The crisis deepens
Let's go back to our conventional means of production
CONCERN BY MUHAMMAD MAROOF SHAH
A popular saying, largely corroborated by history, states that a few decades back we imported only salt. So seen from this perspective of balance of trade our development history has been largely a story of decadence. We have not progressed on sum but thanks to faulty state policies from 1947 onwards, rampant consumerism and individualism and complicity with global capitalism and market ideology retrogressed. Some of the huge costs borne are:
Unemployment and occupation alienation of a huge number of farmers, displacement of agriculture as primary source of livelihood, increased cost of production on long term basis and after calculating costs of non-organic inputs, damage to soil, increased incidence of diseases etc., marginalization of a number of industries linked to traditional agriculture, dependence of farmers on market forces, failure to compete in most of products and increase in imports of most of agricultural products. All this was accompanied by abnormal and socially destabilizing growth of class of drals (middlemen) selling and buying agricultural land for nonagricultural purposes.
These include, among others, emergence of certain diseases related to changed life style, adulteration in foods in market, feed residues, urbanization, pollution from mechanization/industrialization of agriculture. The status of J & K as containing the largest number of medical shops is not unconnected with the story of agriculture development.
Attempting to maximize yield and profit has been like attempting to harvest all golden eggs from the hen that laid golden eggs by killing her. Thus we see significant loss of local gene pool, huge reduction in quality and quantity of water bodies or other sources of water due to overexploitation and chemicalization, huge disruption of soil ecology, forest ecology and almost all ecological spaces affecting agriculture and in turn affected by the latter, climatic change contributed to some degree by new agricultural practices most often impacting negatively on agriculture, pressure on cities due to migration from rural areas due to crisis in their agriculture related livelihood and large scale destruction of both rural and urban landscape.
Now key culprit has been Development Mantra propagated by and implicated in State Capitalism/Beurocratism and Market Fundamentalism. The State has been unwise in planning, undemocratic in framing and execution of policies, opportunistic in strengthening its power base against interests of farmers and largely capitalist in orientation making power a capital. It has failed to support cooperatives, enforce quality control in agriculture products, achieve efficiency as compared to private sector. We have been captive of a host of largely unquestioned assumptions that have formed the ideology at the back of current scenario. These include the notions that we need development which is understood as product of more commodities for market to increase income, that we should opt for any crop that fetches more money presently in the market as against planning for local need based production; that we uncritically import loaded ideological concepts like poverty, underdevelopment, equality, needs, production, science, technology for moving forward. Much hyped policy of land reforms has unfortunately though not perhaps calculatedly led to huge reduction in size of land holding which were then left to uneducated farmers and without any meaningful organization.
The great challenge before our planners is multipronged. It is, in one sentence Failure of Development Ideology worldwide and thus in our State. It is thus constituted by world capitalism that now encroaches on agriculture and seeks to remote control it in favour of the MNCs or Corporotes leading to enormous costs of Neoliberal policies adopted by India as highlighted by many critics, especially the left; State subsidizing and protection of agriculture in developed countries and consequent distorted globalization and constricted access to market for the third world; continued dependence on the developed world for seeds, new technologies and thus constituting neocolonialism; Consumerism that generates huge demand even at the cost of environment;; Worldwide adoption of dangerous and ethically questionable new technologies for increasing yield.
Now what is to be done? I suggest, return to traditional religious or in modern terms Gandhian-Tagorean-Schumacherian view of Economics. Understanding why and how we have been fooled to imitate the ideology of development that has ruined the third world, why we need to find nonmarket alternatives to distribute commodities, discourage private entrepreneur motivated by the principle of profit only, and radically reorganize mode of farming. We don’t need another Greek or White revolution but reverse the damages caused by first such revolutions. Why we must not buy or sell agricultural commodities in market but own production by becoming shareholders in farming enterprise. Such figures as butcher selling meat in market against cash, milkman selling milk or hawker selling vegetables should be replaced by cooperative stores owned by mohalla committees. These mechanisms shall create thousands if not lacs of jobs besides empowering farmer and ensuring quality and safe products. We need appropriate strict legislation inherited from Dogra rule for preserving agricultural land, pastures, sericulture, walnut industry, forests etc. We need to revisit the very concept of cash crop and adopting alternative resources for earning foreign exchange so that fruits etc. could be locally consumed and we reduce huge imports of fruits from other states, devise new mechanisms for pricing agricultural goods and securing rights of the farmer and shift from individualist to community farming with village committees/panchayats managing and planning it. This will solve problem of extension and inefficiency for good. On national level we have huge extension departments who have largely failed to do extension judged by current state of art or awareness in farmers. We need to attempt to make autonomous communities/villages that generate maximum number of inputs locally and supply it locally to local share-holders who are village denizens thus eliminating market role, tax houses on agricultural land to finance farmers, strengthen zakat banks or other interest free mechanisms to finance poor farmers and eliminating role of banks as far as possible (farmer’s debts countrywide are evidence that banks and market oriented State policies serve Capitalists instead of farmers by strengthening community financing instruments. Instead we need creating qurbani, milk and crop banks that deal with real wealth instead of money.
The question is will we change. My answer is we have to change or perish. Change is inevitable. Capitalism is in crisis. Ruins of development ideology are for all to see. Victims of market are not only those consumers suffering from food inflation and coming food crisis but producers also. We have tried one mode of organizing production and distribution and it has failed both to deliver the goods and to generate jobs. We have to try alternatives that don’t repeat rhetoric of increasing consumption, profits, raising standard of living and catching up the so-called developed world in the great suicidal march to development.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 20 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST
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