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India: The State of Independence

Colin Todhunter

India celebrates its independence on the 15th of August

India celebrates its independence from Britain on 15 August. However, the system of British colonial dominance has been replaced by a new hegemony based on the systemic rule of transnational capital, enforced by global institutions like the World Bank and WTO. At the same time, global agribusiness corporations are stepping into the boots of the former East India Company.

The long-term goal of US capitalism has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system of trade underpinned by export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the global market and debt. The result has been food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on agricultural imports and strings-attached aid.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes, as occurred in Africa, trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the displacement of traditional, indigenous agriculture by a corporatized model centred on transnational agribusiness and the undermining of both regional and world food security. The global food regime is in effect increasingly beholden to unregulated global markets, financial speculators and global monopolies.

India of course has not been immune to this. It is on course to be subjugated by US state-corporate interests and is heading towards environmental catastrophe much faster than many might think. As I outlined in this previous piece, the IMF and World Bank wants India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture and has been directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agriculture institutions.

The plan for India involves the mass displacement of people to restructure agriculture for the benefit of western agricapital. This involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.

One of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, says:

The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.”

The drive is to entrench industrial agriculture, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work (India is heading for ‘jobless growth’). Given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly degrading to become a mere repository for a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides.

The plan is to displace the existing system of livelihood-sustaining smallholder agriculture with one dominated from seed to plate by transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. To facilitate this, independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and those farmers that are left will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Some like to call this adopting a market-based approach: a system in the ‘market-driven’ US that receives a taxpayer farm bill subsidy of around $100 million annually.

The WTO and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture are facilitating the process. To push the plan along, there is a strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India’s small farms. The result is that hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to cash crops and economic liberalisation.

The number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising their income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture: the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, lack of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes.

Take the cultivation of pulses, for instance. According to a report in the Indian Express (Sept 2017), pulses production increased by 40% during the previous 12 months (a year of record production). At the same time, however, imports also rose resulting in black gram selling at 4,000 rupees per quintal (much less than during the previous 12 months). This has effectively driven down prices thereby reducing farmers already meagre incomes. We have already witnessed a running down of the indigenous edible oils sector thanks to Indonesian palm oil imports on the back of World Bank pressure to reduce tariffs (India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils in the 1990s but now faces increasing import costs).

On the one hand, there is talk of India becoming food secure and self-sufficient; on the other, there is pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and ‘free’ trade. But this is based on hypocrisy.

Writing on the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, Sachin Kumar Jain states some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US govt provided them each with a subsidy of $7,860 on average. Japan provides a subsidy of $14,136 and New Zealand $2,623 to its farmers. In 2015, a British farmer earned $2,800 and $37,000 was added through subsidies. The Indian government provides on average a subsidy of $873 to farmers. However, between 2012 and 2014, India reduced the subsidy on agriculture by $3 billion.

According to policy analyst Devinder Sharma, subsidies provided to US wheat and rice farmers are more than the market worth of these two crops. He also notes that, per day, each cow in Europe receives subsidy worth more than an Indian farmer’s daily income.

How can the Indian farmer compete with an influx of artificially cheap imports? The simple answer is that s/he cannot and is not meant to.

In the book ‘The Invention of Capitalism’, Michael Perelmen lays bare the iron fist which whipped the English peasantry into a workforce willing to accept factory wage labour. A series of laws and measures served to force peasants off the land and deprive them of their productive means. In India, we are currently witnessing a headlong rush to facilitate (foreign) capital and turn farmers into a reserve army of cheap industrial/service sector labour. By moving people into cities, it seems India wants to emulate China: a US colonial outpost for manufacturing that has boosted corporate profits at the expense of US jobs. In India, migrants – stripped of their livelihoods in the countryside – are to become the new ‘serfs’ of the informal services and construction sectors or to be trained for low-level industrial jobs.

Even here, however, India might have missed the boat as it is not creating anything like the number of jobs required and the effects of automation and artificial intelligence are eradicating the need for human labour across many sectors.

India’s high GDP growth has been fuelled on the back of debt, environmental degradation, cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population, including public sector workers, has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories per head than it did 40 years ago.

Amartya Sen and former World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu have argued that the bulk of India’s aggregate growth occurred through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder. Furthermore, Global Finance Integrity has shown that the outflow of illicit funds into foreign bank accounts has accelerated since opening up the economy to neoliberalism in the early nineties. ‘High net worth individuals’ (i.e. the very rich) are the biggest culprits here.

While corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans, they have failed to spur job creation; yet any proposed financial injections (or loan waivers) for agriculture (which would pale into insignificance compared to corporate subsidies/written off loans) are depicted as a drain on the economy.

