India passes through a new phase!
How the people and the rulers are understanding issues and challenges?

The Maharashtra inglorious episode is an aberration or a new trend? Let us hope this is just an aberration that is cut short for the common good of all the people of India and also for the wiser counsel among the leaders.

The day when the country and nation must be rejoicing on the 70th year of the Constitution day it was a sad comment when the entire Opposition boycotted the session and the august occasion was seen listening to such a discordant appeals from the top leaders that sounded so gross and so ill-timed.

What sort of nation we are building today. Do we forget the solemn pledge this country made? Do we care for the great many democratic values we have pledged to safeguard? It was really a very sad day indeed!

It was a sad day and the Constitution Day celebration day marked by great many thoughts, let out by the President and the Prime Minister to the entire legislators were so sounded discordant and the country at large thanks to the visual media spread the day must have looked more out of tune and out of context.

But what was also ironical was the very same day when the unseemly and often the most deplorable scenes were enacted by the MLAs belonging to the three main parties, namely, the NCP, Shiv Sena and the Congress, so shuffled along to different locations, was it a tragedy or comedy? They were joined together to stake claims on the formation of a new coalition government.

When such a possibility was sought to be prevented by the BJP in alliance with Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP. Pawar and his uncle, none other than the formidable Sharad Pawar was engaged to turn the tables against the BJP’s well-known tactics to install minority governments with dubious numbers in many States and also getting on with the governance norms, in fact a mockery of governance that was on such a display to the shame of all right-thinking men and women.

Unfortunately, Indian society and politics in the last 70 odd years of freedom, one has to realise, not evolved in the most enlightened Constitution norms and conventions but was ruined by a sense of vengeance or revenge and such unseemly scenes when leaders conducted themselves shamelessly in open defiance of great democratic values.

So many critical comments we heard from so many leaders. The dynastic rule was many times voiced. Ideas of dynastic rule, politics as family fiefdoms and worshipping of unworthy leaders as almost demi-goods. The unqualified persons capture power, we have seen many times in many States. But what dynastic rule has to do with the sort of government we have seen installed in the fist place. You see sloganeers with placards calling the so-called winners by all sorts of exaggerated descriptions and titles.

Of course this half-baked politics came along with some regional parties, first in the South where you had the film star politicians worshiped as demi-gods who were otherwise the most corrupt and the most unworthy of persons. Spending time in jails and also accumulating wealth through all sorts of wrong means has been held out as near unquestionable. Also, politics also had become otherwise all for another sort of butchering democracy and using large scale populist slogans and other fascist methods.
This craze hasn’t gone away still and even now we see such threats to democratic politics, though you can give legal veneers to the gross corruption and why even you can give justification to use of government machinery to cow down peoples’ voices by misuse of official machinery, police and other forces.

As The Hindu editorial (Nov.27) says one saving grace in the current episode is the Supreme Court acted with great appropriate manner, acted in the needed haste and promptness so that the usual tricks and twisted the ruling parties employ have been prevented and the honour and prestige of the Constitutional order has been restored. Of course in all this happening one leader, namely Sharad Pawar had emerged as the icon of sorts, given his long career that had seen so many setbacks.One more observation: it is talked about that the three party coalitions is a contradiction of ideologies. What ideologies.

Hindutva vs secularism? Or what?

To put things in perspective, it is a strategic coalition of parties that wanted to prevent an ideology, namely, the BJP ruling combine that resorted to a direct capture of power at once at whatever be the cost to Constitutional norms and political morality.

Power must be sought by some principles. Here in the new strategic coalition power is sought on some publically known aims and goals. Now this is an open society and also a society with all liberal values is promised and people are free to know and judge things for themselves. It is a liberal society of freedoms and not an illiberal society of fears and anxieties.

Let people decide. That is a healthy alternative.

Agriculture today is vastly changed and we need to understand the current world of agriculture!

Indian agriculture, a field for pessimism or optimism?

