Monday, November 10, 2014

Corporatisation of Agriculture (also published in Financial Chronicle op edit page November 10 2014)

Corporatisation of Agriculture
One of the ways in which technologists and bureaucrats and politicians merge is to project the world in terms of their mutually supporting vision. This is a view that is imposed from above, and speaks of industrialisation as eo-equivalent with development. The unfortunate aspect of this, is ofcourse, that people’s movements are not taken into account. An elite group, which consists of policy makers decide that the only way to feed the masses is through industrialised agriculture. This is as much an ideological plank as organising communes for the peasantry in  early 20th century Soviet Russia. When two and a half acres per farmer is seen by the policy makers to be economically unviable, then the industrialising State decides that the peasantry should first be squeezed out from its holdings, rendered impoverished, and farming made out to be an anachronism. Once it has done this, by not setting up the infrastructure for the survival of traditional farmers,  and killing them off, it then plans that the country should be geared to colonise Mars. All this is the scientific vision of those who do not enjoy the fruits of the land, which the tiller does in an immediate way. The elite plan that the local haats or markets be done away with, and then multinational companies are called in to expedite the marketing of goods. Those who stand in the way of these technocratic policies are called  Gandhians, a fuzzy term which does not mean much any more.Once the decision to industrialise is defended as a shared vision, then the standardisation principle represents itself as a historical moment. “We must move towards the future”. Now this future is a fabricated one, as many in Europe and America have interestingly, returned to the dream of organic farming.
The technologists’ dream exists only in the minds of the elite cadres, who want more electricity to fuel this dream. They already wear acrylic clothes, eat imported foods, drink expensive wines and genuine Scotch, live in airconditioned hotels and homes. Nothing about their lifestyle matches the lives of 80 percent of the population. Though they promise this vast rural based population all kinds of things, during the elections, in reality they remain emotionally estranged from the people. Regardless of political party, the technologists, bureaucrats and politicians are people who are hand in glove with one another. Their very perspectives are outlined by the way in which they engage with the people. Intellectuals become the bane of this group because they continually disturb the equilibrium of the status quo. Why are the BJP and the Congress so similar, we may ask in their actions to the Minorities, to Education, to De-Militarization? What was the sum allocated to the Education Budget and the Defence Budget? These are the rational questions that are posed to the Ministries and to their incumbents but we get no answers.
Agriculture is a way of life. It is about seasons and rituals, about the incandescence of hope and fulfilment. There  are  equally, lean periods and losses, famines and excesses. The seeming rupture of tradition, because of globalisation, creates new avenues of work and new forms of consumption. The people are socialised into new mores and look for education as the way in which they may be liberated from the crises in agriculture. The paradox of industrialisation  being wedded to traditional ideologies produces  a new worldview. Out of these come the normlessness of the wandering hordes, that homeless and rootless, become a growing menace to societies. Manuel Castells, the Mexican Sociologist in the 1980s, called it that disorder, which is the “order of capitalism”. Arising from the disruption of the countryside, lies the rise of urbanisation and the service sectors, the last of which provide domestic and occupational services to the inhabitants. Smart cities can arise only from dispossessing the people of what they have in the rural hinterlands. The World Bank will support the multinational and the State’s call to industrialisation because that is what they are financially trained to do. So they will turn a deaf ear to the farmers who do not want their rivers dammed. These are farmers who believe that the rivers are sacred, and seek to protect the rights of riverine civilisation. Ideologically, the river is host to farmers, fishers, men and women from different parts of India and the world. By damming the rivers, for electricity production to the cities, the flora and fauna are destroyed, and food growing, as much as fishing, as much as ritual and tourist activities are threatened. Sludge from the dams, and the expressive authoritarian control of the running waters causes great damage to the ecosystem. Are the malls and the consumption needs of 21st century urbanites really necessary at the cost of the genocide of the peasantry?

1 comment:

  1. In Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers", he makes a mention of rice paddy fields in China. "A village in China of fifteen hundred people might support itself entirely with 450 acres of land, which in the American Midwest would be the size of a typical family farm." (Chapter 8 - "Rice Paddies and Math Tests", Page 232)

    He goes on to say that historically, Western agriculture is mechanically oriented, so in order to increase yield, more and more sophisticated equipments are needed. Whereas in China and Japan, rice farmers use the limited land more effectively, by becoming smarter and making better choices.