Food Crisis Gets Global and so the Politics

I felt really bad, when Anand from US told me today about the spirally rising food prices. During our last visit to US, we found food items relatively cheap and wonderfully good quality. That remained one attraction for spending some time in US even in this old age.

Whenever, the politician administrators world over face some critical problems such as the present one of food crisis, they try to pass on the buck to some reasons that they claim are not in their hands. Man Mohan Singh claims the pressure of global food price increases is causing the inflation in India. President Bush said: “Just as an interesting thought for you, there are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. That is bigger than America. Their middle class is larger than our entire population. And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food. And so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.” Perhaps, Bush merely borrowed the thoughts from his trusted aide, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who had used the same logic few days back.

And as most of the opposition in India pretends to be against US, they got united at least to lash out at Bush’s remarks for blaming growing demand in India for the spiraling global food prices as one more point to be used during election campaign in near future. Some in the ruling party also came out with guns. While according to the Minister of State for Commerce Hiram Rajesh, Bush was “completely wrong” in his assessment, the defence minister called it a “cruel joke”. BJP threatened to force a parliamentary debate on Bush’s remarks. Leftists are as usual anti-American and master in spitting venoms.

I don’t understand why the politicians would have reacted so negatively in that fashion. It would have been taken as certificate and confirmation by the topmost economy of the world that India and Indians have moved towards prosperity and abundance, and they will no more require food from US as it used to happen in 60’s.

The fact on per capita food consumption as well as availability still is different. “Total food grain consumption – wheat, rice, and all coarse grains like rye, barley etc – by each person in the US is over five times that of an Indian, according to figures released by the US Department of Agriculture for 2007. Each Indian gets to eat about 178 kg of grain in a year, while a US citizen consumes 1,046 kg.”

Indian politicians would have rather shown humility and taken a lead to make the Indian agriculture grow faster. Why should not Indians take pride in producing more grains and be in a position to give it to others also? Will that not be the easiest way to win over the war with China that is trying to humiliate India through its aid to Africans and South Americans? Will it not be a great day if Indian scientists through the support of the farmers of the country could feed the advanced American and Europeans? And that’s what MS Swaminathan, the father of the late 1960s Green Revolution suggests, “Today we have a great opportunity to produce for ourselves and for others.”

It is unfortunate that though many agriculture experts suggest that India needs a second and more effective and equitable second green revolution in the states with huge potentials such as Bihar, Eastern States, and Madhya Pradesh, both the central as well as the state governments are busy in blaming each other for the lack of growth in agriculture in these states.

Why can’t India focus on already proven system such as System of Rice Identification (SRI) that improves production significantly by just following different practices in cultivation with younger and fewer seedlings transplanted with wider spacings, less requirements of water, and better yields up to 15-20 tonnes per hectare (against India’s average rice yield of 3.1 tonnes per hectare)? SRI’s potential to alter food output in India can extend beyond rice to wheat, madua (ragi) and sugarcanes too.

I wish Indian scientists took some lessons from China again. As reported, scientists in China have identified a single gene that appears to control rice yield, as well as its height and flowering time, taking what may be a crucial step in global efforts to increase crop productivity? Why can’t America with all its resources, if India is excused, work on these areas of researches instead of producing oil from the food grain? Why can’t Amreica and Europe use huge land lying with them for food productions? Can’t California produce more? Can’t the farmers who run the business as factory improve more?

There are many areas left for the politicians too to act, instead of just criticizing US President without fully understanding the content of his statement. Why shouldn’t the legislators come out with solutions for the consolidation of land holdings? Why should the state not distribute the government land to the farmers? Why should not the industry be made to use the fallow barren land? Why should the engineers responsible for the plant layout go wild in demanding huge plot of land for the industry to create an asset for the future? If Las Vegas can come up in desert, why can’t the industry?

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