There is something in India's decision making that I can never understand. For over a year, intense discussions have followed the proposals under the upcoming National Food Security Act. The Plan A included provisions of 35 kg of subsidised foodgrains per family for the below the poverty line (BPL) category and allowing those above the poverty line (APL) an entitlement of 15 kg at a relatively higher prices.
Feeding the hungry by providing them legal entitlements comes at a time when policy makers remained glued to opening up for FDI in retail. Amidst the continuing debate whether FDI in retail is good for India or not, US President Barack Obama throws his weight pitching for a new wave of economic reforms. After the TIME magazine came out with a cover story calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 'underachiever' (which ostensibly was to provoke the PM to go in for FDI in retail), it was surprising to see President Obama telling India what is good for us.
But then, President Obama knows what is in America's interests. He stopped outsourcing (even if it hit Indian companies) of jobs because he wanted to protect US jobs. And now since he goes into elections with nothing to show, he is actually banking upon India to bail him out of the terrible economic crisis that he is faced with back home. Manmohan Singh has therefore deputed Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to go around and build up a political climate in favour of FDI in retail. No one is surprised when Anand Sharma says that the opposition to multi-brand retail is less intense now (See the lead story in Economic Times, July 16, 2012 http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-07-18/news/32730673_1_russian-economic-entities-russia-s-sistema-investments).
Any sensible economist, and for that matter any nationalist, would ensure that the hungry in India are first well fed. What may appear to be a welfare activity, and is supported by government subsidies, also makes terrible economic sense. Feeding the hungry millions, on a war footing, is a sure recipe to an inclusive growth. I had thus expected the Indian PM to pitch in for an early implementation (and not wait for the 2014 elections) of the National Food Security Act. A news report in Indian Express (Food Bill: Govt looking at flexible plan, may exclude 33 % population; link - http://www.indianexpress.com/news/food-bill-govt-looking-at-flexible-plan-may-exclude-33-population/976392/) tells us that an alternative proposal is now being drafted, which will lower the food entitlement from 35 kg to 25 kg per family, and also do away with the two categories -- BPL (priority) and APL (general).
I don't understand how can the Plan B (as it is called) envisage an additional expenditure of only Rs 7,000 crore over and above the Rs 1.11 lakh crore of legally binding food subsidy. It should be much lower considering that 33 per cent of the population stands excluded, and the legal entitlement has been reduced for bulk of the hungry population. Nevertheless, jugglery with figures is something that the government regularly indulges in to keep the nation misinformed for all times to come. We as a nation rarely question the figures that are doled out to us.
I thought the Prime Minister would know what is crucial for India. Feeding the nation, and that too after we failed for 65 years, should be the sole priority. However, he doesn't mind excluding the percentage of population to be fed, by 33 per cent but has focused all his energies to bail out President Obama instead. he knows that by allowing FDI in retail he is actually going to add on to hunger by displacing lakhs of people working in the local stores. Such a magnitude of displacement will only add on to growing hunger.
But then, we are aware that Manmohan Singh knows what is good for America.
Feeding the hungry is not the only area where Indian Prime Minister is least interested. He would have given a damn to food security if it were not for the UPA President Sonia Gandhi's insistence. Earlier too, if you recall, when MNREGA was launched, Manmohan Singh, and the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram, had strongly opposed the move. If it were not for Sonia Gandhi, the poor unemployed wouldn't have got any relief in the form of a guaranteed employment even if it is only for 100 days.
Manmohan Singh is not the only bureaucrat-turned-politician who feels, and works for the American interests. Besides the ambitious-looking bureaucrats (who crave to join MNCs after they exit government service), economists and management consultants are of course on the payrolls. But what about the Indian media? Why is the Indian media playing to the American tune? Well, I don't have to explain it to you. You know it much better. It is all about money, my dear. Who cares for the hungry?
Jul 19, 2012
Jul 13, 2012
Brazil is the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows. Gir cow now records over 62 litres/day in Brazil..
