T170. Farming in India

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Project Save the World Podcast / Talk Show Episode Number: 170
Panelists: Jill Carr-Harris and Doug Saunders
Host: Metta Spencer

Date Aired: 25 January 2021
Date Transcribed: 15 February 2021
Transcription: Otter.ai
Transcription Review and Edits: David Millar

Metta Spencer

Hi, I’m Metta Spencer, today we have something, we don’t know what’s going to happen in our conversation today. Because what’s on my mind is the fact that there are a lot of civil resistance activities going on around the world. And we haven’t really had a good conversation about it. So I invited some people in Moscow, who are sort of recovering from a weekend of Navalny demonstrations, and an expert who’s just written a book on the subject of successful civil resistance movements. And I never know who’s gonna show up, and they haven’t. But I do have two people here who are haven’t met yet until this moment, and are getting acquainted, but both of them certainly have much that they can share if I can help them find what they have in common. Jill Carr-Harris is a friend of mine who’s a Canadian who’s been living in India for the last 30 years or so is married to a Gandhian leader, and is a great Gandhian organizer herself. She has recently been involved with an effort to march from Gandhi’s grave and in Delhi to Geneva. But they got as far as Armenia and COVID hit. So she had to give that up. And Doug Saunders is a familiar face and a familiar name to everybody living in Canada, practically, at least those who once in a while look at the Globe and Mail. And Doug is a good friend — looks like a beautiful new orchid in your background. Hello, Doug. He’s, he’s international affairs, man. And he travels the globe, there are a number of issues in which Jill and Doug have the potential for conversation. One of them being the recent, or current demonstrations in India, about farmers, by farmer. Large numbers of farmers are demonstrating against the government. And I know that Doug wrote a column on that, and I want to do a show about it sometime soon. Maybe we can have a preliminary conversation here between Jill and Doug.

Jill Carr-Harris

But what I wanted to talk about a little bit in here is, you know, I work with a Gandhian movement. It’s, it’s a group of people, of course, many, many people — after the death of Gandhi, there was, you know, in fact, it affected all of mainstream Indian society for about 30 or 40 years before new political machinations came up and Gandhi got somewhat more marginalized. But we have still been feeling that the, the techniques that Gandhi used in the freedom struggle of nonviolent organizing in the particular way that he did, still has a lot of importance. And part of the reason, Doug, that we went on this March, as Metta knows, is to kind of share those techniques and strategies. I think they’re strategies that have been very effective for us, we’ve been organizing in the country for 30 years — very, very poor, marginalized communities, to stand up, to build leadership at the grassroots — to stand up, not only face resistance, since we’re talking about civil resistance, but to but to also understand their role in society and not being seen as poor and powerless, you know, that they do have a role. And to, at whatever level, that role is, to hook up with other people in order that their role is expanded. So we’ve had a lot of success with grassroots organizations standing up against landlords and, and land investors, and fighting for land reform. I think me too, what what we often forget in our civil disobedience is we look at the sparkly, sensational, newsworthy…

Metta Spencer

Well, I wonder if there is something special about India that makes it still a viable possibility to organize marches or demonstrations, etc. in a way that wouldn’t be the case in many other countries. Because you do have this long standing tradition of Gandhi’s leadership. And also you do things that your events look 100% different from anything that we would see in the West, when I mean, we ought to have a little clip from one of your marches, showing what you guys look like. I mean, here you are marching along with us. banners and each person has got, you know, the same color neck shirt color, neckerchief or something and, and you’re so disciplined and orderly and well planned and you manage to have these little subgroups of 10 people so that infiltrators can’t join in and cause trouble. And you know, everybody knows who, who’s supposed to be in their group and all of these extremely well organized and very orderly and and unthreatening kinds of movements. Whereas, you know, civil resistance movements in the rest of the world through the last decade or so have been not succeeding. They were highly successful. When Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth wrote their book, less than a decade ago, they had a — civil resistance movements were way more successful than violent movements. But that’s not the case anymore. I mean, it’s not that violent movements are more successful, it’s that nobody is successful anymore. And and I don’t know whether they’re even counting the things that go on in India, can maybe you can elaborate on what I think are the big differences between a nonviolent movement that you would organize, and one that might take place in Moscow with the, you know, the police coming out with their batons to beat you up.

