An Imperialist Agent in Pro-people Garb

Globalization and ‘Left’ Front Government — A Fact-sheet



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Dispossession of land

The sharecroppers are entitled to have 75% of the agricultural production if they spend on all agricultural inputs. But, in reality the practice that exists is 50%. Legal Marxists like to overlook the facts. They also overlook the fact that many legal sharecroppers are forced to mortgage their land. A reversible process has started in favour of the rural elite. During the 25 years of ‘left’ rule the number of agricultural labourers has increased by 30 lakhs and marginal farmers has increased by 2 lakhs 44 thousand and 47 lakhs 63 bighas of land (1acre = 3bigha) have gone away from their possession.(The Anandabazar Patrika, 11.5.03).

In this context it is very likely that the poor and marginal farmers are not able to repay their loans. The question of support price also goes against the very interest of the farmers. The state government in 2002 declared Rs. 530/- for fair average quality of paddy per quintal and Rs. 560/- for the fine one. The rice mill owners are entrusted to purchase at rates fixed by the government. It is as if the cats are to look after a bowl of milk! The rice mills are owned usually by rich peasants, jotedars or persons having a close business nexus with them. The result was not unpredictable. The peasants sold paddy at Rs. 275/- for average quality and Rs. 350/- per quintal for fine quality.54 Hence, distress sale started. But one of the important features of liberalisation in agriculture through land reform in West Bengal is that it is on the verge of becoming a rice importing state. In the 80s the annual growth rate of paddy production was 2.5%, but within the1995-96 and 1999-2000 period, the growth rate of the same has became 2.4% annually.55

In this context of the hopeless condition of the West Bengal agrarian scenario, caused due to the surrender to liberalisation of agriculture, the left government has decided to put the final nail to the coffin. It has put forward a new agricultural policy in consultation with Mckinsey, an American consultancy firm. But it will not be irrelevant to state what the World Bank, Mckinsey’s father organisation, states regarding the agrarian policy.

The World Bank has issued a host of directives regarding the development of the agrarian sector. Some of them are:

1) Reduce crops which are not very profitable and increase the production of export oriented crops. Food grains to be imported

2) Reduce Government subsidies in agri-inputs like fertilises, water, seeds and also reduce loan allotments.

3) Withdraw all restrictions on export of indigenous agricultural produce

4) Withdraw all restrictions on import of agricultural produce from foreign countries

5) Privatise purchasing, transporting and preserving paddy, rice and wheat

Following the above dictum the government of India, for the first time declared a New Agricultural Policy since ‘47. The name given to the policy is "Rainbow Revolution." The policy envisaged that India will become the largest exporter of agricultural products.

Some major aspects of the New Agricultural Policy of the centre is as follows:

(a) Promoting private participation, "through contract farming and land leasing arrangements, to allow accelerated technology transfer, capital inflows and assured markets for crop production especially oil seeds, cotton and horticultural crops. Lease markets will be developed for increasing the size of holdings and legal provisions will be made for giving private, and on lease for cultivation and agribusiness."

It implies to capture vast fertile lands for foreign capital, and turning the farmers as mere agents of transnational corporations

b) "Developing agriculture through effectively using the resources and technology in accordance with geo-climate-indigenous conditions. New plant varieties will be protected through a legislation to encourage research and breeding of new varieties particularly in the private sectors." So MNCs like Monsanto, Cargil will carrying on Genetic engineering through their Indian agents and counterparts. It is quite clear that the MNCs actually want to monopolise the agrarian sector, under various sweet pills.

c) Extension of market facilities to counter fluctuations in prices and due to natural calamities.

But, there is no single space, for price fluctuations. A good number of MNCs are already operating in India-Hindustan Lever (UK), Cargil (USA) Hibred International (USA), Sandoz (Switzerland) etc.

The Government of West Bengal, true to their character, has followed in the Centre’s footsteps. It found it’s panacea, not in the communist party principle but in Mckinsey. In a letter dated 13th May, 2000 issued by Jawhar Sircar, Principal Secretary to Commerce and Industries Department, Government of West Bengal, DO No. 1329/CIS/2002 the Mckinsey prescription will be evident. Before going into the prescription let us see what Mr Jawhar Sircar said in the letter. The letter was intended to let know of the proceedings and results of the co-ordination meeting between Nirupam Sen, West Bengal Government Commerce and Industries minister and concerned ministers and secretaries regarding Mckinsey Agri-business projects in West Bengal. Mr. Jawhar Sircar stated for immediate action by the concerned department "with specific reference in each of the 10 projects that have been short listed by Mckinsey & Co for immediate implementation."

