29 Sep 2012

Bayer-Walmart partnership: A wedge in the heart of India's food security

I'd posted previously on why opening up the Indian market to FDI in food retail is akin to opening up a pandora's box full of ominous portents.

One of the most insidious eventual outcomes is the total or near-total control of the food chain from seed-to-shelf by giant retail chains and chemical corporations.


It is called the Value Chain Partnership. But in reality, the tag-teaming of chemical giant, Bayer and retail giant, Walmart, is a wedge being driven into the heart of India's food security. Treacherously packaged as a "sustainable agriculture" initiative, the final (long-term) objective is obvious: to control every step of cultivation from seed to chemical inputs to harvest procurement, and finally, to the point-of-sale.

In a nutshell, the idea is for Walmart to pressure farmers to grow 'traceable' produce with a 'Bayer (crop) Passport'! To earn the 'Bayer Passport', farmers will have to use both seeds and chemicals that are supplied by Bayer. And this monopolistic process is somehow going to make agriculture more "sustainable" than it has been for the several millennia that Indians have put plough to the ground? Hardly.

This 'partnership' is solely to maximise Bayer's and Walmart's future profit by consolidating vital points of India's food chain and crushing competitors (farmers) if they do not comply.

Do you think a consumer base of more than 1.2 billion individuals could become profitable?

Do you think it is remotely possible that no-one in the entire Government of India apparatus is aware of this potentially fatal risk to India's food security?

Do you think it is possible that they know - and are lying to the public, anyway?

26 Sep 2012

Manmohan Singh is the pied piper; don't follow him!

This video is titled: The most important video you will ever see - and it just might be true.

After you've watched the 9-minute clip, please read on...

In his speech to mark 65 years of India independence, Manmohan Singh, the (un-elected) Prime Minister of India, mysteriously declared: "If we do not increase the pace of the country's economic growth...it most certainly affects our national security."

Mr Manmohan Singh is practically calling for the "acceleration" of exponential growth! If you've watched the video above, you'll realise how deeply flawed this proposition is.

But Manmohan Singh's idea is MORE than flawed - it's completely preposterous! Because... India already had the second highest growth in FDI inflows in the world during 2011. In February 2012 (six months before Manmohan's chilling comment on Independence Day, August 15), India saw annual FDI growth of 74% - And just one month later, in March 2012, India recorded an eight-fold increase in FDI flow!

Manmohan Singh, an economist with multiple doctorates, is attempting to make a 'vertical straight line' out of an exponential 'curve'!

Given what we now know (pls watch the video) about the unsustainability of exponential growth - does anyone have any doubt that the Manmohan Singh is NOT talking about a long-term plan for India?

And by the way, the hike in diesel price to "save the oil marketing companies" is bunkum. Indian Oil Corp (IOC) reported a 224% jump in its January-March (2012) net profit. And Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) said its net profit nearly quadrupled in the same period!

Now let's get back to his Independence Day speech...

Although he did not elaborate on the rationale for equating "economic growth" with "national security" - I assume he meant the following possible sequence of events:

1. capital-flow barriers (for Wall St and City of London hustlers) leading to a sovereign debt rating downgrade (by Wall St and City of London hustlers) - a serious event given that India's is just ONE step above 'junk bond' rating

2. ensuing credit crunch (because of the high interest rate on loans to India or Indian companies) slowing down the economy

3. consequent drop in tax earnings leading to imposition of "austerity measures" - i.e slashed welfare spending and subsidies for the public, and "economic stimulus" - i.e easy money for the oligarch-investor class

4. resulting price inflation, unemployment (or low wage growth) creating the possibility of serious large-scale social unrest

We can see already this unfortunate sequence of events unfolding in Portugal, Spain and Greece right now. Only, India's population of young people would make any such 'unrest' take on really massive proportions!

Is the scenario I described above plausible? I don't know about you, but the Home Ministry of India seems to think so!

In March 2011, India's Home Ministry identified unemployed young people as a significant security "challenge" during a seminar conducted by the Indian Army's think-tank, Centre for Land Warfare Studies.

Did you notice too, the unfortunate combination of words that made up that sentence? "Unemployed young people", "security challenge" - and more alarmingly, "Indian Army" and "Land Warfare".

Is it significant that after 65 years of trying to keep the Indian Army well away from all but the most benign and ceremonial involvement on the domestic front (a valuable lesson learnt from the bitter experiences of our occasionally-democratic neighbours) - the civilian establishment is now discussing the country's internal security, economics and demographics with the military?

Of course, it is.

Sadly, it looks to me like India's rulers are goading and prodding a reluctant nation of over one billion people down a road whose unpleasant end-point they already know.

18 Sep 2012

FDI in food retail is a slippery slope - to hell

I would like to refute the "FDI in food retail is good for farmers and consumers in India" line-of-thought that is being promoted on mass media in the country. The farmers, it is said, will have better access to markets and consumers will have better choice at a lower cost.

No doubt, there may be some initial positive change - but in the medium- to long-term, the ill-effects of giant retail chains are proven. Worldwide.

