New Made-in-America Weapon: Islamophobia Act

“In India, Prime Minister Modi’s government has moved to strip citizenship from millions of Muslims…Islamohobia is global in scope…and that’s why I have introduced this bill to create a special envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia” – Rep. Ilhan Omar, Speech in US House of Representatives, 14th December 2021

On 14th December 2021, US House of Representatives passed a legislation called ‘Combating International Islamophobia Act’. This bill was brought to the House in October by Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar. Even though this bill did not get full support and the House was almost split in two halves, it was passed as it got 219 votes in its favor and 212 votes against it. Just for the readers who are not familiar with the American democracy, it should be noted that like our two houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, one being the lower house and the other being the upper house, the US lower house is called House of Representatives and the upper house is called the Senate. This bill is yet to be passed in the Senate.

We may wonder why we care about what is happening in the US Congress. Americans can do whatever they feel best for their country. Absolutely right and my blog is called IndicVoices, not AmericanVoices. I wouldn’t have any interest writing about an American legislation unless it had some impact on us. There wouldn’t have been any problem if this law was meant to deal with Islamophobia in America. Though there are many other phobias that exist in this land, but who am I to comment if Americans decide that Islamophobia is the biggest crisis for them. The problem is this domestic law is created to police on other nations! You can get it directly in its title. Combating ‘International’ Islamophobia Act. Seriously! When will this country stop meddling in the internal affairs of other nations?

The Act

The law requires the Department of State to set up an office to monitor and combat Islamophobia and Islamophobic incitement in foreign countries. It should be noted that the main force behind this law, Rep. Ilhan Omar is known for her anti-Semitic views and Rep. Rashida Tlaib is known for her indirect support towards Hamas, a declared terrorist organization. Let’s look at some portions from this act. I am highlighting some texts for your attention.

The Secretary of State shall establish within the Department of State an Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia (in this section referred to as the ‘Office’).

Upon establishment, the Office shall assume primary responsibility for the following:

Monitoring and combating acts of Islamophobia and Islamophobic incitement that occur in foreign countries.

The law also requires the Department of State annual report to have details related to Islamophobia around the world. Some of the details are as follows:

(A) acts of physical violence against, or harassment of, Muslim people, and acts of violence against, or vandalism of, Muslim community institutions, including schools, mosques, and cemeteries;

(B) instances of propaganda in government and nongovernment media that attempt to justify or promote racial hatred or incite acts of violence against Muslim people;

(C) the actions, if any, taken by the government of the country to respond to such violence and attacks or to eliminate such propaganda or incitement;

(D) the actions taken by such government to enact and enforce laws relating to the protection of the right to religious freedom of Muslim people;

(E) the efforts of such government to promote anti-bias and tolerance education; and

(F) any instances of forced labor, reeducation, or the presence of concentration camps, such as those targeting the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China;

If this Act is passed in the Senate, it will allow the US to enter into our house, as a matter of fact, anyone’s house and poke into our internal matters. While passing this act, did the Representatives forget that USA is a secular state? What about persecutions of non-Muslims? America already has USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) to lecture other countries on religious freedom. Now this law is made specific for a single religion. Clearly this law intends to impose sanctions on foreign countries on the pretext of Islamophobic activities, as determined by USA.

So, what has really happened? Unlike India where Prime Minister swear in by laying hand on the Constitution, USA is a country where majority of the Presidents, including the current one, took oath on the Bible. So, is this another gospel of secularism coming from the big brother?

Eye on China

We need to understand that, in recent times, American foreign and military policies are more and more directed towards China. All of the following events point in that direction – 1) creation of QUAD (India, USA, Japan, Australia), 2) creation of AUKUS (Australia, UK, USA) and transferring technology to Australia to build nuclear submarines, 3) sudden peace process in Middle-East involving Israel and Arab nations, 4) including India in a summit (unofficially called West-Asian QUAD) with USA, Israel and UAE, and finally 5) abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan. America is withdrawing from all other fronts including long-attached Middle-East to focus all of its energy solely towards China. USA along with its core allies backed out from 2022 Winter Olympics hosted by China on the pretext of China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. A statement has been issued from the White House and it has been stated that the US is withdrawing from the Olympics due to “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang” concerning Uyghur Muslims “and other human rights abuses”. Again, in case of this Act, President Biden gave his support.

We Indians rejoiced when we were included in QUAD as we always seek Western acceptance and similarly, we may cheer seeing phrases like ‘People’s Republic of China’ and ‘Uyghurs in the Xinjiang’ in this Act. But we should remember that this Act which seems to be directed against China right now, can also be used against us one day. Ms. Omar made it pretty clear in her speech by taking India’s name there. By the way, it was a blatant lie. No Muslim lost citizenship. She needs to read the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 herself or take some expert help. The history of Islam in the sub-continent followed by the painful partition of our motherland puts relationship of Muslims with non-Muslims in a tricky situation in this region. All Indians, irrespective of their religions, try their best to leave aside all the differences. But still problems arise and sometime it gets out of control. This Act (yet to be a law) will put India in vulnerable position in such situations and Uncle Sam can arm-twist India the way it wants.

China knows how to stand on your own, and India better learns this one thing from them. Otherwise, we will either be threatened of sanctions for buying S-400 from Russia or will be forced to sever ties with Iran just because big brother will get offended.

Islam – A Useful Tool for the West

West, especially United States of America, has a very interesting case of relationship with Islam. We don’t need to go back to the time of Crusade for that. We just need to look at the American involvement in the recent times in the middle-east, Afghanistan and in our beloved Pakistan to understand it.

