Saturday, 10 July 2010


The World Bank and IMF have been instrumental in influencing public policy in the Third World countries either directly through neo liberal economists or indirectly through recruitment of young ambitious scholars from India and  the Indian subcontinent as a long term strategy. In fact, many of these young scholars were made experts of Indian Political Economy overnight in America although they have little to do with Indian political economy except for actively endorsing the American Foreign Policy line. In fact, most of the Third World countries were either compelled to bowed down to American pressure or their leadership was removed from the face of history (Noriega, Sadam Hussein, etc.) for daring to challenge American hegemony with the exception of China, Cuba, North Korea, Zimbabwe, etc. Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT, though not an [Economist] or Political Scientist, summarized American Foreign Policy very eloquently as follows:

"We are your masters and you shine our shoes. Any weaker enemy has to be crushed so that the right lessons are taught" [see, Noam Chomsky's article in Guardian Weekly 1991].

In continuum of Indian Government’s new farming practices and neo-liberal policies undre the umbrela of globalizaton, in 1998 World Bank forced India to open up the seed industry to companies like Monsanto, Cargill and Syngenta. Corporate seeds which required fertilizer and pesticide replaced the Seeds saved by farmers each year. Thus corporate Seeds had to be bought each year. A free resource available on farms or in the state warehouses that had been set up in an earlier period in order to assist farmers overnight became a commodity to be purchased every year by the farmers in many areas.
Consequently, this Word Bank oriented development strategy, moving away form bio-diversity to monoculture in agriculture (or uniformity across the agriculture sector), increased both the risks and ncertainty and led to the disastrous consequences of crop failure. The Agro-business corporations introduced varieties of corn, cotton and other crops, which were neither adapted nor tested, leading in some areas to complete failure. In the state of Bihar, when Monsanto’s hybrid corn replaced the farm-saved seeds, an entire crop failed which cost the farmers 4 billion rupees. Some Researchers at the University of Georgia and the US Department of Agriculture carried out a 4-year study which confirms that the use of GM cotton did not provide increased return to farmers in the United States. On the contrary, study shows it may decrease income by up to 40 percent (Transgenic Cotton Offers No Advantage, SiS 38). Falling world prices, rising production costs and unfair subsidies in the rich countries like the US and Australia, departing from traditional bio-diverse and sustainable farming towards the growing of cash crops for the global market contributing to the distress of the 100 million small farmers in the country and caused untold misery for a larger number of families dependent on the land.
The Peter Arkell report suggests that as a result of government’s imposition of policies suited to the global market on poor regions of the country at least, 200,000 farmers have killed themselves in India in the last 12 years. In an interview, Prof Bhagwati told Christian Amanpour, a former CNN Anchor and for the accuracy of what tranpisred, I quote from the transcript of interview (

BHAGWATI: But when you say 200,000 people have committed suicide --
AMANPOUR: That's a huge number.
BHAGWATI: But you know what the population of India is and how much -- what proportion of that is in Indian agriculture? When I was a student --.
SHIVA: How can you talk that way?
BHAGWATI: Excuse me. I can. I can.
SHIVA: How can you talk about 200,000 as an insignificant number?
BHAGWATI: Oh, I mean, that's just rhetoric, OK? I'm simply saying, when I was a student 50 years ago in college, we had -- we studied agricultural suicides, OK? Because farmers get indebted for a variety of reasons -- dowry payment for which many --
SHIVA: There were no suicides when you were a child, Professor Bhagwati.
AMANPOUR: So what is the answer here?
SHIVA: There were no farmer suicides in this country.
BHAGWATI: Of course there were, large numbers. There was a whole chapter in the textbook I read.
SHIVA: Not on the mass scale, no.
BHAGWATI: Of course it was.
SHIVA: Even the government of India has had to recognize this as a last – a phenomena of the last decade of globalization.
BHAGWATI: No, I don't think that's true at all. It's simply not true. If it was so, it'd be far greater. It'd be spread all across India where new seeds have been adopted. And so you do --
SHIVA: Why would it spread across India?
BHAGWATI: It isn't.

