Blog Archives

Do governments “callously and deliberately neglect” food producers to avoid alienating corporate party funders?

Farmer suicides noose

Ms Truss, the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, says British farming is one of the Government’s key successes – though farmers are taking their own lives at a rate of one a week, according to many sources, though officialdom is reticent about this.

The Times of India reports that Maharashtra’s farmer suicide count in the six-month span from January to June this year stood at 1,300 cases, the state’s revenue department figures show.

Respected analyst Devinder Sharma points out that indebtedness and bankruptcy tops the reasons behind these suicides; followed by family problems and farming related issues. In both countries the authorities try to evade the real issue and blame the availability of shotguns, pesticides and so on.

Snapshots from a presentation to the UN summarises the real reasons:

farmers suicide some reasons3

British and Indian governments daren’t offend the party funding middlemen and corporate end-buyers who – without lifting a finger – profit from the food produced at the expense of the hard-working producers who are often obliged to sell at a loss.

More respect from the new Greek government

At least – the Financial Times points out – in Greece, Syriza is allowing some leeway to those producing the most essential goods. They are refusing to increase the financial burdens on farmers, who at present pay 13% per cent income tax, compared with the general 25% rate, and receive special treatment for fuel and fertiliser expenses.

With 12.4% of the country’s labour force employed in producing food and cotton and a thriving fishing industry, the new Greece government is showing some grasp of essentials and priorities – would that the British and Indian governments showed similar respect for their most important workers.

Suicide: Britain bleats about Fairtrade, denies its own farmers & puts no fairly traded milk in its Fairtrade coffee

So large are the number of farmer suicides that Max Kutner of Newsweek (April 10, 2014) has called it an international crisis. He reports that in the U.K. one farmer a week commits suicide.

Indian analyst Devinder Sharma points outs today that a farmer does not primarily need credit, he needs income: “Successive governments have deliberately kept him poor”. gca logo Britain struggled for 15 years for a Groceries Adjudicator which now cannot and does not help at all. British farmers are forced to sell perishable produce at a loss, to bolster supermarket profits. Some family members work without pay and some farmers and their wives take second jobs to cover the shortfall. Many solutions/palliatives are offered by authorities funded to help, amongst them:

  • focus on exports
  • raise productivity
  • enabling easier access to credit
  • adoption of different technologies
  • more careful handing of pesticides
  • remove guns from farms
  • making counselling available

None work. The consumer pays a fair price for food, but it doesn’t reach the farmer, who needs a just return from those who buy his produce – the processor or supermarket – and decent insurance against crop failure.

Game of thrones: ‘Aam Admi’ in Delhi shows England the way – let’s ‘vote for the broom’ !

Global business interests downplayed surprise Delhi election results: they desperately need the corporate-friendly Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister.

aam admi header

The recent state elections were reported here as a victory for Modi supporters, but – thanks only to a lead from analyst Devinder Sharma – the writer read about the success of Aam Aadmi, or Common Man Party, also known as A.A.P.

Why are they entering politics?

The AAP website records that for the past two years millions of common Indians came out on streets to fight against the biggest evil in our country today – corruption.

It continues: “The current system of polity does not allow honest politicians to function. Our aim in entering politics is not to come to power; we have entered politics to change the current corrupt and self-serving system of politics forever. So that no matter who comes to power in the future, the system is strong enough to withstand corruption at any level of governance”.

Founded only a year ago, the AAP came a close second to the BJP in the capital, depriving the BJP of a majority and leaving Congress with only a handful of seats. AAP members wearing their trademark white caps with the slogan “I’m an ordinary person” celebrated in the streets by waving the party symbol – brooms, used by India’s street cleaners. They won 28 out of 70 seats in the Delhi elections, after only a few months of vigorous campaigning on the promise of combating corruption.

arvind kejralAam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, an IIT educated engineer and former tax collector, gained twice as many votes as Sheila Dikshit, the state’s long-serving Congress chief minister and winning her seat in New Delhi. He met Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and discussed the party’s role in a Delhi government.

The Financial Times has covered the elections well. It reports: “Mr Kejriwal’s party depends largely on small donations from ordinary citizens, and one candidate, Ms Shazia Ilmi describes how she tried to dissuade a fruit vendor on the street from donating the relatively large sum of Rs500 ($8). “I said, ‘It’s too much,’ I felt guilty, and he said, ‘Look, I have to give Rs500 [in protection money] to every policeman.’

