Indian Classical Texts: Are they History, Mystery or Mythology?

Posted in History, India, politics, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on June 26, 2012

Over the last 8-12 centuries, Indian historical figures have undergone ‘religiofication’. Result – India’s political history has been ‘lost’.

From: The true believer: thoughts on the nature of mass movements  |  By Eric Hoffer  |  Page 6

From: The true believer: thoughts on the nature of mass movements | By Eric Hoffer | Page 6

“Religiofication” as Eric Hoffer defined it, was all about turning practical purposes into holy causes. As noted, this leads to the politicization of religion and the religiofication of politics.

An important element of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra was restrictions on power of elites over other people. Hence, power to criminalize or demonize people was anti-भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

De-Constructing History – And Language, Metaphors Mnemonics

If Indians classics like Mahabharata and Ramayana were mythology, then they would not have so many characters. So many of these characters appear in a line or a few verses and contribute nothing to the ‘story.’ Take the chapter on the descent of Gnaga. There is the vague king called asmanjas – whose name has come to embody dilemma. There is no need for him in the story – yet he is there. He interestingly, reappears in Egypt, in the Amarna tablets as Zananzas.

Now, if we assume that this history, then a lot of the overlays have to deconstructed.

Three de-constructions that I will leave you with: –

1. Sita – the name means furrow – as she was orphan found by Janak. (Unrelated, but Sita was also a vague, Vedic goddess, who we have forgotten, who was the goddess of fertility).

This simply means that she was a child of commoner – and earth’s child. Bhumiputri. Even today, bhumiputra is a political term used in Malaysia to denote natives – as opposed to immigrants.

When her husband’s exile was confirmed, she could have easily stayed back in the royal palace – and awaited the return of her husband. But again, her upbringing comes into play. As a commoner, she valued merit over birth. She would rather enjoy life with her husband than live alone in royal palace.

Again, after marital /political discord, Sita is unworried about royal comforts – and walks out. To reclaim her common life.

When her sons’ attain age, she again walks away and goes back to earth, her common, anonymous life, to prevent any emotional conflict and the dilution of loyalty in her sons towards their royal father, who kingdom they were to inherit.

How many times, we see estranged mothers use their children against the father? Sita eliminated this possibility by going back to earth.

And walking away from her sons.

This deconstruction is consistent with Sita’s meritocratic behavior. If Sita had an iota of entitlement-based thinking, she would have accepted Ravana’s proposal for marriage, instead of a disinherited, wandering, friendless prince that her husband was. She was entitled to all that Ravana was offering. But Sita values on loyalty and meritocratic thinking would not accept that proposal.

This also contrasts against the silly, modern interpretation of defenseless, victim of a patriarchal, backward, social structure.

2. Agnipareeksha – How will a husband, test his wife’s feelings, after nearly ten years of separation? After ten years of loneliness? If she still loved a disinherited, wandering, friendless prince that her husband was?

Even after victory over Ravana, Rama did not have a kingdom or a home.Remember that Bharat was anointed king of Bharata by Dashratha, and ruling over Ayodhya.

Rama did not know that a welcome awaited him. If Bharata decided there could have been another war to reclaim Ayodhya. And another few years of agony for Sita.

How would a husband test his wife’s love in such a situation?


I think not!

What could be the alternate meanings of agni, fire in such a situation? Was ‘agni‘ a metaphor?

3. War and women in India – If you read Mahabharata, after the war, it is the women of the slain warriors who do the final funerary rites. These soldiers had come Keykaya (Iran). Gandhara (Balochistan), Pragjyotishpura (Assam-Bengal-Afghanistan) etc.

How long would it take for messengers to reach their homes, and bring the women? Were the bodies rotting for so long? Disease, pollution from thousands of bodies lying for weeks would have made Kurukshetra unlivable.

Did the wives travel with the soldiers?

I believe they did?

Remember how after the Third Battle of Panipat, some 20,000 odd women were taken as captives? Similarly if you read the accounts of Nunez, the 16th century European chronicler in India, he talks of many women accompanying the soldiers. Nunez thinks they were prostitutes – because he could not imagine loyal wives who would follow their husbands to battle.

Why is Krishna Worshipped

Krishna was a completely different story. Off the top, I can think of the ten really big achievements.

1. Unarmed Combat: – Krishna’s killing of Kaiwalyapidu, Kamsa’s rogue elephant, the deaths of Chanura and Mustika and of Kamsa himself were all chronicles in unarmed combat, where as children, Krishna and Balarama showed that even children can defend themselves. This went later to China – and we have the birth of Kung-fu.

2. Kill-and-eat: Krishna pioneered the grow-and-eat economy with dairy as the backbone of the food chain. He started with the cleaning of Yamuna – which I presume was heavily polluted by endless dumping of meat-waste. You only have to see how animal fat is extracted or glue (sares) made from animal waste (bones and skins) to understand how polluting this is.

Krishna, it was who probably, replaced animal fat with dairy fat – and his love of butter was an indicator of this change. Krishna’s jumping into the polluted Yamuna, to get his ball, and the killing of Kaaliya nag, is how he cleaned the Yamuna – by transforming a kill-and-eat food system to grow-and-eat system.

3. Animal Husbandry: He also pioneered the taming of the bull-calf – which is why he is called natho.

4.Agriculture: Balarama pioneered ploughing and irrigation – the backbone of agriculture.

5. Transportation: As a charioteer he popularized fast transportation – which is why you will find him in all parts of India.

6. Plant Breeding: He brought the legendary Parijaat tree – which is the famous Baobab tree from probably West Asia or Africa (supposedly flying on a Garuda). Baobab tree is unique tree that lives for hundreds of years, can store enough water for a small village population, and its fruit and leaves have great nutritive value.

7. Escape From Superstition: Krishna swept away all the superstitions and ancient folk-gods during the Goverdhan incident.

8. Diplomacy: He laid out principles of diplomacy during Shishupal Vadh and his peace embassy before the War of Mahabharata.

9. Marriage & Society: He also reinforced the principles of free marital choice in the Subhadra-Arjun incident with well-structured arguments and negotiations.

10. His warcraft was second to none – which is why he alone was enough for the Pandavas. He was the inventor of the discus – the Sudarshana chakra. As an expert war-charioteer, he played a crucial role in Mahabharata.

Thus Krishna’s contribution in politics, ethics, combat-and-warcraft, transportation, animal husbandry, agriculture have never been duplicated in history.

Krishna’s two most famous killings were Kamsa and Jarasanda. Both these rulers were prolific ‘imprisoners’. Krishna killed both of them – and Narakasura. All three have been mentioned as rulers who imprisoned people.

How many people were imprisoned in Ram Rajya? How many people did Yudhisthira or Yadava Krishna imprison?

Here is an interesting review of literature and treatment of Krishna in India – over the centuries. The narrative below misses out many such points  – but remains a powerful study of the forgotten colossus – the political Krishna.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee wrote Krishna-Charitra in 1886. Since then, more than a century has gone by. This work of Bankim, one of the finest in Bengali literature, has remained within the confines of Bengali, totally unknown to the vast readership of the country as well as of the world. Bankim brought Krishna out from a maze of confusion and misinterpretations created by myriads of interpolations and inexactitudes propagated by many ill-informed and little-informed Western writers. He had the gigantic task of separating the grain from the chaff in his quest for the historicity of Krishna and, in that process, to some extent, that of the Mahabharata.

Bankim’s was the first attempt to establish the historicity of Krishna and consequently of that portion of the Mahabharata that deals with Krishna. In the process we find that Krishna emerges as a supreme human being with all the desirable human qualities in all their resplendence, and not as a God churning out miracle after miracle from his divine repertoire. Bankim put forward Krishna as an ideal before the nation to be emulated, to be followed as a ideal man and not to be worshipped as a god who remains a Utopian dream forever.

Bankim was a pioneer, a pathfinder who limited his study only to Krishna, basing his research entirely on cold logic and scientific analysis. He destroyed some extremely popular myths which had found their way into the socio-cultural milieu of the entire country, namely the miraculous slaying of Kamsa, Jarasandha, Sishupala, Jayadratha and Drona. He established them as a simple matter of normal battle, bereft of any divine interference of godly prowess or base political machination.

Bankim began to write Krishna-Charitra as a skeptic but by the time he reached the end he had become a devotee of Krishna, an ardent believer in Krishna as God.

Bankim identified the decadent ‘Babus’ in Kamalakanter Daptar, Muchiram Gur etc., lashed at them viciously and resurrected Krishna from confusion, misinterpretation and intellectual oblivion to put him up before them as an idea who must be followed, emulated, as an ideal around whom they should mould their own personalities. Like the proverbial phoenix, must arise a generation of rejuvenated youth, conscious of their responsibility in a subject country, led by the hand of the Krishna he had created. Bankim provided Krishna. We have seen the excellent impact of it in the history of our Independence.

Why did Bankim choose Krishna and not Rama, the other epic hero who could do no wrong’ the maryada purushottama considered the ideal human being throughout the length and breadth of the country? There is a reason. Bankim was mainly concerned with Bengal. He was a part of the Bengal Renaissance and his target population was the Bengali. He wrote in Bengali for the Bengali reader and Rama is not the popular deity in Bengal. It is Krishna throughout. Therefore, he decided to deal with the character of Krishna. He knew that he could get the attention of the common Bengali only if he wrote Krishna-Charitra and not Rama-Charitra. But he found the Krishna of Chaitanya, the Krishna of the brilliant Vaishnava poets Jayadev, Vidyapati, Chandidas etc., the Krishna of the Bhakti cult, a romantic, erotic and rather soppy Krishna who went about gallivanting in the groves of Vrindavana along with Radha, Chandravali and other gopis, playing his irresistible flute. The whole of Bengal was drowned in the worship of this Krishna.

Instead of the emotionalism of the lyric poet, he brought out the toughness of the epic poet. He attempted to replace the erotic Krishna of the Bhagavata, Harivamsa, Chaitanya and the Vaishnava poets by the tremendously powerful personality of the epic, totally divested of his godhood, and involved in nation building, shifting power centers, politics, diplomacy, using peace and war according to requirement’ in short, using his overpowering but human wisdom and intelligence in the struggle for supremacy, resulting finally in the establishment of truth over falsehood, of good over evil, and of right over wrong. Here we find a Krishna bathed in the brutality and complexity of real-life struggle who is far removed from the flute-wielding romantic totally immersed in inane activities like hallisha krida. We find a strategist, a diplomat and a warrior, instead of a lover, a stealer of women’s hearts and butter and cheese.

The tremendous political acumen of Krishna is highlighted in the way he used all the four principles of Dandaniti to destroy the malignant power centers, create new alliances that emerged as counter balances to the existing power structure and use diplomacy to bolster the Yadava interest. He used war and peace, he used marriages and he used his basic superior intelligence for this one purpose. Consequently, the Yadavas accepted him as their supreme commander. It took some time. It also took some effort. But in the final analysis, he emerged as the leader whose judgement and veracity could not be disputed. His political acumen combined with his sharp intellect, personal courage and physical prowess established him as a major force. The contemporary powers came to regard the Yadavas under Krishna with respect and fear. It has not been spelt out clearly anywhere in the Mahabharata but his guiding principle must have been the establishment of a Yadava hegemony on the political map of northern India. Every evidence seems to indicate that. To understand his plans and actions clearly, the political situation of the country at the time of Krishna must be visualized.

The prevalent political situation has its roots in Yayati’s lust. He gave the kingdom of Pratisthana (later shifted to Hastinapura by Hasti and his son Vaikunthan) to his youngest son Puru, depriving his other sons, Yadu, Turvasu, Druhyu and Anu. Consequently, they established themselves elsewhere in the country. For the purpose of our discussion, we shall ignore the others as they are not relevant and concentrate in the progeny of only Yadu and Puru, i.e. the Yadavas and the Pauravas.

Between Yayati and Yudhisthira and Krishna, there are twenty-six generations. Much naturally happened during these years. We find a sort of internal conflict within the Paurava and Yadava clans and also existence of bad blood between the Yadavas and Pauravas. These naturally had developed and distanced the clans and sub-clans over a period covering these twenty-six generations. The main Paurava line continued at Hastinapura. We find Dhritarastra ruling a very powerful political assemblage that included such stalwarts as Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Kama, Ashvatthama, Vidura and Sakuni.

Another line of the Pauravas left Hastinapura (or were made to leave) and conquered Chedi from the Yadavas. This was another reason for the Yadava-Paurava enmity that began with the ouster of Yadu. Later, of course, this line re-established the Yadavas at Chedi and moved on to establish their sway in Magadha. We find one of the finest statesmen of the time, ruling at Magadha was Jarasandha, who easily was superior to any contemporary, including Krishna, in might, diplomacy and power. He even managed to alienate the Southern Yadavas from the mainline Yadavas of Mathura and bring them inseparably under his tutelage. This Paurava line became supremely antagonistic towards the Mathura Yadavas after the slaying of Kamsa. Jarasandha vowed to annihilate them totally.
The third Paurava line went and established themselves at Panchala (around Badaun, Bareilly etc.), and were known as the Panchalas. There was bitter enmity between these relations and neighbours which even the gap of generations could not dilute. In fact it went on increasing, finally culminating in the Kuru-Panchala War.

The Yadavas spread all over. The mainline Yadavas remained in and around Mathura. Other lines went to Dvaraka, Mahismati, Vidarbha. Chedi, Avanti, Dasharna, even up to Mysore. The entire Paurava kingdom practically was surrounded by the Yadavas. But though the Yadavas were a large clan, there was no cohesion among them. There was a lot of conflict within the Mathura Yadavas, mainly due to Kamsa who became king after imprisoning his father Ugrasena. There was no peace due to the power struggle between Andhakas, Shinis, Sattvatas, Vrishnis etc. The southern Yadavas were not friendly towards the Mathura Yadavas. Even though two of Vasudeva’s sisters were married to the kings of Karusha Chedi, they remained firmly on the side of Jarasandha who took advantage of the situation. He married his daughters to Kamsa, supported him in his ascendancy and brought Mathura too under his control. In this way, it was Jarasandha who controlled the entire Yadava clan for some time. Even when Jarasandha attacked the Mathura Yadavas, Vidarbha, Chedi, Dasharna, Avanti, Karusha etc. joined his imperial forces.

Besides these warring relatives, there were other power centers in the country. The most important were the Matsyas of Virata (Jaipur of today) who played a vital role in shaping the course of history of the time, Salva of Sauva (Punjab) and Paudrak Vasudeva of Anga, Pundravardhana etc. Also, there were Gonanda of Kashmir, Subala of Gandhara, etc. These were all friendly towards Jarasandha and joined the imperial forces in their campaign against Mathura.

