Sep 23, 2016

Indian cattle breeds are also high yielding.

For quite some time we are being told that Indian desi breeds are unproductive. I always used to question this quoting from M S Randhawa's four volumes of 'History of Indian Agriculture' wherein he tells us how the domestic breeds were revered by Kings in Indian history. What happened after independence that Indian breeds became unproductive and we had to import Jersey and HF to crossbreed? 

After several years of understanding the way political economy works, I find that running down Indian breeds, crop varieties and even products has become a usual practice whenever the imports have to be justified. The import lobbies know that the acceptance among liberals, who think they are highly educated, becomes so strong when they try to give an impression that the particular exotic breed is needed to improve the domestic availability. Pepsico ran down the Indian tomato varieties finding it unsuitable for processing when they were trying to seek entry by way of agriculture, into India. It is however another matter that the tomato varieties they eventually began to use were from a Bangalore-based private company. I can give you several examples to illustrate this. 

I have always said If we had built on our domestic breeds, the Indian cows wouldn't have been roaming on the streets. Take a look at this cow in the picture enclosed. Named BANDEIRA (meaning FLAG), this is a purebred Gir cow in Brazil. Gir as you know is a desi breed originating from the Gujarat region. With a milk yield of 85.16 Kg/day it holds the world record in milk production among Gir cows. No wonder, Brazil has become the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows. 

I am not in favour of turning cows into a milch machine. All I am trying to show with this picture is the yield potential that exists in the Indian domestic breeds. Here is one of my earlier articles on how Brazil has turned into the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows:

Sep 17, 2016

India's major farmer and fisherfolk unions/organisations come together under the banner of Kisan Ekta.

Farmer leaders at the 4th National Convention of Farmer Organisations, held at Akola, Sept 12-14

In August 2015, we took the initiative of bringing together the major farm unions of the country onto one platform. It was a difficult task and not many believed that this will eventually happen. But I persisted, and so did my colleagues from the farming unions/organisations. Within a year and a half -- Kisan Ekta -- the banner under which the collective has come together, held its 4th National Convention of Farmer Organisations, at Akola, in Maharashtra, Sept 12-14, 2016. 

The three earlier conventions were held at Chandigarh, Bangalore and Shimla.

In my understanding there are some 65 major farmer organisations in the country. I am pleased to inform that 62 are formally members of Kisan Ekta. Together, they represent some 400 million farmers of this country (including their families). Some of the member organisations are: Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal); BKU (Haryana); BKU (UP); BKU (Asli); Shetkari Sanghatana; Karnataka Rajya Ryotha Sangha (KRRS); Tamilnadu Farmers Association; Bhartiya Kisan Sangh; Bhartiya Kisan Morcha; Gujarat Khedut Samaj; South India Sugarcane Farmers Association (SISFA) Tamil Nadu; Red Gram Growers Association, Gulbargha; Joint Action Committee (JAC) from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Aam Kisan Union, Madhya Pradesh; Fruits, Vegetable & Flowers Growers Association (Himachal Pradesh), Krishak Biradari (Chhattisgarh); Dharthiputar Bachao Sanghatan (Rajasthan); Orissa Nari Samaj, Bhubaneshwar; All India Kisan Sabha (CPI); Indian Sugarcane Farmers Association, Bangalore; Bharat Krishak Samaj and so on. 

In the last convention that was held at Shimla, Kisan Ekta also took the initiative to reach out to the fisherfolk unions/organisations in the country. Two major fishermen unions, from Manipur and Bengal, joined the Shimla convention. I am now hoping that most of the fisherfolk unions will be part of Kisan Ekta as the year 2016 ends. We then plan to reach out to the tribals and finally to the farm workers. 

This coming together of some of the largest but also warring unions of farmers is being watched very keenly by not only the political outfits but also the media and academia. The mere fact that Kisan Ekta was able to hold its 4th Convention and that too within a year and a half, and without getting any external financial support, is indicative of the merit farmer organisations see in this initiative. We are very hopeful that if all goes well, Kisan Ekta will be able to significantly influence the 2019 Parliament elections. 

At present, the Kisan Ekta activities are being coordinated by a team of three -- Devinder Sharma; Chandrasekhar Kodihalli (President, Karnataka Rajya Ryotha Sangha); Balbir Singh Rajewal (President, BKU-Rajewal).