It appears that despite the Indian government’s admission and its various funded studies of farmers’ suicide Prof Bhagwati continues to deny the seriousness of the problem to rationalize government’s neo-liberal policies to glorify the Globalization. Main thrust of his argument is that, framers’ suicides have been around the country for a long time even when he was a student some 50 years ago. He claimed there was a whole chapter about this in a textbook. Being curious students of economics, on 10 April we sent Professor Bhagwati an mail asking him to provide us the reference of the textbook in which he had read a whole chapter about the farmers’ suicides. His prompt telling text reply was as follows:

“I am travelling and am unable to reply substantively to the absurd allegations in this email”.

In spite of many reminders, to date Professor Bhagwati is unable to provide us any reference because we belive that there is none. In view of his busy schedule we suggested to him that he could assign the task of finding the reference in question to Bhagwati Chaired Professor of ‘Indian Political Economy’ (made in America, Prof Arvind Panagariya at Columbia, our former classmate from India, but to no avail.
To our own satisfaction, we carried out an electronic search and we also made enquiries with some well known economists of Prof. Bhagwati’s generation and they were unable to support him. In fact, a leading economist in India from ISI and IIM thought that Prof Bhagwati might have confused framers’ suicide with Nexalbari (Maoists armed up rise) movement of 1960s which erupted following the pauperization of farmers during the Green Revolution in which thousands of peasant and highly educated unemployed young men were killed in the State directed police encouters during the oppressive regime of late Mrs. Indira Gandhi's New Congress. He also said he would agree more with Vandana Shiva than Prof. Bhagwati. This reminded us of a well know quote from Professor F.A. Hayke which we say was an attempt to open an area of Unified Theory of Economics.

"The Physicist who is only a physicist can still be a first class physicist and a valuable member of society. But nobody can be a great economist who is only an economist. And I am even tempted to add that an economist who is only an economist is likely to become a nuisance if not a positive danger.“

No wonder Vandana Shiva, though a Physicist by training, appeared to be much more of an economist than Prof Bhagwati.
As to Prof Bhagwati’s assertion that suicide by 200,000 famers is an insignificant number, in our view, rather than looking at the figure compared to whole population of India, the correct measure would be to workout the percentage from total number of small farmers, which is estimated to be about 100 million, but this number is declining due to the suicides. A new study, "Farmers Suicides in India: Magnitudes, Trends and Spatial Patterns", by Karkada Nagaraj of the Madras Institute of Development Studies, analyses the figures from all the states in India, and tries to cut through the confusion regarding the numbers and regional patterns of this “epidemic”.
Some experts have analyzed the extent of problem by comparing the ratio of General Suicide Rate (GSR) and Farmers’ Suicide Rate (FSR) per 100,000 populations, which tuned out to be 1:1.2. In Maharashtra this ratio is alarming with GSR 15.1 and FSR 29.9, i.e. 1:2 and Annual Compound Growth Rate (ACGR) is 2.18 which is less than the Growth Rate of Population.  Prof Nagraja's case study on farmer’s suicides reveals that the worst position of the farmers in Maharashtra is in Vidarbha region.

“The Study also shows the alacrity of the problem, so much so that on an average one farmer took his/her life every 53 minutes between 1997 and 2005”.

