UK Plan could "throw 20 million off land" in India
tony at gaia.org
Wed Mar 20 16:49:53 GMT 2002
Plan could "throw 20 million off land" in India
17:20 18 March 02
NewScientist.com news service
Farmers from one of India's poorest states charged the UK
government on Monday with helping fund a development
scheme that will throw 20 million people off their land.
The Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has so far been
promised £65 million in UK aid for a programme called
Vision 2020. The state government says the programme will
"totally eradicate poverty" inside 20 years by mechanising
farms, introducing genetically modified crops and
extending irrigation, roads and electricity to rural
But the plan, which is being funded by the World Bank and
the UK's Department for International Development, will be
based round widespread "land consolidation". That is,
turning millions of small farms into larger production
units. The stated aim is to reduce the proportion of the
state's 70 million people who make their living from the
land from 70 to 40 per cent.
"There will be a huge hardship," says PV Satheesh of the
Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity, who led
a protest at the UK Parliament. "They say that the people
who leave the land will find jobs. But they can't show us
where the jobs will be. Right now, the government has a
moratorium on jobs and the private sector is downsizing."
Speaking from a conference in Mexico, the UK international
development secretary Clare Short denied that the Andhra
Pradesh state government had any plans to remove people
from their land. But she said development was necessary in
a state where "most of the poorest people work as
agricultural labourers, often on a dollar a day or less".
Powerhouse or poorhouse?
In effect, the protest represents a clash of two
alternative visions for tackling global poverty. The state
government declares that under the plan "every individual
will be able to lead a comfortable life. Poverty will have
been eradicated and current inequalities will have
To turn the state into a "powerhouse of Indian
agriculture", it has asked Monsanto to introduce Bt
cotton, which carries a gene for an insect-killing toxin.
And another firm will develop "golden rice", which is
engineered to be rich in vitamin A.
But many farmers oppose the plans. And they are backed by
independent aid groups such as Christian Aid and by
researchers from the Institute of Development Studies at
the University of Sussex.
The institute's Tom Wakeford helped organise a series of
"citizens' juries" in which farmers debated Vision 2020.
"They unanimously decided to oppose the project," he said.
Instead they backed an alternative vision based on organic
farming and community control.
"Vision 2020 means huge farms, pesticides, mass
mechanisation and GM crops, but offers nothing but a loss
of homes and livelihoods to most of the people," Satheesh
told New Scientist. "We have reached a fork in the road
for farming and the UK government is about to send the
people of Andhra Pradesh down the wrong track."
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