When pro-communist PDPA (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) overthrew erstwhile Afghan monarch Zahir Shah’s cousin Mohammad Daud’s government on 27th April 1978, Soviet Union’s influence started increasing in Afghanistan. This event is known as ‘Saur (April) Revolution’. During the time of Daud itself, many Islamists fled to Pakistan due to Daud’s clamp on them. These Islamists were no friend of socialist and communist PDPA either. A treaty of friendship was signed between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union in December 1978. USA became more and more concerned with the rise of this pro-Soviet group. Islamist groups faced severe flak from this new government, probably more than Daud’s time. PDPA brought in Soviet style modern reform programs (e.g. land reform, changing marriage laws, enhancing women’s rights, abolishing usuary that impacted powerful money lenders) that angered conservative Islamists further. Many militant groups were established within Pakistan and mountains of Afghanistan to fight against the government. Pakistan under President Gen. Zia-ul-Haq provided all sorts of direct support to these groups with safe refuge, training, money and arms. USA supported them indirectly. Don’t forget that radically Islamized Pakistan under the new President was the closest ally of USA in this region. Afghanistan government, failing to counter the insurgency and unable to control the situation politically, brought in direct Soviet intervention. Soviet troops moved into Afghanistan on Christmas Eve of 1979 to take control of the situation by military force, similar to what USA did in Vietnam. This point onwards USA intervention, especially under President Regan, became direct. Afghanistan became the victim of war between two superpowers.

The issue here is something different. USA, along with its traditional allies like UK, sided with the radical Islamist groups (called the Mujahideen) in this region from the beginning to counter Soviet force. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) paid the University of Nebraska, Omaha $5.1 million between 1984-1994 to develop and design textbooks to promote jihad. New Education Policy of 1979 in Pakistan changed this country and regions around it forever. 5000 new mosque schools were established and a new curriculum was implemented with emphasis on jihad and Islamization. The message of jihad was tailored to target communists. Money, arms and Islamic literature were supplied to the madrasas. Overall, $13 million worth of such radicalized text books were supplied to Pakistani schools and Afghani refugee camps. Other Islamic countries in the Gulf region who were also US allies provided fund for this cause.

Other than the Islamization, another crime took place during this time. That was promoting Opium trade to fund the anti-Soviet campaign. Illegal opium cultivation and then smuggling the heroin produced from it became a major source of revenue for the Mujahideen. New heroin refineries were setup using the aid received from CIA. Soviet Union alleged that CIA agents were helping to smuggle the heroin out of Afghanistan to raise money and weaken Soviet Union by getting people addicted there. Later Taliban took control of this business. Heroin smuggling is still the biggest source of revenue ($416 million in 2020) for Taliban and today 85% of opium is produced in Afghanistan. USA got out of it by winning this proxy war and overseeing the collapse of Soviet Union. But, as usual, sidekicks always get the brunt when the master leaves. Pakistan’s economy could never recover from it. Islamist terrorism became their only viable profession. In 1979 Pakistan had no heroin addicts, in 1980 Pakistan had 5,000 heroin addicts, and by 1985, according to official Pakistan government statistics, Pakistan had 1.2 million heroin addicts, the largest heroin addict population in the world.

America’s love-hate relationship with Islam does not end there. American meddling in Iran caused an uprising there around the same time in 1979 with the rise of another radical Islamist, Ayatollah Khomeini. West loves to preach the world on democracy, human rights and individual freedom. But its allies in the middle-east are notorious in that respect. Records of human rights in some of those countries, mostly ruled by monarchs with no sign of democracy, are abysmal to say the least. I would love to see USA passing some Acts for non-Muslims to practice their religion freely in some of those countries! I know it will never happen because Islam was just useful tool in the past, and now it is Islamophobia.

Final Thoughts

I sincerely hope that this Act will not be passed in the Senate. Nevertheless, it already gave the indication that America will not shy away to use whatever it takes to keep its control over the world affairs. How would Americans feel if Indian parliament passes a domestic law to monitor lives and treatment of black African-Americans in the USA? How would they feel if India tries to block American businesses to work in India with excuse of violence on black Americans there? Definitely it will not be a nice experience. Exactly, that is how we feel now.


India Fights Through Challenges

 2021 has not been one of those years whose memory we will cherish in times to come. But it has definitely been a year when India fought back hard, be it on our northern border or against a virulent virus

When 2021 began, there was naturally no way of knowing how it would go. We had already had a bad year in terms of the economy and public health. So, we had no choice but to be optimistic. We had carried forward three major issues from the previous year. One was the farmers protest (and thank God it is showing signs of coming to an end though after a spree of violence and unrest).
It seems the second issue of the India-China conflict is not going to end very soon. There was some progress in terms of bilateral talks and army disengagement in a few places. But, unfortunately, many of the soldiers from both sides will have to spend another winter on the Himalayan peaks.
The last one, i.e. the pandemic, is all set to go into another year. However, we do have some success on this front, despite a terrible second wave. The post-second wave vaccination drive and the success of home-grown vaccines definitely give us some reason to keep our spirits high.
Scheduled international air travel is expected to resume soon after a long pause of more than 18 months. What is more, the Indian economy has finally started showing signs of revival.
Even though cricket lovers have been disappointed by India’s performance in the T-20 World Cup, our athletes have done us proud in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
On the international front, the exit of the United States from Afghanistan will make us remember this year for long. Now it remains to be seen how India handles the resurgence of the Taliban.
As expected, the strategic partnership of the Joe Biden-led US government with India is moving ahead well as seen during the Indo-Pacific QUAD and the recently organised West Asian QUAD. This year India led the BRICS summit and also made a strong mark in the climate change conference, COP26.
2021 has definitely not been one of those years whose memory we will cherish in times to come. However, at the end, we have become stronger, our future looks much brighter than it did in the middle of last year and we are ready for the next challenges.
Here is a close look at the 12 defining developments of 2021, in the Indian context:

New US President: What does the electoral victory of Joe Biden mean for India?