The study concludes that farm suicides are on increase, not only directly but also as a percentage of the whole population, with particularly sharp jumps in the years 1998 (with an 18% rise) and 2002. The average figure for the five years from 2002-2006 is 17,513 a year. They are all men of them 30% are men between the age of 15 and 29.
Although every crime or suicide is not reported, the policeman who recorded the death said, it was the eighth suicide he had attended in six months. When the farmer’s wife, who had been attending a sick relative in a nearby village, returned, she covered her face in her cheap blue sari and wailed at the top of her lungs at her small son who stood before her dazed, “Your father is dead”. The official figures tend to be huge underestimates of reality. The National Criminal Records Bureau (NCBR) of the Ministry of Home Affairs collated records, but the numbers reported to the Bureau by the states are often deflated since women farmers are not normally counted as farmers because of old traditions, land is never registered in their names although they do the bulk of agriculture work. In fact, P. Sainath, the rural affairs editor of The Hindu, a Daily Newspaper  and author of "Everybody Loves a Good Drought", refers to the suicides as “the largest sustained wave of such deaths recorded in history”, and attributes it to India’s “embrace of the brave new world of neoliberalism.”
Despite Prof Bhagwati’s attempts to glorify globalization and to downplay its consequences on the small famers, the New York Times reported as follows:

“The suicide of a small cotton farmer in India, Anil Kondba Shende, aged 33, who swallowed a bottle of pesticide and fell down dead in front of his mud house”.

There is a developing scientific consensus that organic non-GM agriculture and localized food (and energy) systems are what the world needs for food security that would also save the climate (Food Futures Now: *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free , ISIS publication).
Prince Charles was so distressed by the plight of the suicide of the farmers that he set up a charity foundation called “Bhumi Vardaan” to help those affected and to promote organic Indian crops instead of GM crops.
BT cotton has been an unmitigated disaster for India in exacerbated farmers’ suicides. But the ecological and agronomic nightmare is still unfolding, in bug plagues of secondary and novel pests, pest resistance, novel diseases, and worst of all, soils so depleted in nutrients and essential microorganisms that they will no longer support the growth of any crop.
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho also exposed the “fudged” data and false claims of ‘successes’ that have perpetrated the humanitarian disaster.  A 4-year study by researchers at the University of Georgia and the US Department of Agriculture confirms that the use of GM cotton did not provide increased return to farmers in the United States. On the contrary, it may decrease income by up to 40 percent (Transgenic Cotton Offers No Advantage, SiS 38).  A fully referenced version of this report has been submitted to Shri Jairam Ramesh formerly Environment Minister of India, urging him to stop growing Bt cotton and other GM crops in India; it is posted on ISIS members’ website.
There is no doubt that those who insist on promoting GM crops for farmers in India and elsewhere in the developing world (Beware the New "Doubly Green Revolution", SiS 37) are perpetrating a crime against humanity and they must be brought to justice before the justice follows them. 
First Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of a tryst with destiny and said that freedom and opportunity could not come at the expense of endemic poverty and inequality. At least, in theory he pronounced the fundamental principles of a socialist society in India although in reality even after 63 years of independence it is nowhere to be seen even at a distant horizon. A booming India has provided the good life for millions in Mumbai, Bangalore, and other cities, jobs in call centers, high tech lifestyles, scripted out of a Bollywood romance in Eastman Color and corporate culture of lavish fulfillment in skyscraper shopping malls. But for the vast majority directly tied to agriculture and the land, debt and despair have driven some 200,000 to suicide in the last two decades. In fact, neo-liberal polices under globalization have created lopsided development creating two Indias: Rich and Poor.

Prof S. Deman                                       Prof Vrajainder Uppadhaya
Director Centre for Econ, Fin and Law   Indian Institute of Technology
London, UK                                          New Delhi, India

Author is grateful to Professors Amritjit Singh and Devendra Kaushik and authors of various studies carried out by Professors Nagaraj at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Srijit Misra at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) Report on Suicide of Farmers in Maharashtra (Jan 2006) funded by Maharashtra Govt. For the study, interview of 116 suicide case households spread across 109 villages.

1 comment:

Andrew J Graham said...

Liberalisation has caused a great deal of dissastrous for the developing countries and our greed for oil sucked us into wars. The Worldwide financial crisis has eradicatde our delusions about the neoclassical economics and reliability of markets.