‘MNCs control what is sown and reaped’

Rural journalist Sainath blames corporates for rising cost of farming

Updated - June 02, 2016 10:22 am IST

Published - September 08, 2013 10:40 am IST - Mangalore:

B.V.kakilaya inspired orations by P.Sainath Rural Affairs reporter with The Hindu on Corporate hijack of Indian Agriculture in Mangalore on Saturday.  Photo: R. Eswarraj

B.V.kakilaya inspired orations by P.Sainath Rural Affairs reporter with The Hindu on Corporate hijack of Indian Agriculture in Mangalore on Saturday. Photo: R. Eswarraj

The farmer has been sidelined to the role of a labourer, with multinational corporations controlling most of what is sown and reaped, says P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

Delivering a talk on ‘Corporate hijack of Indian agriculture’ at the maiden B.V. Kakkilaya Inspired Orations here on Saturday, the senior journalist who has covered rural India for the past two decades, says: “Corporations control everything except direct ownership of land.

Seed, pesticide, marketing, markets are owned by a handful of companies, while input costs – gas, water – are being privatised.”

Because of this, he says, the cost of farming has increased, citing his own research in Vidharba, where the cost of sowing one non-irrigated acre of land for cotton is more than Rs. 15,000, up from Rs. 2,500 10 years ago. However, farmer incomes have not caught up, he says.

Mr. Sainath, who shot to prominence for his reportage on farmer suicides, says these suicides were linked to the shift to commercial crop – sugarcane, vanilla, coffee, and cotton in particular – which are controlled not by market forces but the corporations that monopolise the market.

“Neo-liberal policies since 1993 have transformed agriculture from food crop-based to cash crop, export-oriented agriculture… we are becoming dependent on the West for sources of nutrition,” he says.

Food corporations

The food corporations find themselves in the Fortune 500, harvesting hunger and thirst, and it wasn’t a coincidence that their profits rose when riots linked to prices of food were happening elsewhere in the world, he says.

At the event, the third edition of the Kannada translation of his book, Everybody loves a good drought , was released.

Rural reporting

Earlier during a talk on rural reporting at Mangalore University, Mr. Sainath rues the marginalisation of rural India in mainstream media.

“The media now takes events they think is compelling to the public and makes it important, like Sanjay Dutt’s dress in Jail, for example.

They have stopped taking what they think is important and make it compelling… like the stories of rural India… like the water and food crisis,” he says. Mr. Sainath says unlike two decade ago, a full-time labour and agriculture reporter has disappeared from the media.

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