Food For All
Session 1


Introductory Remarks

Prof. M. D. Srinivas

The first technical session began with Prof. Srinivas of the Centre for Policy Studies once again introducing the subject of the seminar in some detail, and emphasizing the statistical and historical information regarding scarcity and hunger in India today. Below we present an abbreviated version of his remarks:

Ours is a civilization of sharing. This has been eloquently brought out in the discussions this morning, starting with the discourse of Shri Jeeyar Swamiji. This idea of sharing was institutionalised in the organisation of Indian society. Dr. Bajaj referred to such institutionalisation in the context of the 18th century Chengalpattu society.

Let me then start with a different period, with our recent past, especially with the period of our Independence struggle spanning the first half of this century. It seems that during this period the great leaders of India were keenly aware of the fact that ours is a civilisation based upon sharing. Most great political and moral leaders of the time repeatedly emphasised that sharing constitutes the core idea of Indian civilisation.

Between 1927 and 1929, Mahatma Gandhi delivered perhaps fifty or sixty lectures addressing students in different parts of the country and urging them to study Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita. In most of these talks he emphasised that to his mind the crucial teaching of Gita was that of Karmayoga. And the essence of Karmayoga, according to Mahatma Gandhi, was contained in the six verses of the 3rd chapter that give the Indian story of creation. These six verses say that Prajapati Brahma created man along with yajna. Yajna is then defined as sharing what we have with all aspects of creation, and in return obtaining what we need from them. This cycle of give and take, says Shri Krishna, is the essential cycle of universe, and the one who breaks this cycle, the one who takes without giving is indeed a thief. Mahatma Gandhi, in his talks to the students on Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita between 1927-29, presented these six verses, that lay down the concept of creation as a cycle of give and take, to be the essence of the teaching of Shri Krishna.

The great saint of our times, the Paramacharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, in his message to the nation on the eve of Independence in 1947, recalled this teaching. The Paramacharya said that at last the country had become free, and the people of India could once again exert to attain the great prosperity and glory that had always characterised Indian civilisation. And then he said, that he was glad that we have chosen to incorporate the chakra in one of the major national symbols of Independence, in our national flag. This chakra in our flag, the Paramacharya said, was the chakra that Bhagawan Shri Krishna had told us about in Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita; it was the chakra of sharing, of giving and taking, without participating in which human life was indeed a waste.

The 18th century Chengalpattu society institutionalised this teaching of Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita in its organisation at every level. As Dr. Bajaj mentioned, the data that we are working with pertain to about 2000 localities. These figures were compiled between 1760 and 1770, probably from detailed accounts in Tamil that the localities had been maintaining. Since this was one of the earliest regions to come under British occupation, they tried to record as much of information as they could get. After analysing the data left behind by the British in the archives, and studying some of the original locality accounts in Tamil, we are able to conclusively establish the following.

First, the high level of agricultural production: On about a lakh hectares of land, the 18th century Chengalpattu produced about 2.5 lakh tons of foodgrains. This amounts to an average yield of about 2.5 tons per hectare, which is considerably higher than our national average today. The number of households that lived in the area that produced this amount of grain was about 45,000. Thus average annual production per household amounted to about 5 tons of grains. The first British collector of Chengalpattu estimated that an average household in the district had about 5 members. This implies that the region produced as much as 1 ton of foodgrains per capita per annum. Today our national production amounts to only 200 kilo-grams per capita per year, which is one-fifth of the 18th century Chengalpattu average.

While talking about the productivity of agriculture in 18th century Chengalpattu, I must also mention that the average yield of 2.5 tons per hectare is not entirely representative of the best agriculture of the region. There were about 60 localities, lying along the rivers that traverse the region, that produced as much as 9 tons per hectare of grains. The most important of the rivers of the region is Palar, the river of milk. Palar is not like the great rivers of India. It is not even a perennial river. Water flows through it only during the rainy season. Yet the localities along it, as well as along other minor rivers of the region, produced as much as we are able to obtain today with the best of modern technologies in the rich alluvial soils of the great river plains. These 60 or so localities lying along the rivers in Chengalpattu covered about a fifth of the cultivation of the region, and produced about half of the total grain.

The way the localities shared this abundant produce amongst their inhabitants and amongst the trans-locality functionaries and institutions of the region forms another striking aspect of the Chengalpattu polity. The produce of the locality was subjected to an elaborate sharing arrangement. This sharing took place at various stages. First, shares were taken out immediately after harvesting, before threshing of the grain. A second sharing was done after threshing but before the grain was measured. A third sharing was carried out after the grain was measured.

The shares taken out at the first two stages were called swatantrams, and these two together amounted to about 15 percent of the produce. Beneficiaries of the swatantram shares were largely the institutions of the locality, like the locality temple, or the local ery, the irrigation tank. Households that performed specified functions, like that of the corn-measurer, the barber, the teacher, the carpenter, the registrar, the militia and so on also received swatantrams shares. The records mention about a hundred categories of institutions and functionaries who received swatantram in different localities, and each locality seems to have provided for about 25-30 of such beneficiaries.