In this age of globalisation, it is very hard to completely isolate oneself and equally hard not having India as part of the equation in world affairs. So, the arrival of the Democrats or, specifically, the Biden-Harris duo at the helm in the US has significant implications for the world’s two vibrant democracies.

Bilateral ties have improved, especially since fall last year, perhaps largely due to Covid. The US needs India’s presence in the subcontinent more than ever, at least as long as they are keeping an eye on China. Biden’s approach has not altered in that respect. However, India expected a better response from the US during the terrible Covid second wave. America’s response was too little and too late. The embargo on raw material exports from the US not only hampered vaccine production in India, it had a direct impact on the bilateral relationship. The Biden administration now has an opportunity to improve ties.
India needed a surface-to-air missile defence system, and the Russian S-400 proved to be the best so New Delhi procured it despite US objections. Now the least the Biden administration can do is not threaten India with sanctions. Friends do not bully each other.

Disastrous second wave

The less we talk about this period the better. Readers who lost loved ones at that time would definitely not want their painful memories revived. But we have a collective responsibility as well and that is to prevent such catastrophes in future. Many things went wrong. Too few vaccinations and an inadequate medical infrastructure proved to be lethal for India. We started celebrating success regarding the first wave too soon.

Politicians, irrespective of party, caste, creed, religion, ideology or, rather, lack of it, showed an extreme level of irresponsible behaviour. The masses were no better. We all forgot that we were in the midst of a pandemic. Listening to the scientists and doctors became passé. Quacks-turned-high priests developed bigger fan followings than qualified medical practitioners.
So, that disaster was just waiting to happen. The initial response to the crisis was equally lacking. In fact, it was terrible. Unfortunately, blaming either the Centre or the states for not having enough oxygen supplies became a bigger issue for the future of our electoral democracy than actually arranging for the oxygen. By the end of May, officially 27 million were infected and more than 300,000 people had died. Unofficial estimates were much higher. Bodies floating in the Ganga became a national shame. Now, thankfully, all that is past. But the important point is what we have learnt from it.

Fight back with vaccines

The person who wins a big battle is generally not the one who never lost one before, but, rather, the one who learnt from past defeats. We Indians should take pride in the fact that we did learn; our governments, both at the Centre and in the states, also learned. After the disastrous second wave, governments took the right decision to proceed with the vaccination drive on a war footing.

India had just over 68 million doses administered by April 1, but took this figure to a staggering 1.21 billion by November 26. Indeed, it is a big achievement, but we should not get carried away by it. We should remember that still just 31.3 percent of the population is fully vaccinated (both doses).
India took the right step in researching and manufacturing our homegrown Covid vaccine, Covaxin, and setting up a large manufacturing plant for the Oxford-AstraZeneca formulation, Covishield.
India was already a world leader in vaccine manufacturing; the Covid crisis showed the world that the country is also capable of cutting-edge medical research.
And, how can we ignore the diplomatic advantage that comes with it? Can we forget the ‘thank you’ note with the image of Hanuman from the Brazilian President in January 2021? The World Health Organisation (WHO) also approved Covaxin in November – which has shut up many naysayers in India and reminded us that politics should always take a backseat when the nation is in crisis.

Return of the Taliban

After Covid, the other incident that rattled the world was the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The US withdrawal from war-ravaged Afghanistan was part of their plan to move focus to their newfound interest in the Indo-Pacific region. The Quadrilateral Dialogue (QUAD) and the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) are new American strategic directions.

The West may not consider Afghanistan or Pakistan immediate threats, but India cannot afford to do that. Under the previous Taliban regime in the 1990s, we witnessed the hijacking of IC-814 and the ugly drama that unfolded in Kandahar. We spent billions of dollars and our own resources to rebuild Afghanistan post-9/11. The country cannot let all the strategic assets built during the last two decades go in vain.
India never had a military presence in Afghanistan and was never as active as the US, Soviet Union and Pakistan in this war-torn nation. Now Pakistan will try its best to use the Taliban in anti-India operations. We definitely do not want to get into an imbroglio between the West and possibly a group involving Pakistan, China and Russia, using Afghanistan as a buffer zone. Only time will tell how India’s diplomacy with China and Russia will fend off Pakistan’s machinations of using the Taliban against us.

West Asian QUAD

Last year Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the US came together to form a collective agreement known as the Abraham Accords. No doubt it was a milestone achievement for these three nations and we understand the significance of the term ‘Abraham’ here.

In October this year, the three nations were joined by India in a virtual conference of foreign ministers who shared some common concerns and goals. Though not official, it is now termed the West Asian QUAD, like the Indo-Pacific QUAD involving India, Japan, Australia and the United States.
These four nations agreed to establish economic cooperation and focus on infrastructure, transport and maritime security. Chinese investment in West Asia has increased manifold during the last decade and that makes the US nervous. We can clearly get their perspective. But India has to tread a cautious path here. We had a strategic relationship with Iran in this region. We should not jeopardise that just because two countries in this new ‘QUAD’ have known issues with Iran.
There have to be strong and direct benefits for India before we readjust our trajectory. We cannot be there just as a counterweight to China in American priorities. Again, the future will specify what we are gaining from these new alignments.

India leads the BRICS summit

The 13th BRICS summit took place on September 9 with India hosting the event. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, chaired it, backed by the presence of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Xi Jinping of China, and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.