Jill Carr-Harris

Right? The biggest, the biggest difference is that we prepare our movements, most movements are spontaneous. And we actually prepare because Ghandi gave us a playbook on preparation. And because during the freedom struggle lasted, what 70 years and Gandhi’s involvement, you might remember, in the 20s, in Chauri Chaura, when 22 policemen got killed, he stopped the movement, he stopped the non cooperation movement and said, Look, guys, you know, learn your nonviolence, and went around eight years to university students and talk to young people about what nonviolence is hoping they would imbibe some of the values and some of the principles of nonviolence before they got out on the streets again. So I think preparation is key. And that’s when we walked with 100,000 people in 2012, as you know,

Metta Spencer

I know, but I’m not sure that Doug does, or a viewer know. So that’s where the whole story [is] right there.

Jill Carr-Harris

Yeah. So Doug, we prepared several big national movements after building at the local level. So it’s sort of a ground-up process, you know, you teach people how to organize marches in villages, and then regions or sub-regions, and regions. And by 2007, we did our first national March. And the reason that we prepared so hard is because we were working on land reform, which is like a, an axiomatic you know, it’s the the bottom of development, it’s, it’s so fundamental for asset-creation in rural areas, and there’s apparently a zero-sum game all around land between landlord and and, and small landholder, and landless and land investor, and so on. So we prepared very hard and we walked in 2007, from Gwalior to Delhi, which is about 350 kilometers, and nobody believed we could do it. And we actually trained up, I think, it was about 2500 activists, who in fact, control the 25,000 people and this was not done with social media, which is more common in the, in the case of Yugoslavia and some of the, you know, other movements that were going on at the same time, we we did it completely with training beforehand, people were, had built a certain kind of leadership and then they led these marches and we led a march of 25,000 people 350 kilometers one month, to the city of Delhi, sleeping on the road, eating on the road once a day. So, we created a methodology of moving you know, a mass of people to make them visible. So these are people barefoot, these are very obviously poor people, adivasi, indigenous communities, walking on the road to Delhi to find out why the government under the the, the laws, which were supposed to transfer lend to the poor in certain, in certain ways, why they hadn’t done it, and so making themselves visible making themselves loud, getting the middle class aware, oh, we have all these people who don’t have land walking, you know, up the National Highway to New Delhi. And we did that over a month. And it was an absolutely incredible experience to because we got the government, Manmohan Singh government, at that time to say, okay, so we will, we will actually look at the land issue, which they did seriously, but because of the vested interests, it only allocated forest land to indigenous people. But we did get 333 and a half million families land plots, following that. But then, it started to slow down, the wheels started to slow down. So we had a second march in 2012, with 100,000 people. And because this was around the time of the occupation movement, Arab Spring and Occupy movement, the government was very afraid that we would make it to Delhi with 100,000 people. So they sent all their emissaries to Agra, which was, you know, little less than halfway, and they met us, and we negotiated a land reform settlement. And this is quite unusual, because it was extra-parliamentary. But they were very, within the law, within the legal mandate that they had, they negotiated something, then we went back to try to see how all of this would roll out, we had about a year and a half, things were moving in a very positive direction. And then the Modi government came in, in 2014, and completely decided they had no interest in this, you know, they’re not a big negotiating group, because the Modi government, you know, it has a grassroots base, like the RSS, which, you know, they don’t really need, you know, this movement to consult with, so they didn’t have, find this at all interesting. Plus, they were very much interested in bringing in big land investors and big money. And so it really didn’t fit into their larger macro agenda. So we still had more marches in 2018, and so on. But when we realized how things were moving in the country, we decided that we would take one internationally on Gandhi’s birthday to show the Indian government that it was because of their Gandhi, you know, because of their founding fathers, that we were taking these great values out to other countries on Gandhi’s end, so the Government of India kind of had to support us, because it was we were taking their good, you know, history out to other countries. And, and so it was a very interesting way of kind of getting their support, to too. And we really did get all party support. We got some even a small fund, from the Ministry of Culture to do some of the work, I did some of the walk. So we, you know, we’re going to walk all the way to Geneva, and it stopped in Armenia. But and of course, the Indian government didn’t want us to walk through Pakistan. So we had to, at the last minute figure out how to manage that which is a story in itself. But otherwise they support it, you know, are going to to UAE and ran and, and Armenia and so on. I think the this the the the thing that I wanted to raise at the beginning is all of this is a kind of preparation of, preparation before a march. But also a March itself is a training on the road, a training, how to run a March, how to be part of it, how do you interact with local people? How do you take micro issues? How do you build your policy asks, because we were moving in the case of the international one to Geneva, to bring some policy asks. So this is a really interesting process, obviously very, very different from the civil resistance of what’s going on in many other places. But we would like to share it. So we’re now in a position where we’ve set up an international association to do training and marches around the world to share this technology, if you will, of marches to help other people see that it is possible to use certain strategic math mechanism methods to actually bring people together and to try to make change in that process. So I’ll just conclude by saying we are planning to have one. If all goes well in Canada, in, starting in Sault Sainte Marie on the 6th of August, which happens to be Hiroshima Day or, you know, a day of violence, and ending it 60 days later on the day of international, the International Day of non violence October 2, to say, to show metaphorically moving from violence to non violence, and we’re going to be doing that in six or eight different countries simultaneously. I don’t know whether it’s going to happen in the US, possibly. But I think this is really the time to do education and training on nonviolence and give people as you say, Metta, Erica, Erica Chenoweth gave us this great academic work. And now people are wondering whether it’s, it’s, you know, you can get a response — but I think you can get a response. And even under the most resistant Modi government, we have still got a response from our marches. So I’m of the I’m somewhat of an optimist, but I feel that these would be very useful strategies going on in going forward in future.