This was at the first two stages of sharing. The shares taken out after threshing and measurement were called merei. The merei shares constituted another about 15 percent of the produce. The beneficiaries of merei shares were both the local as well as trans-locality institutions and functionaries. The latter included the greater temples of the region, the great teachers, the district level registrars, the great militia leaders, and so on. Thus the locality took out about 30 percent of its produce and shared it amongst institutions and functionaries that provided the locality as well as the region with cultural, religious, administrative, economic and militia services. This is of course a different way of budgeting and organising a state, where institutionalised sharing takes the place of the mechanisms of centralised taxation and allocation.

Such institutionalised sharing seems to have prevailed over almost all of southern India around that time; and probably it prevailed in northern India also. The British, however, have not left records of such arrangements elsewhere. It seems that once the British administrators saw that such large numbers of beneficiaries held shares in the produce of the localities, they decided to stop the recording of such rights. There is some evidence to show that similar recording was begun, especially in some regions of Bengal. It was promptly discontinued, when some idea of the number of shareholders in the produce of lands began to emerge. If the British had continued to record such widespread and extensive rights, then it would have become difficult for them to assert the sovereign rights of the state on the land. Inherent rights of various local beneficiaries in the produce of the locality ran contrary to the economic and political arrangements that the British were familiar with and were planning to implement here.

All this sharing and abundance that we are talking about refers to 18th century India. What is our situation today? We produce about 200 kilograms of grains per person per year. The total amount of food that the Indians are able to consume at this level of grain production, provides them with about 2200 calories per person per day on the average. Worldwide average of calories consumed per capita per day is around 2700. People in Europe and America consume more than 3300. The Asian average is also about 2700, which is depressed largely because of the low level of Indian consumption.

Looking at the volume of consumption rather than the calories, we find that the worldwide norm is of around 300 kg per capita per year of staple consumption. The staple here includes cereals, pulses, edible roots, and flesh and fish. If from the grain produce of India we take out a small proportion for seed and waste, and then add the total of staple foods available for consumption, our average comes to about 200 kg per capita per year. Thus, measured merely in terms of volume and ignoring the quality and nutritional value of foods, an average Indian consumes one third less of staple foods than what the world considers to be normal.

In terms of consumption per capita, we are amongst the poorest countries in the world. On the other hand, when we look at the agricultural resources available to us, we find that we are probably the best endowed in the whole world. Of the total land mass of the world only about 10 per cent is arable. In India, more than 50 percent of the geographical area is arable. For Europe the ratio of arable to total area comes to around 25 percent, for the USA to around 20 and for China only about 10 percent.

We have convinced ourselves that we are overpopulated, and that this is our major problem today. Density of population, however, is properly measured by the number of people per hectare of arable area. Today in the world there are 4 persons per hectare of arable land. In India, we have about 5 persons to an arable hectare. Europe supports about 6 persons per arable hectare; better populated countries of Europe, like England or West Germany, support about eight; and China supports about twelve. Thus India with 5 persons per arable hectare is not really overpopulated by the standards of the rest of the world. And, our arable area should actually be counted twice. Because, with the sun shining throughout India throughout the year, and with abundant water and fertile alluvial soils brought in by the great rivers of India, we can almost everywhere produce two plentiful crops a year, if not more.

What has been our agricultural performance on this land of natural and historic abundance? According to the figures for 1990, we are producing about 170 million tons of grains on about 125 million hectares of cultivated land. This amounts to an overall productivity of 1.35 tons of grains per hectare. For the sake of comparison, let us look at rice, wheat and other cereals separately. We produce about 73 million tons of rice on about 42 million hectares of cultivation, giving us a productivity of 1.75 tons of rice per hectare. The worldwide average yield of rice is 3.6 tons per hectare. Indonesia in 1990 had achieved rice yields of 4.3 tons per hectare and China about 5.7 tons per hectare. Now let us look at wheat. In 1990 we produced about 50 million tons of wheat on about 23 million hectares of land, giving a yield of 2.1 tons per hectare. The world average for wheat is 2.6; China, which is not a wheat growing nation, manages a yield of 3.2; European average is about 4.8 tons per hectare. Our worst performance is in the productivity of coarse cereals. Our 1990 production of 35 million tons on 38 million hectares implies productivity of around 0.9 tons per hectare; the world average is 2.5 tons per hectare; China produces 3.5 tons of coarse cereals per hectare; Europe 3.9 and United States 6.3. In pulses our productivity is about half a ton per hectare.

I shall conclude with a quote from Prof. Swaminathan, perhaps the best known Indian agricultural expert today.In the special issue on the Golden Jubilee of Indian Independence in the Frontline of Chennai, Prof. Swaminathan writes, “Agricultural advance occupies a pride of place among the achievements of independent India. (…) We are now approaching a food production level of nearly 200 million tons as compared to 51 million tons in 1950-51. Consequently per capita net availability of food went up from 468.7 grams per day in 1961 to 511 grams per day in 1991. [Prof. Swaminathan does not mention that in 1990 and 1992 per capita availability was 470 grams per day; but he goes on to say that] (…) in the next fifty years our population is likely to range from 1.4 to 1.5 billion by 2050. It will be even higher if our population policies go wrong. Will it be possible for our farmers to produce over 300 million tons of food grains, assuming one ton will support five individuals, from less land and water?…”

Thus our most decorated agricultural expert is setting the target of a ton of production per five persons in the year 2050! If this is the level that we wish to achieve, perhaps we do not need to do anything. We have been producing a ton per five persons for the last hundred and fifty years under British rule and under our own management, we can probably continue to do so till eternity!

