Wednesday, 30 January 2008

हमारी अग्यानता की जड़ें गहरी व मज़बूत हैं ?

- अगर हमारी अग्यानता की जड़ें गहरी व मज़बूत हैं ? -
- तो क्या आगे का पथ सरल व आसान हो सकता है ?
- शुरुआत कहाँ से की जाय ?

१ - किसके लिए ? -
२ - मसीहा या पथ ? -
३ - लक्षण क्या अौर कैसे ? -
४ - आधुनिक, सरल व साधनों के अनुरूप ? -
५ - ग्यान की कमी, साधनों की कमी, या विश्वास की कमी ? -

Monday, 28 January 2008

Learn One Teach One - Hindi MoinMoin Python Wiki

मोइन मोइन हिन्दी विकी - पाइथन साफ्टवेयर में हिन्दी भाषी तबके के लिए एक आधुनिक सरल व मुफ्त सेवा -

मोइन मोइन हिन्दी विकी - पाइथन साफ्टवेयर में हिन्दी भाषी तबके के लिए एक आधुनिक सरल व मुफ्त सेवा - क्या आप ग्रामीण तबके के हिन्दी भाषी हैं ?

क्या यही एक कारण है जिसकी वजह से पतलून पहनने वाले, व फर्राटे की अँग्रेज़ी बोलने वाले, आपको पछाड़ रहे हैं, अथवा आपको अपने हक से वंचित रखे हैं ?

- यह न समझें कि हिन्दी भाषी होने का अर्थ पिछडे होना है

- हिन्दी पाइथन सीखें व सिखाएँ -

- अौर अपने कार्य पर तत्परता से लग जाएँ

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Among the world's Hungriest and Poorest - Incredible India

Dear All,
With respect to "crude statistics", I do tend to take alarmist global indices published by global think tanks on a whole range and variety of global issues, with a "pinch of salt".
The question still remains :
1. How do we respond to such "crude statistics"
2. What do we actually manage to do about these issues with the resources at our disposal.

There is no doubt that a country with 1.2 billion people has its politicial leaders pining and whining for the embrace and pats on the back, of the outgoing White House resident, backed by well funded Washington based policy think tanks, rather than evolving long term food security policies and development paradigms.
In the backdrop of the US Farm Bill 2007, continued and insistent EU and US farm subsidies, the arm twisting of developing economies by the diplomats and negotiators of the same countries and economic blocs, in global trade forums, so called respected think tanks which routinely spew out alarmist statistics have a habit of hijacking agendas for reasons best known to them.
In this, they do seek the support and mental attention of diaspora communities as well as of the Oxbridge / IMF / World Bank / Brussels trained economists who keep kicking the stirrups of Indian economy.
This routinely brings to my mind the statement of Leo Tolstoy - " I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back. "
At the same time, serious and more appropriate analysts like Devinder Sharma and P Sainath are continually sidelined and merely tolerated, in the cacaphony raised by these strategic policy think tanks with vested agendas.
Warm Regards,


The Indian elite keep ranting about the economy's growth rate while the corporate papers (Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express etc) get all excited about the bullish stock market that has crossed the 19,000-point mark.
But what about half the population grinding under poverty and malnutrition?

The Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute released its report "The World's Most Deprived: Characteristics and Causes of Extreme Poverty and Hunger" on 6th Nov 07. The Institute devised the global hunger index (GHI) as a measure of poverty & hunger in a country.
This report is the first of its kind to use household survey data to look at those living below the one-dollar-a- day line. The index is designed to capture three dimensions of hunger: lack of economic access to food, shortfalls in the nutritional status of children, and child mortality, which is largely attributable to malnutrition.

1) India ranks way down at 96 among 119 developing countries included in the report. Even Nepal is four notches higher at 92, Pakistan 88, Myanmar 68, Sri Lanka 69, China 47.
In contrast, Mauritius is among the top 20 of least hungry countries.

The report commented "The lack of improvement in India's GHI score between 1997 and 2003 despite continued growth is a cause for concern, since India's GHI still indicates alarming levels of hunger".

Across all developing regions of the world, the poorest households are most often located in remote rural areas with limited access to education, roads, and health services and members of these households often face exclusion due to their ethnicity, gender or disability.
Nagarjuna has interest in Food Policy issues and may like to comment further.