Making India ‘business friendly’

PM Modi is on record as saying that India is now one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The code for being ‘business friendly’ translates into a willingness by the government to facilitate much of the above, while reducing taxes and tariffs and allowing the acquisition of public assets via privatisation as well as instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign corporations.

When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘ease of doing business’, it means national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds with farmers working to supply transnational corporations’ global supply chains. Rather than working towards food security based on food sovereignty and eradicating corruption, building storage facilities and dealing with inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics, the mantra is to let ‘the market’ intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.

Foreign direct investment is said to be good for jobs and good for business. But just how many get created is another matter – as is the amount of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people; but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place to import seeds or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business via bogus health and safety measures so that Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?

The process resembles what Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book about the ‘structural adjustment’ of African countries. In ‘The Globalization of Poverty’, he says that economies are:

opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished.” (p.16)

The opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural productivity, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. But India is already self-sufficient in key staples and even where productivity is among the best in the world (as in Punjab) farmers still face massive financial distress. Clearly, productivity is not the problem: even with bumper harvests, the agrarian crisis persists.

India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food, retail and agriculture sectors. What could this mean for India? We only have to look at the business model that keeps these companies in profit in the US: an industrialised system that relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed many small-scale farmers’ livelihoods.

The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies’ taxpayer-subsidised business models are based on overproduction and dumping on the world market to depress prices and rob farmers elsewhere of the ability to cover the costs of production. They rake in huge returns, while depressed farmer incomes and massive profits for food retailers is the norm.

The long-term plan is for an overwhelmingly urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Walmart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

Various high-level reports have concluded that policies need to support more resilient, diverse, sustainable (smallholder) agroecological methods of farming and develop decentralised, locally-based food economies. There is also a need to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and trade deals. However, the trend continues to move in the opposite direction towards industrial-scale agriculture and centralised chains for the benefit of Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer and other transnational players.

Devinder Sharma has highlighted where Indian policy makers’ priorities lie when he says that agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. Some 60% of the population live in rural areas and are involved in agriculture but less than 2% of the annual budget goes to agriculture. Sharma says that when you are not investing in agriculture, you are not wanting it to perform.

It is worth considering that the loans provided to just five large corporations in India are equal to the entire farm debt. Where have those loans gone? Have they increased ‘value’ in the economy. No, loans to corporate houses left the banks without liquidity.

‘Demonetisation’ was in part a bail-out for the banks and the corporates, which farmers and other ordinary folk paid the price for. It was a symptom of a country whose GDP growth was based on a debt-inflated economy. While farmers commit suicide and are heavily indebted, a handful of billionaires get access to cheap money with no pressure to pay it back and with little ‘added value’ for society as a whole.

Corporate-industrial India has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the hand outs and tax exemptions given to it. The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year. And data released by the Labour Bureau shows that in 2015, jobless ‘growth’ had finally arrived in India.

So where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of agricultural workers who are to be displaced from the land or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise small-scale village-level industries that currently employ tens of millions?

Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Now we have dogma masquerading as economic theory that compels developing countries to adopt neoliberal policies. The notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and the concept of poverty depoliticised and separated from structurally embedded power relations, not least US-driven globalisation policies resulting in the deregulation of international capital that ensures giant transnational conglomerates are able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

Across the world we are seeing treaties and agreements over breeders’ rights and intellectual property being enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Large corporations with their proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs are trying to eradicate traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers

Corporate-dominated agriculture is not only an attack on the integrity of ‘the commons’ (soil, water, land, food, forests, diets and health) but is also an attack on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational entities.

Whereas some want to bring about a fairer, more equitable system of production and distribution to improve people’s quality of lives (particularly pertinent in India with its unimaginable inequalities, which have spiralled since India adopted neoliberal policies), US capitalism regards ‘development’ as a geopolitical tool.

As economics professor Michael Hudson said during a 2014 interview (published on prosper.org under the title ‘Think Tank Times’):

American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.”

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could further accelerate the corporatisation of Indian agriculture. A trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, the RCEP would cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food.

RCEP is expected to create powerful rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. It could allow foreign corporations to buy up land, thereby driving up land prices, fuelling speculation and pushing small farmers out. If RCEP is adopted, it could intensify the great land grab that has been taking place in India. It could also lead to further corporate control over seeds.

Capitalism and environmental catastrophe joined at the hip

In India, an industrialised chemical-intensive model of agriculture is being facilitated. This model brings with it the numerous now well-documented externalised social, environmental and health costs. We need look no further than the current situation in South India and the drying up of the Cauvery river in places to see the impact that this model has contributed to: an ecological crisis fuelled by environmental devastation due to mining, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture based on big dams, water-intensive crops and Green Revolution ideology imported from the West.

