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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Deprived of food security in grow

Deprived of food security in grow
Troubled Galaxy Destroyed Dreams, Chapter 802
Palash Biswas

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India is likely to implement National Food Security Bill by the end of 2012. But, we remain deprived of food security in growth blitz.India has been ranked 66, much lower than neighbouring China, in the 2012 Global Food Security Index released today by the American chemical company DuPont.Although India's food security level is lower than China (ranked 39) and Sri Lanka (62), it is much better than Pakistan (75) and Bangladesh (81), the index findings showed.The 2012 Global Food Security Index, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by DuPont, ranks 105 countries in accordance to their relative level of food security in three categories – affordability, availability and quality and safety.For twenty years, since we opted for free market economy, we have been predestined to starve amidst abundant natural resources as agrarian crisis is not addressed at all. Indian republic is just hijacked by market forces and the state is no more a welfare state to care for basic needs of the people.Rating on growth rate stimulates reforms but no reform is sought to feed the starving people.It is just a case of the survival of the fittest while the majority ninety nine percent has no survival kit at all.The government expenditure in social schemes is all about to bost the consumer market and it has nothing to do with the production system. We have to live on credit or subsiy as the redefined poverty line may not uplift us.Until the problems of agriculture addressed well, the basic problems of unemployment and livelihood have to worsen.In no way, the market or the infrastructure are going to help us in our sustenance. All the highways bear no responsibility for casualty. They have no footpath for the paddlers nor they have any cross over for the villages lying along side. It is the crude reality of shining India. We should have the basic animal instinct to kill lest others would have killed us. We have to snatch food to feed ourselves. Largescale food riots awaited!

After the big-bang reforms, Law Minister Salman Khurshid indicated government's keenness to push bills on food security and land acquisition, insisting that even Mamata Banerjee will not be able to oppose them. He maintained that "the bills drive a deft political balance between populism and reforms".However, the food security bill is not going to address the agrarian crisis. Everyone is concerned with growth rate but no one is least concerned with declining agriculture growth rate. Everyone speaks on fiscal deficit but no one objects the gross absence of fiscal policies whatsoever.No one is asking the crude questions about the taxes forgone and stimulus awardd to corpoaret India and MNCs. From a layman's perspective, inflation means rise in price of essential commodities. In the parlance of economics, price of any item rises when there is more demand relative to supply. Managing inflation, therefore, amounts to managing the demand of the product experiencing a rise in prices, or by increasing the supply of this item. In case of managing recession exactly opposite chain of events should take place.Before we go into how effective RBI has been in managing inflation, it is important to know what constitutes these demand and supply-side factors.Among demand-side factors, consumption expenditure is important. In India, consumption expenditures contribute close to 65 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The other components are private investment expenditures, government expenditures and trade.The RBI can only be successful in controlling inflation if the rise in interest rate (read, repo and reverse-repo rates) reduces consumption, private investment and government expenditure.

Even the economics experts, the marxists fail to understand the basic issues about food security as  Left parties recentlystaged a protest march in New Delhi without any mention to agrarian crisis as part of their food security campaign and demanded that a comprehensive food security law be enacted guaranteeing food for all.

The protest march from Mandi House culminated at the Food Corporation of India office in Connaught Place where senior leaders Prakash Karat (CPI-M), G Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja (CPI) , Debabrata Biswas and G Devarajan (Forward Bloc) and Abani Roy (RSP).

Addressing the protesters, the leaders said the Food Security Bill pending before Parliament was not acceptable to them in the present form.

"It needs to be suitably amended. The government should give up categorisation of APL and BPL. It should not try to push the cash transfer scheme instead of providing foodgrains," the leaders said.

"The draft (food security) Bill is being given the final touches by the Cabinet. This will ensure that poor will have their stomachs full. Nobody will sleep hungry. And when the law comes into force, people will get good food at low prices. 70 per cent of India will come into the ambit. We want to see which party can oppose the food Bill," Khurshid said.

What if the bill is passed unopposed!The National Development Council (NDC)in its 53rd meeting held on 29th May, 2007 adopted a resolution to launch a Food Security Mission comprising rice, wheat and pulses to increase the production of rice by 10 million tons, wheat by 8 million tons and pulses by 2 million tons by the end of the Eleventh Plan (2011-12). Accordingly, A Centrally Sponsored Scheme, 'National Food Security Mission', has been launched from 2007-08 to operationalize the above mentioned resolution. 1.2 The National Food Security Mission will have 3 components (i)Rice (ii) Wheat &(iii) Pulses. What is the result?

The government introduced the National Food Security Bill, 2011, in Lok Sabha on December 22, 2011. After introduction, the Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution for examination, which has been examining the same. This information was given by K V Thomas, minister for consumer affairs, food and public distribution system, in a written reply in Rajya Sabha.

The minister stated that presently, the government allocated food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) to states/Union territories (UTs) at 35 kg per family per month for 6.52 crore Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, including 2.43 crore Antyodaya Anna Yojana families. Allocations of food grains for Above Poverty Line families are made depending upon availability of food grain stocks in the Central pool and past offtake by the states/UTs. Presently, these allocations range between 15 and 35 kg per family per month in different states/UTs.

The Bill provides for coverage of upto 75% of the rural population, with at least 46% population belonging to priority households and upto 50% of the urban population, with at least 28% population belonging to priority households for receiving subsidised food grains under TPDS. Priority households would be entitled to receive 7 kg of food grains per person per month and general households would be entitled to receive not less than 3 kg of food grains per person per month, the minister said.

With India expected to be the most populous country in the world by 2025, feeding the population is likely to be one of the serious challenges that the country will face in the coming decades, it said.High level of poverty, lower income, less public spending on farm research, poor infrastructure, sluggish supply of quality protein are some of the key challenges that India need to address, it noted.However, presence of food safety net programmes and access to farm credit has helped the country achieve some level of food security, DuPont added.

"India is ranked 66 in the list of 105 countries, scoring slightly higher in the category of 'availability' than in other two categories of 'affordability' and 'quality and safety'," US-based DuPont Executive Vice President James C Borel said after the launch of the index.

According to EIU regional Director Pratiba Thaker, "Apart from the challenges of availability and accessibility as reflected in chronic household food insecurity, India also faces a nutrition challenge. India's nutrition level is lower than the neighbouring Pakistan due to large percentage of population being vegetarian."

Highlighting the importance of the Food Security Index, DuPont South Asia President Rajeev Vaidya said: "It should be used as a tool to help stakeholders make informed decisions that drive sustainable results at a local level."The company called for local collaborations and science-powered innovations to address the challenge of the country's food security.To address global food security challenge, DuPont also announced investment of USD 10 billion in farm research and development and advancing 4,000 new products by 2020.

Mind you,DuPont offers across a variety of market segments including agriculture, food and nutrition, healthcare, home and construction, transportation, renewable energy and infrastructure. It is also a good ploy to sell products of a company as the rating business pushes hard for reforms.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, Government has enough food grains to meet the requirements of the Food Bill as well as exports till 2014.

India government has also trying to keep the price of two major commodities wheat and sugar stable in the domestic market so that inflation does not hurt the common man.

Meanwhile, the government is also planning Food grains Storage Capacity of 151 lakh tons to be Created in 19 States to strengthen the functional areas, like Quality Control, Storage etc.

The food grain requirement under the Food Security Bill is estimated at 63 million tonne.

The proposed Food Security Bill is estimated to cost the exchequer at least Rs 1.19 lakh crore in way of subsidy.

"We will also table the Land Acquisition Bill. This was (Trinamool Congress chief) Mamata's agenda at Singur. Can she oppose the Bill now? We are confident that SP and other allies will back this Bill. So there's no cause of concern about numbers in Parliament," Khurshid said in an interview on Aaj Tak channel.

The minister also said the National Rural Health Mission (NHRM) will very soon be extended to the urban class .

Rebutting talk of running a minority government, he said "these Bills will have political consensus — driving a deft political balance between populism and reforms".

Refusing to accept that there was a scam in coal block allocations, he said, "When there are incidents of rapes in the country, do we call India a rape capital. There is no coal scam. There could have been discrepancies in allocations. This is being probed."

Asked why UPA-II took three years "to shake off policy paralysis" and announce the reforms, the Union Minister said, "It's all about timing. The move wasn't sudden. We have to keep in mind when we make friends, anticipate when ties could snap and what alternatives we have," he said.

On the opposition to FDI in retail, he said, "BJP had even created a cabinet note on FDI. Another had even mentioned it in their manifesto. Why this U-turn now?" he asked.

Dispelling fears that retail giant Walmart would monopolize the market and shut down the local kirana stores, he said, "the Completion Commission will intervene if monopoly strikes root."

On the coal allocation issue, he said, "Those who didn't get coal blocks didn't object about being denied. So where is the scam? There is no conflict of interest in making recommendations. The CBI is already investigating the case. And remember the CAG has clarified it did not say competitive bidding was the only option to allocate blocks."

