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Articles by the Author
The cotton story is a tangled tale. In many parts of India, farmers are committing suicide. It's been a while Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and now Vidarbha in Maharashtra. What goes into the vicious cycle is indebtedness, brought on by a combination of international trade cycles, state policies on subsidies and tariffs and the trade-off between the interest of cultivators and manufacturers of the products that make cotton a commercial crop.
Caught in the spinning wheel, principally, are three of the usual suspects: the us, India and China. The biggest problem is that Uncle Sam gives big subsidies to its cotton farmers, a problem that has been haunting the World Trade Organization (wto) for a while. So India is importing cheap raw cotton, especially the extra-long staple (els) needed for the high-end textile trade. With the death of anti-dumping regulations, India expects a substantial increase in its textile trade and the textile lobby is powerful -- witness the recent proposal, approved by cabinet, to amend labour laws to help the industry deal with industrial ups and downs.
Indian subsidies are low restricted to the southward-bound minimum support price (msp) for a small amount of total output, based on quality. Privatisation in procurement has made cotton farmers more vulnerable. But for textile magnates, importing cheap us cotton still remains a more worthwhile option. So, who cashes in? Private traders. And how? The strange thing is that while India is now importing raw cotton, it's also exporting -- through a private procurement and export regime -- mainly to Bangladesh and China. The profits are going to big trading houses, which is why farmers are committing suicide and not traders.
Stranger still is the fact that India is exporting cotton to its main rival in the global retail textile market. China imposes huge duties on Indian, and other, raw cotton to protect its farmers, which India does not. But it has overcome that extra cost to become the most competitive player in the global market because it has better technology.
sourav mishra unravels the enigma of the cotton story.
The invitation was innocuous. The Confederation of Indian Industry (cii) -- the grouping of the large and most powerful industries -- was convening a meet on forests. The purpose, said the invitation (which reached us by chance), was to discuss how the country would achieve the national target of 33 per cent forest and tree cover by 2012. The minister for environment was the key speaker and the ministry of environment and forests was the co-organiser. The question was: what was industry's interest in planting trees? Why was the ministry associated with this meeting? What was being cooked in this broth?
The fact is that industry's interest in land (not just forests) dates back to the mid-1980s. The proposal is delicious because it is so simple. India has large tracts of lands without tree cover. These are lands classified as forests but lying degraded. The country needs to plant trees. But the government says it lacks funds. Industry says that it needs raw material from forests. It has the capital to pay for planting trees and the technology and managerial ability to do massive afforestation. If trees are planted, the poor will get jobs. This is a win-win option.
But we, who have been tracking the story for the past 20 years, know that the proposal has been on the table for years. It has been pushed, each time with some changes in the detail of the scheme, each time with bigger and bigger players in the fray. The last was in early 2000, when Reliance Industries almost secured rights over forests of Andhra Pradesh. But still, each time the proposal has been rejected because it is understood that it will do nothing for poor people who depend on the forests and nothing even for the forests it aims to protect.
But if this is known, why the renewed interest? What does the newest look of the old proposal promise? What position does this government, with its common minimum programme, take on this idea, which has been the bugbear of tribal activists and environmentalists for many years? Nitin Sethi investigates history and current affairs to uncover the newest deal.
The Union ministry of home affairs wants to know: what is the Meghalaya government going to do about the 'People's Budget'?
Uttaranchal's pastoralists discuss depleting pasturelands
Slums dumped out of sight
Alternative rehab policy lost in a maze of committees
Forest commission fails to innovate
JPC suggestions go beyond forest rights paradigm
India loses Myanmar's natural gas to China, well almost
Arunachal turns to private Players for hydel power
Some recent amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act could infuse new life into a fusty act, but there are others that threaten to pull matters back
India hardsells its troubled protected areas abroad
WTO ruling on EU-US spat over GM could impact South
Regulating access to biodiversity and ensuring justice for its traditional knowledge holders
CBD to hold COP-8 in WTO shadow
Elephant management in India just got tougher
Fiscal federalism cramped by compensatory afforestation arrangements
Tribals fight for the right to write their way
The Tripura government's plan to secure development for tribals
Is this the moral of the NBSAP spat?