But we have known for a long time now that India faces major environmental problems, many of which are rooted in agriculture. For example, in an open letter written to officials in 2006, the late campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or ‘groundwater tables’. Save argued that the living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs gifted free by nature.

Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

Save went on to note that while the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless wastage by a minority. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

According to Save, more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.

One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. This could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive multiple cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well is similarly hogging water resources and depleting aquifers. As with sugarcane, it is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinization.

Save argued that soil salinization is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on the land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The most serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like sugarcane or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required minimal or no watering.

Unfortunately, policy makers continue to look towards the likes of Monsanto-Bayer for ‘solutions’. Such companies merely seek to break farmers’ environmental learning ‘pathways’ based on centuries of indigenous knowledge, learning and practices with the aim of getting farmers hooked on chemical treadmills for corporate profit (see Glenn Stone and Andrew Flach’s paper on path-breaking and technology treadmills in Indian cotton agriculture).

Wrong-headed policies in agriculture have already resulted in drought, expensive dam-building projects, population displacement and degraded soils. The rivers are drying, farmers are dying and the cities are creaking as a result of the unbridled push towards urbanisation.

In terms of maintaining and creating jobs, managing water resources, regenerating soils and cultivating climate resilient crops, agroecology as a solution is there for all to see. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are now making a concerted effort to roll out and scale up zero budget agroecological agriculture.

Solutions to India’s agrarian crisis (and indeed the worlds) are available, not least the scaling up of agroecological approaches which could be the lynchpin of rural development. However, successive administrations have bowed to and continue to acquiesce to the grip of global capitalism and have demonstrated their allegiance to corporate power. The danger is that without changing the capitalist relations of production, agroecology would simply be co-opted by corporations and incorporated into their global production and distribution chains.

In the meantime, India faces huge problems in terms of securing access to water. As Bhaskar Save noted, the shift to Green Revolution thinking and practices has placed enormous strain on water resources. From glacial melt in the Himalayas that will contribute to the drying up of important rivers to the effects of temperature rises across the Indo Gangetic plain, which will adversely impact wheat productivity, India has more than its fair share of problems. But despite this, high-level policy makers are pushing for a certain model of ‘development’ that will only exacerbate the problems.

This model is being driven by some of the world’s largest corporate players: a model that by its very nature leads to environment catastrophe:

…our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.”Jason Hickel

While politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi might be facilitating this economic model and all it entails for agriculture, it is ultimately stamped with the logo ‘made in Washington’. Surrendering the nation’s food sovereignty and the incorporation of India into US financial and geopolitical structures is the current state of independence.

Final thoughts

Neoliberalism and the drive for urbanisation in India have been underpinned by unconstitutional land takeovers and the trampling of democratic rights. For supporters of cronyism and manipulated markets, which to all extents and purposes is what economic ‘neoliberalism’ across the world has entailed (see this, this and this), there have been untold opportunities for well-placed individuals to make an under-the-table fast buck from various infrastructure projects and privatisation sell offs.

According to the Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development, the doubling of income inequality has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, struggles (violent and non-violent) are taking place in India. The Naxalites/Maoists are referred to by the dominant class as left-wing extremists who are exploiting the situation of the poor. But how easy it is to ignore the true nature of the poor’s exploitation and too often lump all protesters together and create an ‘enemy within’. How easy it is to ignore the state-corporate extremism across the world that results in the central state abdicating its redistributive responsibilities by submitting to the tenets of Wall Street-backed ‘structural adjustment’ pro-privatisation policies, free capital flows and largely unaccountable corporations.

Powerful (mining) corporations are shaping the ‘development’ agenda in India and have signed secretive Memorandums of Understanding with the government. The full backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land in order to hand it over to mineral-hungry industries to fuel a wholly unsustainable model of development. Around the world, this oil-dependent, urban-centric, high-energy model of endless consumption is stripping the environment bare and negatively impacting the climate and ecology.

In addition to displacing people to facilitate the needs of resource extraction industries, unconstitutional land grabs for Special Economic Zones, nuclear plants and other projects have additionally forced many others from the land.

Farmers (and others) represent a ‘problem’: a problem while on the land and a problem to be somehow dealt with once displaced. But food producers, the genuine wealth creators of a nation, only became a problem when western agribusiness was given the green light to take power away from farmers and uproot traditional agriculture in India and recast it in its own corporate-controlled image.

This is a country where the majority sanctifies certain animals, places, rivers and mountains. It’s also a country run by Wall Street sanctioned politicians who convince people to accept or be oblivious to the destruction of the same.

Many are working strenuously to challenge the selling of the heart and soul of India. Yet how easy will it be for them to be swept aside by officialdom which seeks to cast them as ‘subversive’. How easy it will be for the corrosive impacts of a rapacious capitalism to take hold and for hugely powerful corporations to colonise almost every area of social, cultural and economic life and encourage greed, selfishness, apathy, irretrievable materialism and acquisitive individualism.

