8/5/08

A Reporter Visits Punjab Agricultural University.   From Slate.com.

"[The academics with whom the reporter spoke] argued passionately that Punjab was caught in a global crisis in which small farmers around the world were being cut off from collective structures that allowed them to leverage economies of scale by sharing big-ticket items like tractors. ...Incredibly, in a country where 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas and slums are the fastest-expanding part of overloaded cities, India's leaders believe that moving millions of people off the land so that large-scale factory farming can be established with private investment is the way to go. ...The Indian government gets a lot of encouragement for this scenario from institutions such as the World Bank that favor export-oriented agriculture; from transnational agribusiness giants clamoring to get into India, a country with the second-largest amount of arable land after the United States; and from India's own big companies eager to get into a new business area some experts predict will eclipse the billions made from outsourcing and information technology. India's minister of finance, Palaniappan Chidambaram, envisions a future where 85 percent of India's population lives in cities and only 15 percent are engaged in agriculture, an India with a heartland as empty as that of the United States with its few remaining farmers completely beholden to the agribusiness giants who sell them their seeds, their fertilizers, and their pesticides, and then buy their harvests.  This is not the vision I found at PAU. One dean lamented: "We've been told you have to push people off the farm, that that is the solution." Clearly, he disagreed."

posted August 5, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.