Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fifty Years of the Green Revolution

There is much celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Green Revolution in Indian Agriculture, which is said to have saved India from food insecurity and hunger. However, a review of the whole process leading to the sordid reality that prevails today will indicate that exactly the opposite is the case - the Green Revolution has devastated Indian Agriculture in the long term while providing bumper harvests for a few decades initially.
The vast majority of farmers in India cultivate small plots of land on terrain that is unsuitable for flood irrigation and they have traditionally been driven by the desire to produce for subsistence rather than for profit. They have over thousands of years developed a system of agriculture that makes the most of the locally available resources in terms of seeds, organic fertilisers, soil moisture and natural pest management. This led Sir Albert Howard, the pioneer of modern organic farming, who did most of his work in Indore, to remark some seventy five years ago, “What is happening today in the small fields of India ... took place many centuries ago. The agricultural practices of the orient have passed the supreme test, they are as permanent as those of the primeval forest, of the prairie, or of the ocean”. The clever use of rotation of a bewildering variety of crops ensured that despite flood and drought some part of the harvest was always saved. Famines occurred not because of the failure of agriculture but because of socio-economic factors such as excessive levies by kings and colonial rulers or due to usury and hoarding by moneylenders. Indeed the levying of excessive taxes and usury have been a severe constraining factor on the development of agriculture all over the world from ancient times and in India this was intensified greatly because the moneylender doubled up as the tax-collector also, resulting in one Bhili proverb that goes - " I love the Sahukar (moneylender) so much that I have given him a fat belly"!!
Thus, what was necessary after independence in India was to remove the obstacles in the path of development of this traditional agriculture and strengthen it with further research, extensive land reforms, cheap institutionalised credit and market support. Studies have shown that the indigenous agricultural practices of India, which have been honed by farmers over the centuries, are as productive as the high yielding hybrid seeds and artificial input based green revolution agriculture. But this was not to be because the Americans had in the meanwhile since the nineteen thirties devised a new model of industrial agriculture in which hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, big dam irrigation and machines were used to ramp up agricultural production with huge state subsidies which eventually went to the multinational corporations (MNC) which not only supplied these inputs but also owned most of the farms and traded in the outputs. So farm gate prices remained low leaving the actual small farmers who had always struggled against usury, like elsewhere in the world, no alternative but to gradually sell out and become unemployed leading to tremendous destitution. Moreover, the post World War II urgency to sell the excess production of fertilisers, pesticides, tractors and trucks arising from the reorientation of production in industrial manufacturing plants from explosives and armoured vehicles, necessitated the replication of the American agricultural system worldwide.
Initially, immediately after the second world war, the USA was faced with the problem of reorienting the production of its massive war oriented industry and agriculture. This was done on the one hand by making civilian cars, trucks, planes and cargo ships instead of armoured vehicles and on the other by transforming the explosive manufacturing units into fertiliser and pesticide producing units. Obviously so many cars, planes and ships and so much fertiliser and pesticide could not be consumed by the Americans alone and so the high flying consumerist lifestyle of cars and private jets and heavy eating of processed meat and cereals was spread all over the world and a market created for these products. Cattle can eat much more cereals than human beings and so the people of the developed world were encouraged to eat the former and the people of the poorer countries were fed the excess cereals resulting from increased use of fertilisers and pesticides along with the cattle.  A significant development was the worldwide adoption of soybean at the behest of the Americans who pushed its exports and cultivation through cheap aid to developing countries so as to provide cheap feed for beef production and also cheap edible oil for processing this food into ready to eat marketable forms. Thus an artificially highly productive and environmentally unsustainable agricultural system was established worldwide backed by massive state subsidies. A golden era of capitalist development, booming on the production and sale of the "world car" and the "world steer" by MNCs, ensued in the nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties. 