Khurshid tried to cap the controversy by saying, "A five-judge Supreme Court bench will give its verdict on competitive bidding. If the court says CAG was right, we will accept the judgment."

Recent refors based on the theory that the result of allowing increased FDI would have been to move firms such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour into the Indian market. These Western big-box retailers would have brought with them expertise in supply chain management. The influx of desperately needed fresh thinking and innovation into the agricultural and food supply business would have expedited changes downstream, helping alleviate malnutrition. Rather than an increased government intervention into the food economy, an influx of FDI and foreign expertise in supply chain modernization would be a surer route to freedom from malnutrition.

Right to Food Campaign—a conglomeration of civil society groups — recntly held a day-long protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, raising seven questions with MPs on the proposed National Food Security Bill, particularly in relation to people going hungry when the country has surplus food stocks.

Rejecting the proposed amendments to the Bill that might reduce beneficiaries and entitlements under the Public Distribution System (PDS), they sought to know why a food security bill is needed.

They assailed the government for minding the food subsidy that will accrue from a universal distribution of cheap grains in the PDS "when the greed of politicians of all hues had made the country lose thousands of crores of rupees in the allocation of coal blocks, 2G scam, Delhi airport scandal and corruption in the Commonwealth Games.''

Pressing the demand for a universal public distribution system, the activists questioned need for a national food security law disregarding the fact that targeting of programmes had failed. On the other hand, they said, universal or near-universal public distribution systems as in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and the KBK districts of Odisha were functioning better with fewer leakages and benefits reaching the poor. Instead of meeting only a fraction of the requirement of the poor through the PDS, the government should — if it must target the programme — provide at least 50 kg of food grains to every eligible family every month, they said.

Rejecting outright the latest proposal to reduce the entitlements of eligible families and the coverage, the activists said this meant that irrespective of their incidence of poverty and the distribution of rural and urban areas, the country would have 33 per cent of the population excluded from the PDS. Whereas, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has shown that the nutrition requirements of a family of five, comprising two adults, two children, an elderly person/third child is 48.2 kg of cereals a month.

"The Centre's alternative proposal has whittled down the grievance redress mechanism and removed all new food-related schemes suggested in the Bill, such as community kitchens for the urban poor, destitute feeding centres and free meals for people living in starvation," the activists bemoaned. "Providing each household with 50 kg of grains is possible without a national law. The country needs to produce more grains and the government needs to procure more and not only from traditional States but in a de-centralised manner from every producing State. Along with this, subsidised pulses and cooking oil should be provided."

Justifying the additional subsidy that would accrue if the government were to distribute 50 kg a household, the campaign said "it would be mere one-fifth of the tax waiver of Rs. 5 lakh crore that the government gives to the corporate sector."

Hundreds of people from 15 States participated in the day-long sit-in to press for a universal PDS and related measures to take care of nutrition requirements of pregnant women, elderly people, single women and people with disabilities, among others.

Corporate logic enforcing major policy decisions base on the logic that it's likely that continued government subsidies as contained in the food bill will only lead to further market distortions. Absent legislative progress and further market liberalization, market distortions, along with vested interests by middlemen in perpetuating the existing lengthy supply chains, will continue to plague the population of India for some time. The result of this sad situation will surely be a continuation of the ongoing malnutrition epidemic, which will continue to handicap an already slowing economy.

Malnutrition is nothing new for many Indians. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute's 2011 Global Hunger Index, the upshot of this perennial problem is that about 60 million children in India are underweight and malnourished, while 21 percent of the population as a whole general is malnourished. Unfortunately, this problem is unlikely to change anytime soon, with the recent introduction of the National Food Security Bill threatening to continue market inefficiencies in food supply and extend the problem of malnutrition far into the future.

The developmental repercussions of this situation are dramatic, not only for individuals who suffer numerous health issues resulting from malnutrition, but also for the economy at large. Malnutrition results in a loss of productivity, indirect losses from impaired cognitive development, and losses from increased longterm healthcare costs.

According to a report by the World Bank, productivity losses in India due to stunted growth, iodine deficiencies, and iron deficiencies are equivalent to almost 3 percent of GDP.  While during the colonial era famine was the primary result of "food insecurity," malnutrition has replaced it as the chief concern of legislators and economists.

The last great famine in India occurred in 1943, and served as a case study for Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning Indian economist, in his groundbreaking work Poverty and Famines, in which he showed that famine was rarely the result of a lack of food, but rather the result of intervening economic factors, such as unemployment, declining wages, and, as is often the case in India, poor food distribution systems. The current problem in India is of that nature: it's not so much a lack of nutrient-rich food, but rather a weakness in the food supply chain.

On a more positive note, India is expected to remain self-sufficient in the production of food staples until at least 2025.  However, inefficiencies in the downstream segments of the food supply chain are still rampant, and threaten to undermine self-sufficiency and perpetuate malnutrition. For example, inefficiency in the tomato business, according to the editor of the Wall Street Journal Asia, results in as much as 20 percent of tomatoes rotting in transit, while the price for consumers is marked up by as much as 60 percent.

High prices for the consumer, as well as limited quantity and quality, all resulting from supply chain inefficiency, are sustaining increased malnutrition amongst the poor population.

The current Congress Party-led government is attempting to rectify the problem of malnutrition with its National Food Security Bill, which was introduced late last year. Sadly, though, the bill does little to alleviate the root cause, instead addressing only the symptoms – and in the most expensive and inefficient manner possible. Rather than correct supply chain issues, which would increase availability of food while reducing costs, the government has chosen to subsidize grain purchases. In addition, the government is doing this at a time when it can ill afford the expense associated with underwriting grain purchases for almost two thirds of the country's population.

Despite complaints from all political parties regarding the bill, the Congress Party pushed the legislation through, as much to prove legislative power as anything else after an embarrassing bout of policy paralysis during the uproar over amendments to rules regarding foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector. Even more disappointing than the politicized nature of the National Food Security Bill is the fact that revisions to FDI rules are exactly the type of legislative changes necessary to start rapid improvement in the food supply chain, negating the need for the bill in the first place.

In India over the past 15 years, the debate about food, under a rights-based perspective, has become increasingly complex. Concerns about famine, emergency relief and technology-driven green revolutions have given way to discussions on the state's failure to deliver public distribution programmes, the discrimination these programmes perpetuate, legal entitlements to land, climate change, price volatility and the role of NGOs. In other words, the debate has shifted from starvation and subsistence to dignity and justice.The guardian reports.

In 2001, we saw the scandal of the country bursting at the seams with 60m tonnes of stored food grains as starvation, death and migration afflicted six states. The People's Union for Civil Liberties sued the government, arguing that it must open its grain reserves to feed the hungry. The writ demanded the government provide jobs to people in drought-affected villages and support those who could not work.

Eventually, India's supreme court agreed the state was indeed responsible for providing nutrition and public health. The most persuasive argument to the court is that the right to food is directly related to the constitutional guarantee of a right to life. When the government said it simply could not afford to provide every citizen with the right to food, the court said lack of money was no excuse.

The national food security bill is an outcome of the 11-plus years of litigation, street protests and media and public scrutiny. In response to the pressure, the government, when it came to power in 2009, made food security one of its electoral promises. The draft bill was finally tabled in parliament in December 2011. Despite omissions in the draft bill, it still marks a great step forward – and food rights champions hope that when it gets passed into legislation it will be far more progressive and inclusive than it is now.

To discuss the background to this legislation, prominent authors and commentators joined with Oxfam India and the UK's Institute of Development Studies to put together the bulletin Standing on the threshold: food justice in India.

From the father of India's green revolution, MS Swaminathan, to public intellectual CP Chandrasekhar and supreme court commissioners on the right to food, NC Saxema and Harsh Mander, the bulletin's contributors agree approval of the bill is an important step forward for India. However, a law on its own can do little. India is still in the bottom 10 for child malnutrition, infant mortality and protecting land rights – a gloomy picture produced by institutional failures, gaps in legal frameworks, a lack of political will and the weak monitoring mechanisms of existing public distribution programmes.

If India's second green revolution is to contribute to an accelerated reduction of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, it has to be a state-led project. Far from being old-fashioned, the state's pricing policies, legal entitlement system, public distribution and natural-resource management programmes are key to reaching the poorest of the poor. The food, nutrition and agriculture programmes are failing to tackle deep-seated discriminatory practices. Stronger, transparent monitoring by accountable state agencies is a must.

If food security is about having certainty about the future, the common goal must also be growth in agriculture and food security that gives the same rights on the land to men and women farmers. A complete halt on any new land acquisition is required until a way of calculating and compensating social, economic and environmental costs is in place, particularly with regard to tribal communities, for whom the right to the land is still particularly uncertain. The media also have a crucial role to play: the most common references to food by them still revolves around restaurant reviews, food festivals, and books on cooking and dieting.

Finally, India has to realise that any global climate policy must have solid domestic foundations, reflecting the concerns of poor people, including farmers and fishermen – in India as elsewhere.

