Saturday, October 13, 2012

Indian farmers challenge the "green revolution"

Thousands of landless Indian farmers from nearly a dozen states set out several days ago on a 200-mile (320-kilometer) cross-country protest (called “Jan Satyagraha”) from the central Indian city of Gwalior to New Delhi. They halted the march when the government Minister of Rural Development signed an agreement with the Jan Satyagraha leader, P.V. Rajagopal. The document agreed to formulate a rural reform policy providing land rights to them & fast-tracking settlement of their land disputes. It might be too early to concede victory since their just demands conflict with the economic imperatives of the so-called “green revolution.”

One of the most titanic global changes is the massive dislocation of millions of people from rural life to urban slums caused by the ruthless neoliberal expropriation of small farm holders by agribusiness under the banner of the “green revolution” in agriculture. This sea change in agriculture is integral to neoliberalism & involves giant international food conglomerates like Monsanto, chemical companies like Dow, government agencies like USAID, the Rockefeller, Ford, & Gates Foundations, & IMF structural adjustment programs financed by the World Bank.

The narrative used to justify this usurpation of land tenure is to increase world food production to overcome mass starvation. In fact, it is a program intended to undercut radical political proposals for agrarian reform that would serve farmers & not the oligarchs. Mexico, India, Latin America, & now Africa are the laboratories where this devolution in agriculture is being carried out. The “green revolution” involves the production of cash crops for the global market, leaving countries unable to produce food for themselves & making them dependent on the global market; it involves herbicides, pesticides, chemical farming, & genetically modified crops which have caused land degradation, pollution, loss of biodiversity & depleted food quality; it requires genetically restricted technologies making farmers dependent on outside companies for new seeds. The “green revolution” does not leave redistribution of land ownership & tenancy up for grabs but privileges international agribusiness so that food systems are firmly in their control. The food shortage has not thereby been solved but exacerbated. In a world where the majority of people depend on farming for their livelihood, that has meant dispossession & migration.

Another result of this neoliberal process has been deforestation, hydroelectric projects, oil drilling, mining, massive water diversion schemes requiring the forced removal of people from traditional lands farmed by them for countless generations, the dispossession of millions of farmers & farm labor & their forced migration to urban poverty. There is no more cogent critic of this process in India than Vandana Shiva & no country which more glaringly exposes the neoliberal schemes & crimes against farmers than India, where about 17,000 small dispossessed farmers commit suicide every year. The indigenous peoples being forcibly removed from their lands to make room for agribusiness have not gone quietly but their resistance has often been militarily opposed in every country. It well may be too early to declare victory but the resolution of these Indian farmers is exactly what is required to reverse neoliberal predation & destruction of agriculture. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/AP)

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