This, in very short, was the political situation of northern India when Krishna appeared on the scene with his heroic abilities, superior intellect and tremendous political foresight. He, having been thrown into the situation, was quite clear in his objective. He had to retrieve the Yadavas from the political quagmire into which they had fallen and slowly re-establish them as the supreme power in North India to take their rightful place as the heirs of Yayati by replacing the usurpers, the Pauravas. His course of action was also clear to him. He had to bring back unity among the belligerent Yadavas. He achieved this which a master’stroke of diplomacy, a combination of brain and brawn. He slew Kamsa and his henchmen but did not assume power himself. Neither did he put Vasudeva, his father, on the throne. Instead, he brought back Ugrasena, Kamsa’s hapless father and set him on the throne. This endeared him to all the Yadavas, irrespective of clans, including Kamsa’s supporters. Then, when Jarasandha attacked to avenge the death of his son-in-law, he kindled the Yadavas with the spirit of patriotism and provided inimitable leadership in the defence of Mathura. It is a remarkable achievement of Krishna that he was able to defend Mathura with a handful of Yadavas against the colossal imperial army that included practically all the major powers of India, namely, Salva, Gonanda of Kashmir, Chedi, Bhishmaka, Virata and of course Duryodhana and his brothers. This imperial force was thwarted time and again not only by Krishna’s personal courage and prowess, but also by the leadership provided by him. All the Yadavas stood by him as one. By the time he retreated to Dvaraka in the face of the superior forces of Jarasandha, he had achieved his goal. The entire Yadava clan, the Bhojas, Vrishnis, Andhakas, Shinis, Kukuras, Sattvatas etc. swore by him and looked up to him as their natural leader in all matters of importance. Every future incident reconfirmed his position as leader and the bond of the Yadava brotherhood went from strength to strength. The path was not free of obstacles. Nevertheless, he achieved what he wanted-unity among the Yadavas. He did not succeed in bringing the southern Yadavas immediately into his fold. But by this time, the Mathura-Dvaraka Yadavas had already emerged as a major force, feared even by Hastinapura.

Having united the Yadavas, Krishna found it necessary to consolidate. Though powerful, the Yadavas were politically isolated and had powerful enemies. So, he needed political alliances, which would help him in containing or removing the enemies. His main adversary was Jarasandha and his allies. He realised that only after destroying him, could he turn his attention to Hastinapura, his final goal. That Duryodhana joined Jarasandha in the siege of Mathura, must have weighed with him considerably in his antipathy towards the Pauravas. But, first of all, the alliances.

Krishna saw that to destroy Jarasandha, he had to use the Pauravas, the other most powerful nation. For that, he needed to make an inroad into them. Luck was with him. He found the Pandavas. There were three distinct reasons why the Pandavas must be chosen as allies. First, they were individually extremely gifted, not only in the art of warfare but also in the qualities of head and heart. Most important, they too were isolated, without much political support and constantly persecuted and hunted by their kinsmen of Hastinapura. They needed help. Secondly, they were matrimonially linked with the Panchalas, the biggest hardcore enemies of Hastinapura. That too suited him very well. Thirdly, the Pandavas were his natural allies, being his first cousins, through their mother Kunti who was the sister of his father Vasudeva. Providence was therefore with him. He needed the Pandava-Panchala alliance and they needed the power of the Yadavas at their back. He therefore extended the hand of friendship which was gratefully accepted. He chose for his friend Arjuna, who he saw was the most versatile, balanced and capable among the five. Arjuna was certainly the kingpin in this alliance and he needed cultivating. He did it with such consummate grace and finesse that Arjuna could nor even think without Krishna and was always willing to do what was pleasing to Krishna. So, what began as a political need ended up as a deep emotional involvement for both. This attitude of Arjuna had far-reaching effects. It was not for nothing that Arjuna’s grandson inherited the empire. Krishna ensured it with a Yadava angle to it. It was a dubious Paurava inheritance with a strong Yadava flavor. He conceived a plan the moment he saw the Pandavas and nurtured it fondly, always progressing steadily towards the fructification of his ultimate plan.

Krishna used another traditional diplomatic instrument, matrimony, for securing political alliances. His grandfather and father used it, with only limited success. Pritha, Vasudeva’s sister, was married to Pandu who did not live long. So this alliance did not produce the expected results, except, that it provided Krishna with the invincible Pandavas and, through them, with a strong foothold in the Hastinapura sphere of influence. Two other sisters were married to the Yadavas of Chedi and Karusha. These were not successful at all as, in spite of these marriages, Chedi and Karusha remained firmly in alliance with Jarasandha. However, there was another powerful Yadava kingdom in the neighborhood of Chedi. which also was an ally of Jarasandha. This was Bhishmaka of Vidarbha and his son Rukmi. Bhishmaka was also very friendly with Sishupala of Chedi and had planned to marry Rukmini, his daughter, with Sishupala. Krishna wanted to rectify the situation and win the powerful Yadavas of Vidarbha to his side. He abducted and married Rukmini hoping that this marriage would unite the Vidarbhas with the Mathura-Dvaraka Yadavas, but this effort failed. Vidarbha was incensed with the abduction and was driven more firmly to Jarasandha. This also enraged Sishpuala of Chedi, who was already a sworn enemy of his cousin Krishna. In the end of course, we find that Rukmi came to join the Pandava forces on the eve of the war, with an expressed desire ‘to do something pleasing to Krishna.’ But how much of it was political expediency (since the Krishna of now was a much more powerful person than the Krishna of yore) and how much of it was his genuine feeling for a brother-in-law, is a matter of conjecture. But it did not matter any more. Neither Krishna, nor the Pandavas needed him.

When Krishna realised that he would have to base his activities solely on this Pandava-Panchala alliance he strove to make it more lasting and powerful. He wanted to bring the Yadavas too into this alliance. And this he decided would be done through Arjuna. He arranged the marriage of his sister Subhadra with Arjuna which was most unusual, as Arjuna and Subhadra were first cousins. Unusual but politically very useful. Also this marriage brought the Yadavas into the Panchala-Pandava alliance firmly. This marriage therefore he nurtured fondly. He brought up Abhimanyu and trained him to be the equal of Arjuna and himself. Such allegiance was not paid to the sons of Draupadi, which is significant. The new alliance becomes powerful but not enough. Now Abhimanyu had to be married. Opportunity presented itself in the form of the Matsya Princess, Uttara. Why did Arjuna prefer Abhimanyu and not any of the sons of Draupadi who were equally available and marriageable? Perhaps, Krishna’s farsightedness and well-laid plains bore fruit now. Arjuna was never in love with Draupadi. His beloved was Subhadra whom he married out of love. So, it was not surprising that he considered Subhadra and Abhimanyu to be his family. Draupadi after all was not his alone. She was more of a political entity, a matter of convenience. Also, Abhimanyu was the rephew of Krishna, Arjuna’s friend, philosopher and guide. Arjuna would always do what pleased Krishna. Who else could he choose except Abhimanyu? This marriage further confirmed the Yadava claim on Hastinapura’s throne, because Abhimanyu’s son Parikshit would be the king of Hastinapura later. And Abhimanyu or Parikshit were more Yadavas than Pauravas. Abhimanyu’s mother and grandmother were Yadavas. His father was not strictly a Paurava. Both Arjuna and Pandu did not have any Paurava blood in them. Both were ‘kshetrajna’ sons of their family.

The political outcome of this marriage was an invincible alliance of Paurava-Panchala-Yadava-Matsya which the marriage of one of Draupadi’s sons could not have brought about effectively. It brought the Yadavas into direct contact with the Matsyas. This axis very conclusively set up a balance of power which more or less neutralised the immense authority of the Hastinapura monolith.

In all this power game, what is bewildering is the marriage between Krishna’s son Samba and Duryodhana’s daughter Lakshmana. It is true that Krishna did not know anything about it. It was Balarama who went and rescued Samba and Lakshmana from the clutches of Duryodhana who had forcibly detained Samba for his misadventure of marrying aud trying to abduct Lakshmana. This is intriguing. Did the marriage please Krishna? Or was he enraged? Did it add to his negative feelings towards Duryodhana for imprisoning his son or was he happy on being presented with another, possibly useful, alliance? However, this marriage did not in any way affect the course of history, nor does it throw any light on the character of Krishna.

All through these happenings on the matrimonial front, Krishna kept himself busy, with eliminating those malignant powers that were irretrievably inimical towards the Yadava cause. No amount of diplomacy would have helped. Some he removed himself, others he tackled with the help of the Pandavas. He systematically destroyed Kamsa, Kalyavana, Hamsa Dimbaka and Sauvaraj Salva. Then he saw that unless Jarasandha was eliminated, the Magadha confederacy, the most powerful one at the time, could not be broken. He also knew that there was no power in the country that could take on the Magadha confederacy in direct conflict. Nor could he handle it alone. So he took recourse to stratagem and, with the help of Bhima and Arjuna, slew Jarasandha. Then he went on to destroy Sishupala of Chedi, Paundraka Vasudeva of Pundravardhana and other minor adversaries to clear the stage for the final holocaust which he knew must come. The Magadha confederacy was completely defused. He had realized that if all these people came to help the Kauravas, nothing could save the Pandava alliance.

An interesting gambit, which was often employed by Krishna, also bought him considerable allegiance from the erstwhile enemies. He never usurped the territory of the vanquished. He established their surviving relatives or the throne and returned the territory. He made Ugrasena, father of Kamsa, the king of the Yadavas. He gave the empire of Jarasandha to his son Sahadeva. He made Dhrislaketu the king of Chedi after his father Sishupala was slain. These kings gave their loyalty to Krishna out of gratitude for his magnanimity. Consequently we find them at the side of the Pandavas during the War. Kalhana tells us that Krishna placed one of the female relatives of Gonanda on the throne of Kashmir. He was a kingmaker and not a king. And in the history of mankind we have seen time and again that it is the kingmaker who wields real power, never the king thus made.

Therefore, Krishna succeeds in all his plans. He unites the Yadavas. He removes the enemies. He makes the Yadavas very powerful through various alliances. He uses marriage effectively for the purpose. And for the final battle, he sets up a powerful axis of Yadava-Panchala-Pandava-Matsya aided by his grateful proteges against the Hastinapura allies. All the time, the Pandava interest is never lost sight of. When suddenly, at the end of the War, Abhimanyu’s unborn son was also killed (which eventuality even he had not foreseen), he resurrected him so that he could become king. Why did he do it? Why not one of Draupadi’s sons who also had died on the same night? The tragedy of Draupadi was that nobody really cared for her. She was a queen, she was a wife and she was a woman with very feminine emotions and frailities. This Draupadi was always ignored. She was a piece on the political chess-board of the time, to be used at convenience. Arjuna preferred Abhimanyu to her sons, because he was Subhadra’s son and Krishna’s nephew. Krishna preferred him because he was Subhadra’s son and more or less a Yadava. For the same reason, he resurrected Parikshit. Draupadi’s sons were not Yadava relations and for Krishna it was necessary that a Yadava relation survived to rule Hastinapura. It was a political necessity for him. He was all for Draupadi. But whenever there was any clash of interest between Draupadi and Subhadra, he invariably chose Subhadra’s cause, because the Yadava interest coincided with that of Subhadra, not Draupadi. For Krishna, blood was always thicker than water. Therefore, it was Subhadra and her progeny who must survive to carry on a Yadava history (even if it is in the guise of a Paurava history).

The blood and water theory seems to be apposite when we consider an aspect of the Mahabharata which is not much talked about. Why did the Yadavas refrain from joining the War? Why did no one question them on this? Again it was Krishna. Krishna offered only himself without arms, and an akshauhini of Narayani Sena (probably mercenaries) who were as powerful as he was (mere sales talk, no doubt, but enough to fool Duryodhana). That is all. Satyaki joined the Pandavas out of friendship with Arjuna and Hardikya Kritavarma joined the Kauravas, out of an old enmity with Krishna, And, most surprisingly, at the end of the War when everyone died, the only survivors, besides the Pandavas, were Satyaki and Kritavarma. Krishna, one feels, prevented the Yadavas from annihilation by keeping them away. Out of all the nations, only the Yadavas survived to be supreme and to be the rulers of the earth. It was an unparalleled master-stroke which may not be a appreciated but was in total consonance with his policy of establishing a Yadava hegemony.

At the end of it all when all the dust settles down on Kurukshetra, when the earth has drained the blood of eighteen akshauhinis and is ready once again to pick up the reins of life after bathing in death, we find the Yadavas at the helm of affairs. And a little later, we find Subhadra’s grandson Parikshit on the throne of Hastinapura and Krishna’s grandson, Vajra, on the throne of Indraprastha that was founded by the Pandavas on the site of Yayati’s ancient capital. The wheel had indeed turned full circle. Yayati created a rift between Puru and Yadu by throwing out Yadu. His successor, after 26 generations, brought the Yadavas back into power in the land of their ancestors. If one is a little more gracious to Krishna, one can of course say that he brought the progeny of two brothers, who had fallen out, once again together in Parikshit who was both a Paurava as well as a Yadava.

Power brings decadence and decadence destroys a race. The Yadavas were no exception to this rule. They destroyed each other before the grieving eyes of Krishna. He had made them powerful, saved them from the war and brought them so far. But he could not save them from themselves. This was the peculiar tragedy of Krishna. Nevertheless, he succeeded in placing the Paurava-Yadava Parikshit on the throne of Hastinapura. This is where he won.

Bankim perhaps did not get an opportunity to place this aspect of Krishna-Charitraon record. He did not give Krishna the credit for being a supreme leader of men, a diplomat of indisputable caliber and unrivalled political far sight. Bankim failed to place Krishna in the political geography of the country and to underline his political acumen in bringing about a completely new political set’up. Bankim missed this master statesman, but then, as he himself has said, Krishna is an ideal person in every field of human activity. Therefore, we have no difficulty in including Krishna’s political excellence within Bankim’s comprehensive definition.

via Bankim’s Krishna-Charita by Maj. Gen. Shekhar Sen.

In the rest of the world, religion was politicized and politics underwent religiofication. But India with the tradition of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra stopped at deification of political figures.

Outside India, even Gautama Buddha, a huge political reformer, in post-Saraswati India, was deified – while in India he was revered as a teacher.

Piercing this mist of religiofication, will be the biggest challenge that Indians face.

Global Health Threats: How Governments are Creating Them

Posted in America, Business, India, Media, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on June 12, 2012

How the economics of sugar and sugar-substitutes have an impact on the eating disorder related epidemics across the world – from India to USA.