So at the behest of the research foundations set up by American multinational corporations and with financial support provided by the World Bank and the money from the exports of American wheat to India, which were recycled for this purpose, the American agricultural pattern was promoted with the introduction of foreign hybrid varieties of wheat and rice as green revolution agriculture in the late nineteen sixties in a few irrigated pockets in the country, leaving the majority of other areas literally high and dry. The Americans forced the Indian government to forcibly sideline Indian agricultural scientists who had developed indigenous strains and opposed this introduction of foreign hybrids and instead the reins of Indian agriculture were handed over to their stooge M S Swaminathan who pushed chemical agriculture into India with gusto. This form of agriculture has now become problematical throughout the world because of reasons to be discussed a little later and can be continued only through the provision of massive state subsidies to the MNCs that produce its inputs and trade in its outputs. A similar state of affairs prevails in Europe. In this way the comparative advantage that the third world countries have in the agricultural sector is not only neutralised but the excess production thus achieved in the developed countries is dumped in the third world countries devastating their agriculture. In fact the current Doha round of trade negotiations of the WTO has brought out as never before the hollowness and hypocrisy of the WTO’s claims of promoting “free trade” and it is deadlocked at the moment because the developed countries are refusing to reduce subsidies given to their chemical agriculture.
In India too the subsidies to agriculture far exceed the budget expenditure on it. When the additional subsidies being given in the form of free or cheap electricity and free water from dams and for the procurement of the produce of the farmers at artificially supported high prices is also taken into account, the long-term economic un-sustainability of this agriculture is inevitable. Unlike in the USA, a greater proportion of the subsidies in India are going to the actual farmers big and small. The pursuit of economic liberalisation from the nineteen nineties and financial constraints, forced the Indian Government to drastically reduce the quantum of subsidies in agriculture, investment in irrigation, price support and budgetary support for cheap institutional credit to the farmers. This withdrawal of support came precisely at the time when green revolution agriculture was beginning to fail. The main problem with artificial input agriculture is that there is a natural limit to the artificial inputs that the soil can take and so the amount of fertilisers, pesticides and water to be applied goes on increasing while the yields go on falling and sometimes the crop fails altogether. Consequently the economic costs go on increasing while the realisation of the value of agricultural products in the market does not keep pace. Inevitably this leads to farmers falling into the clutches of sahukars and spiralling debt. The crisis has now assumed serious proportions with thousands upon thousands of farmers having committed suicides, sold their lands, houses and even their kidneys. Things have come to such a sorry pass that forty percent of the respondent farmers expressed the desire to give up farming and take up other professions in a survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation of the Government of India in 2003.
The tremendous economic and political power of MNCs like Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Dow and Bayer, which are directly or indirectly in control of the input industries, the agricultural processing industry and marketing entities that make up the agriculture cum food chain has meant that instead of turning to more sustainable agricultural practices the crisis in modern agriculture is being sought to be solved through the application of even higher and far more costly bio-technology. This involves further state subsidies given the higher levels of funding required for the expensive research and application techniques involved and also uncharted environmental dangers resulting from gene tampering. The American MNCs' maniacal obsession with promoting more and more beef eating worldwide as the panacea for the ills of the inevitable market slumps that hound capitalism has now manifested itself in the development of genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormones to push up beef production which has driven the cows also mad! The continuing loss of natural bio-diversity, the concentration of genes of landraces in the hands of MNCs and patenting of life forms by them have together created a serious danger of the future of the planet being permanently mortgaged to their greed for profits.
While the Americans have become obese from this over consumption of beef and are suffering from a number of physical and mental disorders as a result, the Bhil adivasis in Madhya Pradesh have become proportionately under nourished so as to be able to provide for this overeating of the former. With the reduction in the acreage under coarser cereals and pulses which have been replaced by soybean and the greater monetisation of the rural economy, the marginal adivasi farmers have had to buy their food from the market instead of getting it cheaply from their farms and this has reduced their nutritional levels well below healthy standards. Thus, they have become sufferers of the problem of chronic hunger that today engulfs the poor in much of the developing world and even in the developed countries because the shrinking of livelihood opportunities has meant that they are not able to earn enough to buy wholesome and adequate food. So the supply of cheap food to all, which is a basic requirement of running a capitalist economy is in jeopardy because nature has been ravaged beyond repair by the artificial input based agriculture for profit that has been intensively practised since the Second World War.
