‘’The Planning Commission’s call to Kerala to give up rice cultivation is aimed at paving the way for the corporate takeover of agriculture,’’ said eminent food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma.
He said this while delivering the lecture on ‘Is the present Planning Commission threatening India’s food security?’ organised by the Kerala Paristhithi Aikya Vedi here on Friday.
‘’The sad part is that while they are at it, they are also dismantling the planks that assured food security in the country,’’ said Devinder Sharma retorting to Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s statement that the state need not worry about food security.
Recalling the incident when American President Lyndon Johnson, (angered by Lal Bahadur Shastri flaying the Vietnam war) stopping food exports to India, Devinder said that it is very humiliating for any country to import food and bow down to the arm-twisting that comes along with it. ‘’Teaching a lesson to a hungry country is very easy,’’ he said.
A professor at large at the CSK Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University, Palampur, he is a visiting fellow to several institutes and universities abroad. Trained as an agricultural scientist, he was with the ‘Express,’ before he quit active journalism to research on policy issues concerning sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and intellectual property rights, environment and development. Devinder expressed
his concern about state after state acquiring agriculture land for building infrastructure facilities.
‘’Uttar Pradesh, which is the largest producer of food grains in the country, will be short of 15 million tons of food grains after the present round of land acquisition. Who will feed Uttar Pradesh?’’ he asked.
Devinder pointed out that the slogan - food is available in plenty outside and can be bought cheaply - is a fantasy.
‘’Many countries such as China and Saudi Arabia have started buying land elsewhere, shifting their farmers and producing food for their nation,’’ he said.
He also said that agriculture being asked to be discarded because it contributes just about 13 per cent to GDP is nonsense.
‘’In America, agriculture contributes just 4 per cent. Yet, they give massive subsidies to agriculture. Why haven’t they given up agriculture?,’’ he asked.
The talk that was held in the evening at the Fourth Estate Hall of the Press Club here was followed by panel discussions by political leaders, farmer leaders and civil society representatives.