The corporations behind it all achieve hegemony by altering mindsets via advertising, clever PR or by sponsoring (hijacking) major events, by funding research in public institutes and thus slanting findings and the knowledge paradigm in their favour or by securing key positions in international trade negotiations in an attempt to structurally readjust retail, food production and agriculture. They do it by many methods and means.

Before you realise it, culture, politics and the economy have become colonised by powerful private interests and the world is cast in their image. The prevailing economic system soon becomes cloaked with an aura of matter of factuality, an air of naturalness, which is never to be viewed for the controlling hegemonic culture or power play that it really is.

Seeds, mountains, water, forests and biodiversity are being sold off. The farmers and tribals are being sold out. And the more that gets sold off, the more who get sold out, the greater the amount of cash that changes hands and the easier it is for the misinformed to swallow the lie of Wall Street’s bogus notion of ‘growth’ – GDP.

If anyone perceives the type of ‘development’ being sold to the masses is actually possible in the first instance, they should note that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80% of world population but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians.

Consider that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and if you scale this to 46 years then humans have been here for just four hours. The Industrial Revolution began just one minute ago, and in that time, 50% of the Earth’s forests have been destroyed.

We are using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have also poisoned the rivers, destroyed natural habitats, driven species to extinction and altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere – among many other things.

Levels of consumption were unsustainable long before India and other countries began striving to emulate a bogus notion of ‘development’. The West continues to live way beyond its (environmental) limits.

This wasteful, high-energy model is tied to what ultimately constitutes the plundering of peoples and the planet by powerful transnational corporations. And, as we see all around us, from Libya and Syria to Afghanistan and Iraq, the outcome is endless conflicts over fewer and fewer resources.

The type of ‘progress and development’ and consumerism being sold makes beneficiaries of it blind to the misery and plight of the hundreds of millions who are deprived of their lands and livelihoods. In Congo, rich corporations profit from war and conflict. And in India, tens of thousands of militias (including in 2005, Salwa Judum) were put into tribal areas to forcibly displace 300,000 people and place 50,000 in camps. In the process, rapes and human rights abuses have been common.

If what is set out above tells us anything, it is that India and other regions of the world are suffering from internal haemorrhaging. They are being bled dry from both within and without:

There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations – the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.” Noam Chomsky

Underpinning the arrogance of such a mindset is what Vandana Shiva calls a view of the world which encourages humans to regard man as conqueror and owner of the EarthThis has led to the technological hubris of geo-engineering, genetic engineering and nuclear energy. Shiva argues that it has led to the ethical outrage of owning life forms through patents, water through privatization, the air through carbon trading. It is leading to appropriation of the biodiversity that serves the poor.

And therein lies the true enemy of genuine development: a system that facilitates such plunder, which is presided over by well-funded and influential foreign foundations and powerful financial-corporate entities and their handmaidens in the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

If we look at the various western powers, to whom many of India’s top politicians look to for inspiration, their paths to economic prosperity occurred on the back of colonialism and imperialist intent. Do India’s politicians think this mindset has disappeared? The same mentality now lurks behind the neoliberal globalisation agenda hidden behind terms and policies like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’.

Is India willing to see Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational corporations deciding on what is to be eaten and how it is to be produced and processed. A corporate takeover spearheaded by companies whose character is clear for all to see:

The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture with agribusinesses like Monsanto, WalMart, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and ITC in its Board made efforts to turn the direction of agricultural research and policy in such a manner as to cater their demands for profit maximisation. Companies like Monsanto during the Vietnam War produced tonnes and tonnes of ‘Agent Orange’ unmindful of its consequences for Vietnamese people as it raked in super profits and that character remains.” Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Behind the World Bank/corporate-inspired rhetoric that is driving the overhaul of Indian agriculture is a brand of corporate imperialism which is turning out to be no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was in England for its peasantry. The East India company might have gone, but today the bidding of elite interests (private capital) is being carried out by compliant politicians, the World Bank, the WTO and lop-sided, egregious back-room trade deals.


