Dec 24, 2010

Who says economists and scientists are not corrupt. They scam in the name of economic growth and development

This scam will never hit the headlines. It will never be the subject of a joint Parliamentary committee nor will it ever result in Parliament being blocked for days together.

It doesn’t matter if hundreds of poor people die and millions of livelihoods are destroyed. This is a just the collateral damage that the country must live with if it has to have economic growth. It is worse than any scam we have heard about. And it involves some brilliant minds — our economists and scientists.

As a nation we feel outraged if a patient dies due to a doctor’s neglect. We force the government to imprison the engineer when a bridge collapses. But we remain quiet when hundreds of people die from pesticides poisoning. For the past few weeks, Kerala is witnessing an unprecedented uproar over a human disaster that a potent chemical pesticide — Endosulfan — has caused. Approved for use in cashewnut plantations, the pesticide has killed close to 1,000 people, chronically disabled more than 10,000 inhabitants with neurological disorders, paralysis and deformities, but is still being pushed for commercial application. Endosulfan was considered safe for humans and the environment by the Kerala Agricultural University and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR).

This reminds one of the Agent Orange gas used by the Americans to defoliate forest covers in the Vietnam War. Forty years after the war ended, an estimated 500,000 were poisoned to death, and another 650,000 continue to suffer from an array of baffling chronic diseases. Like Endosulfan, Agent Orange, too, was considered safe for humans. And 40 years later, none of the scientists who approved it have been persecuted nor has the company that manufactured and marketed Agent Orange been hauled up for war crimes.

This is the accepted story of the shameful nexus between politics, industry, economists and scientists to slowly poison the current and the future generations; to usurp the natural resources in the name of development, bringing the world close to a tripping point; and to destroy millions of livelihoods in the name of free trade. While engineers and doctors are often brought to book under consumer laws, there is no legal mechanism that holds erring economists and scientists accountable.

It all begins when economic policies and scientific decisions are taken in a ‘closed and opaque’ manner. These policies are often designed to suit the commercial interests of particular companies.

Take the case of the process to justify the approval for FDI in multi-brand retail. The ministry of commerce is working overtime to tailor reports/studies in order to give an impression that big retail will be beneficial for the farmers as well as the consumers.

In reality, it is a massive cover-up operation that involves some research institutes as well as pliable experts who are picked to be part of the expert committees. The fact that big retail has not helped farmers and has instead led to the exit of farmers, is simply ignored. Numerous US studies that clearly show how the big retail eats into the livelihood of small shopkeepers and hawkers, exacerbating poverty, are very conveniently pushed under the carpet.

And if you think scientists are holy cows, think again. Over years, scientists have, with exception, turned out to be more corrupt than the politicians. Institutionalisation of corruption in science, technology and economics has already taken a massive human toll.

If you thought Niira Radia was the only successful corporate lobbyist, you just have to trace the influence International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has on Indian agricultural science and you are left wondering whether the biotechnology lobbying group is designing farm research in India. Private banks and consultancy firms like Mckinsey & Co are increasingly writing the farm and health policies for India.

Public sector science is now becoming subservient to private interests. Take the case of the Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops prepared by the top six academies — the Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Academy of Engineering, Indian National Science Academy, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, National Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. Submitted in September 2010, the report has been criticised for plagiarism and accused of blatantly siding with the commercial interests of the biotechnology industry.

That the top six distinguished science academies produce a report that is but a cheap public relation exercise on behalf of the biotechnology industry cannot be pardoned. It is time to stem the rot. We need to take a broom to clean the mess that has built up in the name of science and economics. This scam is much bigger than what the TV channels are telling us. And it involves human lives.

Source: Scammed in the name of economic growth and science. DNA, Mumbai, Dec 24, 2010.


Anonymous said...

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Right to recall LokPal Chairperson can be viewed/downloaded at-

Ramesh Dubey said...

