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Agrarian Crisis in India
Agrarian Crisis has eventually made it to the sacred television space as a result of enticing promises of unsustainable waiving of loans to farmers by political parties to woo voters. Interesting, there was no famine/drought/floods. Is bumper crop fault of the farmer? Mismanagement of agrarian policies has resulted in farmers unable to earn even the input costs. Yesterday, Lok Sabha TV devoted one hour pondering over this during the evening. However, when few farmers tried to narrate the problems, even suggest innovations like biogas they were abrupt cut off by the arrogant anchor, who immediately changed the topic. Indeed a sad way to treating farmers – just because they are rustic in appearance for a urban anchor? Even ZEE TV’s famous anchor - Subhir Chaudhary had tried to look at agrarian distress in prime-time 'DNA' but was armed with superficial analysis. On the issue of organic vegetables, Subhir claimed that he only solution is that people start growing them in pots at their residence! While much acclaimed debates in leading TV channels in English Language have not bothered to take on organic food, phew!
The Prime Minister of India has repeatedly made calls to farmers in his speeches for adopting organic farming like Indian State of Sikkim. Yes, the main street needs food without poison to remain healthy. This month saw advertisement by Safal announcing sale of organic vegetables and fruits in its 100 outlets in the Delhi (NCR) region.
The natural perception was that now organic vegetables & fruits will be affordable to the mainstreet. However, our investigation (on 28/12/18) reveal this is not the case. The price of organic vegetables at Safal was more the double compared to that sold in leading retail supermarket (Big Bazaar).Price of organic carrot at Safal was Rs. 99 per Kg, compared to Rs. 40 per Kg at Big Bazaar. The same day, we conducted a random survey of 50 vegetable buyers; all felt that they cannot afford organic vegetables sold in Safal. Today, we found that prices of organic vegetables in Safal have been reduced. Today, the price of organic tomato at Safal was Rs. 55 per Kg, down from 89 per Kg, sold two days ago. Price of organic carrot at Safal was Rs. 39 per Kg, compared to Rs. 99 per Kg, sold two days ago. Still the price of organic cauliflower sold by Safal is higher than that sold by Big Bazaar. Why should Safal (Fruit and Vegetable Unit was set up in the year 1988 by National Dairy Development Board, an institute of national importance, a body corporate created by Government of India, with an objective to provide a direct link between fruit and vegetable growers and consumers), sell organic vegetables higher than a private entity? Is Safal buying organics at a higher price from the farmers? View archival SARCAJC’s newspaper watch for past experience. There is no public disclosure from Safal. Safal had claimed it is procuring organics from farmers located in various States, however, none of the organic vegetables and fruits mention the name of the State. Is Safal eating the meat as middleman? In our earlier newspaper watch, we had exposed high prices at Safal (View SARCAJC's Archival newspaper watch-below). Further, environmentally friendly packing of onions, potatoes in jute bags, rest of the vegetables & fruits sold in Safal are vulnerable to tampering and promote plastic packing.
The three As- Awareness, affordability, availability for organic food need to be tackled urgently. Today, we conducted a random survey of 100 people who did not belong to the elite class; 98% were not aware of characteristics of organic food. 100% echoed they cannot afford such high priced organic food. The mainstreet is consuming pesticide, insecticide laced food. Is this good for their health? Why should the State give Rs 5 lakh health care support per family (Ayushman Bharat- covering 100 million poor and vulnerable families for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation) only when they fall ill? Our take- Give this amount to each family below upper middle class to buy organic food from State identified outlet selling organic food. However this sales outlet must display the price of organic food paid to the farmers, distribution cost- mandatorily and must be regularly monitored by the media to curb greed. Due to this incentive, farmers will also be encouraged to move towards organic farming, opening window for a better life. This way both farmers as well consumers will benefit- Win-Win. Pilot project from Gurgaon for a start. Anyone listening? (30 December 2018)
Archival Newspaper Watch by SARCAJC
1 February 2008
With 77 per cent of India’s population living on meager income of Rs. 20 per day, the euphoria over benefits of rate of growth is not shared by the majority Indians. Nevertheless, the Finance Minister exudes optimism on growth, highest in last 18 years (Hindu).
According to the statistics released by National Sample Survey Organisation, the average monthly per capital consumption vis-à-vis rural counterpart was 1.873 times in 2005-06. If decimals mean anything significant in comparison across time period, the corresponding figure in 2004-05 was 1.907.
