responsible for systemic corruption. I the west it is led by Walmart, Shell, GM, Northorp and the likes and in India it is by Tata, Reliance, Bharti, Vedanta, Essar and the likes.

Gandhiji time and again repeated that it is individual simplicity leads to collective goodness which is what really matter not a so called freedom for namesake - where instead of a khaki (military) oppressor we have white collar (businesses) oppressor. The collective Revenues of the World's Top 1000 corporations are more than the collective GDPs of the G8. (this is for GDP crazy modern economists) - which simply means that the corporations have more financial muscle than the so called Elected /Democratic /people governments. In many western countries the military is controlled almost by businesses - which directly sponsors many military events including R&D and veteran programs.

If one visits www.addictedtowar.org - one can clearly understand

What is the solution for all these:

The principles of Gandhiji particularly the Gram swaraj model of Governance - very clearly documented and proven by the great People's Economist - Sri. J C Kumarappa is the solution clearly detailed in his book "Economy of Permanence" but ever since Independence our governance models were not even remotely connected to those principles. All countries are doomed to fail as all have the system developed by Adam Smith in some form or the other including be it communist or capitalist or socialist or military or dictatorship. For those who worship anything foreign the same principles were echoed by the world renowned Economist Dr. E.F Schumacher in his book "Small is beautiful"

But I don't think we have the right education, conviction and perseverance to adopt such a simplistic lifestyle at Individual level and alternative models of governance

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Collective stupidity


The number of registered vehicles in and around Chennai as on April 1, 2010 was 26,58,083, within a span of 5 months an increase of 5 lakhs vehicles were recorded and as on September 1, 2010 the number stood at 31,97,575.

That was the essence of news item giving us the facts - now some perspectives on these facts - which were not published:

It is estimated that over 40,00,000 vehicles ply in Chennai city as on today (with an estimated 15 lakh 4+ wheelers) - of these about 15,000 are city buses, 1.5 lakh vehicles are passenger auto rickshaws - WHO IS REALLY CHOCKING THE ROAD - a public vehicle or the private one ?? - Just one in every 15 vehicles on the road is an auto rickshaw and one in every 25 vehicle is a bus - certainly they are not the ones causing a traffic jam.

Except a handful none of the US /Europe cities have a vehicle population more than one million - in each of our 6 metros we have four million plus.

What these private vehicles do ??

- 1. They permanently occupy (consuming real-estate) a whopping 60 million sq.feet of space (either on the roads or parking places) - if this space is calculated as paddy fields - 800 tons of rice can be grown on the land per year that is being used to park all these 4 wheelers alone

2. On an average day they occupy 5 million sq.feet of space on the road (8% vehicles on road on an average working day - peak hours or Saturday is even worse) - more cars means more roads - no space for us to live and the civic administration spends money and time only on constructing roads

3. This huge population of vehicles consume a lot of fuel which is a different story by itself - BUT THE IMPORTANT FACT is that 600 million liters of water per month is used just for washing these vehicles alone - (100 lts of water per wash - one washing @ 3 buckets of water per vehicle in a week) - this much of water would otherwise be useful for about 5,00,000 people in the City - about 8 lakh people in Chennai are constantly under "water-stress"

4. Such high water consumption for washing vehicles itself amounts to so much energy waste with respect to - pumping water up from deep-wells etc. and electricity is produced with Coal /Nuclear plant leading to pollution and environmental problems - a vicious cycle

5. About the amount of fuel the we need to import - BETTER NOT TO TALK ABOUT IT (just because we equate everything to money this appears trivial - That fact is that even if the petrol price is Rs.300 a liter we would still buy and use it - just like a drunkard complaining of high liquor prices and still drinking)

6. About Pollution from these vehicles - BEST NOT TO TALK ABOUT IT - (One in 4 people in the city is suffering from some form of respiratory problem throughout the year - 90% of the cause points to vehicular pollution)

Why we are here ??

Multiple factors led to this state that we are in right now - Car from being a luxury now considered to be a necessity - it is truly a necessity ? if so, how big a car and with how much fuel efficiency, how many cars required per family (nowadays many households own 2 cars) - all these vital questions are forgotten

What we can do (rather what I do)

Using office bus /van or public transport for office commute; As much as possible we can share our 4/2 wheelers with others; Can avoid using car for long city drives - public transport is faster, cheaper and less tiresome; Can avoid taking car for a single person; Having a fixed monthly budget for fuel and sticking to it; Walking or cycling for short distance (1-2 km) travel; etc.