The summit held immense significance as we see that both India and China are deeply committed to it despite rivalry and recent military conflict between them. Such forums encourage participating nations to avoid disputes and progress through a consensus-based consultative process.
Multiple initiatives have been taken up by this forum that include the Counter-Terrorism Action Plan, an agreement on cooperation in the field of remote-sensing satellites, green tourism, and others.
BRICS leaders discussed the recent developments in Afghanistan and all BRICS partners agreed to accelerate implementation of the BRICS action plan on counter-terrorism. Modi highlighted the important role that these nations could play in post-Covid global recovery. He emphasised enhancing speed and accessibility of vaccination, diversifying pharma and vaccine production capacities beyond the developed world, and promoting sustainable development by articulating a common BRICS voice on environmental and climate issues.
Can the event be construed as a diplomatic victory for India? We may know soon.

Yet another Himalayan winter: India-China dispute

The ongoing India-China conflict that commenced with skirmishes around Pangong lake in Ladakh on May 5, 2020, is set to enter 2022 with no signs of light at the end of the tunnel though with some silver lining to the cloud. Both nations have held multiple talks at various levels to end the dispute. These talks brought some progress this year as both sides agreed to disengage in August from the Gogra region.
Troops have moved to the original position of April 2020. Before that, in February this year, both nations pulled back their forces from the Pangong lake region.

But the conflict is far from over. Both armies are still face-to-face at multiple points along the 3,488-km border. Even in October this year, soldiers of both sides were caught ina tense face-off in the disputed Yangtse region of Arunachal Pradesh.
A few weeks before that, Chinese troops crossed the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in Uttarakhand. Unfortunately, we are entering another winter with the India-China dispute lingering on. China needs to look beyond the unsolved disputes around a physical border. It is time for these two ancient civilisations (in fact, the Indian and Chinese civilisations are the only two continuing and ‘living’ civilisations since ancient times) and modern nations, who are also now two emerging powers on the global economic map, to understand that this conflict will not achieve anything for either of them.

Signs of economic revival

After a terrible year because of Covid and the ensuing lockdowns in 2020, the Indian economy has begun bouncing back. However, though it is true that Covid has had a major adverse impact on our economy, we also need to be truthful to ourselves. India’s economy never looked promising since 2011. The GDP growth rate fell to 5.24 percent in FY12 and mostly remained subdued. It went above the 8 percent mark only in FY17. Then it again kept on sliding for three subsequent years – 6.8 percent, 6.5 percent and then a paltry 4 percent in FY20. It seems we have gone past the worst phase.

Unless some Covid strains or some other unexpected factors work against us, we should be able to run fast this time. Financial institutes like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have already raised their forecasts
Goldman Sachs expects India to grow at 8.5 percent in FY22 and as per their macro outlook 2022, India should hit the 9.1 percent mark in the calendar year 2022. Other institutes like the Reserve Bank of India, SBI Research, and UBS Securities already expect India to grow by over 9 percent in FY22. The New York-based institute, Jefferies Financial Group, has forecast that India is about to see a growth phase similar to the one during the 2003-10 period. Substantial reduction in bank NPAs, rise in corporate profitability, rising demand in the construction and housing sector are among other key factors that are mentioned as drivers of economic growth in the country. We hope to see a return of the ‘India Shining’ phase soon.

Looking forward to a greener future

This year Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed that India will reach carbon net-zero emissions by 2070 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland.

At present, India is the world’s fourth largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter after China, the United States and the European Union. As per the latest data from Climate Watch, India emits 7.1 percent of total global emissions while China and the US emit 26 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively. The per capita emission is much lower for China and India, especially India, as compared to other industrialised nations. An average Indian emits 1.96 tonnes of GHG whereas an average US person emits 16.56 tonnes of GHG. Countries like India need to consume energy increasingly to grow the economy and pull millions of people out of poverty. The PM made the point that the West became industrialised on fossil fuels while Asian and African nations were simultaneously exploited.
He mentioned, while accepting the emission targets, that the western nations should take the lead and share the bulk of the responsibilities. Apart from the net-zero target, India has promised to increase the share of renewable energy to 50 percent of total production by 2030. India will reduce 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions in the same time period.

Revival of travel and tourism

Finally, the travel and tourism industries in India have started looking ahead. More than one-and-a-half years of disruptions have caused severe damage to this sector. As per a study conducted by the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization, global tourist traffic reduced by 83 percent in the first quarter of 2021. The Asia-Pacific region was hit by a staggering 94 percent.

A plethora of hotels and restaurants in India have been shut down permanently. But at last, with good vaccination coverage, coupled with lower probability of a serious third wave, a breather has been provided to this segment.
Hotel occupancy and average room rates (ARR) in India have started picking up. As business activities have resumed, business related air travel has also started showing positive trends. The government has been considering re-starting scheduled international flights for some time. Already cargo flights and commercial passenger flights that fall under air-bubble arrangements with destination countries have been resumed.
As of now, all scheduled flights need to abide by the protocol specified by the Union health ministry.

Repeal of farm laws

Besides the second wave of Covid, perhaps no other incident gave India as much negative publicity as the year-long farmer protest. It is sad that a reform effort had to be stalled this way. The Central government made multiple mistakes last year regarding the farm laws. The biggest one was bringing in these three laws through ordinance.

From the very beginning, farmers of Punjab and Haryana had serious issues with the proposed farm laws. The Akali Dal left the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) because of that. The Singhu and Ghazipur borders of Delhi became the flash points. It would be a lie to say the government did not try to negotiate and find middle ground. But soon it began to lose grip over the situation.
The Lakhimpur incident dealt the final blow to the government’s image. When persons associated with the ruling party are accused of mowing down protesters with their car, it becomes evident that the government is going to lose space for maneuverability. Soon after, the PM announced the repealing of the farm laws. At the end, the ruling party may have received a setback, the farmers may think that they have won, the opposition may have declared victory, but the real loser is perhaps India. Because we need farm reforms urgently to give our agriculture sector much-needed impetus.