2) While child malnutrition has reduced, a separate study (see www.Indiatogether. org) finds that 1 in 2 Indian rural children under 3 is hungry.
3) And nearly 150,000 Indian farmers committed suicide in the period 1997- 2005, official data show. While farm suicides have occurred in many States, nearly two thirds of these deaths are concentrated in five States where just a third of the country's population lives. (See P Sainath, ZNet, 12 Nov 07).

Two more recent statistics:
4) INDIA also leads the world in the number of women dying in childbirth - 117,000 in 2005.
This means a maternal mortality ratio of 450 deaths per 100,000 live births. The Pakistan figure is 320, Sri Lanka 58 and China 45 (one tenth of India's) [R Hensman, 19 Nov 07 www.countercurrents .org

5) Times of India, 20 Nov 07 reported that India has the largest number of illiterates in the world.
It ranks 126th out of 177 countries in the Human Development Index (UNDP 2006)


Thursday, 20 September 2007

Who benefits from FDI in India Food Retail ?

The India FDI Watch Campaign seeks to prevent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the retail sector in India. India FDI Watch is a national coalition of labour unions, trade associations, environmentalists, NGOs and academics that have formed to block attempts to allow foreign direct investment in India’s retail markets. FDI in retail will amount to job losses in the thousands as well as thousands more small businesses and kiranas being forced to close. It will continue the race to the bottom in wages and working conditions that Wal-Mart and other multinational mega-retailers have spread across the globe. Multinationals look at India, with its 1.2 billion people, as a vast, untapped market, but we do not want to become the next country to have our cultural traditions, worker's rights, environment, and independence destroyed by Wal-Mart. Contact us for more information.

IndiaFDI Watch -

For more information: download the India FDI Watch Brochure.

For more information, download the India FDI Watch Brochure (in Hindi).

Thousands protested to oppose the Bharti-Walmart Joint Venture

On the heels of the announcement of the Bharti-Walmart joint venture, thousands of traders, hawkers, farmers and workers protested across India. Protesters also included a group of American students who demanded that Wal-Mart not be allowed into India. Mass-based organizations called on the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi to immediately stop the Bharti-Walmart Joint Venture and not allow Wal-Mart’s backdoor entry into India. There was also a strong united call on all corporations—both foreign and domestic—to "Quit Retail". The protests were timed to commemorate the start of the "Quit India" movement, which started on August 9, 1942, with mass-based sections of society drawing parallels to the East India Company and companies like Wal-Mart, Bharti and Reliance.

Agitations took place in the metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata along with other major cities including, Kalicut, Bhopal, Jaipur, Ranchi, Balia, Meerath, Sonipat, Nagpur, Nasik, Pune and Indore.

In Delhi, thousands of traders, hawkers, farmers and workers protested in Chandni Chowk, a historical market, and burned effigies of Wal-Mart, Bharti and Reliance. Dharmendra Kumar, Director of India FDI Watch and national coordinator of the Vyapaar Aur Rozgaar Bachao Andolan conducted the proceedings and told the agitators, "Both Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have acknowledged the dangers of corporations entering into the retail sector. The Govt. has commissioned a report looking at the impact of the entire supply chain on livelihoods after Sonia Gandhi had written a letter of caution. Sonia Gandhi had also publicly refused to meet with Michael Duke, Wal-Mart Vice-Chairman during his visit in February after public demonstrations were held due to his arrival. However, both Sonia Gandhi and the PMO have remained silent on the Bharti-Wal-Mart deal and though they have publicly cautioned against corporations and commissioned a study, they have taken no subsequent actions. He demanded that the Wal-Mart Bharti joint venture should be immediately revoked and all corporations should be stopped until thorough study has been conducted by an independent special task force comprising of stakeholders."

Shyam Bihari Mishra, President, Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal refered back to the British Raj, stating, "The East India Company, the most powerful company at the time, came to colonize India’s people and domestic and international trade and now Wal-Mart, the world’s largest company is trying to enter India to do the same. Mr. Mishra said India has a history of resistance, our people threw out the British and sixty years later if millions have their businesses and livelihoods threatened we will do the same now. He announced that family members of traders would boycott corporate stores." Praveen Khandelwal, General Secretary, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said "The livelihoods of retail traders are at stake. If big retail giants like Wal-Mart and Reliance come into the country, small traders would be finished." A mass campaign would be launched to strike back and make corporations realise that we will not let them ruin our livelihoods, he said.

