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Devinder Sharma       Devinder Sharma
Food and trade policy analyst, columnist and activists' guide

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Vital Voice

Committed to the cause of farmers and marginalised people, Devinder Sharma has the ability to explain complex issues in simple words with maximum intensity. Read his fearless and forthright comments on issues concerning agriculture, food, science, market, trade, WTO, governance, development and many more..


Food coupons for profit?
21 Jun 2012

If in the USA, the food stamp programme ends up adding profits to the corporate balance sheets, isn't it time that India looks at how to make it more effective in own ingenious way rather than blindly aping the US experience?

Environment enters Punjab discourse
21 Dec 2011

Alarmed by deteriorating environmental, social and physical health of Punjab, concerned citizens and organisations join hands to put pressure on the political parties to present a time bound programme to improve the condition of the state.

Fooling the farmer
30 Nov 2011

The proposal to allow multinational retail giants to enter India is pushed on the pretext of its possible benefits for the poor farmers. What many do not know is that big retail has only aggravated problems for the farmers everywhere they established their chain of mega stores.

Blindfolded, they grope in dark!
06 Nov 2011

With food inflation rising continuously and steeply for years, the low-income groups are badly affected. However, there seems to be a complete lack of motivation on the part of government to bring down the prices of food items as it continues to blame inflation on non-existent reasons.

One percent v/s 99 percent
21 Oct 2011

"Occupy Wall Street" is an expression of resentment against public policies that treat democracies as private club run by rich, for the rich. In many ways, anti-Wall Street movement is like Mahatma Gandhi's salt satayagrah.

Include agriculture under MNREGA
12 Oct 2011

Started as an effective tool to help rural poor to gainful employment in the villages, the rural job guarantee act has begun to adversely affect agriculture and food production. It is high time to bring convergence between farming and MNREGA to ensure livelihood security.

Saving Punjab farmer
04 Oct 2011

To overcome the adverse long term impacts of intensive farming, Punjab needs to make its agriculture more sustainable and farmer centric.

Teary tale of onion trade
21 Sep 2011

The recent ban on onion exports resulted in an aggressive lobbying to revoke the ban as demanded by the wholesale traders. The way Chief Ministers and cabinet ministers joined hands against the export ban, it is obvious that onions have become important political tool.

Distressed farmers declare crop-holiday
15 Sep 2011

To revive agriculture and to make farmers debt-free, government must bring in a Farmers Income Guarantee Act to determine the monthly income package a farm family must receive.

Corruption behind farm-crisis
07 Sep 2011

Corruption has not only hindered development of India but its role in creating and aggravating farm crisis is no less critical. Corrupt scientists, bank officials and policy makers have pushed farmers to the brink.

Time to revive native cow breeds
03 Aug 2011

Very high milk productivity of Indian cow breeds in Brazil proves that with proper nutrition, veterinary care and genetic development our desi cows can help us meet our growing milk demand. After decades of indifference, policymakers are now turning their focus on native breeds.

The last hope of common man
12 Jul 2011

In recent times, the Supreme Court has given some crucial judgements to curb the anti-people policies being pushed by governments in the name of development and growth. Considering the abject surrender of policymakers and media before the corrupt, judicial activism remains the only hope for the marginalised Indians.

Fighting hunger without farmlands
12 May 2011

Policymakers and supporters of land acquisition for so-called development projects do not realise that by diverting good productive farm land for non-agricultural purposes, they are pushing the next generation into hunger and malnutrition.

UP goes the Punjab way
25 Mar 2011

Considering the role of mandis in making Punjab food bowl of country, it is urgently required to set up a nationwide network of mandis in India. Though late, but UP government has taken a right decision to increase their number.

Don't wait for another Gandhi
18 Mar 2011

Despite ongoing dance of death on farmlands and multitude of crises in Indian agriculture, it is beyond comprehension why the various farmer movements in the nation haven't been able to mobilise the suffering masses.

Better late, than never
01 Mar 2011

Pranab Mukherjee has made a beginning to improve the conditions of the deprived and marginalised sections but the policies need much higher allocations to make any positive transformation in the lives of the poor.

Market opens for camel milk
10 Feb 2011

As demand for camel milk is on the rise globally, India can use the opportunity to effectively market the camel milk products and help improve the socio-economic conditions of the camel owners.

Dismantling mandis to benefit MNCs
28 Jan 2011

Not withstanding poor management, mandis have played a critical role in ensuring remunerative prices and timely purchase for the benefit of farmers and therefore, India needs improvement in mandi system, not its dismantlement as desired by industry bodies and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Fasting without repentance?
23 Dec 2010

TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu's fast to demand higher compensation for rain-affected farmers is being seen as his pro-farmer stance. But can we forget the miseries his faulty agri-policies brought to the Andhra Pradesh farmers?

India needs a Seed Liability Bill
18 Nov 2010

The proposed Seed Bill 2010 fails to address the long standing demands of the Indian farmers and remains soft towards the seed companies. Only a seed liability bill can provide protection to the vulnerable farmers.

