Anandi Sharan writes: Devinder Sharma is a founder member of Kisan Ekta, that claims to represent ‘400 million farmers, fishermen and farm workers’. But does Sharma, a close associate of the controversial yoga teacher-turned businessman Baba Ramdev, understand the ground reality of the politics of food, agriculture and hunger? Whose interests does Kisan Ekta serve?
Devinder Sharma is a founder member of Kisan Ekta, – that claims to be a union of 65 farming organisations. He has no doubt that his Ekta represents ‘400 million farmers, fishermen and farm workers’, and he a member of the three person coordinating committee of the recently launched outfit.
But does Devinder Sharma, a close associate of the controversial yoga teacher-turned businessman Baba Ramdev, understand the ground reality of the politics of food, agriculture and hunger, as his blog claims? And whose interests does his new organisation, Kisan Ekta, serve?
Sharma’s aim is to “change the popular discourse, the mainline economic thinking that has only added to global problems.” The first demand of Kisan Ekta is implementation of Swaminathan Committee recommendation of 50 per cent profit over cost of production for farmers. But someone who wants to change mainline economic thinking and reduce global economic problems would be wrong to choose this as their first demand. This demand in fact perpetuates global problems. By segregating farmers, fishermen and farm workers from the rest of Indian and global society and making demands just for them, Sharma is already by definition accepting mainline economic thinking.
Mainline economic thinking has as its foundational principle the division of city and countryside. The person in the countryside grows the food, the person in the city prints money and uses money to buy food from the producer. Bankers in the city, who conjure the money out of thin air, want a profit, and once they have fossil fuels at their disposal they prefer to use a machine rather than pay anything more than the monetary equivalent of the energy content of the fossil fuels in labour cost. A litre of diesel has the energy content of 6.67 man-days. So if a man-day costs more than a sixth of a litre of diesel the city person will want to use a machine rather than a man to produce his food.
For the last century this profit motive drove the city people in Western countries in their economic project of using fossil fuels to make fertilisers, pesticides, build military power, provide the power for irrigation, for tilling, for the seeds, and so on, and the farmer was conquered and made to produce at rates that were lower than what he needed to feed himself. The difference in cost was made up through the Public Distribution System in India that subsidises the food of the food producer. In the OECD countries the agricultural industry is similarly subsidised, and there the energy intensity of agricultural production is even greater.
In the era of runaway climate change we must dismantle this division between city and countryside. The global problem is caused because those in the city print money not only to buy food, but also to extract fossil fuels, manufacture petroleum based fertilisers and chemical pesticides using commercial energy sources, manufacture weapons of mass destruction, and so on. Food producers in the countryside are feeding city dwellers in order that the city dwellers can continue to go about their business of destroying earth. And city dwellers are printing money to subsidise the food for food producers through the PDS so that this destruction can carry on. Nothing about the present mainline economic thinking is geared towards abolishing economics, whereas unless we abolish economics the global problem of climate change caused by city dwellers will not go away.
By asking for a minimum profit for existing landholders Sharma assumes that farming, fishing, let alone forestry, is an economic activity. But actually it is a natural human activity that we engage in for our own nutritional security and in a metabolism with the flora and fauna around us. It is a livelihood and the mainstay of cultural dignity. By asking for a minimum profit Sharma is also making the unspoken assumption that labour is an element in the cost of production, which means, again, that he is assuming that our livelihoods are a business and that city people should pay for it as a business, that farming people in other words want cash so that we can send our kids to school and so on. Sharma is compelled to make this assumption because he has accepted the very basic assumption of economics, which is that people in cities print the money and people in the countryside supply the food and once the kids of the food producers are educated with that cash they too will head to the city, where after all the money is. What then?
People in cities are the main polluters in the world and have destabilised the atmosphere. Temperatures have risen 1.63 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial levels because of the need and greed for profit of traders turned capitalists in cities, – who also hire some labourers but not very many.
Therefore the first demand of any organisation that wants to reduce global problems should be that city dwellers must evacuate the cities, and not only all Indians but also all human beings should get the global average per person amount of farmland, which happens to be 0.2 hectares. Then everyone who is not an indigenous person or a fisherman must turn their hand to cultivating their food and conserving trees and flora and fauna in their local natural ecosystem; and indigenous people and fishermen must protect, and have the absolute control over, forests and coastal areas, for their own benefit and for the benefit of the flora and fauna of the ecosystems of which they are a part.
If Sharma were to look at the politics of food, agriculture and hunger in this way he would never, I should sincerely hope, continue with the association with the Sangh Parivar and Swami Baba Ramdev and Patanjali Yogpeeth.