The biggest problem arising from the adoption of green revolution agriculture, however, has been that of the increasing scarcity of water. Most of the water needed for irrigation in India is being provided by groundwater extraction and this has led to a situation of "water mining" wherein water collected in the deep confined aquifers over hundreds of thousands of years were used up in the space of a decade and large parts of the country have been facing a ground water drought from the nineteen nineties onwards. Since then there has been less and less ground water available for not only irrigation but also for drinking and the cost of its extraction is continually going up. Big dams, however, are the environmentally and socially most harmful component of the green revolution package and have come in for serious criticism in recent years and dam construction has been totally halted in the developed countries with some dams even having been broken in the USA to limit environmental damage. The World Bank, which has been a major funder of dams worldwide, was forced by public criticism arising from the fiasco of its funding of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to constitute a World Commission on Dams to review the performance of big dams, which has submitted a comprehensive report. The report brings out the fact that the benefits in terms of irrigation and power gained from big dam construction have been at an unacceptable and unnecessary higher cost in terms of environmental destruction and human displacement. There has been lack of equity in both the distribution of benefits and costs with the poor having lost out on both counts. Considering the increasing importance of conservation and harvesting of water resources the WCD has recommended that in future people’s participation in these processes should be made mandatory so that more effective and less harmful solutions to the problems in this sphere can be worked out.
Worldwide there is a burgeoning movement in ecological farming combined with local area watershed development that has come up as a reaction to the deleterious effects of modern agriculture. This movement is theoretically underpinned by the green ideology of development in harmony with nature and in accordance with its own leisurely pace. Many localised efforts have thrown up viable solutions to the intransigent problems created by unsustainable agricultural production and inequity in the distribution of benefits and costs of water resource development. In the western Madhya Pradesh region too there have been successful localised experiments in this sphere and a blueprint for the development of sustainable dry-land agriculture backed up by local area watershed development involving the poor in project formulation and implementation has been drawn up. Indeed the same M S Swaminathan who played the Trojan Horse role for American MNCs in initiating the Green Revolution is now one of the foremost votaries of sustainable agriculture and he says in an article in a business magazine that he had told the Indian Science Congress held in Varanasi in 1968 that, "Intensive cultivation of land without conservation of soil fertility and soil structure would lead to the springing up of deserts. Irrigation without arrangements for drainage would result in soils getting alkaline or saline. Indiscriminate use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides could cause adverse changes in biological balance and lead to an increase in cancer and other diseases through toxic residues present in grains or other edible parts. Unscientific tapping of underground water would lead to rapid exhaustion of this capital resource left to us through ages of natural farming. The rapid replacement of numerous locally adapted varieties with one or two high yielding strains in large contiguous areas would result in the spread of serious diseases capable of wiping out entire crops ...... Therefore, the initiation of exploitative agriculture without a proper understanding of the various consequences of every one of the changes introduced into traditional agriculture and without first building up a proper and scientific training base to sustain it, may only lead us into an era of agricultural disaster in the long run, rather than to an era of agricultural prosperity". 
That M S Swaminathan could foresee the dangers of what he was initiating so clearly and comprehensively and yet pursue this course shows how diabolical a person he is!!  A Faustus who sold his soul to the American devils and devastated Indian agriculture. The Green revolution that went Red with the blood of farmers. Even now he and the government pay only lip service to sustainable agriculture while still subsidising heavily green revolution agriculture. 

1 comment:

do bigha zameen said...

Suicidal tendencies are very strong. ..less talked about farming the better