Why is obesity and eating-related disorder rampaging across the world  |  Cartoon titled Big Problem by Jeff Parker  via Cagle Post  |  Click for image.

Why is obesity and eating-related disorder rampaging across the world | Cartoon titled Big Problem by Jeff Parker via Cagle Post | Click for image.

History in Chemistry

In 1976, Shashikant Phadnis, an Indian-Marathi student, researching for a pesticide, at King’s College London, misunderstood his professor’s instruction to test a chemical as a request to taste – a mistake common among Marathi and Gujarati speaking-people, who have difficulty in differentiating between a long-sound and short-sounds like beg becomes bag, leg becomes lag – or bag becomes beg and lag becomes leg.

Shashikant Phadnis ‘tasted’ a chemical he was supposed to test. That chemical was sucralose – a popular sweetener today that is probably one of the chemicals behind America’s obesity epidemic.

Sweet, sweet world

Sugar-substitutes are a billion dollar industry in the US – and in India about US$25 million dollars. The US market is dominated by aspartame (from Nutrasweet; an ex-Monsanto company); acesulfame potassium or acesulfame K (pronounced AY-see-sul-fame-KAY) initially introduced by Hoechst, now Sanofi-Aventis. In the US, Johnson & Johnson promotes sucralose, the Tate & Lyle sweetener, 600 times sweeter than sugar but no calories – sold as Splenda. Cyclamates from Abbot are banned in US – and saccharin remains popular. A rather low-key production and promotion is happening to Neotame – which is 7500-13,000 times sweeter than sugar.

For the last 70 years, sugar and sugar substitutes have been big business and backed by powerful lobbies and politicians.

Can consumer who bombarded by slick advertising, oily messages from the media, reassurances by the State and the academia have the discretion to over-rule all this and make an informed decision.  |  Cartoonist(s): Brian Walker Greg Walker Mort Walker; Comic/Cartoon: Beetle Bailey Viewable; Date: 2012-03-29; Pub. Date:  2012-03-29 |  Click for image.

Can consumer who bombarded by slick advertising, oily messages from the media, reassurances by the State and the academia have the discretion to over-rule all this and make an informed decision. | Cartoonist(s): Brian Walker Greg Walker Mort Walker; Comic/Cartoon: Beetle Bailey Viewable; Date: 2012-03-29; Pub. Date: 2012-03-29 | Click for image.

Why are sweeteners such an important commodity?

History of sugar

For centuries, sugar from sugarcane was the best and cheapest source of sugar in the world. According to Indian oral history, sugarcane cultivation was pioneered some 4000-7000 years ago, by the Ikshvaakus – the family of Raghu Ramachandra. Ikshvaaku itself in Sanskrit means cultivators of sugarcane. Till 18th century, the Indian sub-continent was the only principal grower of sugarcane and producer of sugar.

Sugarcane remains, even after centuries of research by the West, the best source of sugar – accounting for close to 80% of world sugar production. It is crop that can be grown  continuously – unlike sugar beet, which is the distant second-best source of sugar. Sugar beet quickly creates soil fatigue – and crops collapse, unless the soil is given a sugar-beet ‘holiday’ for a season. Continuous cropping also triggers a ‘rhizome-madness’ where the tap-root, which contains the sugars, starts to sub-divide randomly, making any further processing difficult.

For the West, sugarcane presents two problems.

It grows in tropical climates and needs a lot of labour. Till slave labour was available, sugar cane was equivalent to oil in the 17th-19th century. Sugar-plantation colonies in the Caribbean like West Indies, Cuba, Haiti were prized for sugar production. Inspired by Haiti’s example, as each of these slave-plantations revolted, Western sources of sugar also dried up.

In the 20th century, major sugar-exporting countries were Brazil, Cuba, Australia and the Dominican Republic. But, at the slightest hint of international disturbances – like war, sugar stocks would vanish – and the war-mongering nations of the West were left dry.

Sugarcane to sugar-beet

The first attempts to diversify from sugarcane in modern history came from what is now Germany.

Andreas Sigismund Marggraf (3 March 1709 – 7 August 1782) a German chemist from Berlin isolated zinc in 1746. Not the first to do so, Marggraf is more famous as he detailed the process and establishing the basic theory of zinc extraction. Next year, in 1747, Marggraf devised a method using alcohol to extract sugar from beets.

Prussia (no Germany then) without colonies or the slave labour was dependent on imperial powers for sugar. It was left to Marggraf’s student Franz Karl Achard to breed and improve the White Silesian fodder beet to a sugar beet variety with higher sugar content in 1784. Achard’s work attracted the Prussian Emperor, Frederick William III, to help Achard to start the world’s first beet sugar factory in 1801, at Cunern in Silesia.

Sugar as weapon

The French loss of Haiti created a national shortage of sugar – and Achard’s work attracted Napoleon’s attention. Additionally, the British naval blockade during the Napoleonic wars, made sugar into a scarce commodity.

France readily moved to sugar-extraction from beet.

US Sweetner Usage - all sources.  |  Graphic source - pomona.edu  |  Click for image.

US Sweetner Usage – all sources. | Graphic source – pomona.edu | Click for image.


Haiti’s surviving sugar-production workers moved to America – giving rise to sugar production in America, using slave labour. This too was short-lived. Except for the last three decades, US has always been a significant importer of sugar – and a principal reason for high sugar prices globally.

However sugar production has been a source of friction with Haiti, Dominican Republic, – and most famously, in Cuba.

As a global super-power, America could not be seen as suffering shortages – especially of an item, like sugar. Sugar shortages were a Third-World feature. In the Cold War era, Soviet Union was an economy of shortages – and US was the land of plenty.

US sought to replace sugar imports which accounted for roughly 40% of US sugar consumption. Apart from increasing sugar production, sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HF-corn syrup) was promoted. Artificial sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium were permitted – and widely promoted.


Imported sugar is now down to less than 10% of total sugars – from nearly 40%. If artificial sweeteners are converted to sugar equivalents, the share of imported sugar will fall to probably less than 1%. HF-corn syrup, which was less than 10% of US sugar consumption, exploded to nearly 50% in a short 10-year period – from 1975-1985.

While all these ‘good’ things were happening, simultaneously another bad thing was happening.

America goes to fat. |  14 Mar 2004 – Obesity in America - Daily Political Cartoons by Mike Keefe, editorial cartoonist for the Denver Post.  |  Click for image.

America goes to fat. | 14 Mar 2004 – Obesity in America – Daily Political Cartoons by Mike Keefe, editorial cartoonist for the Denver Post. | Click for image.

Fat, Fatter, Fattest

Obesity assumed the proportions of a national epidemic.

One of the most comprehensive data sets available about Americans—how tall they are, when they last visited a dentist, what sort of cereal they eat for breakfast, whether they have to pee during the night, and, if so, how often—comes from a series of studies conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Participants are chosen at random, interviewed at length, and subjected to a battery of tests in special trailers that the C.D.C. hauls around the country. The studies, known as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, began during the Eisenhower Administration and have been carried out periodically ever since.

In the early nineteen-nineties, a researcher at the C.D.C. named Katherine Flegal was reviewing the results of the survey then under way when she came across figures that seemed incredible. According to the first National Health study, which was done in the early nineteen-sixties, 24.3 per cent of American adults were overweight—roughly defined as having a body-mass index greater than twenty-seven. (The metrics are slightly different for men and women; by the study’s definition, a woman who is five feet tall would count as overweight if she was more than a hundred and forty pounds, and a man who is six feet tall if he weighed more than two hundred and four pounds.)

By the time of the second survey, conducted in the early nineteen-seventies, the proportion of overweight adults had increased by three-quarters of a per cent, to twenty-five per cent, and, by the third survey, in the late seventies, it had edged up to 25.4 per cent. The results that Flegal found so surprising came from the fourth survey. During the nineteen-eighties, the American gut, instead of expanding very gradually, had ballooned: 33.3 per cent of adults now qualified as overweight.

Flegal began asking around at professional meetings. Had other researchers noticed a change in Americans’ waistlines? They had not. This left her feeling even more perplexed. She knew that errors could have sneaked into the data in a variety of ways, so she and her colleagues checked and rechecked the figures. There was no problem that they could identify. Finally, in 1994, they published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In just ten years, they showed, Americans had collectively gained more than a billion pounds. “If this was about tuberculosis, it would be called an epidemic,” another researcher wrote in an editorial accompanying the report.

During the next decade, Americans kept right on gaining. Men are now on average seventeen pounds heavier than they were in the late seventies, and for women that figure is even higher: nineteen pounds. The proportion of overweight children, age six to eleven, has more than doubled, while the proportion of overweight adolescents, age twelve to nineteen, has more than tripled. (According to the standards of the United States military, forty per cent of young women and twenty-five per cent of young men weigh too much to enlist.) As the average person became heavier, the very heavy became heavier still.(via Why are Americans fat? : The New Yorker).

In the same period that HF-corn syrup and artificial sweetener consumption was exploding, obesity in the US was also growing.

America was growing fat. In fact, lot of Americans were growing very fat.


Artificial sweeteners, far from diminishing the craving for sugar, seem to reinforce it. Americans ate about 24 lbs. of sugar substitute per person last year, nearly double what they did in 1980, yet sugar consumption rose about 25% in the same period. (via Department of Food Science: The Search for Sweet : The New Yorker).

Chemical or Character

Much like how female foeticide is being portrayed as a social moral failure of people, obesity also is being portrayed as an ethical failure.

The truth may be otherwise.

In its ability to pack on the body fat, high-fructose corn syrup appears to be worse than sugar. Research from Princeton University looked at how high-fructose corn syrup increases body fat.

It might seem that this much-maligned sweetener would have seen its day. Instead, high-fructose corn syrup continues to be a powerhouse, sweetening the big soft drinks and sports drinks. It adds a touch of sweetness to ketchup and provides stickiness to barbeque sauce. Americans suck back 60 pounds per person, on average, of high-fructose corn syrup each year.

Read: High-Fructose Corn Syrup Propaganda

High-Fructose Corn Syrup and Body Fat

A research team from Princeton has concluded that high-fructose corn syrup outdoes sugar when it comes to increasing body fat. [1] Researchers from the Princeton’s Neuroscience Institute and its Department of Psychology explored the connection between body fat and use of high-fructose corn syrup.

When they did experiments involving rats, they found that rats with high-fructose corn syrup available to them packed on more weight than rats that had sugar available.

Professor Bart Hoebel, leader of the Princeton team, discussed the results:

“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests.”

He continues:

“When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”

Learn about: Artificial Sweeteners, Not So Sweet

The link between high-fructose corn syrup and obesity has also been explored in studies conducted at research centers in locations such as Louisiana State University and the University of California. Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Louisiana researchers note:

“The consumption of HFCS increased more than 1000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group.” [2]

Researchers in Germany have also studied the high-fructose corn syrup and weight gain connection. Publishing their findings in the journal Obesity Research, researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition gave mice drinks containing either fructose, sucrose or artificial sweetener to see the impact on weight gain and metabolism. [4] They found that mice drinking the fructose containing beverage increased body fat, while the others did not.

Read: Increase Metabolism With the Fat Burning Hormone Leptin

via Jonathan Galland: Worse Than Sugar: What’s in Your Soda?.

Was this the entire story.

Not quite. Some other studies found that in preparation of HF-corn syrup, mercury-contaminated caustic soda was used to make this ‘natural sugar’.

Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,” the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement.

IATP’s Ben Lilliston also told HealthDay that the Environmental Health findings were based on information gathered by the FDA in 2005. And the group’s own study, while not peer-reviewed, was based on products “bought off the shelf in the autumn of 2008,” Lilliston added. (via Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury).

Is the case against HF-corn syrup open-and-shut? Hardly. But when, producers defend with a lot of noise, and tricks, surely there is something fishy.

In 2008, the corn refiners launched a multi-million dollar advertising and marketing campaign designed to convince consumers that sugar and HFCS are identical. The message was “sugar is sugar” and the ads encouraged people to learn more at CornSugar.com and SweetSurprise.com.

The FDA was not happy with this and asked the refiners to modify statements that used the term corn sugar.

U.S. sugar farmers and refiners responded by filing a lawsuit which is still pending. (via Feds say high-fructose corn syrup is not sugar – Vitals).

How natural is HF-corn syrup? Not very, if this report is to be believed.

Massive print and television advertising campaigns by the Corn Refiners Association’s attempt to dispel the “myth” that HFCS is harmful and assert through the opinion of “medical and nutrition experts” that it is no different than cane sugar. It is a “natural” product that is a healthy part of our diet when used in moderation.

High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product and far from “natural” or a naturally occurring substance. It is extracted from corn stalks through a process so secret that Archer Daniels Midland and Carghill would reportedly not allow the investigative journalist Michael Pollan to observe it (via Mark Hyman, MD: The Not-So-Sweet Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup).

The rise of obesity coincides with increased use of artificial sweeteners and sugar-substitutes  |  Aug 24 2006 Steve Breen’s Cartoon; image source & courtesy - cagle.com  | Click for image.

The rise of obesity coincides with increased use of artificial sweeteners and sugar-substitutes | Aug 24 2006 Steve Breen’s Cartoon; image source & courtesy – cagle.com | Click for image.

Biology, Technology

How does this obesity story work?

There is some understanding – and much of empirical evidence.

The key to obesity seems to a complex interplay between insulin and leptin – two hormones that seem to manage metabolic activities.

On of the biggest marketing and PR tactics for man-made chemical sweeteners has been the claim that they help in the battle against obesity. Folks, they don’t. They never have and they never will.

The research and the epidemiologic data suggest the opposite is true, and that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and neotame tend to lead to weight gain. There’s more to weight gain or weight loss than mere calorie intake.

One reason for aspartame and neotame’s potential to cause weight gain is because phenylalanine and aspartic acid – the two amino acids that make up 90 percent of aspartame and are also present in neotame — are known to rapidly stimulate the release of insulin and leptin; two hormones that are intricately involved with satiety and fat storage.

Insulin and leptin are also the primary hormones that regulate your metabolism.

So although you’re not ingesting calories in the form of sugar, aspartame and neotame can still raise your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels, in turn, are two of the driving forces behind obesity, diabetes, and a number of our current chronic disease epidemics.

Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to it, just as your body can become resistant to insulin, and once that happens, your body can no longer “hear” the hormonal messages instructing your body to stop eating, burn fat, and maintain good sensitivity to sweet tastes in your taste buds.

What happens then?

You remain hungry; you crave sweets, and your body stores more fat.

Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in visceral fat, sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more. (via Neotame Receives FDA Approval But is Not Widely Used Yet).

|  The State and its minions have managed to deflect attention away from their faulty products and policies - and instead have pinned the blame on the consumers as being voracious gluttons  |  Cartoonist: Steve Kelley ; Pub. Date:  1999-01-01; souce and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com |  Click for image.

| The State and its minions have managed to deflect attention away from their faulty products and policies – and instead have pinned the blame on the consumers as being voracious gluttons | Cartoonist: Steve Kelley ; Pub. Date: 1999-01-01; souce and courtesy – cartoonistgroup.com | Click for image.

What do studies show?


Run fast and far, from HF-corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

In a series of experiments, scientists at Purdue University compared weight gain and eating habits in rats whose diets were supplemented with sweetened food containing either zero-calorie saccharin or sugar. Animals fed with artificially sweetened yogurt over a two-week period consumed more calories and gained more weight — mostly in the form of fat — than animals eating yogurt flavored with glucose, a natural, high-calorie sweetener.

In 2004, they reported that animals consuming saccharin-sweetened liquids and snacks tended to eat more than animals fed high-calorie, sweetened foods. Susan Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University and a co-author of the study (says) the net result is a more sluggish metabolism that stores, rather than burns, incoming excess calories.

Swithers says that the study does suggest artificial sweeteners somehow disrupt the body’s ability to regulate incoming calories. “It’s still a bit of a mystery why they are overeating, but we definitely have evidence that the animals getting artificially sweetened yogurt end up eating more calories than the ones getting calorically sweetened yogurt.” (via Can Sugar Substitutes Make You Fat? – TIME).

Calorie-free drinks and diet products seems have a vicious back-lash by the body’s metabolic system. Instead of getting fooled, it seems to simply increase craving, appetite – close to addiction.

They are the calorie-free way of having a sweet treat, but diet drinks could still make you fat, scientists have warned.

A ten-year study of almost 500 men and women linked low-calorie soft drinks with bulging waistlines – even when taken in small quantities.

Those who downed two or more diet fizzy drinks a day saw their waistbands expand at five times the rate of those who never touched the stuff, a diabetes conference heard.

The results were so dramatic that the American researchers advise that people ditch their diet drinks and use water to quench their thirst instead.

Those who cannot bear to give up the sugar rush may be better off drinking normal full-sugar fizzy drinks. (via Why guzzling a diet drink can make you fatter – they can trigger the appetite | Mail Online).

How the 'Establishment' mocks at us - and deflects attention from itself.  |  Cartoonist: Darrin Bell; Pub. Date: 2012-04-22; source & courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com |  Click for image.

How the ‘Establishment’ mocks at us – and deflects attention from itself. | Cartoonist: Darrin Bell; Pub. Date: 2012-04-22; source & courtesy – cartoonistgroup.com | Click for image.

Evolutionary mumbo-jumbo

Some ‘scientists’ have proposed that obesity is an evolutionary response in human beings in the last 20-40 years.

several million years of hominid evolution can’t explain why it is just in the past few decades that waistlines have expanded.

Eric Finkelstein is a health economist at a research institute in North Carolina. In “The Fattening of America” (Wiley; $26.95), written with Laurie Zuckerman, he argues that Americans started to put on pounds in the eighties because it made financial sense for them to do so. Relative to other goods and services, food has got cheaper in the past few decades, and fattening foods, in particular, have become a bargain. Between 1983 and 2005, the real cost of fats and oils declined by sixteen per cent. During the same period, the real cost of soft drinks dropped by more than twenty per cent.

“For most people, an ice cold Coca-Cola used to be a treat reserved for special occasions,” Finkelstein observes. Today, soft drinks account for about seven per cent of all the calories ingested in the United States, making them “the number one food consumed in the American diet.” If, instead of sweetened beverages, the average American drank water, Finkelstein calculates, he or she would weigh fifteen pounds less.

The correlation between cost and consumption is pretty compelling; as Finkelstein notes, there’s no more basic tenet of economics than that price matters. But, like evolution, economics alone doesn’t seem adequate to the obesity problem. If it’s cheap to consume too many calories’ worth of ice cream or Coca-Cola, it’s even cheaper to consume fewer.

In “The End of Overeating” (Rodale; $25.95), David A. Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, takes a somewhat darker view of the situation. It’s not that sweet and oily foods have become less expensive; it’s that they’ve been reëngineered while we weren’t looking. Kessler spends a lot of time meeting with (often anonymous) consultants who describe how they are trying to fashion products that offer what’s become known in the food industry as “eatertainment.” Fat, sugar, and salt turn out to be the crucial elements in this quest: different “eatertaining” items mix these ingredients in different but invariably highly caloric combinations. A food scientist for Frito-Lay relates how the company is seeking to create “a lot of fun in your mouth” with products like Nacho Cheese Doritos, which meld “three different cheese notes” with lots of salt and oil. Another product-development expert talks about how she is trying to “unlock the code of craveability,” and a third about the effort to “cram as much hedonics as you can in one dish.”

Kessler invents his own term—“conditioned hypereating”—to describe how people respond to these laboratory-designed concoctions. Foods like Cinnabons and Starbucks’ Strawberries & Crème Frappuccinos are, he maintains, like drugs: “Conditioned hypereating works the same way as other ‘stimulus response’ disorders in which reward is involved, such as compulsive gambling and substance abuse.” For Kessler, the analogy is not merely rhetorical: research on rats, he maintains, proves that the animals’ brains react to sweet, fatty foods the same way that addicts’ respond to cocaine. A reformed overeater himself—“I have owned suits in every size,” he writes—Kessler advises his readers to eschew dieting in favor of a program that he calls Food Rehab. The principles of Food Rehab owe a lot to those of drug rehab, except that it is not, as Kessler acknowledges, advisable to swear off eating altogether. “The substitute for rewarding food is often other rewarding food,” he writes, though what could compensate for the loss of Nacho Cheese Doritos he never really explains. (via Why are Americans fat? : The New Yorker).

So, what is emerging from the jigsaw puzzle is public-policy actions by the State and Big Business.

Between the State and Big Business, they control and manage our food, appetites, nutrition, diseases, medicine – and information about all this. Media and academia also owned, funded and controlled by the State and Big Business lets us know little – only when forced, in dribs and drabs.

New York has decided that it must legally force food-vendors (like Coke) etc., to reduce the size of each helping.  |  Cartoonist: Gary Varvel; Pub. Date: 2012-06-06; source & courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com  |  Click for image.

New York has decided that it must legally force food-vendors (like Coke) etc., to reduce the size of each helping. | Cartoonist: Gary Varvel; Pub. Date: 2012-06-06; source & courtesy – cartoonistgroup.com | Click for image.

In the early nineteen-sixties, a man named David Wallerstein was running a chain of movie theatres in the Midwest and wondering how to boost popcorn sales. Wallerstein had already tried matinée pricing and two-for-one specials, but to no avail. According to Greg Critser, the author of “Fat Land” (2003), one night the answer came to him: jumbo-sized boxes. Once Wallerstein introduced the bigger boxes, popcorn sales at his theatres soared, and so did those of another high-margin item, soda.

A decade later, Wallerstein had retired from the movie business and was serving on McDonald’s board of directors when the chain confronted a similar problem. Customers were purchasing a burger and perhaps a soft drink or a bag of fries, and then leaving. How could they be persuaded to buy more? Wallerstein’s suggestion—a bigger bag of fries—was greeted skeptically by the company’s founder, Ray Kroc. Kroc pointed out that if people wanted more fries they could always order a second bag.

“But Ray,” Wallerstein is reputed to have said, “they don’t want to eat two bags—they don’t want to look like a glutton.” Eventually, Kroc let himself be convinced; the rest, as they say, is supersizing.

The elasticity of the human appetite is the subject of Brian Wansink’s “Mindless Eating” (2006). Wansink is the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, and he has performed all sorts of experiments to test how much people will eat under varying circumstances. These have convinced him that people are—to put it politely—rather dim. They have no idea how much they want to eat or, once they have eaten, how much they’ve consumed. Instead, they rely on external cues, like portion size, to tell them when to stop. The result is that as French-fry bags get bigger, so, too, do French-fry eaters.

Consider the movie-matinée experiment. Some years ago, Wansink and his graduate students handed out buckets of popcorn to Saturday-afternoon filmgoers in Chicago. The popcorn had been prepared almost a week earlier, and then allowed to become hopelessly, squeakily stale. Some patrons got medium-sized buckets of stale popcorn and some got large ones. (A few, forgetting that the snack had been free, demanded their money back.) After the film, Wansink weighed the remaining kernels. He found that people who’d been given bigger buckets had eaten, on average, fifty-three per cent more.

In another experiment, Wansink invited participants to cook dinner for themselves with ingredients that he provided. One group got big boxes of pasta and big bottles of sauce, a second smaller boxes and smaller bottles. The first group prepared twenty-three per cent more, and downed it all. In yet another experiment, Wansink rigged up bowls that could be refilled, via a hidden tube. When he served soup out of the trick bowls, people, he writes, “ate and ate and ate.” On average, they consumed seventy-three per cent more than those who were served from regular bowls. “Give them a lot and they eat a lot,” he writes. (via Why are Americans fat? : The New Yorker).

This super-sized servings are having an effect. We have a curious situation in New York.

First the State and its cohorts (Big Business, media and academia) create a problem – and then they display their intent to solve – making the problem, even more complex.

New York is trying to take a stand. The city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, says he’ll seek to limit sugary soft drinks sold at restaurants, movie theaters and sports stadiums to no more than 16 ounces per cup.

A 16-ounce Coke contains nearly 200 calories, or about 10% of your entire recommended daily intake.

Beverage companies say the New York plan is nanny-state regulation run amok — and to some degree they’re right. The problem is that leaving people to their own devices is turning us into a nation of porkers. Bloomberg has concluded that to protect the public welfare, we have to save us from ourselves. (via David Lazarus: FDA strikes a sour note for corn sweetener makers – latimes.com).

Industrial food inputs are sold to Big Food producers who 'manage' Big Retail to give us a choice of unhealthy food in blue, green, yellow colours in peach, vanilla and chocolate flavors. We the consumer have choice  |  Jeff Koterba’s Cartoon  on Jun  20  2006; source and courtesy - cagle.com  |  Click for image.

Industrial food inputs are sold to Big Food producers who ‘manage’ Big Retail to give us a choice of unhealthy food in blue, green, yellow colours in peach, vanilla and chocolate flavors. We the consumer have choice | Jeff Koterba’s Cartoon on Jun 20 2006; source and courtesy – cagle.com | Click for image.

Global, local – same difference

Are these problems isolated and limited to America. Unfortunately not.

“Globesity” (Earthscan; $34.95) takes an international approach to the problem of weight gain. The book’s authors—Francis Delpeuch, Bernard Maire, Emmanuel Monnier, and Michelle Holdsworth—observe that, while Americans were the first to fatten up, they no longer lead the pack. “Like it or not, we have no choice but to face up to the numbers: current data reveal that in Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Malta, and Slovakia, the proportion of overweight adults is actually higher than in the U.S.,” they write.

In Asia, Africa, and South America, too, obesity is on the rise. Although nearly a billion of the world’s most impoverished citizens still suffer from too few calories, Delpeuch and his colleagues note that it’s those living just above the poverty level who appear to be gaining weight most rapidly. It may seem to go without saying that being fat is better than starving, but even this truism, the authors argue, is no longer entirely true: in the new world order, it is possible to be overweight and malnourished at the same time.

“People on modest incomes suddenly find a cheap, calorie-packed diet within their grasp and make the most of it as soon as they can,” they write. “Unfortunately this means sacrificing many elements that are nutritionally more valuable.” Type 2 diabetes, coronary disease, hypertension, various kinds of cancers—including colorectal and endometrial—gallstones, and osteoarthritis are just some of the conditions that have been linked to excess weight.

But, as anyone who has ever gone on a diet knows, weight that was easy to gain is hard to lose. If anything, this is even more true on a societal level. Those politicians who could take the recommended actions tend, the authors of “Globesity” point out, to be in thrall to the very interest groups that are profiting from the status quo. (It’s probably no coincidence that, in a period when the rest of the world has come to look more like Americans, U.S. corporations have been making significant investments—some fifty-five billion dollars a year—in food-processing and distribution facilities abroad.) “To conquer obesity will thus require a complete new awareness, the re-education of the great mass of consumers, and this seems a distant prospect,” they write. (via Why are Americans fat? : The New Yorker).

Tracking price changes in consumer edibles on a gold index reveals interesting correlations.  Graphic by 2ndlook. Price data is based on shopping memory og 2ndlook.

Tracking price changes in consumer edibles on a gold index reveals interesting correlations. Graphic by 2ndlook. Price data is based on shopping memory og 2ndlook.

India has emerged as the diabetic capital of the world. Though Indians have been sugarcane users for centuries, why have we suddenly become so prone to diabetes.

Two interesting observations.

When sugar was made at an artisan level – in each village, in many houses, crystalline sugar was discarded.

Only raw sugar was used – without refinement, which has no such side-effects.

Secondly, if we see the relative price of selected edibles in the last 50 years, sugar has shown the maximum decline. By nearly 1000%. Along with skimmed milk. Probably skimmed milk consumption has not taken off as much as sugar has, it is probably because Indians prefer full-cream milk.

But sugar, which was expensive and limited just about 50 years ago, has suddenly become the cheapest, in relative terms. Is this sudden dip in prices, led to a surge in consumption of sugar, that has created a diabetic epidemic in India. The attempts by the Indian State to keep sugar prices low, paid off in the way of increased diabetics? Should sugar prices be allowed to rise – the moment sugar is decontrolled sand sugar exports are allowed.

The Powerful Few control our food, medicine, home, work. We can change this  |  Cartoonist: Joel Pett Pub. Date: 2002-03-20; source & courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com |  Click for image.

The Powerful Few control our food, medicine, home, work. We can change this | Cartoonist: Joel Pett Pub. Date: 2002-03-20; source & courtesy – cartoonistgroup.com | Click for image.

Back in the USA.

Is the government really helping people to slim down and avoid foods that pack on pounds and invite the risk of heart disease? High-saturated-fat foods like cheese? Not according to a New York Times expose in 2010. A USDA group with 162 employees called Dairy Management, mostly funded by farmers, is shamelessly committed to getting people to double and triple their cheese intake to replace profits from falling milk sales.

According to the Times, Dairy Management has supported Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and Domino’s in “cheesifying” their menu options, putting dairy farmers’ profits before consumer health. “If every pizza included one more ounce of cheese, we would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually,” rhapsodized the Dairy Management chief executive in a trade publication. Dairy Management received $5.3 million from the USDA during one year, for an overseas dairy campaign, which almost equals the total $6.5 million budget of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. That’s the group that tells people not to eat high fat milk and cheese! (via 8 Surprising Things That May Be Making Americans Fat | Food | AlterNet).