Don't expect much from G-20
13 Nov 2010

Though the economic policies of the industrialised world continue to widen economic disparities, International groups like G-20 have failed to correct the structural problems behind the global economic crisis.

Surrendering Indian agriculture before Obama
04 Nov 2010

Having failed to revive U.S. economy and facing rising opposition back home, President Obama is coming to India with the sole aim to demand drastic policy measures to help revive business of US agri-corps and retail giants.

Bad science joins paid science
27 Sep 2010

Entire India, more so its young scientists and students, is left embarrassed and ashamed after expose of ‘copy and paste’ job done by the heads of India’s top science academies to push GM food into India. While these academy heads continue to cling to their posts despite being exposed of disgraceful deeds, the incident only confirms the widespread corruption and incompetence in India’s academic and research institutions.

Africa needs SAGRA, not AGRA
13 Sep 2010

Large agri-business has set its eyes on vast and unexplored market of Africa. The slogan of Second Green Revolution is their pass for a smooth entry. To avoid falling into the trap, Africa should first adopt environmentally sustainable agricultural practices and then create mechanisms to ensure an assured price and market to farmers.

Who will feed Uttar Pradesh?
08 Sep 2010

State governments are competing with each other to grab fertile lands of farmers and transfer these to industry. But with increasing population and decreasing arable land, feeding the people will become a huge challenge for states like Uttar Pradesh in the years to come.

Weather aberrations may exacerbate hunger
20 Aug 2010

The devastation wrought by aberrant weather conditions in several parts of the world has posed a larger question about the implications climate change has for food security of a nation.

After much hype, Jatropha bubble bursts
03 Aug 2010

Projected as the crop of the future, Jatropha was pushed by the industry and the governments with equal force. However, much to the disappointment of the farmers and misery to the poor and hungry, the alternative fuel crop has failed to fulfil the expectations of the world.

Empty rhetoric for empty stomachs
18 Jul 2010

The establishment needs to think beyond entitlements to completely remove hunger and malnutrition from India. Unfortunately, the proposed National Food Security Act fails to inspire much confidence.

Democratic rights under attack
06 Jul 2010

The schizophrenia displayed by industry organisations over nation wide protests against price rise indicates their rising intolerance for people's movements. If the suffering people are not even allowed to raise their voice what options they will have other than taking recourse to violence?

A crime that goes unpunished for 25 years
25 Jun 2010

Ignored and forgotten by successive governments, over 200,000 Narmada Dam oustees have been waiting for a rehabilitation package for almost a quarter of a century.

Spurious seeds flood the Indian market
18 Jun 2010

The poor regulation and absence of strict punitive measures in the present seed law encourage spurious seed manufacturers and sellers to exploit farmers.

Assured procurement can boost pulses production
15 Jun 2010

Instead of encouraging Indian farmers to grow pulses by ensuring purchase by government agencies at attractive prices, suggestions are put forth to outsource production to other countries without comprehending socio-economic and political implications.

It's all about market!!
05 Jun 2010

World Environment Day celebrations get global publicity because these are mostly supported by companies engaged in selling green technologies.

Wrong policies behind Rajasthan's water crisis
25 May 2010

Desert state Rajasthan, which has long been renowned for its traditional water harvesting methods, is today facing an acute water crisis. Policy makers blame the deficit rainfall for the crisis, but in fact misplaced agriculture and development policies have created the emergency.

Need water, pay money!
11 May 2010

Governments in power cite water scarcity as the prime reason behind their failure to ensure regular supply of safe drinking water to all citizens. But how come the private tankers and water bottlers always find enough water to sell?

Overhaul policies that acerbate hunger
31 Mar 2010

India has several programmes to fight hunger but none has been effective. Unless we change the policies responsible for poverty and spread of hunger, National Food Security Act would become another piece of legislation incapable of making any difference to those who live in hunger and penury.

Processed food won't feed the poor
22 Mar 2010

Government is extending all possible support to the food processing industry on the pretext of food security and reducing wastage. However, the facts say the processing industry prefers imported ingredients over local food leading to increased wastage and rise in food prices.

Empowering India with imported wisdom?
17 Mar 2010

A section of influential Indian middle class remains obsessed with anything foreign, more so American. No wonder, instead of making efforts to improve the education system of the country, the government is keen to invite the foreign universities to help educate India.

Bailing out the richest
12 Mar 2010

Forbes magazine says India has almost twice the number of billionaires than last year. Strangely these richest of the rich gained when the world economy was badly hit by the meltdown. Was it despite or due to the economic recession?

Thou shalt not question GM food!
03 Mar 2010

The proposed National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill threatens the very essence of democratic values and freedom.

Budget 2010: Farmer remains neglected
01 Mar 2010

The finance minister's four-point strategy to revitalise agriculture is good on intent, but weak in content.