The future will belong to nations with grains and not guns. We have enough grains for all – we need to open and expand our thinking on what can be done, and how to build a future where everyone on the planet always has enough to eat.

The Delhi government will launch a major food security programme on Gandhi Jayanti under which monthly cash subsidy of Rs 600 will be given to two lakh households that are not covered by either BPL scheme or Antyodaya Anna Yojana.

The ambitious 'Dilli Annashree Yojana', finalized last month, will benefit around two lakh families.

"We will launch the Delhi Annashree Yojana on the Gandhi Jayanti Day (October 2). The scheme would cover over two lakh families presently not covered under the public distribution system," Dikshit said, after laying the foundation stone of a community centre in Kishangarh.

The Chief Minister said the scheme would go a long way in making Delhi a hunger-free state.

"A food subsidy of Rs 600 per month would be transferred directly in the bank account of the senior most female member of the household to enable it to purchase foodgrain of their choice," Dikshit said.

The government will spend around Rs 150 crore in the current fiscal for the scheme. There are around four lakh households getting subsidised food items under BPL and AAY schemes.

The Chief Minister had announced the scheme while presenting the annual budget in May.

Dikshit said government was considering to offer the cash subsidy to the 4 lakh beneficiaries who are currently getting subsidized food items.

"They might be given a choice to continue to avail benefit of PDS ration or opt for cash assistance of Rs one thousand per month," Dikshit said.

The city government has been favouring cash transfer to beneficiaries instead of subsidized food grains and had even sought an option of direct cash transfer to BPL families instead of food grains in the ambitious Food Security Bill, which is being vetted by a parliamentary panel.

In a meeting last month, Dikshit conveyed to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia that Delhi government would like to see an option of cash transfer to the beneficiaries in the Bill, officials said.

Last year, the Delhi government had opposed certain provisions of the Bill saying the proposed universalisation of foodgrain entitlements to majority of the population would be very "difficult to implement".

In a letter to Union Food Minister K V Thomas, the city government had said corruption was rampant in the current public distribution system and desired results would not be achieved if no structural changes were made in distribution mechanism.

The Food Security Bill seeks to provide a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to 75 per cent of the country's rural population and 50 per cent of urban India.

Food for all will cost Rs 200,000 cr a year: Ashok Gulati
Interview with chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices
Sanjeeb Mukherjee / New Delhi Sep 02, 2012, 00:25 IST

Ashok Gulati, chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, talks to Sanjeeb Mukherjee about the challenges facing the government's aam aadmi schemes and the paddy procurement crisis

Are the fears of a slowdown in rural demand well founded?
Rural demand is likely to slow down. The late rains are likely to affect productivity and thereby farmers' incomes, unless price increases offset productivity losses. The likelihood is that there will be lower demand for modern inputs (seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, etc.) and if incomes suffer, the demand for durables may be affected.

How will the Food Security Act affect food prices? What could be the pitfalls in its implementation?
The Act's main objective is to make affordable basic staples (wheat and rice) available to a larger chunk of population. Wheat at Rs 2/kg and rice at Rs 3/kg, perhaps, would be the lowest price anywhere in the world. The cost of wheat to Food Corporation of India would come to around Rs 19/kg and for rice, it would be above Rs 22/kg. To the exchequer, it may involve a food subsidy of almost Rs 120,000 crore, without counting the investment in agriculture to stabilise production, in storage, and in the railways. If one counts the investments needed to do all this in a satisfactory and sustainable manner, the bill will touch Rs 200,000 crore a year!

The real challenge for the government is to make sure that it reaches the intended beneficiaries. And for that a lot has to be done at the state level so that the public distribution system runs efficiently and without leakages. The current state of affairs is not very encouraging in most states. Surveys suggest a leakage of more than 40 per cent. The other big challenge is that in a drought year, as in 2002 when grain production dropped by 38 million tonnes, how would the government ensure food to the registered beneficiaries? Should the government always keep a buffer of, say, 80 million tonnes (as on July each year)? My opinion is that we should try at least at hundred major places to work through food coupons in urban areas to start with, and then gradually extend the reach through UID. That route is likely to be less expensive and with much less leakages, and in line with the best international practices.

What have been the gains and losses of NREGS?
It has so far been a mixed bag. It can come very handy in years of drought like this one. But it also suffers from leakages and not very useful asset creation. There was a talk of dovetailing it with agro-operations to contain rising labour costs, but that seems to have fizzled out. Agricultural wages are increasing on average by 20 per cent per annum in nominal terms for the last three years, and by 9 per cent in real terms.

The government is saddled with huge food grain inventory in excess of 70 million tonnes. What could be the best alternative to clear it?
Unless we clear substantial chunk of stocks quickly in the next two months, we risk a major crisis in paddy procurement to an extent that the system may simply cave in. That would be most unfortunate. There are at least two opportunities: (1) unload quickly at least 5 million tonnes of wheat in the open market operations in the domestic market at a price not below the procurement price of Rs 1,285/quintal; (2) export another 5 million tonnes of wheat at any price above Rs 1,285/quintal. This would save the government thousands of crores in storage costs. It will also help in cooling down the wheat prices. This window to export or offload in the domestic market will not remain open for long. We have just two months or else the food grain system will suffer and may trip by the year end. Better to wake up and act now!

Right to Food Campaign
The "Right to Food Campaign" is an informal network of organisations and individuals committed to the realisation of the right to food in India. We consider that everyone has a fundamental right to be free from hunger. Our shared commitment is expressed in the campaign's foundation statement. For a brief account of the campaign's activities so far, here is an introductory note.
The campaign believes that the primary responsibility for guaranteeing basic entitlements rests with the state. This has led to a sustained focus on legislation and schemes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Mid-day Meals (MDM) scheme, and the Public Distribution System (PDS). This website contains a great deal of material on these laws and schemes, and on related campaign activities. (Note that while the campaign has dealt with a wide range of issues - employment guarantee, mid-day meals, the public distribution system, land rights, starvation deaths, coercive displacement, forest rights, social exclusion, among others - not all of them are well covered in this website, depending on the material available).
The main purpose of this website is to document the campaign and to share resources for campaign activities. It contains a wealth of documents such as court orders, research reports, briefing notes, guidelines for field surveys, posters and pamphlets, media reports and campaign updates. For more details, consult the site map. A list of the documents uploaded in the past month is available from our latest additions page.
The secretariat of the right to food campaign can be reached at This website is maintained by volunteers on behalf of the secretariat of the campaign. It owes much to the creative work of Arudra Burra, who not only designed the site and maintained it for the first five years but also put in place a meticulous protocol for regular updating. The secretariat is most grateful for this work of love. Currently the site is maintained by Mohseen Ahmed, Ankita Aggarwal and Dheeraj Pandey. Please send comments to
To sign the online petition for Food Security for All, Click Here
Introduction| Current Highlights| A glimpse of the website| Announcements


A glimpse of the website

The following is an illustrative list of the documents you can find on this website:
Primers on the right to food Lively and accessible booklets (in English and Hindi) on various aspects of the right to food: Supreme Court orders; the Employment Guarantee Act; mid-day meals; the Integrated Child Development Services; and more.
Key documents on the Employment Guarantee Act (EGA) Including the full text of the Act, the Operational Guidelines, a "Primer" on EGA, powerpoint presentations on EGA, a compendium of articles, and so on.
Supreme Court orders Full text of the interim orders of the Supreme Court in "PUCL vs Union of India and Others" (Civil Writ Petition 196 of 2001).
Reports of the Commissioners of the Supreme Court Six major reports on the implementation of Supreme Court orders, and the Commissioners' recommendations for further action.
Research tools User-friendly material for field surveys on the right to food, including sample questionnaires, guidelines for investigators, and survey reports.
Current Highlights
Campaign material A wealth of campaign resources such as posters, pamphlets, booklets, leaflets, plays, songs. Feel free to download, print, edit, cut, paste, translate, whatever - there is no copyright.
Campaign updates Regular updates on activities of the campaign around the country.
Articles on the right to food Hundreds of recent articles (2001 onwards) on various aspects of the right to food: employment guarantee, mid-day meals, the public distribution system, the Integrated Child Development Services, etc.

Introduction| Current Highlights| A glimpse of the website| Announcements



    • The comments can be sent in Hindi or English to the -
    • Joint Secretary
    • Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution
    • Lok Sabha Secretariat
    • Room No. F-014, 'G' Block Parliament Library Building
    • New Delhi 110001
    • Fax No. 011 23017732 and 23010756
    • Telephone No. 011 23034588 and 23035390
    • E mail

Aam Aadmi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Aam Aadmi (Hindi & Urdu for "Common Man") is a term used by Indian National Congress as their political agenda in 2004 and 2009 elections and uses this as its guiding principle in running its coalition government. It refers to the average Indian or Average Joe. The idea of Aam Aadmi is to address three essential things: Food, Clothing and Shelter.
Aam Aadmi aims at the happiness of common man.[1] The government must protect the common man by providing subsidies on food and fertilizer. However, there are high administrative costs of delivery in present subsidy scheme. The economists now opt direct cash transfers to reduce administrative costs.