Metta Spencer

Well, you’re not the only one doing marches. I’ve already organized a talk show for a couple of weeks from now with an indigenous woman who has marched across I know, a few 100 miles anyway, in Northern Ontario, I think, and is going to be doing another one. So maybe you and and she will meet someplace on the road. Who knows?

Jill Carr-Harris

Remember, the 2012. March is always in India shortly after them, I think, and and what was striking, was that they weren’t just sort of identity marches. They were, they were, they were oriented around very specific policy requests. And I think, as you say, achieved them under the same government anyway. In a way that that, wouldn’t the BJP government, as you say, probably would not have recognized as being their constituency.

Metta Spencer

Yeah, I’m so glad you were there.

Jill Carr-Harris

And, you know, it was a very euphoric kind of moment for poor people, you know, where policy makers, you know, leaders of their central government are standing up and saying, Yes, we want to hear about these land issues, and we take this land reform very seriously. Because otherwise, you’re always, you know, you’re seen such a disconnect between policymaking and people’s real needs for livelihood at the bottom level.

Metta Spencer

I would like to explore further and I will be exploring further, the disconnect between the concerns of, say, people working on climate change, and the need for a change in agricultural technology, as a way of sequestering carbon and making an excellent extending the life of the soil, because our, our land is being depleted of all the nutrients that we need for food. And in another few generations, we’re not going to even have decent enough soil to produce food. So the the need for improving the quality of agriculture, both for the sake of producing better food and for the sake of producing, you know, better climate. That that range of concerns is not completely hooked into the discourse about the need of small farmers to have a little piece of land in which to raise enough food for their own families. So, you know, I hear conversations about each of these topics, but I, I hear nobody so far, trying to bring those two concerns together.