This article was first published as cover story in

Farm Laws: When Politics Triumphs over Economics

There is a video on this topic. Readers are encouraged to watch that as well.

India introduced three new farm laws in 2020 to liberalise its agricultural market, and if they were implemented, they could have brought more participation from private players. A section of the political system along with agricultural economists called it a ‘watershed moment’ of Indian agriculture whereas another section called it a sellout to big corporates at the cost of individual farmers. 

The struggle continued for over a year and eventually the Indian government succumbed to the pressure and its political priorities. All three farm laws were repealed unconditionally. A section of farmers in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, who were protesting around the borders of Delhi, perceived it as their victory. Some of them are even seeing it as an opportunity to pressurise the government more to have the MSP legalised.

Opposition is already perceiving this development as ebbing of Modi-magic and hoping for turning the tables in 2024 general elections. 

But those agricultural economists who supported the laws and some of us, who, despite not being economist, try to keep economic viability ahead of populism and petty political compulsions, consider this repeal of the farm laws as a major loss for India.

The Apparent Flaws

No, I am not saying that the three laws were perfect. Because there were flaws. Any new act or law is likely to have flaws. It is the duty of the concerned stakeholders to rectify it, amend it without having to repeal it. 

We have to make changes to move forward. Maintaining status quo is not an option. I could see three major lacunae in those repealed laws. Firstly, the laws were passed through ordinance without any parliamentary discussion. Why was there such a hurry? Why government could not wait just for few months for the next parliament session to begin? Was it audacity of complete majority in the parliament or was there something cooking inside? Such actions only ask for future trouble and that is what happened later. 

Secondly, the laws in their initial form restricted farmers from going to a civil court. I am not sure if the group of experts who drafted the bills were out of their mind when they stated this in Article 8: “In case of any dispute arising out of a transaction between the farmer and a trader under section 4, the parties may seek a mutually acceptable solution through conciliation by filing an application to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate who shall refer such dispute to a Conciliation Board to be appointed by him for facilitating the binding settlement of the dispute.” Article 15 also mentions “no civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceedings in respect of any matter, the cognisance of which can be taken and disposed of by any authority empowered by or under this Act or the rules made thereunder.” 

I think that clause was disastrous. Why would you have such clause where farmers cannot go to a civil court? Third point is why the law mandated no tax for private mandis whereas government mandis in many states have various taxes? It certainly would have created disparity in competition. Fortunately, government agreed to rectify those mistakes. I do not know if it was Union Government’s strategy to have few weak items in the laws as negotiation points. 

Productivity Issues

Now let us understand why India desperately needs farm reforms and what was the main argument of protesters against the laws. India is blessed with highly arable land. 52 percent or 1.75 million square-km of our land is arable. But very low farm productivity has been plaguing us since decades. We will look into the farm productivity of India vis-à-vis United States and China. Both the countries have heavy private investment in agriculture, and contract farming is a well-established practice in those countries. In fact, contract farming has grown rapidly in China since 1990s.

As we can see from the above chart, in 2018 the yield of cereal is 8.69 tonnes, 6.08 tonnes and 3.25 tonnes per hectare for USA, China and India respectively. Not only India’s productivity of cereals is much lower, its growth rate is also low. With such vast irrigable land, India’s cereal productivity even stands below world average. 

There are many reasons behind it. But primary reasons are lack of support towards agricultural research which is leading our farmers to continually use low yield seeds and being vulnerable to pests/diseases and resorting to traditional farming methods (e.g. manual ploughing). Paucity of modern farming equipments and irrigation facilities (e.g. majority Indian farmers still depend on rain water), poor presence of organised credit facility (farmers in India still largely depend on mahajans of the villages who many a time charge an exorbitant interest rate) are other consequences of poor investment in agricultural research in India. 

Inflow of private capital in India’s agriculture can significantly improve the situation in this regard. 

Here is one more dataset with further details of productivity (tonnes/hectare) of different crops separately, in India, during 2018. As we can see, apart from few crops like sugarcane, banana and tea, India’s performance is not up to the mark and in some cases, it is very poor.

Prosperous Farmers

If we know that we stand so much behind in agriculture, then why is there so much resistance to its reform? When data shows that private enterprises and contract farming helped agricultural output why do we have such aversion towards it? 

During the farmers’ protest, we are constantly fed with news that if corporates are allowed in farming, they will take away farmers’ land. There are unfounded allegations that they will exploit farmers and the Indian farmers’ low income will further decrease. 

How true are these allegations? First of all, government already mentioned in the law that under no circumstances farm land can be mortgaged to the contracting company/ies. So, where does the question of land grabbing come into the picture? If we talk about Indian farmers’ income, we can consider many developed nations for comparison. 

For example, the Netherlands, despite being a very small country, is the 2nd largest exporter of farm goods, after the US.  It is a leader in agro innovation and production. Majority of the farms in the Netherlands are part of cooperatives. They work directly with large companies. The country is home to some 5300 agro-based companies, including 12 of the world’s largest food companies like Cargill, Kraft, Heinz, ConAgra and Mars.

In case of USA, median American household income is $68,703 whereas median American farming household income is $83,111. Since 1972, median income of farm households in the US has exceeded median income of all the US households in 67 percent of the years. Following chart shows this year-wise comparative data effectively.

Now, let us look at the other developed nations where corporates and other private enterprises have heavy presence in both industrial and farming sectors.

Source: FarmHousehold Income (

In most of the cases, farmers’ income is either higher or very close to median income of other households. So, the speculation or the allegation that private investment in agriculture and corporate farming will exploit farmers is unfounded. At least, the statistics contradicts such claims. 