Agriculture is always on the top of the minds and tongues of Indian politicians, right? Even in the current unseemly political adventure in Maharashtra politics agriculture is talked about. Sharad Pawar the senior political leader, himself an agricultural pioneer, projects his image as a tried and tested agricultural pioneer. Very long time ago we sought him after and then he was the leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly and he was kind enough to invite us to his office once and he talked at length about his vision for India to emerge as a successful producer of crops like vegetables and he pointed out how India could become a great agri exporter to the Middle East among other countries how Indian farmers could become prosperous. At that point of time Maharashtra itself was a pioneering state and we, in the rest of India, looked in awe how the State of Maharashtra was creating so many innovative co-operative bodies in cultivating grapes and the state had one of the most successful co-operative structure for so many other crops like strawberries, mangoes and of course sugarcane farming.

But as of now we are not sure how those pioneering ventures are doing today. Of course Maharashtra had also some of the leading lights of farmers’ leaders like the late Sharad Joshi, another friend of this media and his Shetkari Sangathana proved many points in farmer’s organizations and lobby building.

May be they were just only the pioneering ventures that remained only pioneering efforts only. The important point we like to draw attention of the present day enthusiasts of again another range of new interest and innovations in agricultural pioneering are the new technologies, the organic agriculture and food production and food processing sectors.
There are of course now so many new innovative agri technologies in various new crops like Israeli technologies in cut-flower cultivation that has led to new ventures, as in the neighborhood of Hosur and also many other new agri techs, from Netherlands and other countries.

Flower exports are now quite a big industry and there is a need to report the new developments in a much more systematic way. Of course there are the other extremes of so many distress stories for farmers to tell and enlighten the policy makers. There are also new problems like climate change and the horrible pollution stories from cities like New Delhi. Floods and scarcity are other issues that directly hit farmers. So, where do we stand as an agricultural media pioneers?

This is a question that often comes to us and hit us squarely. You see that unless you are a committed person ,as we can draw the example of Dr.Verghese Kurien, you would be nowhere in this business of ‘do-gooder’ job! From the days of Kurien to the current scenario where the human capital is much depleted (!) You would be nowhere to do any business. Now, the political quality of politicians is so low and where the bureaucracy is spreading its tentacles everywhere, there is hardly any segment of civil society that is left to seek company with the do-gooders!

There was time when Kurien used to attack, left and right the role of bureaucracy that was putting obstacles in every step of his activity. This, once Kurien himself narrated when we were left to wait for an audience with the then Prime Minister Chandra Shekar in his official residence. There were so many hilarious incidents that evening when the great Dhirubhai Ambani came calling the Prime Minister himself a novice and we were all thrown into confusion, some met the PM, some left disappointed.

Those days you can find at least few gentlemen, IAS officials, unlike now where new types of self-seekers are everywhere. For those who are unfamiliar with the Lutyens Delhi bungalow zone would not know how many bureaucrats, retired and others are hanging on in Delhi on some job or assignment and how they are all a cynical LOT AND HOW YOUR MANY PET SCHEMES COULD BITE THE DUST AND YOU YOURSELF would be lost once you tried to make your way in official Delhi!

So, given the sort of cynicism and negativity that prevails in the Delhi bureaucratic and political circles it is next to impossible to steer your way through any departmental key holes! Where is the atmosphere to nurture any new idealism and hope and vision, the qualities that are essential to nurture new initiatives and ventures, be it natural foods or organic agriculture?

The few ones we feature in these pages are some lucky ones and the vast mass of farmers are of course are facing many challenges. We need a new agriculture policy drawn up with an open mind and a humble submission to the unlucky farmers and rural people. It is rural transformation and an honest, corruption-free and dedicated team of agricultural pioneers of this generation only can revive agriculture as a new hope for a great agriculture country like India.

Now, agriculture no doubt is going to be the new sunshine industry. A growing and prosperous economy and society like India, with its vast geographical space and varied climate zones offer great many opportunities for India to emerge as the world’s big basket of agricultural products and services.

Let us all recognize that India as of now is emerging as a great agri trading power. There is no escape from this global reality. There are concerns about India joining the South East Asian community. The world is becoming as more interdependent. We have to open up our economy for new imports, milk from New Zealand, pepper from Vietnam and Tea from Sri Lanka etc. India, luckily, in the frontline in agricultural exports. In rice and wheat and some other bulk commodities India has enormous advantages.

So, we have to woo our neighbours. Of course we have to be competitive players and the old style laggard image must go. India stands to gain only when it opens its doors for foreign imports like Malaysian palm oil in which we are so deficient! 85% of our edible oil is imported, so we have to be friendly with our South Asian neighbours!