Aam Aadmi was introduced in 2004 by the Indian National Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. Its objective was to strengthen the Right to Information Act, National Rural Employment Guaranteed Scheme, National Food Security Act and Bharat Nirman Yojana [2] by way of economic and social inclusion of every underprivileged section of society.[3] No marginal groups are excluded from the development process. Women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes belong to the marginal groups.[4] The development plank is akin to Indira Gandhi's Garibi Hatao.[5]

The Right to Information Act

Main article: The Right to Information Act 2005
The Right to Information Act 2005 is an Act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.[6]
The Act specifies that citizens have the right to:
  • inspection of work, documents and records.
  • taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records.
  • taking certified samples of material.
  • obtaining information in the form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes 'or in any other electronic mode' or through printouts.
The Right to Information Act makes the common man up to date. His role in government's decision-making process has been redefined by the Act. The Right to Information Act is an effective tool to control corruption, make government accountable, and curb the arbitrary use of power.[7] The Act has now been amended to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

Main article: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
A NREGS Worksite in Kerala
This Act came into force on February 2, 2006. The twin objectives of the Act are augmenting wage employment and strengthening natural resource management. As per the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, job cards are issued to the rural unskilled labour by guaranteeing work for 100 days in a financial year at a minimum daily wage of Rs.100. It is the largest programme in the world for rural reconstruction.[8] The scheme covered 604 districts in India in three phases and provided employment opportunities for more than 4.47 crore households in 2008-09.[9] The total outlay for the scheme is $8 billion during 2009-10.
NREGA creates transparency and accountability in governance. All NREGA beneficiaries now have accounts with banks or post offices. The scope of the programme is limited to unskilled manual labour. The scope can be extended through increased land productivity. Land productivity can be maximized through better convergence of NREGA with other programmes.[10] Sustainable development is the ultimate goal of NREGA. M.S. Swaminathan, Father of Green Revolution in India argues that there is a synergy between National Food Security Act and NREGA.[11] NREGA through its diversified programmes on human development helps to ensure food security for all. It is the realisation of Gandhi's dream to make India self-sufficient. The scheme has now been renamed as Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Gandhiji taught us how unskilled manual labour can be made use of for the betterment of society.

Food Security Act

The National Food Security Act, also referred to as the Right to Food Bill, is a proposed act which makes food availability a right for every citizen of India. Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) is a centrally sponsored scheme launched on December 2000 for one crore of the poorest families. It is on the look out for the 'poorest of the poor'[12] by providing them 35 kilos of rice and wheat at Rs.2 per kg. Whereas the National Food Security Act helps the poor to purchase 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs.3 per kg. It calls for broader reforms in the public distribution system. Food Security Act takes into consideration the following three important aspects:
  • Food Availability.
  • Food Access.
  • Food Absorption.
Food availability in the market depends on domestic production and imports whereas access to food hinges on the purchasing power of Aam Aadmi. Food absorption means the inclusion of required calorie-content micro and macro nutrients in our daily food intake and thereby enables the human body to fight against deficiency diseases.[13] The absorption of food in the body also depends on non-food factors such as safe drinking water, environmental hygiene, primary health care and access to toilets.
Targeting the BPL families is one of the main issues in the implementation of the Act. In 2005 Planning Commission has made an evaluation of PDS schemes. They found that more than 50 per cent of food did not reach the poor families. In the words of Dr. C Rangarajan, "Food prices must be controlled, otherwise they have a tendency to lead to manufacturing inflation. That will require monetary action especially on the supply management side".[14]

Bharat Nirman

Main article: Bharat Nirman
Bharat Nirman Yojana is an action-oriented business plan for rural infrastructure.[15] It is an important step in bridging the gap between rural and urban areas and improving the quality of lives of rural masses. It comprises projects on irrigation, roads (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana), housing (Indira Aawaas Yojana), water supply, electrification and telecommunication connectivity.
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana marker in a village in Punjab
The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched on 25 December 2000. The primary objective of PMGSY is to provide good quality all-weather roads in all the rural areas where urban-rural road connectivity is found to be very weak.[16] All unconnected habitations with a population of more than 500 persons has been provided connectivity by 2007.[17]
Aam Aadmi is the image of common man. He is one among millions of illiterate population of India.[18] Whatever be the changes in the economy affects him the most. Inflation, financial meltdown and the resultant job loss are cumbersome for Aam Aadmi.[19] To put it otherwise, Aam Aadmi is always caught up in a vicious circle of poverty.

The Aam Aadmi Ka Sipahi

The Aam Aadmi Ka Sipahi (the Common Man's Army)[20] upholds the Right to Information Act and NREGA. The Aam Aadmi Ka Sipahi aims to popularize the UPA government's flagship programmes by the Youth Congress and train local youths in e-governance and use of computers.[21][22] The Youth will work at the panchayat level to facilitate the smooth functioning of NREGA and the Right to Information Act.[23] They creates awareness among the rural poor of their rights.

Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana

Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana (AABY) covers death and disability insurance for the benefit of rural landless households in the country. It provides insurance against natural as well as accidental and partial/ permanent Disability.

Sponsored by Both: Central & State Government Uralic


Main article: AADHAAR
The AADHAAR project started by the government of India to give a biometric based identity card to every resident of India is aimed primarily to improve access to all welfare programs.


Swabhimaan is a banking project launched to bring banking services to vast unbanked rural areas in the country.[24] It was launched on 9 February 2010. The government has set a target of covering 73,000 new habitations, with population of 2,000 and above under the banking services by March 2012.

See also


  1. ^ Debroy, Bibek (2009-05-29). "Who's the aam aadmi". Indian Express. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  2. ^ Sexana, Shobhan (2009-12-27). "The rise of aam aadmi". Times of India. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
  3. ^ Bhattacharya, A.K. (2009-12-30). "From Hindutva to aam aadmi". Business Standard. Retrieved 2010-01-12.[dead link]
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Right to Information Act, 2005
  7. ^
  8. ^ National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
  9. ^ Official Website of NREGA
  10. ^ Bharat Nirman Programme http://www.orissalinks/orissagrowth/.../bharat-nirman-programme
  11. ^ Swaminathan, M.S. (2009-06-01). "Synergy between Food Security Act and NREGA". The Hindu. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  12. ^ "Antyodaya scheme:many states yet to identify poor". The Financial Express. 2004-11-01. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Raghavan, B.S. (December 16 2009). "Pundits' primer on price rise". Business Line. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  15. ^ Official Website of Bharat Nirman
  16. ^ Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna
  17. ^
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ Patnaik, Prabhat (March 15–28 2008). "Conservation to the foe". Frontline 25 (06). Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  20. ^ "Soldier tag for Youth Cong - Pro-poor Scheme launched". The Telegraph. 2007-05-14. Retrieved 2010-02-02.
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ [3]
  24. ^

Further reading

  • Mishra,N.N.; Parker,Lisa; Nimgaonkar,V.L.; Deshpande,S.N. (2008): "Privacy and the Right to Information Act, 2005", Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, 5(4), p. 159.
    Topics in education

    Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 13

    Agrarian Crisis in India is a Creation of the Policy of Globalisation

    Mathew Aerthayil
    The people's protest against Special Economic Zones in various parts of the country, including at Nandigram in West Bengal, stagnation in agriculture, import of foodgrains, widespread suicide of farmers—all these are systems of simmering discontent in the agricultural sector. What is highlighted today in the national scene is the image of "incredible India" and "shining India". We hear often about India as a country with a very high economic growth, a country with the highest numbers of billionaires in Asia, and a country of world renowned information technology. But we do not hear enough about the serious problems in agriculture. Those who govern us do not seem to be concerned about this problem; probably they do not want to. But we cannot easily ignore this problem any longer.
        It was with the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in 1991 that the policy of globalisation was concretely introduced in India. Based on this policy and the directives of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation, the Indian economy was substantially overhauled. The Export-Import policy was liberalised; the import and customs duties of many products were drastically lowered or totally dropped so that they could be imported without any restriction. The government started reducing its investment in agriculture and the industrial sector allowing the private sector to take over. The restructuring of the public distribution system really affected the availability of foodgrains to the poor at subsidised rates. All such measures had implications for the farm sector. This article analyses how the policy of globalisation has affected agriculture in India.
    Problems of Agrarian Sector and their Consequences
    FIFTEEN years of economic liberalisation have adversely affected Indian agriculture. The most prominent manifestation of this is in the drastic decline in the growth rate of foodgrains. The rate of growth of agricultural output was gradually increasing in 1950-1990, and it was more than the rate of growth of the population. In the 1980s the agricultural output grew at about four per cent per annum. Thus India became self-sufficient in food and started exporting wheat and rice. But during the 10-year period after the start of liberalisation, the rate of growth declined to two per cent. According to the Mid-term Appraisal of the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-07), the rate of growth of the GDP in agriculture and allied sectors was just one per cent per annum during the year 2002-05. As a result, per capita availability of foodgrains decreased; the growth rate of population became higher than that of foodgrains, and India started to import foodgrains at a much higher price than that in the domestic market.
        Secondly, unemployment in the agricultural sector increased during the reform period as agriculture was not profitable due to the fall in the price of farm products. As a result, the number of people who are employed in the primary sector and the area under cultivation decreased, which in turn caused a decline in rural employment. According to the National Sample Survey, the annual rate of growth of the employment in the rural areas was 2.07 per cent in 1987-1984, while it declined to a mere 0.66 per cent in 1993-2000, which corresponds to the period of liberalisation. It is not only the farmers but also the Dalits and tribals, who heavily depend on agriculture, became unemployed.
        The suicide of farmers is the third fall-out of stagnation in agriculture. When agriculture was not yielding remunerative income, the life of the farmers became very desperate. Many of them committed suicide as a last resort. As revealed by Sharad Pawar, the Union Agricultural Minister, in the Lok Sabha in 2004, over one lakh farmers committed suicide in India after the economic reform started. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 17,060 farmers committed suicide in the country in 2006 with Maharashtra having the highest number of (4453) suicide deaths. Punjab is the latest in the list of States having farmers' suicide. This is a record in the agricultural history of India. It points to the acute nature of the problem which has affected the vast majority of the population, and which has created a real crisis. But unfortunately, the government and the people do not consider it a crisis; their lack of seriousness and lukewarm response to the problem points to this reality.
    Reasons for the Agrarian Crisis
    THERE is a need for analysing the reasons for the crisis to see whether there is any connection with globalisation and, if so, what measures could be adopted to face this challenge.
    1. Liberal Import of Agricultural Products
        The main reason for the crash of prices of agricultural products, especially of cash crops, in India was removal of all restrictions to import these products. As, for example, when the Government of India reduced the import duty on tea and coffee from Sri Lanka and Malaysia, their prices in the domestic market got reduced drastically. Thus cultivation of such products became unprofitable and so their production was fully or partly stopped. Since the removal of quantitative restrictions and lowering of import duties were according to the restrictions of the World Trade Organisations (WTO), the crash in the prices of agricultural products is directly related to the liberalisation policy of the government.
    2. Cutback in Agricultural Subsidies
        In the post-reform period the government reduced different types of subsidies to agriculture, and this has increased the production cost of cultivation. According to Ramesh Chand, an economist, cutback in subsidy and control of fertilisers over the last few years has adversely affected the agricultural sector. It has increased the input cost and made agriculture less profitable. Since the decrease in subsidy to agriculture is part of the regulations of the WTO, it is related to the policy of globalisation.
    3. Lack of Easy and Low-cost Loan to Agriculture
        After 1991 the lending pattern of commercial banks, including nationalised banks, to agriculture drastically changed with the result that loan was not easily available and the interest was not affordable. This has forced the farmers to rely on moneylenders and thus pushed up the expenditure on agriculture. The National Commission for Agriculture, headed by Dr M.S. Swaminathan, also pointed out that removal of the lending facilities and concessions of banks during the post-reform period have accelerated the crisis in agriculture. When the farmers were not able to pay back loan with high interest, they fell into the debt trap. Studies show that most of the farmers' suicides was due to the debt trap. It is part of the policy of privatisation that banks, even nationalised banks, look for profit over their social responsibilities to the people.
    4. Decline in Government Investment in the Agricultural Sector
        Studies show that after the economic reforms started, the government's expenditure and investment in the agricultural sector have been drastically reduced. This is based on the policy of minimum intervention by the government enunciated by the policy of globalisation. The expenditure of the government in rural development, including agriculture, irrigation, flood control, village industry, energy and transport, declined from an average of 14.5 per cent in 1986-1990 to six per cent in 1995-2000. When the economic reforms started, the annual rate of growth of irrigated land was 2.62 per cent; later it got reduced to 0.5 per cent in the post-reform period. The consequences were many. The rate of capital formation in agriculture came down, and the agricultural growth rate was also reduced. This has affected the purchasing power of the rural people and subsequently their standard of living.
    5. Restructuring of the Public Distribution System (PDS)
        As part of the neo-liberal policy, the government restructured the PDS by creating two groups—Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL)—and continuously increased the prices of foodgrains distributed through ration shops. As a result, even the poor people did not buy the subsidised foodgrains and it got accumulated in godowns to be spoiled or sold in the open market. As the in-take from PDS was less it has affected the food security of the poor, especially in the rural areas, and this has indirectly affected the market and the farmers.
    6. Special Economic Zones
        As part of the economic reforms, the system of taking over land by the government for commercial and industrial purposes was introduced in the country. As per the Special Economic Zones Act of 2005, the government has so far notified about 400 such zones in the country. Very often it is fertile land which has been acquired. According to Khasanoki, a writer, the government has acquired five million hectares of land for purposes other than agriculture between 1991 and 2003. This is almost half of what was acquired during the last 40 years. It was in the news that the government decided to acquire 10,120 hectares of land near Mumbai (almost one-third area of Mumbai) for the Reliance Company and reduced it to 5000 hectors due to public pressure. Since the SEZ deprives the farmers of their land and livelihood, it is harmful to agriculture. In order to promote export and industrial growth in line with globalisation the SEZ was introduced in many countries.
    Towards a Solution
    THE agricultural crisis is affecting a majority of the people in India. The farmers who produce food materials for the country are in deep distress. The marginalised people like the Dalits and tribals, who depend on agriculture, are getting unemployed and struggling for their livelihood. The ordinary people, especially the poor, have lost their food security. The crisis in agriculture is a crisis of the country as a whole and so needs urgent attention. Some of the suggestions are being listed here.
    1.    Quantitative restrictions should be imposed on import of agricultural products. Since the import policy was the major reason for the crash in prices of many agricultural products, there should be restrictions on the quantity and customs duty of such products. Necessary import duty and quantitative restrictions should be imposed on imported goods to protect our farmers who should be given priority to the discipline of the WTO.
    2.    Subsidy and concessions given to agriculture but removed in the post-reform period should be restored. This is a must to make agriculture remunerative. One of the main disputes in the Doha Round of talks at the WTO is the high subsidy given by the United States and European Union to their farmers in spite of the WTO regulation. India should assert its right to give sufficient subsidy to its farmers to offset the rising cost of cultivation and protect their livelihood.
    3.    Bank loans should be easily made available to the farmers, especially since the input cost of agriculture has gone up. The government should seriously think of restoring the low rate of interest to farmers given by banks and other financial institutions as it had done before the reform period. In fact, the M.S. Swaminathan Commission for Agriculture has recommended a low rate of four per cent interest for the farmers.
    4.    The government should augment its investment and expenditure in the farm sector. One reason for the agricultural stagnation is low government expenditure. Investment in agriculture and its allied sectors, including irrigation, transport, communication and farm research, should be drastically increased, and the government should aim at integrated development of the rural areas. Effecting Implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme can also become a means of revival of the rural economy.
    5.    There is a need for periodic revision of the procurement prices for farm produce making those remunerative. This will help the farmers to meet the increasing expenses for farm inputs and ensure at least remunerative income. According to the Swaminathan Commission, unless agriculture is made a profitable enterprise, its present crisis cannot be solved. The Commission has suggested 50 per cent more of the total production cost as supportive price for foodgrains.
    6.    The government should revise the policy on Special Economic Zones as it goes against the interest of farmers and the agricultural sector. It should not acquire fertile agricultural land for SEZs. When it does take over land for essential public utilities, it should give just compensation and initiate comprehensive rehabilitation measures. The recommendations of the Swamina-than Commission not to acquire land suitable for agriculture for non-agricultural purposes, to give adequate compensation for the acquired land and to distribute surplus land to the landless farmers should be seriously taken into account when the policy of SEZs is reframed. Over and above the policy of SEZs, there is a need for constitutional structures and mechanisms which will mandate the government, both Central and States, to implement the policy of relief and rehabilitation of people displaced due to SEZs and other developmental projects.
    7.    Bold steps should be taken to implement land reforms which were not implemented in most States. Feudal structures and landlordism based on large holdings of land by high caste and class people even now tend to keep a majority of the people, especially Dalits and backward castes, in the rural areas under their control and domination. Neo-liberal policies with privatisation will only reinforce and strengthen these unjust and exploitative structures. Therefore, there is a need for conscious efforts and positive steps from the government side to implement land reforms. Surplus land acquired thus should be distributed to the Dalit and adivasi farmers. According to Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate, though the economic growth rate of India is impressive, India cannot play a significant role in the global economic scenario unless it completes land reforms.
    8.    The rural economy, particularly agriculture, will be greatly benefit if programmes meant for economically backward sections, including the Integrated Child Development Schemes, mid-day meals for schoolchilden and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, are effectively implemented. Food security of the poor will be ensured if the public distribution system is efficiently run. All these programmes will increase the purchasing power of the rural people and indirectly help agriculture itself.
        The agricultural sector in India is facing a crisis today. The globalisation process, which started in the 1990s, is the main reason for this crisis. The solution of the problem is not in a few "packages" but in drastic changes in the present economic policies related to agriculture. For this, the government should be ready to take bold steps. Farmers, agricultural labourers and people's organisations in civil society should work collectively to assist and persuade the government to make the necessary changes. It is high time that the government and the people realised that India can become a real "superpower" only when the vast majority of the people, especially the farmers in the rural areas, become prosperous and are really empowered. The words of Dr M.S. Swaminathan are relevant here: "In a country where 60 per cent of people depend on agriculture for their livelihood, it is better to become an agricultural force based on food security rather than a nuclear force."
    Dr Mathew Aerthayil is the Director of the Indian Social Institute, Bangalore.