Vandana Shiva, Director, Navdanya said "India is a land of retail democracy- hundreds of thousands of weekly haats and bazaars are located across the length and breadth of our country by people’s own self-organizational capacities. In a country with large numbers of people, and high levels of poverty, the existing model of retail democracy is the most appropriate in terms of economic viability and ecological sustainability.".

Shaktiman Ghosh, General Secretary, National Hawkers Federation warned the government "about taking such strong stances against India’s millions of hawkers and small shopkeepers in favor of only a few huge corporations who seek to dominate the Indian retail market."

Mr. Indu Prakash of Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform revealed the nexus between judiciary and corporate retail which led to the ceiling of shops of more than one hundred thousands of traders of Delhi and still goes on.

Mr. Bhati of Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, Delhi, Harbhajan Singh Siddhu, National Secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Sunil Kansal, Secretary, Rashtriya Vyapar Mandal, Hakim Singh Rawat, General Secretary, Delhi Hawkers Welfare Association, Banwari Lal Sharma, President, Aazadi Bachaon Aandolan, R K Sharma, Secreatry, UTUC-Lenin Sarani and Venkatesh of Lok Raj Sangathan also addressed the protesters in Delhi.

In Mumbai, thousands of retailers, hawkers, workers and cooperatives participated in a one day trade bandh and a mass public event organized by the Vyapaar Rozgaar Suraksha Kriti Samiti, a joint action committee of trade associations, hawkers groups, trade unions and others. Leaders of Federation of Associations of Maharastra (FAM), Retail and Dispensing Chemists Association (RDCA), India FDI Watch, Mumbai Mahanagar Vyapari Seva Parishad (MMVSP), Mumbai Vyapar Mahasang (MVM), Apna Bazaar, National Hawkers Federation, Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat (HMKP) addressed the protesters. Mohan Gurnani, Convener of the Mumbai based Vyapaar Rozgaar Suraksha Kriti Samiti and President of the Federation of Associations of Maharastra (FAM) said "organised retaling would leave 20 crore people without jobs. Let the government first come out with a rehabilitation for these people and then it can open up FDI in retail". Kishore Shah, President of the Mobile & Telecom Retailers and Distributors Association (MTRDA), stated that around 12,000 retail shop-keepers deal in SIM cards and recharge vouchers of Air-Tel in Mumbai, generating business worth crores of rupees every day. Mr. Shah said "We have already informed all our members, distributors and wholesalers against selling any Airtel products". The Mumbai APMC—wholesale— market remained closed, along with thousands of retail shops across the city, including all chemists and druggists shops. Apna Bazaar, Maharastra’s largest cooperative store also downed its shutters and wholesale markets remained closed in Nasik and Pune.
At an evening event at Shanmukananda Hall in Mumbai mass-based groups laid out a future course of action and adopted a charter of demands. They called on the Center to immediately repeal the Wholesale Cash-n-Carry Permission, and all licenses granted under the permission; repeal the APMC Model Act, implement the National Policy on Street Vendors, take measures against predatory pricing and formulate a national policy on retail trade and small scale industries.

In Bangalore thousands protested at the town hall and burned effigies of corporate retailers like Wal-Mart and Reliance. The protest culminated in leaders presenting the Governor with a memorandum calling on the state to repeal the recent passage of the APMC Model Act. A Charter of Demands, same as was passed in Mumbai, was also placed before the District Collector. Smaller protests were organized throughout the state in different districts including Kodagu, Bijapur, Gulbarga and Davangere districts.

In Jaipur fifty American students joined with hawkers demanding that Wal-Mart leave India and demanding implementation of the National Policy on Street Vendors. The American students and hawkers demonstrated in the old city and held signs saying "Americans Oppose Wal-Mart Everywhere". Ms. Cheryl, an American citizen, learning Hindi at Jaipur said that Wal-Mart has a disastrous impact on small shopkeepers and neighbourhood communities in America and called Indians to learn from their experience and not to allow Wal-Mart to operate in India. Ms. Cheryl said that the world is moving from ‘Corporate to Cooperative’ and Indians should not corporatize their cooperatives.

