Farmers are not just a residue from our past; farmers, agriculture and village India are integral to the future of India and the world.
In February this year, Iceland jailed four of its rogue bankers for market manipulation and for defrauding ordinary people. No, the heavens did not fall. Thunder and lightning did not strike. The wrath of God did not descend upon the people of Iceland. On 13 February 2015, Reuters had reported:
Iceland’s Supreme Court has upheld convictions of market manipulation for four former executives of the failed Kaupthing bank in a landmark case that the country’s special prosecutor said showed it was possible to crack down on fraudulent bankers. Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson, Kaupthing’s former chief executive, former chairman Sigurdur Einarsson, former CEO of Kaupthing Luxembourg Magnus Gudmundsson, and Olafur Olafsson, the bank’s second largest shareholder at the time, were all sentenced on Thursday to between four and five and a half years. –
In less than four months since this happened, Mathew Yglesias reported in Vox Business and Finance two days ago that the economy had in the meanwhile done quite well:
Yesterday, Iceland’s prime minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, announced a plan that will essentially close the books on his country’s approach to handling the financial crisis — an approach that deviated greatly from the preferences of global financial elites and succeeded quite well. Instead of embracing the orthodoxy of bank bailouts, austerity, and low inflation, Iceland did just the opposite. And even though its economy was hammered by the banking crisis perhaps harder than any other in the world, its labor didn’t deteriorate all that much, and it had a great recovery.
For those who have seen the brilliant documentary film Inside Job, which exposed the unscrupulous game played by the bankers and the financial oligarchy in defrauding millions of ordinary people and eventually triggering of the financial crisis in the US and the world at large, the story of Iceland’s descent into the dystopic neoliberal world must still be fresh in their minds. Continue reading Iceland Jailed Bad Bankers While Modi Govt Bails Out Defaulting Sugar Mills
Guest Post by R. UMAMAHESHWARI
Until now suicides happened in an almost invisible ‘intimate’ ‘psychic’ space of the farmer and his (almost always it was a male) loneliness and pain and anguish; we only got to know of it after the act was committed. But for the first time, a farmer committed suicide in full public view, and his body was consumed by the world at that moment of his committing the act. In a leading Hindi newspaper, the following day, there was a photograph, on the front page. The images showed the gradual metamorphosis of a living man, with a profession (that of a farmer), with a history and a family turning into a mere dead body. The photographer had actually recorded this metamorphosis, image by image in sequence, second by second. Not a moment had been left out. (See Amar Ujala, dated 23rd April 2015) With one loop the man, named Gajendra, became yet another body; yet another dispensable body, to be consumed by the entire nation through photographs and TV images. It was the signifier of our times: an act in the theatre of the absurd that democracy has come to be. The farmer will increasingly be ‘seen’ when he dies. Continue reading The Body-politic and Death of the Farmer: R Umamaheshwari
Guest Post by VASANTHI SRINIVASAN
With depressing regularity, the newspapers have been reporting farmers’ suicides in many states. Recently, P Sainath wrote on BBC that around 296,438 farmers have committed suicide since 1995. He also mentions that cash crop cultivators of cotton, sugar cane, vanilla, pepper, groundnut etc account for the bulk of those suicides. According to a PIL heard by the Supreme Court in December 2014, around 3146 farmers in Maharashtra have committed suicide this year. Of course, farmer’s suicides only account for a fraction of all suicides reported in India. Besides, farmer’s suicides are a global phenomenon. The litany of woes is also familiar to readers, namely rising indebtedness, crop failures, falling prices, natural disasters etc.
And yet the meaning of these suicides, if any, is worth reflecting upon.
Politicians, who are used to massive debts, seem to think this is an ‘extreme step’ on the part of farmers. In 2003, the then Union Minister for Agriculture hinted that indebtedness alone may not be causing the ‘extreme step’, and that ‘family problems’ may also be a reason. In Karnataka, the Veeresh committee report had earlier identified depression, alcoholism and marital discord rather than the rising debt as the relevant causes. Never one to lag behind, the hi-tech Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu announced compensations and proposed to get psychiatrists to rural areas. One scholar has pointed to the increasing isolation of cultivators and high levels of anxiety about failure suffered by some farmers . These attempts at ‘personalizing’ the farmers’ problems may be necessary but not sufficient as long as other factors remain unexplored – increasing cultivation costs, crop failures, water shortages and falling product price. Citing the high figures of suicides (204) in Maharashtra for 2014 until April, followed by Telangana (69 until October), the Times of India (dated Nov 26, 2014), reported that the present Central government admitted indebtedness as a possible factor. There are also calls to increase monetary compensation to families affected by such suicides. Continue reading Farmers’ Suicides and Fatal Politics: Vasanthi Srinivasan
Guest post by SIMRAN KAUR
Shekhar Gupta is at it again: lacing an insidious agenda with just enough actual facts that even the targets of his vitriol become eager to swallow. Aspiring Indian Journos, this is how a good Sardar Joke—and while you are at it, jibe at the poor, the rural, the unemployed, the mourning—is done, while earning your paycheck yet again as an esteemed Editor-in-Chief, at best with head-in-clouds, at worst, a stake-in-oppression.
Shekhar G’s latest thesis: The rest of the country has moved on but Punjab has become a prisoner of its boisterous old stereotype. It has forgotten its entrepreneurial energy, its competitive spirit and slipped into a complacent, decadent trance of perpetual balle-balle.
His first argument for the thesis of Punjab’s decline: “the Punjabification”…of Punjab. He bemoans that signs and posts are in Punjabi, in Punjab.
The 50s and 60s saw Punjabi Hindus becoming the unique community to denounce their own mother-tongue. Upping the ante, G. ridicules Punjabis who use Gurmukhi, the script developed in the time of the Sikh Gurus. He finds tell-tale signs over Punjab (he notes his fieldwork of actually travelling on the Grand Trunk Road and flying over Punjab by helicopter recently) of the people being un-couth: signage on Punjabi establishments, in poor English.
You will take a minute figuring out what the “burgars” and “nudles” painted on so many fast-food shops mean, or why Lily is always spelt “Lilly”, whether it be the name of a restaurant in Phagwara or a beauty parlour in Bathinda…If you haven’t figured out already that this, indeed, is Singh’s English.
Brilliant two-birds strike, Shekhar G. Continue reading There’s a G on my Neck (again): Simran Kaur
The Times of India did not hear of any dead people because Monsanto paid for the taxi from the city to the village for its reporter. Or is that all that Monsanto paid for? P Sainath in The Hindu:
The 2008 full-page panegyric in the TOI on Monsanto’s Bt Cotton rose from the dead soon after the government failed to introduce the Biotech Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill in Parliament in August 2011. The failure to table the Bill — crucial to the future profits of the agri-biotech industry — sparked frenzied lobbying to have it brought in soon. The full-page, titled Reaping Gold through Bt Cotton on August 28 was followed by a flurry of advertisements from Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd., in the TOI (and some other papers), starting the very next day. These appeared on August 29, 30, 31, September 1 and 3. The Bill finally wasn’t introduced either in the monsoon or winter session — though listed for business in both — with Parliament bogged down in other issues. Somebody did reap gold, though, with newsprint if not with Bt Cotton. [Full story]
Why do people read the Times of India when we know it tells us lies that corporations pay it to tell us?
Where do the defenders of the free market disappear when stuff like this comes out?