It is the poor farmers and small farmers who are destroyed by the globalisation of a negative economy, rues Vandana Shiva in one of the essays included in ‘The Other India: Realities of an emerging power’ (www.sagepublications.com). Negative economics push people out of production, she observes. “They create economic displacement and disposable people, people whose very right to survival is denied.”

Ms. Shiva explains that a negative economy is one that is based on pseudo productivity and pseudo surpluses; it is based on an illusion of growth, which hides the poverty and destitution it creates.

“The growth is of course real for the Monsantos – the seed, chemical, and biotechnology industry, which have been expanding markets even as farmers take their lives, sell their kidneys, or their land. The growth is real for the Cargills who buy cheap from farmers and sell processed food at high cost to consumers.”

She blames the jugglery of statistics for highlighting the rising yields (even as output goes down), or the growth in trade (while consumption by the poor decreases). An example cited in the book is of how when the poor in India were paying Rs 7,000 per tonne of wheat and Rs 11,300 per tonne of rice because of withdrawal of subsidies, exporters were getting food at subsidised rates of Rs 4,300 per tonne and Rs 5,650 per tonne, respectively.

Another essay in the book edited by Rajesh Chakrabarti is titled ‘Shaping India’s agricultural destiny,’ by M. S. Swaminathan. He recommends that just as IT (information technology) industries have specialised in handling outsourcing assignments efficiently, we must enable our farm graduates and farmers to take up outsourcing jobs in areas where we have a comparative advantage.

“Some examples are hybrid seed production, tissue culture propagated plants, organic farm products, biological software for sustainable agriculture like biopesticides, biofertilisers, pheromones, as well as herbal products, fruits, flowers and vegetables, vaccines and sero-diagnostics, and veterinary pharmaceuticals based on medicinal plants.”

Dr. Swaminathan also sees scope for India to become a global outsourcing hub in the areas of plant and animal genomics and ICT (information and communication technology) for rural poor, with farm, veterinary, fisheries, and home science graduates trained to become genome and digital entrepreneurs.

“Biohappiness, through the conversion of our bioresources into wealth meaningful to our rural families, should be the goal of our national policy for farmers,” he avers.

M. G. K. Menon’s essay on inclusive sustainable development identifies wasteful lifestyles and population growth as the two key driving forces for environmental degradation. He finds India at a highly imitative phase of its existence – when it is a follower and not a leader, and understandably so, since it has a lot of slack to make up.

“It is in such circumstances that leadership is most critical. Instead of imitating the lifestyle of the West, we need to learn from their S&T, their entrepreneurship and many other good qualities, but evolve our own ‘disruptive’ approaches to a new lifestyle.”

Important insights.

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