In Kerala the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Egono Samiti organized protest marches in over 1000 places across the state. In Kalicut over 10,000 traders protested in front of the corporation’s office and submitted a memorandum demanding that corporations keep out of retail and the immediate halt to Wal-Mart’s backdoor entry and the repeal of the Wholesale Cash-N-Carry permission.

In Kolkata the Federation of Trade Organizations (FTO) of West Bengal organized protests in all the 12 districts of the city along with protests across West Bengal, including in front of malls. Tens of thousands traders participated in the protest. In the evening, thousands of hawkers took out a protest march from the city museum.

In Ranchi, Uday Shankar Ojha who led the vegetable vendors before Reliance Fresh in May and has only recently been released from Jail, led thousands of hawkers and vegetable vendors at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi, demanding that Reliance Fresh and all other corporations leave the retail sector and "withdraw their sinister plans to displace millions of livelihoods".

In Bhopal there was a state-level protest meeting in the morning at Gandhi Bhavan and traders sat on a dharna at Roshanara Chowk in the afternoon and burn effigies of Wal-Mart, Bharti and Reliance. A call for Bhopal Bandh was given for 21 August to oust corporate from retail trade.

Similar protests were organized in other cities including Allahabad, Lucknow, Meerut, Bagpat and Sonipat.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Eager american diplomats and Indian Wheat Imports

India US Wheat Row - Wheat and Weeds - by Devinder Sharma

It is a queer case of double standards. Claiming highest quality standards in the world when it comes to agricultural imports, the United States has no qualms in exporting sub-standard wheat to India. In fact, diplomatic pressure is being built upon India to import weed-infested wheat.

Failing to reach an agreement after recent bilateral discussions on plant health, a statement from the US Embassy in New Delhi said “… Substantial hurdles still remain, as the US cannot agree to import standards that are impossible to certify and are not in line with international norms.” At the heart of the row are the quarantine norms that do not allow wheat consignments with dangerous weeds beyond the permissible limit.

The American wheat comes laced with 21 obnoxious and alien weeds, which are not known to exist in India. As per the weed risk analysis done by the Ministry of Agriculture, all these weeds are of quarantine importance and carry high risk. More worrying is the presence of two weeds Bromus rigidus and Bromus scealinus -- better known as foxtail wheat, which is similar in appearance to wheat and therefore difficult to identify.

Already, surreptitiously imported along with wheat, several weeds and pests have turned into a national menace. India is spending crores of rupees every year in fighting these alien invasive species.

Earlier too, India had in 1996 rejected wheat imports from America on reasons of inferior quality, and had instead imported one million tonne from Australia. In 2006, when India imported 5.5 million tones of wheat from Australia and some other countries, the US was unable to find a foothold into India’s burgeoning wheat market. Aware that India is likely to turn into a major wheat importer in the years to come, the US has stepped up diplomatic and political efforts to exert pressure.

Not that the Australian wheat is much superior. In 2006, bending backwards to allow the highly contaminated wheat shipments from Australia, Indian Food and Agriculture ministry had turned a blind eye to the presence of 14 weeds, two fungal diseases and one insect pest that the import consignments contained. Of the 14 weeds, 11 species are not found in India.

Interestingly, while the US accepts that its wheat contains 21 weeds, it has expressed its helplessness in cleaning wheat shipments to bring it in tune with the Indian threshold limits. At the Portland port from where much of its wheat is exported, the US grain merchants were unable to clean wheat of the menacing weeds. The US is seeking import norms of 0.3 per cent weed infestation, India is insisting on not more than 100 weeds in a consignment of 200 kg of wheat.
At 0.3 per cent weed infestation, the total number of weed seeds per 200 kg of wheat comes to a massive 12,000.

Although the US is publicly claiming that its “wheat is among the highest quality in the world and is safely shipped to over 110 nations including every importer of significance except India”, the fact remains that much of the American wheat imported by rich and developed countries like Japan is actually for milling purposes. In India, wheat imports are used as grain by farmers and therefore the worry that the weeds will take roots.

