The Brown pundits ground here with ABN Prakash and also Buchard Ragavan, so we have three of us on, but we're really here to talk about gobbing off over something called the farm law, some protests by farmers. I'm going to be entirely honest. I don't really know much about it. I keep hearing about it and seeing it on social media. And I didn't really understand that it was about India until like literally this morning.
And so I Benoff and I were talking and I want to talk to him about what's going on in India and why this is important and why people in this country of the United States also seem to care a lot. So I'll be able to.
That's news to me, I mean, so you probably know more about it than I do, but because I didn't really know this was about an idea until this morning, so I thought, yeah, it's crazy because, you know, actually, like three days ago or something, issued some sort of public statement about it, how he supports the farmers and this and that.
All right, so I mean up could you introduce yourself to listeners who don't remember that you've been on multiple times, which everyone should be listening every week, so I don't I don't know what's up with these people, but maybe thank you for having me on the podcast.
I'm a precaution. I'm an assistant professor at the University of Delhi and I'm also a columnist. I read both in India and English to bilingual columnist based out of Delhi. And I think that's a.
Yeah, so I want to ask you real quickly, I mean, so we're talking about farmers in the United States, about two percent of Americans now are directly involved in the farm economy, as you know, primary producers themselves. Twenty five percent live in what's defined as a rural area, but only two percent are actually like less than two percent actually are farmers. I know in India, it's not like that. A lot of people are farmers. Do you have any personal connection to farming in your family growing up?
Like, you know, can you relate to these people? I mean, is this or is this more than just a policy issue for you? No, my grandparents were farmers and they were very small marginal farmers in the sexual activities, which is in northern India, and we still hold some agricultural land, but we don't do any farming because my father moved on to bureaucracy, but we still owned that land, which is basically given on the rent and the other people do.
Finally, one day we will take something we hardly take anything from. There is just so no direct connection with farming as such as not drinking water. But we also own some of that. And my grandparents were farmers, but they were very marginal farmers.
They were not the land was not that much. They can sustain themselves. So they had to do other kind of work as they. All right, well, so, again, I don't know what is really going on here, I saw some moderately handsome man talking to a presenter this morning. I didn't know what was going on, D.C.. OK, so this is what I know. It's in Punjab. These seem to be mostly just is what people are saying.
I don't know if I'm supposed to not say that because I'm not politically correct in terms of Indian things. But this is what I'm being told. And this has something to do with the left right dichotomy in India. It's being championed by the left. But other people are pointing out these are actually quite prosperous farmers. So it's like kind of like a petite bourgeoisie revolution from an outsider perspective outside of India. I think some people are jumping onto this because it aligns with who they like in the broader Indian ideological milieu.
You but I get the sense that there's the deeper structural local things that are happening that are getting passed over through this like globalization of this conflict. Could you kind of illuminate us for that? Yes.
So it's actually a very complex problem. See, what is it do? I mean, the Modi government has passed few laws not to Modi government, to the parliament of India has passed these laws, which basically do three things. They allow contract farming in India in the culture that the farmers can now enter into contract with corporates, with private companies or agribusiness companies and sign a contract and produce whatever they want to produce. The second bill basically allows that the not the farmers have the right to sell their produce outside the government designated markets.
So in India we have something called EPM Agricultural Produce Market Committees, and the farmers were allowed only to sell their produce only in epiphysis. They were not allowed to sell it outside. So this bill says you can sell it anywhere, you can sell it to the private individual. You are not required to sell your farm produce. It will basically curtail the power of the government to invoke the emergency criteria to clamp down on the prices of your produce. So we have something called Essential Commodities Act, which was basically meant if the prices were going too high, they can clamp down on the prices and control the prices.
So it's quite ironic that the government, the government released the government laws your freedom to the farmers of India for the first time to do whatever they want to do. And then you have this, some units of the farmers basically from the north west of India, mainly from the Punjab and Haryana, protesting against it. Now, why is that happening? That's very interesting.
So I wanted to ask you about the mon's, right? You're talking about that kind of right now.
But how does how did that system work? I think our audience doesn't fully understand how the money system works in relationship to the farmers and why it was such a restrictive enterprise.
Just if you go back to the history and it's very interesting that agriculture in India has always been suppressed for centuries, so the epidemic is basically claiming to be not equality of. But their predecessors were created in the under the British rule. And the aim was to force the Indian agricultural producers to supply their produce to the British market. So the first such model was created by the British in the darkened region of India to force the cotton producers in India to sell it to the government, designated middlemen and the government designated market so they can supply the cotton to the British military.
But that system has somehow substrate in India, even after the British have departed. And that has happened because we were trying to survive in India, became independent. India was in a very bad situation. They were frequent famines which had devastated India under the British rule. So two hundred years of the British rule in India were basically two hundred years of famine and that massive that massive famines, millions of people dying every 10 years. And the government was not doing anything.
So when India became independent, the greatest challenge facing India was put in food security. And we lost this combination of policy, which is now called a green revolution in the 60s and the 70s. It was the same thing because we want to ensure food security. So we wanted the Food Corporation of India to have enough food available to them. And that is why the farmers were allowed to sell their produce only in the South so that the government can buy it and stock it up for the bad days.
That is why the epilepsies have sustained and coupling with and coupled with the efficiencies, we have something called Minimum Support Price MSBA in the 1960s when we are trying to put in food security, we came up with this policy of guaranteeing prices for for certain crops, most notably the wheat and rice. And we basically told the farmers that you grow wheat and rice and the government guarantees that you can sell these crops at the predetermined price which has been announced by the government.
And no one can buy your crops below the price. But that policy makes sense when we look at the look at the context of the nineteen sixties or the seventies. But it no longer makes sense today because what this policy has done is that it has completely destroyed the cropping pattern of India. So now in Punjab, the Punjab is in northwestern India is an added reason. So what is the reason the farmers in Punjab are growing rice their green basmati rice, or is this a water guzzler crop?
