Jun 22, 2012

When farmers are convicted. The strange case of an American farmer.

At a time when the entire economic growth model is built on greed, you cannot expect the farmers to be left behind. In their quest to make quick money, and harbouring aspirations like anyone else to join the ranks of the high-net individuals (HNIs), they too resort to unlawful activities. In India, farmers have sprayed crops with dangerous pesticides cocktails and other harmful chemicals often drenching their standing crop with pesticides. They know this is not permissible, and goes beyond the recommendations. The heavily pesticide-laden crop is for the market. But for their own consumption, they keep the plot free of pesticides and even chemical fertiliser. Isn't that morally and ethically wrong? 

Some call it as 'moral hazard'.   

But often this goes far. How do you explain when some farmers inject oxytoxin hormone to get a much healthier (and big in size) looking veggies? How do you explain when some dairy farmers (and middlemen) adulterate milk with urea, caustic soda and detergents knowing well it is extremely harmful? What about those farmers who throw buckets of water on to the paddy heaps in mandis to add on to the weight of the produce? Such instances are not rare. These are surely 'moral hazards' that the farming community continues to grapple with. I am not blaming the entire farming community, but you will agree there are elements who do all this and still get away with. It is very rare that you find the law swooping on them and holding them accountable. Even in such cases where a conviction is made, the court case continues to drag for years. 

This does not happen only in India. It happens also in the United States and elsewhere. But the difference is that in the US the chances are that the convict will get immediate punishment. 

I bring to you a shocking and perhaps an interesting case (depends on how you want to view it) from the United States. Daryll Ray and Harwood Schaffer of the Agricultural Policy Research Cenre at the University of Tennessee have quoted this in their latest Policy Pennings #620. Here it goes:

According to an article in the Asheville Citizen-Time, “[Robert Gardner] Warren, 64, was convicted in July 2004 of conspiracy to defraud the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. [FCIC] and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was sentenced the following year to 76 months in federal prison. His wife, Viki Warren, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the FCIC and mail fraud and got 66 months….

“The Warrens owned R&V Warren Farms, which at one time was the largest vine-ripened tomato grower in the eastern United States and employed about 200 people….

“Warren Farms filed fake crop reports claiming losses that never happened. Prosecutors said employees threw ice cubes onto a tomato field, beat the plants with sticks and photographed the results to simulate hail damage to back up insurance claims. 'The employees also threw ice cubes into the air while other employees took pictures to support the claim of a hailstorm,’ an indictment stated. 

“The Warrens began the scheme in 1997 to defraud the FCIC and insurance companies reinsured by the agency of millions of dollars, obtaining crop insurance by creating false records purporting to show a history of high tomato production.”

Wow ! Isn't that amazing. Some farmers surely can be imaginative. But what is significant in this particular case is that the law was quick and firm. This farmer was convicted in July 2004, and the following year he was sentenced to 76 months in jail. His wife was sent to jail for 66 months. When do we see the judicial system in India becoming so pro-active? 


Anonymous said...

lol...even farmers have become coorupt these days...but what they dont realise, what they are doing to others will come back to them 1000 times bigger...they and their family will die in disease / accidents soon ...you cant hide from the law of karma...but I do wish God's justice was also quicker...punish in this life and not wait for next life...enjoy the day !!!

Anonymous said...

After meeting Ajay Jhakhar I strongly feel that we have to tell it on their face.

(on email)