At the Akola conclave, Kisan Ekta passed five resolutions: 1) Implementation of Swaminathan Committee recommendation of 50 per cent profit over cost of production. 2) Ensuring income parity for farmers, fishermen, and farm workers with the central government employees. This means setting up a Farmers Income Commission to provide a guaranteed monthly income to farmers. 3) Redesign import export policy to ensure that cheaper imports do not flood the domestic market driving farmers out of agriculture. Import tariffs of pulses, oilseeds, cotton, apple to be raised to stop unwanted imports. 4) Ban the risky, harmful and unproductive GM Mustard. Instead, the government should provide farmers with a higher support price for oilseeds along with assured procurement to boost domestic oilseeds production 5) Oppose the land acquisition laws being formulated by States on the model of the central land acquisition act forcing hundreds of thousands of farmers out of their fertile land, their only source of livelihood. Demands specifically that Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Maharashtra Governements which are going ahead with large-scale acquisiton and hence displacement of farmers be stopped herewith. Kisan Ekta resolves to stand by all efforts that are underway to oppose the farm land grab that the states are indulging in.

The 4th Convention also worked out a time bound schedule of activities. This includes approaches to reach out to farmers, build stronger alliances at the state level to strengthen farmers movement. By 2019, the farmers movement under the banner of Kisan Ekta should be powerful enough to influence the electoral process.

Sep 10, 2016

A Green Manifesto for Punjab -- Prepared by the people, for the people.

At a time when the electoral battle is hotting up, and with political leaders engaged in pointing fingers at each other, a citizens' group in Punjab has ensured that the real issues affecting the people at large and the deteriorating environment (not only political environment) are not lost in the din and heat. What could eventually turn out to be trendsetter, a Green Manifesto for Punjab -- an agenda for Punjab's prosperity, food safety. health, happiness and sustainability -- was launched at a media event in Chandigarh on September 6, 2016.

As far as I can recall this is the first time that ordinary people have made an effort to draw the attention of political parties to what they perceive should be the development agenda. This fabulous initiative was launched by 'Vatavaran Ate Samaj Bachao Morch' (translated, it means: a campaign to protect environment and the society), a group of committed individuals and organisations from across the State. A day long session was held at Chandigarh where more than 100 people from different walks of life had come together, brain stormed, and fine tuned the draft agenda. Among those who came were religious leaders, senior journalists, economists, academicians, vice-chancellors, environmentalists, farmers, students and housewives. It was such a heartening experience for me to sit and listen to the wonderful ideas and suggestions that came up. Their collective thinking is what is clearly reflected in the Green Manifesto.

Releasing the Green Manifesto at a press conference in Chandigarh, Sept 6 

The preamble says it all: " 1) Ensuring environmental sustainability and profitability in Punjab's farming. 2) Revival, restoration and conservation of environmental resources including (ground) water and tree cover, and addressing the environmental crisis of the State firmly and urgently. 3) Addressing the environmental health crisis of the State through remedial and rehabilitation measures, and by ensuring food safety and removal of environmental toxins. 4) Lay the ground for medium and long term environmental revival and sustainability by sincere promotion of environmental education in the state.

Once the food bowl of the country, Punjab has not turned in a hotspot of farmer suicides. The water table has plummeted to dangerous levels, soil health stands devastated, chemical contamination has taken a sever toll of not only human lives (a 'cancer train' runs from Punjab to Bikaner in Rajasthan carrying patients), but the environment at large. Punjab is fast heading towards a severe health disaster with reproductive problems being witnessed in both humans and animals, psychiatric disorders, intestine and respiratory diseases, premature births and other disease patterns multiplying over the years. And so on. The need therefore is pull it back from the brink of a disaster.

The controversy before the launch of the film 'Udta Punjab' has highlighted the severe problem of drug abuse. In lot many ways I see alcohol and drug abuse to be an outcome of a bigger malaise that prevails, and the genesis is often overlooked. The reasons are many, and instead of pushing them below the carpet, the challenge is to stand up and be counted. The Green Manifesto should therefore be seen as a roadmap that has been prepared by the people, for the people. It is a people's manifesto, the will of the people, and ignoring it would be like turning a blind eye to the dark period ahead.

The Green Manifesto document is here: 

Sep 7, 2016

Isn't the GM Mustard debate about a junk variety?


