Land reforms required for a just and sustainable society

  • Shreekumar | 30 June 2020

The Karnataka Cabinet has decided to take the ordinance route to implement amendments to the Land Reforms Act that will enable anyone with enough money to buy agricultural land.  This amendment will open the floodgates for predatory capital to enter agriculture.  Land ownership will be consolidated in the hands of people with money.  It will also lead to large scale mechanised agriculture.  Our policies must be aimed at optimum land holdings for sustainable, climate-resilient agriculture.  The importance of agriculture in ecological restoration and the fact that no sector of the economy can match agriculture in providing employment must not be forgotten while framing policies.  Land reforms must be part of a larger policy shift towards social justice and sustainability.

Our laws and policies must be framed so as to promote social justice and sustainability.  Thus far, our policies have been guided by considerations of economic growth rather than sustainability.  Since neo-liberalism gained ground, our policies came to be guided solely by pursuit of economic growth, without even bothering to think about who benefited from it.  This has resulted in unacceptable economic inequality as well as ecological destruction.  Now that climate change has reached a point of crisis, it is necessary to recognise that the crisis is a symptom of the fact that humanity has been conducting its affairs in an unsustainable manner.  We are truly in an emergency and we must respond to it as we do to any emergency, i.e. according it the highest priority.  Justice and sustainability must be the guiding principles of all our policies and our laws must also be aligned with these principles.  One of the most important steps in this direction is enacting suitable land reforms.

Recognising that the climate crisis is the result of relentless pursuit of economic growth disregarding ecological limits, profit maximisation must be rejected as the driving force of economic activities.  It should be replaced by considerations of security and minimisation of risk to all, especially to the poor.  Ecological restoration must now be undertaken on priority.  Rebuilding soil fertility, restoring water security and protecting biodiversity are important aspects of ecological restoration.  Our laws and policies must be changed so as to be aligned with this priority.  They should be guided by a holistic vision of a just and sustainable society. Knee-jerk reactions to situations arising from earlier shortsighted policies are to be avoided.  Further, alleviation of poverty itself must not be hostage to the desire of the rich to maximise profits.  It should follow from our constitutional commitment to right to life, dignity and equality of opportunities.  Amendments to Land Reforms must be guided by this constitutional commitment and the urgency of ecological restoration.

Agriculture must no longer be meant just for producing food but must also be an integral part of ecological restoration.  Seen from this point of view, it must not be an economic activity driven by maximisation of return on investment.  Land must not be a commodity but should be considered as commons if anyone who wishes to do farming, not just for producing food but as part of a project of ecological restoration, is to have access to it.  Ecological restoration must be a mission and must attract not just those who have left farming but also other people who wish to participate in it. Ideally, land use planning must be done based on considerations of ecological sustainability, taking micro-watersheds as units.  There should be usufruct rights for permissible use of land.  Usufruct rights must be given preferably to cooperatives.  The size of land holdings must be what is optimum for sustainable, climate-resilient agriculture.

Value addition from farming must be evaluated not just from the economic value of the produce but also on the ecological value of restoring soil fertility, water security and biodiversity.  There must be a policy to train farmers in agro-ecological methods and farmers should be paid for doing restoration work.  Scientists must be consulted to device a rational method of compensating farmers for ecological restoration.  The possibility of strengthening programmes like NREGA for undertaking such work must be considered.  This has the potential to not just stop migration of farmers due to ecological degradation but even encourage them to return to their places to participate in restoration.  This work, being of the highest priority, should not suffer from paucity of funds.  Transparency and monitoring by local bodies must prevent corruption.  Taxation on all economic activities that are extractive in nature must be used for raising funds for the mission of ecological restoration.  The guarantee of security offered to farmers must be sufficient to wean them away from demanding subsidies and populist policies.

The policies suggested here will not find easy acceptance but are based on the realities of climate crisis and unacceptable economic disparities.  Changes in our laws and policies must at least proceed in this direction.  Policies leading to consolidation of land in the hands of powerful people or corporations should not be allowed at any cost since it will lead to greater economic inequality as well as further ecological destruction through the use of extractive practices in agriculture.  Using an ordinance to implement such a policy amounts to a fraud on the constitution and on the people of the nation.

