The Contours of Alternative Development

Any development process that we engage ourselves in should be aimed at bringing happiness to the lower strata of our Society, who today are deprived of the most fundamental needs of food, work, shelter, health and education. If a large majority of our population sleeps hungry every day, what is the point of trumpeting loudly about our GDP growth? If extensive migration from village continues unabated in search of invisible work to overcrowded cities, how irrelevant is the talk about India becoming a superpower.

The destruction of rural harmony and substituting it by urban disorder, slums and pollution makes a mockery of our claim to be a “Shining” or “Incredible” India. What the continuing direction of so-called development has produced is making the vast majority, specially in rural countryside, helpless, miserable, virtual beggars with loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. With all the talk of planned growth and socialistic pattern of society in the first 40 years after independence and with reversal of direction to free market and globalization in the subsequent 20 years, what we have proudly achieved is a fragmented and divided society with power and wealth in hands of unscrupulous few who are free to exploit the majority on the plea of taking the country forward. Look around you and we find a dirty India, an unhappy India, a miserable India, a divided India, a directionless India, an India devoid of its morals, traditions and moorings, a rootless India! It makes feel like crying – what have the leaders, the learned, the educated, the intelligent people done to this country that was once the Jewel of the East?

But let us not despair. All is not lost particularly amongst the youth. They only need to be told the truth, the facts and what the future holds for them. Their future is at stake and they cannot sit idly, helpless and allow the deterioration to take place. They will ACT.

What do we need to do?
A. Food Security With Farmers’ Security

First and foremost, knowing that a large majority of our population lives in the rural countryside and is dependent on agriculture for a living (don’t we all want food to keep alive?), we have to concentrate first on developing and investing in agriculture. The government moans the fact that agriculture growth is only 2% whereas industrial growth is 8 to 9% and hence3 justifies further investment in industry. It wants the people to believe that we can eat steel if we do not get food.

In this context, it is pertinent to mention that today the government policy is to augment agriculture productivity by –

  • Aggressively promoting rice and wheat cultivation at the expense of other beneficial and healthy crops. 
  • Marketing laboratory-developed high-priced high-yielding hybrid paddy and wheat seeds that require heavy inputs of fertilizers, urea and water.
  • Providing loans to farmers for purchase of above items and giving fertilizer subsidies.
  • Periodically waiving off farm loans.
  • Shedding crocodile tears on farmers’ suicides due to excessive debt

All the above actions, whoever thought of them, have resulted in increasing poverty of farmers, infertility of farmland due to excessive chemical inputs, disappearance of our biodiversity on the farm through systematic disappearance of jwar, madua and other crop grains, promoted monoculture resulting in malnutrition, put farmers in debt on account of forced seed and fertilizer purchase, etc. The list is endless and the final result is – today the farmer is hungry and tomorrow we all will be hungry.

Our farmlands are shrinking replaced by large industries, airports, highways, expanding urban centers, malls, SEZ’s, etc. In fact our leaders want to urbanize villages and import the food that we need for our sustenance. How foolish can you get?

Our farmlands are becoming infertile by excessive government promotion and use of fertilizers and pesticides necessitated by high yielding rice and wheat seeds developed by our “dedicated” laboratories and research teams.

Our farmers are getting deeper and deeper in debt because even before they can produce any crop, they have to buy seeds, buy fertilizers, buy pesticides and for all this take loans. With stress on monoculture of rice and wheat, they have to depend on market to sell the rice and wheat they grow (they have to purchase other food items from market to make a full meal). Markets are always cruel to the weaker sections and hence the farmer returns with less income than what he invested. And if Rain God is angry (where is the guarantee of water through planned irrigation?), the farmer is desolate and destroyed.

The net result of shrinking farmland, infertility of soil and the destroyed farmer is less food for all of us and then the only alternative is to pray to God to save us all!

The alternate development path is clear. First stop what we are doing. Then go back (nay forward in real sense) to how we were doing farming 70 or 80 or 90 years back.

We had indigenous seeds then of our own developed by nature over centuries which we preserved and stored for farming so that we never paid for seeds. We made organic manure with nature’s help to add fertility to soil and again we did not pay for such fertilizers. We grew variety of crops and vegetables so that we had a healthy diet and did not have to depend on the market. We also grew what we ate and ate what we grew.