Thirty years back, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation of what was later called as Yellow Revolution. The Oilseeds Technology Mission he launched in 1986 converted India -- from a major importer to become almost self-sufficient in edible oil production -- in 1993-94, in less than ten years. A remarkable achievement, indeed.

And then began the downslide. India happily bowed to World Trade Organisation (WTO) pressures to kill its Yellow Revolution. In fact, the demise of the Yellow Revolution is a classic case of how a promising domestic edible oil sector was sacrificed at the altar of economic liberalisation. Severe cuts in import tariffs brought in a flood of cheap imports thereby pushing farmers out of cultivation. Import duties – from a bound level of 300 per cent were slashed to almost zero – in a phased manner. As a result, farmers abandoned cultivation of oilseeds crops and the processing industry too pulled down the shutters. India today imports more than 67 per cent of its edible oil requirement costing a whopping Rs 66,000-crore.

So when the new Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said the other day to an international news agency Reuters that India was keen to cut down the huge import bill of edible oils, it certainly was a welcome statement. Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh too has time and again stressed on the need to reduce the dependence on edible oil imports. Ask any educated and concerned citizen and he too would call for cutting down on imports and helping domestic farmers. But I thought the ministers would at least know that India was actually self-sufficient in edible oils, and it’s because of our faulty trade policies that the country has turned into world’s second biggest importer of edible oils.

When I made a presentation before the high-level Shanta Kumar committee on bifurcating Food Corporation of India (FCI) on how trade liberalisation had destroyed the oilseed revolution, he was very understanding. His recommendations include the need to revisit the trade policies so as to protect domestic production from cheaper imports. I wish both Mr Radha Mohan Singh and Mr Anil Dave too had emphasised on the desperate need to raise the import duties to boost domestic production rather than to harp on allowing the commercial cultivation of the controversial genetically modified mustard (GM Mustard) in the name of increasing productivity.

Let us be clear. It’s not because of any shortfall in oilseeds production that India imported Rs 66,000-crore of edible oils in 2015. It’s simply because we wanted imports to be encouraged that the country is saddled with a huge import bill.

Although the sub-committee of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal inter-ministerial agency whose approval is necessary, has cleared three varieties of GM Mustard (including DMH-11 and two parental lines) as being ‘safe’, the fact remains that the safety data is being kept hidden. This had prompted the Central Information Commission (CIC) to direct the GEAC to share safety data with the public. I am glad minister Anil Dave has promised to put the data on GEAC website and invite public comments. But what shocks me is to know that the GEAC members are not at all perturbed that GM Mustard will increase the usage of chemical herbicides. In fact, the clever stacking of herbicide tolerant genes in GM Mustard favours the herbicide being sold by a multinational company, Bayer.

Even Bt cotton had increased the application of chemical pesticides, Regardless of what the industry claims, the fact remains that the usage of pesticides has gone up in India. According to Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), in 2005, Rs. 649- crore worth of chemical pesticides was used on cotton in India. In 2010, when roughly 92 percent of the area under cotton shifted to Bt cotton varieties, the usage in terms of value increased to Rs. 880.40-crore. In China, where Bt cotton was promoted as a silver bullet case, farmers apply 20 times more chemicals to control cotton pests. In Brazil, which has recently taken over Argentina as far as the spread of GM crops is concerned, pesticide usage has gone up by 190 percent in the past decade.

At a time when cotton farmers in India have moved away en bloc from the genetically modified Bt cotton after the 2015 debacle with whitefly attack and the crop becoming susceptible to bollworms, I thought the Ministry of Environment would have learnt a lesson. I see no reason why GM seed companies are not being held accountable for the whitefly devastation caused last year, including suicides by some 300 cotton farmers in Punjab. Is human life so cheap in India that the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare remain silent on suicides in cotton belt? I thought Farmers Welfare was now a mandate for the Ministry of Agriculture.

Civil society groups under the banner of Coalition for GM Free India have already rubbished the productivity claims of 26 per cent higher yield being claimed for GM Mustard. They have accused the developers of falsifying the data and comparing the yield performance of GM Mustard with some of the useless varieties. In any case, there are five more existing non-GM varieties which yield significantly higher than the transgenic variety DMH-11. I therefore can’t understand how will a GM variety with low productivity eventually help in cutting down on edible oil imports? Isn't the entire debate about GM Mustard therefore only about a junk variety? 