Let me give just one more quotation; this from Lester Brown, who also is a very well known international expert in matters concerning food and other essential human requirements. He in his recent book, Who Will Feed China, says, “… Between 1978 and 1984 China did what many analysts thought was impossible. In just six years it raised annual grain production from roughly 200 kilograms per person to nearly 300 kilograms. At 200 kilograms almost all grain is needed to maintain a minimum level of physical activity. The immediate challenge facing China is not poverty or starvation, for it has established a wide margin between its current consumption level of 300 kilograms and the subsistence level…”
Our thoughts, it seems, are focused on what the world considers to be merely subsistence level. We have lived at subsistence level for the past 200 years, including the 50 years since Independence. I hope we shall not continue to do so for the next fifty. I believe that notwithstanding the judgments of the experts, we shall find a way out of this situation very soon.

Shrimati Kamala Chaudhary
Former Chairperson,Wasteland Development Board

Shrimati Kamala Chaudhary intervened to make the following four points.
First, she believed that with the green revolution, and the consequent increase in production and productivity, we are now more than self-sufficient. “I have no quarrel with the overall production figures”, she said.

Second, that our problem is not with production of food, but with reaching the food produced to the needy. All studies on the public distribution system have shown that we have miserably failed in this regard. And, the problem of distribution does not end even if the food is reached to the needy households. “Even within a household”, she said, “we need to subdivide.” Because, the households, she believed, do not allocate enough for the women, and they certainly neglect the girl-child.

Third, that we must look at the environmental cost of increasing production. Already the increasing emphasis on production has led to land-erosion in the hills, salination of soils, and many other forms of irreparable environmental damage. While looking for food-security for ourselves we should also take care of the future generations, and try to leave water, air and soil intact for them.

Fourth, that the larger problem related to consumption of food is that of lifestyles. The westernized countries and the USA are following a highly wasteful lifestyle. We should question those wasteful lifestyles, instead of trying to enhance consumption here.

Concluding her intervention, Shrimati Chaudhary said, “My major comment that I would like to leave with you isthat we do not need to and should not really increase food production for the present genreation and thus ignore the welfare of the future generations.”

Shri K. N. Govindacharya
General Secretary, Bharatiya Janata Party

Shri Govindacharya spoke in Hindi. Below we give a brief English translation of his speech:

The note on the problem of food that has been circulated by the organisers gives a disturbing picture of our food situation, especially when seen in the context of situation elsewhere in the world. We are blessed with an abundance of fertile lands, sufficient water, and a climate that allows for crops to be grown throughout the year. In our natural assets, we are far ahead of the world. Yet, our production and consumption are much lower than others. China, with a cultivated area that is somewhat less than ours, produces more than twice the foodgrains that we produce, and in addition they are able to grow a great amount of edible roots. The USA also does not have much more cultivable land than us, and they produce perhaps four times the foodgrains that we produce. In such a situation all talk of self-sufficiency is mere self-delusion.

While we produce much less than what we need, we make hardly any arrangements worth the name for distributing this produce among the really needy. We have been relying on only the agencies of the state for distribution. Our problem is so immense, and our society so complex, that the agencies of the state cannot suffice. Our society does not run merely through the instruments of the state. The society has a number of instruments and institutions of its own, which can be effectively utilized to ensure sharing of food even in the prevalent situation of scarcity. We do not seem to understand the importance of these institutions.

Indian society has a tradition of caring for others; caring is an essential attribute of the Indian mind. Such caring is manifested in the traditional institutions of the society. Indian people have more faith in the leaders of their locality, community, and religious fraternity, than in the agencies of the state. Even today a majority of our people accord much more respect to their traditional panchayats than they do to the panchayats elected under the Constitution of India. People may exploit various loopholes to avoid payment of taxes to the state, but they happily contribute towards the building of dharmashalas and running of sadavrats for free distribution of food. The people of India may not be willing to sacrifice for the secular and socialist ideals that modern India reveres, but they are certainly willing to sacrifice and die for the ideals and institutions that they have traditionally held dear.

In the given situation, I believe, we can come to an understanding at least on some issues. First, we can agree on the need to double the production of foodgrains in say the next ten years and make proper plans for achieving that target. Let us agree on this. We can worry about the utilization of the extra food later. If we find that we have grown too much we can always export; but let us agree on doubling the production. Second, we can agree that we shall so organize our public life that no Indian shall ever have to sleep on an empty stomach. We may have different programmes to achieve this end according to our different perspectives and ideologies. All programmes that lead to the elimination of hunger from the face of India should be acceptable. Let these two issues, doubling of production and eradication of hunger, form the topmost items on the agenda of all political parties; and let us all do whatever we can to accomplish this agenda.

Another important issue to my mind is that of involving the traditional institutions of Indian society in the task of distribution and sharing of food. We expect nothing from the state in this effort; but the state must stop interfering in the functioning of these institutions. Today all our laws, rules and regulations are so designed as to make thefunctioning of traditional institutions difficult, if not impossible. The lands and other resources of the temples and mathams have been alienated, and their current incomes and day-to-day functioning are routinely controlled and taken over by the governments. The laws, rules and regulations that permit such gross interference in the affairs of the traditional institutions of Indian society shall certainly have to be changed. The government shall have to get off the backs of the people and their institutions; this itself shall solve most of the problems.

