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.

Agriculture not for the experts alone!
Brazil a big agriculture and forestry country is a unique planetary gift of mankind to fellow humans.

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro

Here is a country that needs to be studied in detail for its contribution to many of the current farm issues like climate change and deforestation, tree logging and cultivation of major agri crops like soybeans and can contribute to subdue much of the current abuses of environmental goods. Many issues of great impact, like for instance, the emerging problem of climate change is not often understood by the ordinary people. Yet, the so-called experts, policy makers or other high level bureaucrats, as we see in India itself, talk and go their own ways, giving a damn to the need for the vast mass of people who stand to be impacted, positively or negatively.

This vast gap in knowledge between the great issues of agriculture and the related questions like environment ,why even the production of food, food shortages and even such broader issues like food distribution and the solving of poverty and malnutrition, all great problems in themselves, this prevailing ignorance and the need to educate the public opinion is at the very central core of any agriculture issue. The purpose of agriculture journalism, always a losing proposition, thus acquires enormous priority.

We read a recent top editorial in The Economist(August 3rd,2019).It is about how the South American Brazil’s Amazon forest has been contributing to the human kind’s long sought food, fuel, timber and sublime inspiration. It is indeed a great inspiration for the rest of the world if we read the bare statistics about its contribution to every kind of man’s need to feed and seek land to grow many vital food needs.

First, it is still a livelihood for 1.5 billion people! Forests provides for local and regional ecosystems. And for the other 6.2 billion, a buffer against climate change. Now droughts, wildfires and other human induced changes are compounding the damage from chainsaws!

Brazil’s President Mr.Bolsonaro has also helped much damage from anti-environment lobbyists, because there is much logging, most of it is illegal, 70-80 per cent, trees have been disappearing, writes The Economist magazine, at the rate of two Manhattans a week! Pessimists fear that the rate of degradation and disappearance of trees can further contribute to the environmental destruction. Brazil is a big agricultural country in the world.

Soybeans cultivation is big business – Soybeans and beef is big agri market and also big exports. The drought is contributing to maize farmers in the central lost a third of the harvest. Food companies, pressed by consumers should spurn soybeans and beef produced illegally.

Brazil is a big agriculture country and also a big agri exporter. China is a big Brazil trading partner, as China needs Brazil’s soybeans for livestock feeding and oil. Deforestation in Brazil is also a contributor of world’s 8% of global green house-gas emissions.

But it earns only 3% of aid for combating climate change.

Brazils’ agriculture minister says the country as a member of the Paris climate agreement is aware that deforestation is a big issue for the country and ordinary Brazilians should press their president must take steps to reverse some of the actions that foreign boycott of Brazilian farm goods.

What policies needed in the current situation?
Good governance is a top priority!
There are worrying signs!

There is an economic slowdown, no doubt. There are some unprecedented indicators. For one, the auto industry is in serious crisis. Unsold vehicles are piling up. Maruti, the major player with a 50 per cent of market share saw a decline of 33.5 per cent. As we write some 2 lakh jobs are laid off in the last 3 months in thus sector alone. This deceleration is very likely to lead to other complications and the slowdown might become very serious. Education in GST is one first cry. One can’t be sure of government’s response given the sort of mind set of the ruling combine.

Industry captains, some respected faces have come out to voice concerns. Deepak Parekh, Rahul Bajaj and A.M.Nayak have come out with concerns. Others, more vocal voices and familiar faces on the TV screens have been warned by the government t not to speak further on such concerns like tax raids and the word tax terrorism has become a bad word!

There are other indicators.49 public figures have written to the PM warning about mob lynching and hate crimes and other social issues like rape etc. Against this 62 odd intellectuals have opposed such a narrative. This clash of narratives is good for educating public opinion.

Of course the (so-called) public opinion today is very much confused and splintered into various managed and manipulated streams. There is no coherent body of opinion makers, even the highly placed and much respected voices of dissent are sought to be silenced. There are widespread panic and even terror-like fears. Instead of a free and vibrant public opinion we have a widespread public disturbance of am n eerie silence!

The law and order situation in some states, including the largest state, UP is widely commented in a negative manner. The Supreme Court’s intervention in transferring the cases outside to Delhi speaks for itself. The question of governance is uppermost in the minds of the citizens. The very general situation in the country is far from normal and there is widespread sense of insecurity over raids and other acts. New legislations in the Lok Sabha and the passing of the same legislations without much discussion and debate are a new phenomenon in legislation-making. It is sad development, the way the Rajya Sabha members walked out to enable to get those legislations passed without discussion. This is very new development and might lead to set a bad precedent.

In the atmosphere prevailing in India, the current trend of an economic slowdown with major sectors, core sectors, also reporting very low growth rate is something about which the government can’t remain silent for long.

Industry captains would always choose to be circumspect and that is their tragedy! While those close to the ruling regime might find benefit to remain silent and invisible, those who who have credibility might also have some visibility and others among them might be really honest to the core and even give some inner urges to speak out in the greatest good of the greatest number. It is these really public good-makers who would at times invite the wrath of the government. This has happened already as the public might have noticed.

The media, print and visual, in India is in a real tragedy. The print media, in particular the high-end class media really faces an existential crisis. The really ones that are dedicated to the public good has to be very very careful. Some really choose to write not on what is good for the countrymen and they write some educaitual on the US Fed, not on the Indian RBI! Why invite trouble!
The others sometimes take some risk and do indeed comment freely. As for professional economists, they were very prominent in the past. Not anymore. Has any competent economist has come out to enlighten the current economic phenomena?

Economists like Dr.Manmohan Singh could do a great deal of good. As a man of authority he must voice his views, give a statement and enlighten the unfortunate public about what are at issue. Only we have seen Bimal Jalan, a former RBI Governor and a professional have given us hope of citing the current phenomenon as a cyclical turn and in one or two years ,growth will pick up.
As to what the government does in a variety of ways is first to revamp the 100 days work a year scheme, formerly known as Mahatama Gandhi a national Rural Employment Scheme, aims to pull out 10-12 million rural families out to impart skills and create durable assets.

This is a very weak construction. There is no real insight here. Rather this assertion is very vague. There are of course much more than tinkering with the existing schemes. Mr. Amitabh Kant, the CEO of NITI Aayog has come out with a series of reforms and ‘to dos'(that makes much sense given the current context.
The Economic Times,August5,2019).Of course he goes far and wide taking on from Lord Keynes’s own prescription for unleashing ‘the animal spirits’ and stimulating the aggregate demand. Revving demand is the key. For this to happen he has outlined many of the schemes and reforms.

Kant’s list is rather very long. As it should be. The very title of his article says much: It reads:”Gotta Grow, Grow Up, And Go”. Fine. Very inspiring.
However, in a sober reflection, we have to warn and alert. There are so much otherwise worrying problems. The arbitrariness in governance. The UP state, as an example, the many happenings and the top court’s interventions in ensuring good governance. Should we need to spell out what is reported in the daily press?
Then there are many major reforms like LokPal and LoK Ayukta. Tax collection is sluggish. The deployment of raid and tax agencies and the very rise in crime and criminal cases are ominous signs.CJI has noted that one crore criminal cases are pending.

The way the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are functioning. The Deccan Herald captioned one editorial as” Subversion of legislature”. The image of India abroad. We are a democracy. But then democracy demands high moral standards. The way we play with the anti-defection law. Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, the first chairman of the Rajya Sabha said : The Rajya Sabha is not just a legislative, but a deliberative body. The outside world would be watching how India runs its democracy. Short-sighted tricks won’t make India great. But only observing a visionary moral code!