It is interesting that people can easily play double roles. Claiming to speak for the poor and being with Sangha Parivar and Baba Ramdev.
In an article in 2011 Sharma wrote about Swami Baba Ramdev “To me — and also for him — reviving agriculture and thereby empowering the masses is the key to true economic growth, progress and happiness. I could therefore see in him as an amplifier, someone who could carry the message loudly and clearly. He had the strength to demonstrate that another India is possible. He was keen to help provide viable alternatives.”
But quite apart from the fact that they are buying prime agricultural land to put up food processing factories, in ways that have been questioned by many, which is hardly in the best interest of these so-called masses, Swami Baba Ramdev and the Sangh Parivar are advocates of a beef ban. As S. Faizi, a renowned ecologist, wrote in his Facebook comment: ‘the beef ban is already breaking the back of farming communities in addition to the corporate take over of agriculture…they are deprived of their right to sell cattle and thus a significant income and having to forcefully spend money on keeping unproductive cattle …how cud the sangh parivar genuinely support the fishing communities…tomorrow they will be asking for ban on fish eating as well.’
This explains why the demands of Kisan Ekta were so moderate. The most crucial issue for the poor peasants is the access to farmland but the Ekta doesn’t raise the demand for the long overdue land tenurial reforms in the country. But now the ideology of the promoters is exposed. Surely no good may come of Kisan Ekta, to say the least.
It is more than obvious that vegetarianism is a false consciousness. I cannot understand why fascists are imposing vegetarianism on Indigenous People who number in the hundreds of millions in India, who use nothing but natural energy for animal rearing, hunting, fishing let alone cattle rearing, and thereafter yet more human physical energy for animal killing and eating. What is wrong with eating meat that is produced using only natural energy of the earth and humans?
The ignorance of the Sangh Parivar about the actual global and international reasons for India’s half billion starving people is very sad. The reason is as mentioned above. Money interests, driven by the urban economies of the USA and the rest of the Western countries, whose interests are capitalism, greed, production and sale of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, have turned the majority of Indians into slaves to the white city dwellers’ insatiable greed for land, food, power etc. Exports of food from India are one aspect of the broader willingness of the Sangh Parivar to cater for this western greed. The city dwellers in India are beneficiaries of this destructive system but this is a passing trend that cannot continue. It has left the Indian subcontinent with no natural energy sources in flora and fauna to feed the population of humans let alone flora and fauna, and half of humans are starving and flora and fauna is being eradicated; all to feed the global city dwellers’ insatiable appetites.
These are the stark global physical realities that the Sangh Parivar will never address. Instead of addressing these problems in international fora, instead of challenging the USA Military/Federal Reserve and the rest of the white settlor interests, the Sangh Parivar is killing and raping Muslims and Dalits in India who eat beef. Politicians ruling the country, who say that when the Sangh Parivar kills Muslims and Dalits, “it is nothing”, are fascists. The constitutional provision on cow slaughter has been misinterpreted; it is a directive principle to protect cattle population from unsustainable meat consumption so that it doesn’t harm agriculture, but now the agriculture sector, according to several field reports, has been harmed by the inability of the farmers to sell unproductive cows and therefore promoting meat consumption is the correct interpretation of this Constitutional provision.
If Devinder Sharma is serious about his interest in challenging mainline economic thinking the first thing he must do is abolish economics from his vocabulary and thought processes all-together. Only a demand for justice for Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, fishermen, let alone all human beings in the entire world will put an end to the global fascism of which the Hindutwa forces are a part.
Fascism has arrived as the dominant politics in all countries today precisely because capitalism caused global warming and those who are promoting economic growth don’t want to admit that economic thinking and capitalism are synonymous. Global capitalism and its arms industry is waging war on the innocent citizens of Muslim countries with economies dependent on fossil fuel production, and murdering them in millions. The fascists led by the USA, Israel and Australia and others in NATO are doing this because they refuse to accept the common but differentiated responsibilities of the legal obligations imposed on all governments and corporations by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to avoid the emission of greenhouse gases. A world where there are no excess man-made greenhouse gases is also a world that has no place for the division between city and countryside that is the basis of economics.
Let us hope that the unsuspecting organisations that have come under the Kisan Ekta, especially those from the progressive stream, would quickly realise the true nature of their ‘saviours’.
Anandi Sharan is a historian and blogger based in Bangalore. She was at one time running an NGO funded by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Clean Development Mechanism to pay for biogas plants and improved cookstoves in Kolar District and some Photovoltaic Lights in Tumkur District. Now she is a board member for a two year term of the Convention on Biodiversity Alliance. She also has a consultancy assignment to provide photovoltaic lighting systems for an NGO in Araria District. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org