Why we should oppose Bt brinjal?
11 Feb 2010

Though the government of India has cancelled the GEAC approval for commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal, majority of people remain unaware of the facts related to the controversy. Here are FAQs to help the readers:

A farm model to sustain the world
07 Jan 2010

Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) model successfully implemented in Andhra Pradesh is a roadmap for the future of Indian and world agriculture. It has tremendous potential to remove poverty and hunger with a very low carbon footprint.

Poverty line or starvation line?
18 Dec 2009

The much hyped economic growth figures of India are often twisted and skewed in favour of very rich. While the nation is asked to celebrate few billionaires' multiplying wealth, millions of Indians continue to sink deeper below the poverty line...

Making profits from poverty
25 Nov 2009

Micro-finance is a highly profitable business. No wonder Micro-finance institutions are competing with each other to extract their pound of flesh while 'helping the poor women'.

Don't downplay glacier melting
10 Nov 2009

It is in the interests of both India and China to allow scientific explorations and put suitable remedial solutions in place to minimise the threat of 'Glacial Lake Outburst Floods'.

The unsung hero of people's economics
07 Nov 2009

Renowned food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma pays his tribute to veteran journalist and social activist Prabhash Joshi, who died of a cardiac attack on the night of 5th November.

Manmohan's policies behind tribal alienation
06 Nov 2009

It is high time the country gets over its mindless obsession with the economic growth built on criminal exploitation of the tribal resources

Climate cost of free trade
26 Oct 2009

Climate change has become the buzzword in all development discourses. However, not many realise that the international agencies now trumpeting climate change issues, have long been pushing for free global trade, which is the major cause of global warming.

Droughts make the West worried
13 Oct 2009

From USA to China, scanty rainfall this year has led to droughts. The developed world fears recurrence of it could make some of its cities uninhabitable.

Agricultural scientists won't tell the truth
19 Sep 2009

While defence scientists have shown the courage to raise uncomfortable questions for the establishment in view of the long term national security preparedness, our agricultural scientists continue to hide dangerous facts from the public for their petty interests.

Obituary to Dr Norman Borlaug: He wouldn’t accept agriculture without chemicals
18 Sep 2009

The simple scientist, credited with the Green Revolution, was a die hard supporter of using chemicals and pesticides to increase food production.

Subsidize traditional varieties, not hybrid seeds
16 Sep 2009

By providing heavy subsidies for hybrid vegetable seeds, the government is promoting chemical and pesticide intensive agriculture. Instead, subsidy should be extended to healthier traditional crop varieties.

Global image, not poor farmers, is India's concern
04 Sep 2009

Lately, Indian negotiators in WTO have become extremely accommodating to the interests of the rich and industrialised world, even to the extent of sacrificing livelihood security of its crores of poor farmers.

Packaged Food or jungle food?
27 Aug 2009

Indians, mostly particular about what they eat, can’t believe this but their increased liking for imported packaged food may be damaging to their conscience. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows insects to be an essential component of some of the processed foods.

Sugar is not so sweet
18 Aug 2009

Due to massive increase in sugar consumption by Indians, the government is exploring the option of duty free imports. But considering the harmful effects of sugar-rich foods, this shortage should be used to encourage the citizens to reduce their sugar intake.

Consumers' silence over adulterated milk baffling
10 Aug 2009

Milk is a crucial component of Indian diet, particularly for children, but the society, industry and government remain indifferent to spurious milk supply and usage.

It's raining FTAs!
07 Aug 2009

Manmohan Singh government is in a hurry to sign FTAs without considering the consequences or taking the nation into confidence.

Poison on your plate
21 Jul 2009

Food adulteration has taken dangerous proportions but both consumers and regulatory bodies are completely indifferent to the risks of adulterated food products.

Turning People into lab rats
19 Jul 2009

Government is in a tearing hurry to allow production and sale of GM food in the country but who will take the responsibility in case its consumption turns out to be harmful for health.

NREGS injection to rescue ailing farm sector
08 Jul 2009

Pranab Mukherjee's effort to integrate NREGS with agriculture, forestry and water conservation in the Budget 2009 may help revive the rural economy.

The Great Gene Robbery II
24 Jun 2009


Manmohan govt throws in the towel, developed world cheers
19 Jun 2009

As the new government of India buckles under US pressure, WTO Doha Round looks set to be concluded as per the dictates of the OECD

WTO rejoices over Kamal Nath's exit from Commerce Ministry
29 May 2009

By removing Kamal Nath from WTO negotiations, Manmohan Singh has cleared the path of US & EU negotiators to conclude the Doha Round as per their liking.

Verdict 2009 is for Dal-Roti
18 May 2009

2009 parliamentary election results though varying in different states clearly indicate a preference for socially responsible and compassionate governance

Child labour -- The ugly side of American agriculture
12 May 2009

Child labour in American Agriculture? You must be kidding!

Plants have become less healthy, and so have you
05 May 2009


US moving towards patenting our Holy Cow
26 Apr 2009


Earth Day Resolve: Close Five Food Giants, Save Water
22 Apr 2009


Agricultural universities ignore sustainable farming
10 Apr 2009


 

 

 

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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