So what is happening in the Punjab? The water tables are getting depleted. You have a huge problem every year now in Delhi because these farmers then simply burn the remains of the crops. You must be reading about the smog problem in Delhi. It has destroyed the biodiversity of the reason it is causing this problem, because the government is ensuring a high MSP to these farmers and this is what this entire protest is all about. These farmers want EPMD animes to continue so that they can have assured prices and assured profits for their producers.
So it's a very long, complex process, but in a very short manner. I can explain.
It can just be absolutely I totally got that. And the model crop, the monoculture aspect of the business, it's very it kind of evokes what would happen to the US farming industry where they give subsidies to certain types of produce or farming products. So but in relationship to to the rest of the farming community in India, how does how does this particular process affect them?
If you're talking particularly about the arid regions of the Punjab, it makes total sense what you're saying about destroying the environment and creating a tougher situation. But how does it affect, you know, like farmers in Tamil Nadu or Karnataka or other parts of the country that are not necessarily doing the same thing?
You see, first of all, we need to understand in India today is an urban majority country. Even what census tells us that only 34 percent population in India lives in the urban centers. But that is because the technicalities of using the census and which is quite obsolete and quite complicated, according to different researchers as of today, and especially according to satellite data, carries more than 60 percent of India live in the urban centers. So India is urban majority country not it's not a village economy.
Second point is that when we talk about the agricultural economy in India, the farmers are a very small part of it.
India has around 10 percent of its population who are actually. Rest of them are dependent on the agriculture as agricultural laborers or other allied activities, so the number of farmers in India is really very small.
And what is portrayed in the popular discourse and discussion and out of these farmers into six person farmers are small and marginal farmers. Now, why is that important? Because only marginal farmers are actually made buyers of the food. So even though they're giving the culture. But in the end, they're also the buyers of the food grains in the open market, just like the population, which is huge, the majority of rural population in India and landless laborers who do not have any land, who work on the agricultural field for their livelihood.
Now, once you try to impose a what is must be your guaranteeing a minimum support price and every year because of political pressure, now you have guaranteed it. So, of course, farmers can unite, they can mobilize, they can lobby because they control the rural economy. They control the bank. So politicians keep on increasing this misbehavior, but that feeds into inflation and that inflation hurts the majority of the rural population. That hurts the cultural laborers. That hurts the urban population.
That creates distortion in the market. It's a quite devastating thing for the majority of the rural population and the agricultural population has been. But why is that happening? You have to understand that Rosie was talking about Punjab.
Now, in Punjab, the majority of the agricultural land is held by the upper caste sick people in Punjab. And most of the people you see holding high positions in America, Canada, UK and doing all these high profile political lobbying belong to that community.
Nouwen Green Revolution was happening in India. What is often not talked about that was large scale land grabbing by the just six. They had grabbed land from the Dalitz what the lower cost or even from the other farmers as well who were small and marginal farmers. They have grabbed the common man because in the Green Revolution, agriculture suddenly became quite profitable. The government was providing food, free electricity, free fertilizer, free water subsidies of all kinds, credit, easy credit to farmers, and was also giving you a guaranteed price and profit so that we can quite valuable in reason.
So these people went undrafted and it was a huge, huge land grabbing, which is not to talk about. The situation is such that in the state of Punjab, the Dalitz constitute 30 to 35 percent of the population, but they hold less than three percent of the agricultural land. This is the extent of this we're talking about. So this class of farmers that you emerged during the Green Revolution, which is mainly derived from the gypsy population of the Punjab, they moved on to become what we call the capitalist farmers, capitalist farmers, because they are employing these labors and they are working on a profit motive.
And these farmers soon graduated to become rentier class because they are not doing farming on the land. They are renting out the land. They're hiring laborers 1000 km away from the state of Bihar. They come and do all the rice cultivation because Punjab is Condi Rice cultivation. They have more experience and expertise and rice cultivation. So they are doing it by getting all the laborers from Bihar and eastern India. And they have now moved on to become the middleman, so they are the ones who run the these government markets, they are the middlemen in the system.
They are the ones who have money lenders now. They are the ones who control trade and commerce and the entire local economy. And it is now who it is not they who feel that by opening up this market now you have the big capital coming in in the arena and you will have agribusiness companies, you will have corporates coming in and they are new power is being tested. And that is why you see it is only Panjab. This is happening now.
Others have also joined in the name of Farmer Solidarity and has also joined it. But basically this class of farmer decipherment, farmers from Punjab who socially belong to mostly. Economically, they are the casualties farmers and the large farmers who are leading this protest, and they can do so because they control the rural economy to society, they're quite influential. So they have been able to blackmail the government as they see.
Yeah. So when you when you use the term like blackmail, you kind of show your hand where you're standing, which is fine. So just like I read like this, actually.
Well, let me clarify the blackmailing because they see that you do not want to negotiate. The government should repeal all the laws, otherwise we'll block the delivery for months and months. But that's blackmail. That's not a negotiation.
Well, it's more like hostage taking. So if you have me honest, that's the sound like.
So to recap and I kind of understood this actually from a little bit of my reading and also what people were saying.
This is basically a revolt of the upper bourgeois, the landed gentry of rural Punjab against structural free market forces of neoliberalism. That kind of threat to destroy the rural status hierarchy's by rationalising and making efficient customary social relations and economic processes. Is that is that the right way to say it?
I think you have just said it in the best possible. Runcie This is what it is. You remember when India opened up in 1991 the economic reforms by Prime Minister Nelson Parro in 1991? The most strongest opposition to the reforms came from the industrial houses and the business houses of India. They do not like it because they had grown used to the protected environment in which they operated.