China Model

There is an argument that we cannot compare our agriculture with that of the developed nations’ agriculture and we should not pursue their model as in developed nations very small percentage of population is in farming (less than 2 percent in the US as compared to 43 percent in India) and landholding in India is very small (1.15 hectare in India, on an average, against 190 hectares in USA) as well. 

Hence, the argument goes that corporate farming and large private capital in agriculture is not practical and beneficial for India. But is that a fair argument? Doesn’t seem so, because there is a comparable nation. It is China. China has only 10 percent arable land compared to India’s 52 percent. 

China has total arable land of 1.4 million square-km as compared to India’s 1.75million square-km. Average landholding of farmers in China (0.66 hectare) is even smaller than India’s 1.15 hectare. Yet their farm produce surpasses India and not just by few percentage points. We have already seen that cereal productivity in China is 6.08 tonnes per hectare as compared to India’s 3.25. Chart below shows value added agricultural output of India and China. Value added is the net output of the sector after adding up all outputs and subtracting intermediate inputs.

Source: Worldbank

China moved away from collectivised agriculture to individual profit-driven farming and other host of reform measures in 1978. This not only helped to increase farm productivity in China because of higher quality research support and use of machineries, but wages of Chinese farmers also increased steadily.

Above chart shows how income of Chinese farmers increased manifolds since 1978 when China adopted open market-based economy. Let us look at the next chart that shows the reduction of rural poverty ratio as a percentage of total rural population in China. China’s rural poverty ratio came down from 30.7 percent in 1978 to 2.5 percent in 2005, whereas as per RBI report in 2019, India’s rural poverty ratio is still at 25.7 percent.

China has not stopped its reform process. Rather they are continuing with reform in this time as well. China also had minimum price support (introduced for rice in 2004 and for wheat in 2006) for some time that made China’s farm produce uncompetitive in international market.

In 2016, domestic maize price in China climbed 50 percent higher as compared to international price. Starting 2013, Chinese government has started reducing price support and completely phased it out for multiple crops. Government also used to provide input subsidy in the form of seeds, machinery etc. In 2016, China has moved away from such subsidies and entered into direct income support program.

State Support for Agriculture

There is one more argument that many opponents of open market-based farming have put forward. Their argument is that the rich nations where large private capital is invested in agri-business and which have extensive contract farming, also require increased amount of government support in agriculture. How true is that? Let us look at the charts of India (blue line), China (red line), USA (purple line), and OECD countries as a whole (black line).

Source: OECD

The total support estimate (TSE) is an indicator of the annual monetary value of all gross transfers from taxpayers and consumers arising from policy measures that support agriculture, net of the associated budgetary receipts, regardless of their objectives and impacts on farm production and income, or consumption of farm products. The TSE can be expressed in monetary terms or as a percentage of the gross domestic product.

As it is shown in the chart, government’s Total Support Estimate (TSE) as a percentage of GDP has been constantly falling in USA, and OECD nations in general. For USA, it was 1.07 percent in 1986, 0.70 percent in 2000 and 0.47 percent in 2019. Hence, this argument is not right.

This data is negative for India during the duration of 2004 to 2014 because OECD estimate considers the direct input subsidies that Government of India provided in terms of fertiliser, electricity and some other measures. But it did not cover expenses incurred due to Minimum Support Price (MSP) benefit provided to the farmers. 

Moreover, price support of a product is calculated by multiplying total production with the gap between the domestic price and international prices in a relevant year. Hence, even if government continues increasing budgetary support to agriculture, support for a product may remain negative if there is higher gap between domestic and international price of the product (domestic price being cheaper).It is to be noted that support by Indian government increased from ₹1.61-lakh crore to ₹3-lakh crore, between 2015 to 2019, registering 85 percent growth. So, it is not true that Indian government does not support farmers as much as Western nations.

Rather to keep domestic consumer prices low, we are throttling growth of the farm sector and negatively impacting farmers’ income. According to a government report, a three-year ban on non-basmati rice exports during 2008-11 amid a rice glut led to a “notional loss of $5.6 billion”. We the urban middle-class, some of whom shed tears for farmers at Singhu border, scream when onion prices go up at the end of the season. Then we along with media force government to stop export of onions and start importing onions. After that when new harvest comes, it crashes the onion price. We forget that it is the time for farmers to earn some money from their produce.

Moreover, free electricity, free water and subsidised fertilizer are causing enormous damage to the environment. Excessive use of urea due to subsidy is causing severe soil pollution. Use of urea increased from 24.9 kg/hectare in 1977 to 137.6 kg/hectare in 2019. 

We all know how stubble burning has become primary source of pollution in northern parts of India during winters each year. Due to free electricity and free water, farmers in Punjab are going deeper with tube wells. Water level in Punjab has gone down from 20 ft. in 1977 to 350 2020. 

Punjab faces risk of desertification in a few decades. Solution is to move paddy and wheat cultivation from Punjab and Haryana to the Gangetic plain of UP and Bihar. Moreover, government should stop providing various subsidies and switch to direct income support to needy farmers. 

Today most of the subsidies, including MSP, are cornered by large farmers (bigger the land, bigger the produce and hence bigger share in MSP and other subsidies) who actually do not need government support whereas marginal farmers are left behind.

Bihar’s Growth Story

Many supporters of the existing APMC system and opponents of new farm laws have provided example of Bihar. This state of India abolished APMC in 2006. The argument is that since then Bihar’s farmers are not getting MSP and they are selling their produce at much lower price. Hence, Bihar model is a disaster. 