Dam tunnel collapse in Arunachal begs explanation
GIS helps determine waste disposal sites for Guwahati
World Bank mulls India's first loan for tribal populations; to bypass forest department
CITES proceeds cautiously, in the wake of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Will CITES become an endangered convention? Can it redefine its relevance?
The Bilirangan Temple Sanctuary in Karnataka bristles with angry Soligas. Their sustenance denied, the tribals deliberate their next move
A non-governmental organisation starts a post-graduate course on conservation
The first historico-legal analysis of forestry regulations in Northeast India
National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan
Soligas harvested forest produce. For them, it was a sustainable business. Then, irrationally, government moved to
Mizoram passes legislation to go fully organic, Sikkim already on the path
Nagpal Tea Stall, 29 Rajpur Road, Dehradun. Raju sips his tea, eyes glued to the television. Then his eyes light up as he hears talk of Bhutan. He strikes up a conversation with Nitin Sethi
'Green Indicators 2004' makes government's complex and unwieldy forest statistics coherent
To count the tiger
Ana S.L. Rodrigues and Mohamed I Bakarr in an exclusive interview with Nitin Sethi
Protected areas fail as refuge
Sale of African ivory stocks
What ails the economies of the eight northeastern states? The warped fiscal policies of the Union government
Wildlife project under review
Or, will they be mere transit points?
In the 1950s and 1960s India used to import not only subsidised sewing needles and milk, but also wildlife conservation science from the US. Michael Lewis argues this science -- also imported for decades after -- came in baggage tainted with skewed priorities: the interests and beliefs of the West. With each kilogramme of knowledge India received as support -- for instance, radio collars imported under US funds to track elephants -- came the biases of us ecologists in the US, quite like weed-infested imported wheat. Lewis persuades readers that these biases -- coupled with the thinking of the first generation of indigenous ecologists in India -- has shaped Indian wildlife research policy and direction today...
What is poverty? The Planning Commission is set to undertake an exercise to find a quantifiable answer to the question. It has proposed to the Union government to set up an expert group to redefine poverty and, consequently, reassess the percentage of India's population living below the poverty line. The last such revision was done in 1993
The biggest threat protected areas across the country face right now is from their purported protector -- the Union ministry of environment and forests. It has moved more than 15 proposals before the standing committee of the National Wildlife Board to denotify portions of national parks and sanctuaries for purposes as disparate as building an ashram and regularising an illegally constructed golf course
Land is central to the tribal identity in the region too easily abbreviated 'northeast'. Jeuti baruah knows this too well. As director of the Law research Centre, Guwahati, she is constantly discovering how friable these identities are in the face of constant change and integration into the 21st century. She is in charge of a huge project: her brief, as per the North East Council -- the nodal Union government body overseeing development in the region -- is nothing less than documenting the customary laws of the region's scheduled tribes, with a special focus on the land-holding system
Indian Estuaries S Z Qasim Allied Publishers Pvt Limited, Delhi p420
Grassroots Options is about development or the lack of it in the northeast
Though touted as a statutory body with teeth, the National Wildlife Board was tamed by Union minister for environment and forests T R Baalu at its very first meeting in New Delhi on October 15. Baalu allegedly thrust upon the board a decision to drastically reduce the compensation money the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited was required to pay to carry out exploration in Rajasthan's Desert National Park -- home to the endangered Great Indian Bustard and other rare animals
...A lament for forest change at Sariska
Between Nagaland, centre
How do pests select which plants to attack in the field? By smelling odours plants emit, believe most entomologists. But now an alternative theory has emerged of plant-pest relation. It isn't the odour. Rather, bugs are driven to plants by visual clues and, largely, leaf colour
Are the Bawarias of Rajasthan hunters, nomads or a tribe of criminals?