  • Shreekumar

(Formerly taught chemical engineering at NITK Surathkal, doing farming as part of a sustainable lifestyle)

Sangatya Commune, Nakre, Karkala Taluk, Udupi District, Karnataka 576 117

Email: shreudp@gmail.com

Phone: 94803 46081

Commercial success at the cost of destroying a river – Tiruppur’s Garment Business Case Story

 

Noyyal River - Tirupur

A Business model that damages Ecology

Tiruppur’s cloth range are not environmentally sustainable.

 

South India’s Tiruppur City is an example of the environmental damages, non-sustainable cloth and garment manufacturing processes can cause to a City’s precious rivers and water resources. This is a case in point of how business and economic progress took place at a huge cost of causing severe environmental degradation.

Noyyal River sacrificed for having the textile industry flourish!!

Tiruppur is a famous centre for it’s cotton knitwear , particularly cotton t-shirts. During the 1990’s, Tiruppur’s economy in terms of employment and export earnings thrived due to the cotton knitwear industry. The City’s garment businesses have got many global fashion retailers as customers. However, the process of manufacturing these garments involved bleaching and chemical dyeing which polluted the Tiruppur City’s Noyyal river which was once beautiful.

Contamination and pollution of Noyyal River -Tiruppur

 

Farmers lose out with their lands getting degraded

Farmers occupation hit at Tiruppur - India

 

Subsequently over the years, the Noyyal river became a toxic sewer and with the river’s chemically contaminated waters creeping into the groundwater table , a major natural source of clean water was destroyed and the water became unfit to be used for most of the agricultural purposes. All farmers in and around the district that depended on the waters of the Noyyal river for irrigation were negatively impacted.

Noyyal River - Tiruppur,India

 

 Productive Farming prevalent before the entities began their contamination

Before the dyeing and bleaching era existed prior to the 1990’s the Noyyal river which was clean supported the farming community as farmers grew a variety of crops – rice, sugarcane, groundnut, sesame, turmeric, beetroot, green chilli, tomato, cotton, tobacco, banana etc. Now the dirty, toxic contaminated waters of Noyyal river have destroyed farming occupations as the only crops that can be grown using these now toxic waters are coconuts and maize predominately used in dairy and livestock farming.

Unhealthy yield of coconut - Tiruppur, India

 

Even the coconuts that are grown now are of deteriorated quality looking small and unhealthy.

Farmer earnings now hit rock bottom!!

Villages that are even 70km downstream from Tiruppur are negatively impacted due to contamination of the Noyyal river with farmers making paltry earnings, as their agricultural lands and occupations are ruined, all due to these harmful effluents released by Tiruppur’s dye and bleaching entities!!

Tiruppur’s residents lose a precious source of water

Weeds, Distroyed Noyyal River, Tiruppur, India

Besides the farmers, resident people too are negatively affected with their local water resource contaminated and wasted by Tiruppur’s environmentally destructive textile manufacturing practices.

Let’s remember the water footprint of making one cotton t-shirt

Every cotton t-shirt has a water footprint with 1000’s of litres of water required to make it, beginning from growing the cotton crop, then processing of the cloth and wastage of water due to pollution involved in this process as well. Each cloth wastes, a natural resource that these days is critically scant.

 It’s possible to apply natural dyes for clothes – Sustainable Alternative

Charaka naturally dyed handloom clothes

 

This need not have been the story if Tiruppur did manufacture garments in an environmentally friendly, ethical way. For instance, Charaka, a women’s co-operative located at Bhimanakone Village in the Western Ghats region of Southern India, manufactures handloom garments using natural dyes.

Natural Dyes extracted from plant varieties

These natural dyes are extracted from crops and plants available in the forests of Western Ghats; like arecanut, pomegranate, jackwood, madder root for rich colours and hues of brown, red and yellow.

 Handmade clothes made with care employing rural locals

Designs made on a naturally dyed handloom cloth using Block Printing technique

Charaka was successful in providing employment and livelihoods to women of the region. Such garments are manufactured with care for the environment and done using labour employing their hand skills in weaving naturally dyed garments using handlooms.