Some mismanagement and corruption in the functioning of these institutions may happen. If the government is not there to interfere and arbitrate, the local people and their communities shall be able to tackle such impropriety. If the various political parties, religious leaders, and other social organisations active in the society begin to prepare the people for undertaking the task of large-scale sharing of food, if we create a climate in favour of such sharing, and if all individuals and institutions begin to ask themselves as to what they can do in this task, then it shall create such a strong public opinion that corruption in matters of sharing of food shall become impossible. Let us then create that kind of atmosphere; let the religious and political leadership begin to lead the people and their institutions in the direction that is naturally theirs.

To me it seems that the crucial issue with regard to doubling production and enhancing distribution is that of creating the right atmosphere. Once the people of India decide that this is the task they have to do, it shall not take them very long to do it well, because they have always performed well the task of producing and sharing food in plenty. We require no new technologies, and no new institutional framework for growing an abundance of food and eradicating hunger from the face of India. We only need to remind the people of India of their essential discipline and talent in these matters, and let them freely do what they know best how to do.

General Hazare
Former Vice-Chief of Army Staff

As a retired soldier who has been used to organised functioning throughout his life, I look at this whole problem of food as a major management problem. But, before I talk on the management aspect, I would like to fully endorse the basic point raised by Mr. Mishra. The first issue to be tackled in all such major problems is the question of the mindset: mindset at all levels, at the level of top management, at the level of planning and at the level of people who have to implement the plan.

Other than the question of mindset, there are two major problems I would like to highlight. First is the problem of education and human development. We have ignored education, and this I think is one of the fundamental reasons for our various failures.

Secondly, in any activity, particularly in an activity like agriculture in which a majority of the population is involved, it is very important to organise good management and government support at different levels. Technology development, extension of the technology to the field, timely availability of inputs, proper management of irrigation, availability of credit, arrangements for transport, storage and marketing, all these aspects need proper planning, management and support at the government level. Without such support the task of increasing production is indeed difficult.

Shri Tarun Vijay
Editor, Panchajanya

Shri Tarun Vijay made his presentation in Hindi; the following is an abbreviated translation:
I shall make only two points. The 263rd chapter of Vanaparva of Sri Mahabharata narrates the story of rishi Durvasa, who with his ten thousand followers, visitsDraupadi at a time when the day’s food was over. There was nothing left except a small bit of cooked vegetable in her akshaya patra, that provided unlimited amount of food at her bidding till the end of the meals. Draupadi called upon Shri Krishna to get her out of this difficult situation. Shri Krishna partook of that bit of vegetable left in Draupadi’s pot, and declared that with that little food, offered with devotion, not only He Himself but also the whole of creation had been satiated. For me, the moral of this story is that it is not scarcity of food that makes people go hungry. If there is a sentiment in the society that nobody should remain hungry, then even scarce food is shared such that nobody indeed remains hungry.

A society suffused with such a sentiment would not allow hunger even in times of destitution and poverty. I say this from my personal experience. I have lived for five years amongst the so-called tribal people, the forest-dwellers, the people who depend upon the forest for their living. We in Delhi think of them as the most destitute and the poorest amongst the Indians. Believe me, I have not seen anyone dying of starvation amongst them. Even today the best athletes, the best sprinters, the best archers amongst us come from the forest-dwelling communities. We think of them as the most deprived communities; yet if there is no starvation amongst them, it is because they have a sense of communality of living. They care for one another. They have concern for others. In short, they have dharma. And dharma sustains them.

Where there is dharma, there can be no hunger. If you have affluence but no dharma, then people shall die of starvation even amidst plenty. Therefore, the main question before us is how to restore dharma? How to restore the sentiments of caring and sharing, so that whatever food we produce is so shared that none amongst us remains hungry and no child is malnourished?

The second point I want to make is about how different communities in India can undertake sharing of food almost naturally, while the state often fails, even with the best of intentions. For example, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiva Sena, who are in power in Maharashtra today, gave a solemn promise to the people that on being elected they shall ensure universal availability of at least Jhunka-Bhakhar, the staple food of the poor. After acquiring power, they earmarked crores of rupees to fulfil their promise, yet they failed to reach Jhunka-Bhakhar to the really needy. On the other hand, here in Delhi, in the Chandani Chowk area, through entirely local effort, evening meals are made available to the needy at a mere two rupees per head. You can get four rotis and dal for just two rupees. The effort does not require a paisa of government grants for this purpose. In the evening if you pass through the area, you shall find the shopkeepers and traders, on their way home from work, stopping at the foodstalls and paying for the meals of 5 or 10 people. This happens because there is a sentiment amongst the people that nobody in their area, whether he could get gainful employment during the day or not, should sleep on a hungry stomach at night. The best part of the story is that those who come to sell dal-roti there at that rock-bottom price also end up earning a living from this.

If we have to revive similar sentiment and dharmika enterprise throughout the country, we shall have to involve the cultivators and the religious leaders in this effort. If the cultivators and the religious leaders take up the task, then they can certainly remove the stigma of hunger from the face of India. It does not matter whether anyone else participates in the task or not.