The state of rural folks is no longer a secret. What is pertinent here is- how much of this expenditure was financed by loans from money lenders and banks & what became of them? Newspaper reports don’t throw any light on this. Take a look at extracts from some newspapers on this Survey .
…Food expenditure in monthly per capita expenditure for rural & urban population declined to 53% and 40% in 2005-06 from 54% and 42% respectively a year ago. Data shows an average rural citizen spends more on cereals and milk & milk products (31%) compared to urban citizen (20%). People in urban area spend more on value added products like beverages, refreshments and processed foods...(Consumption spend on rise, finds NSSO. Economic Times. Pg 11)
The total food expenditure in rural India increased marginally in 2005-06 to 53.3 per cent of the total expenditure, up from 53.2 per cent in 2004-05, whereas it declined for an urban Indian to 40 pre cent, as against 40.5 pre cent the year before…(Urban-Rural divide widens. Business Standard. Pg 2).
Health consciousness is catching up with the rural households….an average rural family spends 53 paise of every rupee on buying healthy food such as milk & milk products, eggs, meat, fish and vegetables while its urban counterpart spent 60 paise of every rupee spent on non food items…(Health is wealth for rural folks as consumerism lures urban India. Financial Express. Pg 4)
19 percent of India’s rural population is forced to live on Rs. 12 everyday. The rural household is spending only Rs. 365 per month per person.….(19 per cent rural folks survive on Rs. 12. Hindustan. Pg 11)
Though claims are bring made regarding the increase of income of the people in the country, there are still crores of people who are finding it difficult to eat roti, two times a day. …(crores forced to live on Rs.19. Amar Ujala. Pg 2).
Rural India is matching the promise it has shown with the elusive market showing consumption patterns similar to urban areas…(Rural India matches urban spending pattern: Survey. Times of India. Pg. 14)
Punjab ranked number two in the country for the average monthly per capita expenditure among urban & rural households, behind Kerala, considerably higher than the national average…(Punjab second, Haryana third in rural households. Tribune. Pg 2)
An Individual in rural India on an average spends less than Rs. 21 a day for survival of which more than half is consumed for food requirements…(Rural Indian spends less than Rs. 21 a day. Hindustan Times. Pg 26).
Point to ponder- Take a clue from leading Financial Newspapers- Has Food expenditure increased for decreased or remained more or less the same? Further, what is the meaning of ‘Health consciousness is catching up with the rural households..’? Can a poor rural folk afford to buy value added products like beverages, refreshments and processed foods like his urban counterpart? Wonder how many junk food chain are flourishing in the farmer suicide prone Vidharba region? Suicide watch- Hindustan Times reports that 11 more farmers have committed suicide in last 48 hours in Vidarbha. Is this just another addition to the funeral expenditure?
6 August 2009
Concern of Day
The World Bank has stated that robust economic growth and food security will not remove the tag of being ‘one of the most malnourished’. “Whilst Indian celebrates its booming economy and GDP growth, the country remains one of the most malnourished in the world today”. Stating that the level of malnutrition in India is nearly double that reported in Sub Saharan Africa, the Bank said that it is unlikely that the United Nation’s MDG (millennium development goal) targets of halving the incidence of underweight by 2015 will be met. (Financial Express). It is no secret that with ever rising food prices, malnutrition will go up. Hindustan has carried a table with heading ‘Price rise has killed”. It gives details of the price hike of toor dal, sugar, potato, onions in Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkota. Must to view. Take a clue- it’s hard to find a logic for 98% increase in price in Chennai during Oct 08 to July 09.The newspaper reports that the kitchen expenditure has gone up by 20-25 percent in Delhi. According to Prof Arpita Mukherjee, who is being quoted by Financial Express - “All our studies show that of late some artificial shortage of vegetables have been created in the mandis (wholesale market) which is pushing up prices…”. What about the rotting imported pulse on Indian ports? It is not surprising that Indian Express (Chandigarh Edition) has carried photograph of Jaspal Bhatti, leading satirist, giving away vegetables and pulses to his sisters as gift for rakhi. The cartoon by Jug Suraiya & Neelabh in Times of India reveals the coping strategy of price rise of dal- fake currency, fake pulses. “What do I care? “Point to ponder- what about the honest main street and effect on the health of Indian economy? More & more malnourished?