They knew how to build a lobby in Delhi and to change the policies in their favor and make super profits. So when India opened up its economy, they were the ones opposing it. And the same is the case now in this farmer's protest. So the rich farmers are opposing it. Because they feel threatened that more competition might know what their economic and social problem. Yeah, well, so I will say from an American perspective, I come out of I mean, I come out of libertarianism.
I'm less libertarian now for various reasons.
From an American perspective, it might seem alarming, whereas like you have these rural communities that are going to be subject to a lot of radical change, creative destruction in a short period way.
And that's caused a lot of problems with the bottom half of Americans in terms of globalization, the erosion of their wage gains, labor force participation declines.
I think from an Indian perspective, we can't use that analogy at all because India is at a totally different position on the value chain.
And actually, to be entirely frank, the destruction of these rural social systems is a net good for individual liberty and egalitarianism, because, hey, I've watched a couple of Bollywood movies in my time and rural India is feudal as f so Indian villages as the doctor Ambedkar, who, you know, who is known as the father of the Indian constitution, said is the den of ignorance and violence and all kinds of bad things you can associate with it. So Indian villages are extremely, extremely rigid.
They are extremely high and they're extremely violent. So there's nothing to be romanticized, which can be romanticized about the Indian villages.
But somehow, as if I just was something I was discussing today with someone, is that somehow there is some romanticism associated with DROOLER or the religious community in India, because you often see Indian politicians see as the Liberal government, meaning really, India lives in the villages and which is wrong, which have destroyed you. More than 60 percent of India live in the urban centers today. But destruction because, you know, I mean, if I if I may digress a bit.
We know the British started ruling India. India underwent a period of deep dislocation and disorganization. So you actually have the following, the Indian urban population and Indian industries. And then European scholars started studying India and they found it quite exotic because by that time, Industrial Revolution had started in India. So when they were spreading India, they were looking at a society which was not industrial. And they started seeing India as a timeless society in Gaza, timeless civilisation, which is so serene and pristine, which is so village based and so on, and internationalist of all hue from the left to the right, the party's propaganda.
You started saying, well, yes, India is a society in, there is a civilisation. India is a spiritual, otherworldly civilisation, and it is superior to the materialistic West. None of them questioned the basis of this characterization. But because if you look at the Indian history for thousands of years, it has always been an urban civilisation from the European civilisation. Up until the late Mughal period, the rate of urbanisation in India was one of the highest in the world.
India has never been a visible society. So all the things that we know about ancient India or the medieval India, its cultures, all the things we take pride in, they all came from the ancient cities of India. So I don't know why we started with started with the British just doing it and an internationalist responding to it, Gandhi to extreme. Because, you know, Gandhi was a very strong supporter of the Berquist caste system.
Gandhi was completely against the use of machine, completely against the use of industry. He had this Villers dystopia in his mind. And thankfully, the Congress did not listen to him after independence. And that was the result of Gandhi for India was horrific, in my opinion. It was a foolish dystopia. No modern science, no industry, no machine. It has to be pristine. India cost this society, but that romanticism has remained in India razif even today, because I think after independence, the Indian politics was controlled by the religious and the ruling elites.
They were the one who had the votes under their control because up until it is in India, the lower costs, especially the delegates, were not even allowed to vote. Or if they were allowed to vote, they were used to vote, as they were told by their landlords and by the other dominant sections of the villages. So I think that inertia has been made in Indian polity also, because if you see today's India. The wild population of the urban centers is higher than the population of the rural centers, but in the seat distribution, the seats in the parliament, the legislation, basically the villages still have disproportionate control over the political power.
So unless that changes, we are not seeing any change in the policy making in India.
So on that point, I have a couple of questions. One, talking about the idealisation village of India, how does the concept of the panchayat and how does that function play into that idea? This is my first question. And my second question would be, you know, over the past five, five to seven years, I also have been here for a few years.
Over time, there has been this really big push, not only in the movies, but generally in conversation about the plight of the part of the farmers. Right. In terms of farmer suicides and the role of big multinational corporations. What are your thoughts on both those? I know there are kind of two separate things, but I would just like to ask. I mean, a lot of them are quite claustrophobic, but when you're talking about the panchayats, see, the traditional projects would cost projects and they were pretty strong, especially in the northwest.
In India, you are thinking you must have heard about the pickup trucks and all the traditional projects. The projects are basically the decision making body of the community, which are local self-government, governance bodies, basically, and the registry for thousands of years in India. So because one thing is true about India, that Indian villages were quite stable. So if you compare India and China, China has always been a very strong street throughout this historical trajectory and a weak society.
So in China, what you have, you have three hundred years of imperial rule controlling each and every aspect of the society, and then it collapses. Hundred years of chaos that that is becomes and end. Three hundred years of to India is the opposite. India has always been a big state and a stronger society. So you will have hundred years of a unified imperial power ruling from Delhi or from Nigeria, and then you will have two hundred years of chaos and chaos in the sense that you had smaller kingdoms and the state power was actually very limited.
So society became quite strong. And even today, you know, even to the Indian state is quite weak in the social power, the social fabric, the different caste and dick exercised real control in the authority of Indian state actually faces a profound challenge at the local level from the local power structures.
So panchayats were quite different bodies than they are today. The panchayats which you have today. Basically, the one which was created in the 90s by the constitutional amendment, which creates a local self-government for the villages and for the cities, but it also provides for representation in both parties to the woman. So 50 percent is women and also to the lower cost of the ballot. So I think they are functioning OK in the sense they do not have financial resources in them, but that has democratized the grassroots politics and get to a great extent.