                        P. Sainath on "Inequality, livelihood and agrarian crisis" in India                

    February 28, 2012
                P. Sainath, the well known journalist (The Hindu Rural Affairs Editor), most famous for his reports on peasant suicides in India, spoke at the inaugural ceremony of the Vibgyor Film Festival (22nd Feb, 2012) held recently in Trissur, Kerala. Going with the theme of the festival – 'Lives and Livelihood', Sainath gave an inspiring speech on the topic "Inequality, livelihood and agrarian crisis" facing India.
    Socialism for the Rich and Market Economics for the Poor!
    Sainath started his speech with an satiric comment on the Govt. of India's agonizing efforts, not at saving millions of its hungry citizens, but on its efforts to save Vijay Mallya's failing airlines – Kingfisher! He mentioned that all talk of Banks independently trying to work out a solution for the airlines was nonsense and had all the covert backing of the Indian government. And who is Vijay Mallya? One of the 55 Forbes listed Indian billionaires and a recipient of subsidies worth millions of rupees from the government.
    He mentioned the importance of the timings of the festival that is coinciding with the 5 state assembly elections and warned on the consequences of neo-liberal reforms coming in full force after the assembly elections were over.
    He criticized the farce that is being played in the name of parliamentary democracy, wherein in the last session, all the 38 days were wasted in discussing one Lokpal Bill (Ombudsman bill). But in the same 38 days in India, more than 1786 peasants would have committed suicides which works out to 47 suicides a day and 1 in every 38 minutes. Also in 38 days, over 78,000 peasants would have quit farming altogether which works around to 2000 a day.
    In a typical 38 days, more than 3000 to 4000 children would have died of malnutrition and hunger. Many more times that number enter grade 3 or grade 4 level of malnutrition, which means permanent damages for life. None of this is happening due to any natural calamity but because of conscious economic policies. According to Human Development Report, malnourishment in Indian children is two times higher than children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Insensitivity by the government is shown by the fact that the Planning Commission went to the extent filing an affidavit in Supreme Court defending its controversial Rs. 25 a day as the official poverty line.
    But on the other hand, in every union budget, there is a direct corporate write off worth Rs. 88,000, the budgeted amount for a universal Public Distribution System. All that it requires to save the hungry millions was a shift in the money being given to the corporates. Each year the Indian government subsidizes the corporates to the tune of Rs. 500,000 crore, enough for universal social services like health, education and others social security benefits.
    Sainath also spoke of the assets accumulated by the Indian billionaires in 38 days. For example, Praful Patel (the former Aviation minister with heavy business interests) would have made more than Rs. 19 million in 38 days i.e., Rs. 5 lakh per day. But as far as Air India (national airline carrier) staff were concerned, no salary has been paid for the last 8 months. 20 years of neo-liberal reforms has only seen inequality growing with the country boasting the fourth largest number of dollar millionaires in the whole world. India has more millionaires than Scandinavian and Nordic countries put together.
    According to the Economic Survey of India, food crop production had fallen dramatically in the last 20 years and is growing slowly compared to the population growth. This has raised the question of falling calorie intake. According to Planning Commission figures, India is worse off than Sub- Saharan Africa with countries like Rwanda having a food security situation compared to India. Number of hungry people in India is more than the rest of the world put together.
    He also presented few of the tragic stories of rural peasants facing distress or have committed suicide. Cases ranging from suicides by women who have not been counted as farm suicides because women are not considered in the farmers list; or cases of peasants who did not have money to commit suicide (!), cases of peasants writing suicide letters to the PM and Presidents explaining their financial distress; or the tragic story of '3 weddings and a funeral' wherein a community leader of the Banjara tribe in the Vidarbha region (Maharashtra) committed suicide on the day of the marriage of his extended family brethren.
    Telecom minister likes to boost about the 70% mobile connectivity in India but is silent on the fact that a same percentage of people do not even have bank accounts, with most depending on moneylenders for credit. He spoke of the discriminatory practices by the banks that charge 7% interest rates for car loans while charging 14% interest rate for tractors & 36% interest rate to poor women through the exploitative NGO run Self Help Group's (SHG's).
    Health was another area of major concern, with many peasants mortgaging their land to pay for their hospital bills. Chains of Corporate/ Private hospitals and privatization of existing public health services have all but destroyed what existed of the dysfunctional public health system. Number of people not seeking medical care (because of unaffordable medical bills) has only doubled in the last 20 years.
    Migration and Crisis in Rural India
    A large part of Sainath's talk was focussed on migration. 2011 census was in many ways unique and frightening on the scale of migration. The last 10 years (between 2001-2011) witnessed one of the largest migration from rural to urban India, not seen in 90 years. All this only points out to a total collapse in agriculture & most of the new migrants forced to live in shanty towns with no basic facilities. This has given rise to phenomenon of "footloose" migrant with no steady employment or abode.
    He gave the example of Ganjam district of Orissa, where nearly 400,000 Orriya migrant workers are now employed in the Power looms of Gujarat, working in 12 hr shifts at extremely low wages. The global economic crisis has only worsened the situation, with many of these workers being laid off thus resulting in social tensions back home.
    Another instance of this agrarian crisis was in the Wayanad district of Kerala in the early years of the noughties. Wayanad which had always been known as an in-migration district (Gulf of Kerala), found thousands of peasants, day labourers and other workers leaving the region en mass to the neighbouring state of Karnataka, because of the agrarian crisis that saw thousands of peasants committing suicide.
    Special Case of 'Kerala'
    Sainath spoke on the importance festival venue – Kerala. After 20 years of neo-liberal reforms, Kerala today is the most globalized state in India. This gains importance as most of the crops grown in Kerala are cash crops whose prices are determined by the global stock exchanges and the multinational corporations. It is also interesting to note that none of these produce is consumed locally Kerala itself and has little or no relevance as far as people of the state were concerned.
    Kerala would be most affected in the event of serious economic downturn as the economy is linked to external factors such as global market volatility and others like tourism, remittances etc.
    Processes at Work and Unravelling of the Global Economic Crisis
    He outlined eight processes at work simultaneously in India as part of neoliberal policies of the Indian government, including the withdrawal of the state from the public sector, imposition of various user fees and burden of taxes on the people, huge cuts in life supports like food subsidies, unprecedented rise of corporate world, privatisation of everything, stunning rise of inequality, market fundamentalism and debt burden on the poor.
    However, it is not all despair. The last period has also seen the unravelling of the global economic crisis. He spoke on the importance of the crisis facing Europe and America, and the significance of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt which was very much linked to the crisis facing capitalism worldwide.

    Anand Kumar
    Related posts:
    1. Public health crisis in India
    2. World food crisis: Price hikes produce poverty and rebellion

     People's Democracy

    (Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

    Vol. XXX
    No. 05
    January 29, 2006

    The Agrarian Crisis And Importance Of Peasant Resistance

    Utsa Patnaik

    THE principal contradiction in the colonial period, was between the Indian people as a whole, and imperialism and its local comprador allies. After Independence, the principal contradiction changed to the contradiction between the mass of the working peasantry and labourers on the one hand, and the minority of landlords, traders and moneylenders who monopolized control over land and money-capital, thereby exploiting the peasantry through rent, interest and exorbitant traders' margins. While imperialism was by no means dead, it was on the retreat in the context of the post-War shambles that was the advanced world, and decolonisation allowed space for third world countries like India to try to de-link from the earlier international division of labour under which they had been completely open and liberalised economies geared to metropolitan growth, not national growth. They could now protect their economies and undertake state intervention in the interests of national development - in which they were helped by the existence and aid of the socialist camp. The old liberalisers were silenced, while the new liberalisers had not yet appeared.

    In the agrarian sphere in India the resolution of the principal contradiction was tied up closely with the solution of a number of other important secondary economic and social contradictions. The principal contradiction implied the need to break land monopoly by measures of effectively re-distributing land from the landlords to the land-poor and landless, to break the monopoly of credit and marketing through co-operative institutions of the peasants themselves, and state intervention in channelling credit to the credit-starved and setting up non-profit marketing institutions between producer and consumer with the aim of stabilising prices for both. It was essential that the principal contradiction should be tackled boldly in order to resolve the many other important and related contradictions.

