The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- Does globalization cause poor rains, tsunamis and earthquakes'

'Today, economics is separated from, and opposed to both ecological processes and basic needs. While the destruction of nature has been justified on grounds of improving human welfare, for the majority of people poverty and dispossession has increased. While being non-sustainable it is also economically unjust. While being promoted as 'economic development', it is leading to underdevelopment, while projecting growth, it is causing life threatening destruction.' I thought, maybe I had missed something. I felt that I had been brainwashed at too early an age by economics, and decided to reeducate myself. I have been reading the works of someone for whom economics is a red rag.

I read: 'Sacred cows are the symbols and constructions of a culture that sees the entire cosmos in a cow, and hence protects the cow to protect ecological relations as well the cow as a living being, with its own intelligence, its own self-organising capacity.' That, I thought, made sense: maybe the cow would also organize her living room if given a chance.

Unfortunately, the cows I know are all kept in stalls by cruel men. So I travelled to Switzerland, where a cow is given an entire hillside to organize herself. I did not find much evidence of organization. Wherever she could, the cow had deposited cowshit there too; and she had turned certain areas where she met her friends for kitty-parties into mudbaths. Now I have some doubt that ecological relations will be protected if I protect a cow. 'The desperate urge to mix one's genes with other species is based on the idea of insular Cartesian bodies which can only relate to one another through transfer of genes across species. Kinship is thus reduced to genetic exchange, and is founded on genetic essentialism. However, humans relate intimately to other species through other means than genetic exchange ' they relate through compassion and caring, through a shared ecological context of survival. In fact, in India, we refer to the diversity of all life as vasudhaiva kutumbakam ' the earth family.' Now that, I thought, made sense, at least at the start. It is shocking how our children fall in love with individuals of different species (but opposite sex) when they go abroad. I had once gone to the northwest corner of Brazil, and there, thousands of miles away from civilization, I met a Madrasi who had married and settled down with a local. I am sure it is good for school kids when they get intimate in a bedroom and are then pursued by the police and taken to court amidst drama; such juvenile familiarity cannot be allowed. But then that bit about vasudhaiva kutumbakam ' the earth is my family ' stumped me.

I do not think we Indians would have resulted if the Aryans had not slept with everyone on the way from Budapest to Calcutta. If we have survived such miscegenation, maybe it is not such a bad idea.

'Across the country farmers are taking the desperate step of ending their life because of the new pressures building up on them as a result of globalisation and spread of capital intensive agriculture' The two most significant ways through which the risks of crop failures have been increased by globalisation are the introduction of ecological vulnerable hybrid seeds and the increased dependence on agri-chemical input such as pesticide, which are associated with the use of hybrids.' That really got me worried; we have had some very bad agricultural years in the last decade; if they were due to globalization, then we should ban the globe. But then I looked up meteorological data, and found that rains were exceptionally poor in those bad years. There was an outcry against 'Mexican' wheat when the seeds were first imported in the 1960s; if it had not been for that hybrid wheat, Punjab would not today be India's most prosperous state. And pesticides have been a big industry in India since the 1960s, and been produced by Indian firms, including the government itself. So until it is proved that globalization causes poor rains, tsunamis and earthquakes, I decided to suspend judgment.

'The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) takes decisions and ownership over water from the local and public domain to the privatised, global domain. Water trade is assessed at a $1 trillion economy by the World Bank. Water privatisation is carried out through water policies that make water the property of the State. This has happened in the case of India.' I thought, now I know why we get water for only two hours a day in Delhi, Bombay and other Indian cities; the rest of the water has been taken away by private corporations. But then I thought, we used to get water for two hours thirty years ago, when privatization had not even been thought of.

I looked up GATS, and found no mention of selling water rights to private companies or MNCs. Maybe the author was working late at night and got a bit confused, I thought.

'It is the poor farmers and small farmers who are destroyed by the globalisation of a negative economy. Thousands of Indian peasants have committed suicide because of increasing costs of seeds and chemicals. The poor consumers also suffer, starvation deaths have returned to India for the first time since independence. As 500 million Indians face starvation, 60 million tonnes are rotting in storage because poor people cannot afford to buy food because of a fourfold increase in prices because of removal of food subsidies. Food denied to people is now being exported with subsidies.

'While the poor in India were paying Rs 7,000 per tonne of wheat of Rs 11,300 tonnes of rice because of withdrawal of subsidies, exporters were getting food at a subsidized rates of Rs. 4,300/ton and Rs. 5,650 ton respectively.' Confusion is infectious; now I was confused. I thought peasants had killed themselves because their crops failed. They need not have bought seeds; they could have saved them from last year ' terminator seeds have not arrived yet. And pesticides were their insurance premium against boll weevil ' it was not the pesticides' fault that they did not insure farmers against failure of rains. Those prices of Rs 7,000 and Rs 11,300 could only be market prices; they had nothing to do with the 60 million tons, which was sold through PDS at lower prices than those charged to exporters.

'A usual argument used in promoting industrial agriculture like the Green Revolution earlier and genetic engineering in agriculture now is that only industrial agriculture and industrial breeding can keep up with increased food productivity for feeding a growing population. However, increased mouths to feed implies more efficient resource use so that the same resources can feed more people.' Now just a minute: more mouths to feed mean more efficient resource use' Maybe she means, output must go up when more people work on farms. So it might; but output per mouth will go down. The idea that land can go on feeding more and more mouths better and better without any improvement in techniques is rubbish.

Having come to that conclusion, I have lost my guilty conscience, and decided that Vandana Shiva has nothing to teach me. She has a lot to learn, but it is unlikely that she will.

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