I think you want to say something. Oh, yeah, I wasn't hurting you, um, so one thing that I just wanted to say, like you guys are talking about strong state, weak society, all that stuff. Um, you know, I think one thing I would want to describe for the American listener is India is a very structured society, which is less true of China. So China, especially South China, has these Klann systems, but they don't play the same role as the Jyoti's do in Indian society.
And so the imperial the central authorities, the local governments that are from the central authorities have much more leverage because there aren't local structures and institutions that can kind of work around them and resist them as opposed to here in India. What you're talking about with these jobs, seek prosperity for prosperous farmers. If you read the Western media and as you were talking about this actually just skimmed New York Times and NPR, they don't mention anything about their identity as Jats, for example, which I think is probably pretty important, actually.
But why would you mention that sort of thing in the Western media, you know the right to do this media.
So I don't think it has any credibility left, the kind of stuff to write about India and I think of other countries as well.
So Shelu is so biased and this is full of so full of factual errors that I don't know. I mean, who is writing them and what what people are reading in the Western countries about not just India, but also about all of the countries.
If they can lie so openly about what is happening in India of this report of what is happening in India, they must be doing even more secretive countries in Africa or the places.
So I don't know, maybe they don't understand what is happening in India, but they have to write something. So they are trying to fix what is happening in India from the American perspective, left, right, liberal, conservative and so on. Yeah, that distracts you pretty well.
So, you know, I think part of it is that you just need to fit it into a pre-existent narrative template because that just makes it really easy. If you're doing narrative journalism, you take a bunch of facts and you just put it into the template where you think it's appropriate. So I don't know. These farmers are the oppressed proletariat or the lower middle classes struggling against the one percent. I think these are the sort of resonances that are coming out of some of these stories.
But I don't run the one or two percent of the farmers holding one more than one billion people hostage. Yeah, and I get so reading it, you know, from my own perspective, as someone broadly sympathetic to certain types of neoliberal reform, especially in India, especially in less developed countries in particular, you know, I can immediately see what's going on here, that basically you have some people who have captured some reds through a kind of I mean, not necessarily regulatory arbitrage, but basically they get price supports and other things.
So I think an analogy of the United States, a lot of people might understand, well, not enough, but our car dealerships, car dealerships exist. To serve local areas and they are kind of, you know, passed down through families as almost like a feudal inheritance, now, there's no real reason, aside from some particular regulations during the early 20th century about car companies not having total control of the system of distribution and marketing for these car dealerships to exist independently from car companies.
But they do have their local institutions that are very important. And we had a government bailout or Chrysler bailout, Chrysler and GM bailout in the late 2000s. There was money in there for car dealerships, for local wealthy families who traditionally owed these dealerships and were institutions in the communities.
Now, you could make an argument that it's important to have those prominent families stay liquid and not be struggling like everybody else. But that's what's really going on. And that's what this is reminding me of, where the people that are incumbents that are doing well in localities, why would they want to change? Why would they want a disruption of the status quo when, you know, probably the majority of them would have to go to another line or their children would have to go to another line of work?
They want the inherence of these rents. Right. That's the interpretation that I'm getting here. But the foreign media, especially the left left wing for media, is trying to make it as if that this is a revolution of the oppressed, economically oppressed, against some capricious government. Now, what criticism that some people have made who are sympathetic to this deregulation, though, is that it was executed or communicated poorly. What do you think of that critique?
I come to that. I think I forgot the second part of the question, but respond to what was the second one? Sorry.
Yeah, the second ones relating to the past few years, the kind of perception in the Indian society and films and all that about the plight, the plight of farmers like farmer suicides with the impact of multinational companies coming in and all that stuff.
See, the farming in India is an unprofitable business, not because we have too many people depending on the farming, so fantastic. We can't do anything about it apart from moving people out of agriculture. And that has proven difficult because India has really not been successful in achieving industrialization like China did. So we still have too many people, depending on the agriculture and the landholdings, which every generation are getting smaller because it this divided between the sons and that is causing all kinds of problems.
Is very difficult because I told you that more than 86 percent of the farmers are small and marginal farmers. They're all always on the brink of destitution if the crop fails or something happens. So that is there. And there's lots of sympathy among the people for that kind of things, which is helping the farming sector. But really, the urban population is not very happy at this farmers protest because it's the rich farmers arguing for something which is extremely, extremely unreasonable because agriculture is a private sector.
Why would you want the government to assure the prices and profits of one class of private producers and not of the others? And these are the same farmers who would not even pay the minimum wages for the landless liberalism defeat same Punjab. I mean, two or three months back in Punjab, you have this harvest season. There were announcements made from gurudwara in the villages of Punjab asking the farmers, the landowners not to give food to the liberals, not to give higher prices, higher wages to the laborers, because this is what they decided.
So these are the same people who want the others, the taxpayers, to pay them Hiram's fees and basically be used to describe the water table and air pollution and everything. But they didn't seem to want to pay anything for the farmers, the liberals in their farms. Now, this is what they call the aggregate. Agricultural population in India is very large, but the farmers are a very small part of it. But that's a very long discussion coming to Rajeev.
I'm sorry, I forgot what you're asking about the last point.
So basically, I guess what I was just getting at is that these are these rural farmers are being placed into this broader global narrative of of leftist oppression, whereas the reality is not like that at all.
Right. But I mean, let me just move on to something else, because I do have a question kind of and I know what my answer is going to be, but I want to hear your answer.
But India is not the only nation I talked about. American farm subsidies, the European Union. That's huge. France has a huge rural population that is supported by farm subsidies. And the reason that they do this is because there are positive externalities towards having a bucolic rural landscape in France in terms of the tourism and I have it done. I don't know what people have done the math to calculate, like whether it's worth it or not. But basically they think that this will be good because it will prevent the population of rural France.