The FT’s Victor Mallet in New Delhi explained AAP’s need to persuade voters that the ballot is secret, that those receiving food subsidies will not lose them if they vote AAP, and that it is worth voting for a new party with few resources.

rakhi birlaThe New York Times reports that Rakhi Birla, its youngest candidate at 26, was born and raised in the low-income neighbourhood of Mangolpuri and, as a former television reporter, had no political experience.

Through her publicly funded party, Rakhi Birla ran against millionaire politician Raj Kumar Chauhan, 56, who joined politics in 1976 and had won four consecutive elections since 1993 for the Indian National Congress, which also leads the governing coalition of the central government.

Her victory of over 10,000 votes stunned many political observers. Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party leader who defeated the three-term chief minister Sheila Dikshit of the Congress Party by over 20,000 votes, cited Ms. Birla’s win as a shining example of the spirit of their politics.

Kejriwal, “When the common man rises up, the thrones of a lot of powerful people will be rocked; some of those thrones have been broken today”

Ms. Birla dismissed any credit for her big victory. “People didn’t vote for me; they voted for the broom,” she said, referring to her party’s symbol, which signals a sweeping away of corruption and the old order.

Global business interests flourish only when there is a corporate political nexus formed by individuals and their family members passing backwards and forwards through the revolving door.   

Aam Aadmi is not playing that game.

Sources

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/13/youth-trumps-experience-and-wealth-in-unlikely-aam-aadmi-party-win/?_r=0

http://www.aamaadmiparty.org/

http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/2013-assembly-elections-its-verdict.html

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a212a0b0-58c6-11e3-9798-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2nTg4r1Vt

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0bf49764-600a-11e3-b360-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2nThKLCPO
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Flooding 1: Germany, Poland, Canada and India

Has this flood damage been in part a ‘man-made disaster’?

As floods which swept Germany and Poland are finally receding and Angela Merkel estimates that several billion euros will be needed to repair the damage, as 75,000 are evacuated from Southern Alberta in Canada and over 600 have died in flash floods and landslides in northern India, Devinder Sharma says this “appears to be a man-made disaster”.

 

flood damage india 2013

 

In an article published two days ago he refers to warnings about the environmental consequences of ‘lop-sided development’ given which were disregarded by most of the media and politicians who emphasised on the need to bring in more investments into the now devastated Himalayan region – the prime minister even decided to override the Ministry of Environment & Forests’ right to view environmental cost of financial investments being made in the country.

Yet, he continues, “the same media is now shrieking and shouting asking why the politicians ignored the warnings on the environment front. The same experts, who kept quiet all these years, are being invited to explain how and why environment protection was ignored. But the bigger question is — what were they doing when the Himalayas were being ruthlessly raped by the mining, timber and construction mafia?”

Media, politicians and ‘we, the people’

“We, the people, too are at fault. We have always preferred to remain a mute spectator when ecological devastation is underway. Not many of us dare to step out, and do whatever he/she can do.

“While the local communities have been on the forefront of raising their voice, its the educated and the elite who try to run down the ecocide saying its a collateral damage and is inevitable . . . those in public limelight, more often than not, remain quiet hoping that their opposition would block their own chances of being on a State or Central committee. Sad but true of the ways the educated are part of the compromise. By keeping quiet, we only lend support to the mafias”.

He recalls writing about the 2004 Indian tsunami:

ds tsunami summary
He continues: “After the relief operations are over, the weather returns to normal, and another match fixing scandal breaks out, the great Himalayan tragedy will be all but forgotten. We will once again return to our wayward ways of exploiting the hills, make our money and leave the poor hapless millions to face the fury of nature whenever it decides to strike back”, and asks:

  • how many people do we want to die before we realize the follies of blindly aping the stupid market economy mantra?
  • how many millions do we want to be made homeless before we realize the grave mistake of pushing the market economy?
  • And who will hold these free market economists responsible for the human loss and suffering?

 

Who decides what we eat – in USA, in India and, coming your way, in Britain?

Relevant to the previous post

tehelka logo

Valued contact Devinder Sharma asks this question in India, where the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has been ‘aggressively pushing’ for the spread of GM crops in the name of food security – just as the industry’s scientists do in Britain.

We summarise his article about the ‘bull-dozing of public resistance through a legally binding mechanism”.in this week’s Tehelka.