May I suggest, that when we meet together to discuss the issue of food and hunger again, we should also call those who run temples and other places of worship, those who organise the distribution of food at such places, and those amongst the relatively affluent who are willing to contribute for the restoration of the essential dharma of Annadana. With the help of such people we may be able to evolve an agenda of actually putting into practice what we have been thinking and talking about today.

Finally, let me assert that there is nothing undignified in giving and accepting food. The union minister for agriculture this morning said that he would like to see that nobody needs to accept food from another. What is wrong in sharing food? If somebody is hurt, and another dresses up the wound with his handkerchief, then should the injured feel embarrassed? It is a matter of good fortune that we know how to give and take. Dharmika societies are based on this sentiment of give and take; this sentiment forms the secure basis of mutual respect and interaction.

The problem of food is not a matter of science and technology alone. Even if we somehow grow abundant food through modern science and technology, it shall still not reach the hungry unless we can revive the sentiment of sharing in our society. Our efforts at enhancing production have to be informed by the light of dharma, then alone the hungry shall be fed.

Mr. K. P. Chandi
Indian Social Institute, New Delhi

Shri K. P. Chandi of the Indian Social Institute, making a brief presentation, said:

The Indian Council of Medical Research, ICMR, has after much research defined separate norms of consumption for families undertaking heavy physical work, those engaged in medium physical activity, and those engaged in sedentary occupations. According to these norms heavy workers need a monthly ration of 74 kg of foodgrains for a family of five to six, medium workers need 66 kg and sedentary workers need 63 kilograms. This is only the grain requirement; there are also norms for consumption of other foods. Nowhere in our country can you find a single ration card that makes available the amount of grains recommended by the ICMR to be the minimum requirement.

From the norms recommended by the ICMR, it is simple to calculate the total requirement of foodgrains for the Indian population. Such a calculation shall immediately show that we do not produce enough to even meet the ICMR norms. In this context, it is important to remember that whole of the production can never be available for consumption. A certain percentage has to be taken out for seed. There are losses during threshing, transport and storage. There are losses during milling and processing. Of course, some food is always lost in the process of cooking and eating. These losses cannot be avoided. We just have to produce enough to provide for these. And, though not much grain is fed to animals in our country, yet some amount certainly goes for this purpose. A substantial amount of foodgrains goes towards the feed of 800 million poultry birds that we rear today.

If we provide for all these losses, and then calculate the total production necessary for meeting the ICMR recommended norms, it comes to an unbelievably high figure. Our rough calculation indicates that we need to produce about 375 million tons. We do not produce anywhere near 375 million tons. Our production is nearer 180 million tons. Incidentally, the figures above are for cereals alone; in addition we need pulses, about the availability of which the less said the better. Clearly we have to undertake a major effort to enhance our production.

I am happy to attend this seminar, where the issue of production is being squarely confronted, perhaps for the first time. Till now, we have been only hearing that we are self-sufficient in foodgrains. This seminar at least has the humility to acknowledge that we do not produce enough.

Dr. Vandana Shiva
Reserach Foundation for Science, Ecology & Environment

I would like to locate the challenge of providing food for all in the context of globalization. Recently, I came across a letter written by about sixty of the top agribusiness-chemical-seed technology companies of the USA to the president of their country at the time of the G-8 summit. In the letter, the companies inform the president that agriculture sector is the largest exporter in the USA; it accounts for 75 percent of all exports. And, they request the president to fix, literally fix, every other country so that they can keep exporting ever larger amounts of agricultural produce and technology.

We are told that two per cent of Americans are producing all the food they need; look how efficient they are! If you really look at it, some three quarters of the USA is in reality involved in the food production system, even though most of them are not working on the land. This large system, of course, wants to try and tap external markets.

This is the same group that worked very effectively within the Uruguay Round to introduce agriculture into international trade negotiations, and to acquire intellectual property rights over seeds. They were the most organised group during the Uruguay Round negotiations. They are still the most organised. They said that it does not matter how much of food any country produces, what matters is how much of food is traded. Incidentally, last year India contributed tremendously to international trade in food: We exported two million tons of wheat in July and we imported two million tons in November–December. With each million ton of food traded we contributed about six hundred million dollars to the international economy. But as far as availability of food was concerned, it was a zero sum game. We sold some amount and bought the same amount. The Indian people turned out to be net losers, because in the meantime international wheat price had tripled.

It is absolutely crucial to put the new jargon about efficiency and comparative advantage, etc., in perspective. We are being told that we are good at producing this, and not good at that. Thus, some Pepsi Cola company comes and tells us that the Punjab farmers are good at growing tomatoes, and not wheat. So, Pepsi manages to get subsidies to grow tomatoes in Punjab. Now others are getting subsidies to spread tomatoes in Karnataka. And, the poor farmers are having to destroy their tomatoes. With all this support for tomatoes, the prices of tomatoes have crashed.

This globalization business is actually doubling and tripling the problems we got into with the so-called green-revolution. How do we get out of this?
First of all I must say I am really grateful to Bajaj and Srinivas for the work they have done. When I saw their work, I for the first time realised that abundance is different from yield. Abundance of food and yields of just two varieties of grain are two very different issues. When we talk about food self-sufficiency, we talk merely about production and yield of just wheat and rice. This is not the same as talking about abundance. Abundance consists in diversity, in a great variety of foodgrains grown in diverse areas through diverse techniques and inputs.