This is what happens when politicians and politically aligned economists start providing half of the story and omit rest half to suit their narration. Now rest of the story is that after APMC was abolished in 2006 (Nitish Kumar was elected as the CM in 2005), Bihar’s GDP growth and specifically agricultural growth superseded India’s growth rate. Bihar is now one of the top states in production of fruits and vegetables that fetch more money. Bihar’s agriculture growth from 2005-06 to 2014-15 has been 4.7 percent as compared to all-India rate of 3.6 percent. In the last five years, Bihar’s agriculture growth climbed to 7 percent whereas India’s agricultural growth slipped to 2 percent. 

It is true that farmers in Bihar get less than MSP in paddy and wheat. But it is also true that they have moved to other different crops and Bihar did well in agriculture during the last 15 years. As a side-effect of the skewed agriculture system that exists today in India, illegal trade is flourishing. Paddy is being bought from farmers in Bihar at Rs. 900-1200 per quintal by the middlemen and sold at Punjab mandis at government mandated MSP at around Rs. 1888 per quintal. Traders sitting in Delhi are controlling the markets of UP and Bihar and facilitating the millers of Punjab.

Rather the faulty MSP system is causing oversupply of wheat and rice. Government is procuring 15 million tonnes of extra wheat and paddy than it needs to support Public Distribution System (PDS). India has 2.5 times of more wheat and paddy in storage than stipulated buffer stock norm. It costs 1.5 lakh crore rupees of taxpayer’s money that could have been utilised in a much more productive manner.

Success in Dairy

India’s dairy farming is a huge success story. India is the largest producer of milk since a few years. 85 percent of the dairy farmers in the country are small and marginal. Estimates suggest that 48 percent of the milk produced in India is consumed by dairy farmers themselves, and 52 percent is marketed. A study undertaken by a private agency has estimated that of the total milk surplus in the country, 20 percent is processed in the cooperative sector, 30 percent by branded private dairy companies, and the rest by the unorganised sector. Even though there are substantial private buyers that include multi-national companies like Nestle and large Indian private companies like HatsunAgro Products, it should be noted that there is no MSP in India’s dairy business. There is no government support in terms of subsidy either.  

Still dairy sector in India has been growing at very fast rate. Even after so much private participation in the market, dairy farmers in India get almost 80 percent of the price that an end-consumer pays. New investments are also pouring in, in the sector. French multinational Lactails’ Indian subsidiary Tirumala Milk Products has purchased local Indian firm Prabhat Dairy’s dairy business for US$239mn. Another French multinational Danone has invested USD$25mn in 2019 in a local yogurt company. If dairy sector in India can thrive with corporates, what is wrong in India’s agriculture in doing so?


I am not proposing that India should start blindly copying the west in agriculture. Definitely farmers of the rich nations have problems of their own. They get into debt trap with the contracting companies; contracts are sometime one-sided in favour of the buyer; contracting companies often puts pressure on the farmers to reduce the price with excuse of poor-quality produce. 

There are also other issues such as some multinational corporates push proprietary dangerous chemicals through pesticides; fertilisers that make farmers dependent on them and sometime even damages soil quality and causes public health concern. But does that mean our farmers are doing better compared to the farmers in those nations where corporates are encouraged, and contract farming is allowed? No, absolutely not. 

It is like saying high rate of insurance premiums on personal cars in American cities and not having option of public transport is benefitting insurance companies and automobile companies.  One can cry hoarse that it is a nexus among insurance, automobile and gasoline companies to exploit common Americans. Hence, we Indians are in better shape because we all rely on dilapidated public transport system instead of falling prey on these greedy corporates! Come on, people! Everybody has problems and it is a different problem of rich people in America. First let most Indians have cars or at least have a choice between using a car against a high-quality public transport system, and then tackle the problem related to it. I guess I have made my point.

Unfortunately, what happened a few weeks earlier with the repeal of the farm laws is very similar situation of 2007-08 in West Bengal with protest against the Tata Nano factory in Singur. At that time also, Mamata’s TMC had no intention to come to a middle-ground and get more benefits/jobs for the farmers who lost their land. This lady then had only one goal; to heckle a gentleman Buddhadeb Bhattacharya to fulfil her political ambition. She knew very well that if Tatas had to return 400 acres (her steadfast demand) out of 1000 acres of land, factory could never come up there. Finally, that was what happened. Tata left for Gujrat. TMC won. Buddhadeb-babu lost, farmers did not win either. But that loss was nothing in comparison to what people of West Bengal lost. 

This time also opposition may win, BJP’s loss will be temporary anyway, Indian farmers will be left at the exactly same lurching state. Real loser will be India, her economy, her ambition to become high-income nation one day.

Other References:

Paddy,tube wells and depleting groundwater: Why Punjab’s water resources are understrain - The Hindu

India'sfertiliser drain: Urea of darkness - The Financial Express

Farmsubsidies account for 21% farm income per hectare with continuing patronage ofgovernments (

Theagricultural value chain, its challenges and opportunities in India | byGramworkX | Medium


(PDF)Cold Storage in India: Challenges and Prospects (

USDAERS - Farming and Farm Income

Agriculturallaw in The Netherlands: overview | Practical Law (

Whythe World Should Admire the Netherlands' Approach to Agriculture(

Asfarmer protests continue, here’s a comparison between India and China farmingpolicies - News Analysis News (

Threeessays on contract farming in China (

China’sbooming agriculture benefits farmers in 2016 - CGTN

Significance of India Procuring S-400 Defense System

There is a video on this topic in our YouTube channel. Readers are encouraged to see it.

