UK Plan could "throw 20 million off land" in India

a x tony at
Wed Mar 20 16:49:53 GMT 2002

Plan could "throw 20 million off land" in India 
17:20 18 March 02 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."
Fred Pearce
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