We are emphasising on just wheat and rice. This I believe is a kind of racism. Thus white bread, which has almost no nutritional value, is called refined; and the nutritious foodgrains that the people of our country eat are called coarse and inferior. The grains that the people continue to live on, the grains to grow which the farmer does not have to look up to either the outside world or even to the urban market for inputs, those grains are all termed inferior and coarse. Yet those are the grains that provide nutrition to the poorest of our poor.

We should stop believing in the green-revolution calculus of yields per acre, and instead begin talking about nutrition per acre. Nutrition, especially in a tradition-rich society like ours, is always obtained from diverse sources. The other day some doctors were telling me that the reason India did not have the level of cancer that many of the developed countries had was because of one reason alone: the diversity of our nutrition. Even in the USA, it is only nutritional therapy that is working in controlling diseases like cancer. At this time, when we should be building on the diversity of our nutritional base, we are being told that our diets, our food systems and our food culture are all inferior.

I very deeply believe that the whole calculus of agricultural experts and economists is misplaced. It creates an illusion of abundance where there is scarcity. And ourtraditional systems, which are actually systems of abundance, are made to look poor and impoverished.
The work I have done on agriculture has shown me that our traditional agriculture uses five units of energy to produce food equivalent to one hundred units of energy. Chemical agriculture of today uses three hundred units of energy to produce food equivalent to the same one hundred units of energy. If we could just shift away from these wasteful ways of producing food, and rely on our own ways, we could be producing much more food. That shift would do several good things for us. First of all, it would free us from external dependence on agricultural inputs and knowhow. This talk about advanced technologies and inputs is a trap. We are being trapped into buying first the seed, then the fertilizer, then the pesticides, and so on.

We need to shift from chemically intensive agriculture to genetically rich agriculture; instead of intensifying chemicals, we should intensify diversity. That diversity would indeed free us from any threat of intellectual property rights. Because if the farmers are growing diverse crops, there is no way intellectual property rights regimes can create a bondage around them. If all of our farmers shift to soybean and sunflower, then we have had it. Because those are the crops on which intellectual property rights will be implemented.

Diversity is our major resource for providing food for all: diversity in crops, diversity in agricultural systems, diversity in food cultures and diversity in what we are as people. If we can maintain this diversity, then that shall be our defense against external assaults on our agriculture that are being launched today in the name of free trade and intellectual property rights, etc. Diversity shall provide us the immunity that we need to survive the new prescription for famine that globalization is offering us.

Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi
Former Union Minster for Home Affairs

Shri Murli Manohar Joshi spoke in Hindi. We present a free translation of his address:
First of all I must congratulate the Observer Research Foundation and the Centre for Policy Studies for organising this seminar on an issue that is of central importance not only to the life of most people, but also, in my view, to the very existence of our nation. They have invited eminent leaders from all political parties and also experts concerned with different aspects of the problem of food. This, I believe, marks the beginning of a great movement.

I have gone through the book, Annam Bahu Kurvita, around which this seminar has been organised. I believe that this book of Dr. Bajaj and Dr. Srinivas has been published at an opportune moment. The authors have not only drawn our attention to a serious national problem, but also have led us to the classical Indian tradition of abundance and sharing. It is in this tradition that the solution of our current problem lies.

Annam Bahu Kurvita, ensure an abundance of food, is a teaching of the Upanishad. This is the teaching of the oldest literature of the world; it is relevant not only for us, but indeed for the whole of mankind. The Upanishad also teaches us about the concept of sharing, of the essential role of give and take in the functioning of the universe. The concept of sharing taught in the first verse of Isavasya Upanishad defines the essential philosophy of life in India. The Upanishad says that the whole of this universe is the residence of Isa, the one Being from whom all is created. He pervades all; therefore before partaking of anything in this world give away the share of all, and never aspire for the share of others. Since, all that is is His, therefore no one is the owner of anything; everyone holds a share in everything. In such a world, how does one partake of anything, without first taking out proper shares for the rest of creation? I believe that this philosophy of treating the whole creation as His and of giving before taking anything, is indeed the only appropriate philosophy for the modern world that is aspiring to become a “global village”.

Unfortunately the modern world is not based on the concept of giving before taking. On the other hand, it subscribes to consumerism, to the thought of everyone taking as much as he can. A world that practises such free for all, where everyone is taught to grab as much as he or she can for personal use, cannot but be a world of extreme tension, inequity and exploitation. Such a world cannot but be a world where nature is mercilessly denuded and polluted, notwithstanding all the talk of social welfare and environmental protection.

We in India have followed the ideal of living by sharing. We have been taught the ideal from the earliest times. Knowing that the world is permeated by Him, we have always striven to take care of all created beings, including plants, animals and insects. We have seen divinity in nature. We have worshipped the all-pervading divine by taking care of all aspects of nature, by worshipping all elements of His creation. Therefore for us, for whom even trees, ants and insects are worthy of care, a seeker at our door, a guest, is like god Himself coming to our house. We have always ensured that anyone who comes seeking our hospitality is fed in dignity and made comfortable.

I am extremely happy that this seminar has reasserted the Indian tradition of sharing and caring. We take care of all those who come to our home; but for us our village, our nation and indeed the whole world is our home. The classical texts say, vasudhaiva kutumbakam: the whole world is our family. Therefore, we are obliged to take care of not only those who come to our home, or our locality, but also of all those who are in need of care anywhere in the world. How can such a people become indifferent to the hunger and malnutrition of their fellow countrymen?

