Modi and his US masters destroying agriculture and food security of India
The Indian billionaires’ wealth surge and Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s onslaught on the poor, marginalised and the farmers continue to grow simultaneously as the Coronavirus pandemic ravages the country. There is a 90 % rise in the Indian billionaires’ wealth over the last decade. It’s not accidental.
The Modi government has reduced corporate income tax from 30% to 22% starting from the financial year (FY) 2019-20. It has also provided many other opportunities and incentives and foregoing exemptions to corporations. The new corporates established in India after October 1st 2019, need to pay only 15% tax. While providing these benefits to the corporates, the Modi government is further pursuing economic and agricultural policies that are further marginalising the poor farmers and empowering the wallets of his capitalist sponsors. Now, to aid big corporate houses, the Modi government is reforming agricultural policies to dismantle all safety nets, whatsoever, available to the farmers.
This rabid corporate appeasement drive exemplifies that the Modi government follows the policy prescriptions of his Washington masters in the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Executive Board of the IMF concluded its consultation with the Government of India on November 25th 2019 and released its Country Report No 19/385 in December 2019. The report openly acknowledges the deletion of market-sensitive information and policy intentions as part of the half-baked IMF’s transparency policy.
However, this country report reveals the policy prescriptions for the deepening of market forces in the Indian economy. The IMF advocates and encourages the Government of India to reduce corporate income tax and implement both land agricultural reform for further trade and investment liberalisation. It further prescribed to increase and integrate wholesale agriculture markets for the expansion of agricultural exports. The New Agriculture Export Policy (2018), designed by the Modi government following the IMF’s diktats, aims to double agricultural exports to US$ 60 billion by 2022.
The IMF further argues that the slow progress in reforming labour, land, and agriculture are creating setbacks in the structural reform process for economic growth and investment. The strengthening of the business climate is the central objective of the IMF and the Modi government. To achieve these goals, the Modi-led BJP government has approved the Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund of Rs 20 billion to be used for the development and up-gradation of infrastructure in 10,000 rural agricultural markets and 585 regulated wholesale markets.
It is within this context, the launch of the Adani Agri Logistics is not accidental but a systematic business initiative for procurement, storage, transportation and distribution of food in India. The Adani Agri Logistics is going to develop a monopoly over the food market. The corporatisation of agriculture and marketisation of food security is going to accelerate hunger and starvation deaths. It will destroy and pave the path for the privatisation of Food Corporation of India (FCI). The corporate takeover of the FCI is going to be socially and economically disastrous for India and Indians.
The BJP is implementing three dangerous agricultural policy reforms prescribed by the IMF and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These policies are concomitant with the requirements of the market forces. The agricultural reforms policies under the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 are associated with three acts; i) the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, ii) the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act; and iii) the Essential Commodities Amendment Act.
These policies are going to destroy farmers’ freedom to produce and diminish the security of their products and livelihoods. It is a death warrant against agricultural communities and farmers in India. The corporate takeover of Indian agriculture and growth of contract farming will accelerate agricultural capitalism in which corporates will command production, consumption and distribution, and control the lives of 60% of the Indian population who are engaged in agricultural activities. Agriculture is the source of livelihood for 494.9m landless Indians and 263m Indians depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their everyday survival.
The Modi government is accelerating agrarian crisis to create business opportunities for the corporations. The agrarian crisis and food insecurities in India move together. The food self-sufficiency required agricultural production for buffer stocks and accessibility of food for all in India should not just be a dream but a reality given the availability of agricultural technology, land and labour. But unfortunately, successive governments are dismantling every social and economic safety nets designed after Indian independence.
The “Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana” (PMFBY) is not an insurance for farmers but an income source for private insurance companies in India. This policy will ensure farmers fall in a vicious debt trap in the name of the improved flow of credit. On the other hand, the “PM Kisan Pension Yojana” for small and marginal farmers is a way to consolidate small saving of poor, small and marginal farmers for corporate investment. These policies are detrimental to the Indian economy and its people.