When do we care for farmers, if at all?
When Sharad Pawar goes to meet the PM?

Yes, it looks so. The other day when the government formation in Maharashtra was at its most hectic pace, Sharad Pawar the senior most old Congress leader, now the chief of the much depleted Nationalist Congress party (NCP), was at his wiliest best, said observers and the whole day was engrossing as one step after another Mr.Pawar holding his cards close to his chest and kept everyone of the stakeholders, namely, the ShivSena, The Congress and the NCP in very tense suspense. What did Pawar do? That day at the very end of the Rajya Sabha debate for the day he called on the Prime Minister in his Parliamentary office. The Prime Minister is no less competent and the two of the most experienced leaders chose to meet at noon!

Everyone was in anticipation as to the outcome of the top two leaders of the country. Mr.Pawar, soon after coming out of the meeting just told the waiting newsmen that he ‘called on the PM to present the case of the farmers of Maharashtra who were greatly affected by the floods and sought help’!

Is that all he talked when the whole country was waiting to see whether Mr.Pawar could play one or two tricks with his government formation tactics? Yes, this is politics at its cruelest best!

You see farmers are the least subjects for politicians in India and it doesn’t absolve Pawar also from this charge. Much more heart-rending was the scene or scenes for the TV channels often repeat the display of some scenes and this time, on the very same day, at the very same moment, the TV screens also flashed another scene, this time, a group of farmers, exactly 29 of them in UP districts adjoining the Haryana border, all handcuffed and drawn by chains and they were walked about to the police station and they gave a picture of much disgust and agony for the viewers!

Yes, this is all about farmers and Indian agriculture you can see and understand the real India. Prior to the event, a day or two before there was again a TV screen scene, this time it is about the number of MPs invited to attend a panel on pollution in Delhi and out of the 27 or so of the MPs invited only two or three were in attendance!

The TV screens again displayed the absentee MPs and all were quite prominent, a glamorous actress and a noted all-India-known editor and a media celebrity and many of the ones who were ruling party MPs and heavyweights. So, the MPs are busy otherwise when the Delhi air choked the inhabitants, MPs are otherwise busy and also when the poor and distraught farmers, all poor and almost illiterate and they might not have known why they had been caught and walked to the nearby police station, very likely, the police personnel themselves might not have known why they were doing this criminal act. The poor farmers were charged for stubble burning in their paddy fields. For the city dwellers stubble burning is a nuisance. As consumers city dwellers only want quality rice, fresh vegetables, cheap onions and tomatoes only. How they come on to the table is nobody’s concern! Life goes on otherwise for Delhiites. Where the high and mighty all reside wish the pollution goes away by magic!

So, this is all about agriculture for you! Pollution? Schools are shut and parents are helpless and the common man doesn’t care and the uncommon ones, the Prime Minister and the chief ministers don’t speak out and it is in a cynical way, only good time for the TV crews, at least they can cry and should and engage the pedestrians for an evening chat!

Life goes on and the routine of senior and junior ministers also goes on. Some minor ironies too creep in and that only adds to the tone of our existence as citizens of a great democracy.

So, now, for the rest of the time ahead we are likely to live with the continuing pollution issue and as things stand it is very unlikely that Mr.Kejriwal is really to do something that would give some relief from this pollution menace. May be we might take our pencil and notebook and write all the cities names and the level of pollution, the PMc levels and that could be a new source of new knowledge!

It looks unlikely that the Prime Minister would at least one day would talk about an issue like pollution and how we are going to tackle this menace. So, when it comes to other issues like the economy, of course we have at least a few experts who might give us their wisdom as to how we can tackle the economic issues. The other day we read a column in The Hindu by Dr.Manmohan Singh and given his expertise and experience in this sphere, he has given us his wisdom, there is a sense of malafide unless proven otherwise and there is great deal of distrust, fear and helplessness and entrepreneurs are afraid to take risks and invest etc..
But then, as we say, bell the cat?

Daily news are very discouraging, telecoms are in heavy debts, so too the nearly one crore thousand in banks’ bad loans and the government is privatising the PSUs; though the biggest white elephants, the national carrier, AIR INDIA is still bleeding. How to create trust and confidence?

