Agribusiness is the Problem, Not the Solution Jomo Kwame Sundaram

For two centuries, all too many discussions about hunger and resource scarcity has been haunted by the ghost of Parson Thomas Malthus. Malthus warned that rising populations would exhaust resources, especially those needed for food production. Exponential population growth would outstrip food output. Humanity now faces a major challenge as global warming is expected to frustrate the production of enough food as the world population rises to 9.7 billion by 2050. Timothy Wise's new book [Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food. New Press, New York, 2019] argues that most solutions currently put forward…

Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture and Food Security: An exploration of interrelationships Vikas Rawal, Vaishali Bansal and Doordarshni Thokchom

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as the condition that exists “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Food security is at the core of Sustainable Development Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Commission), at its Sixteenth Regular Session, acknowledged the key role biodiversity for food and agriculture plays for achieving the 2030 Agenda for…

Budget 2019-20: Will it help India’s farmers? Jayati Ghosh

Everyone expected the Modi government to do something big – or at least promise something big – before the general elections. Everyone also sensed that it would be something to do with farmers, one of the economic and social concerns that has now also become a political talking point. But perhaps no one expected that the government would dare to make massive budgetary commitments for the coming year in a Vote on Account (or Interim Budget), which is constitutionally outside the mandate of an outgoing government. A Vote on Account is only supposed to include spending measures for the immediate…

The furore over farm debt C. P. Chandrasaekhar

The decision of the newly elected Congress-led governments in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to implement the manifesto promise to waive farm debt has set off a controversy. Opposition to the move comes not just from opposing parties. In fact, the political leadership has been sensible enough not to oppose the policy per se. For example, the BJP that had gone the same route in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, has only said that these governments are not doing things the right way, and are deceiving farmers with mere platitudes. The opposition comes from the neoliberal advocates, who paint this decision…

Understanding Farmers’ Rage Jayati Ghosh

The eruption of farmers’ agitations across India is beyond anything that has been seen in India since the late 1980s. At that time, such outrage presaged a change of government, with the rise to power of a coalition of parties with some more identified with farmers’ interests. Then, for around two decades, cultivators somehow lost their voice in national politics, even as neoliberal policy reforms made their situation more vulnerable. The agrarian crisis that festered from the late 1990s and then exploded in the mid 2000s had its origins in the combination of trade liberalisation (which exposed Indian cultivators to…

The Time is ripe for Unity Prabhat Patnaik

On September 5 an event of great significance occurred in the capital: more than 1.5 lakh workers, peasants and agricultural labourers staged a rally on Parliament Street. The capital has certainly seen much bigger rallies in the past, but not in the recent past. In fact, one had almost forgotten the Boat Club rallies of yore, and come to believe that a new era had come when, notwithstanding great hardships, people were reluctant to hold mass demonstrations, at least along class lines. The September 5 rally was significant not just for removing this impression; it brought together for the first…

Crop Insurance: Another dressed up scheme C. P. Chandrasekhar

Among the pro-farmer policies that the NDA government claims to have initiated, one often flagged is the modified crop insurance scheme titled Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). Effective as of kharif season 2016, this scheme is supplemented with the Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS). While in the former crop loss is computed by comparing actual yield in a season based on crop cutting experiments by state government agencies with an indicator of expected or ‘threshold’ yield, in the latter it is computed using leading weather indicators. Together, the schemes promise enhanced and more reliable crop insurance for…

Empty Promises C. P. Chandrasekhar

The timing of the Modi government’s announcement of a hike in the minimum support prices for kharif crops suggests that this may be another of its tall claims not backed by the financial allocations needed to deliver on them. According to a recent Cabinet decision of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, a large proportion of India’s farmers are to be offered the opportunity to sell their crops to the government at a minimum support price (MSP) that covers costs and provides for a margin of 50 per cent, starting with this kharif season. Together with measures like loan write-offs…

Has there been an MSP hike for Kharif Crops? Prabhat Patnaik

Much has been written by now exposing the fraudulence of the government’s claims of a “historic” rise in the Minimum Support Price for kharif crops. It has been pointed out for instance that while the Swaminathan Committee had recommended that the MSP should be fixed at 50 percent above the cost of production C2 which includes rental on own land, a recommendation that the BJP in its 2014 election manifesto had promised to implement, the current MSP still falls way below that level.The claim that the government has fulfilled its campaign promise,made by the BJP and its subservient media, is…

The Invisible Class Prabhat Patnaik

G.K.Chesterton has a well-known detective story involving Father Brown called “The Invisible Man”, where “invisibility” is supposed to characterize the postman: one is so used to seeing the postman come and go that one scarcely ever notices him. “Invisibility” in Chesterton’s sense however can get attached not just to an individual but to a whole class; and in our country, the peasantry undoubtedly is the “invisible class”. The peasantry has been called many things by many people, from “a sack of potatoes” to “an awkward class”. But it is above all an “invisible class” whose presence, and providing of essentials…