India has followed an integrated approach to agricultural economy and food security policy after independence. Production, availability and accessibility of food for all were the objectives of the integrated policy. The objective was to provide minimum support price (MSP) to the farmers and inspire them to produce more for the food security of the country. The Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) was established to procure the products and safeguard farmers from the market and maintain price stability to access food for survival. The public distribution system was developed to ensure food security by the distribution of food and rationing during a food crisis.
The FCI was integrated within such an integral policy framework to provide buffer stocks to face situations of scarcities caused by natural calamities or war. From food to fashion, the market has always failed to develop a mechanism of egalitarian distribution. The markets only work towards the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and marginalise the masses.
The successive governments led by the Congress party destroyed the integrated policy approach to agriculture and food security in India. The Universal Public Distribution System was dismantled by the Congress governments by reforming it as Revamped Public Distribution System and Targeted Public Distribution System. These reforms have destroyed integrated and universalistic characteristics of the agricultural and food security policy to allow market forces to grow during half-hearted liberalisation during the 1980s and full-fledged liberalisation and privatisation after the 1991 new economic reforms.
The BJP and its parental body Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) used to oppose these reform policies during those days in the name of nationalism. But both the RSS and the BJP stand today on the foundations of the reform policies created and shaped by the Congress party. There is no difference between the Congress Party and the BJP when it comes to implementing pro-corporate economic policies. Both uphold the interests of the corporations.
The ruling class’s strategy is to expand consumerism and market of food on a massive scale because of which masses will continue to seek work for food. Such a feudal approach of Hindutva-incensed capitalism is suitable for political dominance of the BJP, social and cultural hegemony of the RSS, and economic dominance of corporates over Indian people and their resources. The food insecure and unemployed Indians will always be available as a massive army of low waged labourers for Indian and global capitalist classes to amass their profit by inflicting mass misery.
The agricultural reforms will accelerate the corporatisation of agriculture and create conditions where farmers will be neo-slaves in their land. The landless farmers and agricultural workers will be low waged workers. Mass misery, hunger and unemployment are going to be three net outcomes of these policies while pushing India and Indians to live under corporate feudalism. The long-term outcomes of these reform policies are going to be more dangerous. Long term food insecurity and unemployment create conditions for a slave society.
The ruling and non-ruling elites in India have found their poster boy in Modi and ideological brotherhood with the BJP and RSS to pursue their hegemony. The IMF argument behind the productivity of agriculture and empowerment of farmers is dubious. These agricultural reform policies are not going to increase productivity in Indian agriculture and farmers are not going to be prosperous.
Capitalism, as a system, is always against productivity and mass prosperity. Economic productivity of labour has increased with the growth of science and technology, but mass prosperity did not grow. Like the rest of the world, India is witnessing concentration of wealth and marginalisation of the masses. As Prof David Graeber has argued, “the ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger” to their command and controlled system of hegemony called free-market capitalism.
Indian billionaires and their Brahminical social and economic order find its safety net under the leadership of Modi. The western capitalist systems were evolved over centuries of trial and error, but Indian capitalism has built by its consciously designed foundation of caste-based Brahminical order. The ruinous economic policies, social disability and political stability are three weapons of Indian ruling and non-ruling class led by Modi. It is important to see the agricultural reform policies within these strategies of corporate cronies of Hindutva government led by Modi.
The farmers’ movement against the agricultural reform policies of Modi government, prescribed by the IMF and WTO, gives new hopes regarding deepening of democracy for a better India. It has exposed the pro-corporate character of the Modi government. It has dismantled the hegemonic narrative of neoliberal governance by the BJP and the RSS. The mainstream media and all the hypocritic propaganda of the BJP and the RSS have failed to hide the authoritarian nakedness of the Modi government and all its failures. The united working-class movement in support of Indian farmers can only save India and Indians from medieval forces of Hindutva. The bigotry of the BJP and the RSS can never be an alternative. These forces can never provide a peaceful and prosperous India to Indians.
India needs a second wave of freedom struggle against caste, feudalism, capitalism and Hindutva fascism to ensure liberty, equality, justice, secularism, socialism and democracy enshrined in the Constitution of India. Every Indian must rebuild their country by defeating Hindutva fascist forces and their corporate cronies. The secular and democratic struggles are the only path in history for a peaceful and prosperous future for India and Indians.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak is a political economist working as Reader in Business Management in the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), UK.