India sorely needs to enhance research, develop better farming methodologies and promote broader community involvement in the agri sector. We need to improve procurement, logistics, warehousing, safety, and distribution of food produce - in both public and private sectors... But to claim that giant retail chains are the ONLY ones that can accomplish it is presumptuous to say the least - and in my personal opinion, downright misleading.

This report from May 2011 is a detailed documentation of the detrimental effects of giant retail chains from several angles - it is a definite must-read.

Some of the points covered in detail within the report are:
1) Giant retail chains use corporate muscle to influence industry health & safety standards - creating costly certification processes that penalise smaller players, with opaque parameters that actually make food unsafe for customers. They can also set up legal barriers to silence their critics (for example, 'Veggie libel laws').

2) Giant retail chains open the flood gates to giant agri businesses like Monsanto, DuPont and Bayer. This in turn opens the flood gates to genetically modified (GMO) seeds and excessive chemical use (fertilisier, herbicide and pesticide) - because Monsanto, DuPont and Bayer are essentially CHEMICAL COMPANIES.

3) Giant retail chains quickly become the dominant buyers in a market and squeeze profitability for sellers. Falling profits force out small-farm owners in favour of mega-farms (like E L Rothschild-Bharti Enterprises-Del Monte) that leverage economies-of-scale.

4) Giant retail chains will eventually consolidate the entire food chain to become the dominant sellers in a market, and consumers become increasingly dependant on them - literally, for sustenance. For example, the above report says: "Traditional markets are disappearing fast in Central America. Already at least one in four quetzales spent by Guatemalans on food is spent in a Walmart-owned supermarket, while Costa Ricans spend 1 in 3 colones there."

Can you imagine your child being at the mercy of Monsanto for his or her food? Well, if Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia have their way today - your child (or grandchildren) may tomorrow depend on companies like Monsanto for food.

Think about that for a minute.

17 Sep 2012

India is on sale - and absolutely everything must go!

Politics is a charade. A high-pitch teledrama to keep the unwashed masses engaged and pre-occupied.

Occasionally, a voice speaks sense - usually, only to be shouted down and cast aside for having committed a heinous thoughtcrime.

Today's example is Mamata Banerjee. On firstpost.com, she ventures the sinful notion that: “Yes, we need reforms. But reform does not mean to sell out everything to satisfy some sections of individuals.”

The overwhelming temerity of this thoughtcrime can be gauged by the sheer vehemence and vitriol of the comments-thread below the article.

She also opines, “I agree that Sensex must be stable, but at the same time, policy and planning should not be used to impose back-breaking burden on the common people.”

But Mamata-ji you are too late. The 'Distress Sale' of India's public assets have already begun. I had covered the sequence of events before.

Now I'll point fingers at the key players:
1. THE BANKING SYSTEM COMES FIRST. (Whatever happens.)

(In the video, from 3:50 to 3:58, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) fumbles for the right words to describe the single-most important issue for the RBI and the Central & Governments of India... Then finally blurts out, that it is to "ensure the profitability and viability of India's banking system." I am not kidding - he said "ENSURE" - irrespective of NPAs or bad loans!)

2. THE OLIGARCHS ARE OUT TO REAP PROFIT. (And pay off the corporate media and political satraps.)

Despite the incessant spinning by talking head on mass-media, academics from (oligarch-funded) foreign universities, the Finance Minister, the Prime Minister or his coterie of economic advisors - monopolistic business practices and obscene profits are what the oligarchs want and what they will get. Take, for example, the six myths of FDI in retail.

The fact remains that the ruling minions will NOT stop until virtually the entirety of the nation's power and pelf is usurped by the oligarchs who will then feed them substantial crumbs.

16 Sep 2012

"Designed for Humans": Is this the new nadir?

Today's smartphones are not designed for verbal conversations - they are designed for 'media consumption'. Vivid images (moving and otherwise) flow non-stop across its touchscreens - not words. Even most so-called social media allow for very limited real conversation.

We talk in .jpeg and our correspondence is in .mov formats. Words are largely redundant. Verbal comments are terse - indeed, why bother to leave a note, when there's a handy 'Like' button to express one's approval?

Even one's spelling can be algorithm-corrected, while search-engines help condense the vocabulary. And whereas our interaction with the device may seem 'intuitive' - hand gestures are also the most primitive form of human communication.

So while phones are getting smarter, one should perhaps be concerned about the user's evolution.

This bring us to the Samsung's latest Galaxy S III. More specifically, to its tagline: "Designed for Humans"

As a writer, I find it truly mortifying!

I have come across some astounding jaw-droppers - but "Designed for Humans" is in a league truly all its own... Untouched by subtleties, unsullied by nuances and untroubled by serious contemplation.

Now I will digress a bit, but please bear with me...

In George Orwell's epic, 1984, when the character, Syme says: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words", Wiston Smith simply asks (or observes): "So, the revolution will be complete when the language is perfect?"