Farm subsidies, ‘well-intentioned’ with complex justifications have ballooned to US$100 billion across the Western world. What is that these subsidies are achieving?

Are farm subsidies making us fat?

Billions in taxpayer dollars are going to support high fructose corn syrup and three other common food additives used in junk food, according to the report, “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food,” makes the case that federal farm subsidies are helping feed the nation’s obesity epidemic.

The research shows that from 1995 to 2010, $16.9 billion in federal subsidies went to producers and others in the business of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils.

Among the findings: Taxpayers in the San Francisco area spend $2,762,295 each year in junk food subsidies, but only $41,950 each year on apple subsidies. In Los Angeles, taxpayers spent $13,010,286 in junk food subsidies, and $201,291 on apple subsidies, according to the report. (via Junk Food | U.S. spending billions to subsidize junk food, study says – Los Angeles Times).

Not a good feeling, eh?

India – Farmer Suicides

Posted in Current Affairs, India by Anuraag Sanghi on February 19, 2012

Farmer suicides is a leftist straw men argument. The suicide rates in India are amongst the lowest in the world . Since 40% of the country is employed in agriculture , farmers account 40 % of India’s suicides . (via Bharat Rakshak • View topic – PRC Economy – New Reflections : Dec 15 2011.

Table Source – Wikipedia

Rank Country Male Female Total Year
Suicides per 100,000 people per year[2]
1 Lithuania 61.3 10.4 34.1 2009
2 South Korea[3] (more info) 41.4 21.0 31.2 2010
3 Guyana 39.0 13.4 26.4 2006
4 Kazakhstan 43.0 9.4 25.6 2008
5 Belarus[4][5]
6 Hungary[6] 40.0 10.6 24.6 2009
7 Japan (more info)[7] 33.5 14.6 23.8 2011
8 Latvia 40.0 8.2 22.9 2009
9 People’s Republic of China [8](more info)
10 Slovenia 34.6 9.4 21.9 2009
11 Sri Lanka[9]
12 Russia[10]
13 Ukraine 37.8 7.0 21.2 2009
14 Serbia and Montenegro 28.4 11.1 19.5 2006
15 Finland 29.0 10.0 19.3 2009
16 Estonia 20.6 7.3 18.1 2008
17 Switzerland 24.8 11.4 18.0 2007
18 Croatia 28.9 7.5 17.8 2009
19 Belgium[note 1][6] 26.5 9.3 17.6 2009
20 Moldova 30.1 5.6 17.4 2008
21 France 24.7 8.5 16.3 2007
22 Uruguay 26.0 6.3 15.8 2004
23 South Africa[11] 25.3 5.6 15.4 2005
24 Austria 23.8 7.1 15.2 2009
25 Poland 26.4 4.1 14.9 2008
26 Hong Kong 19.0 10.7 14.6 2009
27 Suriname 23.9 4.8 14.4 2005
28 Czech Republic 23.9 4.4 14.0 2009
29 New Zealand[12] 20.3 6.5 13.2 2008
30 Sweden 18.7 6.8 12.7 2008
31 Cuba 19.0 5.5 12.3 2008
32 Bulgaria 18.8 6.2 12.3 2008
33 Romania 21.0 3.5 12.0 2009
34 Norway 17.3 6.5 11.9 2009
35 Denmark 17.5 6.4 11.9 2006
36 Ireland 19.0 4.7 11.8 2009
37 Bosnia and Herzegovina 20.3 3.3 11.8 1991
38 Canada 17.3 5.4 11.3 2004
39 Iceland[13] 17.9 4.5 11.3 2009
40 Chile 18.2 4.2 11.1 2007
41 United States (more info) 19.0 4.9 11.8 2008
42 Trinidad and Tobago 17.9 3.8 10.7 2006
43 India (more info) 13.0 7.8 10.5 2009
44 Singapore 12.9 7.7 10.3 2006
45 Slovakia[6] 19.8 1.9 10.3 2009
46 Australia[14] 14.9 4.5 9.7 2009
47 Germany[6] 15.1 4.4 9.5 2009
48 Kyrgyzstan 14.1 3.6 8.8 2009
49 Turkmenistan 13.8 3.5 8.6 1998
50 Netherlands [6] 12.0 5.0 8.5 2009
51 Republic of Macedonia[6] 12.6 3.9 8.0 2009
52 El Salvador 12.9 3.6 8.0 2008
53 Portugal[6] 13.2 3.4 7.9 2008
54 Zimbabwe 10.6 5.2 7.9 1990
55 Luxembourg[6] 13.2 2.9 7.8 2008
56 Thailand 12.0 3.8 7.8 2002
57 Argentina 12.6 3.0 7.7 2008
58 Spain 11.9 3.4 7.6 2008
59 Puerto Rico 13.2 2.0 7.4 2005
60 Ecuador 10.5 3.6 7.1 2009
61 United Kingdom 10.9 3.0 6.9 2009
62 Mauritius 11.8 1.9 6.8 2008
63 Iran[15] 7.6 5.1 6.4 2001
64 Italy 10.0 2.8 6.3 2007
65 Costa Rica 10.2 1.9 6.1 2009
66 Israel[16] 9.9 2.1 5.8 2007
67 Nicaragua 9.0 2.6 5.8 2006
68 Panama 9.0 1.9 5.5 2008
69 Colombia 7.9 2.0 4.9 2007
70 Brazil 7.7 2.0 4.8 2008
71 Uzbekistan 7.0 2.3 4.7 2005
72 Seychelles 8.9 0.0 4.6 2008
73 Georgia 7.1 1.7 4.3 2009
74 Albania[17] 4.7 3.3 4.0 2003
75 Mexico 6.8 1.3 4.0 2008
76 Turkey[18] 5.36 2.50 3.94 2008
77 Bahrain 4.0 3.5 3.8 2006
78 Belize 6.6 0.7 3.7 2008
79 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 5.4 1.9 3.7 2008
80 Paraguay 5.1 2.0 3.6 2008
81 Cyprus[6] 5.9 1.3 3.6 2009
82 Guatemala 5.6 1.7 3.6 2008
83 Barbados 7.3 0.0 3.5 2006
84 Greece 6.1 1.0 3.5 2009
85 Malta 5.9 1.0 3.4 2008
86 Venezuela 5.3 1.2 3.2 2007
87 Tajikistan 2.9 2.3 2.6 2001
88 Saint Lucia 4.9 0.0 2.4 2005
89 Dominican Republic 3.9 0.7 2.3 2005
90 Philippines 2.5 1.7 2.1 1993
91 Pakistan [19]
92 Armenia 2.8 1.1 1.9 2008
93 Kuwait 1.9 1.7 1.8 2009
94 The Bahamas 1.9 0.6 1.2 2005
95 Jordan 0.0 0.0 1.1 2009
96 Peru 1.1 0.6 0.9 2000
97 São Tomé and Príncipe 0.0 1.8 0.9 1987
98 Azerbaijan 1.0 0.3 0.6 2007
99 Maldives 0.7 0.0 0.3 2005
100 Jamaica 0.3 0.0 0.1 1990
101 Syria 0.2 0.0 0.1 1985
102 Egypt 0.1 0.0 0.1 2009
103 Grenada 0.0 0.0 0.0 2008
104 Honduras 0.0 0.0 0.0 1978
105 Saint Kitts and Nevis 0.0 0.0 0.0 1995
106 Antigua and Barbuda 0.0 0.0 0.0 1995
107 Haiti 0.0 0.0 0.0 2003

Sometimes, disbelief is a good idea

Since India has the largest rural population in the world, farmer suicides in India are also likely to more. Is there is a huge differential between suicides between farmers – and the rest of the country.

A recent UN report states

  • The suicide rate for farmers throughout the world is higher than for the non-farming population.
  • In the Midwest of the U.S. suicide rates among male farmers are twice that of the general population.
  • In Britain farmers are taking their own lives at a rate of one a week.

Free Trade By The Free World

Posted in America, Business, Current Affairs, Desert Bloc, India by Anuraag Sanghi on February 19, 2012

Western agriculture has to answer existential questions. Can the West do without subsidies? And the world must press for an answer.

What troubled FDR now trobles Obama - and the West?  |  Undated cartoon by C.D. Batchelor in the New York News; source - nisk.k12.ny.us  |  Click for larger image.

What troubled FDR now trobles Obama - and the West? | Undated cartoon by C.D. Batchelor in the New York News; source - nisk.k12.ny.us | Click for larger image.

Hunger, starvation and plague

Western Europe has a long history of food insecurity!

Much as it may seem strange, Western Europe either depended on imports – or starved. Food shortages are a historical constant – and the current surplus is an exception.

Before WWI (1914-1918), Russia was the main grain supplier to Europe.  Russia’s grain exports kept cooking fires burning in Europe. After WWII (1939-1945), it was Argentina that supplied Europe with food grain – to Spain at nearly double the open market price, for instance.

The Roman Empire (circa 150 BC-400 AD) depended on Egypt to supply them with grain. The French Revolution (1787-1799) was preceded by bad harvests in 1788. Supposedly, the French Revolution was triggered by the comment, “If they dont have bread, let them eat cake” by the the French Queen, Marie Antoinette. Victor Hugo’s French epic ‘Les Miserables’ (published 1862) starts with a child, Jean Valjean, stealing a loaf of bread.

Since, the land and forests, and all that lived and grew on the land and in the forest – all belonged to the king, it was the royal responsibility to ensure food availability. Friar Tuck, one of Robin Hood’s men in Sherwood forest was persecuted by English nobility for hunting deer in the forest. .

What about those who had no land or food? They could eat cake.

This was picture in Europe.

Starving victor of WWII

What was the situation in Britain – the victor of WWII.

After WWII, potatoes, eggs, milk, cheese, clothes, meat and bacon (fish excluded, petrol included) were all rationed – which finally ended in 1954. A huge bureaucracy and rules created an elaborate rationing system which finally ended 9 years after the end of the WWII – in 1954.

Reduction in Russian agricultural exports after Stalinist collectivization of farms, deprived war-ravaged Europe of a nearby source of agricultural commodities. In the Russia of  1953, one year before rationing ended in Britain, the year of Stalin’s death, grain production was below the level reached in 1913.

Instead, high cost food imports from Argentina were needed. This caused much angst and hand-wringing in the British Parliament. One British MP, Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington) made a revealing complaint about how it “looks as if the Argentine Government took a nice commission of £49 million at the expense of the British taxpayer”.

The same MP, Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington), further referred to “an article which appeared in “Wall Street Journal, New York,” published in the “Evening Standard” on 13th March, with the title, “How to make 200 per cent. profit on wheat … The procedure is simple. Buy wheat from the farmers for £11 to £13 a ton—sell it to the bread-hungry British for £34 a ton.” This, according to the MP, was a price that, “tops the peaks of world war I and the Napoleonic wars … They know that Britain is short of food, and they are getting the highest prices they can.

The West has been papering over this problem for the last 100 years.  |  Cartoon by Cargill in the Cortland Standard ; source - nisk.k12.ny.us  |  Click for larger image.

The West has been papering over this problem for the last 100 years. | Cartoon by Cargill in the Cortland Standard ; source - nisk.k12.ny.us | Click for larger image.

Birth of a behemoth

After WWII, with acute food shortage across Europe, with colonies going, situation in Europe was desperate. Enter the Common Agricultural Programme – (CAP).

A Europe-wide agricultural subsidy scheme named Common Agricultural Programme – (CAP) was put in place. British and European farmers increased production as massive subsidies were lined up.

The CAP was instigated against the backdrop of food shortages and rationing after World War II, to stabilise European food markets while giving farmers a steady income and consumers low prices. (from Q&A: Farm funding row).

The CAP scheme was never withdrawn – and what was an emergency scheme, is now a US$70 billion behemoth.

CAP originated as a means to avoid food shortages in Europe following World War II. By the 1990s, payments were linked to production leading to massive stockpiles of rotting agricultural produce; the infamous “mountains of bread” and “lakes of butter”. Subsequent reforms decoupled subsidies from production and linked them instead to land ownership.

Under the current system, farmers are paid, in the main, according to each hectare of land they own. But this leads to the ironic situation in which the largest farmer-holders (like the Queen) get the most subsidies, while poorer, more marginal farmers get the least. There are, moreover, several instances of “farmers” getting paid for doing nothing since they don’t actually grow anything but simply own land. (via Pallavi Aiyar: In EU, farm subsidies remain crisis-proof).

The State blesses the farmer. The imagery is revealing.  |  Cartoon by Halladay in the Providence Journal; source - nisk.k12.ny.us  |  Click for larger image.

The State blesses the farmer. The imagery is revealing. | Cartoon by Halladay in the Providence Journal; source - nisk.k12.ny.us | Click for larger image.

What now!

By 1962, The European Community (EC), started

intervening to buy farm output when the market price fell below an agreed target level. This helped reduce Europe’s reliance on imported food but led before long to over-production, and the creation of “mountains” and “lakes” of surplus food and drink.

The Community also taxed imports and, from the 1970s onward, subsidised agricultural exports. These policies have been damaging for foreign farmers, and made Europe’s food prices some of the highest in the world.

European leaders were alarmed at the high cost of the CAP as early as 1967, but radical reform began only in the 1990s.

In 2010 the budget for direct farm payments (subsidies) and rural development – the twin “pillars” of the CAP – was 58bn euros (£48bn), out of a total EU budget of 123bn euros (that is 47% of the total). In 1970, when food production was heavily subsidised, it accounted for 87% of the budget. Regional aid – known as “cohesion” funds – was the next biggest item in the EU budget, getting 36bn euros.

For the new member states – including Bulgaria and Romania, which joined in 2007 – direct EU payments to farmers are being phased in gradually.

The eastward enlargement increased the EU’s agricultural land by 40% and added seven million farmers to the existing six million. (via BBC News – Q&A: Reform of EU farm policy).

Even as European banking system and State-financing is on the edge, Europe is being forced to work out CAP reforms.

The current CAP regime will end in 2013 and “reforms” of the system are, thus, being worked out for the 2014-2020 period. According to the European Commission’s draft proposals, the CAP budget for the seven-year period would be some 400 billion euro (an amount enough to make the region’s bank recapitalisation needs disappear).

Payments will also be capped at 300,000 euro with progressive levies being charged on subsidies over 150,000 euro.(via Pallavi Aiyar: In EU, farm subsidies remain crisis-proof).

These huge subsidies cause illogical distortions across the world – especially the Third World. Starting with the fact that

the annual income of an EU dairy cow exceeds that of half the world’s human population.