29 September 2009
High inflation is pinching pockets of Main Street but inflation is off from front page of most leading newspapers. However, Gaurav Chaudhary informs on front page of Hindustan, Hindi daily- ‘’Extent of inflation: rupees goes in bag and vegetable comes in pocket”. According to Gaurav- “Despite claim of the government that inflation out from zero, there is no evidence of inflation getting less…” He also gives statistics - “price of vegetables goes up by 85%, sugar 30% expensive, potato goes berserk…” He quotes two people (read experts), who blame poor monsoon for high prices of vegetables (including potato) etc. During the month of August 170.7 million quintal tonnes of potato reached wholesale market, 20% less than last year. But who is benefiting from this shortage? Chandrapal Singh Sengar reports in the same newspaper that farmers are not benefiting from hiked price; instead it is the cold storage owners. These people brought potatoes from farmers at low price of Rs. 1.50-4.00 per Kg, which is now selling at Rs. 15-25 per Kg in the market. Now, even the farmer is forced to buy potato at such a high price for seed. Speculators, hoarders are getting rich at whose cost? The cartoon in DNA says it all. Here, two poor men are shown in rural drought area, one telling another- “Of course, I’m worried. Food prices are out of reach and Rahulji can appear anytime unannounced for dinner”.
20 November 2009
The advertisement issued in ‘public interest’ by Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee. Delhi in Times of India shows wholesale rates of few fruits and vegetables in Azadpur Mandi on 19/11/09. But main street buys from retail which has no relation with wholesale prices displayed here. Yes, food inflation rose to 14.55 percent in the first week of this month due to higher prices of potatoes, onions and pulses. According to Hindustan Times correspondent (name not mentioned)- “…But the poor continue to pay the inflation tax”. Yes, why not, the prices of vegetables have increased by nearly 55 percent since March this year. The political bureau of Economic Times points that rising food prices tar into government claims. “sharp divergence between government policies and crucial concerns of the common man, who spends about 45% of his income on food compared to only 15% spent by Americans..”. The cartoon in Aaj Samaj reflects it all. The vegetable seller has placed a board- “finance available”. Looking at this development, one man (carrying a shopping bag) tells another- “He is asking how much down payment can you make?” Naturally, these men are not happy! But who is happy? According to Forbes- “happier days are here again for India’s super rich, thanks to a rebounding stock market…”. Most newspapers inform that according to the latest Forbes India Rich List, the number of billionaires have doubled in 2009! The combined net worth of 100 richest Indians doubles to $276 billion, which is approximately a quarter of the country’s GDP. Asian Age correspondent (name not mentioned) inform that billionaires growth faster than economy, Point to ponder- is rising income inequalities & low purchasing power faced by the main street no concern to the leading official economists?
17 February 2010
Competition in Retail
Early this month, addressing the Chief Ministers' conference on food prices the Prime Minister had made a strong case for opening of retail trade for greater competition pointing out that there was a huge difference between the wholesale and retail prices. Today, team of SARCAJC went vegetable shopping at one of leading retail supermarket & Safal (Fruit and Vegetable Unit was set up in the year 1988 by National Dairy Development Board, an institute of national importance, a body corporate created by Government of India, with an objective to provide a direct link between fruit and vegetable growers and consumers.. Presently it is an unit of Mother Dairy Foods Processing Ltd, a wholly owned company of Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Ltd. In April 2000, Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Ltd was created as a subsidiary of NDDB. The processed products of the unit are marketed with the brand name 'SAFAL'..- View its website). Result is extremely surprising- the price of vegetables at the leading retail supermarket was much lower than at Safal! Not to forget, quality was also better. Point to ponder- more competition via private retail players (read FDI in retail) will curb food price rise or this reduced price by leading retail supermarket is just an image building exercise?
23 February 2010
Neha Lalchandani reports on the front page of Times of India-“Retail loot: Mandi prices a fraction of what you pay”. She compares vegetable prices in wholesale market vis-à-vis retail and the result - “its profiteering of the worst king and you are at the receiving end..”. Response of the government- “…it is very difficult to since the retailers number in thousands. I have asked the weight and measures department to get active and cracking on the whip, but simultaneously we have to educated the consumer…”. Hang on; why not tackle the high prices of vegetables by Safal outlets? Our Newspaper watch had pointed on 17th of this month that the price of vegetables at the leading retail supermarket was much lower than at Safal! Amitav Ranjan reports on front page of Indian Express that Minister for Agriculture wrote to the Prime Minister on 15th of this month. Was it white paper on how to control price rise of food commodities? Nope! It’s Bt all the way! Guess, what, he has strongly argued that the success (of Bt Cotton) "needs to be replicated in food, fruit and vegetable crops to ensure long lasting food security." He added that while India was still taking "hesitant steps," the world is moving ahead. "The global area under these crops has increased by more than 60-fold with 25 countries planting 125 million hectares of GM crops in 2008. Nineteen crops have so far been approved for planting in various countries out of which four namely corn, soybean, cotton and canola are extensively grown,". Point to ponder- safety aspect that has direct affect on mainstreet (read- one billion humans)? More-biodiversity and hence the eco-system? Sustainable Development, a lost word? The Cartoon on the front page of Financial Chronicle shows a poor common man holding ‘Food Security Act”. A poor old woman is holding paper telling GDP . He asks her- “How did they hear our cries of hunger amid the roar of tiger?” Take a clue from the large sized cartoon on the editorial page in Hindustan Times! And not to forget cartoon in Asian Age which shows heavy security checks on the poor common man who wants to attend budget session in the Indian parliament. Result, security personnel conclude- “Quite explosive - Can’t let him in!”. While cartoon in Hindu shows Finance minister finalizing the budget on his laptop, and place of the poor common man!