Over the past few months, Rachel Biderman Furriela -- a Brazil-based lawyer and activist -- has been punching the keys of her laptop furiously. She is busy acknowledging congratulatory mails from her network of friends -- an international group of lawyers working on green laws
Conservation and Society by Kamaljit S Bawa
As field researchers will tell, you don't get up one fine morning and cut through an unknown forest in search of an elusive animal species. Even if you have a map to tell where the simian will be enjoying its afternoon siesta. You first look for what researchers call a field guide...
It took just five votes to shake the very edifice of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Voting 25-20 in favour of setting up a controversial committee, the North-dominated anti-whaling faction drastically altered the IWC mandate -- from that of scientific sustainability to hardcore conservation
How can one conserve a wildlife sanctuary better? By flagrantly trespassing on one part of it. Then picking up the tab for planting trees on another in recompense. This is precisely the logic underlying a petition filed by Essar Oil Limited in the Supreme Court
Tiger reserve security in Karnataka
April 2003 saw two diverse regions in India take a similar decision. Both partially opened the door to tourism in hitherto protected belts. One is a high altitude state; the other - a union territory -- is an archipelago of 348 islands. Just like their disparate terrains, their ecotourism roadmaps are also poles apart. While Uttaranchal has allowed trekkers limited access to the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands' proposal envisages leasing out certain areas to hotel chains. As they embark on their respective plans, tourism is bound to play an increasing role in the economies and, equally importantly, the ecology of the two regions
The death of one rogue elephant in Chhattisgarh's Jashpur division on February 24 has taken a heavy toll. According to sources within the Union ministry of environment and forests, Project Elephant director S S Bist is set to be shunted out, and observers fear that the death-knell has been sounded for an ongoing drive to rid the state of rampaging elephants
The provisional figures for India's forest cover are now ready, and Down To Earth has managed to acquire a copy. The figures, when compared to earlier ones, show an overall increase of 236, 800 hectares of forest. But is that really so?
Battles Over Nature: Science and the Politics of Conservation Editors: Mahesh Rangarajan and Vasant Saberwal Publisher: Permanent Black Delhi Rs 695 411 pages
The sheer scope of the biodiversity action plan may militate against its successful implementation
In overhauling the wildlife act, MEF could ride roughshod over people's rights
Overzealous conservationists block progress at CITES meet
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Two proposed moves that could drastically alter forest management in India
Marine species likely to top CITES meet agenda
MP government mulls proposal to facilitate hunting of crop-eating wild animals
As rivers spill over, the sea becomes the new dumping destination in coastal Gujarat
NAFTA tribunal's ban on potential carcinogen leaves larger environmental issues unaddressed
An academy that aims at converting tribals to anthropology; where the Bhils crossover from being mere objects of study to an active role in studying themselves
Gujarat violence takes its toll on the environment
Measuring efficiency of electric appliances fails to take off in India
Australia's move to return to aborigines land located on former nuclear test site draws flak
A NORTHEAST TAPESTRY: SIX DOCUMENTARIES ON THE NORTHEAST BY INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS. Produced by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). India International Centre, New Delhi. July 3-4, 2002
ABRAR AHMED senior programme officer at Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce-India/World Wildlife Fund-India lashes out at the unrealistic approach of conservationists towards bird trade. Traditional bird-trapping communities, he tells NITIN SETHI, need to be integrated into the mainstream
US unveils safety net for its farmers, shackling global free trade and posing a threat to environment
Is US roping in India on the sly to subvert Kyoto Protocol?
Villagers in Pench National Park sent packing
Indian refinery ready to become a zero effluent discharge plant
People in Andhra Pradesh now need official consent to sink new wells
The Indian detergent industry refuses to clean up its act
Spate of elephant killings forces rethink of conservation policy
Villagers around Tawa reservoir in Madhya Pradesh are finally allowed to retain fishing rights
MANGROVE FORESTS: REPOSITORY OF NATURE’S MAGIC·Photo exhibition·India International Centre, New Delhi·November 4-10, 2001