Background
  • In 2010 the Ministry of Environment & Forests questioned the veracity of scientific claims, and imposed a moratorium on the genetically engineered Bt Brinjal.
  • The 2012 report of the Standing Parliamentary Committee found “biotechnology regulation to be too small a focus on the vast canvas of biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health and therefore recommended an all-encompassing Biosafety Authority”.
  • Seven states – West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Kerala – refused to go in for open field trials of GM crops.
The incestuous relationship of the industry with government

Sharma sees a parallel between political developments in USA and India – both make obvious the incestuous relationship industry has with the government

The HR 933 continuing resolution — popularly called the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ —effectively divests the federal courts of their constitutional power to stop the planting or sale of genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops regardless of the health and environmental consequences.

Able- bio india - logo In April the Indian government introduced the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill 2013 which led the Association for Biotechnology Led Enterprises to express ‘jubilation’.

Sharma sees the BRAI bill as a precursor to passing legislation similar to the  ‘Monsanto Protection Act’. The US government has removed regulatory hurdles in the promotion of GM crops and the BRAI bill provides a single-window, fast-track clearance for GM crops.

Biotechnology companies and conspiring government officials

Citing ‘confidential commercial information’, the BRAI bill imposes restrictions on the application of Right to Information Act, so that with certain clauses that limit the jurisdiction of the courts over the decisions taken, the bill provides a strong and legally-tight protective shield to the biotechnology companies and conspiring government officials.

The need to curb transparency and accountability arises only when something dangerous has to be kept hidden from the public:
  • pro-industry scientists are appointed to senior government and university positions,
  • facts are misrepresented in the name of a ‘science-based’ debate
Conflict of interest

The Prime Minister’s Office then moved the introduction of the bill from the Ministry of Environment & Forests to the Department of Science & Technology, which is a promoter of the technology.

At the same time, citing ‘public interest’, the BRAI bill has taken away the role the states have over agriculture and health. The states can no longer refuse permission. They are left with only an advisory role.

As Sharma notes, the government has set aside all the concerns expressed by the 2004 Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology led by Dr M S Swaminathan:
  • the safety of the environment,
  • the well-being of farming families,
  • the ecological and economic sustainability of farming systems,
  • the health and nutrition security of consumers,
  • safeguarding of home and external trade
  • and the biosecurity of the nation.
Source: Tehelka, May 11, 2013. Issue 19 Volume 10: http://tehelka.com/who-decides-what-we-eat/

 

The average citizen ‘bears the brunt’ – yet again – while the rich enjoy an ongoing ‘subsidy bonanza’

The preamble to Devinder Sharma’s blog sets his messages in context:

devinder sharma 3Why can’t we make an effort to change the popular discourse, the mainline economic thinking that has only added to global problems?

This is what made me begin on a journey in search for the abandoned path to equity, justice and sustainability. My journey begins with the fundamentals — food, agriculture and hunger.

He returns to another aspect of the mainline economic thinking and practice which has added to global problems

Some years back he detailed the agricultural subsidies given to the rich and powerful in the European Union and the United States.

Sharma approves the concept of farm subsidies for ‘hands-on’ food producers, to ensure a reasonable standard of living for farmers, countering market manipulation of prices and the vagaries of the climate, but wonders how the subsidy bonanza to the rich and wealthy in the name of farmers can be justified:

stwr logo”Here is the earlier analysis, published by Sharing the World’s Resources — Farm subsidies: The report card (http://www.stwr.org/imf-world-bank-trade/farm-subsidies-the-report-card.html).

”At a time when the economy is faced with recession, and country after country is resorting to austerity cuts, I find no mention of restricting farm subsidies. Specially after the economic meltdown of 2008-09, I had expected the industrialised countries to cut farm support to the wealthy and divert the precious financial resources to creating employment opportunities. With this intention, I thought of doing a reality check.

“No, nothing has changed”.

Three cases are mentioned:
  • One of the richest people in Britain – the Duke of Westminster — received £6m during the same period.
  • Sir Richard Sutton, who features in the Times Rich List, still got £1.9m in farm subsidies.
  • The Queen is reported to have received a subsidy of £7m in the past ten years (http://bit.ly/A8TSTw).
His conclusion

Well, the message is loud and clear. For the rich and powerful, life goes on as usual.

“Whether it is economic recession or depression, the rich remain untouched.

“It is only the average citizen who has to bear the brunt and be prepared to rough it out”.

 

 

stwr footer

 

Now heads of state are also openly lobbying – what can be done about it?