Share of mustard oil is only 10 per cent of the total edible oil consumed. Thrust should be to raise the import duties on edible oil and provide farmers a higher procurement price. They will do the rest. Let’s not use the argument to force controversial and risky GM Mustard as the solution. This is not fair. And if you have seen Baba Ramdev saying in TV ads that the mustard oil we buy is largely contaminated, this is an area needing urgent attention. I thought that the Ministry of Agriculture as well as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare join hands with the Food Safety Standards Authority to clean-up the mustard oil market of contamination. That’s what the consumers want. 

Aug 11, 2016

Agriculture has paid the price for keeping economic reforms alive.

Twenty-five years after the economic reforms were unleashed, the first-ever socio-economic survey for rural areas, published in 2015, paints a gloomy picture. Portraying a stark reality the survey says that for 70 per cent of India’s 125-crore population, which lives in rural areas, poverty is the way of life.

Rural India is poorer than what was estimated all these years. With the highest income of a earning member in 75 per cent of the rural households not exceeding Rs 5,000 a month, and with 51 per cent households surviving on manual labour as the primary source of income, the socio-economic survey had exposed the dark underbelly of rural India. Considering that the bulk of rural population comprise of farmers, what the socio-economic survey tells is how the reforms have very conveniently bypassed agriculture.

The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) consumption expenditure data for 2011-12, done a few years earlier, tells us the same story. If you live in a village and spend more than Rs 2,886 per month you are among the top 5 per cent of the country. For the urban areas, the cut-off limit is Rs 6,383 per month. That makes me as well as you, the reader, in the same category as Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata and Narayana Murthy. While we may fall in the upper 5 per cent bracket but imagine the fate of 95 per cent of the population which is unable to spend more than Rs 6,383 per month in the urban areas every month? Isn’t that the real India that we don’t want to talk about?  
Now, let me break-up the rural income slab for you. Economic Survey 2016 tells us that the average income a farmer gets from farming activities, including what he keeps for his family consumption at home, in 17 states of India is Rs 20,000 a year. In other words, the monthly income of a farmer in these States is a paltry Rs 1,666. On a national level, the NSSO works out the average monthly income that a farmer derives from farming operations to be just Rs 3,000 per family. Compare this with the basic salary of a chaprasi at Rs 18,000 per month it become obvious how agriculture has been neglected all these years.

The deplorable condition of farmers is certainly an outcome of economic reforms. Simply put, economic liberalization or economic reforms or market economy whatever you prefer to term it has not only bypassed the majority population but has been actually a pre-requisit for the success of economic reforms. Agriculture, like other unorganized sectors, has been deliberately kept impoverished so to make economic reforms work. 

It was in July 1991 when Dr Manmohan Singh delivered the historic budget speech as Finance Minister that opened up the country to economic liberalization. I recall the speech wherein he unshackled the industries from the control regime and showered all bounties on industries and in the very next paragraph acknowledged that agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy. But since agriculture is a state subject, he left it to the state governments to provide the much needed impetus to farming. But what he forgot to say was that industry too was a state subject and should have been left to the state governments. The bias therefore was clearly visible.

This was simply not unintended fallout of the process of economic liberalization. It was actually part of a design. Later, in 1996, the World Bank directed India to move 40-crore people out of rural areas to the urban areas in the next 20 years, saying that land is a precious asset in the hands of people who are inefficient producers, meaning farmers. Since the younger generations among farmers do not know anything except farming, World Bank suggested that India set up a network of training institute to train these people to become industrial workers. This should be accompanied by land rentals and land acquisitions. This suggestion was made in the 2008 World Development Report by the World Bank and a year later, in 2009, India made provision for setting up 1,000 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). 

Going by the World Bank prescription, successive governments have been blindly playing to the tune. As Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh had time and again said that 70 per cent farmers in India were surplus and need to shift to urban areas. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan is on record saying that the big ticket reform will be when India moves a large share of the farming population to the cities. And more recently, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has blamed agriculture for not being able to provide subsistence to a large section of the population thereby increasing inequality.

