31/10/08

click to save..what?

india's population has nearly doubled since 1970. so has its foodgrain production. actually, india's food production could've quadrupled, considering the average yield per acre, across the world (including china and even countries such as vietnam and laos, sometimes) of any major cereal (rice, wheat corn) is more than twice the indian average. but yes, india does produce a little more than it requires and has been doing so for nearly four decades.

so why do you still see charities across the western world (and everywhere on the internet) asking you to save indian children from hunger etc.,? india doesn't require any foodgrain imports from the west (except to bridge any very temporary shortfall, just as any other food surplus nation in the world)- so how can any westerner save indian children from hunger? by donating money so that the child/his parents/charity looking after him can buy food. by giving the child/his parents etc purchasing power.

but what most western donors probably do not know is that their money would buy food produced in india and not in the west. for all they know, they're sending food to india.

now, there's another way in which any kindhearted citizen of the west can save indian children from hunger: ask his/her government to stop subsidizing its agriculture. or at least stop spending ridiculous amounts on crops that people of those countries rarely consume- like for instance, the subsidies that america spends on rice production. it throws away more money on the subsidies than the actual output is worth, in dollar terms! if those subsidies are lowered, indian farmers would produce more and earn more from selling a part of their produce overseas. which in turn would mean more purchasing power for indian parents.

p.sainath and many like him do not like that idea because they inherently do not believe indian farmers are capable of the kind of productivity any western or chinese or vietnamese or laotian farmer is capable of. and that is exactly what many knowledgeable people in the west also think, even when they see that their real agricultural productivity is going from bad to worse. so, the indian farmer should continue to live on the indian government's charity, according to people like sainath (he would of course make it sound like he's talking about farmers' rights). and indian children should continue to receive food from kindhearted westerners. (that's what i call brahminized angst).

but is it possible for indian farmers to increase productivity and their incomes by selling their produce only in india?

look at how growth in indian agricultural output has managed to hover around, on an average, 2% a year, over the last forty years. why? because that's more than adequate to meet the annual growth in population? it's like indian farmers instinctively seem to know just exactly how much india needs. or, think of it in this way: if indian farmers had quadrupled their production in the last forty years- where would they have sold half their produce? definitely not in india. which means they've been producing just as much as india is willing to pay for. and india has been paying less and less over the years- from around 50% of gdp in 1970 to around 18% now, which of course, meant more and more distress in the countryside. and now, more and more suicides.

so, why do indian farmers need to significantly improve their productivity if they need to sell only in india? and given the record of the past forty years, how will they manage to increase their incomes by selling only in india? especially, when the indian government/s would continue to control all trade in agriculture commodities even within the country?

why this half-rant now? because i get massively annoyed by invitations to 'click to save an indian child from hunger' and so on, sometimes.

7 comments:

gaddeswarup said...

What about micro loans? For many poor, banks do not seem to be of much help. Even micro loans from some banks seem to have interest rates of around 30 perecent and strong arm methods in collecting loans and I am not sure how helpful this is. Perhaps funding small efforts like individual efforts or small co-operatives. The advantage here is that money is rotated; if you originally lend to ten, with in an year twenty will benefit.
I have been invoved in one such small scheme for an year and where some local volunteers do the work with loans ranging from 2500 to 8000 rupees and the interest comes to about 6 perecent an year which takes care of travel expenses etc. of the volunteers. So far all the loans have been returned. There is no guarantee that it will run smoothly for a long time. But if one can find reliable people in the area one knows, some small scale efforts may work for a while. I do not think that there are schemes which are guaranteed to work in all conditions. But if one sees the need somewhere ( in my case, it was in the area I grew up and I met and spoke to all the people involved) and can help a bit, I do not see much harm.

kuffir said...

swarup garu,

this post wasn't about whether charity is good or bad- i know of your efforts and i think they're commendable.

but when good people in the west treat the symptoms as the disease, they aren't helping to find the cure. subsidies in the west will continue to make indian agricultural commodities seem uncompetitive in the world markets and this in turn will continue to create distress and lower incomes in the indian countryside. charities can probably offer temporary relief to a few thousands, or at best, a few lakhs. but, let me put it bluntly, they are an unexpressed endorsement of the unjust agricultural policies of the west which take away billions from indian farmers every year.if people in the west don't question the policies of their governments which grievously hurt poor farmers in the developing world- what good is the band-aid of charity which they extend towards a few of those poor souls? isn't it like saying to a seriously injured person: here, take this drink of water and brace yourself for the next blow?

the mad momma said...

wow. I didnt know that. I love your writing and your views. dont stop...

gaddeswarup said...

Yes Kuffir, I know. I just saw an opening for what I see as a faint hope.

kuffir said...

mad momma,

love you too mad momma- i've been a reader, off and on, of your blog for quite long and i learn every time i'm there. wish i had your energy and strength. strange that you should talk of not stopping- every few weeks, i think of doing just that until someone like you comes along. thanks.:)

kuffir said...

swarup garu,

until things change dramatically on a macro scale, people like you are a great help for the marginalized. sad about the impact of the financial crisis on your own personal fortunes, i've lost a little too- hope things change for the better for you soon.

Richard Desouza said...

Indian population growth is mainly due to the unhampered breeding habits of the dispossed poor people in slums and villages. These people do not have the concept of private property and usually work as manual labourers. They are not the productive proletariat but highly lazy and unskilled. They are like a breed of people who live like animals. Their main pastime is sex. They eke out a meagre existence and can hardly manage to fill their stomachs. But they breed at a rapid pace. It is a common sight to see these people in slums and villages to have familes with ten or more children. After having so many children they wonder why they are dispossed and starving. Then they blame the government, they blame politicians and finally under the influence of marxists they blame a non existent nameless enemy called Brahminism. In the meanwhile they also breed more and have a few more children.
During this time the upper classes (not all upper caste are upper class) try to limit their familes to either single or double children. Facilitate the growth of these children by providing them with the conciousness of property aquisition and high class Bourgeouise standard of living. These children in turn are acclimatized to enjoying a higher share of resources. They grow up to being hoarders of wealth and live in luxury. THey are at the top of the food chain.
In the jungle the tigers and lions are few and the deer and other game are many. This is a natural law. The fittest survive. Marxism is passe. Its now evolutionary biology and darwinism. Monotheist faiths like Christianity, Islam and marxism are out. The religion is capitalism with free market paganism.

 
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