So, you know, what about the argument that, you know, this will result in these massive, highly efficient agribusiness companies taking over most of these farms and the population in rural areas? And so the loss of character in these rural areas is important for India. I don't get a sense that you think that that's a valid perspective at all. But I mean, is anyone expressing that?
Yeah, I mean, in India, you have this romanticism with the village life. So they say this is the Indian culture, this is the way of life, and we have to protect these rural communities all. But I don't think we are facing a threatened population because we are already beautiful population. The point is that the laws themselves do not allow the private companies to take over the land of the farmers. So let's see. A farmer enters into a contract with this company and the farmer defaults.
There's no penalty on the farmer. The law itself provides that had under no circumstances can the land of the farmer can be taken over to compensate for any losses of breach of contract.
So the laws are actually very Profumo. Why are protesting is not, as Prime Minister Modi himself said in one of the speeches of that earlier, people used to protest against the laws. Now they are protesting against the apprehensions, you know, what may happen in the future. I mean, there is no cure for that kind of progress, that kind of apprehension, which you might have. The only valid apprehension, in my opinion, the farmers hope, is that once you allow the agribusiness companies to come in and allow them to buy the produce from the farmers and MSP is not applicable on them.
So over time, it may be possible that EPMD may get obsolete or redundant. And once the epidemics get redundant is that stop working, then there is no MSP guaranteed in the market because it can only be guaranteed in the Indian government marketplace. Once that happens, they will lose their bargaining position vis a vis the private sector. And this see the fear that might get exploited by these private companies and the corporates, which is a valid concern, I would say.
I would not say that that's the that should not be taken seriously. But what they're demanding is unreasonable. They want that the minimum support price to be imposed even on depravities. Now, can you imagine if we can force a private person to buy something at a predetermined price? We can't do that. That is a destruction of the market and the destruction that goes against any kind of economic logic. And in fact, that is the point, which is and courage, because Sapientis and the misbelief have created perverse incentive for the farmers to do things which are not required.
So Indian Indian food grain stocks now are more than 2.5 times what is required. And India is spending billions of dollars every year to maintain that stock because you are bound to buy whatever the farmers are producing. The farmers are producing more Reisinger because there's a dispute that there's a guaranteed profit on that. So it's a vicious circle which these laws try to break by getting in agribusiness, private companies incentivizing farmers to divert. You find so on, but I think going by how the government is trying to negotiate with the farmers, we may only get we may see a partial rollback of certain provisions of these laws.
So this kind of an analogy of the use like is kind of like a it's a it's like an avalanche triggered by like a small initial snow disruption because so there are these farmers, they're protesting now. They're holding the capital hostage, blocking things off, and now it's become an international cause. From what I gather, there are some polarized reactions in the Indian media, the Indian political landscape. Can you explain? I mean, you've done a really good job getting into the nitty gritty of of what these rules, regulations and what they're protesting about is.
But like, how are the farmers situated, the broader social political matrix right now in terms of what how they matter what they mean? I've heard some people talk about something, relate to Khalistan, and that now this is like subsea, you know, Jasiek thing. I don't know any of this stuff. I don't know if it's valid or not. But what sort of synergies are happening? I don't think Palestine is an issue out there. I mean, did you always have this separatist movement, at least from the 1980s, nurtured very carefully by the Pakistani intelligence and also by the Western intelligence, which basically demands a separate country for the six in the Punjab region?
But I don't think that's an issue here. You have Sunnies here and they're trying to infiltrate by trying to hijack and so on. But I don't think that's the issue here.
The problem is that you have a large diaspora from the Punjab in different countries in UK, in Canada and also in the US is is pretty influential in Canada because Canada does not have much population. So and these six population, the Punjabi population, not only the sick population, is concentrated in several constituencies of Canada. So you have seen the Canadian prime minister and the leader of opposition and everyone trying to highlight the violation of human rights in India.
What is fine with it is quite funny, because Canada is the one which always. You know, it takes India to the WTO and tries to strike down the amnesty given by the Indian government to the farmers, when the government of India started giving very small six percent income support to the marginal farmers of India, the Canada wanted to be shut down. So Canada has been after every policy of the Indian government, which is Profarmer, and now they're expressing concern for the farmers of India.
I think that is only because of the domestic politics. Same thing in the UK, because you have a large Indian diaspora, especially from the Punjab. So they are exerting some pressure because lots of people living in, you know, Punjab in the UK and Canada still own land back in Punjab. So their economic interests are also being threatened. So they're able to lobby and mobilize the politicians abroad as well. But I would not read much into that because it hardly matters what candidacy's.
I mean, who cares about what candidacy's after point? And Khalistan is a non-issue is just that whenever you have a strong government in Delhi, you suddenly find all the constituencies activated in all the Western capitals. This is all this has been the trend since the time of the attack. And this is the 70s. This is a trend. And India intelligence has always pointed it out. Whenever you have a strong prime minister suddenly in London, in the US and Canada, all these studies will come up.
And the moment the government falls, all of them will die out. But I think that's a different kind of game altogether. I'm not an expert on that. So, you know, there is some movement by people like the quality of the labs and stuff to kind of. Feto, farmers protesting the bill in terms of cost, is there any sort of caste element in this outside of the particular nature of the juts in this in this protest or this bill maybe for untouchables or for I mean, or dullards or objects or anything like that?
So that no one has joined us family for risk, apart from farmers know to this Collingdale and into northeastern India, especially Punjab and in Punjab statute projects.
And the reason I've told you, because in Punjab they have around 30 to 35 percent Hindu population. If I'm not wrong and most of the Hindus in Punjab are the traders are they are in the basically upper class.
The Hindus in Punjab are because they hardly own only land, not farmers in the countryside, which have told in the beginning itself the most of the land, the disproportionate land is held by the judges. Why that happened? Because they were able to take control of the land early on, even before the independence, because it goes back to the British policy of granting land to the six and the Muslims in the Punjab.