Hence, the projects are short listed and dictated by Mckinsey, a US consultancy firm, to be followed by the West Bengal Government. The projects includes, food retail, fruit and vegetable processing, Rice retail and export, shrimp export, Poultry breeding and hatching; the companies included are ‘Subhiksha’, Rallis, HLL, Cargyl, RPG, Pepsi etc.

Mckinsey also wanted to have a guaranteed return on investment. Hence Zero labour problem and all hassle free environment for investment was sought by Mckinsay. In the above said letter of Mr. Jawahar Sircar the "suggestions" of Mckinsey regarding necessities of contract farming policy, labour policy, re-orientation through the tune of reviewing the Shops and Establishments Acts, Contract Labour Acts etc., to encourage retail. All the changes are in line with the imperialist’s interests.

The West Bengal government in toe has abided by the ‘suggestions’ of Mckinsey, in line with the Rainbow revolution of centre. The 3rd draft policy of agriculture as proposed by the West Bengal left front government includes the

a) development of commercialisation in Agriculture, establishing food park in rural-urban centres,

b) Transformed food oriented agriculture to cash crop cultivation

c) Ensure profit for agricultural products etc.

In a provincial council meeting of the West Bengal Peasants’ Committee, an article of Binoy Konar was endorsed, on 18.07.2002. The article was later published in ‘Marxwadi Path’, August 2002. There, Mr. Konar, a supposedly staunch anti imperialist, put forward arguments in line with the Rainbow revolution of the central government and as per the demands of the World Bank/WTO dictums. He stated ten points with pro people phraseology. There he opposed hybrid varieties of seeds of Monsanto, Cargyl, Deltapyne and advocated the use of organic fertilisers etc. But, there he also proposed to set up and diversify the agro-based food processing industry. In this case he said that, "if the peasants are assisted to cultivate a particular agri-product and get a guarantee of selling it at a profitable price, then the peasants will take initiatives to produce by themselves. For this, there was a need for mutual understanding. If there is any scope, the government and peasant movement both have to take the initiative." The writer, a CPI(M) central committee’s leader, has been deeply influenced by Mckinsey. The Mckinsey, rainbow revolution are championing the cause of contract farming. The importance of Panchayats are upheld by the Mckinsey Plan to act as a negotiater between peasants and multinational companies. In real terms the panchayats will be turned into local agents of the companies. Mckinsey or Mr. Konar no one deals with the question of price fluctuations. No, it is not a mistake. Both the Mckinsey plan and CPI(M) see the peasants to guarantee profits, super profits. Mr Konar and MNCs will not assist, they will dictate their terms. Hence, if there is any problem of market price or natural calamities the peasants are to suffer.

Mr Konar also suggested in the same article to select agricultural products as per the nature of land. Very good suggestion indeed! But, he also cautioned the peasants not to venture alone. He advised for joint cultivation in case of new agricultural production. In this case also Mr Konar put forward the agenda envisaged by Mckinsay. Owing to the small holdings of West Bengal, Mckinsey advised for joint ventures of a handful of peasants with a company in contract farming to tide over the small holdings problem. Mr. Konar seemed to have more resemblance with Mckinsey than Marx or Lenin. Moreover, Mr. Konar in the same article advocates in favour of cotton cultivation in salty areas of West Bengal. But he seemed to set aside the omnipotent authority of the cotton corporations. These corporations controlled by MNCs and big comprador capital take advantage of the hopeless condition of the peasants. They are forced to go for distress sale. MNCs actually fix and regulate the price artificially. Mr. Konar seemed to forget the danger that the peasants have to suffer at the whims of imperialist capital. His forgetfulness and neglect of the peasants’ interest can be attributed to his organisational stand.

It was stated that "land is a private property. A peasant of it’s own decides what to produce and how to produce and how much to produce but the peasant produces commodities to sell in the market and to maintain his family. In this backdrop of liberalisation it is the bounden duty of the left front government to lead the agricultural production in the interest of the peasants, considering the economy, market, compensation etc. The peasants’ organisation believes in class struggle. It is the struggle for settling which class will have how much portion of the wealth. But if the very quantity of wealth can not be increased rapidly, the struggle for division of the wealth cannot be useful. Moreover the struggle for producing with less expenditure is an inseparable part of the movement against globalisation!"(quote from the report of 22nd state conference of West Bengal Pradeshik Kishan Sabha on January 2003)

