India is a land of small farmers. 650 million of her 1.2 billion people are living on the land and 80 percent farmers are owning less than two hectares of land. In other words the land provides livelihood security for 65 percent of the people and the small farmers of the country provide food security for over one billion of the population.
Policies driven by corporate globalisation are pushing farmers off the land and peasants out of agriculture. This is not a natural evolutionary process. It is a violent and imposed process. More than 1,50,000 farmers have committed suicide in India due to distortions introduced in agriculture as a result of trade liberalization. The killing of peasants in Kalinga nagar and Nandigram who were resisting land acquisition is another aspect of the violence involved in the forced uprooting of India’s farmers.
It is also depressing to know that the Government is also least interested to improve the lot of the farmers and the agricultural productivity. On the 26th of march 2007 while addressing the Confederation of India Industry (CII), Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh stated that “ As I said recently in the parliament we have to recognise that in a country like ours, where the average size of land holding is small, there are limitations to what you can do to improve agricultural productivity”
Every Government institution, which should be looking after the welfare of the country and welfare of the farmers are launching an assault on the peasantry. The agricultural minister Mr Sharad pawar whose job is to look after the farmers and provide them livelihood security, has stated that farmers need to be “weaned” off the land . The deputy chairperson of the planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia is talking of the feasibility of large corporate ownership farmland. While, the farmers of Kalinganagar and Nadigram has declared loudly and clearly that they intend to farm their land.
Globalisation and trade liberalisation policies have lead to privatization of land, water, forests, natural resources and above all the biodiversity. It is often the farmers of the country who share a close association with these commons.
Village commons well categorized as “wastelands” under the British revenue system since the colonial powers could not collect revenues from them. Today, these so called wastelands are being transferred to industry. These watelands are actually the common lands. Common lands are a significant form of natural resource endowment. It plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance, and more particularly in supporting the people, especially the rural poor in eking out a livelihood. However the contribution of common lands to the rural economy and more particularly in supporting the people remain unappreciated. They also provide the people with the necessary fuel and fodder. Now these common lands are being diverted for the cultivation of Jatropha, a plant used for making Biofuel.
Village commons, as pastures, as wood lots, as sacred growers, grow biodiversity, which serves the rural economy, especially the landless, for needs of fuel, fodder, medicine and food. Jatropha plantations provide no fuel, no fodder, no food, for the village community. Village commons now provide raw material for the fuel for the cars of the urban rich. This is a shift from equity to inequity from sustainability to non-sustainability.
Privatisation of such living resources merely deprive the common people, especially the poor farmers of vital needs to sustenance and livelihoods. It also imposes non-sustainable patterns on food production and agriculture.
Whereever the farmers have been deprived of their land and livelihood and wherever they have been forced into corporate agriculture, the farmers have been in distress, the soil has been destroyed, the water has been overexploited and polluted. Wherever the farmers and the rural communities have been pushed off the land for industrialization it has lead to violence and they have turned out to be breeding ground for naxalism.
Our Food security is too vital an issue to be left in the hands of a few transnational corporations with their profit motives. Food security for all is not possible within a global market system based on the dogma of free trade, competition and profit maximization. On the other hand Food security can be achieved if people within their local and regional economies feel responsible, both as producers and consumers for the ecological conditions of food production, distribution, and consumption and for the preservation of cultural and biological diversity where self-sufficiency is the mail goal. It is vital to note that a food secure and peaceful India is in the hands of her small farmers. Without the farmers India will be a food insecure, violent and undemocratic society
It is high time we move from Globalisation to localization, from aggressive domination to non-violence, from competition to equity and from understanding humans as masters over nature to humans as part of nature to achieve the larger goal of food security and food Sovereignty