Doug Saunders

They often contradict each other in some ways. Canada’s — one of one of Canada’s unheralded exports, all three of us are speaking from Canada here, is the what’s often called no-till agriculture, which is that which is which is a technique for growing where, where you don’t till up the soil, where you leave the tillage there. On top. Home gardeners probably recognize this the sort of techniques to grow and it preserves soil and renews soil much better than so called organic farming techniques, or or or older conventional techniques in the crops that it works on. It’s been a big export I mean Brazil has really picked up on it. I wish India picked up on it more. But a lot of the smart agriculture techniques that preserve soil and so on require A. a certain amount of capitalization on each farm, and B. holdings large enough that you can maintain soil and rotate crops and have fallow crops and so on. And my my knowledge of agriculture in India is limited to two projects, I think done one where I spent a month in right along the spine of India in central Maharashtra, looking at the farmer suicides in the 2000s and another, which resulted in some book chapters where I spent time with families in slums in Mumbai, and then went back with them to their subsistence farming villages in Maharashtra and Gujarat and Goa. So I’m I’m limited to the number of states of India where I’ve witnessed agriculture being carried out. And agriculture varies highly in its productivity and its methods and its size and scale and its crops between different states of India, and often not in ways that you would predict some of the wealthier states have the most poor subsistence agriculture. But a unifying factor I found, and I think I think this is part of what Jill’s talking about in land reform, is that their holdings were extremely small. There were too many people involved in subsistence agriculture, who should have been able to move up into actual productive agriculture. And the holdings got smaller and smaller every year because systems of primogeniture where where each generation would subdivide the family’s holdings as they inherited land, dowry systems were not helping with this because people couldn’t afford to move out of agriculture. And on top of this, there was a politics coming from both Congress people and from nationalist parties such as BJP, that really maintained starvation-level subsistence agriculture, encouraged people to stay on the land and keep subdividing the land, the family holding, and, and there seems there seem to be a belief — and when in Delhi, you’d hear this from everybody and both parties — that ‘farmer’ is an ontological status, rather than something that families pass through on the way to a more secure and stable life. And so many policies were oriented toward maintaining that ontological status, keeping people being farmers as an identity, rather than an economic activity that you do for a certain part of a family’s life. Even though what I found is that almost everywhere in rural India that I’ve been, the main source of income for farm families, comes not from anything they grow — the one thing that saves them from starvation, comes not from anything they grow — but from the one member of the family who’s moved to the city, and is living in what looks like absolute poverty in the city. But it’s 20 times the income they make in the village and the little bit of money they send back to the family farm far exceeds anything they get either from government, in support, or from income. And a lot of the policies that came out of movements and so on over the years, were basically supports designed to keep people on the land. And that’s an aspect of land reform. So you have you have as Jill points out exploitative landlords who are part of the problem, because the forms of tenure are often usurious. And on the other hand, you have a government system designed to avoid the type of land reform that’s also needed, which is to consolidate holdings. So that and it caught, means that first of all, India has a much higher absolute poverty rate than it should at this point in its development — and almost all of that absolute poverty is farmers. It’s subsistence farmers, people who starve to death in the world today are farmers. And there’s some urban poverty as well. But the second consequence is that India doesn’t produce much food. Because the holdings are so small, because they can’t rotate, because this ontological status of being a farmer is important to people, in many crops the statistics show that Indian farms produce about a third of what they could that they could have made many crops… because of India’s excellent weather, they could have three harvests a year, they only have one harvest a year. And because of a lack of investment in soil depletion, and resulting from that lack of investment, and some nasty corporate stuff, I mean, there were incentives to go into cotton farming in parts of central India, exactly as cotton farming became economically not a very good, I mean, the world world suffered a lot of cotton and, and that wasn’t good for people. And those cotton farmers were especially subject to, to land subdivision and oil depletion and all that sort of stuff. So there’s a bunch of things going on. But but the consequence is both India should be feeding the world, and it’s producing a third of the food it should, and Indians shouldn’t be starving. Yet they are to agree they shouldn’t be. All, both of which are because of this, of this lack of a form of land reform that allows consolidation of holdings and families to make the transition from subsistence farming to market farming.