    There was the contradiction between the continuing caste, class, gender and other social types of oppression in a particularly intense form in rural areas on the one hand, and the very constitutional basis of the Indian polity which considered every citizen to be equal and to have equal opportunities regardless of caste, class, gender and so on. The non-left political forces, economists and planners in India however have consistently underestimated the role of effective re-distributive land reforms for breaking the economic and social power of the rural landed minority for laying the precondition for measures of mass poverty reduction and providing an expanding market for industry, and for reducing the old class, caste and gender based forms of inequalities which express themselves in high levels of illiteracy, declining sex-ratios, atrocities against dalits, and the persistence of child labour. Only in the states where the Left movement has been influential were effective measures of land reform undertaken, with a very positive impact despite their relatively limited nature.

    While the achievements of forty years of planned development in India were in many ways substantial, its economic and social failures therefore have been equally glaring. These lay in the inability to substantially reduce mass poverty, which is particularly concentrated in rural areas; an insufficient growth of the internal mass market and hence the emergence of pressure to seek external sources of growth in collaboration with foreign capital.


    International developments led to the re-emergence of finance capital as a dominating force over industrial capital in the advanced world from the late nineteen seventies. The relative political unity achieved by the national bases of this finance capital (by subordinating inter-imperialist rivalry, to common aims vis a vis the third world), the aggressive use by finance capital, of the supra-national Bretton Woods institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) for implementing its aims, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, have together led to a highly favourable conjuncture for imperialism, which is once again aggressively trying to re-colonise the third world and has substantially succeeded in many smaller countries. In recent years however tendencies of resistance to the dominance of finance capital have also started emerging in varied ways.

    The new liberalisers arrived on the scene in Latin America and Africa many years ago; they have been stridently pushing the theories and practice of the new liberalisation in India since the beginning of the nineties. The old imperialism was transparent because there was direct political control, while the new imperialism is less transparent and therefore in many ways, more dangerous. The new liberalisation differs from the old colonial liberalisation in at least two respects : it has a strategy of improving further the economic position of the third-world rich at the expense of their fellow-citizens, which has materially corrupted the elite of our country; and it has an ideological thrust in terms of wrong theories, which has intellectually suborned the same third world public figures and intellectuals who were earlier supporters of independent growth, but who now mindlessly parrot the mantra of liberalisation they have memorised from their advanced country mentors. The new compradors are following anti-national theories and policies no less than the old compradors had done. It is extremely important for those who are within the Left movement to fight the revisionist tendencies creeping into the movement which lead to a 'soft' stance on liberalisation. To support any aspect of liberalisation even for pragmatic reasons is equivalent to political liquidationism.


    India has been following since 1991 exactly the same set of deflationary policies at the macroeconomic level, already followed in the 1980s by nearly 80 indebted countries under the guidance of the IMF. These included reduction in Central and state government development expenditures, tight money, reduction of the ratio of budget deficit to GDP, caps on organised sector wages, and devaluation.

    The useful papers in the two volume study edited by Cornia, Jolly and Stewart, titled Adjustment with a Human Face (1987), have detailed the effects of the neo-liberal policy package in those developing countries which undertook these policies a decade or earlier compared to India. The picture which emerged was alarming indeed: reduction in investment rates, reduction in growth rates, and absolute decline in output and income in a number of cases, a reversal of progress on the fronts of literacy, infant mortality rates and other health indicators, sharp cuts in wages and employment, and rise in poverty. All this was exactly as sensible macroeconomic theory would predict: if deflationary and contractionary policies are consistently followed, the results are bound to be as observed, and only those people can ever think otherwise, who adhere to a logically incorrect theory serving the narrow interests of finance capital.

    The fact that neo-liberal policies represent an attack on the forces of production in developing countries is still neither understood nor believed by most people despite the overwhelming theoretical and empirical evidence which has emerged in favour of this conclusion during the last quarter century. Many persons are misled by the assertion that India has the second highest GDP growth rate in the world after China, namely 7 to 8 per cent annually, into thinking that the growth is taking place in every sector. On the contrary, from the mid-1990s in particular, both the material productive sectors – industry and agriculture – have been in decline with agriculture being more severely affected than industry. The only sector which has expanded fast is the services sector. There has been a perverse structural shift in the economy even before any substantial industrial growth has taken place.

    The share of agriculture and related activities in GDP has fallen steeply from one-third of GDP before reforms to only 24 percent at present. The share of industry has stagnated around a quarter while that of services has risen fast to one half of GDP. Deflationary policies have thus impacted severely on the material productive sectors of the economy. Both agriculture and industry have seen decelerating rates of output growth and therefore rising unemployment. Further, the reform period has seen a reduction of labour's bargaining power through the casualisation of the work force including in public sector undertakings.

    During the 7th Plan period marking the pre-reforms phase, from 1985 to 1990, Rs 51,000 crore was spent on rural development, amounting to almost 4 per cent of Net National Product, and Rs 91,000 crore or over 7 per cent of NNP was spent on infrastructure. In rural development we include the plan expenditure heads of agriculture, rural development, special areas programmes, irrigation and flood control, and village and small scale industry. By 2000-01 the share of spending under these heads taken together was down to 5.8 per cent of NNP, the rural development part halving to only 1.9 per cent. The per capita expenditures in real terms declined from Rs 151 in 1989-90 to Rs 124 in 2000-01. This harsh contractionary policy had nothing to do with any objective resource constraint but simply reflected the preferred policy package of the BWI which were internalised and sought to be justified by the Indian government.

    There is no economic rationale for believing that "public investment crowds out private investment" which is the common argument put forward for reducing the state's role in rural development. Precisely the contrary has been shown to hold for an economy like India, such as public investment in irrigation projects of all types and crop varieties research. The result of the unwise cut-back of public investment and in rural development expenditure (RDE) has been a drastic slowing of output growth – both foodgrains and non-foodgrains growth rates have halved in the nineties compared to the eighties, and have fallen well below the population growth rate. Hence the nineties have seen falling per head output, for the first time since the mid-sixties agricultural crisis, which however was short- lived, whereas per head output continues to fall today even after fifteen years.

    The combination of decline in state RDE and halving of agricultural growth has produced a major crisis of rising unemployment with both fast growing open unemployment and fall in number of days employed of the work force during the 1990s. The ratio of labour force to population, has declined, the ratio of work force to labour force has also declined because open unemployment has been growing at over 5 per cent annually. The elasticity of employment with respect to output was 0.7 during 1983 to 1993-4 but has fallen to zero during 1993-4 to 1999-00.


    The deeply disturbing feature of the current thrust for liberalizing trade is that it has been taking place within an investment-reducing, deflationary regime. I predicted in 1992 that given the deflationary climate, food security would be undermined with trade liberalisation in India and that is precisely what has happened. As soon as trade was liberalised from 1991, within a few years, 8 million hectares of food-growing land were converted to exportable crops leading to fall in per head foodgrains output, but farmers did not benefit since their exposure to steeply falling global primary prices from mid-decade has plunged them into spiralling farm debt and insolvency. The nine thousand officially recorded farmer suicides in India since 1998 (actual number are much higher) are only the tip of the iceberg – there is a pervasive agrarian crisis and foodgrains absorption in India is back to the level prevailing fifty years ago.

    Trade liberalisation and an export thrust makes sense when local and global markets are expanding owing to expansionary developmental policies which promote growth in the material productive sectors, rising employment and incomes. But when the opposite is the case, when both globally and in local economies the dominant policy sentiment is strongly deflationary as at present, then trade liberalisation spells lowered mass welfare in developing countries. India's experience in the last fourteen years provides a good illustration of this.

    India, a signatory to GATT 1994, removed all quantitative restrictions on trade and converted to tariffs by April 2001, lowering the average tariff rate at the same time to 35 per cent, or well below the bound rates which were 100 per cent for crops and 150 per cent for agricultural processed products. This thrust for trade liberalisation could not have been worse timed, since advanced country markets were in recession and global primary product prices went into a steep tailspin with 40-50 per cent decline in unit dollar prices of all crops –cereals, cotton, jute, sugar, tea, coffee – and up to 80 per cent decline in some oil crops between 1995 and 2001. With a brief spike in 2002 most prices have continued to fall and some prices are today lower than as far back as 1986. The price to growers of tea, coffee, pepper today is even lower than world price the state marketing boards have been run down and replaced by the monopoly of transnational companies.

    As prices fell for Indian producers of export crops, their access to low-cost credit was also reduced under financial sector reforms, thrusting farmers into dependence on private moneylenders giving high-cost credit (interest rates are usurious, ranging from 36 to 60 percent annually). Other crucial input prices including power tariff were raised as part of the neo-liberal dicta on reducing subsidies (which were already meagre compared to developed countries). Reduced tariff protection meant that producers of rice, fresh fruit and dairy products faced the undermining of their incomes from inflow of foreign goods.


