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The Standoff explained: Modi government vs. Indian Small Farmers

The is basically a battle for the future of Indian agriculture. It is also a battle of two opposing philosophies: Small is Beautiful vs. Big is Better. On the one hand, 67% of India’s farmland is held by marginal farmers with holdings below 1 hectare. These farmers control 48% of irrigated land. On the other hand, 33% of farms are large, medium-sized or corporate holdings, and they control 52% of India’s irrigated land. It is important to remember this existing imbalance when considering the new laws.

Under the new law, a trader can approach any farmer anywhere in the country and buy their produce at any price that is agreed on. This may sound like a benefit for the farmer, but not when the buyer is a powerful corporation. In such situations, farmers will always be the weaker players. Indian farmers know it, and this is one of the reasons for their protests. The larger entities will always have the upper hand in case of disputes. The new law will also give large companies the freedom to accumulate stock of commodities and dictate terms to farmers. On a global scale, small-holder farmers provide 80% of our food on just 10% of arable land.

Add to the mix the fact that India’s two richest men, both reputedly close to Prime Minister Modi, have expressed interest in investments in the agricultural sector. In the US, for instance, the number of farmer suicides is twice the national average. As Sara Bissen writes in InsideOver, “Farmer suicide is in fact a universal reality with rates higher than non-farmers in almost every agricultural country. One only needs to look at France, India, Australia, or Japan.” Our lives depend on our food system. Large-scale agricultural practices degrade the world’s arable land and small-scale farms have the potential to redress climate change while securing global food supply.

The True Source of Wealth

Many years ago an economist friend told me to invest in stock index funds rather than property. He pointed out charts comparing property prices and real estate gains over a period of decades. Despite sudden sharp falls in stock values, the market always seemed to rebound after a few years or a decade and make up all its losses. I was swayed by that advice, but fortunately did not have enough disposable income to put that theory substantially to the test. I invested in an apartment and now, in retirement, consider myself fortunate not to have to worry about a roof over my head.

A nursery of trees that will clean air, bank carbon, retain rainwater, enrich
the earth, slow erosion, feed and shelter birds, and much more…

I look around at young people trying to find jobs, decide on a career, worry about whether they will find fulfilling occupations, or whether they can ever afford to start a family. At first glance, the odds seem stacked in favor of those whose parents left them with an inheritance; property or cash in the bank. The fragility of our economic systems and geopolitical power structures has increased considerably in 2020. A job in a bank, for example, does not seem as safe as it used to be, apart from the moral hazard of being involved in an exploitative business that has invested in fossil fuels and benefitted hugely from government handouts after nearly every crisis this century. There are no “safe” jobs any more, and the working world seems to be divided into two camps: those people with jobs who have to work increasing hours and work-life balance goes out of the window. They have money but no chance to have a life. The second camp consists of the unemployed who have time on their hands but don’t have a life either because they’re too worried about the future to enjoy the present. Somewhere between these two camps is a small minority of people who have just enough income to live a meaningful life!!!??? Of course that last statement is not true. Post-Covid, millions of people around the world, those with wealth and those without, are discovering that the best way to live a meaningful life is to go back to the earth and to nature.

Without the wealth of the earth, every business in the world is meaningless and doomed to fail in a matters of days, weeks, months or years. There is no need to elaborate on this theme. Here’s a list of apocalyptic movies that will educate you on what could lie in store for mankind if we don’t change our ways. The Day after Tomorrow, Mad Max Fury Road, Planet of the Apes, Nausicaa of the Valley, On the Beach, Independence Day, The Road… you get the idea. When it comes to possible futures, we’re only limited by our imagination. If there’s one thing the Covid crisis has done, it’s to trigger imaginations worldwide. Amidst all the hype about AI, high tech and new technologies that will save the world, there’s one underlying trend. People going back to the earth. Maybe we haven’t realized it yet, but that’s the true source of our planet’s wealth, and planetary heroes are the countless millions who work with soil, harvest our food crops and plant trees. Certainly not the multinational corporations that are responsible for the vast monocultural landscapes of the present day.

Tree cover nurtures all species of life and the earth itself

If only the bright minds inventing clever carbon sequestration technologies would rather invest in natural processes that restore the soil, the earth would grow richer, and all of us along with it.