Several of the minor weeds that came along with PL-480 wheat shipments into India in past have turned into biological nuisances, often the weed becoming a national menace. Lantana camera was among such weeds, which entered India three decades ago. Today, it has spread wide and wild, and has withstood all control measures. Being poisonous, not even the cattle feed on it. Phalaris minor too came with the wheat consignments from the United States. This weed, already resistant to chemicals in the US and Australia, has established itself as a strong competitor of wheat in India. The weed has also become resistant to chemicals in India and is responsible for reducing wheat yields by an estimated 25 per cent.

It is not the first time that the US is trying to export sub-standard agricultural products. In September 2000, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent a delegation to press for opening up the Indian market for what would have turned into the first major import consignment of genetically modified soybeans. If allowed, the soybean imports would have brought along five exotic weeds and at least 11 viral diseases, of which two are economically dangerous. The US did insist that the accompanying pests would not pose any problem for Indian agriculture.

Earlier too, during 1998-99, the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) had received 359 samples of transgenic soybean from the USA for quarantine. Nearly 143 of these were rejected because of the presence of downy mildew fungus (Peronospora manshurica), which is known to cause serious losses and is not known to occur in India. Bulk imports, however, fail to eliminate the threat of import of nematodes, viruses and several fungi.

For reasons unexplained, the Food and Agriculture ministry appears more eager to allow for sub-standard imports. In 2006, it relaxed most quality norms for Australian wheat by asking the exporting country to provide a certificate saying that the imports are “essentially free from weeds”. At the time of tender, the requirement was “free from weeds”. Over-ruling all objections raised by the plant quarantine directorate to import of exotic weed species, the Food and Agriculture Ministry has relaxed the provisions of Plant Quarantine Order 2003.

After the din dies down, India might relax quality norms for American wheat. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has already been quoted as saying: “It is true that talks have been held with the US government. We want that the US should also participate in our wheat import process.” What is however not being perceived is that the US participation cannot be at the cost of softening the quarantine standards.
At a time when international quality parameters are being tightened the world over to ensure that invasive alien species do not use the vehicle of commodity trade to enter into a country, India should not relax the quality norms thereby opening the floodgates to noxious weeds, deadly insect pests and dreaded plant diseases.

What Sharad Pawar needs to understand is that the same wheat that we imported from Australia (or we plan to import from America) if exported back would not be accepted for reasons of the same quality standards that we are being asked to do away with.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Inflation, Rural Distress, Milking the Dry Cow Therapy

Dry Cow Therapy, Rural Distress, Indian Economists : New Agriculture Strategy
From Second Green Revolution to Milking the Cow Dry :

The concerned Indian Prime Minister, has been left searching for the right answers from all the agricultural experts, while his own Agriculture Minister ignores the suicides from his home state and manages the strings of the Indian cricket team, a job no doubt he loves more than finding answers to the task entrusted to him as Indian Agriculture Minister - saving farmers from rural distress.
Another case of Humpty Dumpty on the rural front, as Indians get busy with cricket season.
Even the Indian Sensex Minister is now feeling short changed, by the massive imports bills, deposited on his doorsteps, on the food front, which threaten to blow a hole through his economic strategy of industrial development and growth in Services sectors.
Soon after suggesting budgetary support and subsidies for sugar exporters, the Agriculture Minister has gone ahead on a global buying spree for wheat. He just does not seem to like Punjabi and Haryanvi wheat. It is not tasty enough for him or maybe a trifle too full of pesticides for even his liking.
In a bid to wash off the spots on the UPA governments Three Year Achievements, and what even the lacklustre opposition performance by the NDA could not accomplish, is being accomplished in the rural fields of Vidarbha and West Bengal.
Understandably, genuine Congress election strategists are worried.
Let us examine the content of the Prime Minister's concern about Indian rural distress, worded as it is in very general terms and coming on the heels of the three years of crowning achievements of the Central ruling UPA coalition and the electoral losses in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
In his directions to Planning Commission, Finance Minister and Cricket Minister he has pointed out :
1. Poor growth in farm output, at approximately 2%, is the main cause of agrarian and rural distress
2. There is need for focussing on short and medium term strategies for raising farm output
3. Burden of blame must be strategically be shared with states, as according to his understanding, the Central UPa government is having to face too much unnecessary criticism as being the most responsible player in the rural distress drama of Indian politicians and urban economists. The solution to this is seen as rewarding those states which come out with agrarian focussed programmes, agro climatic and local rural growth strategies, with possible budgetary support.