The indifference that we see today amongst ourselves and in the world at large has arisen out of the struggle between the opposing concepts of the world as family and the world as market. The West intends to control the whole world, by reducing it to a huge market. The globalization that is being talked about today is not very different from the colonisation that the West practised not so long ago. Through colonisation they destroyed the agriculture of most countries, and created scarcities everywhere. They destroyed not only the agriculture of the colonies, but also their social and political arrangements. Now the process is proposed to be carried forward through globalization of the markets.

I have just returned from a conference of the United Nations. I talked about my apprehensions about the process of globalization there. While I was talking, the Tunisian representative got up and said that they shared my apprehensions. He said that Tunisia was facing the consequences of having accepted prescriptions of globalization peddled by the World Bank and IMF. They, he said, were told that they should adopt the free-markets and western-style democracy. Then they would have all the good things of the world; they would have access to advanced technologies, western investments, and new opportunities of employment. Tunisians, according to their representative, did all that they were told. Yet at the end they got no technology, no investment and no employment. The poor man was wondering where should his country go next.

Let me give a few more examples of the havoc the World Bank-IMF model has caused in different countries. There is the case of Morocco, a reasonably well off developing country of North Africa. A renowned Moroccan economist points to the chief consequence with which a country adopting the globalization ideal ends up: Producing too much of what it does not consume and consuming too much of what it does not produce. The Moroccan example is a sad but a graphic illustration of the way in which this style of development generates underdevelopment for the majority. It shows how a country by following IMF-World Bank instructions can, in less than 20 years, take a direct route from the export oriented model to increased unemployment,malnutrition and absolute poverty for a substantial slice of population, with bloody riots forming the milestones along the road. There have been terrible riots in Morocco.

Such riots caused by scarcity and hunger are not the fault of any particular society, these are the kind of riots that are inherent in the IMF–World Bank model of development. I call such riots IMF–World Bank riots. India has had a taste of IMF–World Bank riots in Madhya Pradesh and in Andhra Pradesh. I warned the Parliament of India last year in July that I foresaw these IMF–World Bank riots taking place in India. And, indeed there were food-riots in Madhya Pradesh and there were farmers’ riots in Andhra Pradesh. This is a beginning. Such riots will engulf this country if we continue with this model.

I again most humbly suggest that we heed the warning. Let us look at what has happened elsewhere. Let me say what happened to Peru. The president of Peru vividly described the deadly debt–hunger connection in his lecture to mark the 40th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. And, he went on to explain how he was trying to eliminate hunger in his own country. Garcia says, “In my country, the conditions imposed by the IMF forced us to apply mistaken economic policies [and I may add also mistaken agricultural policies], which brought about a deterioration in nutrition, which hit the poor hardest of all. We have decided to adopt a different approach. We have abandoned the prescriptions of the IMF and are now resolutely following the path marked out for us by the FAO, rescuing the rural world as a source of well-being and nutrition.” Further, he says, “Societies are born from food, live on food and build up their awareness of time and space through the food they consume. For this reason the democracy we want in Peru is not an urban democracy, not a bureaucratic and administrative democracy. Peru wants a historical encounter with the land; a historic encounter with the land through national affirmation of our foods and our geography.”

When Mr. Chidambaram said that he is a reformer, I asked, “You are reforming for whom? You are reforming for the multinationals. You are reforming for access to Indian agricultural markets by the multinationals. And you are handing the poorest of these people to the mercy of the IMF, World Bank and multinationals.” Is this reform? I am also a reformer. I am a much bigger reformer than Mr. Chidambaram and his tribe. I want reforms for the farmer. I want reforms for the poor. We want that there should be no one hungry. Bajaj and Srinivas here are the biggest reformers, because they are talking about reforming the food system, the agricultural system, the social system, and the mindset of the people.

So the reform that is needed, as has been rightly pointed out today, is in the mindset of the people. We need a reform in our understanding of the crux of the problem. We need to begin going to the basics of the issue. The union ministry of agriculture has appointed a committee to look into the issue of increasing productivity of foodgrain crops in the country. I am a member of the committee. I have been trying to tell the committee that the productivity cannot be increased by using the methods that brought down productivity of agriculture in India in the first place. How did productivity in India decline? India is known to have been a country of great agricultural abundance. I am not talking about prehistoric times; in the recorded history there is little evidence of famine in India during the last few thousand years. Historians estimate that before the Muslim invasion of India, we had faced just four major famines. During the 200 years of British administration there were 33 incidents of major famine in India. All observers of India, including Fa-Hien and Hiuen Tsiang, tell us that they saw no poverty or hunger in India; they saw only abundance, sharing, harmony, and such security that people never locked their doors.

Today we say that technologies of so-called green- revolution have improved our agriculture. What is so great or new about these technologies? You provide good seeds, enough fertiliser, and abundant water; you get good crops. This is known to all cultivators; perhaps the Europeans did not know these fundamentals of agriculture till recently. Europe does not have much of a tradition of agriculture. We have been an agricultural civilization for thousands of years. We have taught agriculture to the world. Do we have now to learn about the importance of seeds, manure and water from others?