24 February 2010
Sense & Sensitivity
The editorial of Economic Times shouts- “Hypocrisy on food prices”. To take a clue, it claims- “:..cooperatives like Amul and Safal are efficient supply chain managers for niche segments. They must be replicated across the board for all farm produce or private organized retail must be allowed to function freely…”. However the newspaper has missed the glaring fact that SARCAJC had brought into light on 17th of this month- price of vegetables at the leading retail supermarket was much lower than at much acclaimed Safal!
Secondly, this editorial goes on to point- “Consumption patterns are changing, with the poor consuming more, thanks to employment guarantee scheme, and everyone is shifting towards superior foods- milk, eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables…”. Hang on, is everyone in India eating eggs & meat? Is vegetable and milk superior food for vegetarians? Does statistical figures for expenditure on employment guarantee scheme imply that money is actually reaching the poor and consequently their malnutrition has disappeared from the arena? It appears that this editorial lacks the depth of the ground level. Take a clue from Priya Ranjan Sahu, who informs on the front page of Hindustan Times- “Chronic hunger kills 50 in Orissa district”. However, local administration, minister claim that victims dies of other causes. More- “In the last two years, 50 people in the 30-40 age group died of chronic hunger and prolonged malnourishment….”. A photograph of extremely old thin Minchi, lying on a cot & her husband outside their home, accompanied text. The caption informs that the photograph was taken before Minchi died of starvation in Dec 2009. Her son and two grandchildren died a few months before her. Not surprisingly NREGA had failed to deliver, in addition to the loopholes in the Public Distribution System. SARCAJC has been raising the crucial issue of malnutrition. Take a look-
Despite averaging over 8.5% growth since 2000, India has achieved less than half of the United Nation Millennium Development goal target in hunger and is 94th on the Global Hunger Index of 118 countries….(Newspaper watch. 13/10/07)
The UNICEF report on State of Children Report 2008 was released in the capital on Tuesday with extremely worrying & disturbing facts about the state of Children in India.…Incidentally, the dismal statistics of infant mortality and malnutrition and all that worrying news did not make it to the front page of most newspapers which were faithfully carrying the state of the Indian stock market…(Newspaper Watch. 23/1/08)
….Mahim Pratap Singh reports that State government of Madhya Pradesh is clueless as children die of malnutrition. Malnutrition has caused death of over 450 children. According to National Family Health Survey-III, malnutrition in the state has increased from 54% to 60%.However in response to information sought under Right to information Act, the Women and Child Development Department stated that it did not maintain any such data. While on the other hand food rots at ports. Big deal? (Newspaper Watch. 1/8/09)
The World Bank has stated that robust economic growth and food security will not remove the tag of being ‘one of the most malnourished’. “Whilst Indian celebrates its booming economy and GDP growth, the country remains one of the most malnourished in the world today”. Stating that the level of malnutrition in India is nearly double that reported in Sub Saharan Africa, the Bank said that it is unlikely that the United Nation’s MDG (millennium development goal) targets of halving the incidence of underweight by 2015 will be met. (Financial Express).
It is no secret that with ever rising food prices, malnutrition will go up..what about the honest main street and effect on the health of Indian economy? More & more malnourished?
(SARCAJC Newspaper Watch 6/8/09)
Our take-…is it not better to launch ''mission eradication of malnutrition'' instead of ''mission moon''? (SARCAJC Newspaper Watch. 8/8/09)
WATCH ARCHIVAL VIDEOS
Farmer's view on price rise, corruption in transportation of vegetables & fruits...suggestions for improvement, 2011, IN SEVEN PART SERIES. watch