But what the CPI(M) led peasant front wants to teach us is not Marxism Leninism, but Mckinsayism. It is because "...... the essence of the agrarian question and of the agrarian crisis lies not in the removal of the obstacles to the advance of agricultural technique to a higher level but in the following : in what way are these obstacles to be removed, what class is to effect this removal and by what methods."(Lenin on the Agrarian question in Russia towards the close of the nineteenth century)

Thus, the CPM is very much concerned in increasing production and not about class relations. They have not taken any lesson from the national or international experience. In Africa, Latin American countries, Mexico, Argentina, Sudan or Morocco, lakhs of peasants have lost everything. Lakhs of acres of land has become barren. In an annual report on worker’s rights, Agricultural Workers 2001, it is stated that "On March 30, 1998, the American Banana Transnational United fruit company celebrated it’s 100 years of operations in Central America. For share holder, both in the United States and in this region, it was a day to rejoice. But, for thousands of Central Americans it was a day of mourning.... the multinational corporations that for years have profited from banana productions have discharged thousand of workers. Today Plantations were filled with unemployed workers who have almost no social assistance."

Three years ago during the time of its inauguration the department of Karnataka horticulture, identified Mysore district as the major producer of horticultural crops. Many promises regarding infrastructure, exploring export potential for local fruits and vegetables providing with cold storage facilities and finally support to farmers to venture into food processing. But, now all the promises ended in a fiasco.(The Hindu, Sept. 14, 2003) Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee, like Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, refers to Europe as a ready market for flowers. But, Buddhadeb and Vajpayee both know very well it is not the farmers of Bengal or Karnataka who will benefit. Promoting floriculture seems a way of providing concession to agri-business companies in the name of agriculture. A floriculture export unit in Bangalore in 1998 estimated that modern export of flowers needs Rs. 20-25 million per hectare. Then who are to receive the incentives for the floricultural industry. In Karnataka many floricultural units have closed down due to their inability to compete in international markets. In Bengal the experience can’t be otherwise. Still, we are to be in a make believe world; for what sake?

West Bengal, has been opened to MNCs to loot at their sweet will. The peasants are to depend on foreign multinational companies for seeds, fertilisers and every aspect of cultivation. Once a process of dependence on high yielding varities of seeds, fertilizers, etc. is initiated it can’t be taken aback or changed. Binoy Konar, CPI(M) state committee member and leader of it’s peasant front, voiced against multinational corporations and advocated indigenous development of high yielding varieties of seeds in the Bengal agricultural university. In this connection it may be stated that university/business-houses joint venture have started in the educational institutions of West Bengal. Then it is very natural that big agri-giants like Cargil, Monsanto, etc will have an edge. Our suspicion is further aggravated because the name of the MNCs are found in the priority investment companies put forward by Mckinsey which are opposed by Mr Konar. Oh! what a double play and a relentless effort to befool the people. Though contract farming is not passed legally by the West Bengal government, it will be practised in Bengal. In Bengal for shrimp farms, contract system has started. Companies like ITC has planned to enter in business with local fishermen having their own ponds and necessary infrastructure. The secretary to the minister of fish let us know that the government has taken a decision to facilitate contract farming in the fish sector.56 A concerned company will afford capital and inputs and buy back the fishes for export. ITC’s plea of starting the contract system in oil seeds production has also been given the green signal by the West Bengal government.

At present 61 lakh hectares of land is used for paddy cultivation. It is prescribed by Mckinsey to decrease the land for paddy cultivation to 48 lakh hectares.57 In Bengal, now the growth rate for paddy cultivation has decreased. The deficit is prescribed to be met by increased production per hectare by 1½tonnes. It implies, total dependence on high yielding varieties of seeds, fertilisers etc. Thus, the grip of MNCs will be strengthened in agriculture.

The imperialist tightening grip of agriculture in West Bengal will not only ruin food security, make this land barren, but also prices of all essential agricultural products will increase manyfold. This is nothing unusual, because the left font government, during the entire period of its rule uses imperialist funds from the World Bank, Ford Foundation, IDA, Asian Development Bank for so called development projects. The CPI(M) since it’s inception has been following the imperialist dictum. The CPI(M) led Left Front government has imposed capitalist factors of green revolution on the semi-feudal agrarian economy of West Bengal, misguided the peasants, destroying the traditional agri technology and knowledge. Consequently the agrarian economy of Bengal has become more and more dependent on the imperialist economy. The new agricultural policy of West Bengal is but a natural culmination. The increase in the number of poor and landless peasants will be higher in the coming years. Courtesy : World Bank dictated and Mckinsey guided new Agricultural policy of West Bengal!

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