Devinder one year agoIn 2011 an article by our valued contact, Devinder Sharma, was published in the Deccan Times. He described the way in which the ‘storm’ over the entry of big retail was succeeded by an orchestrated media campaign, the handiwork of corporate lobbyists:

“Sharp, aggressive and of course always carrying bags of money, they move in the corridors of power. They hobnob with ministers, politicians, economists, and media personalities, ‘educating’ them for instance on how and why India needs to invite big retail to tide over its unemployment and agrarian crisis. They plan diplomatic evenings, organise industry conclaves and summits, plan seminars and conferences, and also demarcate media strategies”.

In the United States corporate lobbying is legal but in India it operates undercover and under different names to do the same job – influencing public policy and crucial economic decisions – and in turn undermining democracy.

Corporate lobbying also influences crucial decisions in agribusiness, fertiliser, seed, farm machinery, animal husbandry, dairy, energy, science and technology, and retail areas that affect country’s food security, explains Sharma. Crores of rupees have been spent over the past few years by some of the big multinational corporations to seek an entry into India.

What may appear to be economic decisions taken by the government often turn out to be the result of intense lobbying by foreign companies

corporate lobbying graphic stepsHe asks how such lobbying benefits the companies and finds the answer in a research study conducted by University of Kansas which worked out the cost-benefit analysis of lobbying expenditure, and concluded that 93 major corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Pfizer among others, had spent Rs 1,456 crore on lobbying, which eventually won them tax breaks of Rs 3.2 lakh crore. At such a high rate of return, companies realise the importance of lobbyists.

Sharma continues, “Corporate lobbying is writing the economic policies of the American and European governments. The economic decisions are in reality not based on what the people require, but how much the business houses can invest in influencing policy decisions . . . “

EU lobbying handbook”Currently around 15,000 Brussels-based lobbyists (consultants, lawyers, associations, corporations, NGOs etc.) seek to influence the European Union’s legislative process. In America, lobbyists mainly target the US Senate, US House of Representative and the State legislatures. In 2011, there were 12,220 lobbyists registered”.

A year later he returns to this theme with special reference to FDI by retailers: “There are layers at which lobbying operates. Starts with academic institutes, and then goes to economists and scientists. They help with funded studies and reports that come in handy to convince the bureaucrats and politicians. Media then steps in raising the pitch. And finally, it is the politicians, political parties and ministers who remain the prime targets”.

wal-mart in india 2At the height of the Wal-Mart debate in parliament, some media houses refused to carry a news report from Punjab which showed Wal-Mart paying a meagre Rs8 to farmers growing baby corn. Wal-Mart sold it in wholesale for Rs 100/kg, making a neat Rs 92 in the process. Such a report, Sharma explains, would have negated and exposed the government’s claim that big retail would provide a better price to farmers by removing middlemen.

He worries even more when heads of state indulge in lobbying, reporting that all the heads of state of major economic powers who visited India after 2009 lobbied strongly in favour of FDI in retail:

“US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Former French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had impressed upon the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the need to open up for big retail. The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who had earlier served on the board of Wal-Mart, had even gone to the extent of lobbying the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee when her party Trinamool Congress was part of the UPA-II Coalition”.

Not just a British disease – an international menace: corporate lobbyists in India today

 

On reading the last post, award-winning journalist and researcher Devinder Sharma writes from New Delhi.

He sent a link, given at the foot of this post, to his Deccan Herald article on the subject. 

 An extract: 

India Inc. expresses its ‘displeasure’ at the Indian government holding back the approval for FDI in retail, calling it a set back for economic growth.

Well, hold your breath. The orchestrated media campaign, which may only be visible to a discerning eye, is actually the handiwork of what is called the corporate lobbyists. 

Courtesy of http://parkablogs.com/

Sharp, aggressive and of course always carrying bags of money, they move in the corridors of power. They hobnob with ministers, politicians, economists, and media personalities, ‘educating’ them for instance on how and why India needs to invite big retail to tide over its unemployment and agrarian crisis. They plan diplomatic evenings, organise industry conclaves and summits, plan seminars and conferences, and also demarcate media strategies. 

In the United States, corporate lobbying is legalised. In India, it operates undercover and under different names. But both perform the same job – influencing public policy and crucial economic decisions – and in turn undermine democracy. 

Crucial decisions in agribusiness, fertiliser, seed, farm machinery, animal husbandry, dairy, energy, science and technology, and retail – areas that affect country’s food security – are also influenced by corporate lobbying. 

Crores of rupees have been spent over the past few years by some of the big multinational corporations to seek an entry into India. 

What may appear to be economic decisions taken by the government often turn out to be the result of intense lobbying by foreign companies . . .

Read the whole article here.