So it is very interesting by law in Punjab, both undivided Punjab with the Pakistani Punjab, Punjab, by law, the Hindus were not allowed to own agricultural land, so only six of the Muslims were allowed to own it. So that's a historical thing. And even after independence, the because owning all the dominant social position, they were able to grab the land from the and the smaller caste. So the other dominant people and they are the one who are leading it.
So there's a cost component to it. But even the other farmers who have joined the protest from Haryana, from the West, they're also giants. So they're not sick. They're not sick yet. But this is also a competition which is making the thing quite complex for the BJP because it is threatening the government and the state of Arizona, because Jacksboro, a very strong, powerful force out there. Every event, even the BJP leaders are now being forced to speak the language against the law and they fear that and they are threatening that the BJP government can collapse any day if the BJP does not concede to our demands.
So, yes, there's a cost competition, but I do not think any of the community has joined it, certainly not at all. It's certainly not the politics nor the farming community from anywhere in the. So I have a question so I know that the Green Revolution really had a huge impact on India and in particular in the northwest of the Punjab, is the reason that the farmers in Punjab in particular have been bombed while they can hold the capital hostage.
That's obviously one thing. Farmers in the south of India can't do that. They're too far. But is one of the reasons that they are so invested in the status quo is that the system I mean, they are more advanced, they are more wealthy, they do have more modern practices, whereas farmers in other parts of India are more marginalised. And so they're not going to be as negatively impacted by the free market because they, frankly, don't have as much to lose.
Is it that these farmers in the Northwest have a lot to lose?
That is true. You see, the Punjab is no longer the main food basket of India. It has been taken over even in the wheat production by the central Indian states of this government operation. But still, most of the procurement is done from the Punjab. So last year, I think 65 percent of it was procured from Punjab alone. So total procurement in India of the wheat, 65 percent from Punjab alone and thirty five percent of racism that we can go and double check your data.
So, yes, because of the Green Revolution, the government policies and the state support has been concentrated in Punjab and Haryana to a great extent, and they have benefited from it. But that support was a very negative kind of support in the long run because that is giving you free electricity, free water, subsidised fertilizer, guaranteed procurement, guaranteed prices, guaranteed everything. You can sustain it for long. That's me that actually made sense in the 1960s when India was in the grip of food shortages.
Because, you see, the 1962 we fought a war with China that lasted for 60 to 60 for we had a drop year in India. There was acute food shortages in India, literally very bad conditions for India 65. We had a war in Pakistan again. So it was a very bad decade of India. And by the end of the 60s, we have this green revolution that started coming into being. So what made sense in the 60s as a temporary provision?
I would say you can't argue that it should be continued forever. And this is what these farmers are doing because they're invested in that, because the prosperity, the social status now depends on this kind of arrangement. And they definitely have a lot to lose because now they will have to improvise. They will have to move on to the practices, they will have to compete, and they can no longer be sure of the profits they can make. So, yes, so of course, they're protesting because they stand to lose a lot of other parts of the country because the government never focused on those parts.
They never actually tried to do Green Revolution in other parts of the country. Now they're trying to do and this reform laws are part of the package. They want the other parts to grow by allowing more efficiency, more economic freedom, more corporates, more agribusiness companies, more startups coming into being. But as you know, a powerful section of farmer next to capital strength is Follet.
Yes, I mean, this is, um, if you do a Marxist analysis of these, I mean, it's just really bizarre because, you know, very superficially people I mean, social media, social media, it's a separate thing.
But I even reading in the in the American press, you wouldn't understand that these are they're very well off segment of the Indian population. There are a segment with a lot that these people are to a great extent capital like they have capital. They're not simply capitalist farmers.
Right. They're capitalists from their smaller capitalists.
So they're pretty bourgeoisie, as you say. Yeah, exactly.
But the advanced range, Johore and expensive cars and saying repeal from not.
Come on. Give me a Range Rover. Give me a Range Rover, Range Rover in India is like, you know, Accra, which you're paying like a hundred sixty thousand dollars for that in India as opposed to the US.
Well, what's a car? What's it called?
Range Rover. Because of the way at the taxes in India go for imported vehicles like Range Rover is 10 million, 10 million.
OK, that's a I don't know these words. Sorry, but yeah. So it's like sixty thousand dollars for a Range Rover in India. Well, so one of the things that's kind of looming in these stories, though, is also the India's economy is not doing that well. It seems that the Modie I mean, you know, I was in favor of lockdown for coronavirus, et cetera, et cetera, but I mean, I'm not sure if that's really worked out.
It's is it India has done really badly economically this year. So has it done badly? Because there are structural reasons why it's less robust than, say, Bangladesh, which is a much smaller economy, but still Bangladesh will probably break even the government is lying and say that it'll grow. But nobody really believes that, I think. But India looks like it's shrinking. China's been doing China's opening up the gap even further. Do you think that these protests can be understood partly in reaction to the economic tumult of the coronavirus pandemic in India?
I don't think they have much to do with the coronavirus. But yes, Indian economy is not doing great of it. And there are structural reasons for that, especially of a problem which we faced during the boom years. I mean, when the economy was booming in the last decade, there were lots of, I would say, mall investments made in the Indian economy by different business houses. And so they are reading under the backs of the ruling. And this there's a generalized slowdown in the Indian economy, which has been going on for the last 50 years, which now that with the lockdown, that actually became quite disastrous in terms of numbers.
But Indian economy has rebounded very fast with sufficient recovery, which you're seeing in India. Our tax collection and everything is coming back to the normal level as we speak. I don't think these protests are leading to the coronavirus slowdown.