In any case, the modern technology of producing foodgrains through mechanized farming, exotic seeds, chemical fertilisers, and under a thick cover of poisonous pesticides, is probably the most wasteful way of growing food. Through such methods we end up producing one unit of food-energy at the cost of 13 or 14 units of energy input. In the Indian way of growing food, we always obtain more energy from the earth than we put into it; after all that is why agriculture is considered the primary productive activity of mankind. In addition to being energy efficient, the agriculture we practised was based on genetically sturdy seeds. The exotic seeds that we have tried to spread in the name of green-revolution are so delicate that the whole crop is endangered, if irrigation is delayed by a couple of days. Or, if any minor pest manages to get through the constant cover of pesticides. For the sake of these fragile seeds, we have destroyed the great diversity of seeds we had in the country. We have destroyed our genetic pool, and gravely endangered our food-security.

In order to regain food-security, we have to revert to our own practices, preserve our bio-diversity, and give up the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and similar other destructive practices. India is the country of krishi and rishi, of agriculture and of wise men meditating on the truth of universe and the good of mankind. We have already destroyed the rishi. We have turned away from the knowledge that our wise men passed on to us. Now we are destroying krishi. I earnestly call upon all Indians to strive to somehow save our agriculture. Let us not become dependent upon others in agriculture, because that is the sure path to slavery.

We can save our agriculture only by relying on our tradition of agriculture. The Indian peasant today lacks nothing but secure arrangements for irrigation. If we could only provide him with water, he shall produce the most abundant crops. In the fifty years since Independence, we have managed to provide irrigation for only 30 percent of our cultivated lands. If instead of 30 percent, we could provide irrigation for 70 percent of our cultivation, our production shall double and triple without any other effort on the part of the government. The cultivators themselves shall do whatever else is needed to be done.

This irrigation we shall have to generate with our own resources. The World Bank–IMF are not going to give us money for putting up minor irrigation systems that we need. They shall give money only for destructive projects like the Tehri dam, that endangers a river that Indian civilization has always revered as the most sacred.

We have to look up to our own resources to increase production of food in India. Meanwhile, we should have a large number of centres in India, where anyone can go and get a square meal. We think of the whole world as our family; our countrymen are certainly our family. We have the responsibility to make certain that none in this family of ours is constrained to remain hungry. If we accept this basic ideal, then the whole climate in the country shall change. I believe in spiritual power. The resolve to eradicate hunger of all our countrymen shall release the spiritual powers that will revitalize our country, and make it possible for us to grow abundant food. Our country is named Bharata, because we have the capacity to do bharana, to provide for the whole world. It is not surprising that a country with such a name, also believes in Annam Bahu Kurvita, in ensuring an abundance of food for all. Let us get together and work to live up to our ideals and our name.

I am thankful to the organisers for drawing the attention of the nation to our fundamental ideals. If only we begin to grow an abundance of food and share it in abundance, then, I believe, the whole of our economy shall begin to take off. By recollecting and working for these ideals we shall be freed from the unnatural fascination for the West that we have gotten into. The ideals of producing for all and taking care of all shall once again restore to us the glory that Indian civilisation has bequeathed upon us. I hope that today’s seminar shall prove to be a historic turning point for India, and we shall begin to live up to the ideals that are fundamental to our civilisation.

Chairman’s Address

Shri Nawal Kishore Sharma
General Secretary, Indian National Congress

Shri Nawal Kishore Sharma spoke in Hindi. Below, we present a brief English version:
The question of hunger and food around which this seminar has been organised is extremely important. Availability of 200 kilograms per capita per year of foodgrains is certainly not enough. There is a general agreement on this. Then, how do we increase our production?
I believe that if we only make sufficient irrigation available to our cultivators, they shall easily produce double the foodgrains they produce now. We have been talking about minor irrigation, but we have actually destroyed whatever sources of minor irrigation were available in the villages. Traditionally, all our villages had different kinds of reservoirs of water. These reservoirs provided for the needs of the village and also recharged the ground-water. These have today been made mostly dysfunctional through neglect and new kinds of developmental activity, which has interfered with the proper functioning of the traditional resources.

We need to change our way of thinking about development. This change cannot come from the government. The government is dependent upon its administrative apparatus, and this apparatus cannot reach up to the village. Therefore, the change has to come from concerned individuals. Today’s seminar is a step in that direction.

It is also true that the problem of hunger and scarcity is a new one for us. The problem has arisen during the last couple of centuries of foreign domination. India has fertile lands, abundant water, a climate that is greatly conducive to agriculture, and hard-working and knowledgeable cultivators. It is no wonder that historically we have been a country of highly productive cultivation and abundant food. We also have a rich tradition of sharing food. We have worshipped food as Brahman. We have always grown and shared food in abundance.

To solve the problems of scarcity and hunger that have come to prevail today, we need to recall that older discipline of ours. Therefore, this seminar, where representatives of both the traditional and modern India are present is extremely significant. Those who are involved in day-to-day political activity often loose sight of the problems and the solutions. This seminar has helped focus the attention of political India on the most important aspect of Indian public life today. By initiating a dialogue between political and intellectual India on the one hand, and religious and traditional India on the other, it has also indicated the direction along which solutions to our problems may be found. I am grateful to all the participants for having made this effort a success.