26 Comments

  1. Gary Wilson says

    “Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.”
    This is easy to fix by simply increasing the ability of the soil to produce protein. Soil fertility is the ability of the soil to produce protein.
    In Volume 1 of “The Albrecht Papers”, in “BACKGROUND LESSON NO. 2”, in The chapter “It’s the Soil That Feeds Us” in an article titled “more fertility means move cover, stable soil structure and less erosion” originally published in 1960, Albrecht reports on an ongoing experiment started 62 years earlier in 1888.
    Two plots alongside each other at his college of agriculture were planted to corn every year. One plot was given six tons of barnyard manure annually while the other plot was not given any manure. All of the crop was removed annually. The only difference in the management of the plots was the application of the manure to one plot only.
    After being plowed prior to planting the corn, one rainfall reveals the differences in the two plots. After the plot not receiving the manure is plowed “…a single rain is enough to hammer it flat, to seal over the soil’s surface, to prevent the infiltration of rainwater, and to bring on erosion of that faction of the surface so highly dispersed into slush by the raindrops.”
    The same rain falling on the manured plot did not change the plowed condition of the plot, about four times as much water went into the soil as compared to the plot not receiving manure and the surface temperature of the soil was cooler in the summer by 10 degrees F than the plot not receiving manure.
    Albrecht points out that water does not provide its service to plants when it is falling from the sky as rain.

    • BigB says

      Biochar: it’s magic for soil structure and water retention – and it draws down carbon. It can be made into building products that can help (it’s not a technofix!) decarbonise the built environment. It is raw material (graphene) for batteries, can run appropriate technology fridges (to keep your locally brewed organic artisan beer cool!) It’s not a panacaea: but could wisely be part of a post-carbon future – based on carbon!

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says

        Let’s see. You have biochar. Then there are other soil carbon reserves eg Australian soils contained 4 to 6% carbon when the European infestation arrived, and now they average 1- 2%. There is a huge potential sink, and would restore soil vitality. Then there is reforestation, and the possibility of combining CO2 with olivine rocks and sequestering it. Perhaps growing algae on CO2 could also help, and Flannery proposes growing kelp then sinking it in ocean abysses. We could do it, but the Right REFUSE to countenance any of it. Here, the Federal regime is STILL dominated by hard Right omnicidists who deny climate change even as the country endures the worst drought in recorded history, and as the Great Barrier Reef dies in a decade or two. They also HATE renewable energy, and LOVE coal-burning.
        Now, one wonders, are they merely poisonously moronic and ignorant, or is there something deeper here? The Right HATE other people, which we see in their various hate doctrines, whether it be racism, sectarianism, various xenophobias, misogyny, inter-generational hatred, sexual orientation hatred, class hatred etc. ALL these are on display EVERY day in this country in the actions of Rightwing regimes, both for their own sakes and to garner the votes of the worst of society, and in the hate-mongering of their media allies, the Murdoch cancer in particular.
        I strongly suspect that among the deadly hatreds of the Right, the hatred of future generations must be included. Who would outrage the dead souls of the Right more than those who will be alive when those creatures have themselves returned to the carbon cycle? What better vengeance to have on future generations for the crime of enjoying life when the omnicidists are dead, than to destroy their world by insisting on ever more carbon emissions, and less renewable energy, electric cars and other vehicles, and sustainable agriculture practises, all of which the Right here bitterly oppose.

        • Big B says

          MM: I agree, except that what you frame as active hatred, I would frame as passive short-termism. It is not a hatred of future individuals; but a narcissistic-sociopathic love for the present individual (who, paradoxically is not Present at all). The future Other simply do not exist in such psychopathy, beyond a very limited scion kinship …the Other cannot be hated as they are simply objectified ‘externalities’ to care and concern.

          It follows that such a view is systematic and structural: an extremised evolution of the DNA of unfettered exponential growth. These individuals are themselves, or are servile to, the most fundamentalised extremists of neoliberalism. These individuals are products of radical inequality and extremised greed. They are products of the world system, and dialecticially, they produce – or at the very least, exert undue influence upon – a more and more extremised perversion of ‘free’ capital accumulation …an M-M’ valorisation: where capital self-maximises capital. This, of course, is not evolutionary, but involutionary, and pre-destined to implode.

          Notice I do not refer to the dead paradigm of Left and Right? Politics is a binary of dominance built around an ‘extreme centre’. The standard deviation from the mean of self-maximised capital accumulation is limited to the ‘Right’ and its mirror in the ‘Left’. The Left and Right are mirror-capitalist: or now mirror-neoliberalist/globalist …the Left being what I term ‘faux-deglobalist’ (a mirror terminology or semantic differance). The basics tenets of a counterfeit faith in personal prosperity; the organisation around self-maximised capital accumulation (euphemistically called ‘pro-business’); the organisation around means, mode, and relations of production; the organisation around hierarchical dominance structures: which, in turn, is the architecture of the organisation around Rule …these core tenets are central to the dead Left/Right paradigm. There is no true political universe of discourse because of the dominance of the extreme centre – the ‘Overton Window’ is a narrow arrow-slit of anti-humanitarian exceptionalism.

