Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nero's Guests - P. Sainath


Nearly 200,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997

What is the agrarian crises? The drive towards corporate farming.
How is operationalized? Predatory commercialization of the countryside.
What does it achieve? The biggest displacement in Indian history.

Public sector has lost 900,000 jobs in the last 10 years. So when we throw people out of agriculture, where is the industry?

In the last 15 years, the fastest growing sector in the country has not been IT services, it is inequality. It has growth fastest since the days of the British Raj.

Lakme India Fashion Week was happening in Mumbai and there were 512 accredited correspondents covering the event. The clothes the women were wearing were made of cotton. One hour's flight away in Vidarbha, the men and women who grew that cotton were taking their own lives at the rate of 6-8/day.

And as always in India: all cuts and austerity in India have their class and caste hierarchy. Bombay has no power cuts; Grade 2 cities have 2 hours of power cuts; and villages have 8 hours of power cuts. Now in the middle of all this for the first time in the history of this country, a geo-exempted mortuaries and post-mortems is in place for 4 districts in Vidarbha because of the number of suicides taking place there. (For a 20 minute power cut in Bombay, you can give 2 powers of electricity to all the troubled districts of Vidarbha.)

Food and Agricultural Organization's "State of World Food Insecurity" report: between 1995-97 and 2000-02 - hunger fell in Ethiopia and grows in this rich country (India). The net per capita availability of food availability fell acutely during the reform years.

In 2002-03, India exported 20 million tons of food grains when our own people were starving. Exports made at Rs. 5.45/unit while we sold it to our poor at Rs. 6.40/unit. They exported it for the cattle in Europe. The European cow is one of the most food secure in the world - $2.7/day spent on it . The dream of the Indian farmer is to be born a European cow.

In 2001 the value of the cotton produced in US was $3.9 Bn and the subsidy was $4.7 Bn, in 2005, for 20,000 growers. Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Benin - live on cotton economy, which have been destroyed. They too are rocked by farmers' suicides. What does the WTO do in this situation? They tells these countries to diversify from cotton because they are "not viable". The one who is not viable is the American and European farmers.

I have covered farmers who committed suicide because they could not pay Rs. 8,000 and could not raise that money at a decent rate of return in 2003. As an urban middle class professional and got a letter from my bank offering me Mercedes-Benz at '6% with no collateral required'. What kind of justice is this in society?

You give 5 bucks to the poor you call it a subsidy. You give 5 million to the rich that is called 'incentive'.

Farmers: "Seeds and fertilizers cost Rs. 100,000 and yield is barely Rs. 25,000."
"I have been farming since 6-7 years. I cannot remember a day when I treated my friends or, bought my children clothes or, my wife a sari or, anything ever."
"Is it a sin to be a farmer. No one cares for us. No one hears our cries."

Who were Nero's Guests? What kind of mindset was required to pop one more fig into your mouth as another human being went up in flames to provide the illumination for their party? These were the elites of Rome. How many of them put their hands up? According, to Tassittus, not one did.

And a final warning from a farmer: "The only way is to attack, kill, and then their eyes will open."