Another problem is that the subsidies cause overproduction.

The EU cannot use all its agricultural products, so it sells them cheaply to the third world. This undercuts local farmers, who cannot compete with the heavily-subsidised imports, and so distorts the market (though the EU is not alone in this, as the US also dumps subsidised agricultural products on developing markets).(via The EU common agricultural policy | World news | guardian.co.uk).

Image source & courtesy - news.bbcimg.co.uk  |  Click for larger source image.

Image source & courtesy - news.bbcimg.co.uk | Click for larger source image.

All this encourages intensive farming. More fertilizer, more pesticides, more hormones, more stimulators – which finally end up in the environment.

And inside human systems.

Earlier, CAP subsidies made it profitable to use practices that are

environmentally damaging intensive farming. Its commitment to guarantee prices makes it economically worthwhile to use all available land, with the aid of chemicals, to grow more crops than are demanded by consumers.(via The EU common agricultural policy | World news | guardian.co.uk).

Most of the money, to the few

Faced with the overproduction critique, the CAP system was modified on American lines. Same results. The CAP system in Europe, in the aftermath of WWII,

was set up 50 years ago when food supplies were uncertain and nearly 20% of the population worked on the land. Today, just 5.4% of EU’s population works on farms, and the sector is responsible for just 1.6% of the economy. Moreover, the subsidy system distorts markets, encourages farms to get bigger, does little for the environment and forces small farmers off the land. The result is that the subsidies are grabbed by fewer and fewer richer and richer people.(via CAP provides another bumper payout for landowners | John Vidal | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk).

‘Real’ farmers responsible for most of EU’s agricultural farm-output, however get the least amount of subsidy.

Gail Soutar of Britain’s National Farmers Union also said it was important to direct support to “active farmers… who are producing a crop or a litre of milk, we don’t want support to go to people who are no longer producing… sofa farmers”. (via BBC News – EU plans CAP reforms for ‘greener’ farm subsidies).

Instead, the opposite happened.

CAP has become badly unbalanced, with 70% of its funds going to only 20% of Europe’s farms – predominantly the largest – and leaves nearly three-quarters of EU farmers surviving on less than £5,000 a year. Small farmers account for about 40% of EU farms, but receive only 8% of available subsidies from Brussels. According to British government figures, five UK farms receive more than £1m a year in subsidies.(via The EU common agricultural policy | World news | guardian.co.uk).

Yes! Western farms are in perpetual need of subsidy | Cartoon by Ding in the South Bend News Times; source - nisk.k12.ny.us | Click for larger image.

Yes! Western farms are in perpetual need of subsidy | Cartoon by Ding in the South Bend News Times; source - nisk.k12.ny.us | Click for larger image.

It is not surprising that release of information was being blocked by the ‘few’ beneficiaries. After prolonged activism, and much pressure, in 2009, the EU authorities directed the releaseof data of subsidy beneficiaries.

Jack Thurston, a founder of Farmsubsidy.org, said that for the first time this year the EU’s 27 governments have provided varying degrees of information on the beneficiaries of farm cash payments.

He is critical of the European Commission of failing to compile complicated and patchy data to give the public a clearer picture of how money is spent.

“The idea of publishing is that European people can have the information so debate about CAP and how it spends money is well-informed,” he said. (via EU farm subsidies paid to big business – Telegraph).

Various governments in the EU, used different methods to make it difficult to extract and analyze data. Some dispersed data, others limited data to 500 records at any one time. ‘Activistas’ used ‘web scrapers’ with some software code to comb the data and make reports.

With all this information in the public domain, it soon became embarrassing for subsidy recipients. Two German farmers approached European Court for ‘justice’. The Court ruled in 2011, that member Governments can with-hold information on subsidy payout.

The UK Government quickly decided to

grant anonymity to all farmers who receive EU farming subsidies, a Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesman said that it was not possible to reveal details of any individual farmers because this would breach their privacy. All details identifying large industrial farming concerns and individual farmers have been removed from Government websites. Ministers say this follows a directive from Brussels which requires all EU member states to comply with a judgment from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Plans for the publication of a list of the individuals who have benefited from the EU subsidy last year, which was due to be released at the end of April, have now been halted.

Ministers argue that they are following advice from Brussels, but freedom of information campaigners claim they have deliberately taken draconian steps to protect rich farmers from public scrutiny.

Freedom of information campaigners argue that the Government has over-reacted to the ruling because the judgment bans the identification of private individuals but not the naming of industrial farming enterprises, which include large agricultural concerns such as the Englefield Estate.

The decision represents a reversal of an important freedom of information victory in 2005 when the Government was ordered to release the names and payouts of all those benefiting from the subsidies. (via Wealthy minister earns £2m in EU farm subsidies his department tried to cover up | Mail Online).

Who gets the money?

Under the ‘reformed’ CAP system, subsidies are paid according to the size of lands: the greater the area, the more the subsidy. This leads to some curious situations.

According to Kevin Cahill, author of Who Owns Britain, 69% of the land here is owned by 0.6% of the population. It is this group that takes the major payouts. The entire budget, according to the government’s database, is shared between just 16,000 people or businesses.

As chairman of Northern Rock, Matt Ridley oversaw the first run on a British bank since 1878, and helped precipitate the economic crisis that has impoverished so many. This champion of free market economics and his family received £205,000 from the taxpayer last year for owning their appropriately named Blagdon estate. That falls a little shy of the public beneficence extended to Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian fixer at the centre of the Al-Yamamah corruption scandal. In 2007 the Guardian discovered that he had received a payment of up to £1bn from the weapons manufacturer BAE. He used his hard-earned wealth to buy the Glympton estate in Oxfordshire. For this public service we pay him £270,000 a year. Much obliged to you guv’nor, I’m sure.

But it’s the true captains of British enterprise – the aristocrats and the utility companies, equally deserving of their good fortune – who really clean up. The Duke of Devonshire gets £390,000, the Duke of Buccleuch £405,000, the Earl of Plymouth £560,000, the Earl of Moray £770,000, the Duke of Westminster £820,000. The Vestey family takes £1.2m. You’ll be pleased to hear that the previous owner of their Thurlow estate – Edmund Vestey, who died in 2008 – managed his tax affairs so efficiently that in one year his businesses paid just £10. Asked to comment on his contribution to the public good, he explained: “We’re all tax dodgers, aren’t we?”

As for the biggest beneficiary, it is shrouded in mystery. It’s a company based in France called Syral UK Ltd. Its website describes it as a producer of industrial starch, alcohol and proteins, but says nothing about owning or farming any land. Yet it receives £18.7m from the taxpayer. It has not yet answered my questions about how this has happened, but my guess is that the money might take the form of export subsidies: the kind of payments that have done so much to damage the livelihoods of poor farmers in the developing world.

The British government has also demanded that the EC drop the only sensible proposal in the draft now being negotiated by member states: that there should be a limit to the amount a landowner can receive. Our government warns that capping the payments “would impede consolidation” of landholdings.

It seems that 0.6% of the population owning 69% of the land isn’t inequitable enough. (via We’re all paying for Europe’s gift to our aristocrats and utility companies | George Monbiot | The Guardian)

These few cases apart, further analysis by various ‘activistas’ has thrown up more reasons why the system is broken. One group that is in the forefront of this reform, is Farmsubsidy.org that

collated the EU figures which identify where the €55bn common agricultural policy (CAP) subsidies went in 2009. No big surprises there, with five giant European sugar companies netting €500m between them, a few dairy companies making tens of millions each and the top 1,200 landowners and companies on the continent receiving more than €5bn between them.

Last year, the number of farmers and food companies who received individual payments of more than €1m increased by more than 20%. Britain had 32 organisations and individuals each getting more than €1m.

The biggest handout will probably to the Co-op group, which manages 16 large farming estates and is now Britain’s largest farmer. Up near the top of the list, though, are the Dukes of Westminster and Marlborough, the former Lord Vestey’s family, the Queen, and very many hereditary landowners.

The vast majority of farmers get under €5,000 and bust a gut to survive, but in a time of recession and belt-tightening these subsidies to the richest look grotesque. That €55bn (goes to the) top 10% of big landowners, the people in least need, paying them to do little more than own land.

France and Germany, have more subsidy billionaires than any other country. (via CAP provides another bumper payout for landowners | John Vidal | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk)

Image source & courtesy - news.bbcimg.co.uk  |  Click for larger source image.

Image source & courtesy - news.bbcimg.co.uk | Click for larger source image.

For instance, Prince Charles, owner of Sandringham Farms received €3,309,318, subsidy for growing durum wheat.

Ligabue, an Italian caterer, serving luxury cruise ships and airlines, received 148,000 euros of export subsidies in 2008 for the dairy and creamer sachets consumed by international travellers.

The subsidies have included payments to Haribo, the sweet manufacturer, and Coca-Cola. Haribo qualified for 332,000 euros in farming subsidies for the sugar used in its “gummy bears” produced in Germany.

In France, the EU country that benefits the most from farm subsidies, over 103 million euros every year boosts the profits of sugar manufacturers – companies that do not own any farms.

Groupe Doux, a French chicken processor, raises no poultry itself but pocketed 62.8 million euros.

In Britain, Tate & Lyle Europe benefited from the taxpayer to the tune of 134 million euros in 2007.

Arids Roma, a Spanish construction company, received 1.59 million euros for road-making materials under EU rural development budgets that are a growing part of the CAP.

Another Spanish construction company, Pasquina, also benefited for EU farm cash, getting1.13 million euros for an asphalt factory. (via EU farm subsidies paid to big business – Telegraph).

The new, ‘reformed-again’ CAP system links payment of subsidy to ‘environment protection. This proposal raises an important question.

Should land-users get paid not to do, what they should not do in the first place – anyway.

The rest of us don’t get paid for not mugging old ladies. Why should farmers be paid for not trashing the biosphere? Why should they not be legally bound to protect it, as other businesses are?

We may reach this stage sooner than you think.  |  Cartoon by Mark Knight; on 7/8/09; cartoon source and courtesy - thepunch.com.  |  Click for a larger image.

We may reach this stage sooner than you think. | Cartoon by Mark Knight; on 7/8/09; cartoon source and courtesy - thepunch.com. | Click for a larger image.

What about the US of A?

Today, an ‘efficient’ and ‘hi-tech’ agricultural farm sector in the US needs more than US$ 15-20 billion (estimates vary) of subsidies to survive.

The US-EPA says, “By 1997, a mere 46,000 of the two million farms in this country (America), accounted for 50% of sales of agricultural products (USDA, 1997 Census of Agriculture data)– and gobble up most of this huge subsidy that lowers Third World agricultural prices.

EU ‘reformers’ are talking about a 10%-25% cut in ‘real’ terms, between 2014-2020.


CAP spending will increase by about €15 billion overall in 2014-2020 period. Who is paying the price for this?

More than anyone else, the poor of this world.

Aid agencies say these subsidies make it impossible for poorer countries to compete, and health groups argue that they make industrial fats and sugars artificially cheap for junk food production. (via CAP provides another bumper payout for landowners | John Vidal | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk).

Trade campaigners have expressed concern at the impact on poor countries. “The biggest problem is that subsidies keep prices artificially low, mainly for grain traders, so developing country farmers cannot compete,” said Ruth Bergan, co-ordinator from the Trade Justice Movement.

Research cited by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) shows that African and Latin American countries are particularly affected by the CAP. A study last year from the University of Lausanne argued that the world as a whole would gain from the removal of the “most distortive CAP instruments, with Europe being the main beneficiary”.

“The reallocation of resources within the economies across the world and corresponding terms of trade effects would increase world economic GDP and welfare by nearly €33bn – the European border protection (various import duties) elimination being the key contributing element,” said the study. (via EU agriculture policy ‘still hurting farmers in developing countries’ | Mark Tran | Global development | guardian.co.uk).

These lower agricultural prices devastate agriculture in Third World countries, creating man-made famines. These man-made famines, of course, gives the West a false sense of superiority.

What is the way out of this?

EU proposes

to cap payments at €300,000 ($409,170) a year for each farm, which would save €2.5 billion a year on direct subsidies. (via EU Proposes Cap on Farm Subsidies – WSJ.com).

Theoretically, this will save some subsidy – but there is a simple loop-hole. Large farms, now under single-management, could easily be ‘de-merged’ and broken into smaller units – to stay under the €300,000 limit. A large enough limit which will not inconvenience the millionaire club – and satisfy all the ‘activistas’, and keep them quiet for 5-7 years.

One of the biggest subsidies was $223 million, given to the French sugar conglomerate Tereos, one of whose subsidiaries produces rum on France’s Indian Ocean territory of Réunion. France’s Saint Louis Sucre also received multimillion-dollar subsidies and the British sugar giant Tate & Lyle received hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last year, more than 1,200 of the recipients received more than $1 million each — a sharp increase from the approximately 900 such recipients in 2008. “The bigger you are, the more subsidies you get,” says Jack Thurston, co-founder of FarmSubsidy.org. “It is the reverse of what you think a subsidy is.” (via E.U. Farm Subsidies: Agriculture Benefits Raise Eyebrows – TIME).

This will jolt you upright

There have been other aspects to the Western model of farming.

Take swine flu — now renamed. We know it started in La Gloria, a little town in Mexico. We know a young boy suffering from fever in March became the first confirmed victim of the current outbreak, which, even as I write, has reached India. What is not said is this ill-fated town is right next to one of Mexico’s biggest hog factories, owned by the world’s largest pig processor, Smithfield Foods. What is also not said is that people in this town have repeatedly protested against the food giant for water pollution, terrible stench and waste dumping. (via Sunita Narain: The real pandemic).

There were two things about this post which made me sit up.

One – The real story behind the ‘probable’ pandemic. This is something that most mainstream media writers do not tell. Take official Government press releases, (sometimes) change the language and call it news. Sometimes, they help in the cover up. If this story does not become well-known enough, Mexico and its poor will be blamed for the starting this pandemic – by the West.

Two – the fragile state of US agriculture, specifically, and the West in general.

The other two complications are the buying and selling corporations.

Beasts of Debt & Equity

These giant corporations are aiming for entry into India – promising ‘efficiencies’ in buying (which will give consumers a better price), and higher prices for farmers (which will increase farm incomes). Of course, this will last as long as there is competition. Once, these giant corporations, fueled by huge amounts of debt and equity, drive out competition, they will lower the boom on the consumers and the farmer – like in the EU and USA.

Giant food corporations, killed buying competition with high prices (to farmers), direct buying from farmers (at higher prices), monoclonal seeds that destroy bio-diversity. And the US consumers are not getting the lower food prices that are being promised in India.