Already Chennai city roads are chocked not because of cars are plying simply because of parking on the road sides as no space left to park anywhere in city - the purpose of having a car itself defeats that very purpose - what an irony

The idea propagated by car companies and advertisers - that each one of us must own a car - is western ideal - which is not suitable for India and our huge population and certainly not sustainable - the east Asian model is most appropriate for India.

Where we failed - is it due to our myopic vision in the past - instead of demanding (I repeat demanding) public transport we demanded low car prices, loans and roads from Govt. - one can still notice that village folks do demand public transport to their village /locality

The situation if not worse, is equally bad in 10 other cities across India - and about 20 other cities are trying to catchup to this state of stalemate

Let us be Mindful that in another 5-10 years there will only be space for cars to parked in the city and not for people to live - those who can afford will convert whatever open space left in the city into road or parking space.

Car is a dream for another 100 million households in India - Is it wrong ?? - who implanted this idea into their mind - who to blame ?? - how can one convince that person who worked hard and saved to have a car all along - who can deprive his/her right to his own 4 wheeler - yet we all would collectively suffer due to consequences as Car /private vehicle population increases - isn't this a stalemate.

I'm writing this not because I don't have a car (I used to have one few years back - thus I'm also equally responsible) simply because I look forward to a social awakening to demand public transportation and self transformation towards simplicity

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

World Samskritam Book Fair - 18

I was in the World Samskritam book fair (all the 4 days) from 7th Jan 2011 to 10th Jan 2011. Some facts of this fair:

(1) Book sales: 1st day Rs. 1.1 Crore, 2nd day 1.3 Crore and 3rd day 1.4 Crore and forth must be much less as most books got sold out and it was Monday. Yet the total is estimated to be around 5 crore rupees.

(2) In Food court all our traditional food items like sugarcane juice, gulkand, tender coconut were available at affordable cost and Pepsis, Cocca Colas, Burgers, etc. were consciously absent.

(3) I couldn't spot a cigarette smoker (except the policemen who were smoking on the road!) in the vicinity on all 4 days (this single thing itself can be termed as Bharatiya Samskriti).

(4) Samskrita Bharati arranged stay and food on all 4 days for just Rs. 200 per person - no one can imagine such subsidised rates that too in Bangalore for over 12,000 people from all around India.

(5) Not even in temples you can see so many people with such traditional attire - Dothi /Saree and many with uttariyam/angavastram and Shika (kudumi).

(6) Despite the lack of any major security arrangements like gun totting Policemen or security guards (security was fully managed by volunteers) all 4 days were very peaceful - well behaved crowd (Samskritam is certainly the vehicle of Samskriti).

(7) Witnessing the success of the show in the first day itself Utranjal state has invited to conduct the next fair in their state, similarly Chatisgarg and few others

(8) As per a book seller Rashtriya Samskrita Samstanam alone have took over 2,000 book orders as their stocks got sold out on 2nd day itself.

(9) Several high level grammar books and Kavyam books on Samskritam went out of stock on first day itself (the 12,000 odd visitors who came to the show as guests themselves bought those books).

(10) I personally picked up about 15 books (most are predetermined - Samskrita Bharati released over 60 books especially for this book fair yet I could browse anyone of them - such was the crowd) carrying these books around was another challenge due to crowd.

(11) Exhibition was a grand success as focus was on Science and Maths - children loved the exhibition than the book fair.

(12) Brisk sale of Products made of Panchgavyam were (like Gomutra ark, Honey, Panchagavya soap) at the Samskrita Grama on Sunday - by the Shankara Mutt from Gokarna - they also were out of stock by evening 5 itself.

(13) The auditorium where speeches and performances taken place was also occupied with over 1000 people most of time and was full with over 1500 people during musical and cultural events

(14) One estimate says over 5 lakh people visited the fair

(15) The fair could've been organised in a bigger place as except the first two days I couldn't enter the book fair hall and all the days I couldn't spend time with the book stalls either for clarifying doubts or browsing books - such was the crowd. Yet all these are excused as this being the first show of its kind.

(16) Wikipedia came and invited all to contribute in their Samskritam encyclopedia

(17) Many people were able to converse or at least understand Samskritam - this was another success of the show

(18) Last but the least on the last 2 days there were over 60 people standing in queue from 11.30 AM till 4.30 PM not for Water not for food - just to enter the book fair hall.

Thanks to Samskrita Bharati and the people of Bangaluru.

By the way I was also happy to visit to Big tree at Lal Bagh