In addition, today we have developed organic methods of farming and manure making that increase overall agriculture productivity not just for one crop or two but over a wide range of our produce.

The soil remains fertile or even increases its fertility, no loan is taken by farmer for farming, farmer eats a healthy mixed diet, and agriculture production as a whole increases adding to the food security of the nation. Is this a dream? Of course not. Examples are plenty in India where by following this, farmers are happy and growing a variety of crops in abundance for our nation. It is such a crime and an irony that in today’s India. The farmer who grows our crops and feeds us city folks has to sleep hungry and ultimately commits suicide. Are we so dumb and insensitive?

What I have said above is supported by the following –

  • “Is Alternative Agriculture Revolutionary?” – an article by Rajinder Chaudhary contained in Alternative Economic Survey, India 2007-2008 by Alternative Survey Group entitled “Decline of the Developmental State”, published in 2008 by Daanish Books, Delhi
  • “End of India Farmers” – an article under the title “Growth and Equity : Policy Demands, Commitments and Performance”, contained in Citizens’ Report on Governance and Development 2008-2009 by Social Watch India, published in 2009 by Daanish Books, Delhi
  • “Why is Every 4th Indian Hungry?” – a book by Dr. Vandana Shiva and Kunwar Jalees, published in 2009 by Navdanya, Delhi

We have to say NO to :

  • Hybrid and genetic seeds
  • Monoculture in farming
  • Fertilizers and pesticides
  • All government propaganda in support of above

We have to say YES to :

  • Indigenous seeds
  • Multi-crop bio-diversity in farming
  • Improved organic manure making
  • Improved organic farming methods
  • Freeing ourselves from the market

This will only result in food security in the long run for the nation. Anything less, we are fooling ourselves.

B. Rural Industrialization

The second point we have to tackle in our alternate development process is creation of employment and increasing earning potential of rural sector to supplement farming income. This only will stop rural migration to cities. Jobs have to be created in villages, not in cities, and giving doles through various Government Schemes has to stop. We do not have to make our rural population beggars at the mercy of the Government (isn’t that what NREGA has done?) but give them work and employment opportunities so that they are masters of their destiny. In short, we have to produce an army of rural entrepreneurs in our villages through agro-processing in tiny and small scale sectors.

But first, villages must get electricity – not through large power plants (their power is invariably reserved for cities) but through tiny and small power generating units such as micro-thermal and micro-hydro power plants, small solar plants, small wind mills, and such units – all such power generation owned, operated and maintained by villagers themselves. The real power then is in their hands.

Is the above possible? Why not? If a man can land on the moon, why not small economically viable power units, if we put our brains behind it and back it with funds, determination and commitment.

With power available both for lighting and for small industrial units, one can think of :

  • Tiny oil mills
  • Tiny rice mills
  • Tiny flour mills
  • Tiny jaggery (gur) making machines
  • Tiny potato chips making units

and many such agro-based units – not food parks, not large mechanized units – but small individual machines in multiples promoting larger employment and earning base as well as making the village self-sufficient. They do not have to buy oil, they produce their own; they don’t buy flour, they make their own; they don’t buy harmful sugar, they produce their own beneficial employment and earning and a spirit of self-dependency inculcated in the village community.

Today for all areas of agro-based manufacturing, there are small and tiny sector plants that are equally efficient in producing quality goods.

We need to promoter aggressively and unapologetically tiny and small that creates jobs not unemployment, creates earnings for all not just for few, conserves and protects not destroys and pollutes nature.

What all the above means that we need to halt the pace of urban development and focus instead on rural areas where the large majority of neglected poor but wise and honest people are desperately eking out a living. The rich need to be neglected for the moment (they had their fill) for the benefit of the poor. Otherwise, the day is not far off when clashes, violence and bloodshed due to glaring disparities will occur uncontrolled and unabated.

Real India resides in villages, the First India is our Farmer and this has to be our focus of alternative development. Make the Farmer our King, make the Villager our Master and restore the balance in the society. Village still preserves our age old culture (we call them backward) and India has survived centuries because of our values, traditions and time-tested practices. Let us not give all this away at the false glitter and glamour of westernization put in the garb of modernization.

We will then win and so will our youth! We do not want to become superpower, we want to be super happy!


More by :  Prem Verma

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