But yes, once when you do not have the economy booming, then you do not have the people finding avenues outside agriculture. They would definitely fight to retain whatever they have. So I don't think their immediate immediate motive is that economic slowdown is basically to preserve their economic and social power in the religious right. And it's also being encouraged by opposition parties who have the opposition parties joining it because India is a very noisy democracy. So, so many farmers are behind and are protesting that.
But the opposition parties in Bihar during the primaries.
So I think that can continue as far as Bangladesh is concerned about this has been really good.
And that's very good news, in fact, because a prosperous Bangladesh is in the best interest of the entire region.
But Bangladesh is a one commodity market. I mean, textile exports and why India has not been able to do so because of these kind of policies. Modi government has also implemented deep reforms in the labor laws. For the first time in India, we have some sensible labor laws which now allow Indian industry to enter into labor intensive products that takes pride in. So we we hope that you will see the benefits in those sectors as well. And the government also created the culture by giving more freedom and massive I mean, I do not understand the Western audience in that sense.
And the politicians Indian government is liberalizing agriculture. It is giving economic freedom to the culture and certainly the advocates of the free markets, which are the Western countries. We have a problem with that.
So I don't know what what's going on out there, but I would say that Indian economy will rebound very fast for the next two or three years.
We will see a very fast economic growth rate. Yeah, I will say. I think I understand what you're saying about free market Western countries and WTO and all of these, like the great consensus of the nineteen nineties. But, you know, when you're talking about the media, these people are red. They are.
I mean, if they're not like literal communist, they're definitely socialist. So I think what they're trying to do is fit it into their pre-existing narrative of winners and losers in a Zero-Sum class competition. The Modi government, they're Nazis. They know that. Therefore, anybody who opposes the government is good. So I think that's what's going on.
I think that maybe maybe that is possible. But I've never understood what kind of legitimate government is this every on the street against the government. And, you know, everyone sees whatever it points against the government.
If no one feels this government in the sense that the democracy is working as it does all this work, but somehow it's the Nazi government, I don't understand.
Yeah, because you get like journalists like, you know, what's gone to you or whatever, who who talks about how she fears for her life.
No one knows for sure it's OK. I mean, no one has even seen a genuine journalistic work from her which has any basis or anything. Yeah.
Give any proof of this is the problem is, is that's kind of the Western perception. They find these, you know, I mean, the support or whatever we want to call them to their their their brown interlocutor to give them the information that they want. Hmm, possibly. I think this is so upsetting to some of the coverage of India and the Western media that is so biased, is so biased, that don't even bother to write the correct facts.
Well, it's just astonishing to me. It's not just that. It's I mean, it's fine to have the genuine criticisms, but if you create your own boogeyman based on your own facts of the story, that bogeyman, that's the real truth. Right? That's not really speaking truth to power. That's just making up your own issues. I mean, I just feel like this is the same way with the Farmersville right now is you're creating this this this monstrosity that doesn't really exist so that a small population of people can maintain their hegemony or whatever they want.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, and you see that on everything. So you see that on Article 370 in Kashmir. You see that on the scene. And it's OK if you if you don't agree with those policies, you can criticize Indian government, but you can't. Right. Outright lies. You can't present the other view. So in the American newspapers, I know it was not a single article which presented alternative view of what typically 70 articles, 17 articles in some kind of trouble.
And for the first time in 70 years, the Dalitz in Jammu and Kashmir had caught their actual citizenship of the Kashmir. They were not even allowed to take up any jobs. So if you had done it in Kashmir, even if you have Pisgah, you were not allowed to do any other job but that of a slip up. This was the impact of the Article 370. After 70 years, you have this thousands and hundreds of thousands of refugees who came from other side of the Kashmir during partition for the first time, the voting in the election.
None of these concerns were discussed in the newspaper. It was only one sided view. So it's not surprising because I think India has always gotten the treatment, no matter what government is in power.
So look at the best interests, even when so-called liberal secular government was in power under Manmohan Singh or under Nehru or in Jakarta or whatever the risk of is about India was equally well, I mean, a part of this is also that India does the Indian government does a terrible job of any sort of press coverage or any sort of controlling the message or presenting the facts properly. They just kind of let it play out without really saying anything. They're always bad.
I think this is not just this government that is the Indian government in general is very bad in that they don't understand this thing because it's run by the bureaucrats.
So we have no interest, no incentive. Second point is that they don't have an expert. They have no expertise on how to do these things. And they don't even outsource this thing to the competent people because they all want to control power. I think that is the problem.
So here's, I guess, going back to the main topic here about the Farmersville. So what will be the impact whenever this passes? Like how will it function, say, at a ground level or the chain of production from the time the farmer finishes the harvest? What would happen? What will change considerably in that process that would allow the farmer to really have a sense of independence or freedom or or more economic benefit? Can you explain that in a little more detail?
So we've talked about the negatives. Let's talk about what the bill actually does. True, true, so I would say what India is facing and what the government is facing with this law is a journalist in India by the name of Shakr Gupta here, said this is a precious moment for Prime Minister Modi, whether he backs down in defense of the unions or he wishes to these economic reforms once his reforms are implemented, there will be two things. First of all, which is a really important point, is that farmers for the first time will have freedom to choose whom they sell in India, the farmers for the only private producers who could not decide who to sell and who could not decide at what price they want.
So this is bizarre. I mean, how can anyone even justify this thing? I don't understand. So they will get this freedom. They can enter into contracts. And this is and is happening. So but the law doesn't allow you. But if you go to the countryside in India, in different cities, in Bengal or even in Bihar or even around Delhi, in Haryana, Punjab, even in Punjab, that since you already have the farmers entering into informal contracts with the agribusinesses and supplying them vegetables, potatoes, whatever they want.