Fabrics are woven using handloom employing labour

Fabrics are woven using handloom employing labour

 

Additional value is added to the garments with designs made on them with elegant hand embroidery and block printing, where wood blocks are used to make designs on the garments.

Charaka's elegant hand embroidery on their naturally dyed handloom clothes

Ultimate in Sustainability

Such a business model is sustainable, it employs local resources from raw materials to labour, gives jobs to rural people and there is a special value because these products are handmade, eco-friendly.

 We can make sustainable choices in making purchases!!

A takeaway for us in all this, is that when we buy clothes, we choose clothes that are ethically made, clothes that are made without polluting rivers without destroying livelihoods of farmers. This is sustainable fashion.

Charaka range of eco sustainable dresses for men

 

There is more value for a cloth that’s made with care, using hand skills of local rural people, than mass produced soulless machine made mass produced clothes.

Charaka range of eco sustainable dresses for women.

India we all know used to be popular with Khadi cloth business as well, it supported the village economy providing jobs to people of rural India. We have the choice of making conscious sustainable choices, valuing environment, labour and creating a positive change by buying clothes that helps in giving a living to local people, providing them respect and dignity for their valuable work.

All photos related to the Noyyal River taken from the following wire article
https://thewire.in/environment/australian-open-tiruppur-dyeing-bleaching-groundwater-contamination-agriculture-noyyal-river
Photo credits to Neetha Deshpande

 

The deteriorated Economy of India experiencing Low Growth and Unemployment

Declining Economy

 

 

These past recent months, there have been talks of weather India is staring at an Economic Crisis. The Indian Government, have tried to tone down this matter by saying that India is just going through a slowdown which is natural as a result of generalized Global Economic slowdown that is affecting even the developed economies of USA, UK,Japan and other countries around the world. However, latest data released for the 2nd quarter of 2019(July to Sept period) has given us clear data that indicate that the rate of growth of the Indian Economy has not just declined drastically but majority of the India’s population have got poorer, are consuming less and are unemployed.

Economic Crisis Situation

 

Wire news report on Indian Economic Performance 2019 Q2 Period
https://thewire.in/video/watch-the-wire-business-report-understanding-the-q2-gdp-slump

Overall growth of Indian Economy is poor reflected by Sub 5% GDP growth

GDP growth has been just 4.5% which is the lowest since 2013 Quarter 4 period. This means that the growth experienced by Indian Economy to provide jobs to it’s more than a billion population right now is just not enough!!!

Declining Economy

 Declining Growth Rates of the Major Sectors of the Indian Economy

In Q2 Manufacturing Sector has grown by 2.6%, Construction sector by 3.2% and Agricultural Sector has grown by a really dismal 2.1% , all these sectors are experiencing a decline in growth rates in comparison to Quarter 1 period of 2019.

 Industrial Production is at a low

Industrial and Manufacturing Activity have contracted as indicated by contraction of the core sectors of Indian Economy by 5.8% with a decline in production of crude oil, natural gas, cement, coal production, electricity, steel etc.

This indicates that there is less demand for these essential products required by Construction industries and manufacturing units for production and infrastructure building activities, due to them not doing much in their building and production activities.

 Investment in the Economy has grown by less than 1%

Investment in India by business entities was less than 1% in this period with the investment rate gone down to 28%, meaning no companies and business entities are confident to invest in India at present. This is despite the measures taken by the current Government to induce industries and companies to invest more with the Government having exercised its monetary policy of Repo rRate cuts so that industries and companies get cheap loans for investment purposes.

Besides cutting of interest rates, India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaram also gave tax reductions to Corporate Entities amounting to 37,000 crore, even then investment has not picked up. Generally, if the above measures don’t work, it could only mean that there other issues ailing the Indian Economic Environment that needs to be fixed, for investment and growth to pick up.

 Unemployment, income inequalities and increase in Poverty

More worrying truths that are ugly emerge as well as rural distress has only increased, along with 7% increase in unemployment with their consumption having come down by 2% according to the 2018 leaked data of National Statistics Office (NSO).