George Orwell was especially concerned that language could be used both to enlighten as well as to manipulate. One only needs to consider the wrapped intent behind some common modern words - like "terrorist", "collateral damage", "enemy combatant", "homeland security", "civil society", "monetary easing", etc.

By the looks of it, the "revolution" that Orwell meant seems to be nearing its conclusion.

(For the not-so-literacy-challenged, here's a link to Orwell's essay, Politics and the English Language. And the wikipedian take on the essay.)

15 Sep 2012

Decisions. Decisions.

I am honestly tired of the puerile fanboy angst, the incessant and inane chatter, the boderline delirium and general hysteria that accompanies every "latest" iShinyNewThing.

By reducing (what's left of) human communication to a series of simple hand gestures and senseless conversation with a software programme, this single device may yet bring the evolution of the human being to a complete, grinding halt.

11 Sep 2012

Time is nigh for the tenth avatar

I had blogged earlier about an oligarchy-technocracy web that is creeping globally - and is about to envelope India as well. The IT backbone is ready, the policies are in place, financial institutions are all prepared, and monoplies are waiting in the wing... Now all that was needed is to spring it on the unsuspecting public.

Today, they inform the sheeple of India via The Times of India that cashless/electronic payments can be made at your neighbourhood kirana store!

The article states,
"Micro transactions for payments such as local taxi fares and kirana store purchases are set to go cashless with the National Payment Corporation of India on Monday extending the Interbank Mobile Payment Service (IMPS) for merchants."

The 'electronic cash' agenda is obviously in an accelerated mode. It was only in June this year that the former Finance Minister (current President of India), Pranab Mukherjee, called for banks in the country to ensure that EVERY Indian family has a bank account within six months!

This is the sequence of what is likely to follow:
1. Major financial turbulence in the public sector ...including severe crises in central and state budget deficits, and large-scale recapitalisation requirements for pubic sector banks due to bad loans and NPAs
2. Runaway inflation and/or economic crisis ...setting the stage for far-reaching and comprehensive government deregulation and reforms
3. Massive increases in 'austerity' measures, utilities charges and taxes ...multiple drains on their meagre income will put the average citizen at the complete mercy of the governing elite
4. Disinvestment of public assets ..."distress sale" of everything public - from the cash-rich Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) to 'sick' Public Sector Units (PSUs), and public land holdings
5. Privatisation of public services ...creating dependence on private service-providers for food, healthcare, education and security - instead of the Public Distribution System (PDS), primary healthcare & education networks, and public pension funds
6. Gradual transfer of real public & monetary policy-making powers to a cabal of global oligarchs (via lobbyists) ...with a pliant, indoctrinated and/or greedy political class acting as the citizens' lightning rod
7. Vilification, marginalising, criminalising and/or usurpation any movement or individual with a different or opposing point-of-view ...and the internet is NOT an exception

But what else can one expect when much of government policy-making in India (and indeed, worldwide) is already outsourced to consultants, think tanks, universities and NGOs funded or run by the private sector?

Welcome to the Kali Yuga. And considering all that could go wrong - perhaps, the time is ripe for the tenth avatar of Vishnu.

Only God can save us now.

10 Sep 2012

The Amul brand: The idea of thriving together

Dr Verghese Kurien, called the "Father of India's White Revolution" demonstrated that socially inclusive enterprises can be economically competitive.

The most famous brand he helped build was Amul - a brand jointly owned by more than 3 million dairy farmers. The brand with its ubiqutious "Amul Baby" mascot, created in 1967, has also earned the distinction of being the longest running Ad Campaign in the world... And it's still going strong!

Bharat Dhabolkar, a writer on the Amul account, says that the campaign owed much to the freedom that Dr Kurien gave the agency. "He would not ask to see what we created. Even if he did not like something, he would just mention that; not ask us to change anything."

I guess that's what made Dr Kurien's 'co-operative partnership' model work so well: Each partner has a personal stake in the brand's success!

4 Sep 2012

Are the oligarchs leaving the Titanic?

Robert Johnson is a real Financial World Insider. He is a former Economist for the US Senate, Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and a Director of the Global Finance Project at the Roosevelt Institute.

Johnson also formerly traded currency on Wall Street for George Soros. Well, Soros was the chap known as "The man who broke the Bank of England", consequently costing the Britain's Pound Sterling its centuries-old position as a world reserve currency! He is believed to have masterminded the transfer of the former USSR's state-run assets into the hands of the Russian oligarchs. He (Soros) is also said to to have been the speculator behind the currency crisis that crashed the Asian Tiger economies in the late 90s. (Soros is rumoured to be a conduit for the Rothschild financial empire.)

So if anyone has had a glimpse of the plans hatched in the rareified world of money-power, it'd be Robert Johnson. Here, in his words, he describes the current (as of 25 July 2012) mood among some members of the global oligarchy. Most importantly, consider the chilling metaphor he uses to describe the Financial System: THE TITANIC!

Recently, Lord Jacob Rothschild, George Soros and John Paulson are actively "betting" on serious and imminent financial turbulence ahead.

Grab your life-jackets, folks!