And paid hacks of these Western corporations are trying to tell Indian consumers and policy makers that these giant corporations will cut the costs of food In India.

Raj Patel, in his book, Stuffed and Starved, demonstrates how global food corporations are behind global food habits, imbalance traditional diets, creating disease epidemics (like diabetes) – and how India needs to be careful before crafting industrial policies that encourage these global corporations to destroy Indian agriculture. A book review extracts some key points as follows,

What we think are our choices, says Patel, are really the choices of giant food production companies. Millions of farmers grow food, six billion people consume it. But in between them are a handful of corporations creating what Patel calls “an hourglass” model of food distribution. One Unilever controls more than 90% of the tea market. Six companies control 70% of the wheat trade. Meanwhile, farmers across the world are pitted against each other, trying to sell these gatekeeper companies their produce. And if you think the consumer comes out on top because of all this competition, think again.

As the Europe & US play out a charade of negotiations, it is Africa and Asia which is suffering from food shortages.  |  Cartoon by Peter Nicholson; on July 5, 2005; source and courtesy - nicholsoncartoons.com  |  Click for larger image.

As the Europe & US play out a charade of negotiations, it is Africa and Asia which is suffering from food shortages. | Cartoon by Peter Nicholson; on July 5, 2005; source and courtesy - nicholsoncartoons.com | Click for larger image.

Which way the wind blows

Will EU abolish their agricultural subsidies?

Different observers are reading this differently. A recent commentary thinks that in Europe, the

one constituency that remains politically off-limits is the continent’s powerful farmers. Although agriculture contributes only 1.8 per cent of the European Union’s (EU’s) GDP, Brussels is currently firming up plans to continue to spend hundreds of billions of euros on trade-distorting farm subsidies called the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

“Throughout CAP’s many reforms and the latest proposals are no exception, the structure of the regime might have changed but the allocations remain the same,” says Jack Thurston, an agricultural policy analyst and co-founder of the website Farmsubsidy.

But when it comes to farmers, it’s a “heads you lose, tails I win” situation, according to Thurston. “In Europe if agriculture is doing well as a sector then it’s argued that it needs support all the more to ensure its continued success. And of course if it’s not doing well, then it needs state support to help it do better,” he says. (via Pallavi Aiyar: In EU, farm subsidies remain crisis-proof).

Nearly three years ago, in July 2009, when G20 talks were headlines, and The Great Recession had started in earnest,

Leaders of five developing countries — India, China, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa — who also met for summit level talks here had separately, called for expediting a global trade agreement that would stimulate the world economy.

But for this to happen, they wanted developed nations to end trade-distorting subsidies and export sops. The G-8 declaration, however, promised only to refrain from taking decisions to increase tariffs above today’s levels.

“We will refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services, imposing new exports restrictions or implementing World Trade Organisation’s inconsistent measures to stimulate exports.”

Leaders of the world’s eight most rich countries, in the same breath, vowed to keep markets open and free and to reject protectionism of any kind. “In difficult times we must avoid past mistakes of protectionist policies, especially given the strong decline in world trade following the economic crisis,” the declaration said. (via G8 refuses to cut export subsidies).

3 months ago, or three years ago, the direction seems to be pro-subsidy. If not abolish, how strong is the will and consensus on reforms?

Europe’s deep current economic crisis could be jolting officials into considering ways to overhaul subsidies. After all, with their huge debts, most E.U. governments are strapped for money. A formal E.U. reassessment of agricultural subsidies is due in 2013, but Europe’s slow crawl out of recession could pressure leaders to rethink the system before then. “The economic crisis will have a strong impact,” says Valentin Zahrnt, a research associate at the European Center for International Political Economy in Brussels. “With the budget crisis, governments are happy to save on subsidies.” (via E.U. Farm Subsidies: Agriculture Benefits Raise Eyebrows – TIME).

In the end, net, net, what is most probably likely to happen?

Right question … gets the correct answer

Central to this question is another question.

Can the farmer in EU and USA stand on his two own legs? Without State support?

The EU’s biggest farm lobby, Copa, said the commission’s plan would steer Europeans away from farming. “Many young farmers are not willing to take over the farm and older farmers are leaving the sector in view of the drastic economic situation,” said Gerd Sonnleitner, the lobby’s president.

Pekka Pesonen, the organization’s secretary-general, said the rules will make farmers more reliant on handouts from Brussels, which he estimates already account for as much as 70% of farmers’ incomes. “If you cut off the competitive edge of the agricultural sector it will affect the lives of the 28 million people who depend on European agriculture,” he said. (via EU Proposes Cap on Farm Subsidies – WSJ.com).

West is already one huge public-sector economy already. This will only become pronounced and more extreme. If something like that is possible.

What if …

What is the one reality in the entire CAP debate that must be confronted.

The West will go hungry, without subsidies.

Over the next 20-30 years, this leaves India (with China, Brazil and Russia) to cater to global food shortfalls. The Western industrial model is in its sunset phase. The Indian agricultural model can be the big winner in the next few decades – under the right stewardship.

Indian agriculture has a great future – and you ignore it at your own risk! On the other hand, industrial over-production, debt-financed over-consumption, American economic model, funded in the past by Bretton Woods /Petro-dollars /Sino-dollars, is about to end. And that is the reason why the West (America and Europe) will not lower barriers – or subsidies.

If you thought software was a big success, watch out for the Indian farmer!

What happens to Indian the farmer

Is there a business opportunity in here? Somewhere …

One part of the Rothschild family seems to think so.

China has 60 percent of the arable land of India, but it’s 40 percent more productive because of technology. That India is the largest producer of fruits, No. 1 in the world, No. 2 in vegetables, and has only 1 percent of the export market. So, those are all really big factors that we know how to fix. You fix them with technology on the ground, with cold storage and infrastructure on the ground. And if the retail sector isn’t ready to buy higher-quality fruit and vegetables, which I always thought they would be-but three years ago, it was less obvious than now-you could export them and be the lowest-cost exporter. (via An interview with Lady de Rothschild – Executives Column – Lloyd Grove – World According to … – Portfolio.com).

Most interesting!

The ‘backward’ Indian farmer working without subsidies, with low technology, lower productivity has a cost edge over his European an American counterparts? Between the US and the EU, Western farmers get a subsidy of US$100 billion – and yet they cannot compete with Indian farmers?

How well did this idea go down the European throats? Not too well … going by this reaction.

Even with the transportation and duty costs, the Indian fruit and vegetables are likely to bankrupt the European and Japanese farmers. In Europe, most of these farmers are heavily indebted as the EU paranoid sanitary norms as well as the packaging requirements of the supermarkets have forced them to invest in expensive machinery and infrastructures.

When the Indian fruits and vegetables arrive in Europe, most of these indebted farmer families will have to say goodby to their farms which will be confiscated by the banks. Many of the still remaining independent European farmers are producing fruit and vegetables since the independent livestock and wheat farmers have already been decimated by the “market economy” making profitable only the giant exploitations in these sectors. (via Rothschilds Move To Bankrupt European Farmers « Aftermath News).

How paranoid can the Europeans get?

When it suits them they can talk, from one side of their mouth, about free market – and at other times they get suspicious about small farmers from India.

The Western model of heavy urbanization and small numbers of people in the farming sector, has its admirers in India, too.

Twisted data

India’s top 20 cities account for just 10 per cent of the country’s population, but this population earns more than 30 per cent of the country’s income, spends 21 per cent and, so, accounts for just under 60 per cent of the surplus income. The next lot of cities account for 20 per cent of population, 13 per cent of income and under eight per cent of surplus income or savings. Rural areas account for 70 per cent of population, 64 per cent of expenditure and just a third of the country’s surplus income. It’s obvious then that India’s savings can grow only as the country’s urbanisation rises. Given this, the promise of creating more urban centres would be a more effective tool in getting votes from rural India. (via Rajesh Shukla: Why India’s top cities matter).

How about also pointing out, Mr.Shukla, that urban India hogs all the infrastructure investments? Or that traditional banking (in the form of money lenders) has been done to death in the rural areas – and ‘modern’ urban banks do not go the countryside. Or that the traditional health infrastructure has been demolished in rural areas – and urban areas are getting all the investments. Or that credit growth in the rural areas has been choked for nearly 80 years now – and the Indian farmer competes with the Western farmer, without the US$100 billion dollar subsidy.

Not seen is also the fact that rural India, largely a user of Indian languages, is excluded from higher education, which is transmitted in English? Has it occurred to anyone that this exclusion of India’s rural population from higher education could be the reason for the stagnation in rural areas?

Indian economic model

There is something interesting in the state of Gujarat.

Gujarat is a drought-prone state, with an irrigation cover of just 36% of gross cropped area. Increased water supply from Sardar Sarovar project, higher investments in check-dams and watersheds (as of June 2007, a total of 2, 97,527 check dams, boribunds and Khet Talavadi (farm ponds) had been constructed by the state in cooperation with NGOs and the private sector), and of course, good rainfall for the past few years has helped propel growth. (via Emulate Gujarat’s agricultural success- Policy-Opinion-The Economic Times).

While we have Westernized ‘experts’ saying that Indian agriculture is a dead end – and promoting a line of ‘there is no option apart from mega projects’, we have here in Gujarat the real solution to agriculture and water management. The Gujarat solution, which has been India’s way of managing water. Effectively, at a low cost, under the control of the people who use it and need it.

Indian agriculture has a bright future – these ‘experts’ notwithstanding.

The End of Bretton Woods

With the collapse of Bretton Woods, Western subsidy-based regime will become increasingly difficult.

September’s World Trade Organisation talks at Cancun, Mexico, where the EU is expected to come under fire for its lavish farm subsidies. EU has been accused of attempting to divide opposition in the developing world to the CAP in the hope that this will allow it to get minimal reforms through the WTO.(via The EU common agricultural policy | World news | guardian.co.uk).

Where will Western agriculture be without subsidies – in a massively high costs zone. Western food production and exports will shrivel and global agricultural prices will reach (at least) 200 year highs (my estimate).

And that will be the golden hour for Indian agriculture.

What is the only dark cloud in this scenario – GM seeds which the West is pushing down the reluctant Indian agriculturists’ throat. With significant help from the Indian Government.

How Muscular Is India’s Foreign Policy

Posted in America, British Raj, China, Current Affairs, India, Indo Pak Relations, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on November 2, 2011

Does India have a foreign policy at all? What does it seek to achieve? How has it changed over the decades.

No party has won a majority on merit after Indira's Gandhi's 1980 poll victory. 30 years of disconnect with the Indian voter. (Cartoon by RK Laxman; Image source and courtesy - outlookindia.com) Click for source image.

No party has won a majority on merit after Indira's Gandhi's 1980 poll victory. 30 years of disconnect with the Indian voter. (Cartoon by RK Laxman; Image source and courtesy - outlookindia.com) Click for source image.

Does India have a Foreign Policy

As India stabilized from a rickety, post-colonial economy to an emerging power in the last 60 years, Indian Foreign Policy has seen little analysis from context and utility standpoint.

Most critics of Indian Foreign Policy have used a flavor-of-the-season approach – and failed to present the evolution of the policy over the last 60 odd years.

And the challenges.

The last 30 years

The last thirty years has been a difficult period for Indian polity – and development of Indian foreign policy doctrine.

Of the first 40 years (1950-1990), two Prime Ministers (JL Nehru and Indira Gandhi) ruled for 31 of the 40 years. The next 20 years saw just three prime ministers (PVN, ABV, MMS) last for more than 4 years in power – from seven Prime Ministers in all. No Indian political party has been able to win an absolute majority on merit, now for 30 years after Indira Gandhi’s win in 1980. Rajiv Gandhi’s electoral victory after 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi was ‘tainted’ with a sympathy vote for Congress.

Thirty years without a positive mandate for any political party is a tough commentary on Indian polity – and its inability to connect to the Indian Voter.

War on three fronts

Sun Tzu or Clausewitz.

Every military strategist has warned against opening war on two fronts. But, two fronts were assured against Pakistan itself – on the eastern front in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and against mainland Pakistan (then West Pakistan) on the west.

To that was a real risk of China joining in with a third front. During the 1965 and the 1971 Bangladesh War, India had to factor a third front that could be opened by China against India. Thundering in the parliament, Pakistan’s foreign minister at that time, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assured the Pakistani nation of China’s support.

In the event of war, Pakistan would not be alone. Pakistan would be helped by the most powerful nation in Asia. War between India and Pakistan involves the territorial integrity and security of the largest State in Asia. (Z.A. Bhutto, Foreign Minister, Pakistan, in the National Assembly; July 17, 1963).

At least the US tried very hard to ensure that China supported Pakistan with more than lip service. In the 1965 India-Pakistan War, Indian diplomacy had ensured Chinese neutrality – and China did not move an inch.

On the diplomatic front, China had been checkmated to paralysis – a position that China adopted in 1971 Bangladesh War also.

Prison camp: Thousands of Mau Mau 'suspected' freedom fighters were rounded up during Kenya's fight for independence. (Image source and courtesy - dailymail.co.uk). Click for larger image.

Prison camp: Thousands of Mau Mau 'suspected' freedom fighters were rounded up during Kenya's fight for independence. (Image source and courtesy - dailymail.co.uk). Click for larger image.

Without guns, food and money

After India’s independence, colonialism was not dead. USA was trying to take over Western colonies by installing proxy rulers in colonies.

Britain and France attempted to re-establish control over strategic positions in the world. The Suez Crisis was the high point of trying to roll back history.

Indonesia kept its freedom (1949), when Indian Govt. threatened to shoot down Dutch aircraft. Kenya (independence-12 December 1963) and Malaysia (independence-31 August 1957) paid a heavy price during their fight to throw off colonial rulers. US armies were killing millions across Asia – in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Korea. India’s own independence hung by a thread. Harold Macmillan’s ‘wind of change’ was yet only words – and no action.

In such a situation Nehru’s foreign policy put an economically and militarily strong West on the defensive – against a militarily weak India.

Nehruvian foreign policy

Nehruvian foreign policy, India FP-One, based on anti-colonial agenda, pro-democracy, global agenda, relevant during the 1950-1970 period, saw Europe lose its colonies. Remarkably insensitive to India’s self-interest, Nehruvian foreign policy instead projected India onto global stage, as an anti-imperialism crusader.

Under FP-One, India could be pro-US also. Nehru unleashed anti-Soviet rhetoric along with the Eisenhower administration during the Hungarian Uprising – and anti-Europe during the Suez crisis. The Non Aligned Movement while making noise, posed no military threat. All the Super-powers paid attention to NAM positions and criticism.

Having made its mark on the world stage, FP-One succeeded entirely on powers of suasion and reason. Post-colonial India, without any military rank or an economic power, could yet make world powers listen to FP-One. Nehru’s own charisma had much to do with success of FP-One.