Poverty has increased as well, with income inequalities having grown at vulgar proportions!! The majority of the section of India’s population who are in the bottom of the pyramid, are only getting poorer day by day.

 Retail inflation with low growth in economy and unemployment a worry!!

In the months of November and December, Retail inflation had risen to
5.54% and 7.35% with increase in prices of essential food items – milk, vegetables, egg, fish and meat. A majority of India’s population are low income population, along with low growth in job opportunities and unemployment, rise in prices of essential food products will have them not able to even afford food for basic nutrition!!

Outlook news on India’s retail inflation
https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/business-news-retail-inflation-jumps-to-735-in-december-2019-against-novembers-554/345659

The Structural issue in the current Indian Economic System

There have been discussions relating to whether this Economic slowdown is cyclical or structural, meaning are there inherent problems prevalent in the Indian Economic System that are the reasons for this economic low growth or is this just a natural economic cycle?. The answer to this is yes, there are structural issues crippling the Indian Economy. Since years the GDP growth of Indian Economy only grew because of profits made by the Corporate sector, but a large section of India remained poor and India’s rural economy has been destroyed.

Wire’s News article – 
India’s former chief statistician, Pronab Sen on India’s economic situation
https://thewire.in/video/watch-india-economy-karan-thapar-pronab-sen-interview

Farmer suicides since years because of Poverty

Agricultural Sector that comprises of farmers and labourers that provide food security to the entire Indian country have never procured a decent remuneration to make a living even though the goods that they produce have a permanent long standing demand as everyone of us are consumers of food materials for our survival, health and vitality!! Add to this they often are exploited and stressed due to the pressure of them needing to pay back loans, due to which many have been committing suicides.

The Workers and Labourers have always been paid very poorly

The workers and labourers in factories and industries are the real producers, but they never had job security even though their employers like big car companies, tyre companies, Construction companies and others make profits using their services, their wages also have been unfairly low when compared to the value they added to the Economic system. This was the case even when India experienced an economic boom, when Manufacturing and Construction companies were expanding and making profits.

https://www.networkideas.org/featured-articles/2018/08/factory-workers-in-india/

 India’s Rural Sector been destroyed

Traditionally, India’s rural Sector provided jobs to people in occupations like handicraft making, handloom cloth business, there were fishermen, farmers, small vendors, hawkers, khadhi weavers etc. These jobs were supporting giving livelihoods to lakhs of people in the area without the need for them to take that difficult step of migrating to urban areas and struggling to make a living there. However, that sector has been neglected by the Indian Government, as a result India’s poverty levels remain high.

SMEs are important as they provide employment to many

Small and Medium Enterprise segment (SMEs), that comprise of small and medium sized businesses do provide employment to a large population, but that segment has largely been ignored in the current Economic System which has favoured only capitalist entities in India!!

 India’s GDP could be more if the neglected sectors are developed and grown

India’s GDP would definitely have been better if all it’s sectors of Economy were nurtured and attended to by the Indian Economic System. So, farmers, weavers, textile workers, labourers, workers, fishermen, small and medium enterprise constituents would have earned enough to lead a dignified life. Then with enough money in their hands, their purchasing power would be constant enough to keep them demanding essential goods and services – food, electricity, healthcare, education services and other goods required by them which would have a positive and real increase in India’s GDP.

India’s prosperity only possible if the neglected sectors are revived

It is high time India becomes that country where poverty is eradicated and everybody has enough to lead a decent basic standard of living. India’s Economic system of production has been unjust to the majority of its population involved in occupations mentioned before (agriculture and farming, traditional textile industry comprising khadi and handloom garments, small scale industry constituents, fishermen, factory and industry workers and labourers, hawkers, handicraft artisans, weavers and more) .

Here is a write up on how the small sector players actually employ people – rural women and even disabled youth – 

https://gramsevasangh.org/2019/11/13/sacred-economy-in-the-real-world-and-its-positive-impacts/

India’s Banking Sector crippled with NPAs

Another, really troubling fact is that Big Corporates and individuals have cheated many Public Sector Banking institutions with non-repayment of loans and gotten away with it for a long time. This has affected the common man, as when there are bad debts and non-performing assets(NPAs), the hard earned money of the bank’s depositors are unsafe, with the bank not having liquidity to pay back it’s depositors with all that the amount lost as unrecovered loans.