    More than five thousand indebted farmers, mainly cotton farmers, have committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh alone since 1998 as its government which had entered into a state-level Structural Adjustment Programme with the World Bank, raised power tariff five times even as cotton price fell by half. Over a thousand farmer suicides have also taken place in Punjab, and a similar number in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra where suicides continue at present. During the four years from 2001, over 1,250 suicides are recorded in the single district of Wynaad in Kerala as prices to the local growers of coffee, tea and spices have nose-dived even more steeply than global prices once large companies have taken over purchase and marketing. Thus by 2003 the price of coffee to the grower was only one-quarter and that of tea and pepper only one-third of the prices prevailing in 1999.

    The agrarian crisis was the main reason for the decisive mass rejection of neo-liberal policies and the May 2004 electoral defeat of the NDA coalition at the Centre as well as the TDP government in Andhra Pradesh. In recognition of the employment crisis the new United Progressive Alliance or UPA had promised to implement an Employment Guarantee Act which has been formulated, but which is yet to be implemented. Resisting the sabotaging of the financing of the employment guarantee and ensuring that the Act is actually implemented, now poses the major challenge.


    India has exported record volumes of wheat and rice during the last six years, and its share in global exports of rice and wheat has risen quite noticeably. Despite the drastic slowing of output growth, India exported 22 million tonnes of foodgrains during the two years 2002 and 2003, and the share of grain exports in total exports has risen from under one –fifth to almost a quarter. There is higher global trade integration reflected in rising trade-GDP ratio. During the severe drought year starting from monsoon 2002, despite grain output being 30 million tonnes lower than in the previous year, from June 2002 to November 2003, a total of 17 million tonnes of foodgrains were exported by the former NDA government. Superficially it looks as though policies of trade liberalisation have 'worked.'

    The crucial fact which is suppressed in official publications and in the writings of pro-reform economists, and this is true even after the elections and the change in government, is that the vastly increased grain exports have been coming out of more and more empty stomachs as millions of rural labourers and farmers have suffered job loss and income decline. Food grains absorption in India today has reached a historic low as a result of the massive decline in purchasing power especially in villages owing to the combination of rising unemployment, rising input and credit costs for farmers and exposure to global price declines. Loss of purchasing power is pervasive affecting both the 158 million wage-dependent workers as well as the 120 million cultivating workers and their families. Targeting the food subsidy from 1997-8 by restricting supply of cheaper grain to only those officially identified as 'below the poverty line' has also added to the institutional denial of affordable food grains to the poor, not merely owing to mistakes of wrong exclusion from the set of the officially poor, but also owing to the gross official underestimation of the numbers in actual poverty.

    The actual rural population in poverty (applying the official definition of those with less than 2400 calories intake to NSS data) was 75 per cent in 1993-4, increased to at least 78 per cent by 1999-2000, and the depth of poverty also increased with more people moving below 1800 calories, the bare minimum for survival. In 1983 only in three states of India (West Bengal, Tamilnad and Kerala) one third or more of the rural population had an intake below 1800 calories. The 1999-00 data show that West Bengal and Kerala have improved greatly, West Bengal sufficiently to move up out of this set, but four new major states (Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh) have seen sharp decline in nutrition and one-third or more of their population fell below 1800 calories intake. The situation after 1999-00 to the present, would be worse still, since it is from 1998 that we see the steep fall in per capita foodgrains absorption to which I have repeatedly drawn attention. In fact the situation is even worse than the nutrition data indicate since the poor have been selling assets and losing land against debt in order to survive at these lower levels. (The Planning Commission estimates of 'falling' poverty are a fairy-tale since they have been obtained using a logically wrong procedure which entails continuous decline over time of the consumption standard against which poverty is measured).

    The per capita availability or absorption of food grains in India has fallen alarmingly during the decade of deflationary neo-liberal economic reforms, to only 154 kg. annually taking the three year average ending in 2002-03. This current level is about the same as fifty years ago, and it is lower than the level of 157 kg. during 1937-41 under colonialism. This means that the food security gains of the four decades of protectionism up to 1991, have been totally reversed by now. This important finding and the reasons for the present debacle have been discussed in greater detail in three of my papers - "Food Stocks and Hunger – Causes of Agrarian Distress", 'The Republic of Hunger' and 'Theorising Food Security and Poverty," all published in Social Scientist between 2003 and 2005.


    When we argue that the principal contradiction is shifting rapidly in the agrarian sphere to that between the peasantry and workers on the one hand and imperialism with its local landlord and other collaborators on the other, many persons in the left movement who are not familiar with the idea or analysis of contradictions, feel alarmed because they think that 'the land question' is being put on the back burner. Nothing could be further from the case: they should remember that when the principal contradiction shifts to that between all the toiling masses and imperialism, it means that this contradiction is the one, "whose existence and development determines and influences the existence and development of all other contradictions" including what was earlier the principal contradiction.

    There is a direct onslaught today on peasant land and water resources by the corporates. The restrictions on landownership by non-cultivators where they existed have been removed by state governments, ceilings on landholdings have been rolled back in many states to facilitate the entry of agro-business corporations. The peasantry is losing land against debt on a massive scale and despite asset loss is getting pushed further and further down into the mire of hunger. Even the former rich peasants and surplus producers are facing steeply falling profitability conditions and have started leasing out on hunger rents to dispossessed peasants. The earlier phase of capitalist development in agriculture marked by rise of capitalist farming from within the peasant classes, as well as the emergence of landlord capitalism, has virtually ended owing to the steeply falling profitability of direct capitalist cultivation. Reverting to extracting surplus through land rent and usurious interest is once again the order of the day, and peasant pauperisation is seen once more.

    The clearest indicator that the principal contradiction is changing, is provided by the very fact of the agrarian crisis itself, which in its scale, generalised nature affecting all the peasantry, and in its depth, is quite unprecedented. This ongoing agrarian crisis is the direct outcome of the implementation of neo-liberal reform policies and trade liberalisation detailed above, in short of the impact of imperialist globalisation on our agriculture.

    The corporatisation of agriculture which is sought to be promoted by the government, represents the control of transnational capital over our peasant production, and not 'the development of capitalism in agriculture' which has a completely different connotation in Marxist-Leninist literature. The 'development of capitalism in agriculture' took place when expansionary policies of autonomous national development were followed as during 1950 to 1990 in India, and it was geared to an expanding internal market. It led to some prosperity, though very unequally shared, in the agrarian sphere. By contrast the corporate subjugation of peasant production is nothing but the imperialist domination of our peasantry for the purpose of export production and it pauperises the peasantry and labourers.

    When in general profitability is falling because prices on global markets are low, the giant transnational corporates entering our agriculture today by tying peasants to contracts under debt on account of advances of high-tech GM seeds and inputs, set the terms of contract in such a way as to grind the peasants down to sub-human levels of living because they ruthlessly seek to maximize their own profits. The experience of other countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa has demonstrated this clearly as has the experience of growers of coffee, tea, and other export crops in Kerala who are losinfg land against debt and committing suicide.

    Thus the land question has now become one of defending the right of peasants including tribal peoples to their land and livelihoods. Not only can it never be separated from the fight against imperialist globalisation, this fight is a necessary condition for any advance on the land question. It is shameful that no resistance has been articulated by the liberal intelligentsia and political movements to the modification of ceiling laws or the permission for non-agriculturists to acquire land, all for the benefit of corporations. There is no outcry against blatant usury or land loss against debt, whereas even the colonial period had seen anti-usury laws and enactments against peasant land alienation owing to debt.

    Moreover, the worst effects are yet to be seen, for there is a determined effort being made by the advanced countries today, supported by the local compradors, to acquire direct control over our land and water resources through contract farming and corporatisation of agriculture, to enmesh our farmers in high-tech debt through GM seed and plants, and a direct effort to acquire control over the genetic basis our bio-diversity and over water resources through privatisation of water. In this they are aided by the comprador elements in government placed in key decision making positions and they also have the support of comprador elements of the domestic landlords.


    Our peasantry and labourers are reeling under the attacks on them and are struggling today merely to survive. Their agony is being turned destructively upon themselves in the form of suicides. The agony has to change to anger and be directed towards their oppressors. Only a fighting unity of all the peasant classes and workers against the onslaught of imperialism and its domestic collaborators including collaborating landlords, can now save the peasantry. In fact this unity is necessary for repulsing the imperialist attack in every sphere and not only in the agrarian sphere, for with its sheer weight of numbers the peasantry has the potential to act as a revolutionary force where the working class on its own cannot. Of course, it is only the working class ideology that can provide the basis for an effective anti-imperialist mobilisation. This fighting unity of peasants and workers will not come spontaneously and automatically from the millions facing increasing impoverishment, hunger and loss of assets. It has to be patiently but urgently forged by the left and progressive movement. For this a clear theoretical understanding on the nature of the principal contradiction combined with an awareness of the urgency of the present conjuncture, is required. Otherwise, imperialism will roll over our masses like a colossal tank and break the spines of our toiling millions, while intellectuals and activists impotently look on.

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