The agriculture issues today are not limited to farmers’ debts, suicides and the many unclear farm policies. The agri sector now comprises the food industry, the latest growth and reach of the global food business companies and their organised lobbying power.

A new and shadowy global industry and its harmful roles in shaping consumers’ dilemmas. The food safety legislation? How it is working? Who is the minister in charge and what the government has achieved so far?
The stunted children and their unbelievable numbers and the related health issues a real grim stories. Here are some reflections. Beware parents and health policy experts!

Save Indian children from the many obesity related processed foods! Food processing industry issues! Only parents’ awareness can help! Fight the obesity and other health related food products sales!

You see, agriculture is nowadays more and more are related to the food industry and food processing sector Big global companies like coke and pepsi grows more and more stronger After all business is business and profits would drive all companies. There are now more and more new issues, issues that are not apparent at the first instance and only when you get into the nitty-gritty of how the global companies operate and how food giants like McDonalds and Kellogg’s Now, it is widely alleged and reported in the media, not just inside India but also outside that there are international level bodies, that are not funded by governments but by industry bodies that are also becoming fatter and fatter.

There are many consequences, as one can see from the surface itself. Those who have got funds from outside ,why even inside India, bodies like Nutrition Institute of India and even others like the one we have just now heard of, International Life Science Institute(ILSI),it was created by a top Coca Cola executive, it is said to have acted as a powerful lobby to influence polices that could help the increase of profits for various processed foods and drinks that directly and indirectly affect the children’s health and contribute to obesity, a menace now in the world for the younger generation.

When the government of India wanted to introduce the labeling of new foods and food ingredients, they chose a person who was none other than old executives of these large corporations. All the big namnes, nutritionists and executive are here and we restrain naming all here.

From tobacco lobby to now food processing industries and other powerful corporate have joined together and we see today that more and more of these bodies join together and often conduct conferences and also invites anyone who can be of help to attend these conferences, preferably in five star hotels and end up with an expensive lunch as a bonus!

What ails the new generation of youngsters? Junk food in all its manifestations! You see these outlets everywhere, where there is a chance of vulnerability. Even in petrol bunks you see these American outfits!

The ILSI now has branches in 18 countries and in some countries it shares staff and office space, as in China, it is said. In China the institute is supposed to combat the obesity epidemic and related illnesses. In Brazil it is represented on a number of government panels. World level bodies like WHO are also, it is alleged penetrated, by these lobby groups. There is any number of experts, and India is no exception from where a lot of retired food and nutrition experts are recruited. It is alleged. Once you find your way, then it is an open invitation for international travels and once you learnt to speak smoothly then funds is on tap and you can build and organization you name it fancifully and you become an internationals celebrity!

One former director of India’s National Institute of Nutrition is a very much talked about name and such experts advise names like Nestle and, the Japanese food giants Ajinomoto and Italian chocolate maker Ferrero. These experts lecture on the benefits of artificial sweetener and genetically modified crops! The ILSI positions are said to be unpaid but their activities are funded otherwise with all-expense paid travel to meetings around the world. Last year when the Indian government needed a name to lead a Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, it selected the very same person who had been allege3ed to have served similar bodies and also advised Indian government.
Also the very same persons advised the pros and cons of genetically modified mustard plants.

So, there are more insidious activities that might not come out, certainly not in the already much feared Indian media but at least in some leakages through word of mouth. But the present state of affairs in the much highly sensitive area of children’s health and food safety and food standards when India is poised to receive much more big bangs so to say in the field of processed foods and artificial sweeteners, there is a cry for government publicity to help save the innocent people to fall for artificial ingredients and dangerous sales, marketing strategies.

And a showcase of India’s role in the international affairs!
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Award for Indian Prime Minister – The Global Goalkeeper’s award!

PM’s US visit and the US President’s close participation in the India events there have brought a great many fruits. The PM-President closeness drew world attention. May be, the Indian PM succeeded in positioning himself as the world’s one more great power leader. May be India is also thus sought to position itself as a world power, next, only to China and Russia.

Only future developments might indicate. However, given Modi’s penchant for creating for himself this aura of importance and priority for himself and thus for his country Indian Diaspora in the US might imagine themselves they too have got a higher social and economic status for themselves in the scheme of things as they say.