          And the fuel for all this is carbon (not biochar!): of the biotic dinosaur gloop variety. The world intellectual and Ruling Superclass are paleoconservative carbon relics: all of them. [Let’s bracket off our discussion of China: I’m not anti any particular country – I’m anti the dominant hegemonic globalised system]. Embracing appropriate technology and sustainable/renewable solutions necessitates the end of the current neoliberal globalised self-organised system …and with it the means, mode and relations of dominance and Rule. That is the nature of the aporia or impasse.

          The rapid emergence – or punctuated equilibrial evolution – of the suppressed counter culture of mutual aid is all that can save us. You take a more pessimistic view than I: all I can say is it could happen …not that it necessarily will. But I’m keeping my mind open: there is no predetermined outcome. We are all shaping the future collectively: only most of humanity (including its future externalised generations) have a marginalised say …and stupidly, we gave the biggest say to those with the most to lose from true transformative change. Can we learn from that mistake and learn not repeat it? I do not know: but I would like to think so: only, we all have to develop the critical consciousness for ourselves …the globalised Ruling Superclass will be entrenched to the bitter end.

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says

            Have you read McMurtry’s ‘The Cancer Stage of Capitalism’? I found the language difficult to follow and jargonistic, but lately he seems to write more clearly for the non-initiated. I found it very interesting, however, although I had long seen capitalism as intrinsically neoplastic, and just like an undetected tumour, it had grown silently, unnoticed, until its metabolic demands created the first symptoms of its progress, such as the collapse of global fisheries, massive deforestation, the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, etc.
            Of course cancer emerges after a long period of pre-cancerous changes in healthy tissue, particularly chronic inflammation. In the global capitalist economic system, that inflammation can be seen as the decades of destruction since the Industrial Revolution, accelerating so rapidly since WW2 and in the last forty, and twenty years, in particular. Or we could go back further to visualise the growth of capitalism after the looting of the Western Hemisphere and the injection of vast amounts of capital in the form of silver and gold, or even see the roots in the agricultural revolution, and the ongoing destruction of the planet’s forests, akin to a steady devastation of the planetary immune system.
            I do agree with your assertion that the future is still uncertain, but believe that the balance of probability has moved to the side of self-destruction, steadily, over the last half-century or so. And destruction seems very highly likely, I would say, simply because the human metastases who dominate under Free Market capitalism are so highly malignant, their ‘undifferentiation’ being a characteristic they share with the most intractable neoplasms. They MUST be totally and permanently disempowered, or we are cactus. Appeals to reason, logic, decency, science, morality etc are all pointless with this type. ALL that matters to them is ego, greed, power and hatred of others. It is a type, basically psychopathic, who created capitalism and drove its increasing malignancy, because that system advantages their type, and they, by driving out all other types of human being from the structures of power, have driven a sort of unnatural selection for the worst types of human being.

  2. BigB says

    “[B]y more clearly naming the BRICS threat as an amplifier of imperialism, not an alternative bloc, a critique of the subimperial location will pave the way for a better understanding by the world’s anti-capitalist forces, so that no further confusion need be spread about the potentials for allying with BRICS elites” Professor Vivek Chibber.

    As quoted by Professor Patrick Bond in a recent essay “Toward a Broader Theory of Imperialism”. Bond was himself critiquing the earlier Smith-Harvey debate: in which David Harvey – somewhat bizarrely – claimed that the traditional South-North flows of capital “accumulation by dispossession” had recently reversed: with the BRICS nations exploiting the North?

    http://roape.net/2018/04/18/towards-a-broader-theory-of-imperialism/

    Bond’s critiquing suggested that both Smith and Harvey would benefit from including Rau Mauro Marini’s “sub-imperial” theory (in turn owing a huge debt to Rosa Luxemburg) to better understand the modern global corporatist super-exploitation and capital over-accumulation: and I fully agree. Lenin’s simple binary of “oppressor/oppressed” state imperialism is too simplistic to apply to modern miscible capital flows. Too narrow a focus – distinguishing militaristic v corporatist credit imperialism; or imperialist v anti-imperialist blocs – reveals only a partial and obscurantist view of the global neoliberal world system of super-exploitation, alienation, and dehumanisation. Moreover, it completely obscures the environmental insight into the BRICS (predominantly India and China) as super-extractivist natural resource exploiters (not just for themselves, but for manufacturing consumer commodities for the imperial core)

    The conception is simple: there are the traditional imperialist core (heartlands) of N America, W Europe, and Japan: the semi-periphery of the BRICS (specifically chosen by region: not as global emergent economies): and the remaining peripheral hinterland (that can be further sub-divided into BRICS+ etc.). This relationship borrows from Immanuel Wallerstein’s World System knowledge base.