Jill Carr-Harris

Yeah, I think, yeah, I think there, Doug, there’s a few things that I would see some somewhat differently, which is that, you know, at the time of independence, in the first five year plan all the way up, at least until the new economic reform, you know, process of 91, I think the idea was to really strengthen agriculture, and to redistribute land. Those were the twin priorities. And unlike many other countries, whether it was Taiwan or China, or, you know, where there was a certain amount of land reform — Korea, South Korea — India was not able to make to really do a land reform that shifted assets to the poor. And this was very, very unfortunate, because it was the the time and there was a lot of large landlords and large land holdings, there was a land ceiling act, it was possible, but you got these landlords to divide their assets in a way that their cow and their wife and their child all, you know, had the land ceiling amount. But as a family, they were way above the land ceiling, those same landlords who had a lot of the land were the ones who were the parliamentarian, making the, you know, implementing the land reform laws. So there was a bit of a conflict of interest, right. So very unfortunately, that asset shift did not take place in a way that was somewhat equitable, and therefore, it then always became a thorn in their side. And, yes, there is no doubt that the largest number of farmers are small and medium farmers with very small plots of land, and some of them in the warmer parts, mostly, mostly, it’s two crop [a year]: kharif and rabi. But one of the things that you’re missing with the small farmers, which is really important, is that land is the asset, land is the culture, land is my identity, but it’s also my asset. And it means that whether, you know, it gives people the confidence to have the land, it doesn’t really matter as much how much money they have in the sock, under their pillow. You know, it’s the land, which is really important. And people eat off that land. So it may be that the productivity is less, but what we haven’t calculated in that is how much it’s feeding. The people who are on that land, it’s feeding the families, it’s feeding their communities, when the COVID happened, and people have lost their jobs, where did they go? They went home to eat, you know, because that’s where the food was, right on the land. So I think we tend to, you know, because we tend to monetize, of course, we live in that kind of a farming economy where everything is monetized. But it doesn’t really work. absolutely the same in India, in rural India — there’s a lot of benefits that come from land that are not just measured in monetary terms, in terms of food supply, in terms of identity, as examples, and and security, and, and so on. But as you say, because of this situation that I described, we have a situation, that there is a huge population on the land, and there is very poor soils, in part because of a lot of bad decision making. Also, by government, you know, decisions like subsidizing chemical fertilizer, you know, decisions like building large dams that have bad consequences. decisions like, you know, the Green Revolution, which may work in one place in Punjab But maybe did not work so well in western U.P., you know. So I think one has to see that it’s really a much more complex situation than land consolidation. And, and I think today, if you go to this, if you live in the cities it’s — I’ve lived in Delhi for many, many years. The the size of that city is so large — it’s almost unworkable to live there with any quality of life, particularly if you’re not in the upper echelons, you know, where you’re living in these small tenement houses with 12-14 people. So it’s, it’s in Bombay, you must have seen, when you talked about urban slums, that kind of crowding, the kind of difficulty when COVID comes along, that’s extra problematic in those very congested chawls — as they call them in Bombay. So, so what the thought of policymakers was, well, let’s have smart cities, let’s have a lot more cities, let’s, you know, make many more urban… But really, the kind of building the infrastructure for multiple cities to take this flow of migrants, migration out of rural areas is very difficult. We’re talking big numbers, right? So it’s not so simple. I think in terms of allowing just the greater flow, I think the flow of migration into cities is huge, I would say the push-pull factors, let alone calling farmers the ontological unit, as you refer to, I think the push-pull factors is pulling a lot of people into the cities, you know, if not into the cities into peri-urban, peri-urban areas, or having huge labor migrations out of one area like Orissa, to Gujarat or to Punjab, to do farm labor work. Yeah. So these are the kinds of issues that we’re dealing with, when you talk about the suicides. The suicides had a lot to do with the fact that farmers also only know farming, and when the bank comes to take their land, you know, they really don’t have anything else to do, you know, if they lose their their sense of dignity and integrity in the society, their status, and suicide looks like a better option for them. You know, we had 250,000 suicides in that period of 2002 to 2012, or whatever it was. So I think it’s the case that we see with the farm protests in Delhi today. The reason those Punjabi farmers are prepared to sit two months in the city streets, telling the Government of India that they have to repeal their three laws, is because they are under threat to lose their land, in their understanding. They’re not many of them are medium farmers, they’re not poor farmers… you know, from what we’ve seen, in fact, we’ve tried to link [them] with the farmers movement, poor farmers, but they’re much stronger farmers, they’re middle, more middle class farmers, or, you know, of course, in our terms that’s still small pieces of land, and they’re under threat. Their reason for being there, as they stated, not in my words, as they stated, is because they’re afraid that their land is going to be taken by big industrialists, and they’ll be industrial farming, and they would like to keep those structures. However, those structures were set up during the Green Revolution, and they’re all filled with chemical farming and so on. But those structures still — give them a security in terms of knowing their AP, the particular Monday market where they go, their wholesale market to sell their products, is still there. And so if if you were right about the consolidation, it’s it’s strange that so many farmers from Punjab and Haryana, who are really some of the best farms in India, would be standing up against consolidation, which is what I think they’re doing today. So, yeah, theoretically, I understand your point. But I think the practice is much more complex.

