Reforms kill Indian farmer
It might take a long time to decide whether the IMF-dictated economic liberalisation has been a boon or bane for the country. One sector that has taken the hardest knock so far seems to be agriculture.
Agriculture, that contributes the lion'sshare of the country'sGDP, employment and export earning, has received a raw deal under the new economic regime. Agriculture production too has been either static or on the decline for the last many years.
Reports suggest that there has been a steep increase in the number of farmer suicides in recent months. Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra top this chart. There were 1,529 farmer suicides during 2004-05. Of this 758 were from Andhra Pradesh and 524 from Maharashtra. Farm debt because of failed crops is often cited as the main reason. The government has always, for political reasons, tried to de-link these suicides from rural indebtedness. However, the report of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) shows how farm debt has become the biggest killer. The so-called reforms have made banking a costly proposition and co-operative societies, like banks, have largely ignored the rural sector leaving the poor farmers at the mercy of local moneylender. Privatisation has played a major role to create this situation.
Alongside, the unscrupulous seeds MNCs continue to play havoc with the farming community. The introduction of Bt cotton seeds, for instance, ignoring the Indian companies, and promoting the MNC Monsanto, the government has wrecked incalculable harm to the Indian farmer. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Ministry of Environment, according to reports, made changes in the approval norms to suit Bt cotton and put the local companies at a disadvantage. These seeds have proved disastrous and are highly priced at Rs 1,600 per packet. The new policy would ensure that no new products will be launched before 2006. By this, Monsanto will be able to monopolise the market. The experience so far with these genetically-modified seeds has been disastrous for Maharashtra.
According to a report from Christian Aid, a British charity, published in Outlook (June 6, 2005) ?unfettered privatisation had contributed to suicides by more than 4,500 farmers in Andhra Pradesh?. Earlier in times of crises, the farmers turned to the state-run institutions linked to agriculture for help. With privatisation, these institutions in Andhra Pradesh were closed down and farmers were left open to exploitation by the profiteering private concerns. The World Bank had rated the farm reforms under Chandrababu Naidu as the best in South Asia. What they did not add was these reforms helped cut the lifeline of the poor farmers. The crisis of debt spiralled into a crisis of large-scale suicides. And Naidu has gone. Many blame his reforms for his defeat. But the suicides continue to multiply, with the new government following the same policy. Is it not time for a relook?
Media'sseven deadly sins
A national round-table for regulation of media in Hyderabad, organised by the Andhra Pradesh Press Academy and the Centre for Media Studies, New Delhi, last week raised many vital issues.
Trivialisation of news has become the trend. Bollywood, fashion shows, beauty industry and Page 3 gossip take away most of the media space. National problems, development stories, even human-interest issues often get pushed around. Highlighting the tendency of titillation and trivialisation, Rajdeep Sardesai compared the reading of news on a leading news channel by Bunty (Abhishek Bachchan) and Babli (Rani Mukherji). So where is the Lakshman rekha?
As editor of the country'sone of the most readable newspapers, The Asian Age, M.J. Akbar said, seven deadly sins routinely committed by the media have eroded its credibility. Akbar said that media owners and journalists who become willing players in the game of business and politics were committing a major sin. The second sin was bias, the third was pomposity which led journalists to think that they were more important than the reader. In the name of seriousness newspapers were generating boredom among the readers. On the other side was the triumph of trivia, he said. Another deadly sin was the idea of ?news on sale?. The sacredness of news space has been compromised in this process. The seventh sin was ignorance, which was strongly prevalent among the new generation of journalists, he added. Often the national focus is on the English media. The language media depend on the English big brother for guidance, content and even style, though it is the former which exercise maximum impact on the society. Akbar has underlined the real malaise of the Indian media, at a time when some sections of this have already become injurious to family life. Media after all is also a product. Has the Indian media shied away from evolving a regulatory authority? Self-regulation is the best shield against credibility loss.