Outlook Magazines story on Indians fear in having their saving in Public Sector Banks
https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/business-news-is-your-money-safe-why-indians-are-losing-their-trust-in-banks/302302

One of the latest cases is of Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank not able to recover Rs 4355 crore loan which it lent to Housing Development & Infrastructure Ltd. Due to this, there were concerns on PMC’s money liquidity availability and Reserve Bank Of India (RBI) intervened imposing restrictions on Depositors on withdrawing their own money from the bank. It has to be noted that mostly the common man with small earnings are affected here with their years of hard invested savings being insecure in a public sector bank.

Now figures show that Bank Credit lending has come down by 88%, banks are not comfortable to lend to companies like before in fear of NPAs increasing as these companies may not be able to pay the loan back in the prevailing economic climate which is not looking promising.

India’s Economic System favouring mostly the Big Corporate Entities been harmful

The above case is just one example of bad loans, owners of profit making companies like Kingfisher’s Vijay Mallaya and jewel company businessman Nirav Modi have gotten away from India earlier without paying back the loans and advances they secured amounting to crores of money. All this definitely shows that India’s Banking Sector is not healthy which is required for the good financial health of the Economy. This also reflects how big companies and businessmen get easy money from the system, that’s not the case for small sectors discussed before, even though the small sector has potential to employ a lot of population lifting them out of poverty and hardship.

India’s earlier GDP growth numbers due to economic boom benefiting only a small section

Now, all these problems existed for a long while, but India sustained some growing GDP numbers as IT companies and other constituents in the capitalist system employed a small section of people who earned degrees and worked hard. India’s GDP growth, was definitely one sided it never reflected the prosperity of the Nation as a whole.

Growth of Nation cannot happen just by encouraging sales of cars, aiding the automobile industry to grow, or sale of real estate that’s also a costly market, or being happy with earnings that come from air travel, or gold jewelry sales anymore. Government must cater to the requirements of small players rather than having India’s GDP grow by stimulating demand of the upper class segments on products and services of big companies, industries and economic powers. This is definitely a monster economy not giving a level playing field to small players!!

 Demonetisation worsened India’s Economy

Lately, India has further fallen deep into the economic crisis mess because of certain policies of the BJP Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, namely Demonetisation and GST tax regime.

Demonetisation in November 2016 had the Government declare old issues of 500 Rs and 2000 Rs notes to cease as acceptable legal tender to be replaced by new version of those currency notes.

Demonetisation, resulted in small entities in neglected sectors not have money liquidity to sustain business, overtime they were forced to shut down and lakhs of people lost jobs. Added to this, came the Goods and Services tax (GST), this magnified difficulties for the small, neglected sectors discussed before, as they could not pay tax and this increased their distress. Ideally, small and medium Industries and businesses should be exempted from tax until they mature with constant earnings and prosperity.

 Corruption eating away precious money…

Much more can be said on India’s Economy, especially how precious money is lost in corruption wastages. Even though India Metro Cities are saturated with unsustainable and unplanned development, more projects that are not required are introduced like the needless flyovers,skywalks, dam building on free flowing rivers and other things. Often, money gets allocated for those projects, and corruption has officials pocket money. Again, big companies that get tender for the project get fatter making money out of it. However, no development happens in rural areas which lacks basic roads, healthcare and educational facilities. There is no balanced all around development that would benefit the entire Nations with prosperity and peace.

 India needs to sort this situation else it’s going to be a prolonged suffering

A must mention is resulting deterioration in environmental conditions in India with Government having allowed big economic entities to pollute rivers, cut trees, reduce forest cover for business projects of big companies and industries.

India is definitely in a mist of a big economic and environmental crisis, hopefully, Government at least encourages all the sectors that became marginalized as they were neglected to develop now, so farmers, weavers, textile workers, artisans, labourers, small entrepreneurs, small and medium enterprise businesses workers get to earn a living and many millions of population get employed and skilled working in these sectors.