What he forgot to say was that successive governments had deliberately starved agriculture of financial resources and had kept the farming population impoverished. This is evident from the way agriculture remains a low priority area when it comes to budgetary allocations. In the 11th Plan, agriculture received only Rs 1-lakh crore as budget outlay for the 5 years. In the 12th plan period, agriculture got Rs 1.5-lakh crore. Incidentally, the budgetary support for agriculture, which employs 52 per cent of the population, is less than the annual provisions being made for MNREGA. In addition, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat and rice had remained almost frozen, with annual increase in farm prices not exceeding 4 per cent on an average. No wonder, 48 per cent farmers want to quit agriculture if given an alternative.

In fact, the plight of agriculture is not only deliberate but has for all practical purposes sustained the economic reforms. If the farmers were paid their economic due by way of let’s say a higher MSP, the industrial and business sector would have gone for a toss because of the additional costs involved for paying higher labour wages that incorporates resulting high food prices. At the same time, a higher price for farm produce would have raised the cost of production of many industries. In addition, a high paying agriculture would have also reduced the rate of migration and thereby reduced the availability of cheaper labour for infrastructure and real estate.

The reluctance on the part of the government to implement the Swaminathan Committee report, which recommends 50 per cent profit over the cost of production, also stems from the same concern. In a written affidavit before the Supreme Court, the government has made it clear that providing a higher price would distort the markets. It is primarily for this reason that the Ministry for Food and Consumer Affairs has directed the State governments not to provide any bonus for wheat and rice over and above the MSP announced. 

The real cost of economic reforms therefore is being borne by rural India, of which farmers constitute the majority. The first-ever Socio Economic Census has clearly brought out the stark reality. India’s performance when measured as per the Human Development Index too shows the burgeoning inequality. India ranks 130 among a ranking of 188 countries. The economic reform that we talk about therefore has largely been pro-rich. The rich 1 per cent own 51 per cent of country’s wealth. The economic wealth of 15 families in India equals the economic wealth of 600 million people.

Keeping agriculture impoverished all these years has sustained the economic reforms. Going by the income parity norms, the MSP for paddy, which has been fixed at Rs 1,450 per quintal this year, should have been Rs 5,100 per quintal. In case of wheat, the MSP should be Rs 7,600 per quintal. This is the legitimate right of a farmer, if we were to maintain a parity with other sections of the society, which has been denied to him. I have time and again stated that at the pace at which the salaries of government employees, college professors and school teachers has been hiked, agriculture has been denied that parity as a result of which farmers are dying.

The big bang reform India needs is essentially in agriculture. Providing the rightful income into the hands of farmers is what will push domestic demand and at the same time revitalize the rural economy. If the 7th Pay Commission is being seen as an economic booster, as it is expected to create more demand for consumer goods, imagine the kind of shot in the arm a higher income in agriculture will give to the Indian economy. If wheat farmers for instance were to get Rs 7,600 per quintal as the MSP, imagine the economic growth that it will result in for the rural areas. In fact, the fact remains agriculture alone has the capability to boost the Indian economy.

Unfortunately, agriculture is been knowingly sacrificed to keep the present phase of economic reforms somehow moving. In other words, 60-crore farmers are paying the cost of unjust economic reforms. #

Aug 9, 2016

Kerala sets a welcome trend by imposing 'Fat Tax'

Some years back I was invited to be the chief guest at the annual day function of a well-known public school in New Delhi. After the march past and the award distributions were over, I had to address the students. Instead of talking about the role models they need to follow or giving them a lecture on the moral attributes required to be a good citizen, I decided to focus my talk on junk foods. I asked them how many drink at least a Coke or Pepsi every day and almost all hands went up. When I asked them about burgers and pizzas, the response was the same. I wasn’t surprised for this is what I had anticipated. 

I spent the next half an hour telling them how harmful the sugary drinks and junk foods were. The junk foods contain no nutrition but only empty calories. That is why most children were becoming obese, which eventually leads to lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. I vividly recall that when I talked about the colas being an efficient toilet cleaner there was a loud applause. When I told them about how the sweet yoghurt for instance contains more sugar than ice-cream the children clapped. I concluded by asking them to educate their parents, their family members, and tell them why they should not be stocking their fridge with colas, and fried foods.

A week later, the Principal of the school called me. She told me of the huge response she had received for my talk, this time from the parents.  Many parents had conveyed how their children had insisted on getting them away from junk foods and colas. She told me that the school administration too had decided to stop the sale of colas and junk foods in the school canteen. 