Of course it is always a nice thing to take a positive view of things and also in this instance US helps India to win approval over such sensitive issues like Jammu and Kashmir and may be also in economic development issues. International affairs are a very different thing and it might not lend itself for publicity and approval by an incumbent government. Even in this case we see not very long after, in fact almost at the very start of the current scenario Mr.Donald Trump faces the uncomfortable prospect of an impeachment.

If that unlikely thing is to happen then, one is afraid that what Mr.Modi gained by a way of favourable publicity and coverage might evaporate and unfavorable comparisons might emerge. Also, the Bill, Melinda Gates award also draws the prospects of comparison when we really deeply reflect, as some commentators have already done so, with the lack of a free and open society where the freedoms and rights of individuals are respected and even guaranteed so that the toilets, the gas connections and much else promised are readily enjoyed.

Yes, economic subsidies are like the saying that ‘Not by Bread Alone’! But along with the capabilities of citizens to enjoy the benefits. So, when there was much talks and even self-praise about two big democracies are great and unique even in the world when they come together to give the best of the freedoms and security to the citizens.

Even when we saw the cheering Indian Diaspora were really happy and self-satisfied they too might have reflected they, while got the economic liberation when they left their shores of the past, they also lost something by the way of being patriots and once were free people. Now, in the USA, they too would have reflected on their own reflections what they had lost by leaving their own inheritances for the pittance of a dollar and creature comforts.

They too have to live their lives in constant fear of a gun culture that doesn’t give your freedoms of whatever value back in your own country.
This migration issue, Mr.Trump was referring to many times in his speeches. What about the illegal migrants plight now left to nowhere land?

The future for the migrants, from other countries too, like Mexico, the front line state where the burden is very high, also what about the spouses’s visa issues. US won’t give the Diaspora the comfort they are seeking for and they too have to live a life that while it promises some minimum economic security, then, this security comes with great doses of many other uncertainties.
It is freedom, human rights, collective social security, issues like racism and often brutal killings you subject yourself with no other way, these issues must have haunted the audience when they cheered, we are not sure with what serious reflection on their own kinsmen and women back in their country.
Now, much is talked about patriotism and nationalism and nationalist vs. secularism and much else.

The Indian Diaspora too must carry some guilt within them for what their own country men have lost by way of their own democratic values and the securities that come with a genuine democracy.

The debate about the good the Diaspora inherited, they also lost the traditional social values, the traditional spiritual feelings of fulfillment they lost by seeking to get out for the sake of a penny!

Anyway for Indians left here the burden of reflection is there for they have lost their freedoms back in their democracy however faulty and short-comings, for they have the rights to fight for, while they have surrendered all such freedoms in a foreign country. A true open society is one that allows the citizens to enjoy freedoms, to gather for a protest and seek for justice in whatever field they seek and that is a true life for a free citizen.

Anyway, these are some of the thoughts when we saw the cheering Indian Diaspora and thought whether they had gained and we lost back in India!


Who champions the farming sector?

Agriculture is a highly sensitive subject for those who have boundless sensitivity. And also, agriculture is still the bugbear to the average Indian farmer. We in the South read about stories of Punjab and Haryana as breadbaskets of the country. But when one reads closely, the stories that come out regularly, one has to be shocked and surprised of the spate of farmers suicides, still taking place there. Amarinder Singh government has done well by wiping off farmers debts.

Yesterday when we read that here are still grim stories of three generation suicides, farm debt suicides, one gets stunned by the severity of the tragedy.
So, we have to ask ourselves in total helplessness when will Indian agriculture will be a happy field?

Punjab tops in agricultural productivity. Also in rice production. Yet, there, the farmers’ suicides continue. Sadly, it is said that three farmers a day are committing suicides. Except once, when Andhra Pradesh was a top rice contributor, in 2010-11, 98% of Punjab agricultural land under irrigation, why this tragedy?

This needs to be explained and solutions explored, yet what we today?
Has any government functionary talks of agrarian distress?

These questions would haunt the ruling regime, though there won’t be any lauder voice. It is a pity, a great pity indeed jigeu. After the BJP came to power, the agri sector that nurtures the largest concentration of people who thrive on farming for their livelihood seems to have been taken for granted and not much we hear about what is going on in this vitally important economic sector. In the Southern states of course there is much about to talk about this sector with the Southern states have their own limited and yet special sorts of problems.