Doug Saunders

I do wish that these reforms had not waited until the BJP was in power, for a very long time. I think, the many decades of Congress rule, the one bit of unfinished business was was that the great 1940s land reforms or however you want to call them, the the, you know, confrontations with the the property Raj, and, and so on, became the template for everything that happened. Really, right up into the early 2010s. Even as, even as India changed, even as agriculture changed, even as the demand for agriculture products changed. And I think if if the agricultural reforms that Modi has done, had been done by Congress, they could have been done in a way that was, that was communicated well to farmers. That was understand, that was understandable to farmers, that did not seem to threaten them, that recognized that, that bringing agricultural markets into farming doesn’t have to be big corporations from outside, but it can be your family is a corporation if you’re a farm, you know, and that’s your role in the world. And that that would help give people a foot in something in something other than the subsistence-level farming. I mean, one of the most telling things I mean, I always ask people, I mean, yes, I talked to people in chawls, in, in, in Bombay, but chawls with a better form of living to move up to you know, and, and nobody’s happy living like that. But one of the most memorable things anyone told me, one of the things I would often ask families who are living in bad situations with terrible, you know, sewage-filled rivers behind them and and a lot of people packed into it place with often not even a corrugated tin roof with it with a UNHCR blue plastic tarp roof. And say, “Why do you live here” because and I had visited these people’s villages, which were physically beautiful places, which seemed to have this very tranquil, and happy life. And I would, one question I would often ask was, “Why are you here? You go back to your village, your agricultural village once a year for a month? And it seems so much better life? Why on earth are you here?” And one, one mother said to me, “Well, you know, here in this slum, if things go badly for me, if my source of income, I think clean, caring for somebody’s house fell apart, falls apart, I might have to send my children to sell individual cigarettes on the street or something humiliating like that. And that’s terrible. That’s just humiliating for me as it would be for any mother. But back in the village, if things went wrong for me, which usually made a crop failure, one of my children would die.” And that was that was the mathematics behind it. It’s It’s It’s It’s a matter of much higher level of vulnerability in subsistence agriculture. And it shouldn’t have to be an either/or between, between an exploitative slum existence and or or subsistence farming which which which carries a high infant mortality rate and a high family size and things like that and lead leaves to lead to those forms of vulnerability. And I don’t think it’s quite like that in Gujarat either. The farming is much more stable and well established in in Gujarat and and and it’s not starvation level subsistence farming. And I think as a consequence the farmers of sorry that the farmers of Punjab are are much more politically organized around it. But I think Modi, I think Modi, Modi is the is the wrong delivery vehicle for any form of agricultural reform, he’s not going to be trusted. He’s, he’s seen as the party of urban merchants. And he’s seen as a party that will exploit farmers. I think, regardless what the reforms are. And I think it’s an unfortunate state of affairs,

Jill Carr-Harris

You know, we’ve had a lot of success. What, because we’ve got a large number of people land plots. Yeah. And some of that land was very rocky and very difficult, because as you know, there’s less and less land available in India. And yet, what we did is we helped with inputs to help to create some above subsistence farming, you know, by creating common facilities. So I think what I’ve seen is it’s not an either/or, Doug, whether it’s, you know, subsistence farming in the village or being a slum dweller in the city, I think, people are very inventive, as long as you give them an enabling environment, you know, I mean, if if you can’t move this way, that way, then it’s, it’s, it’s, then you may migrate out. Because it’s forced migration. But if people have the, what I have always found, because I really have worked in a lot of villages in India. And so I’ve, I’ve, like you, I’ve had your experience with the some slum these friends in the jugghis, in Bombay, going back to their villages, you know, I really lived with people in villages and seen that, that they are, if they can, they would be most happy to stay. And, of course, they don’t want their child to die. And so if you can provide certain kinds of opportunities, which is what we have been working on for a long time, as have millions of civil society organizations across the country, as have, you know, small businesses also, I think there’s, there’s a, you know, there’s even greater potential to to, to increase the economic you know, the livelihood of people. And, but as you say, the the Modi government, it’s not just his image. It’s his background, because we traveled in Gujarat when he was Chief Minister, often. And the same issues arose with people who were small farmers in Gujarat. So he, he understands an urban based approach, which is why he came up with smart cities and not smart villages, right? He is an urban, he’s come from that background. That’s what he knows. And unfortunately, he wields too much power without sufficient ability to consult with people, our biggest problem with the whole farmers protest is that they rushed these laws through, it was the process that was completely wrong, you know, you don’t rush them through with an opposition who has walked out without consulting adequately with people. I mean, it’s these are huge, these are huge laws. And had Congress, as you said, done it some years before. I mean, the Green Revolution was not really, I mean, was also similar in that it was helping consolidation. And that got through because it was sold well, you know, lab to land, and, and all of the kind of… bells and whistles that Mrs. Gandhi brought to that and, and so on. But yeah, I think it’s not just the way he looks. I think it’s it’s also highly centralized without sufficient consultation with people and ramming through policies without taking steps. You know, like it’s it’s more complicated, obviously, and then it became politicized then that that was very unfortunate, because there may be something in those laws that could have been reworked. With consultation that would have been accepted. Yeah, in my view,