आदरणीय देवेंद्र जी आपका यह कहना बिल्‍कुल ठीक है कि अर्थशास्‍त्र और विज्ञान में आ चुकी भ्रष्‍टाचार की गंदगी हटाने का समय आ गया है लेकिन यह गंदगी तब तक नहीं हटेगी जब तक कि अन्‍य क्षेत्रों में भ्रष्‍टाचार का खत्‍मा नहीं हो जाता । आखिर कोई वैज्ञानिक, अर्थशास्‍त्री, सैनिक अधिकारी अपने आपको कैसे रोक सकता है जब उसके पड़ोस में रहने वाला अदना सा बाबू लंबी कार से उतरे और दनादन जमीन के सौदे करे ? आखिर वे भी तो मनुष्‍य हैं उन्‍हें भी तो समाज में ही रहना है । मान लीजिए वे गांधीगिरी का रास्‍ता अपनाए लेकिन उनके साथ उनका परिवार भी तो है । इसलिए यह केवल विज्ञान व अर्थशास्‍त्र क्षेत्र से नहीं अपितु पूरी व्‍यवस्‍था से भ्रष्‍टाचार की गंदगी हटाने का समय है । जब तक समन्‍वित प्रयास नहीं किए जाते तब तक सफलता दूर रहेगी, फिलहाल ऐसा कोई प्रयास होते नहीं दिखता ।

रमेश दुबे, दिल्‍ली

Leo said...

I don't really agree to this post. The Indian government has been defending the ban on Endosulfan for valid reasons.
Endosulfan is a cheap pesticide costing Rs. 220 per liter against imidachloprid (its substitute) which costs Rs. 2000 per litre. The EU recommends that the farmers in India should substitute Endosulfan with imidachloprid or others like thiamethoxam (Rs. 3200 per litre) or coregen (Rs. 700 per litre). Imidachloprid is an EU patent pesticide. It goes to show that if Endosulfan gets banned, its going to have a deep irreversible impact on the Indian economy as a poor farmer will not be able to afford the expensive substitutes to Endosulfan.

dehydratedpaani said...


We have a cheap and poison free solution to the plight of the indian farmers. Its called organic farming. Our ancestors have had Gau(Indian cows) based farming for eons. The problem in india is not pests, its the lack of availability of water resources. If you want India to solve its farming issues, solve its water issues. Unless ofcourse you are a agri-corp fanboy :).

You do know right, that these chemicals have polluted most of our ground water supplies and we are forced to have wasteful water purifying products that we never needed cuz our grounds did all that work for us.

To sum it up, while the rest of the world like to work 'with' nature, western mindset to conquer nature has screwed us big time.

Abid Hussain said...

The unjustified call for Endosulfan The reality behind ongoing much hue&cry demanding Endosulfan Ban is entirely distracting.
As far as indiscriminate use of pesticides in the plantation areas of Kasargod is concerned, ENDOSULFAN is not the sole culprit for all the reported deformities in the new borns because there are many other harmful pesticides used in the region.
ENDOSULFAN is safest agro-chemical in agricultural use in INDIA but today its almost become the business/ bread&butter for NGOs and persons like Vandana Shiva, Sunita Narain, KB Chaudhary and even for short term political ambitions of Netas like VS Achutha....
Do personally visit the affected area, as claimed by these monstrous and anti-Science NGOs and verify the facts at the place of report as now-a-days Media is too irresoponsible and runs in trust deficit, publishes much unscientific reports and surveys w/o any verification and doubt clearing from technical institutions/ org/ experts.
Today, it's MNC pesticide giants which r lobbying fr its ill-effect and pushing fr the BAN, as India is the largest manufacturer of generic endosulfan and it is harming their business.
Horrying amount of money has been pushed by the NGOs to influence the policy decision, mis-interpret the perception and mis-represent the reality.
More than a dozen committees within 8 years have concluded that there is no linkage between Endosulfan and the reports of health problems and cleared the Endosulfan but blamegame is still on. Only flaws observed in the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) study which was released in 2002 and adopted by NGOs for propaganda against the generic pesticide.
MNCs are interested in promoting their patented products as the much sought for International ban by the ongoing UN's Stockholm Conention would create a market for their products. But these patented products is more than 10 times costlier and Indian farmers can least afford the same.
There is no doubt, strong business interests which wouldn't mind if farmers are forced to replace endosulfan, which is an affordable and generic insecticide, with costlier proprietary molecules. It is purely case of patented-versus-generic pesticides.

Let regulatory agency and GoI conscience be clear of not favouring the move to ban the pesticide in lack of any strong evidence and review done by several committees, declaring Endosulfan as safe for both human beings and ecology.