In Tamil Nadu where the state is so dependent on the Cauvery River for its irrigation needs that are becoming more and more dependent upon this one source and so the state’s politics almost revolves around the one and only source of irrigation.

So, politics too has become too polarised around this major river for the state for its critical agricultural sector. Lately, the Cauvery delta geography has also become a battle ground for some other issues like methane discovery, lying of telecom towers etc.

Even now the last mile river water distribution is a contentious issue. As far as the national level importance of the Cauvery river front is a much more emotional issue with the TN farmers taking out farmers rally all the way to Delhi and camping there for days together and yet they didn’t h get a personal hearing from the Prime Minister and this is a recurring grievance.

So, the only satte, it seems that is likely to give a headache for the ruling party at the Centre is likely to be Tamil Nadu. In this aspect, may be TN would be like the West Bengal ruling party, Trinamul Congress and may be there could a new focal point for the next election and when the next round of alliance building could see a new focus, the disgruntled states not necessarily, the geographical divisions like and the South but ,may be on the basis of new disgruntlements arising out of specific ground level realities.

Who knows, even the n North Eastern states like Assam and other areas where issues like NRC could become a centre of gravity, so to say. Agriculture is no more a subject where you can cite statistics like farmers’ suicides. A subject on which we have dwelt too long and too much in detail and farm loans and farm debts and distress no more commands urban attention. In the urban, mostly mainstream English newspapers we hardly read any news that is substantial and that is really about the ground level realities of actual people living there.

More and more rural realities are brushed aside and the mainstream media is driven by entertainment and other generation-specific non-rural and non-livelihood issues. Fashions and films and even such topics like prizes and awards for business people and expensive venues, all often sponsored by corporate houses with an eye on placidity and full-page ads cover most newspaper coverages.

Also, we seem to live at a time when fear, fear of authority is very widespread and so we see more news and events that are diversionary and why even focused on the powerful leaders and their visages. The Indian villages were once praised as self-governing republics and self-sufficiency. Even the British rulers who came to conquer India by force or t ricks saw the Indian villages as enlightened and towards these ends they tried to abolish evil social practices like sati and other social evils like women’s degradation and implemented many progressive social reforms. But now we hear the Prime Minister himself talks of religion and caste, cows and cow vigilantism and om etc. The PM had also spoken about animal husbandry and here too he was using religious symbolism and cow protection is only one excuse in all this talk of cow, protecting cow etc.

The Lok Sabha Speaker spoke about the Brahmin community in Rajasthan and such talks by those occupying high Constitutional office try to, it seems to take the country not forward but the opposite!

Also we seem not to talk of many pending development issues that cry for attention like Panchayat Raj and periodic elections to the local governments and also the deep spread of corruption and the need to introduce many other progressive measures like anti-corruption measures. Even the latest announcement of crop insurance schemes seems too patchy and much needs to be done by way of close implementation. So too the most timely promises like the farm loam waiver schemes. How many states have befitted.
We talked to farmers in some states.

Even in Tamil Nadu the people are dismissing these promises as only election-time gimmicks and anyway, not many have got the benefits. Mr.Devinder Sharma, the very popular farm columnist notes (Deccan Herald, September, 2019)” the government has in fact gone back on its electoral promise of waiving all outstanding farm loans taken from co-operative, nationalised and private banks as well as from private money lenders. This would have entailed and expenditure of close to Rs.90, 000 crore. This state government (Punjab) said it didn’t have!”

On the other hand, the columnist also warns. He says that “if the death toll (in the state) so far in 2019, on an average, three farmers are ending lives every day. This is happening at a time when Punjab has been bestowed with Krishi Karman award for being the best performing state in rice production”.
In fact, this is also the sort of government support being given as a publicity drive in other states like TN also.

We also have the member of the neeti aayog, the member in charge of the agri sector, who says that even if we don’t aim for rice and wheat targets, dont worry!

Unfortunately, there is no two way traffic of ideas or data or any publicity from the government in mainstream press, why even in specific specialist press so that the citizens have way of knowing the exact information of the reliable data.

Agriculture is a subject that is very uninteresting; it doesn’t have any high priority in the way of public attention of publicity either.