This majestic cow is from Brazil. Belonging to the Gir breed of Gujarat, this cow -- named She-ra -- clocked 62.033 litres of milk in a 3-day milk competition at the 40th Expaja in Brazil, beating her own record of 59.947 litres. While Indian cattle breeds are doing exceptionally fine abroad, the fascination of our own policy makers for exotic breeds seems to be never ending. Meanwhile, Brazil has emerged as the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows. Recently I wrote: "newspapers in Punjab reported that an American company -- World Wide Sires Ltd -- is planning to provide high quality semen to dairy farmers. Some days back, I had heard that the Kerala minister for Animal Husbandry was thinking of importing some improved cattle breeds from Denmark for cross breeding with local cows." [See my blog post: Holy Cows -- acclaimed abroad, despised at home. http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2010/09/holy-cows-acclaimed-abroad-despised-at.html].
A few weeks back, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal announced the setting up of an advanced institute for dairy farming in Mohali. This will be a joint collaboration with an Israeli firm -- Dairy Farming Solutions -- and will impart latest technology to farmers to improve the milch cattle [Punjab to have advanced institute of dairy farming, http://post.jagran.com/punjab-to-have-advanced-institute-of-dairy-farming-1341507876].
Not only in Brazil, Indian cattle breeds have also been improved upon in the United States and Australia. In the US, the breed is called Brahman. Recently, after a study visit to Malaysia, Sagari Ramdas, the co-director of Anthra in Andhra Pradesh, wrote in the Down to Earth magazine: "On our visit to Malaysia, we were intrigued when we came across a cattle breed, which the farmers kept referring to as “the Brahman”. This was a complete mystery to us. Which Brahman came to Malaysia and named these cattle the Brahman?"
"On our visit to the government’s Department of Veterinary Services in the state of Selangor we saw photographs of the Grey Brahman, the Red Brahman and the Nellore—all part of a poster on cattle breeds of Malaysia. Not to mention that the Jamunapari goat also featured in the poster as a goat breed of the country. This intrigued us even further, but none of the veterinary officers could explain how the Nellore from Andhra Pradesh and the Jamunapari from Uttar Pradesh happened to figure in a poster on the breeds of Malaysia."
She came back and researched. "Brahman breed is a product of biopiracy of several Indian breeds, which occurred over 100 years ago, when India was a colony of the British Empire, when “pirates” of today’s “Empire”—and modern day “Brahman”, the US—spirited out a nucleus of approximately 266 bulls and 22 females of several Bos indicus (Indian cattle), imported them to the US between 1854 and 1926, and developed the breed.
According to the literature, the Brahman is the progeny of four Indian cattle breeds: the Kankrej and Gir from Gujarat, the Ongole (earlier known as the Nellore) from Andhra Pradesh, with the fourth breed being the “Gujarat”. But no such breed exists in the list of Indian cattle breeds.
The Brahman has become the most popular beef cattle breed in the southern parts of the US and in South America, Asia, and Australia because of its excellent adaptability to sub-tropical climates and its production abilities.
Brahman-type cattle were, in fact, imported to Australia from the US, and today the Australian Brahman is the mainstay of the northern beef industry of Australia. The Brahman in Malaysia has primarily been imported from Australia, which has a virtual monopoly in exporting the breed to several south-east Asian countries. So much so that Malaysia’s beef cattle industry is completely dependent on continued import of the Brahman from Australia [You can read the full article The loss of our breeds, Down to Earth, 2012-7-15. http://www.downtoearth.org.in/
This brings me back to the question I have been asking again and again. When will we begin to recognise our desi breeds of cows? Why is it that planners are averse to our own domestic breeds?
What is also little know is the fact that Indian cows and buffaloes produce a more nutritious milk than the exotic breeds like Jersey and Holstein-Friesian. A recent study by Karnal-based National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) showed Indian cows have a rich A2 allele gene which helps them produce healthier milk. The frequency of this A2 allele in Indian breeds is 100 per cent whereas in exotic cattle breeds it is less than 60 per cent. Imported breeds posses A1 allele, which is considered to be associated with diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases [Indian Cow, Buffalo breeds give healthier milk. http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=725938]. Why do we want the future generations to be sick with lifestyle diseases?