Nehru’s era saw a marked deterioration in relationships with major neighbouring countries – Pakistan and China. Nehru’s unpreparedness resulted in a disastrous confrontation with China – and the loss of Tibet. Stalin had little time for India during India FP-One.

Except for one agreement, which saw large Soviet imports of Indian cinematic content that made Indian actors household names in Soviet Union.

After Nehru? Who, What, How …

For most of the world, The India Question was – After Nehru, what?

Division is the essence of Indian polity. The fierce noise of linguistic riots in Bombay and elsewhere is heard from afar. Mr.Nehru should not equate the authority of his person with any fundamental cohesion in his country. In the absence of his cementing figure, these divisions are bound to enlarge. (Pakistan Times, Lahore, November 25, 1955).

No coincidence that Pakistani planned its 1965 assault soon after Nehru’s death. Pakistan tested Indian resolve in 1965, after the 1962 border conflict with China, which by most accounts went against India. India’s official rendition of the 1962 encounter with China remains classified.

Nehru and thoughtful colleagues, SK Patil, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Govind Ballabh Pant and Krishna Menon. Mao and Zhou Enlai watch over the border-fence the embarrassed Indian leaders who do not know how to react. (Shankar / Shankar's Weekly / November 20, 1960). Image source and courtesy - friendsoftibet.org. Click for source image.

Nehru and thoughtful colleagues, SK Patil, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Govind Ballabh Pant and Krishna Menon. Mao and Zhou Enlai watch over the border-fence the embarrassed Indian leaders who do not know how to react. (Shankar / Shankar's Weekly / November 20, 1960). Image source and courtesy - friendsoftibet.org. Click for source image.

LB Shastri, India’s combative Prime Minister after Nehru, with none of Nehru’s oratorical skills, was able to surprisingly unite and galvanize morale with his Jai Jawan and Jai Kisan strategy – aligning the ‘trinity’ of government, army and people (in terms of Clausewitz Theory).

India, battling food shortages, after the colonial destruction of Indian agricultural system, was still in a feeble recovery stage.

Indian army working with WWII vintage arms and ammunition was ill-prepared to confront Pakistan, an American–armed-and-aided CENTO alliance partner. After the 1962 debacle against China, India made creditable, though slender, territorial gains. India had retaken territory in Kashmir, with Indian armies in sniffing distance of Lahore.

Chinese inaction during the 1965 War is a less analyzed factor of the 1965 War. India’s relationship with the Soviets had not yet reached the levels of the 1970s. What and who stopped China from joining Pakistan in its assault on India?

Was China’s support for Pakistan in the 1965 War limited to lip sympathy?

Troubled Times

In such a precarious situation, India fended off Pakistan – with the Soviet Union and the USA pushing for a quick ceasefire. The Soviet Union followed up with peace talks offer at Tashkent – the template that the US followed during the many Camp David talks.

Indian contingent landed up in Tashkent with Shastri in the lead – and Pakistan contingent with General Mohammed Ayub Khan. Shastri returned home to India – in a coffin, after a cardiac arrest. For the next two decades, Shastri’s death was fodder for conspiracy theories, hinting at plot by Indira Gandhi-Soviet Union, as the main players.

A New Alliance is Sealed

The development of FP2 started soon after India-Pakistan War of 1965 during LB Shastri’s regime, even as FP-One was no longer effective without Nehru.

After Tashkent, India decided to reject all outside interventions and involvement in bilateral matters. All UN resolutions on India-Pakistan conflicts started getting treated as ‘history’. Super-power offers for mediation are no longer welcome or entertained by India.

Solid Bedrock

The other major outcome after the 1965 War was India-Soviet Union alliance, under Brezhnev. Built on the pillars of

  • Russian oil for India, priced, paid, and designated in Indian rupees. Big win for both countries, as both had forex problems.
  • Soviet armaments for India, again in Indian rupees, to balance Indian exports of Indian tobacco, tea, engineering goods, consumer products, all in the era of shortages of consumer goods in USSR
  • Russian veto in UN in exchange for a Non Aligned commitment to give unbiased hearing to Soviet positions

it was a win-win agreement.

Soviet Union won respectability in global forums – and India was no longer dependent on the West for crucial imports like oil and heavy industry technology (nuclear, tyres, oil exploration, etc.). This foreign policy direction was a marked evolution from Nehruvian foreign policy (India FP-One).

India’s decade of muscular diplomacy

Looking back, FP2 survived an ordeal by fire with the first decade itself. Three events prove that it was a remarkable decade which shaped Indian foreign policy (FP2) for the next thirty years.

1971 – BanglaDesh War

In the 1965 India-Pakistan War, Indian diplomacy had ensured Chinese neutrality – and China did not move an inch. On the diplomatic front, China had been checkmated to paralysis – a position that China adopted in 1971 Bangladesh War also.

What made the Chinese so careful in 1971?

Before the 1971 Bangladesh War, the punishment that the Chinese received in the Zhenbao-Damanskii Island border (1969) conflict at the hands of the Soviets made the Chinese very careful. The Russians were even considering a nuclear attack on China. Aware of Soviet support to India, in the India-Bangladesh War – the Chinese adopted a complete hands-off attitude.

A younger Leonid Brezhnev with LB Shastri. Kosygin, Brezhnev's deputy, presided over Tashkent talks. 11:21 09/09/2009; © RIA Novosti. Yuryi Abramochkin

A younger Leonid Brezhnev with LB Shastri. Kosygin, Brezhnev's deputy, presided over Tashkent talks. 11:21 09/09/2009; © RIA Novosti. Yuryi Abramochkin

Staring down the West

The India-Soviet alliance also enabled India to counter the Chinese atomic bomb threat with its own Pokhran explosion in 1974.

In October 1961, a British journalist reported an estimate by Nehru that India could produce an atomic weapon in 2 years.

A reiteration of Nehru’s 1958 statement, what probably held back India from 1958-1974, was military and economic unpreparedness, to withstand sanctions by the West, that would follow an atomic test. The Indo-Soviet alliance also gave India the comfort of a Soviet veto in UN Security Council.

The first nuclear test by a non-P5 (USA, Soviet Union, China, UK, France) nation, India was in a precarious position. Assured of a Soviet veto on the Indian side, with Indian agriculture making a stunning comeback in the 70’s, buffered by Soviet Oil supplies and Bombay High, India was able to stare down Western disapproval of Pokhran atomic explosion for the next 25 years.

Compared to a ‘soft State’ like India, more ‘hard-line’ countries like apartheid South Africa and Israel, that counted Western nations as close allies, could not take the final step of an open, atomic bomb explosion.

MNCs – Go Home

The third major foreign policy initiative was an economic policy that severely impacted Western multinationals. In a decade when CIA /MNCs made and unmade Governments across the world, like in Iran, Latin America, Africa, this was a case where principle won over prudence. The Janata Party Government that come to power for the first time in 1977, pushed for dilution of foreign ownership in Indian subsidiaries of MNCs.

This evoked a storm of protest – and some companies like IBM and Coke, US icons in the 70s, walked out of India.

Under Nehru's Foreign Policy, India's voice was heard by super-powers, on the global stage. Even though India was militarily and economically weak. This cartoon from a British magazine shows Nehru's position on Suez rankled in Britain. Kashmir was a part of India - and Suez was NOT a part of Britain, but a part of Egypt. (Nehru - on Kasmir - On Suez; artist: Ronald Searle. Published in Punch Magazine 23 January 1957. Cartoon source and courtesy - punchcartoons.com; ). Click for source image.

Under Nehru's Foreign Policy, India's voice was heard by super-powers, on the global stage. Even though India was militarily and economically weak. This cartoon from a British magazine shows Nehru's position on Suez rankled in Britain. Kashmir was a part of India - and Suez was NOT a part of Britain, but a part of Egypt. (Nehru - on Kasmir - On Suez; artist: Ronald Searle. Published in Punch Magazine 23 January 1957. Cartoon source and courtesy - punchcartoons.com; ). Click for source image.

Soviet Union collapses

FP-One outlived its utility after decolonization of Africa and South East Asia.

The end of FP2 started with the meltdown of oil and gold prices during the 1990-2000 period.

This meltdown saw the Soviet Union bankrupted. Saddled with subsidies and aid to allies in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America saw Soviet Union slither into an economic morass.

Rapid and ineffectual leadership changes  after Brezhnev’s death (Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and finally Gorbachev) saw a directionless and geriatric Communist Party, at the head of the Soviet Empire.

Foreign Policy On The Brink

By the year 2000, India FP2 was in crisis. Yanked out of its comfort zone of India-Soviet axis, after the USSR’s collapse, India FP2 was buffeted by the din of a ‘uni-polar’ world. India’s increasing imports of Western technology and products, that started with a trickle during Indira Gandhi regime of 1980-1984, soon gained pace. Deregulation of Indian auto sector saw increasing oil imports – with stagnant India’s oil production.

During the last 10 years, one can see signs of India FP-III taking shape. What are the features of India FP-III?

FP-III Takes Shape

One major fallout from the crash of FP2 was armament imports. Under FP2, India imported major armament systems from Soviet Union. India’s import of Jaguar, Mirage jet fighters and Bofors howitzers happened in the dying stages of FP2. With Soviet armament production systems in disarray and bankrupted, India needed alternatives – and fast. Dependence on the US-armaments was seen as an unreliable alternative.

Israel come in

In such a situation, India went for Israeli imports.

Designating Israel as an armaments vendor, freed FP-III from influence of external policy guide-lines. This gave India access of armaments from a vendor, which was also a significant user of the same armaments. Israeli armaments were also designed for low-intensity conflict – similar to Indian usage profile.

In parallel, India went ahead and signed armament co-development deals with the Russia. Brahmos missile is the first success from FP-III. The 5th Generation fighter aircraft being jointly developed is the next major step. The new aircraft carrier is the other major initiative.

The Indo-US Nuclear Deal may not deliver all that has been promised in the future. Yet, in the immediate now, it has delivered a resounding approval of FP-III. The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) approved a differential status for India – equivalent to a Nuclear Power.

Without signing the CTBT or the NPT, FP-III’s ability to achieve global consensus on the nuclear issue, is an important milestone.

Western racism became a mainstream topic by the time of FP2. Western media started open introspection. (Never understood why Pakistanis don't got on with their Indian neighbours back home. They're all human beings... Sorry. No coloureds'. Punch Magazine Cartoon by David Langdon; Published - 1965.09.15.) Click for source image.

Western racism became a mainstream topic by the time of FP2. Western media started open introspection. (Never understood why Pakistanis don't got on with their Indian neighbours back home. They're all human beings... Sorry. No coloureds'. Punch Magazine Cartoon by David Langdon; Published - 1965.09.15.) Click for source image.

In the neighbourhood

India’s ability to get a foot inside Afghanistan, in spite of much opposition from Pakistan, may see India reap significant dividends with Central Asian oil and raw material resources. The turnaround in Bangladesh, after the new dispensation has come to power, breaks fresh ground in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has taken some significant actions against anti-India forces in Bangladesh – a sign of comfort for FP-III. Myanmar’s flirtation with China, according to some, maybe cooling off.

FP-III has also seen a change in handling Pakistan. From a rhetorical, tit-for-tat approach, Indian response to Pakistan has seen a change. The recent trade push with Pakistan may see an important Pakistani constituency root for a better India-Pakistan relationship. While Pakistan is being pushed to deliver on the anti-terrorism front, there is sense in seeing the changing Pakistani calculus.

Sizing Up China in South China Sea

An interesting development in FP-III was confronting China in South China Sea. Instead of precipitating a conflict situation in Indian border areas, is to take the battle to China in South China Sea. On the eve of delivery of Admiral Gorshkov, Indian Navy’s latest aircraft carrier, Indian Navy has better symmetry with Chinese Navy – that is struggling with scaling up.

Any confrontation in the South China Sea, between China on one side, against an India-Vietnam opposition, will see China friendless, in international diplomacy. With an appreciating yuan, and slowdown in Chinese economy imminent, the Chinese are likely to be circumspect – and the Indian hand will only get stronger.

How has India FP-III shaped up in the last 10 years.

Measuring FP-III

Many of FP-III initiatives may take a few decades to pay off – and will take persistence from India’s foreign policy apparatus. However, if the contours of a FP-III can take shape in this period of flux in Indian polity, an optimistic outlook can be deemed as realistic.

Much like the various mantras of American foreign policy are evoked, in the modern Indian context, homage is paid to the idea of NAM. But clearly, it is seen as an idea whose time has gone. Its effectiveness can be gauged from the strong reactions that it elicited from Nixon.

The table below presents a matrix to map outcomes, objectives, alliances and policies that Indian foreign policy has used in the last 60 years. As can be seen, Indian FP-One, FP2 and FP-III were rooted in the global realities of that time – and based on Indian needs and requirements of that time.

FP-One (1950-1970)

FP2 (1970-2000)

FP-III (2000-Now)

  • Nehru’s charisma
  • Indo-Soviet Alliance
  • Indian economic power
Key Achievements
  • Decolonization
  • Third World dialogue
  • India heard at world forums
  • Defence production gathers steam
  • Soviet technology used for oil exploration
  • 1971 Bangladesh War
  • FP not influenced by armament purchases
  • Armament vendors instead of alliances
  • Un-committed to any super-power
Key Failures
  • Defence unpreparedness
  • Relationship with neighbours deteriorate
  • Tibet lost to China
  • UN interventions
  • Foreign policy influenced by Soviet line
  • Economic interests neglected
  • Limited access to Western technology, economy, finance
  • China, Pakistan relations not stable
  • Over engagement with West
  • Global initiatives (like NAM) impaired.
Key Features
  • Indian interests secondary
  • Global situation in focus
  • No Super-power tilt
  • Indo-Soviet alliance stitched
  • NAM acquires traction
  • Indian interests acquire importance
  • Super-power interventions rejected.
  • Indian interests paramount
  • FP-III depends less on Super-power coat-tails
  • Issue based engagement with P5
Key Persona
  • JL Nehru
  • Indira Gandhi
  • AB Vajpayee in Janata Party govt (1977-1979).
  • Rajiv Gandhi
  • AB Vajpayee
  • Manmohan Singh
Key events
  • Nehru-Eisenhower dynamics
  • Hungarian Uprising
  • Suez Crisis
  • 1971 Bangladesh War
  • Pokhran Atomic blast
  • MNCs brought to heel; IBM, Coke thrown out
  • Indo-US Nuclear deal
  • India Vietnam alliance in South China Sea
  • G20 inclusion

foreign minister at that time, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

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