Macaulay Ghost again!
Let us not impose Hindi on non-Hindi states as of now!

Let us leave education and much else like culture and literature better to educators, thinkers and intellectuals. Certainly, the current political scenario is not conducive to promoting Hindi language. Other Indian languages have equal claims for recognition and promotion.

Much has to be done in promoting regional languages and literatures also. The current atmosphere is fraught with not so liberal outlook nation-wide. Better we devote more attention to other developmental issues. The second term of the current government created a tremendous bout of energy and expectations. The energy and expectations still remain. But also suddenly there is a sort of great let down by the economic slowdown and other developments as in J&K.

In the midst of other new developments came some ghosts, the Macaulay ghost of English medium invasion across schools in the country; schools in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in particular that has opened thousands of English medium schools. This led to a cry of killing the mother tongues and educators and scholars called for new fights and pressure on the state governments to introduce local language medium in schools.

In the meanwhile enters Mr. Amit Shah, the Home Minister whose call for introducing Hindi, the most spoken language by Indians (some 40% of the people), as a national language which Mr. Shah said could unite the country! This raised a hornet’s nest and a spate of voices arose in the South to halt this indirect imposition of Hindi, which in the eyes of the Southerners is an alien language. English language growth is now not in any one country’s domain. English language skills of Indians are propelling the country and economy in an Internet-connected world.

The place of Hindi in the formation of Indian culture and ethos is a highly sensitive issue and it is politically wise to leave the place and growth of languages to a natural evolution and not impose it as a government policy. And we better improve our education standards by all other means. Education itself needs a very deeper intellectual creativity and the government better leave it to experts and thinkers.

Mr. Shah must have his own reasons and moreover timing to talk of Hindi as a national language. Given Mr. Shah’s status and skills as a powerful politician and given the way the governance parameters are drawn today the Hindi language issue might not blow over, it might rather escalate, it seems. Of course, there is a long history of anti-Hindi agitations in the South and given this perspective it is very likely that the question of national language is at the core of the Hindutva agenda and the days to come are likely to be controversial when the larger agenda of new education policy is put to implementation.

Already there are reports that the status of education in India is not so high. The latest report of the rankings of Indian Universities by the Times Higher Education Supplement doesn’t find a place for Indian universities. The status of Indian higher education is very patchy, no Indian university is in the world’s top 300 universities and with this pathetic record what the new all-powerful Modi government is going to achieve in Indian universities education. Also, already the PM had initiated many new schemes like declaring some 25 universities are of national excellence, even some other institutions (promised by some corporate houses) were given this tag.

What is the progress of already so declared central universities? See, education, like any other sector is not an easy one, it requires lot of dedication and determination to bring about quality improvements and given the state in which we find our education progress, a lot needs to be done and it takes time and also some sustained efforts to turn out quality education.

Also, the news comes about another controversy, this time by the Labour Minister Mr. Santosh J Kumar Gangwar who said the other day that there is lack of quality education for students in North India and that is why there is not enough employment generation in the Northern states.

Of course it is often easy to take offence at such remarks and so came the Opposition criticism on the minister’s remarks.

It is very difficult to bring about reforms in education, especially Indian education that has a colonial past gave us what we have still today, namely, the Macaulay Ghost-driven English medium of a low quality. Indian educated classes from the very beginning were clerical -minded peon pushers of a very low motivation and that stream only contributed to so many of our inherent national traits like inferiority complex, a submissive citizenry, a low self-esteemed and subservient mentality.

It is in this big picture we are advocating a very radical change in our outlook when we come to effect any reforms, if at all! Of course, there have been many developments in Indian education. First, there is the tremendous explosion in numbers who attend schools. There are so many new radical and timely changes in new laws like the Right to Education. Today no student of any status can be denied entry into quality schools and even the most prestigious schools can’t deny entry into their portals.

India is a diverse country with diverse socio-economic and cultural variations and so many discriminations and so we have to see things in broader perspectives. Girls education has also seen an explosion and so too the many new innovative welfare schemes like free uniforms and free cycles and even nutrition schemes. Let the parents’ aspirations educate their children in the medium they want.