In November 2021, India has started getting delivery of her one of the most coveted weapon systems in its armory from Russia. As on today, it is arguably the world's most sophisticated surface-to-air missile (SAM) defense system called S-400 Triumf that can be challenged only by its next avatar, the S-500 Prometey. India signed a $5.43 billion deal with Russia in October 2018 and all deliveries are to be completed within five years. The entire S-400 regiment will be operated by Indian Air Force. This system will give India a definitive edge during warfare as it can take out enemy aircraft and missiles as far as 400 km and as high as 185 km from the ground. It is not the range that makes this system stand out from the competition, it is its versatility that is unmatched.

Worldwide SAM Deployments

Before we get into technical details of this system and high-level comparative study with its American competitor, THAAD, let's see which other countries have bought this missile system. Russia has sold this high-tech system to multiple countries around the world. As of November 2021, Russia, China and Turkey are the only three countries that have already deployed S-400 in strategic positions. India will soon join that group. Saudi Arabia was also planning to buy it and was negotiating with Russia in 2019 to buy S-400 as well as the Sukhoi-35 jets. But as per the latest news in November 2021, they are very likely going to buy the American THAAD instead of S-400. It is believed that Algeria also bought this system. Belarus is also negotiating with Russian government for the purchase of S-400. On the other side, apart from USA, countries like South Korea and UAE have American THAAD surface-to-air missile system. Taiwan and Saudi Arabia will very likely have it in future. Japan has cancelled its plan to procure it.

Advantages of S-400

Now, let's understand the key advantages of the S-400 system. It locates a target as far as 600 km and can destroy it at 400 km. It can also operate on a target as close as 2 km range. This wide range of operation gives the S-400 system an edge over similar systems. It can hit a target aircraft or another missile travelling as fast as Mach 14. Another big advantage is that it can track 160 targets at a time and can engage with 72 targets simultaneously. Moreover, the S-400 system is capable of firing different types of missiles that can cover different range, velocity and warhead payload. Due to this unique missile carrying capacity it provides a layered defense. The system can engage all types of aerial targets, including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and ballistic and cruise missiles. Its radar system has anti-stealth capability and it is one of the items that worries America, its NATO allies, and any other nations that bought American pricey F-35 stealth jets. Having S-400 in the arsenal brings down the fifth-generation stealth jets like F-35 and Chinese J-20 at the same level of fourth generation jets that cannot evade radar control systems.

The S-400 is comprised of four core components: 1) the battle management system, consisting of a command post and acquisition radar, 2) as many as six Fire Units and twelve transporter-erector-launchers (TEL) armed up to four missiles, 3) an assortment of surface-to-air missiles (SAM), and 4) the logistical support system for missile storage and equipment maintenance. All system components are carried by self-propelled wheeled all-terrain chassis, and have autonomous power supplies, navigation and geo-location systems, communications and life support equipment.

Comparison with THAAD

Now let's look at the comparative study of S-400 with its main competitor American THAAD system. THAAD stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. THAAD is also a surface-to-air missile defense system. It has similar features. But when it comes to direct comparison, S-400 beats THAAD hands down. Starting from operating range to target maximum speed, missile types, launching frequency, S-400 beats its competitor in all compartments. The biggest advantage of S-400 over THAAD is its versatility. THAAD can only hit targets that are at least 50 km above ground till a maximum of 150 km. It makes THAAD useless against fighter jets or long-range tactical aircrafts, making it strictly an anti-missile defense system. Whereas S-400 can destroy targets at a height as low as 10 meters and can reach as high as 185 km. S-400 can hit a target moving as fast as Mach 14 or 14 times the speed of sound i.e. 17,000 km/hr. Whereas the same parameter for THAAD goes till Mach 8.24 i.e. 10,080 km/hr. Wide variety of missiles and sensors supported in a single battery of S-400 enables it to achieve such a wide range of operation making it a true multi-layered defense system. Battery consists of launchers, command post and multiple radars. On the contrary, THAAD is a single-layered defense system relying on only one type of missile. Moreover, THAAD uses 'hit-to-kill' technique to destroy the targets. ‘Hit-to-kill’ implies the capability to take down a target through the use of kinetic power. It means, these weapons rely on destroying a target by hitting it at high velocity instead of packing an explosive warhead. At present, S-400 does not have this capability, but S-400 missiles carry explosives to destroy its targets. The new missiles 77N6 and 77N6-N1 are supposed to bring this capability as well.


Before closing it should be noted, that India needs to start investing money into designing and manufacturing of such high-end weapon systems. Engaging private enterprises and getting into global partnership for developing such systems must be taken into war footing. India is still one of the top defense importers in the world. India used to retain number one spot in this not-so-desirable list till very recently. This year Russia has already started developing S-550, the latest one in this league. Even though China has bought the S-400 from Russia, it has its own indigenously developed surface-to-air missile system as well. It is called HQ-9 which has similar capability of Russian S-300 and American Patriot systems. China has even sold a variant, HQ-9/P, of its homegrown system to Pakistan and the latter has commissioned it in October 2021.

Lastly, viewers may remember American opposition, diplomacy, lure and finally open threat against India buying S-400 from Russia. America even offered to sell THAAD to dissuade India from buying S-400. Finally, USA threatened to impose CAATSA against India. I know, it is a weird acronym. Its full form is equally weird. Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. India has already faced US sanctions after the nuclear test in 1998. So, it is not a big deal. But America needs to understand that to earn respect, it first needs to learn to give respect. Bullying is not a good long-term tactic. Unfortunately, India also historically does not play well in the negotiation table with the big powers. Iran used to be India's strategic partner and India used to be a large importer of Iranian oil. After American sanction against Iran and same bullying tactics, India was forced to switch almost all of its oil import from US-friendly, Saudi Arabia. Import from Iran came down to naught in 2019. We all know how important Iran was for India in regards to regional power balance, especially with Pakistan in the equation. I am glad, at least this time India has shown some spine.