    The major credit imperialist capital flows are still into Washington/NY, London, and Zurich (and then ‘offshore’): but rather than being purely ‘oppressed’: super-accumulated capital in the BRICS nations in turn (as Overseas Direct Investment) becomes part of the chain of super-exploitation of the hinterland. The semi-periphery is both, in effect, oppressed and oppressor (with further internal oppressor/oppressed dynamics of exploitative capital over-accumulation).

    So, in Colin’s excellent analysis: corporate imperialist FDI in BigAgro (a heavily subsidised export commodity from the corporatist imperial core: with access to ‘free’ capital) super-exploits Indian farmers: whilst the concentration of wealth in India’s corporatist sub-imperial elite – the likes of Lakshmi Mittal, the Gupta brothers, Anil Agarwal, Mukesh & Anil Ambani, the Jindals, etc – is in turn invested overseas (particularly in commodity rich Africa) as sub-imperial extractive wealth – with no net benefit, in re-investment terms, in local peripheral productive economies and welfare (excepting, perhaps, to their own compradore elite; who immediately ‘offshore’ their contraband to Mauritius). Thus, the chain of corporatist imperialist capital exploitation is amplified by the sub-imperialist exploitation.

    In conjunction with Colin’s excellent analysis: talk of nation-states – as well as North-South, East-West divides – in itself becomes confusional to the modern global dynamics of capital accumulation. Neoliberalism creates fantastically unequal oligarchies and oligopolies of power (such as the Indian oligarchy part-named above) There is a state-within-the-state (the Hindutva fascistic Modi regime) that supports a national and international ‘superstate’ or ‘supra-society’. This elite superstructure is vertically integrated into the nation-state’s foundational productive base infrastructure: in such a way that the superstructure shapes (distorts) the base, but no longer maintains it. The relationship is purely super-exploitational and one way. This is because the superstructure is not national: but fundamentally supra-national and trans-national (globalist) in nature. It is the nation-state that is being left to “wither away”: not the (super)state. As Colin admirably shows.

    ”[T]he world is moving toward a more multi-centred political set of alignments. Economically, right now what we are seeing happening is the convergence of ruling classes in the global south and the global north into a common committee of global capitalist interests. That, it seems to me, is a new phenomenon.” Vivek Chibber.

    The global supra-society or superstate is rising: at humanities and its environment’s expense. Humanity has no allies in the global elite. The dynamics I am highlighting would be bad enough in an expanding global market: but in the current overproduction and under-consumption market of contracting demands – the geopolitics of inequality are extremised by the turn (post-2008) toward financialisation, not production. Human scale solutions to the problem require the lucid diagnosis of the dynamics of modern capital accumulation. From a human perspective: there are no good capitalists – either globalist or faux-deglobalist (socialist). The 21st century urgently demands a new emergent eco-humanist politics of its own: to end the fundamentalised and extremised 400 year politics of domination and dehumanisation.

    • Big B says

      To highlight the secretive and illicit nature of modern capital flows: which nation was the biggest source (34%) of FDI in India between 2000 and 2017? Mauritius (due to something called “Treaty shopping”).

      https://www.taxjustice.net/2018/05/23/guest-blog-illicit-financial-flows-damaging-the-foundations-of-justice/

      While we are thinking of good and bad nations, governments, Empires, fictive anti-imperial blocs, and imperiums – vying for position within the corporatist imperialist/sub-imperialist neoliberal world order – there is a surfeit of super-accumulated capital, and ‘free’ money generated offshore (Eurodollars), that is sloshing about through secrecy jurisdictions, seeking the highest return, the least productivity (no volatility on guaranteed returns), ‘treaty shopping’ to pay little or no tax, benefiting no one other than the already super-rich, who are domiciled no one knows where?

      That is the nature of the super-exploitation within the global neoliberal world system.

  3. Mathias Alexander says

    “While corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans, they have failed to spur job creation; yet any proposed financial injections (or loan waivers) for agriculture (which would pale into insignificance compared to corporate subsidies/written off loans) are depicted as a drain on the economy.”
    Surely this is the oposite of what Adam Smith meant by a “free market”.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      Chomsky often quotes Smith’s ‘Vile Maxim’ of the ‘rulers of mankind’-‘Everything for me, and nothing for anybody else’. That, actually, is the true essence of Free Market Capitalism. Insatiable greed, allied to hatred of others, all in thrall to the cancer cult of infinite growth. That is why we are on the brink of self-destruction, a reality that appears to be FINALLY penetrating the thick skulls of the brain-dead plebs. NASTY times right ahead.

  4. Antonyl says

    Everybody who lived in India for more than a decade (= two national elections) knows that votes from the agricultural workers still count for >40% of the total. Losing that is political suicide, so no matter how fat MNC $$$ lures / dangles: it will not happen soon.

    India is not Europe of the US with an average 5% of voters depending on agricultural income.