English language is a universal medium and there is also much social status attached to English and so given the rising awareness about the prestige attached to English we have to retain English as a medium of instruction. Yes, there are academic discussions about the poor quality of instruction; teachers are not there to meet the demand for more teachers. There are a host of other problems. Given the Hindi medium education has rendered even the post graduates in the North Indian states, we have to go slow in the introduction of Hindi as a medium of instruction in more courses.

The IT revolution has given new technologies to impart education online and let us hope, given some more years, let us not tinker with our language policy. Hindi is a great language and given the time and space it would spread wider. So, imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi states is not a wise move as of now.

Why and what drives them to such drastic steps?

Idealism of the youth confronts the gross realities of corruption and fall in governance standards. The issues are complex and they invite an in-depth debate!

India is a country with a lot of aspirational youth. We say we are a young nation. There are millions of aspirations in every one of the youngsters. In sports too, P.V.Sindhu and other women athletes have come to catch our imagination as a successful nation of achievers. And when it comes to education attainments and jobs and careers there is such a vast pool of talents in diverse fields and employment opportunities are also emerging in diverse fields.

Our very education has been turned into commercial hubs and the very many career training institutes have completely changed the educational goals. India has a history of job seeking education and that is how the Macaulay Ghost has come to symbolize all that is good and equally bad in our national trait and character. And Indians were also turned into low-aspiring clerical careers and that is one reason why we are still a nation of job seekers at all times.

In this long history of serfdom and low aspirations, the one career much sought after was once the ICS career and now the IAS. How many IAS training Academies are there? May be as there are any numbers of small and big streets where you can spot an IAS training Academy! In this heaven-born IAS Academy are made the current crop of youngsters. It is a welcome development but there are critical issues.

Recently some four or more young and aspiring and idealistic IAS officers in their start of their careers suddenly came forward and resigned their jobs! This made headline news!

When education has become a trade and an outright business where you see in many of the prominent universities, as in TN, degrees are for sale and no more education qualification is taken seriously, what sort of idealism you can see in youngsters?

First it started with engineering colleges in the state where there are even now more than 500 odd colleges of this poor quality where the degrees go a begging! Next, big corruption scandal in education may very well be in the much more lucrative medical education sector! The latest resignations of young IAS officers in Karnataka and elsewhere show the undercurrents of large scale corruption in administration and politics.

Now, the new recruits in the IAS cadre, one can imagine, might very well face the many hurdles like political interference. For those of us who live in the villages or in touch with rural India, the first thing a new IAS recruit is likely to face is about dispensing with favors with the rural realities. There is outright corruption in some states, outright in the sense; the district Collector – the supposed boss has to interact with the district level political boss.

Only those who had lived and interacted with these political strong men would realize that even if you are an IAS in the administrative hierarchy you have to take orders from the political bosses, sometimes the very minister representing the district, or his party colleague as secretary or even at the still lower level the minister has to interact with the political party cadres who make a combination of the good, not so good or plain undesirables in the traditional society.

Once the district level officials, be they the revenue or police or other sectors. Even here, there is the block development officer who is running the local government agencies like allocation of funds to develop the roads, electric supply or drinking water; these are all at the mercy of the Collector.

The IAS, we are sure very well will soon learn to bend and oblige some unreasonable requests, most often these requests for favor would be unreasonable, sometimes, plain corruption! How, then the idealistic new IAS recruit, as found in the just resigned ones who said that they came into the service with the building blocks of democracy and democratic institutions would function as they expected but alas! They soon realize they have to turn a blind eye! May be many IAS recruits might soon learn to fall in line! But surely there would be a few idealists who might consider giving up altogether these sorts of corrupt practices.

So, to cut the story short, there would be more and more heartburns and the society might see more of the breakdown of law and order, more resorts to more corrupt practices. TN is one state where we have seen Chief Ministers climbing up the steps of courts of law and also spending time in jails. So, education is now no more than exclusive domain for exclusive experts. Education is now part of the larger democratic practices.

Populist politics has taken a toll of all values of truth and honesty and had become another form of social corruption. You enter an education portal with a bundle of currency to pay a bribe, yes, let us be honest enough to call this a bribe and what is the use to cite valuable statistics on education progress.

Unemployment is very high now. 2.5 million jobs are vacant and everywhere there is this cry of too many job seekers changing the vacancies from teachers jobs to various private and public and government jobs.