You see, in our opinion, issues like trust and confidence is indivisible and they come in a lot. Unless you create confidence and trust in the minds of citizens, from the top to the bottom, from rich and the poor, the most educated and the near illiterates, public opinion, as you can see is indivisible and there is a moment and time when the whole of the people, let us take the electorate at the time of elections, then the vote goes for or against the incumbent governments.

To simplify the issues and or in sweeps, then only the power-hungry or the otherwise arbitrary power-oriented minds seem some reason and reach some reconciliation with the realities of the world.

Agriculture, farmers and those living in the far-ff or remote regions are the least likely to be stakeholders as things stand today.

Otherwise, it is a narrow segment, most likely urban areas of the country that might debate and decide whether farmers can be chained and handcuffed and we can see one more flip on the TV screens!

Reflections on the Nobel Literature Prize Day!

This one line that stuck up in mind and echoed the whole day when the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced from Stockholm, Sweden. These were the words born in “deep pain” from a survivor of the Serb Massacre in Yugoslavia. Why the pain? The other winner for 2019 Peter Handke, an Austrian writer who shamelessly supported the massacre, the genocide, hence the universal outrage.

Peter Handke

There was already controversy over the way the Swedish Academy was managed, this year’s selection of the Austrian author was also much criticized for his support of the Serb massacre in the Yugoslavian civil war in which mass murders were committed. So much brutality happened and so much indifference and disinterest of people, intellectuals, writers and artists was seen. These are the people who should have risen up and protested and yet we see the very reverse! Where is the world going?

Yes, the decision of the Nobel Committee was very inexplicable and very disturbing. That must explain the current crisis the world over – so much cynicism, indifference, fall of values and leadership. Yet there seems to be hope. We see new voices and protests are brewing all over, in Hong Kong and elsewhere, in other countries. There are renewed wars in the Middle East and uncertainties all over.

The 16-year old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate campaigner who spoke with vehemence and anger at the UN that the world leaders who assembled at the UN were slapped, as if on their faces! She pointedly asked, more than once: “How dare you?”.Her anger and demeanour was such that world leaders, among them Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin responded gallantly! Hats off to their gentlemanliness!

The point here is that the world over it is sheer selfishness and greed and a patch of sheer ignorance and inability for men and leaders to rise up to their inner potential and outward behaviour.

Against Profit and Greed!

In education and culture, there is a definite decline and fall of values. Martha Nussbaum, the great philosopher, who is also known in India, who was for long with the Chicago University, has written a book called “Not for Profit”. The very title provokes one to recall the counterpart: Profit Greed! In India this distinction must be crystal clear! India is now embarked on a journey of seeking profit and greed in every segment of endeavour! Education has become totally commercial and profit-driven. The so-called educators and now much elevated in society and politics!

Who are these educators, you know? They are as varied as gentlemen and crooks can be! In some states, why, it must now will be in all states that every undesirable person has entered the field of education, from milkmen to policemen to underhand dealers, politicians of all kinds! The commerce of education has taken deep roots and the society and public life gets corrupted beyond repair, it seems. University education is now mass education and all sorts of corruption can be seen in the sector.

There is so much corruption in the private and government colleges and university degrees are secured without attending classes. Everyday new revelations of corruption are coming in the open. Now, the latest to make headlines is impersonation in the competitive exams so that the one who can cleverly write and pass the test gets rewarded and the one who gains is the one who didn’t sit for the test at all.

The son-father duo is now inside jail! The education promoters are of various kinds, with the most successful among them are now into all gainful pursuits, many have also entered politics. One has become so successful that one is a PCC chief and also Deputy Chief Minister! How much greed a man can have!

In the USA too this choice of sciences and engineering is growing while the humanities are looked down. But of course times change and things could change for the better. Recently, in India we saw a few young IAS officials resigned their jobs very soon after they joined the much coveted offfices like district collectors. Why?

The young officials with so much youthful idealism see very soon how politics has deteriorated. The uneducated and unscrupulous politicians pressurize young men and women and they decide to leave these prestigious careers! So, the political party functionary commands the officials, be he or she, district collector or other high officials at the command of illiterate political functionaries decide to go!

So, education is now at the cross roads. Education, ethics, idealism and much else is at a discount. No wonder, the Nobel Committee found itself helpless but go for the candidates who don’t win approval but only revulsion. Let us all give deep thought how to find a new Rousseau!

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.