So this bill will actually give them the legal framework of legal protection of this kind of informal contract. It basically legalizes what is already happening and makes it more structured. So I think that is only going to benefit the farmers because now you have the protection of the law, you have more systematic structure. You can be cheated very easily. You have no liability in the sense that the other side cannot take over your land or impose penalties on you. It provides for a, you know, a dispute resolution mechanism that you can go to the local authorities and in case of any dispute to arbitration and so on.
Other thing is that by removing Essential Commodities Act, the government can no longer control the prices of the agricultural products like it did before. So what used to happen? If the prices are going up, the farmers would benefit, but that would never happen because the government clamped down on the prices in order to protect the urban population. Now, that has gone to security. And at the point, is that contract farming? I think that that is going to really shape the entire supply chain, not the private sector, will invest more in the warehousing, in the rural infrastructure.
Interestingly, in India, because of the Essential Commodities Act, no trader would build the capacity to hold stock because they would not know when the government will be clear the government issue the Commodities Act, and then you will be on the other side of the law that you are already this much amount of tomatoes. How come you're holding? So you are basically doing black marketing or something. So now that sugar is gone, so you will see more investment in the supply chain in the business chain, which in the long run is definitely going to help?
Well, look, I mean, all those things sound good. So I guess my my follow up to that would be I don't really know much about if India has a commodities trading market like it doesn't the US. But if it does, would this affect that also? I mean, that is difficult to say because it doesn't really exist in India, but interestingly, one of the leading protesters in the swamps, the hesitation Pakistan on union before the last year's general election, they brought out a manifesto, a sign manifesto, which is a farmer's manifesto, and they demanded that they should be allowed to do future trade, that APC should be abolished, and that the farmers should have full rights over the land to enter into contract and so on.
So this is something that the farmer unions were protesting themselves have been demanding. What is interesting is that they are protesting on the street. This is how the futures markets work on.
I don't think I can comment on that because something doesn't exist, but maybe it should be able to stabilize the prices, give more assurance for the farmers about their produce. But we will have to see because that requires very strong institutions which will take some years to be. Right. Right.
So, I mean, on the other side, on the former insider, I guess issue is what is the connection between the the larger. So can you talk about how these larger companies have impacts on the farmer market here in India, like, you know, Monsanto or Bayer or whatever? There's a lot of talk about that. But do they really impact the farmers market, the farmers world, the way that we see in the media? Not that much, but their influence is increasing and their impact is increasing, especially in the case of these, you know, the seats market.
So, yeah, the seats market, you do have very high presence of these private companies and they have lots of problems because they're trying to replace the market. And especially in the case of Katrina, we have seen that how they were their practices were not really good for the farmers. But I think that that is the first time this was happening in India. And the institutions of were policymakers, but not really did not have requisite expertise to deal with these issues.
But I think we have those expertise now.
But unlike, say, America or the Western countries, they are not you know, they don't control the agricultural market as they do in the Western countries and in the US, basically government controlled, which is equally bad, I would say, which is not a very good situation, but nothing like what you have in America or the U.S..
Canada? Well, you know, there could be worse ways to be could be like North Korea, I guess not that bad. But I mean, it's interesting to me that the permit Raj still hangs over India in twenty twenty. I mean, this is like, you know, Gandhi and Fabian socialism and it's still here. And that's a very depressing thing sometimes because we have not been able to grow out of this thing. But I think in a society like India because.
So why are the streets powerful in India? This is also very important to understand, because India is a very diverse society, ethnically customised language wise. Whatever you think about India, it's a very diverse society. And the different communities out there so great are committed to acquire the position of racially. It does in combination with the different communities.
And without that, I do not think India can be right. So the state will always be very powerful in India. So in India, we do not really have left and right in the sense you have in America. In India, the ideology is more about the role of the street. You know, what should the state do and how much. It's not about free market, it's not about socialism. And all those things in India, so to speak, is the important player in India and it will remain so.
But the state can do better, you know, not be that Fabian Socialist or whatever the country talk or talk. But somehow we have not been able to break free of that that socialist culture in this country. But I think that things will change because under this government in the last four or five month. The the amount of economic reforms the Modi government has done in the last four months alone is unprecedented. These are the largest set of reforms ever.
That industry of India, the evil, surpassed 1991. So don't be surprised that after 10 years we will sit back and see a historic moment of India. Was the year 2020 when you had this unprecedented crisis, which was which forced the hands of the government to do these reforms. And this is how we talk about 1981, that there was a balance of payment crisis has forced the hand of government to do these economic reforms. So I think this is what has happened.
Let's hope for the best going forward that the people's preferences will also change. Yeah, I mean, I think partly it might be a cultural thing where, you know, one of the things that was shocking to me when I started getting to know about what the BJP and the center right right wing movement in India was about was it wasn't as libertarian as I was hoping, you know. Yeah.
And so it's like where you guys are starting is so fundamentally different than where we are in the United States, where until recently to be called a socialist was a poison pill as a label in American politics, that even today it's not a very popular label. So left to right, we are the opposite of where you guys are.
You know, we do a lot of things far more. Right than they did. Right.
I mean, stylize fact that might actually be true from what I know and what I've heard, you know, and our mutual friend Xiomara is a business person.
So he knows about this in terms of just like the the tendency within the Indian society. So I'm hoping it's changing. I hope that this war obviously works out.
But in a way, it's more interesting as an illustration of how the rest of the world tries to interpret things happening in this country of one billion, three hundred and fifty million people with all of these different ethnicities and jyoti's and regions and classes and all this stuff going on. And it's just it's impossible and it always just comes out as kind of a joke. And but it was great having you on to explain it to everyone out here.
So I don't have to, like, read a bunch of long articles that I have to figure out what's true and what's not. That was really useful.
Don't worry. I'll send you some of my articles on the phone. So you have a really good man.
I really appreciate it. OK.
All right. Tune in next week for Brownell's.