Metta Spencer

I see it as a debate between people who think that small land, plots of land held by subsistence farmers are, that’s the necessary ingredient that you need to take care of farmers that way, by making available the land that sufficient for them to do that. And that that is in, in contrast to, or incompatible with what is seen as a very benign movement toward industrialized agriculture on consolidated large plots of land. Now, maybe I’m exaggerating the difference between those, but I had

Doug Saunders

missing the middle ground? I think it depends on your definition of small. Yeah, I think I think sustainable… small farming is a family business farm with between 20 and 200 employees, that is able to have enough land to do crop rotation, and have fallow crops and, and maintain the soil and enough investment to produce as much as many calories out of that soil as you can. In very few crops. Is there a humanitarian or economic benefit to having very large enterprises with 1000s of employees?

Metta Spencer

Well, maybe that’s where I want to get some clarification in another conversation. That is the people I talked to who are into reforming agriculture, are not worried about having small plots of land, that’s okay. And in fact, they worry much more about monoculture being done by big, big machines and large tracts of land and all the things that we’re familiar with in North America, where yeah, you can get a lot of productivity for a period of time, and then you’re running your soil and you’re gonna all starve to death. In the long run 50 years or 100 years from now, we will, we will have ruined the land. So the point is, some of the people that I know who are working on regenerative agriculture are very much in favor of small plots of land. But the question is, how you handle it, what you do with it, and how you use it, how to maintain it. And my, so this leaves me with a question, could smallholders that exist now in India, simply improve the quality of their farming so that the results are better than Douglas described, when you say they’re only producing a third as much food as they could and should, well could improve methodology, change the outcome, there could be could better methods be introduced, which would actually enable them to produce the amount of food that is needed and save the carbon in the soil or increase the carbon in the soil, which is a part of the equation that nobody is talking about, as far as I know. Anyway, I put my oar in with the idea that I’ve got to wind this conversation up. But But I do want to say let’s come back to this with some more people. Jill has put me in touch with a couple of people in India who are who are engaged with this farmers result revolt or demonstration that’s going on now. And either of you or both of you. I would love to have that come back and and pick this conversation up and carry it forward. If you’re willing.

Jill Carr-Harris

I just want to thank Doug for his his insights, really amazing that you’re sitting in the Globe and Mail here and know so much. So thank you very much for that. And Metta. Thank you for such a, an opportunity. I hope we were able to help the viewers at least see some of these issues. And welcome more of this discussion.

Metta Spencer

I think we’ve scratched the surface, frankly.

Doug Saunders

Thank you, Jill. I want to hear more from you. Because I’ve learned an awful lot. And I want to hear more firsthand about about what what you were doing until the pandemic came along. Yeah, I think if if people want to read a very new paper that I think it supports what Jill was saying to a great degree, and a little bit of what I was saying. There’s a new paper by Sanjay Ruparelia, from from Ryerson, on the farmers’ protest movement in the conversation.ca, which is a sort of popular academic online journal in Open Canada. And I highly recommend it. It’s a good review of a lot of the things behind it and it certainly it certainly does. Watch what Joe is observing about. The injustices from the Modi government that the farmers are marching against.

Metta Spencer

Thank you both