Surprisingly, the music of the old song of ushering in a Second Green Revolution, futures trading in commodities markets, contract farming, agro processing Special Export Zones, seems to have been lost in the wake of Vidarbha and Uttar Pradesh debacles.

He has stated "I would only like to emphasise that whatever strategies we choose to adopt must deliver some results in the short and medium term, so that tangible benefits are visible - to farmers, consumers and the rural economy as a whole.
This is important if we have to avert any crisis in the agrarian sector and fulfil the needs of a growing economy."
All the king's horses and all the kings men, couldn't put Humpty together again ... He directed the Planning Commission to come up with a major programme to enhance central support to those states that prepare localised plans.

This obviously means he is still not prepared to ask his heavy weight Cricket Minister to choose between Cricket, Food Imports or solving Agrarian Distress in his home state of Maharashtra.

The poor Finance Minister is keeping his cards close to his chest and will surely resist tooth and nail, attempts at further central aid to states because he himself knows the dubious record of states in preparing sensitive rural programmes of integrated development, as also knowing that further expansion of agricultural land exploitation is not feasible. Also known as the milking the dry cow therapy.
But the problem is who will be brave enougfh to bell the cat ?

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Cricket, Wheat, Punjab, Politicians and Economists

Subsides for sugar exporters and love for wheat importers - Googly bowling by Indian Cricket Minister :
For the second year in the running, India is importing wheat. Last year the government justified imports on account of lower production. This year it is being justified in the name of higher prices for farmers.

In order to meet the buffer stock requirements, the government has decided to import up to 50 lakh tonnes of wheat this year. Thanks to the government’s policies, from a wheat surplus nation, India today has been reduced to the world’s largest importer of wheat. An article on the various reasons used by Indian Cricket Minister, to justify his love for imports of wheat into India from all over the world.

Here is article analyzing the Cricket Minister's love for wheat imports from all corners of the earth.
Maybe eating lots of imported wheat from all corners of the earth, courtesy the Indian Cricket Minister, all the Punjab da puttars will win the next Cricket World Cup for India..

Wheat Imports : Subverting Procurement, Cheating Farmers - Bhaskar Goswami

For the second year in the running, India is importing wheat. Last year the government justified imports on account of lower production. This year it is being justified in the name of higher prices for farmers.

In order to meet the buffer stock requirements, the government has decided to import up to 50 lakh tonnes of wheat this year. Thanks to the government’s policies, from a wheat surplus nation, India today has been reduced to the world’s largest importer of wheat.

Alarm bells began ringing in early March when, despite predictions of a bumper wheat harvest in India, the US Wheat Associates - a trade body funded by the federal government and US wheat producers - said India will import up to 30 lakh tonnes of wheat this year. Well, not only has the government followed this diktat, but has revised this estimate by 20 lakh tonnes more as a small favour to multinational grain corporations.

The rush to go for imports right now is questionable. With an additional 18 lakh hectares under wheat, the production has increased by forty lakh tonnes. Since the peak wheat procurement season is during the second half of May, there is ample time left for the government to meet its procurement target of 151 lakh tonnes. On 1st May, the Food Secretary said that stocks are adequate to last till January 2008. On 5th May, the Food and Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar announced, “Last year, the buffer stock position was only two million tonne, this time it is 4.5 million tonne. That is why I am quite comfortable about the buffer stock.”

The Minister justified the move to import wheat by adding, “However, I want to build up stock for the next year”. This, when the wheat produced is adequate to meet the country’s requirements and there is no shortage in the buffer stock. Wheat for the next season is yet to be planted but the government is apprehensive of a bad crop next year!

"If the farmer is getting a better price, as Agriculture Minister I am the happiest person. However, as a Food Minister, if I face any problem, I will import," said Pawar. He was referring to farmers getting a better price by selling to private companies thereby leaving little for the government to pick up.
This is a replay of the 2006 argument, when the Food Corporation of India (FCI) failed miserably to meet its procurement target. By offering a lower price to farmers, the government made out a case for imports, which translated to a windfall of Rs. 5,100 crores to grain corporations like the Australian Wheat Board, Glencore, Toepfer, Cargill, etc.

