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AgriCrisis In India: The Perilous Design Of Neo-liberal Agenda

By Raj Kumar

25 February, 2014

Unique Farming System

Sustainable progress for an agriculture country like India would never be possible, when primary sector continuously remain in a bad shape. There are some fundamental differences between agriculture sector of most-industrialized western countries and India. Unlike the former, Indian farming system has its own uniqueness that is not paid suitable attention by our public policy makers, planners and technocrats.

Despite diversities, Indian farming system has a three dimensional common binding thread of: geo-culture, ecological ethics, and reciprocal local economy. Unfortunately the systems of governance, policy formulation, and education research have not paid serious attention on these three factors. Vowing to the pressure of new-liberal regime, the country’s primary sector has been dragged into a ever looming dangerous zone. As targetted by neo-liberal lobby, this enabled the corporate to amass wealth in a shorter period. On the part of grassroots what is going on is an unimaginable cruel thing.

Water Crisis

Out of 20 river basin systems in India no one can be categorized as healthy and stable. Ground water depletion is emerging as a national issue as most of the river basins across India are water stress, particularly in the states where neo-liberal model growth is being implemented in a full swing – s Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Out of the 385 blocks in the state of Tamil Nadu, 90 are dark (extraction exceeding 100% of the recharge, 89 are grey (extraction exceeding 65%) and the rest are fast moving towards grey. Tamil Nadu state that pioneered the sale of rice at Rs 1/Kg has now embarked upon selling drinking water at Rs. 10/liter!

Paying the Corporate for Poisoning Our Lands

In 1951-52, fertilizer usage in the country averaged less than one kg per hectare, which has now risen to 133 kg per hectare, according to information given on the Department of Fertilizers website. Fertilizer subsidies account for a significant share of the total support to agriculture and have increased by about 560 per cent between triennium ending (TE) 2003-04 and TE2010-111. The indiscriminate dumping of farm chemicals destroyed the living micro organisms in the soil and consequently they turn into dead lands.

Farm Fields Turns into Killer Fields

These facts reveal that primary sector is clearly back-seat driven by the agents of corporate houses. And the impact is the worst of its kind in the history of world – the very farm sector key stakeholders - the farmers are pushed into ‘suicide’ in a massive way. ‘As a human being, it concerns me deeply that 284,694 small farmers of India, the most resilient and courageous people I have known, have in recent times been driven to the desperation of taking their lives because of a debt trap created by a corporate driven economy of greed that profits from selling them costly chemicals and non-renewable seeds, says India’s one of the eminent scientists/environmentalists, Dr. Vandana Shiva2.

Only some radical change like ‘de-corporatization’ of farming system could bring hope. . Instead of centralized planning and execution (that benefits the corporate and resource-rich farming class) the traditional local market based rural production system need to be revived and rejuvenated with necessary refinement. Geo-culture, ecological ethics and community-market-based economy should be the cornerstones for the system. Can this be a reality! Is it possible to bring in such models? The following brief section illustrates that it is possible.

Nature-friendly Models to Fight Corporate Loot

An alternative green farming system has been successfully adopted by a small and marginal farmers collective in Pudukkottai district of Tamil Nadu.

Comparative Analysis of Outcome

Under corporate farming system in Cauvery delta region in 2012-13 the yield of paddy is 1.873 tonne per acre which required 8 million liters4 of water, and chemicals inputs of around Rs .4,000. On the contrary, the green farming system achieved yield of 3.45 tonnes per acre with water consumption of 2.5 million liters and literally zero investment on industrial chemical inputs. The significance of the achievement is that the poor farmers have conserved 30 traditional rice varieties6 that have medicinal value of curing diabetics and anemia. These varieties were almost at verge of extinction due to corporate farming culture. In this context, it is not only an achievement in terms of productivity but it is a potential collective struggle against the bulldozers of globalization.

This experiment clearly shows us that wherever irrigation expansion takes place there it is the corporate who gains more. This can be understood by the following description.

What would have been the impacts, if this alternative model is applied in at least 100,000 acres in Cauvery delta of Tanjore area ‘The Rice Bowl of South India’?

5,500,000 liters of water per acre would have been saved. Totally in 1 lakh acres we could have saved around 19.42 tmc water. And this water would have been allocated either to thousands of farmers having lands in the tail-end or supplied as drinking water in areas where drinking water scarcity is at its peak.

It costs around Rs.4000/per acre for chemical fertilizers. This means for 1 lakh acres it works out to whooping Rs. 400,000,000 (Rs. 40 crores /one crop) that goes away from the families of the farmers in delta area for every crop into the kitties of the fertilizer companies. On the other hand the nature friendly farming system would have retained Rs 40 crores in the hands of farmers’ families.

Similarly, 5,00,000 tons of hay stock would have been harvested to save huge number of livestock in the delta region. But now what is the situation due to chemical and water intensive farming? Government departments are organizing events for distributing cattle fodder under subsidy scheme!

Above all entire delta alluvial soil would turn into live and fertile with living micro organisms and essential trace elements.

The primary sector has a key role in spearheading the movement for the radical change in fighting the loot of the neo-liberal lobbies, not only through political mobilization but also through promoting some local alternative models with collective efforts.

Short Bio of the author:

I have been in non-profit sector for the past 20 years as water and ecological rights activist/consultant, and now promoting a forum - SIVA (South India Volunteers Alliance) in the five southern Indian states, defending the livelihood rights of resource poor, vulnerable and subaltern communities whose life mainly depends on common natural resources. I am associated with the Pudukkottai NGO ROSE for the past five years in promoting the alternative green farming system. I can be accessed through my email.rajkumarsunanda@yahoo.com


1 (‘Dismantling Fertilizer Subsidies in India: Some Issues and Concerns for Farm Sector Growth’- Vijay Paul Sharma http://www.iimahd.ernet.in/assets/snippets/workingpaperpdf/14668129402012-09-01.pdf )

2 (http://www.countercurrents.org/shiva100114.htm).

3 Source: Dhina Mani -Tamil News Paper :17, Feb.’14)

4 Based on Virtual Water /Water Foot Print Calculations

5‘The Hindu’ news paper dated February 9, 2014 has reported this story.

6 This has been facilitated by a local NGO called ROSE who is committed towards the mission of de-corporatization of farm sector & later this project was financially supported with small grants by NABARD.



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