    India is self sufficient in food and PM Modi pleads for “made in India”. The next general election in in 2019 so he has to be careful.

    India still has plenty of tribals and they are pretty much outside of even the India economy, although many want to get out of permanent survival mode. This doesn’t mean luxury, just running water, electricity and literacy for example.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      India under the Islamophobic fascist Modi, is drawing very close to the Zionist apartheid regime, hence Antonyl’s little homily, which simply ignores everything in the article. Did you even read it?

      • “India under the Islamophobic fascist Modi, is drawing very close to the Zionist apartheid regime” – that is just so true indeed… but to see that you don’t have to really do much other than looking at the state of affairs vis-a-vis the disputed territory of Jammu Kashmir – that tells you categorically how prevalent the Zionist mindset is in Delhi and also that this phenomenon is not something new… “the heart and soul of India” was sold to the Throne of England by the elite Hindu political leadership in Delhi before the Transfer of Power in British India occurred. The independent India lovingly embraced the role of the Geo-political heir of the British Indian Empire in the sub-continent and it has obediently done their bid thus far.

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says

            Another MOSSAD/CIA project to foment hatred and bloodshed, to the greater glory of Zion!

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          • An Indian funded website under development since 2016 with a few demos around the world? I’ll just rebut this particular statement:

            The FBM, a pro-freedom party headed by Hyrbyair Marri, said in a statement to the media that Pakistan tested its dirty nuke in Balochistan’s Chaghai hills on May 28, 1998, contaminating the Baloch land forever. The people of the region continue to suffer from different diseases as a result of the tests.

            Since the blast in 1998, international experts have not been allowed to visit the region to examine the effects of the radioactivity in the area.

            Misperceptions about Pakistan’s nuclear tests
            https://tribune.com.pk/story/1437443/misperceptions-pakistans-nuclear-tests/
            – It was an underground explosion, not above ground, so radiation release was contained under the 185 metre high granite mountain in the Ras Koh range.
            – The Chagai Hills area have many NGO’s operating there. None have reported unusual cancer clusters, verified radiation readings, or water samples to prove Baloch separatist claims
            – The BLA is classified as a terrorist organization. Supported by India’s RAW, it carries out attacks against Iran and Pakistan on both sides of the border, most recently (June 2018) in a suicide blast targeting an election polling station in Quetta where 31 people were killed.

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      • Antonyl says

        Quote from your link According to a Government study, India is growing more food but also wasting up to 67 million tonnes of it every year. That is more than the national output of countries such as Britain and, is possibly, enough food for Bihar, which is one of India’s larger States.
        This is true. Corruption, bad locations of storage, not enough electricity for cooling / drying stocks.
        Nothing to do with Western MNCs; at most with Western Greens who want to deprive India from generating cheap electricity day and night through nuclear of fossil.
        Ever heard of the monsoon? It causes massive cloudiness all summer and halts most wind when its gone. India is not the same as Germany or California folks.

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        • Mulga Mumblebrain says

          Oh, dear-our resident Zionist is an anthropogenic climate destabilisation denialist, OR, wants the ecological Holocaust to occur EVEN more rapidly than at present. Actually, leaving aside the bog-standard hard Right lies about environmentalists, who, for some obscure reason, see human survival as a good thing, India is investing massively in solar, which is far better for a country that suffers great deficiencies in electrical transmission infrastructure. India is pretty sunny, and your comment re. windiness is just dumb.

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  5. rilme says

    This article is exactly right. The USers have “hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers”. A few US corporations are sucking fat profits out of India, as Indians starve. Why can’t governments just say No to USUK?

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    • Francis Lee says

      ”Why can’t governments just say No to USUK”

      Because said ‘governments’ are simply vassals of the US, and do what they are told. The AZ empire is divided into 2 segments. Imperial HQ is in Washington and the rest of the empire which is occupied territory; a new type of ‘Vichy’ regime. There are a few countries which might be described as neutral but they live in the shadow of US-sponsored threats of regime change. The US will not stop until it controls the whole world. But this of course is easier said than done. Conflict of one sort or another is bound to continue and almost certainly intensify.

      All of this self-evident to anyone other than a fanatical, self-righteous, globalist. But unfortunately they are the ones in control, for now at least.

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      • Mulga Mumblebrain says

        Thanatopolis DC is just the puppet theatre. The real head-quarters are in Israel, whose impresarios control the low farce and high jinx in the various stooge states.

  6. Names that mean different than (disguise) their intended purpose are part of the false fragmentation of bodies, institutions and NGOs that pass of as ‘official’ and may also serve enough token function to pass off as what they purport to be. This may be working with ‘hopes’ for the eradication of evils, or fears of being overrun by evils or indeed shame of being exposed in evils.

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