So when Kerala’s Finance Minister, Thomas Issac, imposed 14.5 per cent tax on pizzas, burgers, and pastas served in branded restaurants, I was delighted. While the food industry, led by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has sought a review of the ‘fat tax’ saying it “would adversely affect growth of the quick service restaurant segment of the food industry and might set a similar trend for other segments as well’, I don’t think there is any need for Kerala government to even take notice of the industry’s representation. In my understanding, Thomas Issac should be complimented for a path-breaking decision and more importantly he has set a trend that I am sure will soon be followed by other States. One of the main reasons behind the rising sales of junk food is because they are cheaper. 

Childhood obesity has now reached severe proportion globally. The United State’s National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) estimates more than 22 million children to be affected worldwide. Not only in children, obesity is also growing among the adults and that too at an alarming rate. Worldwide, 39 per cent of the adults are over-weight, of which 13 per cent are obese, and this is leading to the growth of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and blood pressure. If we take diabetes alone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates show 422 million people suffered from the disease in 2014. This is roughly 8.5 per cent of the global population. Of this, India also is home to 69 million diabetic patients, and the number is expected to swell to 100 million by 2030.

Denmark started the trend in 2011 by imposing a tax on foods that contained more than 2.3 per cent fat. Many countries have since introduced similar taxation measures with Mexico bringing in a ‘sugar tax’ on sugary drinks, and Hungry has a tax on foods that contained high levels of sugar and salt. In April this year, UK has imposed a sugar tax in a bid to curb growing obesity and diabetes. South Africa is also considering slapping a 20 per cent tax on sugary beverages.

Imposing additional taxes on sugary drinks and junk foods is certainly a welcome sign and should help discourage the consumption of junk foods. This should however not be taken as a stand-alone measure. Fat tax should be accompanied by consumer awareness campaigns. The US First Lady Michelle Obama perhaps sensed it early and soon after Barack Obama took over as President she launched a campaign on fighting junk food ads of sugary breakfast cereals, fast food and soft drinks aimed at school children. Five years after she launched a nationwide campaign called “Let’s Move!” the US Department of Agriculture had last year phased out junk food advertisements from vending machines in schools across the country. Even billboards of Coke and Pepsi were removed from school eateries. The big retail giant Walmart has promised to reduce salt content in its products by 25 per cent and sugar by 10 per cent.

Childhood obesity is known to a huge problem in America with obesity rates among those between 2 and 19 years being as high as 17 per cent. And it is here that Michelle Obama’s campaign is slowly making an impact. At least obesity levels in children between the age of 2 and 5 are coming down in America.

Although, India is reportedly planning to bring in a tax on sugary beverages and soft drinks but any such measure draws a loud protest from the TV channels, which more or less have an allegiance to a business house. With industry bodies like FICCI and CII jumping saying it will hit industrial growth the government normally goes on the back foot. But I see a possibility of a big national campaign, which will certainly leave behind a significant impact, if a campaign on the lines of popularizing yoga is undertaken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is already seeking the application of yoga for reducing diabetes and cracking down on the consumption of junk foods and sugary drinks in a Swasth Bharat campaign only makes it complete.

Kerala’s ‘fat tax’ has certainly woken up the nation to the need for stringent measures to control the growing threat of diabetes and other lifestyle diseases. I propose two action points: First, is to introduce a high level of tax on sugary drinks, including colas, and junk foods. This must be accompanied by a nationwide Swasth Bharat campaign, which should also aim at looking afresh at some of the policy decisions. For example, 100 per FDI in processing industry should not be allowed in foods which contain more salt and sugar. Breakfast cereals, like cornflakes and its variants, are more of a desert than healthy foods. 

Kerala's Fat tax wakes up the nation, Deccan Herald, Aug 4, 2016 

सेहत के लिए सही पहल Dainik Jagran, Aug 7, 2016.

Jul 29, 2016

'This is not economic growth' -- An interview with Newslaundry

A few days back I did quite an exhaustive interview with the popular news portal Newslaundry. The interview was on a wide gamut of issues ranging from stock markets, economic growth, China's economic model, mainline economists, growing inequalities, agriculture, food, to GM crops, role of scientists, Nobel laureates, FDA etc etc. Although the interviewer came armed with 10 pages of notes, and even if I had known I wouldn't have carried any notes/publications to prove my point. In fact, those of you who have heard me would know that I have never used any notes/visuals for any of my public talks and university lectures. 

Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy the conversation.