This year, the procurement is worse than what it was last year. By end of April, even half of the procurement target was not met, and a shortfall of 25 lakh tonnes by the end of the procurement season is possible. This is because the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs. 850 per quintal offered by the government is much lower than the prevailing market rate of over Rs. 1,000. Naturally, bulk of the wheat is being cornered by the private sector. As expected, the gains to grain corporations this year will also be much higher than 2006. Lack of rainfall in Europe, Australia and South Africa has affected wheat production and depressed world wheat stocks to their lowest in the last 25 years. Wheat from Ukraine and Russia will hit markets only by August, while Pakistan is still a small exporter. Major wheat exporter, Argentina, has banned wheat export to control domestic prices.

The only players left are the US and Canada, where the price of wheat is already up by $40 per tonne over last year. Given the global supply crunch, announcement of imports by India will push the price through the roof, as it happened last year. While last year India paid around $207 per tonne of wheat (approximately Rs. 930 per quintal), the cost this year is likely to be upwards of $300 per tonne (or Rs. 1,200 per quintal at the current exchange rate), a rich bonus for corporations.

Instead of doling out Rs. 6,000 crores to corporations for importing 50 lakh tonnes of wheat, a hike in the MSP would have fetched an even higher price to farmers than what they are receiving from private companies and also helped FCI meet the procurement target. But then that never was the intent.
By paying a premium to grain corporations and denying a fair price to our farmers, the government has sent a clear message to farmers: they should no longer expect a guaranteed price for what they produce.

Notwithstanding the government’s claims, in reality it is building a case to dismantle the price support and procurement mechanism which are designed to protect farmers from price volatility and the poor from starvation. The Economic Survey 2005-06 states “Market for farm output continues to depend heavily on expensive government procurement and distribution systems. A shift from the current MSP and public procurement system and developing alternative product markets are essential for crop diversification and broad-based agricultural development”.

The government is following this dictum. By deliberately offering a lower MSP and importing at higher costs, the system is being covertly scrapped. The Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act has been amended to allow private agencies to directly procure food grains from farmers. The amended Essential Commodities Act allows storage and movement of food grains. Agriculture commodities can be traded in futures markets involving speculation. No wonder multinational grain firms are cornering bulk of the food grains produced across the country.

There is more. As part of the larger game plan to shut down the FCI, the government is also toying with the idea of issuing food stamps to the Below Poverty Line families, which will reduce the food subsidy bill. There is another proposal to replace the Public Distribution System (PDS) with direct cash payments to poor families.

To reduce storage costs, the government is considering playing in the futures market in the months when it needs food grains for running the PDS - there would be no need for an MSP in such a case. The warehousing system is also being privatized. Recommendations of the consultancy firm McKinsey hired by the Food Ministry are already being implemented and FCI’s capital costs have been reduced, workforce slashed, minimum buffer stock for rice lowered, and private companies engaged in procurement.

From all this, it is clear that instead of fixing the problems at FCI, the government has decided to fix the blame on FCI and close it down. That there are major problems with the functioning of the FCI is undeniable. However, dismantling it will amount to another safety net for farmers as well as the poor, who depend on the PDS, going down. This, of course, suits the government. After all, food subsidy for the poor costs the exchequer Rs 23,986 crores during 2006-07.

The Indian State has a history of subverting procurement and price support mechanisms. Back in 2002, dairy cooperatives were on the brink of being wiped out courtesy dumping by the developed countries, which was facilitated by the State. In case of cotton, the Maharashtra government subverted the monopoly cotton procurement scheme and today the price being paid to cotton farmers is a fraction of what they received earlier. Similarly, Marketfed in Kerala, which procures pepper from farmers, is facing subversion. The cases of cardamom, coconut, cashew – in fact, almost all agri-commodities – have a common thread running through them: deliberate subversion of procurement and manipulation of support price.

The intentions of the government are quite clear – deny farmers a higher price for their produce and dismantle the price support and procurement machinery. While farmers may presently be getting a higher price by selling wheat to private players, the euphoria is unlikely to last long.
In the absence of MSP and procurement by government, there are very high chances of concentration of agri-business corporations. Once this cartel takes over, they will dictate the price to Indian farmers. With imports being made a norm, the future of wheat farmers is indeed bleak.
It is time to play a requiem for India’s wheat revolution.

Bhaskar Goswami Blog -