Jul 5, 2012
Once again the rain gods are playing truant. With 31 per cent shortfall in June, and with an expectation of only 70 per cent of the predicted 96 per cent rainfall for the July- August months, crucial for farming operations, kharif crops face a real threat.
In June alone, Ministry of Agriculture has calculated the shortfall in paddy transplanting to be around 26 per cent in the frontline agricultural states of Punjab and Haryana. Sowing of maize, bajra, jowar have been much low in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Although the Ministry claims that the sowing of pulses, oilseeds and sugarcane has been near normal, any further delay will have a serious repercussion on kharif production. Even in Uttar Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, the standing crop is coming under pressure with every passing day.
If the rains get delayed by another week or so, all estimates will go topsy-turvy. It will then be time to press the panic button.
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is trying his best to play down fears of an impending drought. Coming at a time when the annual growth has slipped to 6.5 per cent, any indication of an expected shortfall in agriculture production will send the markets soaring. While any loss in production following the dry spell will further hit the growth story, it will also push up food inflation thereby inviting a lot of drubbing for the government. “We are fully prepared to meet any rainfall deficiency situation, and all states have been directed to be ready with the farm ministry’s contingency plans,” he said.
What makes the monsoon forecast a matter of concern is the prediction that El Nino – warm ocean currents in the Pacific region that causes severe droughts in Australia, Southeast Asia and India – might appear in September. The US-based International Research Institute for Climate and Society as well as the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has predicted the possibility of El Nino striking in the latter half of the year. Our own meteorological department thinks the chances of El Nino appearing in September is around 36 per cent. If that happens, it will mean a drier September which would certainly result in production loss at the time of grain formation in standing crops.
How serious is the impact of El Nino factor can be gauged from the fact that the previous five droughts in India were all because El Nino had appeared in a significant form. Globally, if you examine the meteorological data of past 110 years, of the 21 major droughts 15 were caused by El Nino. The fury and intensity of El Nino cannot be simply glossed over.
It isn’t easy to make correct long-term predictions about the behaviour of monsoon. Not only the Indian Met department, even internationally the predictions have not been sharp and correct. This year the predictions by some of the best known institutes abroad for monsoon range from complete failure to normal. Over the years, the IMD has moved away from the statistical method to a more improved dynamic model but to expect that the predictions will hit the bull eye is still far away. In fact, the Met Dept has not been able to predict drought in the past 130 years.
In 2009, the country faced one of the worst droughts in recent times. The Met Department had predicted 96 per cent rainfall in the long-term average. The actual rainfall was short by a whopping 23 per cent resulting in a loss in paddy production to the tune of 12 per cent. This year too, the Met Department has predicted monsoon to be in the range of 96 per cent, and there has already been a delay of about a fortnight in over 70 per cent of the geographical area.
Even if the deficient monsoon turns into a drought, the redeeming factor is that the country is saddled with a record 82.4 million tonnes of wheat and rice. There is no danger of an impending famine in case production slumps from an impending drought. With such comfortable food stocks, the government should be able to judiciously distribute it among needy states and at the same time make open-market releases so as to bring price rise in staple food under control. Also, there will be no need to look for food imports considering the sufficient stocks lying within the country. In any case, international wheat supplies too is expected to slump following a severe drought in the midlands region of US, comprising the wheat production belt.
This is why India must spurn the G-20 directive which makes it obligatory for member countries to export any surplus food. Although the G-20 objective is to ensure that the global food prices don’t harden in wake of short supplies, India cannot afford the luxury considering its huge population and the need to maintain enough foodstocks at all times for precariously balancing its food security needs. Domestic policies therefore have to take precedence over international obligations. Allowing the export of skimmed milk powder just a month before the monsoon begins too is not a worthwhile decision knowing well that milk production drops in summers. A prolonged dry spell is first going to hit dairy production. #